This is a true story. It!s an account based on real facts that befell in a very difficult stage in Cuba’s History. However it is not related to an specific event, it is an epitome of different stories which took place since the beginning of Fidel Castro’s Revolution and throughout very painful periods of suffering and struggle by the Cuban people still blowing in the heads and minds of those who are lucky to be alive today to relate them. It is also a summing up from the author, his personal experiences and the ones from those who coincided in this horrendous epoch of disgraceful events perpetrated by a savage and sanguinary regime in the pinnacle of its despicable domain.
I have said many times before that I do not align with a specific ideology or specific doctrine or religion, due to my condition as writer, artist and observer, which elements
make me look at the events from a very impartial optic, using the common sense and relating the veracity of the events as they unfold. Having this type of approach in mind I have narrated and accounted them exactly as they happened without exaggeration or lassitude. Men and women from many families beard over their shoulders the anguishing weight of injustice, abundance of abuses, outrage, intolerance and the savagery they were subjugated in critical times where the most abominable and gruesome
murders that History had ever accounted, were left unpunished for ever.
Despite of the theory stating that everything must pass and people change, basically the criminal mind of the sinners never vary, it is simple attenuated or conveniently dissembled according to the circumstances.
A lot of dictators and regimes have committed all kind of atrocities but the ones that took place in Cuba in this period has no comparison in the History of humanity and some day will have the most disgusting rejection and pennant as those who survived or close relatives of witnesses will continue to testify and denounce the truth and justice will be striking with no mercy over those dirty key players in this genocide. But the power of God is far more reaching that the hand of the criminals and it will devastating to those who are running away from his final judgment.
Oh God! Execute your crushing force over our enemies in the same mundane and muddy soil that they have created.
Santa Cruz North, July 7, 23:00 hours.
Three young boys struggle with a homemade raft helped by three men from a side of the main road leading to Via Blanca, one of the most important high ways in Havana. The group pushes the raft very close to the shore line and stops next to some reefs by the shallow waters to take a break from the weight they have carried while moving the improvised vessel. The men return to a parked truck and take off leaving the three boys ready for the departure as they are not involved in the illegal voyage.
Tony De Armas, fifteen years old, and two brothers, Luis Soto, fourteen and Rafael Soto thirteen, African descendants have no idea of the danger they are getting into. Not only by the intent of illegal leave as the government defines it but also because of the insecurity of the improvised craft which has no engine or stability represents a very risky adventure for these desperate boys who are determined to defy the fury of the high seas, the sharks infested waters, the adverse climatic conditions and other mysteries from the stretch between the coast of Cuba and the Florida Peninsula. Despite this adversity, the boys continue their struggle to throw the raft in the water as they are ready to move forward.
’’Bring the bags with food and the water tanks”, says Tony.
Luis and Rafael pull with great difficulty a sac of provisions, a water tank and they mount them in the raft.
“Push hard! The wind is blowing badly” says Tony.
They had advanced a few meters inside the water when a shower of flare lights bombarded to the sky lights up the whole place as day time. Lets go Abreu!“, shouts one of the soldiers.
Like ghost, military soldiers start appearing everywhere circling the beach side and carrying AK rifles while advancing toward the boys in the water. Bullets fly over the boys heads as they are ambushed by the army soldiers.
“Stop where you are! Put your hands on the air! Don’t move or you are dead!”, says Sergeant Galvez, the head of the group. Rafael is shaking terrified by the surprising appearance. “There are a lot of them!”, shouts Tony.
Rafael looks around and moves out of the water and runs over the shore line trying to escape.
“Wait! Rafael! Where are you going? Donft do it!”, says Luis watching his brother scared to death.
“Stop! Stop right there!”, shouts a soldier.
“Stop or I’ll shoot!”, says another soldier.
“No, please don’t shoot! He’s only a boy and he’s also terrified!”, says Luis.
“Stop I said bastard!”, shouts the Sergeant.
Rafael cannot stop. He continues running trying to get away. A few shots are heard and Rafael falls on the sand fatal wounded by one of the bullets.
