.

It was January of 1998. The city was getting ready for a huge occasion: the visit of the Pope. Our beloved friend Father José Conrado was a guest in our house, staying in the little room upstairs. It was during those unforgettable days when we met Marquetti. He would come each morning to collect JC and drive him around. We became fast friends, as we would ask him to stay for breakfast, something he was enthusiastic about from the start.

During those morning conversations after our meal, we learned that Marquetti—like everyone came to call him fondly—was renting his Lada for those trips, and this enabled him to bear all the costs of gasoline and other expenses. I will never forget the pleasure with which he would butter his bread, exclaiming: Man, it’s been a long time since I had this kind of feast!

Among laughter and jokes he would also talk about serious things, like those times some police officer would stop check him on the road—he did not have a proper license—and, upon seeing his ID card, the officer would tell him “Sorry, my friend. How on Earth can I give you a fine? What I’d like is an autograph!”

I was quite excited yesterday when a friend of mine sent me a clipping from a newspaper abroad (no one has mentioned anything here) describing the tribute he was paid in Miami on the 16th of this month, where five thousand fans, from early in the morning, filled the Rubén Darío stadium to attend a softball match between the Industriales and Cuba.

There were no parking meters left, according to the article, and the match had to be suspended after 45 minutes of play for the organizers to deal with the parking problem. Like we say in my planet, the ebony giant stopped traffic in Miami.

This is one of the most emotive tributes I have ever been paid, said the former slugger of the Industriales team. Many figures from the professional baseball world—most of them former Industriales—came over to greet him. Others who could not attend in person made sure to give him a phone call. The festivities concluded among photos and autographs.

It was once again demonstrated that it doesn’t matter what shore you are at: when it comes to Cubans, those barriers that they try so hard to impose on us never work. Above anything else, that sentiment of cubanía—Cubanhood—will always unite us because, like the Apostle once said: To honor, honors.

January 24 2011

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