It was early evening many years ago at our home on York Avenue in NYC, there was someone at the door, I went over, opened it and there was Marta Jimenez the representative of Cuba to the 4th Committee at the United Nations under my father's watch as Ambassador.
I remember my mother laughing when I walked in her room to announce that "a young lady with pretty hair" was in the living room waiting for her. From that moment on, Marta would forever use that description every time she called our home, whether in NY or in Havana. "Margaritica, its Marta, "the young lady with the pretty hair", is your mother home?"
Marta was not only a subordinate of my father's then in the 1970's she had also been the wife of one of his dearest brothers in arms, Fructuoso Rodriguez brutally murdered in April of 1957 by the Batista police when he was only 23 years old leaving a young 21 year old Marta behind. She demanded her husband's lifeless body from the police and carried his coffin while seven months pregnant on its way to the cemetery in an audacious affront to the Batista Police and made sure that the multitude accompanying the procession be allowed to reach the cemetery unscathed.
As an active member of the Student Directorate in Havana she continued the struggle to over throw the blood thirsty dictatorship of the Batista regime and then went on to play as many an active role as possible in the new Cuban Revolutionary process.
When I was ten years old she watched over me after I had my tonsils out in Havana one summer and I remember how she would whisper in my ear "wake up! I am getting very bored here waiting for your mom to get back..." A very funny woman with a wit all her own, she managed to reconcile having been widowed at an early age and left to rear a young boy on her own with helping to construct the project that she ,her late husband and so many others had dreamed of in their youth. Marta worked as a diplomat and one of her greatest triumphs and one of which she was most proud had been to be one of the first people to stand side by side the Sahrawi people
Marta died over the weekend. She was eighty two years old.
Times have changed in Cuba and in the rest of the world. Revolution is no longer as romantic as it was back then when our parents were young. Yet as I walked along side my father and Marta's only son, Osvaldo Fructuoso Rodríguez Jimenez, in the cemetery this morning I couldn't help but think about how important it is to remember our history, less we repeat the mistakes of the past.
Marta belonged to a strong comfortable middle class in an island riddled with injustices; she fought alongside a young revolutionary and became one herself. It didn't matter that she be a young woman who had been taught otherwise by society, she believed a better world was possible and fought till the end to make it happen.