“Nooo!”, shouts Luis while he sees his brother in a blood shed. Some of the soldiers grab Tony and Luis while others near Rafael to stop him from getting up.
“Murderers! He’s only a child!”, shouts Tony.
Two soldiers approach Rafael and verify that Rafael is dead.
“Why did you do it assassins? He was only a child!”, cries Luis.
One of the soldiers kicks Tony with the butt of the rifle and the boy falls over the grass.
“Take them away! I will take care of the stiff”, says Sergeant Galvez.
A few minutes later Tony and Luis are dumped on the edge of the highway, closely watched by dozens of soldiers from the coast guard who have joined the platoon commanded by the Sergeant.
An ambulance arrives at the scene in a somber silence. Two paramedics get out carrying a stretcher and a black bag, dumping the dead body of Rafael inside the bag and putting it on the stretcher.
Luis has not stop crying. He continues crying out of control as he sees the body of his brother carried away. Tony gives his captors a full of hate glance after they don’t seem to be impressed by the cold blooded brutal murder.
Sergeant Galvez establish communication with his boss on the radio.
One of the soldiers comes up to Luis when the boy cannot control his tears and waning.
“Shut up! There’s nothing you can do now!”
“Why? Why?”, asks Luis.“It was his fault. We asked him to stop and he didn’t listen. You saw it”, says the soldier while lighting a cigarette. The soldier turns to Tony who looks at him in rage.
“How about you? You must be the leader of the group.”
“You1re damn right I am. I master minded the whole operation”, says Tony in clear challenge to the soldier.
The soldier slaps him in the face. “That’s not funny. And I’ll make you pay for it, worm! (word used by the communists to call the opposing individual with contempt) He kneels down to Tony.
“Where were you going boy? To the North? To the Yankees? To kiss their ass?”
He turns to Luis.
“What do you have to say little weeper? You don’t seem to understand that in The North niggers don’t have any rights?”, he bursts in a guffaw.
“Of course, that’s the propaganda that all these traitors bluff about in Miami. Those who ran away like rats looking to be pampered by the dirty Yankees!”
Tony looks at him with resentment. “Well, at least we can be free over there and do what ever we please”, he daggers the soldier.
Sergeant Galvez comes near them. “What kind of nun sense are you talking about dirty scoundrel? What kind of freedom are your boasting about? We are the free ones!”, he says proudly.
“A small country who is not afraid of an enemy only ninety miles away from our mainland. We are building our motherland and our own future. Thanks to the revolution”, the Sergeant assures. Tony draws a faint smile as he shakes his head in rejection.
“Who else was leaving with you?”, asks Galvez.
“No one else. They were coming to pick up us form Miami”, lies Tony.
“Oh really? I did not know that”, Galvez says surprised.
“Hey you soldier. Call Santa Cruz base immediately and ask for reinforcement. We need more people over here. It could be an infiltration or a commando attack, who knows? We can’t take a chance!”, saysGalvez very worried.
Tony gave him a funny glance as he is enjoying the insecurity and concerns from his captors.
“Come on. Get up. The party is about to begin.”
Tony stands up and helps Luis who is very weak and very stressed by his brother death.
“Abreul Take them to the truck”, orders the Sergeant.
Abreu takes them to a Russian made truck and pushes them to the open back of the truck escorted by a few militants.
“I need for ten of you to stay here in case that someone shows up. I ordered to send more soldiers from the base”, says Galvez.
The Sergeant mounts his jeep and the caravan compounded by two military jeeps and three trucks advances to their next destination.
The rest of the group spreads over the reefs hiding by the coast line waiting for invaders from outside. Tony watches them delighted by their terrifying moves as he feels proud of the scaring false trace he gave them.
The breeze coming from the sea strikes Tony and Luis as they are traveling shirt bared as the early morning cold makes them shiver, adding up to the already tense and somber crossroad enhanced by Rafael’s cowardly murder. The deep sorrow and pain Luis is enduring by the lost of his brother seems to be disproportioned by Tony’s rage and anger whose stubborn character and rebellious acts make him stronger and more prepared to resist the odd situation that they are confronting. In a very ironic contrast, Tony ’s and Luis’s pain by the lost of Rafael seems to be ignored by the soldiers who are mocking and laughing while listening to the noisy loud music coming from the truck’s radio while in motion.
