Monday, May 22, 2023

Cuba's iconic "La Miliciana", Idolka Sánchez, dies at 82

Idolka Magalys Sánchez Moreno, the young Cuban militia face immortalized in the iconic photo taken by Alberto Korda in 1962, died on Tuesday 16 May, aged 82. 

Among the crowd that May Day, 1962, a young photographer focused on the adolescent face of Idolka Sánchez, as she marched in front of the José Martí Memorial in Havana.

One of the almost 2,000 members of the Lidia Doce women’s militia battalion, Idolka saw him approach, camera in hand. He appeared as if hell bent on photographing her, as if he had seen her from a distance and couldn’t let her escape his lens. He had chosen her.

“Lift up the machine gun!” the man she had barely heard of ordered. This was the same photographer who, in March 1960, had immortalized Che’s face, hair blowing in the wind, during the funeral of the victims of the terrorist attack on the La Coubre steamship. The order was followed by several clicks of his camera and, in a matter of seconds, Korda had disappeared.

Idolka had already forgotten the incident when the photographer reappeared, that same morning. Korda wanted to take two more shots of her. He didn’t just want to capture a face or an image. He was seeking a symbol, and he found it. The following day, the photo was seen across the island, on the front page of the newspaper Revolución.

“I can’t explain what it felt like. It wasn’t vanity, but eternal gratitude. I never imagined the significance of that image,” Idolka Sánchez Moreno told Granma International in 2019.

Fifty-six years after that encounter with Korda, the image known as La Miliciana (The Militia Woman) endures. The sun on her face, the stern gaze focused on the horizon, the rifle at her side, pointing to the sky, the tilted beret… /