Last goodbye to 'the grandmother of the Cuban exile' in Miami
Leonor Ferreira was imprisoned at the age of 14 for fighting against the Machado regime, and she was jailed again with Batista and Castro. She died at 105 and her funeral is being held today.
She lived to witness the fall of "Castrismo" and three years ago she did not believe it was likely that democracy would come to Cuba, even though she fought for many years for it: first in her native Cuba, where she is considered the youngest prisoner on the island, and at the end of her days in Miami.
Leonor Ferreira, known as the grandmother of the Cuban exile, died last Tuesday at the age of 105, and there are those who assure that it was her sense of struggle for freedom that made her live such a long life, and not without excitement.
When she was 14 years old, she was first imprisoned for trying to burn down a famous American store in Havana known as "Ten Cents". It was during the time of the Gerardo Machado regime, and later she would also reveal herself against the Fulgencia Bastista dictatorship, something she regretted because they were neighbors and friends. Castro, on the other hand, had always been sworn in...
When Fidel took power in 1959, she was working at the Cuban Ministry of Labor: "I don't work with a miserable communist," she shouted at him, tearing up some papers in his face. "And from there," she declared to ABC, " I was in jail all the time."
In 1961, she participated in the failed U.S. invasion of the Bay of Pigs, and a few months later, in what seems like a thriller, she went into exile through the Brazilian Embassy in Havana, narrowly escaping being shot; she snuck through the window of the Brazilian ambassador's car as she was being taken to the firing squad.
Once at the embassy, as a refugee with other asylum seekers who had seen their husbands shot, Che Gevara appeared there and she confronted him in reference to one of the executed: "Murderer, murderer, you will die as Cabrera died!"
A rebellious woman, she always boasted of not being afraid of anything and of having done with her life what she wanted. And that in spite of the men... She was married twice, and when she divorced her first husband because he had had a child with another woman and he refused to break off the marriage, Leonor convinced him with a gun in her hand: "Sign my divorce... Either you kill me or I kill you!", she threatened.
"I don't work with a miserable communist!" she shouted to Fidel Castro.
As a doctor and member of the International Labor Organization (ILO), Ferreira dedicated herself to opening nurseries and developing programs on prostitution, education and female crime. Even the Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza asked her to educate his son Luis to become president, and his brother begged her not to leave the country, to help them end communism. But she left.
"I did everything that needed to be done," she told ABC, "except kill and bomb, which my mother forbade."
Her life is recorded in the book "Leonor Ferreira. A century of rebellion and passion", written by Ena Curnow in collaboration with Pablo Chao (ed. Alexandria).