Photo: Juvenal Balán

A floral wreath from Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, President of Cuba's Councils of State and Ministers was placed alongside the coffin of Armando Hart Dávalos, one of Cuba's greatest revolutionaries, who died November 26 as a result of respiratory failure. A public wake took place at the Center for Martí Studies from the evening of his death until 10:00am on the 27th, when a final honor guard was held.

On hand were family members, friends, and comrades in the many battles waged by the singular intellectual during his long, fruitful life. The most varied reminiscences flowed spontaneously.

Conscious that, with the death of Hart, one of the Revolution's great thinkers was lost, Minister of Culture Abel Prieto, told Granma, "Cuban revolutionary thought has in Hart an essential individual who made key contributions, on the basis, in the first place, of his deep relation to Martí, and then Fidel's thought. He founded an institutional system for culture, when he had already founded the entire Cuban educational system. He was the man of the Literacy Campaign. He contributed as few others to the spiritual, educational, and cultural transformation that characterized our people in those years, and I think it is fortunate that last year the Book Fair was dedicated to him and many of his books were published. Cuban readers have there, in bookstores and libraries, a great wealth of documents, indispensable to understanding our recent history, and also the tradition of Cuban thought, that was one of his obsessions."

Dr. Lidia Turner Martí, the Association of Cuban Pedagogue's President of Honor, shared her recollections, expressing her pride in having been a member of Hart's generation, eternal youth of action and thought, and in considering him a brother since the days of underground struggle, "when he would come to my house and sit with a copy of Bohemia magazine to cover his face if someone opened the door." She recalled his later work, in education and the Martí Program, saying, "I believe it is a fortunate that he was able to write what he thought. Knowing that his thinking has been recorded in writing makes me very happy."

Outstanding bibliographer Araceli García Carranza commented, "Hart meant a great deal to Cuban culture. He was Minister of Education named on nothing less than January 3, 1959, and when he was designated Minister of Culture he was applauded by all intellectuals in this country, and was even more applauded when he did so much for Cuba's culture. He leaves to the country an immense body of work and the legacy of an extraordinary bibliography."

Noting the presence of so many people to bid farewell to Hart for the last time, decorated Hero of the Republic René González Sehwerert observed, "Not a single generation of Cubans is missing here. The parents, children, and grandchildren of the Revolution are here, honoring a man who was instrumental to achieving the Revolution's greatest prize: the Cuban of today. Hart led the enormous effort to educate a people, and later the effort to make us cultured, and this people has come to pay tribute because of everything he represented. The Revolution's most beautiful works would not have been written without this man who was consistently faithful to Martí's thought, Armando Hart."