One of my favorite television series is the documentary The World at War. A twenty six part exploration of The Second World War, it always opened with a teaser about the episode that was about to be viewed, followed by opening credits (with a great theme by the British composer Carl Davis), throughout which haunted faces of war victims appear surrounded by flames. It is at the end of the credits that a young man or woman appears and is consumed by the flames to a fadeout. These images, but especially the last one in my view, act as a metaphor for the entire series, where the civilians, caught up in great destructive events, are the tragic victims.
Yesterday, upon seeing Ariel Sigler Amaya in the flesh, I couldn’t help but think of the image of that haunted face. Sigler Amaya’s countenance and body show the years of brutality he has endured in castro’s jails, fighting his war against castro’s tyranny. As Alberto wrote yesterday, he looked like he had walked out of a concentration camp. His sadness and pain were fully visible. His face, his legs, his entire broken body, are metaphors for the Cuba that has been created in the image and likeness of the Beast and his minions. A Cuba that has endured over a half century of evil and oppression.
But that is where the comparison ends. The other thing I saw in Sigler Amaya’s face and heard in his words was defiance. Defiance against the brutal communists who stop at nothing to subjugate, intimidate, brutalize, and break the citizens of Cuba. Defiance against world opinion that paints a picture of castro’s Cuba that is 180 degrees from the truth. I saw Ariel Sigler Amaya, a boxer in Cuba but now a paraplegic, sitting in his wheelchair, thanking America for allowing him to come to here to be healed, and then having someone help him put on a pair of boxing gloves with which he wanted to show the world that he is ready to continue his fight for the eventual liberty of Cuba, at whatever cost. He is broken, but not defeated; he is terribly hurt, but not dead. And he has already paid dearly.
We exiles may be guardians of our parent’s and grandparent’s traditions and memories, and the caretakers of the real history of our island, but Ariel Sigler Amaya is the real Cuba personified. Ariel Sigler Amaya is a mambí.