Farewell Songs

Teresa Prados Torreira

A couple of years ago, Jimmy enrolled in a Spanish language program in Oaxaca, Mexico. He proudly told me that he packed so lightly, he didn’t need to check his bag at the airport. He could have stayed at a fancy hotel; instead, he chose to board with a family, roommate and all. He had a great time and, true to himself, he only complained about his landlady’s cooking skills. Not a cook,” he said in his blunt way. Jimmy’s frugality, his unpretentious personal style, was consistent with his ideology. I found his Old Left politics comfortingly familiar, a connection to the European left I came from. Yes, he could be dogmatic, but his no-nonsense clarity, his uncompromising commitment to placing class at the center of the social change agenda was refreshing in the too-often unfocused climate of the American left.

A few weeks before he died, while I sat with him so Beth could take a break, he and I spent the afternoon singing songs of the Spanish Civil War to each other. A fitting farewell.

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Teresa Prados Torreira teaches American history at Columbia College, Chicago.
Democratic Rep. Summer Lee, who at the time was a candidate for the state House, at a demonstration in Pittsburgh for Antwon Rose, who was killed by police, in 2018. Lee recently defeated her 2024 primary challenger.
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