Antonio Couzo García

Birth Date: 14 december 1895 (†In 1973)
Birth Place: San Adrián de Veiga – Ortigueira (A Coruña)

Many people still remember Antonio Couzo with love, the man who founded with a great effort the ‘Asociación de Naturales de Ortigueira’.

He spent the first eighteen years of his life trying to help his parents in the land works, but the poor conditions of this life and the lack of profit made him emigrate. With little luggage but a great enthusiasm he left from A Coruña and arrived in Havana on 7th November 1914.

Antonio Couzo started his new life with a job as sales assistant in a shop that belonged to The Trinidad Sugars. A year later he asked for his transfer to the capital. After two years working in poor conditions, he moved to Cienfuegos. In his new residence, he began to work as a cleaning boy in the civil hospital of the city. He was paid 15 pesos a month as well as accommodation and food. Antonio had already realized that his labour expectations would not improve if he did not sudy. With this idea on his mind, he began to study during the day and worked at night. It was a hard period and in addition to the effort of working and studying at the same time, he also had to pay 10 pesos for his study, so he hardly had any money left. After a year in this situation, he decided to take a half time job in a grocer’s. Two years later, he gave up because he hadn’t been able to save money.

In 1919, he moved to Havana, where he got a job as street sweeper, painter and construction worker assistant at La Purísima Concepción villa. He presented his eight grade and typing certificates for a salary of 20 pesos a month. Shortly after, he began to work as a typist for 45 pesos a month as well as the uniform, accomodation and food. He worked there until he was disimissed from this post. Some of his friends said that his boss envied him his responsibility and ability to solve problems.

His disposal for work and honesty were recognized for his colleagues. That’s why he was entrusted with the treasury of La Mutua Association in 1921. That association offered services to the employees of the health and charity centres in Cuba.

Antonio’s integrity was one of his most outstanding qualities as well as a deep religious faith. That’s why he was invited to take part in the foundation of España Integral catholic society in 1923. His committment with his activities made him be elected member of the board of directors the following year, emeritus member and shorty after responsible for the magazine of the society.

Antonio got on well with all sort of people, which allowed him to get in touch with different social problems. His disposal to collaborate made the board of directors of the ‘Asociación de empleados de centros de beneficencia de Cuba’ invite him to be a member of the association on 18th January 1924.

During those years, he managed to save about 3.000 pesos and he decided to invest the money to work on his own. He bought a glassworks company at Monserrat y Ánimas Street and after attending it for a few years, he sold it to buy a bigger one at Teniente Rey y Aguacate Street.

On 13th June 1928 his life would change forever. He met some friends at home to celebrate his saint’s day and he told them about his sadness for the death of a friend who had lived helpless in the last moments of his life. Thinking about the case and ashamed of the loneliness other emigrants could be suffering in their last moment, he proposed the creation of an association that palliated the expenses of diseases, retirement and unemployment of the members and could give emotional support. After exhibiting his arguments, he invited them to think about it and called them to the next meeting on 24th June. In this new meeting, the assistants decided the name of the new association, Asociación de Naturales del Ayuntamiento de Ortigueira, the articles of association and the first board of directors, establishing he head office in the same that the president’s: Antonio Couzo.

In 1932, Antonio went on with his glassworks company and became a member of the ‘Asociación de detallistas de tabacos y cigarros’, although his total committment to ‘Naturales de Ortigueira’ Association hardly left him free time for other purposes. His visits to sick members, the attraction of new members, the management of the association and other matters were more and more usual and after a robbery in his company, he sold it off cheap for just 700 pesos.

Since then, Antonio and Naturales de Ortigueira were just one although he always wanted the association to be represented by a dynamic team that could be renewed by qualified people who made the association work from all points of view. Nevertheless, Antonio was always taken into account to make decisions and his work was well considered throughout his long and honest life. He was distinguished as honourable president of this association ten years after its foundation, Ortigueira’s honorary citizen and president of Sociedad de cultura y recreo Rosalía de Castro in 1969.

He was also a member of Centro Gallego, Club Luarqués, Liga Santaballesa and the associations of the districts of Padrón, Arzúa, Monterroso and Antas de Ulla.

He also contributed to the foundation of the Federation of Spanish Societies of Cuba in Havana in 1957. Throughout his life, he left his energy in a lot of social programmes. The association offered the members free passports, food, medicine, medical care and pensions. But he also made an effort to create a centre to spend hours talking or reading at the library, which was named after Ramón Armada Teixeiro, and publish a newspaper, El Heraldo Ortigueirés from February 1941 to June 1959. But his most important work was the panteón for people from Ortigueira at Cristóbal Colón Cemetery in Havana.

He was a substitute member of the board of directors of Patria Gallega in 1951. This association published a homonymous magazine with was edited by another Galician committed leader, Fuco G. Gómez.

After spending his whole life in Cuba, Antonio Couzo decided to move to Florida in 1971 and he established in Miami, where he formed a new association, Casa de Santa Marta de Ortigueira.

His legacy is immense. The Cuban association had up to twenty thousand members before the Cuban revolution and today there are about nine thousand. But the most important thing is that his ideas survive in various ways in both institutions.

Couzo was the paradigm of solidarity with Galician people. His death was just an event in 1973, his work and consequences have remained so that the following generations can enjoyed them.


By José Manuel Suárez Sandomingo