Rosa Leonor Whitmarsh y Dueñas

* 1930

  • [Answer to the question of whether she still has the symbolic suitcase unpacked under her bed, as Cubans often say, that when they arrive in exile, they never unpack, to be able to return to Cuba.] “My sister and I thought that one day we could travel together [to Cuba]. It didn't happen because she died. Of course I know that reality is different, that everything has changed a lot, not only physically but also structurally. Also, the way of speaking is offensive, for me. That is a good question. Yes, the suitcase. But I am afraid of what I will find; I'm afraid. Because imagine, it's a different structure, different customs, and by the way, it’s not good. It is the lack of education, rudeness, and even though there are very good people and we cannot generalize, there is a prevalence of something else. Of course."

  • “But Cuba is born compromised. Cuba is not born Cuban. Cuba was born as a product of a Cuban feeling, because we were already Creoles, we no longer thought the same as our Spanish parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and this meant we had our own needs, very different from the Spanish ones. And what happens? We are born poor, very poor. Many Cuban people had been lost in the wars of independence from 95 to 98 [1895-1898]. But there were some; they had emigrated: Martha Abreu, for example. The autonomists had assets, they were very settled people, they favored the continuity of hispanism in Cuba. But Cuba was born poor, I have to insist on that. And the land was in Spanish, American, and Irish hands. There was no capital of our own.”

  • “But we can not politicize the thinking of a nation by making its history only political. We have to include the parallel life that occurs simultaneously, that everyone is who they are and they live their private or public life in their own way.”

  • “I want to point out that Cuba is a country with a short free republican life. It was just 57 years from 1902 to 1959 and that’s it. Cuba is, with the exception of Panama, the youngest country in Latin America, the youngest state in Latin America, because it was the last country to become independent from Spain. Then Panama was established, as you know, due to the division of Colombia. But hey, the point is, that those years that came, those four years of Batista, when the Association of journalists was created, there was free press. Although the repressive forces of the initial Batista government, together with Peraza, gave "palmacristi" so that certain opponents behave well, there was a state of development, of normality in the classes; I'm talking about Havana and from what I understand, also the rest of the country.”

  • “My civic consciousness began already with the Second World War, let’s say around 1940. I was already reading the newspapers. I was aware of what was happening in Europe and what was happening in the wartime world. Cuba had a small, very small, let’s say rationing. What was happening? We were out of butter [laughing]. Cuba had, of course, sympathized with the United States and the invaded European countries. We are talking about the year 1940 or 1945. There was the Constitution of 1940. Of course, at that age I was not aware of the constitution. And a little while later we were able to enjoy peace. And I really have to say we had peace, because sometimes the books exaggerate a lot. They say that all you could hear were shots, that everyone belonged to the groups that came from the 30s [1930], and that everyone was easily shooting randomly at others. Yes. As in any other place, there are always more aggressive small groups, during certain periods of the country's history, but they’re just loud minorities.”

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    Miami, USA, 08.06.2021

    duration: 02:14:32
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We can not politicize the thinking of a nation by making its history only political. We have to include the parallel life that occurs simultaneously.

Rosa Leonor Whitmarsh y Dueñas
Rosa Leonor Whitmarsh y Dueñas
photo: Post Bellum

Rosa Leonor Whitmarsh y Dueñas was born in the El Vedado quarter of Havana in the Republic of Cuba on 9 May, 1930. Since her childhood she really loved reading. Her great-grandfather on her father’s side is the General and Lieutenant of the Liberation Army, Calixto García Iñiguez and her grandfather on her mother’s side is Doctor Joaquín L. Dueñas, who, according to the National College of Physicians of Cuba, is considered the first pediatrician on the island. After completing her basic studies at the Colegio de Las Ursulinas and then at the Vedado Public Institute, she went on to study at the University of Havana, where she graduated with a Ph.D. at the Faculty of Arts. In 1961 she left Cuba thanks to a scholarship in Ecuador, hoping to return. She moved to Mexico where she lived for 22 years, working at different universities in the country, such as the National Autonomous University of Mexico. In 1984 she emigrated to the United States where she still lives as a Cuban exile in Miami.