Chepe / Luis Cino Alvarez

Oscar Espinosa Chepe in Madrid. Photo courtesy of ABC, Spain
Oscar Espinosa Chepe in Madrid. Photo courtesy of ABC, Spain

HAVANA, Cuba, September, – I met Oscar Espinosa Chepe in 2002, at the home of the poet and independent journalist Ricardo González Alfonso, an ideal place to establish good and lasting friendships.

Between dreams and fears, we worked on the magazine De Cuba. I remember the first collaboration Chepe sent to us for the magazine was titled “The splendor and decline of sugar in Cuba.” A few months later, Chepe was one of 75 prisoners of the crackdown in the spring of 2003.

In contrast to his articles on economics, which I always thought it was a rather dry and difficult subject, talking to Chepe was very enjoyable. Even when talking about economics. You were never left with any doubts about issue that would be discussed, however complex and how many figures were involved.

Chepe used to refer to episodes from when he was very young, in his hometown of Cienfuegos, when he enlisted in the fight against the Batista dictatorship; or when he dared to contradict the anti-economics nonsense of the Maximum Leader (Fidel), the punishment imposed was to collect bat guano in a cave, where he contracted an infection that almost cost him his life.

It was there that his disenchantments with the Revolution began, a Revolution for which he had once been willing to lay down his life. But Chepe spoke of his disappointments without rancor. Not even prison could change the character of this noble and generous man. As the poet said, “In the best sense of the word, good.”

But the best was when Chepe told anecdotes about his travels through the socialist countries of Eastern Europe. Especially Yugoslavia. Thanks to Chepe and his wife Miriam Leiva, deeply knowledgeable on the subject, I was able to understand, beyond the self-interested manipulations in the newspaper Granma, the intricacies of the conflicts between Serbs, Bosnians, Croats and Kosovars and the disintegration of that prison of nations artificially created by Marshal Tito.

It gives me pleasure to evoke Chepe, friendly, a good conversationalist, lover of dogs and the music of Sinatra, in the room crowded with books in his tiny apartment in Playa. I’ll always remember him like that.

By Luis Cino Alvarez,

From Cubanet

23 September 2013