An Emotional Weekend
Recently, activists from Amnesty International contacted various deported ex-political prisoners in Spain, along with their relatives, to produce a documentary about our experiences behind the bars, and now in exile. Luckily, I was one of the ex-prisoners invited to the event this weekend in Madrid.
As usual, during the encounter I asked the question I usually ask when standing in front of those who fought for our freedom for more than 7 years: “How do you feel standing in front of the people you defended so much without even personally knowing us?”
“It’s an indescribable feeling, Pablo,” Carolina Roman, Amnesty International activist, told me, while clearly very emotional.
We all chatted as friends, and we laughed time and time again. It was a moment of rejoice as we finally met each other face to face. However, we already knew each other for we were somehow entwined by the power of solidarity. It was even more emotional for me when Gerardo Ducos and Angel Gonzalo, both in charge of Amnesty International media communications in Madrid, handed me a box with more than a thousand letters defending me, and which were written by other volunteers of this NGO. These letters were sent to the henchmen who oppressed me while I was behind the bars.
I explained to them that it is important to send these letters to the prisons, for this shows the authorities and the political police that we are not alone. Throughout the world, there are people who share our pain and unite with our cause.
Upon concluding the interview, we headed back to the hotel where various activists from the Christian Liberation Movement were congregated. I was able to meet fellow brothers-in-cause, while I gave the usual hugs to those who I already knew. They did not let me go before having dinner with them. Before departing, we contacted Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, leader of the Christian dissident movement on the island, over the phone. It was a very emotional and unforgettable moment.
Early that morning, my Spanish friend, Emilio, who is very supportive of the Cuban struggle to achieve democracy, picked me up in the hotel I was staying at. There I met up with the youngest member of the group of the 75, Lester Gonzales Penton. We headed to the Cuban embassy together to join a protest for the first anniversary of the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, as well as to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Brothers to the Rescue shoot-down carried out by the Cuban Air Force, which caused the death of four young men.
The functionaries of the Cuban embassy slammed their doors shut on us. They did not receive the document we intended to hand them and all that we could see of them was through a small window where we spotted them filming all the protesters. Those among us with more experience in similar protests said that such an attitude on behalf of the Cuban diplomats was normal. This is how they try to intimidate protesters (capturing it all on video), later denying entrance to any of the participants. Yet, it is all very well worth it.
For the first time I got to hug Fidel Suarez Cruz, another brother-in-cause with whom I shared a cell in “Aguica” prison for 16 months, without being able to see each others faces. The hate and intolerance of a brutal regime impeded us from doing so while in captivity.
It was a weekend full of emotions, well worth remembering. Moments like these also help heal the deep scars of our past– a past which haunts us with all its cruelty, but which, like all scars, will eventually heal, although it is undeniable that political imprisonment leaves some difficult and deep wounds in the mind.
By Pablo Pacheco Avila