The qualities of poet and musician that late troubadour Carlos Puebla revealed in his creations, and especially those as an anti-imperialist fighter, main support of the musical work he bequeathed to his people, made him, as assessed by Cuba’s National Poet Nicolás Guillén, a unique artist; but the sensitivity of the “singer of the people” as a human being, father, husband and man of deep values, still find living expression in someone who was at his side for more than forty years: Rosalba Juárez Batista, his widow, who assured us, with all the clarity that still accompanies her in her over 95 years of age, that “life rewarded her” when it joined her for good with Carlos Puebla, whose voice was heard both in boleros and guarachas, guajiras and songs, which entered our ears and hearts as a stream of feelings, giving with each of them a chronicle of Cuba, pre and post Revolution, with emphasis on the latter, until 1989, when Puebla said goodbye to his followers, leaving a rich heritage to national culture.
With Rosalba Juarez we met more closely the author of “Hasta siempre Comandante” dedicated to Che, and “En eso llegó Fidel,” known in almost all parts of the world.
How would you describe Puebla as a man of culture?
Puebla was above all very Cuban, a man who loved his country, and had the gift of making songs, romantic at the beginning, and later, before the triumph of the Revolution, he composed pieces against the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, which were then considered “subversive. “
Any stories from that time?
Yes. One day he was invited to a television show to sing. Batista was in power, and at the end the last song he interpreted he said: “as I can see / the new Mambí gesture / Martí’s words and Maceo’s machete / are missing here.” People say this was quite an event and everyone expected the police van to be outside waiting for the artists to arrest them when they came out, but in the end nothing happened.
On another occasion I knew that a Puerto Rican baseball player, who went every day to have lunch at Havana’s La Bodeguita del Medio when in the days of capitalism on the island the games called Del Caribe (Caribbean) were held here, always repeated the same old story and told Puebla “because of Cubans we are still not free”; and Puebla somewhat upset answered him one day: your heroic people and mine have the same history / if that glorious afternoon he had not been in Dos Rios / I’m honest and I confess my dear Puerto Rican / if Marti had not died / you would have your freedom and so would I.
What happened after the triumph of the Revolution with the artistic work of Puebla?
In the early morning of January 1st, 1959, and then at La Bodeguita, he premiered the song “Como cae un general”; then came others like Yankee go home, “En eso llegó Fidel,” “La reforma agrarian” and “ ¡Ay cubano!”
Did Puebla dedicate many songs to you? Do you remember the first one?
Yes, the first song he dedicated to me was entitled “Camagüey,” because he heard me talk a lot about that province and he thought I was from there. There is another one he dedicated to me, that went “blanca, blanca como tu alma (white, white … like your soul.”)
And how was Carlos Puebla, just as a human being, or in his role as a father and a husband?
Well I can tell you he was an exceptional person due to his character; he was very funny, he had his conceptions of life I had mine, but we respected each other a lot, that is why we could be together for so long. He was home-loving; he devoted his free time to his family.
When he returned from international tours he was asked what country he liked the most, and he said “Cuba,” and that the place where he felt better was his home. He said he was not an artist but a cultural worker. I admired him.
In this way, the widow of Carlos Puebla finished our conversation, and commented that if a traveler arrives in Guanabacoa, Havana, and wants to know where the singer lived, he or she has a reference in the Chibás Neighborhood: on the frontage of her house, on the window’s grille, musical notes call people’s attention; an that is the chorus of the his song entitled “Y en eso llegó Fidel,” which the people have named as part of its lyrics go “llegó el Comandante y mandó a parar,” (and then the Commander arrived and ordered to stop), a phrase with which the singer expresses how Fidel changed for Cubans, starting from 1959, the opprobrious history in which his homeland was plunged into, in the face of which Carlos Puebla was a committed and a politically active artist.