Compañeras y compañeros:
in front of the excellent work of art of José Villa, we return to listen
to what some said twenty years ago today: "About this man you can believe
anything except that he is dead."
does not bring us together. We are not inaugurating a monument to the past,
nor a site to commemorate something that disappeared.
place will always be a testimonial to struggle, a summoning to humanism.
It will also be a permanent homage to a generation that wanted to transform
the world, and to the rebellious spirit, innovative, of the artist who helped
forge that generation and at the same time is one of its most authentic
Sixties were much more than a period in a century that is ending. Before
anything else, they were an attitude toward life that profoundly affected
the culture, the society and politics, and crossed all borders. Their renewing
impulse rose up, victorious, overwhelming the decade, but it had been born
before that time and has not stopped even up to today.
these years we turn our sights with the tenderness of first love, with the
loyalty that all combatants feel for their earliest and most distant battle.
With obstinate antagonism, some still denigrate that time -- those who know that
to kill history, they must first tear out its most luminous and hopeful
is how it is, and has always been in favor of or against "the Sixties."
that time old imperial colonies fell, people previously ignored arose and
their art, their literature, their ideas started to penetrate the opulent
nations. The Third World was born and tricontinental solidarity, and some
discovered that there, in the rich north, existed another Third World that
the United States, a century after the Civil War, black people fought for
the right to be treated as persons and with them marched many white students.
In Europe young people repudiated imperial violence and identified themselves
with the condemned of the earth. Nobody spoke yet of globalization but,
for everyone, the Earth got smaller, the whole world became closer.
finally liberated, appeared Cuba, truly discovered in 1959 as an inseparable
part, fully pledged to liberty, life and truth.
seemed immediate. To obtain it, people strove without rest. In mountains
and cities, with stones and fists, with weapons snatched from the oppressors
and also with speeches, poems and songs. They tried to assault the sky,
to overcome, in a single act, all injustice, for blacks and women, for
workers and the poor, for the sick, the ignorant, and the marginalized.
They believed they could arrive at a horizon of peace between nations and
equality among people.
was more than anything the rebellion of the youth. Before their impetus
fell dogmas and fetishes, they broke the molds of pharisee and banality,
they turned back the dull mediocrity of an unjust and false society that
reduces humanity to merchandise and converts everything into false gold.
afterward, and affirming the continuity of the movement, Lennon described
it with these words: "The Sixties saw a revolution among the youth
. . . a complete revolution in the mode of thinking. The young people took
it up first, and the following generation afterwards. The Beatles were a
part of the revolution. We were all in that boat in the Sixties. Our generation
-- a boat that went to discover the New World. And the Beatles were the
lookouts on that boat. We were a part of it."
was the passage from that memorable concert in 1963 when Lennon asked the
people who occupied the most expensive theater seats to, instead of applauding,
just rattle their jewels, to six Novembers later when he returned the Order
of the British Empire in protest of the aggression in Vietnam and the colonialist
intervention in Africa. The refusal to perform before an exclusively white
public in Florida, in 1966; the refusal to perform in the South Africa of
apartheid; the denunciation of racism in the United States when he arrived
there to participate in concerts that had been boycotted by the Ku Klux
Klan; the calls for peace in the Middle East; the support for young people
who deserted the Yankee aggressor army and the constant support to the Vietnamese
resistance and the struggle of the Irish people; the incessant search for
new forms of expression, without ever abandoning the roots and authentic
language of the people; the repudiation of the bourgeois system, its codes
and merchandizing mechanisms; the creation of a corporation to combat them
and defend artistic liberty, an entity to which was attributed, even, a
certain communist inspiration.
personal contribution of John Lennon stood out singularly and endured beyond
the dissolution of the group. His songs form the most complete inventory
of the collective struggle of the young people for peace, revolution, popular
power, the emancipation of the working class and of women, the rights of
indigenous peoples and racial equality as well as the liberation of Angela
Davis and John Sinclair and other political prisoners, the denunciation
of the massacre at Attica and the situation in North American prisons, in
an interminable list. Beyond the music, in interviews and public statements,
he openly expressed his identification with the socialist ideal.
was the object of intense and obstinate persecution by the Yankee authorities.
The FBI, the CIA and the Immigration Service, instigated directly by Richard
Nixon, the trickiest tenant the White House has ever had, spied on him and
harassed him and strove to expel him from the United States. In spite of
what their laws say and the countless measures carried out during a quarter
of a century, these agencies still maintain in secret the documents proving
the tenacious harassment they unleashed against him. The little that they
have revealed shows that in just one year, between 1971 and 1972, the secret
informants of their spies accumulated 300 pages and a file that weighs 26
pounds. With no other weapons than his talent and the solidarity of lots
of North Americans, he was forced to confront for several years the powerful
Empire led by the most sordid and arrogant political machine. This chapter
will remain in history as an example of moral force and the force of ideas,
and from it Lennon emerged as a paradigm of the entirely free and creative
intellectual, precisely engaged with his time.
was more that a few who said, twenty years ago, that that 8th of December
was the end of an era. Many feared it among the millions who offered you
ten minutes of silence and the multitude that on the 14th congregated in
Central Park in New York to express a pain that time does not placate.
was Yoko who then advised: "the message should not end." And little
Sean, knew how to express the greater truth: He imagined you bigger, after
death, "because now you are everywhere."
were always among us. Now, in addition, we offer you this bench where you
can rest and this park to receive your companeros and friends.
message could not disappear because love had, and still has, many battles
to fight. Because you had the privilege to hear it in millions of voices
that became yours and continued raising it up like a hymn.
it a yellow submarine that surfaced that afternoon in 1966 in the port of
New York and marched at the front of thousands of young people who condemned
the war? How many hundreds of thousands demanded that peace be given a chance,
and were in solidarity with the people of Vietnam, there in Washington,
in front of the monument, that unforgettable November 15th in 1969? On that
day, didn't your art reach its highest realization? How many times did it
not multiply from Berkeley to New England and from one continent to another,
that generation that believed that love could prevail over war? John, I
am sure that you remember the martyrs of Kent State University who wanted
to follow you, to also be working class heroes. It is known that it was
your verses that were their only shield in front of the bullets of Nixon.
were more, many more, that met to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of
Imagine, in 1991, when others said that the story had already ended. Some
believe that you appeared in a window of the Dakota. All of us, you too,
were happy. We saw, astonished, the faces of old comrades, confounded to
be among countless young people who had not even been born when you, over
there in Liverpool, intoned ballads of love with proletarian words and we
here defied the monster.
boat will continue sailing. Nothing will stop it. It is driven by "a
wind that never dies." They will call us dreamers but our ranks will
grow. We will defend the vanquished dream and struggle to make real all
dreams. Neither storms nor pirates will hold us back. We will sail on until
we reach the new world that we will know how to build.
will meet again, tonight, at the concert. We will go on together, always.
Alarcon, currently the President of the Cuban Parliament, spent many
years in New York City as Cuba's Ambassador to the United Nations.
O'Hara, the translator, maintains the Cuban Cost of Living
website, which offers a fascinating look at the real Cuba, with text by
Julián Gutierrez and Cindy's photographs. Cindy can be reached via
e-mail at email@example.com.
was originally published in Spanish by Juventud Rebelde.
Photograph by Walter Lippmann.