Jorge López Reyes received the Martyrs of Barbados Medal for his work supporting community sports. Photo: Oscar Álvarez

When it comes to Cuba’s sporting achievements, praise usually falls on the island’s coaches and athletes, however, the work of grass roots activists and their fundamental role in promoting healthy living within the community and supporting the search for new sporting talents, is hardly ever mentioned.

For Jorge López Reyes, a community sports facilitator in his neighborhood of Aldabó in the municipality of Boyeros, Havana province, receiving the Martyrs of Barbados Medal (in honor of the victims of the 1976 terrorist bombing of a Cuban plane over the coast of the Caribbean island), is recognition of the good work he has been doing in his community.
Regarding his efforts and what led him to be awarded the medal he noted: “I create and undertake activities with the kids and youth in my neighborhood. It’s an outlying community and has few sporting initiatives; hence the importance of work at the grass roots level. This medal belongs to the community, to our delegates, to all those in the neighborhood that have always offered me their support.”
As well as Aldabó, López Reyes, also works in other areas around the municipality and province. A retiree, the activist, offers his services at the National Volleyball School where he helps with the upkeep of the center.
For Jorge, nothing gives him more joy than the gratitude of those with whom he worked as children, and now as adults, still call him “Sir.” Meanwhile, his consistency and commitment have won him the trust of many parents in the neighborhood, happy for him to take their children to participate in activities in other municipalities around the city.
For López Reyes, 30 years of work is a mere drop in the ocean: “I intend to work organizing sports activities until my dying day. I have no plans to rest, and this has caused me a lot of problems at home,” he jokingly states.
Jorge’s sporting life began in his native city of Santiago de Cuba where he organized games and competitions in order to create a space for kids to participate in neighborhood activities.
As a young man he took an interest in weightlifting, but was forced to give it up due to knee trouble. Later he branched out into track and field, where competed in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters.
For this activist - who above all else is proud to be Cuban - more important than medals and distinctions, which undoubtedly motivate him to continue working, is the joy of the children: “Seeing the kids in my neighborhood having fun makes me feel happy. This is the driving force behind my work; this is what gives me strengthen to keep doing what I’m doing.” (