Years ago, during a two-week stint with my family in Havana, I was shown one of many secret compartments hidden within the ancestral home that has served multiple generations of Blancos over the past seven decades. Behind an old bookcase situated against the rear wall of my cousin Ruben’s bedroom is a small door. There are no digital keypads with which to enter a code, no biometric scanners with which to gain access – just a small pine board which, when removed, allows access to a trove of seemingly innocuous items which in Cuba – and nations like her – could easily land their owners in jail – or worse. Among the items hidden are a copy of Huber Matos’ autobiography – “Como Llego la Noche,” a small collection of factually-based biographies on Fidel Castro, videocassettes, and what is perhaps the most important item of all – a handwritten letter dedicated to Ruben by his grandfather (my great-grandfather) on the eve of his birth in 1966.
By the Winter of ‘66, the Castro machine was of course, very well dug-in. The confiscations were – for the most part – finished. The complete disarming of the population had long-since been accomplished and individuals like Ruben’s grandfather – regular middle-class working folks – had been reduced to suckling from the tetes of Fidel and Co. Their enslavement – which was accomplished by forcing them to earn a living by way of working for the government and not for themselves – had in effect, transformed them into the ignorant children of a blind king – something bisabuelo always found repugnant.
And so it was that on the eve of Ruben’s birth, just weeks away from his own death, the family’s patriarch penned the following words, dedicated to his yet-to-be-born grandson.
. . . because this grandson will be very intelligent and in God’s favor . . . because he will be a great citizen and a man who will bring justice. I have complete faith.
Ruben has lived his life according to his grandfather’s wishes. He never attended university – the result of having refused to pledge his allegiance to the “party.” He has stolen absolutely everything possible from government sources and continues – to this day – never to censor himself when speaking about the government in public. Ruben, you see, will not allow himself to be silenced. He refuses to allow the regime to mold his mind, choosing instead, to cultivate his thoughts and opinions by seeking the truth. What a pity that truth in Cuba is relegated to dusty, cobweb-infested, hidden troves concealed by bookcases that only hold approved government materials. Still, those items in Ruben’s secret stash have a nasty habit of being copied and distributed to all those who ask. It is his mission – however small.
Ruben will eventually achieve a measure of justice for his family – as will most of us. It only requires time, patience and perseverance.
As Willy Chirino said during his White House performance only hours ago – “ya viene llegando.”