He’s 71 now, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at Ancelmo. He still has bright, sparkling eyes and the lingering look of youth, the result of an active lifestyle that kept his energy sustained and his body in motion. He’s played basketball almost his whole life; in fact, he was a star guard for the University of Havana’s basketball team. Ancelmo has never been to the United States but his favorite team is the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James. Golden State is a close second.
Even into his 60s Ancelmo has played regular pickup hoops with a group of friends. They’re a squad with a close bond, and they used to play almost daily. Over the past five years, Ancelmo started having trouble with his hips and knees. He gets free healthcare through the Cuban system but wasn’t able to access the specialty joint replacement surgeries he so desperately needed. When Operation Walk Los Angeles came to Havana several years ago, he was able to have a knee operated on, but he still had hip issues. In May 2017 he was finally able to have a hip replacement when Operation Walk Carolinas made their inaugural trip to Cuba. The morning after surgery, he was standing on both feet and took his first steps. Tears welled up in his eyes.
Ancelmo has family in New York, Miami and South Carolina. He doesn’t know if he’ll ever make it to the United States, but he dreams about it a lot, especially seeing an NBA basketball game. For now he’s focused on getting his hip back in shape, and getting back outside with a basketball. His friends are waiting.