Notes from Captivity XI
By Pablo Pacheco Avila
The day began with the falling rain and an icy air which sneaked into my cell. Nostalgia was invading my intimacy and my only response was to tightly hold on to the memories of my days in freedom and to await the return of Manuel Ubals Gonzalez to my cell from his family visit.
After Manuel left the cell to meet with his wife and sister-in-law, I was submerged by my thoughts, just to later fall asleep until Manuel returned to the cell.
Mayelin Bolivar Gonzalez and her sister traveled nearly 900 km on train just to visit Manuel, according to what he told us upon returning to the “Polish” that day. This family lived in the Eastern-most part of Cuba, and as a form of further punishment the authorities banished Manuel far away from his area of residence so that his family would pay for his rebelliousness against the dictatorship. Such a method of deportation within the island was applied to all prisoners of the group of the 75.
In a note later written by Manuel, he told us, his prison mates, that he was suffering something very similar to all the other members of the group. However, Manuel had to confront an additional pain, for Mayelin was pregnant and the couple already had an 8 year old and a ten year old at the moment of his arrest.
Manuel explained that on the day of his arrest during March of 2003, State Security officer Bartolo Rodriguez suggested to him that the best option for his family would be that Mayelin not have the child she carried in her womb. Manuel’s response was radical: “Worry about your own family, I’ll take care of mine.” A few years later we were informed that this officer was expelled from the repressive apparatus on charges of corruption.
Weeks later, Manuel told us that his spouse started showing signs of a miscarraiage due to vaginal bleeding. In addition to all the miles she had to cross, she also had to carry the heavy bags of goods she took to give her husband during allowed family visits, in addition to dealing with so much suffering caused by separation. Adding to this heavy load was the hate planted by the political police against him for carrying out dissident activities in his neighborhood.
The Ubals Gonzalez family lost one of the twins they were expecting. Luckily, the other child continued growing and today, Emanuel, is one of them. He runs, plays, and enjoys the love given to him by his family, while many see him as “the product of hope,” a hope which never disappear despite all adversities.
Those who consider themselves to be owners of our nation tried to reduce our will through Machiavellian methods. They wanted to erase the smiles off our lips, but they could not achieve it. Instead, so much hate gave us more strength to continue fighting, and allowed us to understand that human misery takes us down a path which seems to have no exit, but the truth is that we have the power to move away from such a path to save ourselves from so much hate.
The night when Manuel told us what happened to him and his wife, I stayed a long time pondering about the life of my brother-in-struggle in a moment of sorrow. For the first time, I understood that anywhere, even closer to us than what we can imagine sometimes, another human being suffers a pain greater than my own. And even then, we once again stood back up and continued onward. This specific experience taught me not to complain so much of my own problems and how to share the pain of others.
After the morning when Manuel confessed to us what had happened to Mayelin, I awoke to the sound of guards handing out breakfast, and my first thought was of Mayelin. While we slept, she suffered an unimaginable pain, as well as the additional punishment of being separated from her husband.
I’ve never been able to comprehend why they feel so much hatred towards us.
Weeks passed and I continued thinking of Mayelin and the loss of her child. Perhaps this news never left my conscience, for I never had the courage to ask my wife for another child while I was behind the bars. I did not know if I would be able to live through a similar catastrophe.