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Another Year of Abuse

By Dania Ferro in El Diario Las Americas (my translation):

Another Year of Abuse

My only New Year’s Resolution for this new year is for Cuba to be free, and I mean really free…

Dania FerroMario, a young Cuban man from Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province has written me an email in which he tells me this story and asks for the following:

Hello, my name is Mario. I am 30-years-old and I live in Tampa, Florida. I work as a manager in a restaurant owned by my parents, which serves Cuban food. I want to start a foundation that will truly help those who live in my province who are truly in need. At the moment, I am visiting churches and asking for contributions. Some friends have also helped me out once they learned about what I am doing. On November 1st, I filled three suitcases with school backpacks, pencils, notebooks, rubber erasers, socks, shoes, and sweaters. I then returned to my native country, which I had left back in 2003 and had never returned since I had sworn to myself that the day I returned it would be to offer help and not to show off my “supposed new life in a developed country.”

I arrived at what had been my elementary school with my suitcases. I waited outside for the children to enter their classrooms so as not to call attention to myself or the luggage I had with me. I listened to them sing the national anthem in front of a bust of Martí. I could not avoid remembering my childhood and becoming so emotional that tears welled up in my eyes.

As I began my determined walk to the school principal’s office, I knew that this is what I was born to do. I opened the suitcases and without any introductory remarks, I said to him: “I have brought all of this for the kids in this school.” The principal’s eyes opened wide, but his expression was one of happiness instead of annoyance. He broke his silence only to say, “Follow me.”

We went along distributing all the items I had brought from classroom to classroom, from first grade to sixth grade. One fifth grade student asked: “Has the economic blockade by the United States against Cuba ended?” The principal looked at me and said, “The blockade does not exist…”

I said to the principal, “Thank you for allowing these gifts that I have brought with so much love to end up in the right hands. Thank you for not making this difficult and allowing all of this to happen in a quick and simple manner, without all the protocol, paperwork, and lies.”

He replied, “I thank you for not forgetting about us. Because of men like you, I have faith in the future. See you soon.”

I returned from my trip a happy man and told my family, friends, and even the people from the churches (who had helped me collect the donations) all about the trip and what had happened. They were all very impressed with the attitude of that school principal. A man who spoke very little, but who conducted himself correctly.

Yesterday I received a letter from sister who tells me that someone ordered all the items that were given to the children to be returned and for the principal to be fired. Days have passed since anyone has heard anything from him and two members of the Cuban Communist Party went to the school to talk to the children about the “unjust and criminal blockade the United States has against Cuba.” Several of the students refused to give the items back, stating that they were Christmas presents from a Cuban who is a member of the “Anti-Cuba Mafia” but who had turned into a good guy and had visited us.

I read El Diario Las Americas online on a regular basis from Tampa and I know you write about Cuba. Please, would you be able to tell my story and denounce to the world what has happened?

When I finished reading Mario’s story, I replied immediately. I promised him that I would shine the public light on these sad incidents, which form part of the severe reality that eats away at the Cuban people. And I also asked him to send me the name of the school principal to see if we could somehow find him.

This has been another year of tyrannies and beatings, of injustices and need. Another year of inequality and lack of liberty, of lies and cruelty. Another year of poverty and immorality, of ambitions and the loss of humanity’s most essential values. How many more years will pass before we stop dedicating ourselves only to trimming Christmas trees or making New Year’s resolutions that we never keep, or eating 12 grapes on December 31st and screaming at the top of our lungs, “Happy New Year,” knowing that we do not lift a finger to improve things or to make them substantially different?

My only New Year’s Resolution for this new year is for Cuba to be free, and I mean really free…

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