Every man is the guardian of something lost,
something that only he knows, he has only seen.
And that buried world, that mystery
from our youth, we defend it
like a fantastic hope.
Since his 25 years, with just 6th. degree of schooling, absolutely "unpredictable" and a stroke of intuition took over the Office of the Historian of the City of Havana, was devoted to materialize, with everyday sweat, the project of his dreams.
Little more than half a century has passed and today I feel like a winner: fearsome enemies, obstacles that seemed insurmountable, the most tremendous betrayals, illness and physical ailments, at the same time … Although not for that circumstance their sacrifice can be simplified , the sense of duty and fidelity to its predecessor, Doctor Emilio Roig de Leuchsenring, after whose death in 1964 the institution would be orphaned and in a way began to be dismantled, stripped of its flow.
During the decades of the 70s and 80s, the gradual splendor of the City Museum that he raised, inspired the interest in the prehistoric Historic Center, while the enhancement of Old Havana and its system of fortifications deserved the declaration of Unesco as a World Heritage Site (1982).
At that stage in which he built and outlined his character and his destiny, and where perhaps time became more precious, the man who was already dressed in gray worried about keeping his Master's spirit alive. But unlike this, trained as an intellectual in our academy, in social gatherings with his peers and, above all, in the uninterrupted exercise of journalism, he was and has remained, in essence, self-taught. Of course, a self-taught who knew how to take advantage of each platform at his disposal, in the desire to add wills to the cause of his efforts.
Possessor of the gift of oratory, almost disused art in our field, he has combined his activity as a manager, builder and retailer with constant preaching, both to his fellow citizens and to the rest of the Cubans and foreigners he has managed to conquer with his speech, With that voice on it produces instant adhesion.
Many could be listed, but among those details that make it unique, perhaps few have noticed the following: being a worshiper of beauty in all its manifestations, a man tremendously in love and also in love, the bride to whom he consecrated in perpetuity , Havana, turns no less than 500 years old and he is lucky to celebrate it.
If he were in the realm of the living, this would have been the perfect answer to his friend, the insurmountable Enrique Nunez Rodriguez, who once commented that he did not forgive him for being so inconsequential. He did it in front of a large audience that, naturally, was baffled. But he immediately cleared the mystery: instead of being fascinated by young women, it would be logical and desirable for him to tie himself with an old woman and restore her.
Well, that lady who arrives at an age without age has her exclusive poet of everyday life, her patron, guide, defender of utopia, patriot, founder … More than that, a man of action whose sphere of influence overflows the The interviewer's intention to make blank pages meaningful. And it is that the pages that for more than 50 years have filled and will continue to fill Eusebio Leal Spengler correspond to a larger scenario: the history of Cuba.
– Many are amazed or frightened when they discover that you should have grown on the road, with your powerful self-taught vocation as a logbook and above unimaginable shortcomings. Beyond indiscipline during your childhood, how would you evoke that stage?
– It is not idle to remember those days when my misconduct at school, the daughter of so many problems we suffered, took me one day out of the classroom without having finished the 5th. grade. Silvia, my mother, worried about my destiny, took me to Don Rogelio Hevia, a generous Spaniard who owned the winery in the neighborhood, begging him to lay a foundation for my life.
«I lived in Hospital 660, between Valle and Jesus Peregrino, and very close, in that dependence, I had to learn the most modest needs. And so, from one thing to another, life was taking me on its turbulent course, until finally an event occurred that was not alien to me and that caused the collapse of the old society: the triumph, the resounding victory of the Revolution, an unprecedented fact in the history of Latin America during the twentieth century. For the first time a revolutionary army broke the backbone of a professional one, while it was proposed to transform society from power.
«Summoned to the act of July 26 of that year 1959 in the park in front of the former Normal School for Teachers, several leaders heard me speak, including Jose Llanusa, newly appointed Commissioner of Havana, who approached me to ask me where I worked, and I replied that nowhere. All performances had been very humble; but, in addition, he was absolutely “unprepared” to assume others of greater importance. After listening carefully, he only managed to say: “It doesn't matter. Come see me on Monday. ” It was August 1959 when I entered the former Palace of the General Captains. He was barely 16 years old; in September he would turn 17 ».
– He has not yet left, a circumstance that makes him the oldest employee of the municipal government …
-So is; Last August I completed 60 years of work.
—Then there was also the encounter with Emilio Roig de Leuchsenring, his teacher and predecessor of happy memory, as he says, the man who laid the groundwork to fight for something that worries all generations so much: that the memory of things, of the years through which we have passed, of the time in which we lived. And what happened next?
—When they welcomed me to the Palace, they proceeded to question me about what my intellectual attributions were. I said that I had virtually none, and the first indication was to enroll the Workers-Peasant Education, which culminated days before starting the great process of Literacy, which I joined in the most miserable neighborhoods of Havana. However, I must say that wonderful people welcomed me, and I felt the pleasant pleasure of transmitting my modest knowledge to an old woman and others, who were able to attend the great act in the Revolution Square, where the country was declared a territory free of illiteracy .
