Nelida Reyes and Irina Layevska in Morir de pie (Die Standing Up)
From early childhood, Irina Layevska has had a degenerative medical condition, requiring multiple hospital stays, often for many months at a time. The child of two prominent socialist political figures, Irina idolized Che Guevara, consciously imitating his look when she was a young man. She married fellow activist Nelida Reyes in Havana as part of a rally expressing Mexican solidarity with Cuba against the continued US embargo in the face of the collapse of Cuba’s primary benefactor, the USSR. Faced with losing her eyesight on top of progressive loss of the use of her hands and legs, Irina despaired, but when Nelida encouraged her to get in touch with her feminine side, she went farther in that direction than either of them ever imagined. Doctors told Irina’s parents that she wouldn’t live past age 20, but her steely determination has kept her going through all the hardships. Mexican journalist and anchorwoman Jacaranda Correa (Twitter @jacarandilla) produced this moving documentary about a remarkable activist. Highly recommended.