Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Tocororo Libre (1974-2007)

I remember with a sweet and sour feeling the day that plane took to the sky and me with tears in my eyes as I was finally realizing that I was breaking away from the oppression that tortured my life for so many years. I said good bye to my beloved island not knowing when I was going to able to walk again under that sunshine that gave me life. I'm still waiting for that day to come by. A big thank you to Uncle Sam for giving me the opportunity to be free.

My first day of freedom was December 31, 1989. Celebre el [Año] Nuevo en tierra libre. — Tocororo

Tocororo Libre, a fellow Cuban blogger known to all who comment here or anywhere in the Cuban-American blogosphere, has died at age 33. When he left Cuba he was just 15 years old, yet, as his words attest, his love of country was already an integral part of who he was and so it would remain for the rest of his all-too-short life.

Character is not something that can be coined; it exists or does not exist. Unlike personality which is subject to change, character is immutable. Tocororo's personality, as reflected in his writings, was generous and expansive, boisterous but not boastful, prototypically Cuban in the best sense. But his character was as integral as his personality was variable. His ideals, which are also our ideals, were newer and brighter because he was. It is in the young that ideals are most pristine. We who from the illness of living have grown cynical and morose could refresh our own spirits in the untramelled enthusiasm of the young which rarely outlasts youth. It is a terrible thing to see the few green leaves on a withered tree die but natural to see the seared leaves fall. Killcastro rightly asked how such a collection of fetidity as still breaths and poisons the atmosphere for everybody in Cuba, should have been spared and one so young and blameless as tocororo had his life cut short just at the very age when that demonic presence first cast his dark shadow on our national life 48 years ago; a shadow yet to be dispelled.

But let us not define his life solely in relation to that cloud; for here he grew and built a life outside it. Tocororo was a naturalist and conservationist, and especially a fish lover (he would have had a field day if anyone had called him an "ichthyologist"). He knew that the Cuban Revolution, besides all else and above all else, has meant a 48-year natural catastrophe for our country, and that it has devastated its ecology even more than its infrastructure. The latter can be repaired and will be; the former will take centuries or millenia to regenerate if it ever does. This good man felt every scar in our island's natural beauty personally and made the preservation of what remained his especial concern. Killcastro and Charlie Bravo have written much and well on this aspect of tocororo's life.

We should like to recall another aspect of it where we have some competence to speak. Tocororo's take on the English language was uniquely his own; or, rather, he made a full conquest of English on his own terms. In that paragraph quoted above his talent is well-displayed. No native speaker would say "I remember with a sweet and sour feeling." Writers by rote would have said "bittersweet" but tocororo had his own recipe and his "sour and sweet" is more evocative than their "bittersweet." Multiply that instance by a thousand and you see that what was lost today cannot be replaced. I have tried all day to access tocororo's blog Spanglish a lo cubano without success. It seems to have disappeared from the cyber-ether. Does anyone know how it can be recovered? We owe him that much at least. I hope also that his real name will be made known; for there is no reason any longer to conceal it.

We extend our condolences to his family and friends; and, in particular, to Killcastro and Charlie Bravo, for whom tocororo was like a younger brother.

Rest in Peace.

Beyond The Stars

Three days I heard them grieve when I lay dead,
(It was so strange to me that they should weep!)
Tall candles burned about me in the dark,
And a great crucifix was on my breast,
And a great silence filled the lonesome room.
I heard one whisper, “Lo! the dawn is breaking,
And he has lost the wonder of the day.”
Another came whom I had loved on earth,
And kissed my brow and brushed my dampened hair.
Softly she spoke: “Oh, that he should not see
The April that his spirit bathed in! Birds
Are singing in the orchard, and the grass
That soon will cover him is growing green.
The daisies whiten on the emerald hills,
And the immortal magic that he loved
Wakens again—and he has fallen asleep.”
Another said: “Last night I saw the moon
Like a tremendous lantern shine in heaven,
And I could only think of him—and sob.
For I remembered evenings wonderful
When he was faint with Life’s sad loveliness,
And watched the silver ribbons wandering far
Along the shore, and out upon the sea.
Oh, I remembered how he loved the world,
The sighing ocean and the flaming stars,
The everlasting glamour God has given—
His tapestries that wrap the earth’s wide room.
I minded me of mornings filled with rain
When he would sit and listen to the sound
As if it were lost music from the spheres.
He loved the crocus and the hawthorn-hedge,
He loved the shining gold of buttercups,
And the low droning of the drowsy bees
That boomed across the meadows. He was glad
At dawn or sundown; glad when Autumn came
With her worn livery and scarlet crown,
And glad when Winter rocked the earth to rest.
Strange that he sleeps today when Life is young,
And the wild banners of the Spring are blowing
With green inscriptions of the old delight.”

