Jorge Ibarra Cuesta, one of the most influential and lucid researchers in the field of Cuban history has died at the age of 85. He was the author of a large body of work that is essential to understanding the process of construction of the Cuban nation.
In 1996 he was was honoured by the Ministry of Culture with the National Prize for Social Sciences and in 2008 he was awarded the national History Prize by the Cuban National Union of Historians, in both cases for his life’s work.
Born in Santiago de Cuba on the 11th August 1931, he began his studies there before moving to the USA. On his return, he trained as a lawyer at the University of Oriente. During the 1950s, he was active in the underground struggle against the dictatorship.
After the triumph of the Revolution, he was a member of the National Council for Culture, served in the armed forces and worked in the Institute of Cuban History where he was particularly noted for his contribution to the Manual of Cuban History for the Revolutionary Armed Forces. He was awarded a doctorate by the University of Havana in 1997. He was an active member of the writers union.
Best known in the English speaking world for his “Prologue to Revolution, Cuba 1898-1958”, his prodigious output in Spanish included works on the 10 Years War, the Cuban War of Independence, Marxism and Slavery, the Neo-colonial Republic and much, much more.
He rather modestly said of himself: “I have only tried to sketch the problems, revising conceptions of the past and discussing everything. I do not pretend to have created a new school or way of seeing things. If I have made some contributions it has been to stimulate discussion and criticism among my colleagues. It is true that, like every historian, I have brought to light some unpublished facts, but the interpretation I have given them is still under consideration.”
The 18th Havana International Book Fair was dedicated to him in 2009. At the presentation ceremony, his comrade Fernando Martínez Heredia, who shared Jorge Ibarra’s history of academic achievement and underground militancy against the Batista dictatorship, summed up his legacy: “Jorge has followed the long and difficult road of both a social scientist and an intellectual militant, with unshakable honesty, ever growing prestige, and a fighting spirit“