It is with deep sorrow that we must report the passing of José Antonio Lama Martínez, or ‘Pepe’ as he was affectionately known to all.
In 1996, Pepe and his beloved wife Vilda created the Proyecto Comunitario Conservación de Alimentos “Community Food Conservation Project” in Havana, which has helped thousands of Cubans to eat well and healthily, during years of great scarcity.
In just a few days from now, Pepe, a Slow Food member since 2006, was due to receive, alongside Vilda, the Laurea Honoris Causa at the University of Gastronomic Sciences of Pollenzo, in recognition of his enormous, tireless, and invaluable work.
To pay tribute to our friend, we are sharing a few memories from those who knew him around the Slow Food network of Cuba and the Caribbean.
Death is not true when one’s life work has been well accomplished – José Martí
October 15, when we received the sad news that Pepe was no longer among us, we were astonished and dismayed. We would no longer have his timely judgment, his tireless spirit, his devotion to preserving food for Cuba and the world, nor the vibrant example of a family that he set with the companion of his life, his wife Vilda.
Pepe is the founder, brother, father, and companion of a vast troop of professionals and colleagues of good, clean and fair food. Pepe, from the National Botanical Gardens, with his ideas to show the wide diversity of food in Cuba; Pepe, the daredevil, who in the difficult days of the Periodo Especial, together with Vilda, formed one of the most beautiful and enduring community projects that we have ever had; Pepe, from the Cuban television program Con Sabor; Pepe, the author of dozens of books of great value for the formation of a food and health culture for the Cuban people; Pepe, from the International Book Fair; Pepe, from the Gourmand Awards; Pepe, from the Wally Thompson Cultura alimentaria “Food culture” project; Pepe, the inspirer of his Slow Food group; Pepe, about to receive a huge biggest personal award: Dr. Honoris Causa, from the University of Gastronomic Sciences of Pollenzo, Italy.
Pepe, the counsellor, the friend, the teacher, the leader. How many things you represented to us!
We will always remember you with joy, as you deserve. From all around messages have been sent, with a common denominator: love and gratitude for your many teachings and the example that you set for us.
Madelaine Vázquez Gálvez
The following is a selection of the messages sent to us in memory of Pepe, for a more complete list (in Spanish), click here.
“Today in Bra, Italy, we have awoken to the terrible news of the death of dear Pepe. We were distressed by the news, which provoked deep sorrow and left many of us lost for words. We can only imagine the pain that Vilda is experiencing and we tell her that the whole Slow Food and UNISG family, from Carlo Petrini to the staff in Pollenzo and in Bra, is at her side and sends her the most heartfelt condolences. Personally, if I think of Pepe, I think of him full of life, with an immense smile, with his desire to laugh, to explain to me everything about his work, with an enormous vitality. I remember his jokes about his life in Russia, his cassava pizza and the desire to try new recipes, experiment with new things, new inventions to improve the lives of his beloved Cubans. That’s how I’m going to remember him, and without a doubt he will continue to be a constant source of inspiration for me. No death is final so long as there is someone who remembers him, and we will never forget our beloved Pepe.
Andrea Amato with Carlo Petrini, Rinaldo Rava, and all the staff of Slow Food and the University of Gastronomic Sciences, Italy.
“The news of the loss of our Pepe is not one we have yet come to terms with. We have always turned to him for dynamism, advice, solidarity, but above all his joy and optimism. He will always be out teacher always willing to train children from a very early age, watching them grow into adults doing what he taught them, with the same ease and agility. Many in Cuba and the world owe him a considerable debt of gratitude for his valuable teachings. We have learned a lot from you. We will always see you cheerful, running, generating new ideas and prepared for new moments.
Aurelia Castellanos, Cuba.
“Vilda and Pepe: an exemplary couple and worthy to follow and copy. Both are people who will never die. There’s not one aspect of sustainable food they weren’t across. Both still have a long story ahead. Both are and will always play a part in our actions and our future.
National Board of Directors of Cubasolar, Cuba.
“Our Master Pepe was and will always be an inspiration for Finca del Medio, we feel this great loss for Cuba deeply, but we will always carry his wise teachings and the memory of his good energy and love in our hearts.”
Finca del Medio, Casimiro Rodríguez family, Cuba.