Rafael A. Lecuona

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Rafael Argelio Lecuona
Diana and Rafael Lecuona IMG 0703.JPG
Rafael A. and Diana P. Lecuona (2010)
Personal information
Country represented  Cuba
Born (1928-06-02)June 2, 1928
Havana, Cuba
Died June 7, 2014(2014-06-07) (aged 86)
San Antonio, Texas, USA
Residence Laredo, Webb County, Texas
Discipline Men's artistic gymnastics
Years on national team 1944–1955

Rafael Argelio Lecuona (June 2, 1928 – June 7, 2014)[1] was from 1944 to 1955 a member of the Cuban gymnastics team and from 1970 to 2002 a political science professor at Texas A&M International University in Laredo, Texas. He competed in the Pan American Games in Buenos Aires (1951) and Mexico City (1955), in three consecutive Olympic Games from 1948 to 1956, and he was a member of the Florida State University men's gymnastics team from 1953 to 1956.


Lecuona was born in Havana to Josefina Asencio Diaz and Fernando Lecuona Casado. As a youth, he was an assistant cashier at the Romeo y Julieta cigar factory in Havana. His interest in athletics began as a youth involved in street sports. He was largely self-taught in gymnastics through his close study of a film of the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany. He made his own gymnastics equipment and became so skilled that he could enter international competition.[1]He became a member of the Cuban gymnastics team in 1944 at the age of sixteen.[2]


While at Florida State University in the capital city of Tallahassee, Florida, Lecuona was credited with being the first person to introduce into the United States the Russian Moor dismount from the pommel horse. At the 1951 Pan American Games, Lecuona won the gold medal in the pommel horse, as well as a silver medal in the men's all around rings, and vault. He also won a silver medal for his dismount on the pommel horse at the 1955 Pan American Games. Lecuona represented Cuba at the 1948 Olympic Games in London, England, the 1952 Games in Helsinki, Finland, and the 1956 Games in Melbourne, Australia.[3] He ranked 29th among world gymnasts in 1955.

Academic career[edit]

Lecuona's success in gymnastics won him a full scholarship to Florida State University,[2] from which he received a degree in business advertising in 1957. After the rise to power of Fidel Castro, whom Lecuona vigorously opposed, his interest turned to politics. He acquired a master's degree and a Ph.D. in political science from FSU in 1968 and 1970, respectively. He then moved to Laredo to join the original faculty there of Texas A&I University, subsequently Laredo State University and then the current Texas A&M International University. Upon his retirement in 2002, he was recognized by the Texas state university system with a professor emeritus designation.[1][2]

Lecuona authored numerous books and professional articles in the fields of Latin American politics and economics, such as The International Journal on World Peace. His book, Ernesto Lecuona, the Genius and His Music, is a study of his uncle.[2]He also wrote Spanish-language novels.

TAMIU president Ray Keck said of Lecuona:

His rare combination of hard work, energy, intelligence and good humor made him an invaluable member of this faculty. He and his wife Diana have been stalwart and steady forces for good in this institution and community for a very long time. We repeatedly turned to Dr. Lecuona to head difficult tasks and complex committee assignments. His service was always stellar, and the university and our community were infinitely better places for his passion and commitment.[2]

Personal life[edit]

Lecuona's uncle and aunt were the famed brother-and-sister Cuban composers Ernesto Lecuona[1] and Ernestina Lecuona y Casado. Lecuona was a cousin of the living classical guitarist and composer, Leo Brouwer.[4]

After he emigrated to the United States and with the rise of Castro, the staunchly anti-communist Lecuona never returned to Cuba. From his first marriage to the former Joan Hagle Gates (born c. 1935), from whom he was divorced, Lecuona had two sons, Mark Rafael Lecuona (born c. 1958) of Dallas, Texas, and Miguel Rafael Lecuona (born c. 1962) and wife Barbara of San Antonio, and two grandchildren. He is also survived by his second wife, Diana Picard Lecuona (born c. 1938), from whom he acquired two step-daughters, Monica Picard Jeffery and husband David and Jacqueline Picard Dennington and husband Joseph, and three step-grandchildren.[1]

Lecuona died in 2014 at a social gathering in San Antonio five days after his 86th birthday.[1]A memorial service was held on June 15 at the TAMIU Student Center ballroom. The Dr. Rafael Lecuona Memorial Scholarship has been established in his honor.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Dr. Rafael A. Lecuona (1928-2014), Laredo Morning Times, June 11, 2014, p. 10A
  2. ^ a b c d e f Judith Rayo (June 15, 2014). "Retired TAMIU professor's memorial service is tonight". Laredo Morning Times. Retrieved June 16, 2014. 
  3. ^ Olympic results
  4. ^ "Biography of Leo Brouwer". cubarte-english.cult.cu. Retrieved June 16, 2014.