Warter Hechavarría is assigned to Leipzig as a representative of the Cuban Young Communist League to supervise the contract workers. He is to make sure that the young Cubans are reliable in both, their work and politics. He himself will become an apprentice too.
Warter Hechavarría arrives in Leipzig in October 1979 together with a larger group of young Cubans. At the VEB “Joliot Curie” Fahrzeuggetriebewerke (Vehicle Transmission Plant) Leipzig, he is trained as a metal cutting machinist. He lives with his Cuban colleagues in a residential home across the street from the plant. Thus, at least they don’t have a long commute to their work in shifts. In their leisure time they explore the city or attend parties in the residential home. That’s where Warter meets his future girlfriend Esmireldis Navarro.
Political activist and party official
As a representative of the Communist Party of Cuba in the GDR, Warter Hechavarría organizes political meetings and events. He cooperates with the representative of the Cuban Young Communist League as well as with representatives of the embassy. His duties also include the monitoring and evaluation of Cuban contract workers on the basis of certain criteria (chequeo de emulación). He is also supposed to mediate in conflicts between Germans and Cubans. These occur especially after parties.
Agitation from the residential home
In April 1980 some Cubans occupy the Peruvian embassy in Havana to force their departure. It is the starting point of a mass exodus from Cuba. Warter Hechavarría, together with other party representatives, organizes an act of repudiation (acto de repudio) from the balcony of the residential home, to express their indignation at fleeing Cuba and their solidarity with the Cuban government. Also some Germans participate in the manifestation.
Meeting with international students
As secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, Warter Hechavarría also meets the young Cubans studying at the Karl Marx University in Leipzig. Likewise he befriends their fellow students from different countries of origin. Warter switches between different worlds: the world of the contract workers with whom he works in the factory and shares the residential home; the world of the political functionaries, who discuss ideological issues and guarantee discipline; and the world of the students, who invite them to their own parties.
Move to Berlin
After three years of training and work in the vehicle transmission plant, Warter Hechavarría moves together with his girlfriend Esmireldis Navarro to Berlin, both now working for the Cuban embassy there.
I was offered to prolong my stay in the GDR. I said no. I had enough already.Warter Hechavarría, Havana 2022
Elaine del Valle Cala conducted the interview in Havana in 2021.
Text: Isabel Enzenbach
Research and research protocol photos: Elaine del Valle Cala, Isabel Enzenbach
- Metal cutting machinists, or as they are called in the GDR, skilled metal cutting machinists, used to be called lathe operators or milling cutters. They produce precision components from various materials, mostly metal, by turning, milling or grinding. Typical jobs are in mechanical engineering, steel or light metal construction or in vehicle construction.