This 2020 saw the death of Cuban personalities who marked the lives of their contemporaries in their time. Artists, writers, musicians, teachers, actors, editors and admired athletes left us in the year that is now ending, either inside or outside the island where they were born and raised. To them, our heartfelt remembrance, gratitude and tribute.
Silvia Rodríguez (ballet). Cardinal figure in the teaching of ballet in Cuba, she died in Havana. She dedicated herself to teaching this discipline from an early age. Director of the Alejo Carpentier Provincial Ballet School and teacher at the Alicia Alonso National Ballet School, as well as a dance art teacher at the Higher Institute of Art. She was trained as a teacher under the aegis of maestro Fernando Alonso, founder together with Alicia Alonso of the National Ballet of Cuba.
Serafín “Tato” Quiñones (researcher, essayist, screenwriter, editor and cultural promoter). He passed away in Havana at the age of 77. A true authority in popular religions of African origin, in particular in the knowledge and study of the Abakuá religious-cultural complex, to which he dedicated a good part of his intellectual work, specified–among other titles–in an essential one: Ecorie abakuá: cuatro ensayos sobre los ñáñigos cubanos (UNION Editions, 1994).
Mayra Navarro (oral narrator). She received numerous awards and distinctions for her work, among them the Cuenteria Award; the Distinction for National Culture; the Plaque XXX Anniversary of the Foundation of the Enrique José Varona Higher Pedagogical Institute and the La Rosa Blanca Special Prize from the Children’s Literature Section of UNEAC, among others. She published the books Aprendiendo a contar cuentos (Gente Nueva, 1999) and Gota curiosa y otros cuentos (Gente Nueva, 2008). She died in Havana.
Esteban Llorach (editor). He died in Havana victim of a cerebral ischemia. National Editing Award (2003), he developed a prolific literary work with more than 20 titles for young people and children. He was a tenured professor at the Faculty of Communication. A student of the thought of José Martí, he worked on editions of texts by him, as well as Renée Méndez Capote, Pablo Neruda and César Vallejo, among others. He was a staunch defender of the editor’s work in Cuban culture.
Nilda Collado (actress). Born in the Cerro neighborhood, she died in Havana. She is the main dancer in different shows of Tropicana, Sans Souci, Habana Riviera and Capri, among others. In 1957 she started on CMQ TV as a model for the Regalías El Cuño cigar brand. She began her acting career in 1960 in film, radio and television in various programs, until she decided to venture into the world of clowns with her husband, also actor Edwin Fernández, who died in 1997. She received the National Television Award in 2009.
Nelson Rodríguez (filmmaker). Deceased in Miami at the age of 81, he worked in the founding group of ICAIC, first in production and then as an editor under the direction of Santiago Álvarez in the ICAIC Latin American Newscast. He worked alongside directors of the stature of Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, Humberto Solás, Julio García Espinosa, Juan Carlos Tabío, Manuel Octavio Gómez and Santiago Álvarez, among many others. He leaves a remarkable work as editor of films such as La primera carga al machete, Memories of Underdevelopment, La última cena and Lucía. In 1986 he received the Grand Coral for the best edition at the 8th Festival of New Latin American Cinema in Havana. He won the National Film Award in 2007.
Orestes Macías (singer). He was a member of the Vas-Cané group together with musicians from the Sonora Matancera. In 1955 he went on to sing in Arcaño y sus Maravillas. He was part of the Hermanos Castro Orchestra and later of the Conjunto Casino, in which he stood out as one of the best vocalists along with Benny Moré, Roberto Faz, Orlando Vallejo, Vicentico Valdés, Elena Burke, Celia Cruz, Olga Guillot and Omara Portuondo. In Rumbavana he imposed the stamp of his style with boleros and sones that projected him outside national borders and consolidated him as one of the greats of his time, especially for numbers such as “Vanidad,” “Boda Negra” and “Ojos y labios.”
Juan Padrón (director). The creator of Elpidio Valdés and his legendary adventures; of the vampires in Havana and of many other animated cartoons that are an indissoluble part of the history of Cubans. Influenced by cartoonists such as Cuban Tulio Raggi and Catalan Juan José López (Jan), in 1970 he presented the character of Elpidio Valdés for the first time in his samurai cartoon Cachivache. “I liked the character so much that I left Cachivache and decided to make a cartoon with just the Cuban. And that’s where the first Elpidio was born, which did not appear in the wars of independence, but always in other countries, he even appeared on one occasion on the planet Mars!” he told OnCuba in an interview.
