por Manny López
(para el blog Gaspar, El Lugareño)
Leonel Menéndez is cubanísimo; however I wanted to do this interview in English, because there’s this other side, which like me, it is very much there.
A couple of year’s ago, in Zu Galería, Leonel presented his book, En el Barrio de los Mangos, and since then, I feel that I have one more friend in California. However, I can always sense his presence roaming Calle 8. I have this feeling that I am going to run into him at Versailles, or that he will just show up at one of my monthly events at the Alliance Francaise.
I felt connected right away when I read his book as well. Coming from a small town in Cuba myself, I could relate to some of those colorful characters in Leonel’s very own Barrio de los Mangos. His tales of this curious, adolescent boy and the many characters around him are fresh and very real. Leonel has a way of getting the reader involved in his stories. Anyone can find a bit of themselves and their experiences in his writing.
Leonel is currently at work on his next project, and I am anxious to read what adventures he is up to this time….But until then… his answers to the questionnaire…
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
My father suffered from Parkinson's and my mother died of acute dementia, for me; there is nothing more miserable than loosing ones mind. When we lose our mind, we lose everything.
What is your idea of happiness?
Nothing in this world makes me happier than to have absolute freedom. It will make me very happy to be able to visit my country, Cuba, without having to ask for neither permission nor how long I will plan to stay.
Who are your favorite characters in history?
Of course I was very much influenced in Cuba by José Martí but, I would have to say Alexander III of Macedon (356–323 BC), popularly known as “Alexander the Great”. He commanded his first battles while only sixteen years old and went on to conquer the entire known world. I was very intrigued in my early college years that the concept of homosexuality did not exist in Ancient Greece. Men had lovers of either gender and Alexander was not an exception.
The quality you most admire in a man?
What I admire most in a man, is his feminine side, that “X-chromosome” that all males have. I admire a man who puts aside his “machismo” and “lets his hair down”.
The quality you most admire in a woman?
What I admire most in a woman is her femininity, that “natural born-condition” to be able to become a mother in body, soul and spirit. This is something no man will ever understand.
Your most marked characteristic?
I believe is earned compassion and loyalty.
What do you most value in your friends?
I most value the loving, giving nature of my friends. We build precious moments together. I will cherish those memories forever.
How would you like to die?
I would like to die after Cuba is free. I will be in the middle of the most beautiful dream, on the sands of my favorite beach. Buey Vaquita, in Matanzas during a night loaded with stars.
What is your present state of mind?
My present state of mind is gratitude and excitement. I am grateful to be alive, grateful for my family and friends, grateful and excited for all the projects that are about to come my way.
Currently I am very excited, working with a partner on a movie script for “El barrio de los Mangos”. My next challenge is, “La ultima sobreviviente” coming out soon in Spanish and English. Also, I am working about the continuation of Los Mangos, titled; “Buscando Mangos en Orange County”.
What is your motto?
“Freedom is the right of every human being”. José Martí
“La libertad es el derecho de todo ser humano”. José Martí
"Memory is the only paradise from which we cannot be expelled." Eyquem Michel de Montaigne, (1533-1592) French writer and philosopher.
"La memoria es el único paraíso del que no podemos ser expulsados." Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, (1533-1592) Escritor y filósofo francés.