«Then I began the slow ascent, from reading the books, rather, from reading with passion the books of the most different themes: natural sciences, geography, history as devotion, oratory as a form of communication …, fleeing always to the dreaded reality of my innumerable spelling mistakes, which I had to overcome ”.
– What has been the premise, what has guided your steps during this long time?
– Rebuild, restore, breathe life with energy, promote from the Office an intense cultural, solidarity, participatory action, that was a kind of light on in the middle of a historical period where there have been so many urgencies and needs of our people. And we try to do it with fruition and loyalty, tearing with energy the decadent veil that falls like a heavy shroud on a city in need of substantive economic investments, leading a decentralized project that was a public expression of the political will of the State.
—Calified as the “Key of the New World and the West Indm Antemural,” The City of San Cristobal de La Habana, thus proclaimed by the letter of his majesty King Philip II, issued in 1592, arrives at a zenith event. Other old towns in the country have celebrated their anniversaries, taking refuge in the original dates. Why wait until now for the solemnity of the half millennium, when it is known that the first settlement corresponds to 1514?
—We have prioritized the tradition of commemorating the founding of the city by taking the year 1519, just as the Havana City Council instituted since the 18th century. It is true that there is evidence from the chroniclers about a foundational settlement on the south coast, at an even undetermined point in the Ensenada de la Broa, according to the most intimate certainty that several generations of the small towns of Melena del Sur, Batabano and el Surgidero
«I carefully observed the oldest and most prestigious navigation charts and the sign on the world map that decorates the galleries of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. With identical avidity, in the Martian Library of Venice, in Simancas or in Seville, where the written memory of the American Spain is kept in its archive, I tried to specify the exact place. All this to consider, perhaps pragmatically, that the real and tangible town was here, next to the old tree whose splinters in a small chest with notes of his handwriting and letter assured me to have collected, amid the frenzy of axes and sawdust on the 18th of May 1960, the former Havana poet Dulce Maria Loynaz, who in addition to my dearest friend, was "the voice of Clio" for me.
«Archeology owes us therefore, in a time that may not be immediate, the finding of the precise place where the expeditionaries of Panfilo de Narvaez and Fray Bartolome de las Casas stopped to place the Cross of the camp, which he had to leave a trace in the fire of their fires or in the graves of those who could not continue the path.
«It was for this reason that for a long time I recommended that the highest government authorities in the capital point towards 2019, when we would enter the fifth centenary of their final seat next to the port of Carenas. In that wait years passed. Meanwhile, trying to be faithful to the legacy of my predecessor, we devote ourselves with self-denial to perpetuate the memory of Havana, assuming the town of San Cristobal as the precedent of the beautiful city that we enjoy today ».
—What is Havana that we should commemorate?
—The Havana of the small and the big, that of the culture of detail, that of beauty that subjugates in the apparent and in what is not so much; Monumental Havana that is intertwined with parks and flowery gardens; Havana that dances to the beat of time, without losing balance and strength …
-Now that he mentions dance, balance and strength: a little less than a month ago we physically fired a Havana woman who lavished her art and her cubania in every corner of the planet. I mean, of course, Alicia Alonso. Many saw him, dismayed, utter words of rendered admiration by the coffin with his body lying …
—That unfortunate event preludes the natural decline of a founding generation, in the exact sense of the term. Alicia Alonso, in addition to an excellent woman, is an exceptional spirit and being that marked Cuba's destiny in aeternum. Only her iron will could lead her to overcome all obstacles to become a living myth, acclaimed in all latitudes. It is up to the new pines not to let what she sowed, built and dignified pale. They are always with me and proud of their love, their protection and their exemplarity.
—Perhaps because you privilege Poetry, you have compared our city with a chrysalis and systematically exhorts your fellow citizens to look at it with loving eyes, to pierce the decadent veil and to look with long light and optimism. However, I appropriate a phrase by Miguel Barnet as a euphemism: «Havana has areas that nobody has seen …».
– The deterioration, patent or intangible, obscures the intrinsic value of those neighborhoods that make up a not-so-peripheral periphery, since they surround and sometimes intertwine with the heart of the city itself, with the nerve that sustains and enlarges it.
«Personally, every street or avenue that has suffered from indolence, the inexorable passage of years or deterioration, lack of maintenance, disrespect for urban regulations and, to top it off, the predatory action of vandals and unscrupulous people hurts . Many elegant buildings, with beam and slab roofs, no longer exist in El Cerro, for example. But we cannot faint in our efforts to restore the city, inch by inch, and look with a long light on the future.
– In addition to consummating a personal dream, the revitalization of the Capitol constitutes the restitution of a symbol, a page saved from forgetfulness. However, when judging every great work involved passions are involved. What would you answer to those who censor the high cost of investment and even the golden laminate of the dome?
"As I am used to these kinds of questions, I don't get scared or disgusted." Everyone is free to comment, but it is essential to do so with conscience, and in the place, the time and day that apply.
«Both the gold plating of the dome and that of the Statue of the Republic have been made possible by the will of the Government of the Russian Federation, which not only contributed the precious metal but also sent the specialists who assumed that magnificent work of restoration, which were decorated by the President of the Republic of Cuba during his recent work visit to Moscow.
