During these days, Cubans weep and celebrate a few anniversaries. One of those we weep for is the year anniversary of the death of Olga Guillot, the Cuban music icon and “Queen of Bolero”. But it is also a moment of celebration and pride as we look back and realize that we had the immense luck of having her as a representative of Cuba. Olga was a woman of huge success- she was one of the first women to perform boleros (Cuban ballads which in the past were strictly a genre for men), one of the inventors (if not the inventor) of the Cuban music genre known as “feeling” (which as the name suggests consists of including more emotion into the song), the first Latin artist to perform in New York’s prestigious Carnegie Hall, recipient of countless awards and gold and platinum records for her musical work, and overall, she was a grand Cuban who had plenty of talent and dignity, mixing both traits to take the true story of Cuba all around the world, always. She never ceased talking about her country and she was not afraid to mention dissidents on the island or of saying that those who rule her country “are assassins”.
Her music, her humor, and her ‘Cuban-ness’ will live on forever in exile and in the island itself, despite the fact that the authorities did everything in their corrupt power to erase her from history. But the truth is that without Olga Guillot it is impossible to write the history of Cuban music.
Below is a video of one of the final interviews with Olga Guillot. Unfortunately, I don’t have subtitles but for those who know or understand a bit of Spanish, enjoy:
And a video of another one of her last appearances in public. Here, Guillot shares some words at the historic march for the Ladies in White and Cuba’s freedom evoked by Gloria & Emilio Estefan on March 25, 2010. Guillot can be heard offering words of solidarity to the Ladies in White, celebrating Cuba’s dissidents, specially the mother of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Reina: