A recent interview published in the magazine Letras Libres, reveals Alfredo Guevara’s mood months before his death. The meeting, that came to be thanks to filmmaker Arturo Sotto, brings us closer to a man conscious of being on the last stretch of his life. His words try to find, or give sense to his existence, to justify some horrors and exalt some achievements.
Caustic but careful, Guevara ventures in topics of the past such as the divisions within the 26 of July Movement and its clashes with the forces of the Popular Socialist Party . Between one anecdote and the next, he reveals—perhaps without intention—details of a power taking shape among betrayals and rivalries. The scene of Celia Sánchez who lived with Fidel Castro in a house in El Vedado and would ask Guevara to expel the old communists from the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC) “by kicking them in the ass,” slips through his words, he lets it go just like any other story.
Reading the interview took me back immediately to a Sunday morning in the year 2013 in which I received a phone call. They were telling me about a police search in the home of the recently deceased Alfredo Guevara. Before dawn, several police cars and a minibus from the Technical Department of Investigation (DTI) had arrived responding to an alleged complaint about the traffic of art works. In the house there were only the housekeeping lady and an elderly man remotely related to Guevara.
A few minutes after receiving the news, we went over to verify what was happening. A few burly men, some in uniform, and a lady who could barely form any words because of fear, made up the scene we were able to glimpse when they open the mansion’s door a few centimeters. Using the old trick that we were looking for a “handyman,” we rang the bell, and were able to see that something very serious was going on inside. The news spread rapidly and the official voices were quick to explain the case as one of theft of the national cultural heritage. Nevertheless, some of us were not totally convinced by the story.
Through the testimony of those who witnessed the police raid, we learned that the officers placed particular emphasis in the search for documents. They took great pains to disassemble ceilings, to dig under mattresses, to explore drawers and file cabinets full of papers. Were they looking for some document or writing treasured by Alfredo Guevara? I have asked myself this question thousands of times since that day. The interview in the Mexican magazine Letras Libres confirms some of my suspicions.
We are before a man yearning for lasting relevance, and with valuable information in his hands; an elderly man who is able of realizing the re-writing that has been done to history to make it seem more heroic, more sublime. When he refers to Fidel Castro’s memoirs, Guerrillero del Tiempo, he states: “I think that he has his version and I have mine, but I don’t want to create any contradiction. I want to be very careful, I am afraid…” A man like that probably shields evidences of how things really happened. Some of them he lets slip in the excellent interview in Letras Libres.
However, the largest evidence that Alfredo Guevara leaves us is neither a photograph, nor a piece of paper signed by hand by someone, much less an official document extracted from some obscure archive. His main testimony is the deception perceived in his words, the bitter touch in his stocktaking, the final clarity of not knowing with certainty if history will absolve him or condemn him.