Stirring Tribute from Cuba to Alicia Jrapko

By Enrique Milanés León on April 30, 2022

Gerardo Hernandez, Bill Hackwell and Graciela Ramirez inaugurate tribute to Alicia Jrapko Photo: Yaimi Ravelo

“The Felix Elmusa award shone brighter on her chest and she honored them more than the medal honored her,” said Tubal Paez, former president of the Union of Cuban Journalists (UPEC) at yesterday’s tribute to the Argentine sister’s life at the Casa de la Prensa.

The tribute coincided with a 30 image photographic exhibition entitled Alicia Jrapko Vive: A Life of Struggles for Revolutionary Change in the World and was attended by Alicia’s closest friends, colleagues and people who inspired her. The large UPEC hall was clearly not big enough to hold so many people that included members of the national children’s theater group La Colmenita, to a high level diplomat to all the members of the Cuban 5 and their families.

Gerardo Hernandez Nordelo -Hero of the Republic of Cuba like his four brothers Rene, Antonio, Fernando and Ramon, also present-, explained his long relationship with Alicia to the emotional audience and said that “Only someone with her capacity to love can bring together people with so much history. She will always be a symbol to Cuba and others”.
Ricardo Ronquillo Bello, the current president of UPEC, reflected that one does not mourn a life that is gone; one celebrates a life that is so loved. It was another of the many poignant portraits during the event that included Alicia’s close friend and colleague Graciela Ramirez, another great Argentine women who commented about the bottomless void left by her sisters passing on January 11 in Oakland California after a long illness.

Graciela Ramirez, told of one of many abilities when she was not allowed to bring books to the imprisoned Cuban hero Gerardo Hernandez, who she visited in US penitentiaries in California over 100 times in a 12 year period of time, was to memorize by heart portions of Eduardo Galleano’s Book of Hugs. Graciela recalled Alicia’s zeal to take care of others. “She saw in the embrace of friends a strength for the struggle. Alicia was a constant ray of light and her life was an embrace in and of itself.”
Alicia’s life partner, photo journalist Bill Hackwell, explained that he had no problem taking a supportive role to Alicia’s leadership in the many projects she threw herself into, from the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5, to the International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity, to co-chair of the National Network on Cuba, to the founder and leader of the North American chapter of In Defense of Humanity to being co-founder of Resumen Latinoamericano in English in 2015 and her final project as co-chair of the US campaign for the Cuban doctors for the Nobel Peace Prize. Bill explained how Alicia chose not to tell people of her illness out of concern it could be a distraction to the work in the struggle to end the blockade of Cuba. He also pointed out how after she had to flee the military dictatorship in Argentina in 1976 she was able to refocus her activism in the US from the inspiration she drew from the Cuban Revolution, its leaders and the humanity instilled in the Cuban people. Bill now fulfills the promise he made to her to continue the important work of Resumen in the US bringing news and analysis from a Latin American perspective.

Rosa Miriam Elizalde, UPEC’s first vice-president, pointed out in the dialogue an important reminder, sometimes forgotten that, among many things, Alicia Jrapko’s great cause was the full vindication of the Cuban people, a battle she undertook with enormous organizational capacity. “She knew no impossibilities and so, from anonymity, she did everything for our people,” recalled Rosa Miriam. “Why is it important that the Cuban Revolution exists? Because it is that little light at the end of the hard road,” Alicia used to say; who today is also transformed into that great “little light” that will rearm us and give us strength to continue fighting in the defense of Cuba and all just causes.”

Another friend, Arleen Rodríguez Derivet, portrayed her in a phrase: “She was joy!” In that joy, however, there was a serene space for the woman who escaped the military dictatorship but did not choose to hide but rather to fight for the dreams of those who died or were disappeared in her homeland.

Cuban diplomat Johana Tablada invited those attending to write the story of this extraordinary Argentine-Cuban woman who always said goodbye in her letters, as Antonio Guerrero told, with an invariable “Hasta la victoria siempre!”.
The remarkable tribute was an obvious moment of collective grieving for most while giving just some of the glory this great tireless fighter deserves.

Source: Cuba Periodistas

View the video made for the tribute by Víctor Villalba Gutiérrez: