Against All Hope
Mandatory reading (along with Jorge Masetti's In the Pirate's Den, which allows to see the other side: the middle-class, comfortable punk turned communist, the appropriate accolyte for Castro's genocide).
This book is a victory of faith and resiliance against totalitarianism. Castro deceived the poor, the peasants of Cuba. He perverted the revolution the people were expecting. Castro had declared a thousand times that he was not a communist and that the revolution was "greener than palm trees", but when he got the power he proclaimed unashamedly the true nature of his beast.
This books stands as an invaluable monument to the Cubans whom Castro broke but never bent. Those who refused to say: "Yes, Commissar, I have done wrong. I accept Political Rehabilitation because I see now that communism is the only just system, and it alone can bring happiness to humanity" (p.358).
Notes on communism: "The authorities thought, moreover, that weeding out the cabecillas (leaders) would leave the less educated, less 'dangerous' prisoners, lacking leadership, easier to manipulate ... but if there is any ideology based completely on a misunderstanding of human behavior and the workings of men's psyche, their motivations, that ideology is without doubt marxism ... time would show that every man's conscience, system of values, and personal pride were what led him to resist. No man needed another to show him the way" (p.219).
"A communist always seems to prefer an angry, blurted, uncontrolled manner (of speech from their opponents). The truth, spoken calmly to his face always exasperates him. As what I said was unarguable, the two men turned angrily and walked away." (p.477).
I have to encourage the reader to get hold of this astounding book if only for the story of Alfredo Izaguirre (pp.239-242): "The only prisoner I know of who never performed any forced labor for his jailers -not even a minute's. It is fitting that his name go down in the history of the rebellion of the Cuban political prisons."
On Castro's true revolutionary companions: (Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo) "led the bloody fighting against Batista's Army (in the mountains of Escambray), he had the sympathy of every peasant there -but Eloy had fought to establish a truly democratic system in Cuba, not another dictatorship. Therefore when he saw that Castro was becoming a tyrant, he fled the country; a while later he came back with a small group of armed men who tried to reach the mountains to continue the struggle. But he was trapped, captured and sentenced to 30 years in prison".
"Rafael del Pino had been one of Castro's closest allies when Castro was in Mexico preparing the Granma landing. One night Castro confided his plans for Cuba to Rafael, and Rafael was so shocked at their totalitarian aspect that he abandoned Fidel. Castro never forgave Rafael that 'betrayal' ... Rafael was jailed". In 1977 he died in jail. "No one ever saw the body. The Ministry of the Interior flatly refused to turn it over to his family."
"Ex-commander Mario Chaves, who had assaulted the Moncada barracks with Castro, been in prison with him, and accompanied him on the Granma landing, was brutally beaten (in jail) and literally dragged to the punishment cells" (p.458)
Pierre Golendorf, a French marxist intellectual who had come to Cuba and worked for the Cuban government ... realized that the island was one big farm that Castro ran like a slave plantation ... he wrote letters about the lie the revolution had turned into ... the political police accused him, like everyone who stood up to the revolution, of being an agent of the CIA. He got 3 years and 2 months in prison. "The tribunals do nothing but read sentences (imposed by politicians)". Spain is not very different today. See how judge Gómez de Liaño was disposed of his toga for sentencing a big pro-government media shot (the El País media group).
Children of the Devil: "One would naturally assume him to be a doctor, but he wasn't. He had been a traveling salesman for medical supply companies. This man, "Dr" Herrera Sotolongo, a Spanish communist, had fled to Cuba because of the civil war in Spain, and thanks to the solidarity of the Cuban revolution with Spanish communism, he had become chief of all medical services of all jails and prisons in Cuba. And you always had to call him doctor, or he wouldn't answer you. He knew nothing at all about medicine, of course, but he was a man the leader could trust." (p.233-234)
The Western world's ignominious role: Conversation between Martha, Valladares' wife, and Pierr Schori, social-democrat big shot in Sweden: "-So if you know there's an implacable dictatorship in Cuba, if you know all liberties have been suspended, why don't you speak out? -Because that would be giving the Americans a publicity weapon." (!!) "Schori warned her not to speak to the press about this interview. Perhaps he didn't want to provoke Fidel."
This undescribable book by Valladares, who should be the president of Cuba and give Castro a tour of his own jails and lacks, ends by remembering one of the anonymous victims in this genocide, a Christian martyr at his moment of death: "a heart overflowing with love, raising his arms to the invisible heaven and pleading for mercy for his executioners. 'Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.' And a burst of machine-gun fire ripping open his breast."
Valladares writes beautifully, and even through all the horrors od more than 20 years of torture described here he keeps a tone of hope, of mysterious sanity and confidence all along, and which assures him that what he's doing is write, according to his conscience and to the power the Almighty God sustains him with. Why is this book unpublished in Spanish-speaking countries or so hard to find? That's another ignominy.