To say that one’s work and example transcend death is not a hollow phrase. Many years after Che’s assassination in Bolivia, following poems and books written to extol his memory, in the 1990s a song appeared that touched hearts, inspired by the legendary revolutionary hero. Twenty years have passed since its release, yet “Son los sueños todavía” (They Are Still The Dreams), by Cuban singer-songwriter Gerardo Alfonso, continues to move those who “beyond titles and names” are convinced that “the pain has not killed the utopia,” as the song goes.
What inspired you to write “Son los sueños todavía”?
Inspiration is a constant in my life, ever since I was small, I mean, it has been there forever. Many moments throughout my life have been honored with Che’s figure and example. I believed in him from an early age and have been sensitive to his attitude and everything related to his life, so it was not difficult to be inspired to write a song.The reason I wrote it was a request from the Young Communist League (UJC). They wanted to have a song for the World Festival of Youth and Students dedicated to the Heroic Guerrilla that was to be held in Cuba in 1997, commemorating 30 years since his death.
Was it a mere coincidence that the song was released the same year in which Che’s remains were found?
I wrote the song in November 1996. The video clip was made by the UJC compañeros in December. It was then argued whether or not to release it, as the song, which lasted more than four minutes, had no television space. They finally premiered it on December 31, 1996, at midnight, after a few words from Fidel addressed to the Cuban people.I wrote that idea, ‘I knew very well you were going to return from some place...’ seven months before his remains were found. The then assistant editor of the newspaper Granma, Guillermo Cabrera Álvarez, interviewed me based on the coincidence of having written this phrase and then finding Che’s remains. The article was titled “I knew very well you were going to return from some place,” and that created a feeling among many people that I knew in advance. But all I knew was that he was going to return, and he did, he came back reincarnated in the young people of the world who love him, who believe him.
The Heroic Guerrilla continues to be a model revolutionary. How do audiences react when they hear the song 20 years after its release?
It’s a very moving song and conveys, I believe, a deep sense of love, respect, and loyalty to his example, knowing that he is a mortal, admired for such a spirit of justice and decorum, coherence of action and thought, honesty, humility, and resolve.I think that those values of Che that are present between lines in the song are appreciated by people, so they identify with them and they sing it with passion. It is not a hit parade, it is one of those songs that are sustained over time by the ideals and principles that it defends, independent of the fact that it has a structure that makes it communicative, musically speaking.
What position does this song hold among the songs you have composed?
That is delicate terrain, because my songs are like my children. My musical creations are my children, and there are some which are virtuoso and others that are almost useless, but I love them all the same, and don’t put them in order of preference. But “Son los sueños todavía” has marked me very deeply, it has changed my life, given me a different vision of the reality that I experience, since I was able to organize beliefs and thoughts that lived inside me in a disorderly fashion, and of which I was not aware.This song has provided me a lot of recognition and has also created many detractors. I have had to learn to live with those extremes; I am still learning and dealing with this. I am proud to have composed a song that has a special use for young people, and revolutionary resistance movements around the world. I’m not talking about a viral expansion of the song with millions of hits on YouTube; I’m talking about attitudes, commitment, struggles, principles, ethics.
Fifty years after his death, what meaning do you attribute to the figure of Che?
The same as always: he is an example of a revolutionary, of a human being, of a struggle for the betterment of nations, of peoples, a fighter against all kinds of injustice wherever they manifest themselves and however they manifest themselves. He has a way of living on, of existing, which will always provide the inspiration to continue believing in a utopia of the new man and the new society that we have not yet achieved.
The man of the “White Sheets”
Gerardo Alfonso is an outstanding Cuban trova singer-songwriter, author of memorable songs such as “Son los sueños todavía,” dedicated to Ernesto Guevara, and “Sábanas blancas” (White Sheets), a kind of portrait of Havana.
The artistic career of this representative of the New Trova Movement over 30 years has seen an extensive discography. He has been awarded the Cubadisco Prize, the National Culture Distinction, the Alejo Carpentier Order, the Artistic Merit Diploma, and received the recognition of all those who enjoy his songs both in and outside of Cuba. (Ecured)
They Are Still The Dreams
You rose up from the Southern Cone
And were coming since long before,
With the love of the world deep inside you.
It was a star that put you here
And made you part of this people.
Many men were born of gratitude
Who just like you,
Did not want you to leave
And they are different since.
After so much time and so much turmoil
We follow forever this long, long path
along which you go, along which you go.
The end of the century heralds an old truth,
Good and bad times are a part
Of reality, of reality.
I knew very well you were going to return,
That you were going to return from some place,
Because the pain has not killed the utopia,
Because love is eternal
And the people who love you do not forget you.
You knew very well from that moment
That you were going to grow, that you were going to stay,
Because clear faith cleanses wounds,
Because your spirit is humble
And you are born anew in the poor and in their lives.
They are still the dreams
Those that draw the people,
Like a magnet that unites them every day.
These are not windmills,
It’s not about a Quixote,
Something is tempered in the souls of men,
A virtue that rises beyond
Titles and names.