Cover photo for Francisco Guerra's Obituary
Francisco Guerra Profile Photo

Francisco Guerra

October 16, 1943 — May 2, 2024

Francisco Guerra

October 16, 1943 — May 2, 2024

Francisco Guerra

1943-2024

Cultivo una rosa blanca
 en junio como enero …

Part 1: Cuba

Francisco Florentino Guerra Fernandez Suarez Vazquez was born on 16 October 1943 in Matanzas, Cuba, the youngest of seven siblings–six brothers and one sister. His mother and father were Maria Manuela Fernandez Vazquez and Ramon Guerra Suarez. Francisco grew up in the Cuban province of Matanzas, but his childhood came to an abrupt end in January 1959 when a group of bearded revolutionaries seized power in Havana. Young Francisco, still an idealistic teenager, decided without hesitation to fight for freedom. He joined the legendary "Brigada de Asalto 2506" (Brigade 2506) as soon as he turned 18, was assigned to the 6th Battalion under the command of Francisco Montiel Rivera, and like a Cuban Quijote fought to liberate his country in April of 1961.

Alas, the ill-fated “Bay of Pigs” invasion ended in a bitter defeat. The band of brothers who fought for Cuba’s freedom felt betrayed; worse yet, these men were now put in a difficult and dreadful position: they would never be able to return to their homes or regular lives, at least not while Fidel and Raul remained in power, so they would have to start a new life in a new country. For Don Francisco, that meant leaving the confines of Miami, which at the time was teeming with spies and saboteurs. During his westward journey, he met Oilda Antonia Pujol in Abilene, Texas, and they relocated to Los Angeles, California, where they were married in a simple civil ceremony on 27 December 1963. It was here, in Los Angeles, where Don Francisco decided to start a new life … 

Part 2: California

But how should we judge a life? Do we appraise a man’s life and legacy simply by counting up his most valuable material possessions–his real property, for example? By this measure, Don Francisco was a modest man. Ten years after leaving his beloved Cuba, he was able to buy his first and only house by the age of 30, a two bedroom-one bath cottage in Glendale, California. Although his abode was small and simple, it was located on a quiet tree-lined by-lane nestled between a leafy city park and the San Rafael Hills in one of the prettiest towns in L.A. It was here where Don Francisco lived, cooked, gardened, and raised his family during the remaining 50 years of his life.

In the alternative, what if we could go back in time and return to those places he most loved to visit? What better way of unlocking the meaning of a man's life than by revisiting his favorite haunts and hotspots? Beyond his beloved Cuba, among Don Francisco's most favorite places in Los Angeles were these three little gems: the Venice Beach Boardwalk (he especially loved the small vendors and street performers); the original Tommy’s on the corner of Beverly and Rampart, open 24 hours a day (the original chili burger was his favorite L.A. staple); and the José Martí Monument in Echo Park, off of Glendale Blvd. (the Cuban poet was his hero). He also loved Baja California, MX, especially the beach towns of Ensenada, Rosarito, and San Felipe, where we spent many family vacations. 

Or should we measure a man’s life by his profession or trade, i.e. the things he had to do to make a living and support himself and his family? Don Francisco always worked with his hands. He became a plastic fabricator by trade when he relocated to Los Angeles in the early 1960s, and he landed his first good-paying job at the original Weber Aircraft in nearby Burbank, California, where he spent most of his work week retrofitting the interiors of Boeing 747s. He then found an even better-paying job at the Hughes Aircraft Ground Systems Group in Fullerton, California, where he built advanced radar and other air defense systems for the U.S. military’s Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS), but God bless his soul, this pay upgrade now meant a one-hour (each way!) daily grind of a commute in L.A. traffic! (That alone tells you what kind of man Don Francisco was: that he refused to uproot his family so his son could attend good schools and keep his circle of friends.)

Maybe the most humane way of judging a man’s life is by peering into his private life. What was his favorite hobby or pastime? What were the things he most loved to do. In the case of Don Francisco, he spent a lot time tinkering with his tools and tending to his garden, especially after he retired. In the spring months, his little garden was always full of ruby-red and pastel-colored roses as well as azaleas, carnations, dahlias, gardenias, irises, lilies, orchids, and sunflowers, just to name a few of the most colorful varietals in his back and front yards. He also cultivated many tropical fruits and vegetables year-round, including avocados, limes, and tangerines, but perhaps his most beloved plant specimen was his prized night-blooming cactus flower that would bloom just once a year and just for a single night–a fitting metaphor for the fleeting nature of our lives.

Alas, no single metric or criterion can fully capture the true meaning of a man’s legacy, for a life is more than the sum of all these parts. Instead, it might be better to ask, “Who loved Don Francisco the most?” As it happens, a lot of people loved and admired him, including his wife Oilda Antonia, his sister Loida and five brothers (Angel, Chucho, Emilio, Israel, and Manolo), his only son Frank Enrique and daughter-in-law Sydjia, and his four grandchildren: Adela, Adys, Aritzia, and Kleber. With his death, a little piece of his beloved Cuba has been lost to us forever, but we will remember Don Francisco forever. Requiescat in pace

Posdata: Compartimos el verso martiano favorito de Don Francisco:

Cultivo una rosa blanca

en junio como enero

para el amigo sincero

que me da su mano franca.

Y para el cruel que me arranca

el corazón con que vivo,

cardo ni ortiga cultivo;

cultivo la rosa blanca.    

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Graveside Service of Francisco Guerra

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

12:00 - 12:30 pm (Pacific time)

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