Remembering a giant of his profession
Island journalists gather to honor the short but exemplary career of César Andreu Iglesias
By Richard Gutiérrez
Martial arts cinema icon Bruce Lee once said: “The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering.”
César Andreu Iglesias, a highly renowned journalist who was born on July 31, 1915 and died on April 17, 1976 of a heart attack at the relatively young age of 42, most certainly lived a life worth remembering. He was honored Monday by the Journalists Association of Puerto Rico (ASPPRO by its Spanish initials) as the national day of the journalist was celebrated in Puerto Rico. The day, which also happens to be the day of the admired journalist’s birth, was specifically dedicated to Andreu Iglesias by the ASPPRO.
“Andreu Iglesias was considered to have this day dedicated to him because of his excellent work as a journalist,” Leila Andreu Cuevas, daughter of Andreu Iglesias and executive director of the ASPPRO, told the STAR. “And because of his expanded role with society and how many journalists identify themselves with him, he was more than just a journalist; he was a writer and activist. His column writing in the journal ‘El Imparcial’ was so impactful that the journal saw a decline after his passing.”
The association comes together every year on July 31 to commemorate Andreu Iglesias and his work by offering a speech in memory of his work and its impact on all Puerto Rican journalists. And in a sense, commemorating his birthday as the national day of the journalist.
“The national day of journalism began through legislation that was pushed by the Association in 1992,” ASPPRO President Damaris Suárez told the STAR. “It was then when the 31st of July was named as the national day of the journalist commemorating César Andreu Iglesias.”
Andreu Cuevas added, “I remember clearly when the association had to decide on who we had to dedicate the National Day of Journalism to. It was a very extended discussion, there are so many important journalists that Puerto Rico has produced.”
“There were so many important figures to consider; however, the assembly finally made a decision and chose César Andreu Iglesias’ birthday as the day, because of how relevant to the times his journalism was.”
Monday’s event began around 10 a.m. at the Puerto Rico Memorial Cemetery. Many active and retired journalists gathered at Andreu Iglesias’ grave to take a moment and hear Nelson del Castillo, secretary of the Latin American Journalists Federation, give a speech dedicated to Andreu Iglesias and the National Day of the Journalist. Del Castillo spoke of Andreu Iglesias and his impact on Puerto Rican journalism, apart from his work as an independence activist and a member of the communist political party in Puerto Rico at the time.
Del Castillo also did not hide the fact that he was calling out certain people in the journalism industry with his speech.
“It is important to portray all sides of the image of César Andreu Iglesias, as a journalist, as a writer and social warrior from his revolutionary militant scene, because the more we talk about democracy in Puerto Rico, the greater the persecution against journalists from social media mercenaries, many of whom are paid with public funds or as contracted professionals from public entities to attack the integrity of those who don’t benefit them in their neofascist speeches and their lies,” del Castillo said.
After the speech, pictures were taken at the offering of flowers at the grave of Andreu Iglesias, and the group moved on to the Journalist Pantheon, where 15 journalists lay at rest. The pantheon was a donation by Miguel Such to Puerto Rican journalism in 1937. The Journalists Federation later took charge of the pantheon; however, once the federation dissolved, the ownership of the pantheon disappeared as well until the ASPPRO rediscovered the pantheon and assumed complete ownership.
“This pantheon was quite decrepit when we rediscovered it; however, we put some work into it to make it look presentable,” said Manolo Coss Pontón, a former executive director of the ASPPRO. “Part of the tradition in terms of coming here and commemorating all the other journalists, Andreu is passing by the pantheon and saying goodbye to our fellow journalists as it is the National Day of the Journalist.”
Andreu Cuevas noted that “if a journalist that was part of the association doesn’t have a family or anyone to take care of their deceased body, they are taken into consideration for this pantheon.”
“The board of executives decides which journalists are buried here,” she said.
The ASPPRO was created in 1971 by a group of journalists looking at the future in terms of having an organization that was made by journalists for journalists, dedicated to protecting the rights of all class workers and the rights of journalism in Puerto Rico.
“Ever since then we’ve had many events and our main purpose is to create events that can unite journalists,” Suárez told the STAR. Apart from the National Day of the Journalist, ASPPRO is currently celebrating Press Week in Puerto Rico with multiple events that will take place through Friday.
“There’s not really a specific week where this is celebrated; we just celebrate it on the week of the 31st of July every year,” Suárez said. “The flower offering was only one of the events that will take place this week. Some of the events include open discussions about misinformation, another forum is a seminar titled: “Myths About Artificial Intelligence: Should We Fear It or Embrace It?” Many events will be in-person, while others will be held virtually.
“We’ve been doing this for 29 years, and as it is custom, we will close out the week by granting the National Journalism Award with nearly 30 finalists competing” Suárez said.