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    Unforgettable Melba, 100 years of the anniversary of her birth

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     Inolvidable Melba, a cien años de su natalicio

    This Wednesday, July 28, it is commemorated 100 years of the fruitful physical and spiritual existence of Melba Hernández Rodríguez del Rey, heroine of Moncada, of the clandestine fight, of the guerrilla warfare in Sierra Maestra and tireless fighter for all fair causes after the revolutionary triumph, on January 1, 1959.

    Millions facts has been written about her proverbial modesty and her friendly and familiar treatment with everyone, even though it always seems insufficient to those who knew her.

    Even I, who barely had the privilege of seeing her a handful of times, still have the unsatisfied feeling that journalists, communicators, lecturers, scholars and researchers have not transmitted, in reasonable measure, the dimension, especially human, of Melba. A woman whom we usually associate to Haydée Santamaría: both confined in the women's prison located in Guanajay, for their participation in actions related to the assault on the Moncada Barracks, in Santiago de Cuba.

    That event, however, would be just the prelude or beginning of a whole life devoted to the Cuban Revolution, until the moment she died, almost 93 years old, on March 9, 2014. Sometimes, rummaging through my photographic archive, I find photos such as those that accompany these notes, which portray the always expected and pleasant presence of Melba in the celebrations for the Day of National Rebellion (July 26).  Seeing, greeting, kissing one of the only two Cuban women who participated in the fight for freedom, always brought a special nuance, of exclusivity, to the commemoration, no matter in which province it took place.

    The Frank País International Airport in Holguín, for instance, witnessed the same tenderness that photographic lenses and video cameras would also capture in the rebellious, welcoming and heroic city of Santiago de Cuba.

    I remember that journalists from various media used to surround her to listen to her experiences and advices, but always taking into account the respect, care and precaution in order to avoid altering in any way the peaceful stay of the heroine,.

    The kiss and the hug of the little girl who manages to get rid of mother's hand and the privilege of the child whose fingers Melba does not stop caressing while they talk almost in a whisper, comeback again. Also, the immense cake on a table surrounded by children who would later tell in their respective classrooms and in the neighborhood how they celebrated, in the midst of the activities for July 26, the birthday of the outstanding revolutionary woman.

    Moreover, there were many talks about her. Someone was always in charge of evoking how this delicate and affectionate person participated in the printing and distribution of the declaration entitled To Cuba that suffers, in which Fidel, and his fellow prisoners make it clear that there will be no truce in the fight against the dictatorship headed by Fulgencio Batista. Another example took place in 1954, when she gave herself completely to the collection of funds, printing and distribution of the self-defense appeal History will absolve me.

    Honoring those who are grateful, we had in front of us to the Cuban woman who, on her return, went ahead towards Sierra Maestra to follow the orders of Commander Juan Almeida Bosque, in the territory of the Mario Muñoz Monroy Third Front.

    The ashes of this peaceful old woman occupy space in the Mausoleum of the Martyrs of the Revolution, in Santa Ifigenia cemetery, Santiago de Cuba. She is the same one who, after the victory, threw the possibility of resting, recovering herself, taking refuge in the calm of the home environment, decided to assume responsibilities as President of the Cuban Committee of Solidarity with Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.  Also, she was member of the Presidium of the World Peace Council;  General Secretary of the Organization of Solidarity with the Peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America;  Ambassador of Cuba in the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam and in Kampuchea, as well as director of the Center for Studies on Asia and Oceania, among other outstanding functions.

    For the Vietnamese people, she felt a truly unlimited passion that was corresponded from generation to generation in that portion of the Asian continent.

    More than 20 years have passed and I seem to be looking at her while she talked with the deputy director and a journalist from the Nhan Dan, Official Organ of the Communist Party of Vietnam, who by virtue of truly fraternal relations were visiting our archipelago at that time.  I could not specify the exact time that dialogue lasted, I only know that in Melba's comfortable little house there was true family love.

    Phan Ba ​​Linh, the younger of the two visitors, having studied in Cuba, translated ideas, messages and reflections from his deputy director, as well as his own impressions.  Finally, the unwanted moment of good-bye arrives.  For a moment, the words seem to lose all sense of being and are embraced by the gaze, with the complicit confession of clasped hands.

    Then Melba, beautiful and immense as always, only expresses in a tone of tender advice: “Take good care of yourselves.” It is curious, at that moment Viet Nam progresses rapidly in every way. Cuba, on the other hand, is going through the crudest adversities of the so-called Special Period, with the everlasting imperial will to suffocate us.

    Maybe for this reason, Ba Linh, who live and knew Cuban culture very well due to his years of university studies in Villa Clara, merges with Melba in a hug while, with a uncommon humidity in the slanting eyes of those who inhabit that continent, he pleads: "Take care of yourself more ... take care of yourselves, please."