Quince Años

I had the pleasure of spending about 4 1/2 hours at Cuba Nostalgia yesterday. As usual, it was great to meet up with the other Babalu contributors, meet several of our daily readers, and pretty much soak up the ambience that makes Cuba Nostalgia what it is.
Every year I go, I pick up something new. Sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes not so subtle. Standing in front of the Babalu booth asking people to sign the petition for the release of Cuban political prisoners, a few older men came by and mentioned to us that they had been prisoners in Cuba. “Quince años“. “Diez años“. “Veinte años“. These men had spent a good chunk of the prime of their lives in jail for standing up for what they believed in. For freedom from a tyrannical beast. Many of them probably missed seeing their children grow up or missed out on their parents’ waning years. What a crying shame.
After the men stopped by, told their stories, and proudly signed the petition, a few of us would talk about the strength that these men must possess to spend their prime in prison and still be able to stand proud today as elderly men.
This is the kind of story that you won’t hear many “anti-hard-liners” talk about. You see, it’s much easier for some to criticize the United States and the “historic” exile than it is to think about those who actually suffered the injustices of the castro regime. Some made it out alive, many did not. Even those that are around today to tell their sad stories have been scarred in ways I can’t even begin to imagine.
Don’t get me wrong: it’s perfectly fine to honestly evaluate, and even be critical of our policy towards Cuba. But too many people spend way too much time railing against people on this side of the Straits and way too little time thinking about those who suffered and the regime which caused said suffering. It’s this inbalanced perspective that’s most frustrating in our efforts to get the word out about people such as Oscar Elias Biscet, Yoani Sanchez and all the other brave Cubans who don’t have the time or luxury to criticize the United States or the “historic” exiles without first evaluating why they’re in the state that they’re in.
So you may be asking…what lesson did I learn this year?
Simple, and not so subtle.
Never, EVER take freedom for granted.

3 thoughts on “Quince Años”

  1. Robert:
    Taking freedom for granted is a disease. I wish I could tell you how many of my students don’t appreciate all that they have here. It’s very disheartening.

  2. Ok, if we are to not take freedom for granted. Why then can’t I have the FREEEDOm to legally travel to Cuba. Cannot my own creative spirit make a small change in a CUban’s life there. Can I not think for myself or does my government know whats best for me. This sounds eirely similar to the Communist Cuba I fled from in the 60’s.
    We need to move away from this current policy and allow to American freedom and enterprise enter Cuba. It changed the Soviet bloc eventually. However the real issue is get the American government out of my life. Allow me the freedom to seek my pursuit of happiness.
    I have have sacrificed my life in her service. I just want my right to travel to Cuba legally.

  3. Camilo,
    You have the right to express your opinions and even lobby your representatives. And your sacrifice is much appreciated. In fact, I may even be inclined to agree with you that the current travel restrictions are a bit much. However, Cubans don’t have any of the rights you sacrificed for.
    Other countries have been sending their tourists and businesses to Cuba for how many years now, to what result? You can make the same old “Americans are different” argument, but I’m afraid the proof’s in the pudding.
    You want change? Start with asking and demanding that the castro regime change their ways, and stand behind the brave Cubans inside the island who are sacrificing plenty.

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