Afro Little Havana: Commemorating the Black History of the "Latino Ellis Island"

Leandro Eduardo (Eddy) Campa (1953-200?)

I will anxiously wait to see the light of dawn,
of every dawn.
That the smell of life should excite me
when it brushes against my bones
and my gratitude, that of a banished man,
always responds to its call
All of us, all of us are in Memorial Park
-- Eddy Campa

Eddy was a talented Afro-Cuban poet and former college professor who lived in Little Havana (most of the time in Little Havana parks) and wrote poems about (and inspired by) the neighborhood’s disenfranchised residents. He published a book of poems about Little Havana.

His book of poems, titled “Little Havana Memorial Park,” was published by Little Havana publisher Dylemma, which was founded and run by the late Pedro Damián.

Eddy liked to write poems in two Little Havana parks: Riverside Park, on Southwest 8th Avenue between 3th and 4th Streets, and Cuban Memorial Park, on Southwest 13th Avenue (Cuban Memorial Boulevard) and Southwest 8th Street (Calle Ocho). He was friends with the Afro-Cuban poet Néstor Díaz de Villegas, who was also inspired by life in Little Havana. 

In 1999, journalist Judy Cantor wrote about Eddy Campa in an article for the Miami New Times. She writes:

Smoking his pipe, Leandro Eduardo Campa sits on a bench in front of Riverside Park, in East Little Havana, between a stalwart shade tree and a lamppost defaced with vulgar graffiti. Every morning Eddy Campa, as he is known to passersby, sits on this wooden perch. Sometimes he takes out one of the library books he carries with him, carefully wrapped in a plastic shopping bag. Sometimes he reads quietly, enriching his knowledge of philosophy or meditating on a poem. Usually, though, he sits placidly and watches the activity on the street before him, observing the days lapse into a lifetime on SW Eighth Avenue."

Read the rest of the article here.

Cuban emigre writer Emilio Ichikawa also wrote an article about Eddy Campa, called “Eddy Campa: the Centripetal Utopia in Little Havana Memorial Park.” In one excerpt, he writes:

I have two clear images of Eddy Campa. One of them has to do with astonishment and dread. One evening he arrived at poet Néstor Díaz de Villegas’home saying he had seen a specter, maybe death. And some treasure. “Wait for me here”, and the poet went out resolute to solve Eddy’s problem, with results which I still don’t know. In another panel he appears to me smiling and assured in a gallery of Little Havana. He is being escorted by photographer Pedro Portal and Stephanie, an unforgettable belly dancer who sent news from Brazil a few days ago. I ask Eddy for a safe direction to take my sister out and he says,“Nothing is safe here. Unless you go with me.”From his Calle Estrella y otros poemas everything for Campa was a neighborhood; what it was, the Being, was famil- iar to him. The rest did not account for anything.

Read the full article (pdf)

Below is a video with tributes to Eddy Campa (in Spanish):

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