Eusebio’s Havana says goodbye to Eusebio, from Havana

Por: Fr. Manuel Uña Fernández, O.P.

En la Universidad San Gerónimo
Dr. Honoris Causa Universidad Lateranense
Dr. Honoris Causa Universidad Lateranense

Just a few months ago we celebrated the 500 years of foundation of our city, the “Real and Wonderful”, by many called Havana of Eusobius, not for reductionist efforts but in honor of a fragment of its truth. Today, as part of the same cycle of memory and gratitude we turn our gaze to whom many have described as “their soul”: Eusebio, from Havana.

I remember it was November 1994 when we first met, in the office of the City Historian, inside the Palace of the Captains General. In December of the same year Eusebio returned the visit, approaching San Juan de Letrán. “I come personally,” he told me, “for two things: Invite him to go to Old Havana next January 5th, because that day is the anniversary of the San Gerónimo University Foundation. The event takes place where the Monument to the Bell is.” He continued to express his gratitude because a few years ago the prior had donated to them the original bell belonging to this first Cuban university, erected by the Dominican friars in 1728, thus passing from the gardens of San Juan de Letrán, where he was “buried”, to recover his place and raise his flight.

The current of friendship that we started that day didn’t have to be forced. A few years later, on January 21, 1998, the verb OPEN erupted like a cry of hope at Havana’s José Martí airport. It was on the lips of John Paul II that he delivered the inaugural address of his visit to Cuba, a historic visit.

As the paths of Providence lead us to “coincidences”, during those times the Dominicans wanted to realize a dream: to open in our convent a space that would enable encounter and reflection; open door space with a criterion not exclusive but even, to receive everyone without difference from creeds, confessions or ideologies. One of the first guests to give a lecture was him, in my memory his words are kept fresh when he said goodbye that day: “This thing I have seen is new and what is missing he was doing to us. I want this house to radiate culture… and become a place of encounter and dialogue where plurality, the diverse, is respected.”

Not many months passed and “Walk Havana”, the television program hosted by Eusebio, had captivated me. Pending at the time of its transmission so as not to miss it, I decided to see in person the monuments and places that I was knowing “from hearings”. Monuments and places that did not appear to be “dead stone” because of the continuous metamorphosis they were suffering. The words of Dr. Fernández Retamar echoed inside me: “Father Manuel, the newest thing about Havana, is Old Havana”. I also like, and a lot, the term with which Dr. Retamar himself rated Eusebio: “Vivificator”, on the occasion of one of the tributes they paid him at the National Library of Cuba in 2009. Maria Moliner’s dictionary requires that vivifiing is the same as communicating life to something inert. It is the same as loving, reanimating, renewing…

Dr. Leal returned youth to stones, joy to deteriorated homes, hope to hopeless people.

I will never be able to forget in November 2019, the visit of the kings of Spain to Cuba, to which I had the pleasure of greeting, nor to Eusebio beaten by the disease, full of manhood and Cubania, addressing them a few words… It reminds me of what Dr. Torres Cuevas says when referring to the full, heartfelt, conscious and desired Cubanity as a compendium of those two words. This is the “Cubanity with the three virtues, said theological, of faith, hope and love”.

Eusebio Leal - P. Manuel (izq)
Eusebio Leal – P. Manuel (izq)

When he celebrated his 75th birthday, someone referring to his person said, “He is the speaker who listens to him delight and recreates him. He is a multifaceted intellectual and also the man on foot, close, who walks in Havana and who everyone wants to greet because of all is known.”

I am thrilled to read his own words: “My voice is that of a guardian of the Spirit, that of an defender of the stones, and of all that at times seems to yield to the inexorable passage of time. Memory is the most precious and exalted privilege… Cubans will not be held accountable for why they were taken from us, but of what we did not do” (Algiers Calcines, Legacy and Memory, p. 22 and 23).

That “voice” is the one we feel endure when life has already been turned out. It is scattered in the everyday sounds of our Havana, hanging from every light that beautifies the Capitol, in every stone that regained dignity and roots. Thank you, Eusobius, you were and will always be a Memory Builder, Spiritual Founder, a loyal friend capable of feeling in need of listening and closeness. You are the Cuba-man, expert in creating, believing and loving the Alliance with the most of yours. May our Master receive you no longer in the night, but on the full day of the Heavenly Fatherland, which for you will be an “eternal Havana”.


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