An old Cuban man

There’s an old Cuban man. Some say he is a powerful man. He is loved by many and despised by many. When he speaks people listen. No, I am not talking about that old Cuban man. I am talking about a man who doesn’t need to pressure or force people to hear him speak. I am talking about man who people listen to because they want to. Because he expresses with conviction what they would say if only they could articulate it so well. This man does not command an army or have access to any conventional weapons. But he does have weapons of a sort: the spoken word backed by the truth.
When this old Cuban man walks into a room his appearance betrays his age. I have had the pleasure of meeting this old Cuban man on several occasions. His critics say he wants to rule Cuba himself. Or alternately, they say that a free Cuba would mean the end of this man’s career. The idea that this man whose hands shake, another sign of his age, would have any kind of ambition beyond simply outliving that other man and his murderous regime is preposterous.
Tonight that man spoke at a venue with a capacity of 839. It was standing room only. And the people that came to hear this old Cuban man? They were largely a group of old Cubans in their own right. These people are likewise belittled. It’s easy to make of fun of them. “Armchair intransigents” some people might call them, ignoring the fact that many of these same people spent what should have been the best years of their lives in the anonymous misery of a Cuban political prison. It would be much easier for these tired old people to stay home and forget about Cuba. To forget about the country of their birth. But they can’t. So they do what they can. They gather to hear this old man recount the history they know so well. Perhaps it’s because they need to keep hearing it to make sure they haven’t gone mad. I’m quite sure that, in their position, I would have. You see the entire world denies the tragedy that these people have lived. All they have is each other. Yes it’s easy to laugh at them. But it would be hard to live what they have lived.
These old Cubans are patriotic. They rise to sing, first the star spangled banner and then the Cuban national anthem. And then they sit to hear the man they came to see. He explains that there was once another man, Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, who had a vision for a free Cuba 139 years ago. That vision is still alive, he says, anywhere in the world where you can find freedom-loving Cubans.
Then the old Cuban man explains how on the eve of the death of the Cuban tyrant that there will be great pressure on the people in the room support a negotiation with those who have destroyed a country they still yearn for after half a century. There will be pressure to make deal with those people and “forgive and forget.” But to do so would be a betrayal of the memory of the thousands who have died on the firing squad wall. It would be a betrayal of those who languished for decades in the worst political prisons of the western hemisphere.
And those old people stood and applauded that old man. Their only hope is to see the very beginning of what will be a new era in their long-suffering homeland. There will be no wavering. The “declaration of Miami” and those receiving it, in person and over the airwaves, have affirmed that tonight.
Yes, this is a powerful man. He’s powerful because he’s a dignified man who speaks the truth with conviction and who denounces untruths and abuses.

9 thoughts on “An old Cuban man”

  1. Beautifully expressed Henry, just beautiful. Well done.
    Mr. Ricardo, read the piece again, perhaps a bit more slowly than you’ve previously done and open your mind, you’ll know who that man is.

  2. That Old Man is Armando PerezRoura, who has never given up hope of a free Cuba. I wish I had been there in person to hear him speak. I saw a little bit on the evening news and I had goose bumps. When I see these old Cubans gathering to speak about a free Cuba, I don’t think of them as intransigent, I think of them as heroes, who love their homeland. At their age, they should be enjoying their lives with no worries, but yet they cannot ignore what is in their hearts and that is a beautiful thing to watch. That’s what makes Cubans so special.

  3. Even if he were younger and really aspired to be Cuba’s president, to have any chance he’d definitely have to change his tune to something more “pragmatic,” “conciliatory” and accommodating, like Carlos Alberto Montaner (who gives every sign that he does aspire to the presidency). I find Montaner admirable in a number of ways but way too political, though no doubt he’s doing what he thinks he must to get where he wants to be (as all politicians do).

  4. I’ve said this elsewhere, but if Perez-Roura (the head “chihuahua”) had been caught doing EXACTLY the same thing in EXACTLY the same way as Oscar Corral and that prostitute were, just imagine how the Herald would have handled it. It doesn’t take much of an imagination, and it says an awful lot about what the Herald is about when it comes to the Cuban-American community.

  5. It was a wonderful event! There were some younger people as well, though I wish more would have come. The artists were fabulous, especially Mr. and Mrs. Trujillo. Their performance on the piano and violin brought down the house. I had trouble keeping my eyes dry when Mara and Orlando sang “No Es Igual” (It’s Not The Same). It brings me back to my childhood, and the first time I tasted the candy made here. It’s not the same as in Cuba. That, was REAL CANDY!

  6. Mr. Garzon,
    thank you for being SO helpful. I was confused, I had the name of Armando Perez-Roura on the tip of my tongue, but I could’ve been mistaken with another old Cuban man, Tomas Fuste came to mind. Since I was confused, I reserved my answer. A glance at the Radio Mambi design on the podium said it all.
    But thanks for being “explaining”

  7. Beautifully written Henry. After reading this, the insignificance and lack of conviction of the anti-exiles is that much more pronounced.

  8. Thanks, Henry …. I used to listen to him on my harrowing morning commute when I worked on Brickell — feeling a little odd that I’d be listening to that old dude. While he could do a number of things better, I must say I respect his tenacity and the fact he doesn’t need to use foul language or mudslinging to get his point across.
    That’s a sign of class – and conviction.

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