Jun 13, 2008

Contra toda esperanza

Even though I know I’m running the risk to repeat myself, there is not other way to say that I’m still in shock, after finishing reading Armando Valladares' book, Contra toda esperanza.

His testimonies about the realities of the Isla de Pinos prison, las tapiadas de la cárcel de Boniato, La Cabaña, el Combinado del Este, at some point are strong enough to leave you speechless.

For me it’s still really hard to process all that information. Not because I don’t believe it, but because sometimes it's hard to believe the reality of the society I grew up in is such a cruel one. Unfortunately, that's the real one.

Now more than ever I feel that those men and women deserve our highest honors for daring to opposed castro’s scheme since day one, and for still being there, speaking up against the regimen.

I just wish I would have known earlier…(and there I go again, with my cantaleta about how robbed and fooled I feel for being born and raised in that “hombre nuevo” generation. What a crap!)

Anyway, through Valladares book, I found really amazing how a man can learn to dominate the fear trusting his strength to God. But, on top of all that, I discovered a love story. A love story that you don’t quite find often in this live of ours.

However, there is a reaction deep in mind that I’ve been noticing while reading this book and the others that I have included in my re-education program.

With “Against all hope” it’s been really stronger, because I still have some blurred memories in my mind of when the regimen broadcasted the footage of Valladares in the hospital (or jail, I can’t remember the details).

I was a kid, I think that in elementary school, but I do remember that the message was to let us know he was a liar and that he was just pretending to be unable to walk. Obviously, the regimen was portraying itself as being super fair and benevolent for providing him with medical care.

I wondered who this man was and why those footage were filmed with hidden cameras. They were in black and white (as our tv at home) and the images were pretty bad. Then, as usual with castro’s campaigns, everything vanished and there were no more words about him.

And there is also the reaction of thinking that I lived in Alamar, in a zone that is basically across the street form el Combinado del Este. It terrifies me to think how many horrors where taking place so close to my house, my entire family, my neighborhood.

It is also shocking to learn about the murders and tortures in La Cabaña, the place where I used to work while until a left Cuba. It’s a weird thing. A very weird feeling.

There you are, reading the description of the physical places in the book and, as an involuntary reflex, you are trying to map out in your mind where that place is, or if you were ever close to it while you were working in La Divina Pastora, totally clueless about all the blood that was shed between those ancient walls.

You read about the little bridge and the arms deposit and I can’t help to think in El Polvorín, that was a bar when I used to work there.

I read about the paredón and I can’t help to think if may be I was in that place, during that celebration when I was like 11 or 12 years old. It took place not in the side where the restaurants are, but in the side that back then only the military has access to it.

A group of outstanding students from my school –destacados, were invited to this military ceremony or parade. I don’t even remember exactly what it was for. It was in an open space inside the military part of the fortress, surrounded by ancient and thick walls. Far away in one side, there were things that now I supposed are las galeras. All that was being repaired to become a museum.

I was selected to read a proclamation at the beginning of the ceremony and everyone was pretty nervous, running here and there, speculating if fidel or raúl would arrive at the very last minute. (Man, we were so naïve back then!). I went up there and read it and when I turned to my side, there he was, raúl with su cara de curda. Go figure!

The ceremony ended, we (the kids) all were fed a very nice merienda and shipped back to our school. Borrón y cuenta nueva and everybody was very happy.

Those are the things that clogg my mind when I read these testimonies.

I’m glad that I now leave in a free society where I can read all the sides of any given story, and make my own conclusions. Sometimes is sad to see clearly how I was fooled and lied to, but I’m thankful to God, the Providence or whoever is up there for having opened my eyes about to the truth of the revolution after I graduated from high school.

I just wish I would have done it earlier; but again, someone up there is designing your path, and there is nothing that you can do to avoid it.

Just found you can download a condensed version of the book, in pdf, here. Now, a different though as a closing note: what a useless and hypocrite organization the UN is! –but that’s a topic for another post.


Marta said...


I had the same reaction to the Valladares book. I felt it physically and I wept for days. Keep reading. Keep on your re-education program. As someone from that era and who witnessed the things you did, your voice is very important.


Cubanita in Colorado said...

Thanks, Marta, for your encouragement.

It's hard, there are points where you even feel you are also responsible, even though in real life you know it is not like that.

I did also wept; it's just that I left that detail out of the post because I though it would be some sort of "oversharing".

But it's really hard, it's a mix of dissapointment, angry, and sadness and the same time you're being blessed with the truth, especially when you know there are many people back there that are still totally clueless.