A New Audience for a Familiar Story

So, the Cuban government is about to release 52 political prisoners to appease the cries of the international community (ie: shut them up for a few months), without ever being held responsible for illegally imprisoning and torturing said individuals in the first place.  With any luck, the world won’t take the pressure off the family farm, Villa Castro. I’m not holding my breath, though.

What follows is a sample of a project I began to work on a while back. I’ll begin the process of releasing this material via some sort of website, soon (yes, I have a plan). This story is so emblematic of what it means to be a political prisoner in Cuba, it needs to be disseminated to as many people as possible. Its audience is limited however, to those who can read and speak Spanish, as an English translation has not been released. Until now.

See if you folks can recognize what this is:


-Get dressed, you’re leaving today.
I stare at the jailer, a sergeant who extends his arm to give me a pair of pants and a shirt.
– There’s a bucket of water to bathe yourself – he adds while giving a cynical smile.
And off he marches. The cell door, a massive steel plate, rattles and shakes as it slams shut.

I am tense, but I make an effort to maintain my calm. The idea of my impending liberty seems like an absurd comedy. For years, they’ve repeated to me, 1,000 times, that I’ll die in prison. Now, after having delivered a beating that’s left every bone in my body hurting, these murderers pretend to tell me that I’m headed for the street? Why didn’t they return to finish me off when I shouted that I wasn’t afraid of them, that they should come back? They don’t dare? They dare to do everything! The destruction of human beings is their profession. They simply haven’t received the order yet.

It’s six in the morning, the 21st of October, 1979. I have completed, since the very beginning, straight through to the final day, a sentence of 20 years of cruel and unjust imprisonment. Now comes the changing of the guard. The uncertainty and anxiousness of liberty begin to grip me. Could it be true? Is it nothing more than another trick or perhaps a ray of light? Twenty years of iron bars and horrors! This tyrant and his henchman love to play cruel jokes on their political prisoners. How many men saw their appeals go unanswered, all the way to the last day of their imprisonment and are still, to this day, rotting in the dungeons! Despite the fact that I dream of freedom, I am prepared for the worst.

I take off my torn, stinking prison uniform, still littered with the marks of violence and begin an attempt to tidy myself up. Ah, the beatings! It hurts so much where these sons of bitches hit me!

For better or for worse, I change into the new clothing the guard left me—street clothes with the stink of prison on them. How much longer? Are we going to continue with this comedy?



12 thoughts on “A New Audience for a Familiar Story

  1. “Okay, here’s at hint. We saw him at this years Cuba Nostalgia convention, followed by “lively” discussion.”

    I remember we talked about him Ziva…

  2. I had read yesterday at one of the msm’s sites regarding the release/exile of the 52, and how some had been told to get ready for release… my only thought to this was “what the hell could that possibly entail?”

    guard: (unlocking the prison door) “get up”
    prisoner: “ok”
    guard: “follow me”
    prisoner: “ok”
    guard: (at the front door of the prison) “get out, don’t look back, don’t talk about this experience”
    prisoner: “ok”
    … prisoner walks out, wearing rags, hungry, a hundred miles from home, with a scrap of paper indicating he’s completed this prison sentence.

    but their release is with conditions… and exile, so yeah it’s different. 🙁
    “get ready”? how? … “stand up” uff.

  3. Freedom you are too gracious; you remember that we! “talked about him”; I remember (not just by you) a tongue lashing. Education by fire, the best kind. 🙂

  4. Anastasio, is this powerful excerpt taken from Huber Matos autobiography? Did you do the translation?

    What angers me the most is how castro is able to decide everyone’s fate. He decides who stays inside Cuba, who goes to jail, who is freed, etc…

    Like a medieval potentate who could do with his serfs as he deemed, castro has taken us back to the 12th century. Back in the middle ages, feudal lords would often give prisoners to visiting dignitaries in order to show their magnanimity. This is exactly what castro does. And the worst part about it is that these visiting dignitaries and the world media then start singing the accolades of castro’s generosity.

    It’s a win-win situation for the tyrant. An uncritical and adoring world press coupled with sympathetic and amoral diplomats and church and world leaders.

  5. Rayarena,

    I started translating Como Llego la Noche not too long ago. I have more plans for it but I want to get it out there to the English speaking audience. Interesting twist here – Matos, whose wife, Maria Luisa, was an old friend of my grandmother’s back in New Jersey during Huber’s imprisonment, granted me a great interview a few years back. I have the mini disc recordings here at home. I really ought to get them online. Incidentally, my uncle was the fellow who had planned to spring him and his adjutants from El Morro in the early sixties. Matos was transferred a day ahead of the jail break, but he was able to release Napoleon Bequer, Dionisio Suarez, and another fellow whose name escapes me at the moment.



  6. Anastasio,

    Thus far, you’ve done a great translation. It’s of professional quality. I gather that this translation is of a personal nature, and that there aren’t any prospective English language publishers in line for the translation. Of course, this book should reach as wide an audience as possible and an English edition would be a wonderful thing.

    In any case, thank you for sharing your family stories. I’m impressed by your uncle’s courage. And please, do put Maria Luisa’s interview online!

    Remember, every testimony against the tyranny is a mark against it.

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