I heard them whisper in the quiet room.
I longed to open then my sealèd eyes,
And tell them of the glory that was mine.
There was no darkness where my spirit flew,
There was no night beyond the teeming world.
Their April was like winter where I roamed;
Their flowers were like stones where now I fared.
Earth’s day! it was as if I had not known
What sunlight meant!… Yea, even as they grieved
For all that I had lost in their pale place,
I swung beyond the borders of the sky,
And floated through the clouds, myself the air,
Myself the ether, yet a matchless being
Whom God had snatched from penury and pain
To draw across the barricades of heaven.
I climb beyond the sun, beyond the moon;
In flight on flight I touched the highest star;
I plunged to regions where the Spring is born,
Myself (I asked not how) the April wind,
Myself the elements that are of God.
Up flowery stairways of eternity
I whirled in wonder and untrammeled joy,
An atom, yet a portion of His dream—
His dream that knows no end….

I was the rain,
I was the dawn, I was the purple east,
I was the moonlight on enchanted nights,
(Yet time was lost to me); I was a flower
For one to pluck who loved me; I was bliss,
And rapture, splendid moments of delight;
And I was prayer, and solitude, and hope;
And always, always, always I was love.
I tore asunder flimsy doors of time,
And through the windows of my soul’s new sight
I saw beyond the ultimate bounds of space.
I was all things that I had loved on earth—
The very moonbeam in that quiet room,
The very sunlight one had dreamed I lost,
The soul of the returning April grass,
The spirit of the evening and the dawn,
The perfume in unnumbered hawthorn-blooms.
There was no shadow on my perfect peace,
No knowledge that was hidden from my heart.
I learned what music meant; I read the years;
I found where rainbows hide, where tears begin;
I trod the precincts of things yet unborn.
Yea, while I found all wisdom (being dead),
They grieved for me … I should have grieved for them!

By: Charles Hanson Towne (1877-1949)



Agustin Farinas said...

sad news indeed. I have read some of his very witty comments in the blogsphere. And at the early age of 33, this is incredible. It comes to mind how unfair this life is. We have a disgusting and miserable excuse for a human being clinging to life in Havana, and then one reads about a Cuban kid practically passing away. This is more than one can comprehend. They say that God works in mysterious ways, but sometimes His ways seem to leave me wondering in amazement. May He forgive me for questioning the logic of this, but I can't help it. May Tocororo Libre rest in peace. Our condolences to his family and friends.

Manuel A.Tellechea said...


Remember that God's son also died at 33. There is nothing fair or just about life. Humans, in their striving for order and meaning, expect there to be. But God made no promises in that respect. It is only in the life to come that this chaos will finally be made understandable to us.

Agustin Farinas said...

Very true words indeed. But the death of someone so young always comes as a shock to us all. Here was a kid full of life at age 33 and he passes away in the prime of his life. May God receive Tocororo Libre in his Kingdom. We will say a little prayer for his soul tonight with my wife. May he rest in peace.

Vana said...

This is a very sad day for all us Cubans, to hear a young Cuban was taken from us, at such a young age, who was young enough to maybe have seen our Cuba free, he was only 33 years old, that's how old my daughter is, 33 is too young to die, my heart goes out to his family, they must be in terrible pain right now, I will pray for him, may he rest in peace.

Also to learn that Charlie is in hospital, and that KC was rushed to hospital on Friday, this is way too many bad news to take in one day, as we all know, life is so unfair.

LibertadparaCuba said...

When someone we love passes away,
We ache, but we go on;
Our dear departed would want us to heal,
After they are gone.

Grief is a normal way to mend
The anguish and pain in our hearts;
We need time to remember and time to mourn,
Before the recovery starts.

Let's draw together to recuperate,
As we go throught this period of sorrow;
Let's help each other, with tender care
To find a brighter tomorrow.

Manuel A.Tellechea said...


I think this inhuman weather is affecting all of us for the worse. We are not children anymore and impervious to such extremes in temperature. With the thermometer reading 100+ degrees, I have closed the shutters and put the air conditioner at full blast. I am reading heavily and eating lightly. I recommend this regimen to everybody.

Vana said...

My God Manuel, that poem has made me cry and cry, and it's so unfair that I must go to work today, when all I want to do is hang out with all you guys, and grieve with you my brethen, I'm not gonna be a pretty sight today, no sir, and to top it off, is so ugly and overcast here today, a horrible day indeed, you follow a good regimen my friend, will have to learn from you

Charlie Bravo said...

At his point, my eyes dried out.

Agustin Farinas said...

I was going to ask yesterday you to post a picture of our national bird to go along with your posting about Tocororo's untimely death. Somehow I forgot yesterday and it was a surprise for me to see there this morning. Thanks. You read my mind.

Manuel A.Tellechea said...


This is the best photograph I have ever encountered of the tocororo. You can clearly see our flag in its red, blue and white plumage, which is why it is our national bird. The tocororo is a cousin to the noble quetzal, which plunges its beak into its heart if deprived of liberty.

Agustin Farinas said...

I saved it to my desktop and have placed as the wallpaper in honor of Tocororo Libre. I will keep it there for a whole week in remembrance of this corageous young man who in his own words had finnaly "the opportunity to be free" May our Merciful God grant him the peace he longed for in his short and fruitful life.

AC said...

Thank you all for your sweet sentiments about Tocororo's passing. I should clarify something. He was born July 23, 1973.
Adela, his sister-in-law