Víctor Batista Falla (editor). Considered one of the patrons of Cuban literature, he died of coronavirus at the Pedro Kourí Institute of Tropical Medicine in Havana. His intellectual work was developed especially outside of Cuba. In 1960 he went to New York and later to Spain. In New York he created Exilio magazine, with which he put into circulation the work of outstanding Cuban writers. Upon settling roots in Madrid, he founded the Colibrí publishing house, one of the most influential and important publishing houses in the diaspora.
César López (poet). He died in Havana at the age of 87. Member of the so-called Generation of the 1950s, author of the poems Circulando el Cuadrado (1963) and Primer libro de la ciudad. He graduated from Medicine, a profession he did not practice to dedicate himself to literature. In 1999 he was awarded the National Prize for Literature. He was a member of the Cuban Academy of Language and a corresponding member of the Royal Spanish Academy. One of the most important Cuban poets of his time. His work also includes Silencio en voz de muerte (1963), Apuntes para un pequeño viaje (1965), La búsqueda y su signo (1971-1989), Segundo libro de la ciudad (1971-1989), Consideraciones, algunas elegías (1990-1994) and Doble espejo para muerte denigrante (1991).
Haydée Arteaga Rojas (oral narrator, writer and declaimer). “The Lady of the Tales” died in Havana at the age of 105. She developed her work in oral narration inside and outside the community. She was especially noted for her work with children. As a writer, she left her children’s storybook Namach, made up of twelve stories, some traditional and some of her own.
Leonel Viciedo (coach). He died in Havana at the age of 69. Distinguished professor at the Manuel Fajardo University of Physical Culture and Sports Sciences and former boxing coach with international experience. He worked as a boxing coach and teacher in Zambia, Sweden, Botswana, Panama and Argentina.
Erislery Basulto (baseball). He died in a traffic accident in Esmeralda municipality. He played in four National Series with the Camagüey team. In the last Cuban season, he pitched as a reliever in 42 games, with a balance of 3 wins and 2 losses.
Miriam Lezcano (theater director). She died at the age of 77 in Miami Beach. In Cuba she carried out an outstanding work within the Bertolt Brecht Political Theater Group, in which she staged works such as The Wedding of the Petty Bourgeois, by Brecht, and Don Juan, by Moliere, among many others. But, without a doubt, her consecration took place with Teatro Mío, a group that she formed together with her partner, playwright Alberto Pedro (1954-2005), author of paradigmatic pieces of the Cuban crisis such as Pasión Malinche, Desamparados, Manteca, Delirio Habanero and Mar Nuestro, also among others.
Rosita Fornes. Actress, dancer and singer Rosa Fornés, better known as “the great star of Cuba” or “First Star of America,” died in Miami at the age of 97 after weeks with poor health. “Our dear Rosita leaves us, by law of life, after an illness with which she struggled for several years, surrounded by love and without suffering,” said her obituary.
Her mortal remains were transferred to Cuba complying with the artist’s wishes.
Roberto Chorens Dotres (teacher, musician and TV host). He died in Havana of cardiac arrest. Host of the television program Bravo!, he developed a long musical and pedagogical career as a teacher, lecturer and concert organist specializing in repertoires of old music. He was part of the faculty of the University for Everyone program, in which he taught courses in Music Appreciation and History, among others. During his last years he served as artistic director of the Light Opera National Theater of Cuba.
Sigfredo Ariel (poet). He died at 58 in Havana from prostate cancer. He developed a renewing and far-reaching literary work. In 1986 he won the David Prize for Poetry and later the Julián Del Casal National Poetry Prize and the Critics Prize. His work rests on titles such as El enorme verano, Manos de obra and Born in Santa Clara, among others. His name is part of the history of Cuban music due to his diligent work as a historian and musicologist. Much loved and admired, his death caused a wave of messages of condolence from artists and intellectuals.
Daniel Muñoz, “El Dany” (musician). He passed away in Havana at the age of 31. He managed to place the work of the duo Yomil y Dani, described as Trapton, on the hit parade of popularity. Together with Yomil, he published an extensive recording work, consisting of the records Dopados de la mente, Ambidiestros, Mug, Muy. He started on the periphery of Cuban music until he reached the top of popular taste with Yomil, with whom he created one of the most solid groups in national urban music.
Olga Lidia Alfonso Morales (singer, actress and dancer). She started her career in the National Ensemble of Shows. She studied at the National School of Dance and worked as a teacher of modern and folk dance. She was noted for her versatility, participating in multiple comedy shows on television. Her professional life was closely linked to the Musical Theater of Havana.
