I have known ever since I saw the photo taken in New York in 1965 depicting the troupe of giants of Pamplona, a typical image in the San Fermin festival, parading down New York’s 5th Avenue, and the caption stating that due to the situation of racial discrimination, the two black giants had been barred from participating in the parade, that there was a story to be had there.
Afterwards, during one of my visits to Cuba, I savoured the story of a secret mission, one of many told by one of its protagonists about how they had to carry out the secret services of the Cuban Intelligence Division at the end of the 1960s at the height of the cold war. It was an undercover operation to assist one of the movements which the Cuban revolution sympathised with and supported: The Black Panthers of the United States. I was told that in order to rescue an African-American militant, who according to counter-intelligence reports was going to be “taken out” by the CIA, the agents had to enter via Mexico, make contact with the militant in question in the United States and take him to Cuba, where he would be given political refugee status, and how they had to undertake a bizarre trip. A manoeuvre involving confusion and disorientation typical of that time so that the various secret services operating internationally would not be able to confirm their suspicions about Cuban involvement in the various warring groups that were emerging abroad.
The parade in New York, the secret operation led by Cuba, and the cities involved in the story set in 1967 started to twist and turn around our narration like the giants in the Pamplona parade during the San Fermin Festival: New York and The Factory, Harlem and the racial disturbances sparked by the death of Malcolm X, the Apollo Room and soul, with Muhammad Ali floating like a butterfly, stinging like a bee, Cuba and its Yoruba rhythms, Mexico and the infinite Juan Rulfo, Los Angeles and Tin Tan, the Monterey festival, the final of the Basque verse-making competition featuring Xalbador, San Francisco and Black Power, the Expo in Montreal and Charles de Gaulle, Algeria and Cheikha Rimitti, Madrid under the decrepit Franco dictatorship and the presence of Che, always Che.
An intriguing story combining fiction with reality; one that speaks of espionage, revolution and love and hovering over everything was Vietnam, the 6-Day War, the KGB, the CIA, MOSSAD, the guerrillas in Bolivia, the liberation movements across the world, psychedelic drugs, sexual liberation and the revolution of orgasm, and above all, the music of Otis Redding: “Respect”.