When José Antonio Echeverría Bianchi enrolled in the University of Havana, in 1950, he accumulated some experience in the student struggle developed along with José Smith Comas and other disciples, in the Second Institute Teaching School of Cárdenas, his hometown.
This record, in addition to being an excellent student and exemplary partner, influenced him to be quickly elected as a delegate of the Faculty of Architecture and later president of the University Student Federation, (FEU), transcendental political actions characterized the life of young José Antonio from March 10, 1952, with the coup d’etat of the dictator Fulgencio Batista, among which stand out the founding of the Revolutionary Directorate, the signature next to Fidel of the letter of Mexico, where the struggle between the Movement 26 of Julio and the Cuban students and the assault on the Presidential Palace and the Radio Reloj outlet, of which he was its organizer.
Those years of struggle prevented him from participating in the sports competitions of the University, so talking about José Antonio as an outstanding athlete at that level is not possible, although he has been a lover of that activity since he was a boy and a teenager, in Cárdenas, something which I will refer to below.
My interest in learning about life as a sportsman of the beloved “Manzanita”, as his friends called him, sprang up many years ago after a conversation with Francisco “Cuco” López, who knew him from childhood when they played in the Tomás Estrada Palma park, that today bears his name, in front of his house, in the then Calle de Jénez, number 240.
Cuco, humble child from that neighborhood then, told me that although he came from a family with a comfortable monetary position, José Antonio was always very friendly, affable, and generous and did not think twice to borrow his skates or bring his bat, ball and glove to play a baseball game.
According to data from the Research Department of the Casa Natal Museum of José Antonio Echeverría, in the mid-1940s, his younger brother, Sinforiano, organized a rudimentary boxing gym in the patio of the mansion, where they trained and competed among them.
In his student days at the Cárdenas Institute, he expanded his sports practices to basketball, despite being asthmatic, where he had an acceptable level and he excelled in those meetings between students and above all, before the strong team of La Progresiva School, which they became traditional, while competing in swimming in the pools of the Arechabala Industry and the Nautical Club of Varadero.
A sport that fascinated the future Student Leader was the oar that many young people from Cárdenas practiced in those years, and even came to sail with the Náutico de la Playa Azul in the “junior” category. The shirt used then is in one of the showcases of the Museum that bears his name, as well as other sporting objects of hischildhood and youth.
Little he could demonstrate, as we had previously indicated in the university sport, however, in his mandate at the head of the FEU organized many competitions and kept that traditional slogan “who comes, Caribbean, who goes, University”, hoisted by generations of student athletes of that center.
Finally, I would like to highlight a historical event that took place on November 23, 1952, at the Cerro stadium, now Latin American, during a game between the so-called eternal rivals of Cuban baseball, Habana and Almendares.
That day, a group of students, with José Antonio at the front, took to the field carrying a huge cloth in which the excesses of the dictatorship were denounced and exhorted the people of the capital to participate in an act called by the University, the November 27, on the anniversary of the execution of medical students by Spanish colonialism.
Before the television cameras were beaten by Batista police, an action that was not worse thanks to the gallant position of referee Amado Maestri, who faced the aggressor hordes and avoided greater evils.