Alberto Giralt Olivera (athlete). He died at the age of 66, the victim of a heart attack. He was part of the Cuban rifle team between 1970 and 1983, a period in which he represented the island in important international events. He obtained the three-position rifle title by team in the Central and Caribbean Games in Medellín (1978), in addition to the gold medals in the air modality (individual and collective) in Havana (1982). Between 2003 and 2006 he collaborated in the formation and training of sports shooting athletes in Guatemala.
Eusebio Leal Spengler (City of Havana historian). He died in Havana, a victim of cancer. He was a disciple of Emilio Roig de Leuchsenring, from whom he acquired a love for the city, to which he gave himself body and soul. With only sixth grade, but with his mind far away, where he was not seen, he went a long way by taking over the Office of the Historian (OHC) and starting to lift the historical center from its ruins. A man of deep and enlightened thinking. Historian and researcher. Speaker rooted in our patriotic tradition of the 19th century. In the world of preservation, he knew how to break schemes by creating social programs in Old Havana. Cuban and universal like few others.
Pedro de Oraá (plastic artist and poet). He studied at the San Alejandro Academy. As a young man he stood out for his contributions to the abstract movement of concretism. His works include El instante cernido (1953), Estación de la hierba (1957), Destrucción del horizonte (1968), Apuntes para una mítica de La Habana (1971), Suma de ecos (1989), Umbral (1997) and Vida secreta de la Giraldilla (2003). He received awards such as the Distinction for National Culture (1995), the National Prize for Book Design (2011) and the National Prize for Plastic Arts (2015).
Norberto Blanco (actor) During his career he intervened and starred in major productions on radio and television. He is especially remembered for his participation in adventures on TV. And for Los Mosqueteros, for which he had to specialize as a swordsman. He also worked on El vizconde de Braguelón, the last part of the trilogy about the Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas.
Jorge Luis Romero (boxing). He died in Havana at the age of 66 due to complications with blood pressure. Nicknamed “el Toro,” he stood out in the 1970s for his participation in the Playa Girón national championships and in the Giraldo Córdova Cardín International Boxing Tournament. He obtained the silver medal in the first world amateur boxing championship.
Enrique Benítez Mora, “El Conde Negro” (musician). He died of a heart attack in Havana at the age of 104. Author of songs such as “Vertiente, Camagüey, Florida y Morón,” “Castellano qué bueno baila usted” and “El cañonero de la fiesta.” Cousin and a good friend of Benny Moré, he was part of the famous Giant Band, from which Moré himself baptized him with the nickname “El Conde Negro.”
José Pablo Navarro Campa (chemist). Graduated in Chemical Engineering from the Universidad de Oriente (1964), he dedicated a large part of his life to cultivating the tradition of one of the most valued and internationally recognized Cuban products: rum. In addition to his knowledge of chemistry, the production processes of pure alcohol and the different types of Cuban spirits, his nose and palate led him to become one of the few First Rum Masters of Cuba.
Gabriel “Puly” Sequeira Romeu (musician and promoter). One of the three children of Zenaida Romeu González, member of a fundamental family in the history of Cuban music. Grandson of Armando Romeu, nephew of Antonio María Romeu and brother of Zenaida Castro Romeu. Trained as a television cameraman, he advised the installation of that medium in Colombia. He made important contributions to the radio. In Havana he founded a station that would transmit FM Stereo, from Nuevo Vedado, and in Tampa Radio Sol, the first Spanish-language station in the Bay area. He died in Tampa, where he had resided since the early 1970s.
Tomás Herrera (basketball). Olympic medalist of the 1972 games in Munich, “Jabao” Herrera died in Havana at the age of 69. He was part of the generation that obtained two Central American titles (Santo Domingo, 1974 and Havana, 1982) and the silver medal in Medellín 1978. He led the High-Performance Sports Section of the UJC; later he served as director of INDER. Until his last days, he directed the National Athletes Attention Commission.
Enrique Colina (filmmaker and film critic). He died in Havana at the age of 76 due to prostate cancer. With a career of more than thirty years in cinema, he directed films and documentaries such as Estética, Vecinos, Jau, El unicornio, El rey de la selva, Entre ciclones and La vaca de mármol, among others. His work as a film critic reached wide social visibility in 24 x Segundo. This television program continued the Cuban tradition of explanation and contextualization of the cinematographic work, first in university cinema clubs and later on television programs.
