Alexis Valdés recalls his dialogue with the pope over “Hope,” his poem on the pandemic
Italy was one of the first Western countries to be hit by the pandemic. So at the beginning of 2020, the world closely watched what was happening there.
Alexis Valdés says that this was the inspiration behind his poem “Esperanza,” Spanish for “Hope,” which Pope Francis quotes in his book “Soñemos juntos,” “Let us Dream,” in which he reflects on the challenges of today’s world.
“I was on the edge of the bed as I was getting ready to sleep and felt very scared. I was watching what was happening in Italy, especially in Milan. There was no more space for the dead, and it was already happening in Madrid. FLASH So I started to write those lines.”
The poem’s lines remind readers that even bad things come to an end and that when they pass, humanity awakens more united.
“That has a lot to do with a Cuban thinker and poet, the greatest of them all, whose name was José Martí. José Martí used to say: ‘Climbing mountains makes men into brothers.’This line has been engraved in my head for life. The concept is that when people go through a great struggle, great suffering, a great challenge, it unites people.”
Pope Francis liked this poem so much that he decided to call Alexis personally. After an unsuccessful first attempt, he insisted, and the second time was the charm.
“The pope called me. Well, he called me twice. The first time I didn’t pick up the phone. I felt like an idiot because I saw the message from the pope’s secretary telling me: ‘Mr. Alexis, we called you, but you didn’t pick up the phone...’. I said: ‘Oh no, please!’ At first, I thought: ‘I’m an idiot, but then I thought: ‘No, I’m the person who didn’t pick up a phone call from the Pope’ (laughs).”
Alexis says he was struck by the humbleness in which the pope addressed him and other details that surprised him during the conversation.
“I told him at the end: ‘Well, I don’t know if I’m going to disappoint you, but I’m not really a poet. I’m an actor, a comedian. I do comedy.’ He retained that clarification, and at the end of the conversation, he said to me: ‘keep on making people laugh, it is much needed’ (he laughs)”
This is a phrase that Pope Francis often mentions to comedians. Perhaps because laughter is within everyone’s reach, and it’s also an excellent medicine for dealing with difficulties.
Translation: Christian Campos