«That much remains to be done to dignify the surroundings of that imposing palace, it is true. But it is no less true that that dome shining like the sun, that lantern that already emits flashes in the Havana night, comes to crown this commemoration so awaited by the Cubans. Let that erect and indomitable needle be seen that ends it as the symbol of the unity of this nation, which it calls inextinguishable! ».
–Both in Cuba and abroad, it has become customary, with some recurrence in recent years, the delivery of multiple awards to Eusebio Leal. The most recently announced: the Great Cross of the Royal and Distinguished Spanish Order of Carlos III. What qualities of yours try to exalt such distinctions?
– I believe that the perseverance and loyalty to an idea is exalted above all, to a project to which I have given all my energies without expecting anything in return, just for love. A patriotic vocation that is the basis of any human endeavor is rewarded.
«Nevertheless – and believe me that it is not a question of false modesty—, I have the sincere impression of not having done more than fulfilling the duty and commitment of the youth of my time. In the daily struggle I have put, yes, all the strength, all the resources at my disposal and even those that seemed unattainable. But I do not lose sight of the fact that this work needs the efforts and sacrifices of all, mainly from that almost anonymous legion of collaborators without whom this story would be different. Therefore, praise and congratulations should be interpreted as praise and congratulations to the work of many, and only on behalf of all, I gladly accept them, to place them, with deep and true humility, at the foot of the glorious flag of Cuba, as a pledge of gratitude to our loving mother, to whom we all owe ».
—You who have guided and conquered the admiration of countless heads of State and Government, intellectuals and artists, monarchs, princes and other members of the nobility, how would you evaluate the imminent visit to Cuba of the kings of Spain, so emotionally linked and culturally to this island?
—I have guided both kings and workers, children and the elderly, to show them the beauty of Havana. As for the key in your question, it is the result of a combination of factors: the ties that make it impossible to understand our history without that of one that for four centuries was a metropolis. And in a word, culture, I summarize everything, because as I have said other times, the blood calls, but the culture is what determines.
«We welcome Spain from rage and the idea evoked by Antonio Machado. The Spain for which hundreds of Cuban volunteers went to die during the Civil War. How was that possible, just four decades after the cessation of colonial domination on the Island, and after 30 years of bloody war to free us from a despotic and cruel regime? Because, although we do not forget, the libertarian cravings and the essence of the people of Cuba, following the Apostle's precept, do not identify with resentment or visceral hatred. Marti said: "The only truth of this life, and the only force, is love." You have to believe in the fertilizing power of love. Only love saves.
«This visit had been taking place for some time, and for reasons of political agenda it had not been possible to specify it. If I may, I dare to also describe it as a tacit recognition of the significance of this half millennium of Havana ».
—But on the eve of the 500th anniversary, you insist on turning the compass around 501. Why?
"Because we would be absolutely lost if we assumed this solemnity as a goal and not as a starting point." It would be irresponsible to stay here, settle for the results we exhibit today and of which we are proud, but not enough. They have been years of enormous work, waiting for this great date that summons us today. We have arrived. Now what is imposed is to continue working, always more, always better.
—This 2019 has also been a year of intense battle and personal sacrifice, of lessons that the youngest cannot forget. Are you still confident that your work will last?
—The young years passed, the golden age where I tested my willingness to walk and walk the streets, with infinite passion, always putting in every thing and in every detail the sincere commitment to be placed in what one loves. But I am sure that, as I told you once, the work of the Office of the Historian must transcend me, you and everyone.
"In this hour of reckoning, tell me something foreign to your being, or to mortify and hurt you?"
—Well, the enumeration could be excessive, so I stick to three behaviors in the face of the life I hate: the first, ingratitude. How mean is that being who forgets those who once held out his hand, or advised him, or protected him, sometimes without knowing it … It would be like betraying oneself. Then envy. We must avoid sterile comparisons. It is easy to remember, praise or hate those who are gone, because they cannot defend themselves; but the true, the extraordinary, the great, is to admire our contemporaries, historians, artists, scientists, sports glories, musicians …, so many good Cubans of high merit. And the third: vanity, which must be made public resignation, because nothing means when one is at the gates of life or at the threshold of death. Vanity does not work, does not help, does not build.
– What should not forget the one who, when the day comes, assumes the position of Historian of the City, not only to preserve authority, but to gain the trust and heart of so many, as you did?
—As I am not in favor of the recipes, because nobody repeats the management of another and neither the character or the personality is traced, I only tell you that he will have to work his own destiny without ever abandoning humility. Petulance and overestimation are enemies of victory. And a leadership is not built if it is not a work force and example, with temperance and security in fairness, always enhancing the balance of forces for unity. If we go to the core of our emancipatory deed, we understand the dire effect of the intestinal wars that weaken us and only distort our reason for being. You have to believe in what you love and defend it at the price of blood. It is a matter of loyalty.
—What three wishes will the patron San Cristobal ask as long as we see him going around the ceiba on the night of November 15?
—Time, time and more time …
Let that erect and indomitable needle be seen that tops it as the symbol of the unity of this nation, which it calls inextinguishable! Photo: Joel Guerra