Paying homage requires a synchronization of the organization presenting the award with the work of the person being honored. To do otherwise would be the selfish utilization of the achievements of historical figures for causes that they fought against or disagreed with while they were alive.
For example, it would be disingenuous for the United States Government to grant a posthumous award to Guerilla Leader Ernesto “Che” Guevara or to former Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. The hatred that both men had for the United States is well known and is well documented. Lamenting the outcome of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Che indicated that “if the missiles had remained, we would have used them against the very heart of America including New York. We must never establish peaceful coexistence. In this struggle to the death between two systems we must gain the ultimate victory. We must walk the path of liberation even if it costs millions of atomic victims.” Similarly, Khrushchev told western diplomats in 1956, “Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will bury you!” Americans who honor these two leaders ignore their own history, and what these men stood for.
2013 is a year that deserves paying homage to many historical figures. Let’s analyze whether the people receiving these recognitions or awards would be grateful to receive them if they were still alive.
January 28th marks the 160th anniversary of the birth of Cuban national hero José Martí. Through his writings and political activity, he became a symbol for Cuba’s bid for independence against Spain in the 19th century, and is referred to as the “Apostle of Cuban Independence.” Cuban officials have held multiple marches, parades, and concerts to honor Martí’s legacy in 2013. But, if Martí were alive today, he would be leading a revolution against the current Cuban Government which has oppressed the Cuban people for the last 54 years. Martí proclaimed once that “Like bones to the human body, the axle to the wheel, the wing to the bird, and the air to the wing, so is liberty the essence of life. Whatever is done without it is imperfect.” These honors would besmirch the legacy that Martí gave his life for.
April marks the 500th anniversary of Juan Ponce de León’s landing on Florida’s East Coast, and the first major landing by Europeans on the shores of what would become the continental United States. To honor and celebrate Florida’s rich Hispanic heritage, there will be many celebrations to honor this famous Spaniard. While recognizing that Florida’s cultural history goes back more than 12,000 years to the Native American groups that were its first discoverers, Spain’s claim to La Florida in 1513 marked an important milestone that began a new chapter in Florida’s unique history. Indeed, Ponce de León would be appreciative of all these recognitions.
And then we come to arguably the most important musician in Cuban history – Ernesto Lecuona. His compositions like “Malagueña” and “Siboney” have received worldwide recognition. In addition to more than 400 songs, he also created 176 piano pieces, 53 theater works (zarzuelas, operettas, theatrical revues and an opera), 31 orchestral scores, 6 pieces for piano and orchestra, 3 violin works, a trio, 5 ballets, 11 film scores and many incidental arrangements. Lecuona left his homeland in 1960, shortly after Fidel Castro rose to power in 1959. He made a vow in 1960 never to play piano again until Cuba was a free nation, and his will indicated that his remains be repatriated to Cuba only after the communist regime had run its course. This explains why he is buried in the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, New York – after suffering a heart attack while visiting Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
It is precisely his will that explains why so many people have questioned the musical tribute that the Cuban musical group “Compay Segundo” has paid Lecuona’s music in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria during the first week of January 2013. Lecuona, like José Martí, wanted his homeland to be free. Cuba is no more free in 2013 than in 1959. On the 50th anniversary of his death, this Cuban ensemble disrepects the wishes of Lecuona.