Cándido Camero (musician). He died at the age of 99 in New York. At the age of 20 he joined the Tropicana Cabaret orchestra, where he shared the stage with Chano Pozo in the Congo Pantera show. He played percussion with stars of American, Latin American and Cuban music during a career of more than 60 years, including Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, Bobby Capó, Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, Gloria Estefan, Nat King Cole, Astrud Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Marco Rizo, Thalia, Billy Taylor, Frank Sinatra and Paquito D’Rivera.
Vicente Dopico (plastic artist). He passed away in Miami, where he lived for more than five decades. Not only was he an award-winning painter, he also wrote on Latin American art and was director of the Museum of Cuban Art and Culture in Miami. He received a Bachelor’s and Master’s of Fine Arts from the University of St. Thomas in Miami and studied visual arts, watercolor, drawing, painting, and design at the Art Student League in New York City. His work has been exhibited, among other places, in Miami, New York, Santo Domingo, New Orleans, San Juan and Havana.
Marta del Río (actress). She died in Havana at the age of 84. Founder of the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television (ICRT), she was recognized as “the queen of dramatized programs” for her masterfully interpreted characters throughout her career. She began her work on television in the humor program Mi familia, starring Julito Díaz and Agustín Campos, in which she played the part of a young lady. She was the protagonist, along with José Antonio Rivero, of the very popular television program Casos y cosas de casa, which was on the air for fourteen years.
Diana Montero (filmmaker). The young filmmaker died at the age of 34 in Miami, a victim of lung cancer. She graduated from the San Antonio de los Baños International School of Film and Television (EICTV), she directed works such as the documentary Abecé, winner of a special mention from the jury at the ICAIC Youth Show, and the award for Best Short Film at the Trinidad and Tobago International Film Festival. With her opera prima, Nico, she won the Grand Prize of the 7th Edition of Nuevas Miradas in 2013. She directed other documentaries such as Miracle Worker (2014), ABC’s (2014), Just Like Cats (2013) and He Is You (2012).
Taimí Chappé (fencing). She died of a myocardial infarction in Miami, where she lived. She was absolute world champion of women’s epee in Lyon (1990) for the Cuban team. After becoming a Spanish national, she also reached gold with Rosa Castillejo, Carmen Ruiz and Cristina Vargas in the World Team Championship in Athens (1994). In 1996 she was number one of the World Cup and participated as a Spaniard in the Atlanta Olympic Games. In 1997 she returned to the World Cup podium by winning the bronze medal in Cape Town.
Max Álvarez (actor). He died in Havana from heart complications. He participated in soap operas and adventures such as El espía, Como un sol de fuego and in the series Algo más que soñar and La frontera del deber. In cinema, he showed his talent in the films Un hombre de éxito and El siglo de las luces, by Humberto Solás, as well as Bailando con Margot, by Arturo Santana. In addition, he worked in Al filo de la navaja; Robinson Crusoe, Cabinda and Cuatro estaciones en La Habana, based on the work of Cuban writer Leonardo Padura.
Broselianda Hernández (actress). One of the most talented and charismatic Cuban actresses, she passed away in North Miami Beach. She graduated with a Gold Degree in 1987 from the Higher Institute of Art, she was a student of Vicente Revuelta, Isabel Moreno and Miriam Lezcano. She acted under the direction of directors such as José Antonio Rodríguez (Grupo Buscón), Carlos Díaz (El Público) and Flora Lauten (Teatro Buendía). On television she worked in numerous teleplays and soap operas such as Las honradas and Cuando el agua regresa a la tierra. In cinema she worked in Barrio Cuba, by Humberto Solás; Una rosa de Francia, by Manuel Gutiérrez Aragón; La Anunciación, by Enrique Pineda Barnet; and José Martí: el ojo del canario, by Fernando Pérez, a film in which she played Leonor Pérez, the Martí’s mother.
Israel Berrier González (musician). For more than five decades he was part of Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, he died in Havana due to a cardiovascular accident. Born on September 21, 1937 in Jovellanos, he marked the work of Los Muñequitos with the power of his voice, in which he stood out for his ability to defend cultural expressions such as the songs of the orishas, the brikamo and the columbia.
“Not only did he impose his tone as a major columbia singer, but he also contributed a lot as a composer to the discography of Los Muñequitos,” said the Cuban Institute of Music.
Gerardo Fernández (writer). Known especially for his work as a scriptwriter for the telenovela El Naranjo del Patio and for works such as Entre Mamparas, El Balcón de los helechos and the TV series La Botija. He contributed in a relevant way to the training of scriptwriters and playwrights in Ecuador, where he died of cancer.