A New Audience for a Familiar Story

– Come so that you can clean yourself up – the diplomat tells me–, later, we’ll eat some breakfast. Are you hungry?

– Yes, very.

– Then eat something first. Lets go to the table.

I accept. The four Costa Ricans, my cousins and I, sit down at a beautifully prepared table. Two servants—a man and a woman—bring us a large, exquisite breakfast.

Poor prisoners, I say between bites, remembering the world of cruelty and misery of the jail cells. I think about the dirty water and the poorly toasted bread the jailers give us every morning, the food they call breakfast.

My stomach drags a hunger of four days. I’m still a bundle of nerves. I take a handful of chocolate, and then biscuits, cheese, butter, and fruit. It’s been so many years since I’ve enjoyed these delicacies!

As we enjoy breakfast, the chief of the Costa Rican mission tells me:

– This afternoon we fly to Costa Rica.

This afternoon?, I reply–, I can’t leave Cuba without bidding goodbye to my mother. I need to take a bouquet of flowers to her tomb in Yara. That will take me a couple of days.

– Listen to me, Commander Matos, the diplomat says, it is a matter of an agreement we reached with Fidel Castro, who met with us last night. You have been turned over to us to complete your sentence under the promise that we transfer you today to Costa Rica.

The State Security officials, feigning indifference, listen and observe a few feet from the table.

I insist on the visit to the cemetery.

-It’s just that they aren’t going to permit you to go wherever you want. If you take even one step outside this house, they’ll take you back to prison again. Everything we’ve done for you will be lost, and we’ll end up unable to continue soliciting for the freedom of any Cuban political prisoners.

This man has won me my freedom. If I cause him to fail, there will be very little, if anything, he’ll be able to do for my compatriots.

12 thoughts on “A New Audience for a Familiar Story”

  1. “Okay, here’s at hint. We saw him at this years Cuba Nostalgia convention, followed by “lively” discussion.”

    I remember we talked about him Ziva…

  2. I had read yesterday at one of the msm’s sites regarding the release/exile of the 52, and how some had been told to get ready for release… my only thought to this was “what the hell could that possibly entail?”

    guard: (unlocking the prison door) “get up”
    prisoner: “ok”
    guard: “follow me”
    prisoner: “ok”
    guard: (at the front door of the prison) “get out, don’t look back, don’t talk about this experience”
    prisoner: “ok”
    … prisoner walks out, wearing rags, hungry, a hundred miles from home, with a scrap of paper indicating he’s completed this prison sentence.

    but their release is with conditions… and exile, so yeah it’s different. 🙁
    “get ready”? how? … “stand up” uff.

  3. Freedom you are too gracious; you remember that we! “talked about him”; I remember (not just by you) a tongue lashing. Education by fire, the best kind. 🙂

  4. Anastasio, is this powerful excerpt taken from Huber Matos autobiography? Did you do the translation?

    What angers me the most is how castro is able to decide everyone’s fate. He decides who stays inside Cuba, who goes to jail, who is freed, etc…

    Like a medieval potentate who could do with his serfs as he deemed, castro has taken us back to the 12th century. Back in the middle ages, feudal lords would often give prisoners to visiting dignitaries in order to show their magnanimity. This is exactly what castro does. And the worst part about it is that these visiting dignitaries and the world media then start singing the accolades of castro’s generosity.

    It’s a win-win situation for the tyrant. An uncritical and adoring world press coupled with sympathetic and amoral diplomats and church and world leaders.

  5. Rayarena,

    I started translating Como Llego la Noche not too long ago. I have more plans for it but I want to get it out there to the English speaking audience. Interesting twist here – Matos, whose wife, Maria Luisa, was an old friend of my grandmother’s back in New Jersey during Huber’s imprisonment, granted me a great interview a few years back. I have the mini disc recordings here at home. I really ought to get them online. Incidentally, my uncle was the fellow who had planned to spring him and his adjutants from El Morro in the early sixties. Matos was transferred a day ahead of the jail break, but he was able to release Napoleon Bequer, Dionisio Suarez, and another fellow whose name escapes me at the moment.



  6. Anastasio,

    Thus far, you’ve done a great translation. It’s of professional quality. I gather that this translation is of a personal nature, and that there aren’t any prospective English language publishers in line for the translation. Of course, this book should reach as wide an audience as possible and an English edition would be a wonderful thing.

    In any case, thank you for sharing your family stories. I’m impressed by your uncle’s courage. And please, do put Maria Luisa’s interview online!

    Remember, every testimony against the tyranny is a mark against it.

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