Hilda Otano-Benitez, 91, formerly of Amherst, passed away peacefully at her home in Agawam on May 25, 2020.
She was born Hilda Otano Lugo on April 19, 1929, in Ciego de Avila, Havana, Cuba to Crescencio and Estefania Otano Lugo.
She graduated from the University of Havana in Cuba and worked as an attorney there. She was especially proud of her work on behalf of workers' rights.
She attended Boston University, where she graduated with a Masters of Arts degree in Romance Languages.
She was employed by Amherst College as a senior lecturer and language program director in the Spanish department. She retired from Amherst College in 2008.
Hilda was married to Antonio Benitez-Rojo, a world-renowned novelist, essayist, and short-story writer. He is widely regarded as the most significant Cuban author of his generation.
Antonio was denied permission by the Cuban government to travel with Hilda to the United States with their two children to obtain treatment for their daughter's illness in 1967.
Hilda traveled alone with the children and stayed in the United States with them while Antonio remained in Cuba. She did not see him again until 1980, when he joined her in the United States from Paris, where he had traveled with a delegation from Cuba.
Hilda was predeceased by her husband, her son, Jorge Benitez-Rojo, and her daughter, Maria Benitez-Rojo. She was also predeceased by her parents, her sister, Elsa Maria Otano Lugo, and brother, Rigoberto Otano Lugo.
Hilda leaves nephews and nieces who, despite the distance between them, loved her and remained concerned for her welfare throughout her life. She leaves her niece, Gladys Otano, of Florida, Elsa Perez Otano, of Cuba, and Rigoberto, Roberto, Reinaldo, and Raul Otana Laffitte, of Cuba.
Her nieces and nephews composed this tribute to their aunt:
Para nuestra Tia
con todo el amor de sus sobrinos.
Mujer en traje de Batallas!
Luchadora como pocas. Mujer llena de valentia, de extrema inteligencia natural y gran tenacidad, que pudiste sortear con resignacion y paciencia las duras circunstancias que te deparo la vida y aun asi siempre tuviste amor para repartir y espacio para brindarnos una hermosa sonrisa.
Descansa en Paz guerrera, junto a tus hijos y esposo. Al fin juntos otra vez!
Funeral arrangements are with Douglas Funeral Home. The burial service will be private with a memorial Mass and service to be scheduled at St. Brigid's Church in Hadley at a later date.
Published in Daily Hampshire Gazette on May 28, 2020.