Tony records in his mind the lyrics of a song heard in the distance as he is aware he won’t forget them in a difficult moment like this.
“There’s a kind of hush all over the world tonight... that is coming to me and it’ll never die, you know what I mean, for ever and ever!”
“Dear God, give me the strength that I need to stand up to this hell!“, prays Tony.
Luis does not stop crying.
“Shut your mouth you pig before I knock one of your filthy teeth down!”, says one soldier.
Tony talks to Luis in a low voice. “Listen Luis, you have to be strong. I feel the same way you’re feeling now but there’s nothing we can do now. Unfortunately Rafael is gone and we can’t bring him back”, says Tony.
“You don’t understand Tony. Do you have an idea what they have done?”, says Luis out of control.
“Of course I know, are you kidding me? I was there with you. I saw the whole thing like you did. It hurts me as much that it hurt you, but it’s over. We have to look forward now and try to get out of this as soon as possible”, says Tony.
“I can’t help it”, says Luis very sad.
.“Listen to me Luis. What is coming now is even more difficult than that. Lot of pressure, questions, abuses and torture, maybe psychological or physical, with this people you never know. They probably want to know where did we build the raft and how did we do it, who gave us the materials and so forth.
“We can not implicate any body else in this because more people will pay for it.” “Are you talking about Frank, Leo and the others?”, asks Luis.
“Of course. These dudes from the truck, the farm and all that. They are experts in persuading people to talk but we rather die than snitch on them, is that clear?”, says Tony.
Luis still sobbing but nods over Tony’s words. “Give me the money you have in your pocket”, Tony asks him.
“Shut up. I don’t want any more damn secrets, do you follow? We’re almost home”, a soldier warns.
Luis does not have time to give Tony the money as they separate and Tony gives Luis a warning glance to hide the money. The caravan arrives at Santa Cruz military base, a military training camp for the coast guard and special operations. The truck stops in front of the main offices where Tony and Luis are pushed to one office next to a waiting room.
“Get in there! An officer pushes them inside the room. The soldier is going to lock the door but the officer makes him a signal.
“Not you. You come with me”, the soldier separates Luis from Tony and takes him to another room.
The two boys are locked inside their respective rooms and one of the soldiers turns to the others.
“Let’s see what kind of booty these filthy brats brought us”, they burst in laughters. They open the bags that Luis and Tony were carrying and one of the soldiers takes out a bread loaf. One soldier strikes it over the table.
“This bread is older than The Morro (Havana fortress)”. Big guffaw by the rest of the soldiers.
“I could die starving before I’ll eat this junk”, says another soldier.
Another soldier takes out a black doll from the sac.
“Take a pick at these boys. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Can you imagine? Even the witchcraft went wrong”, laughs the soldier.
They drag the doll over the floor and start wiping the floor with it as they jump, spin and move around her dancing like in a ritual.
“What is the name of this puppet?”, asks a soldier mocking over the doll.
“I’m sure is Caridad”. says another soldier.
”Caridad? That’s a damn funny name. It sounds like a black seal”, more laughs. The soldier starts making noises acting like a seal.
“You know you sound exactly like the damn animal, all you need is a couple of fins and shuffle like they do”, more laughs nonstop.
Tony observes the disgusting scene through the crystal window from the office he has been locked in.
“Dear God. How long do we have to suffer this injustice?”, he thinks loud.
Luis continues weeping.
“Raf, my dear brother. How painful your departure has been for me! What are we going to tell pap now? How is he going to deal with this? How about mom? Will this crime be enough to open dad’s conscience? This is a nightmare and gruesome assassination, but is he going to see it that way?”, Luis worries while continues crying inconsolable.
The telephone rings in Luis house. Coincidently major Ramon Soto (Luis’ father) answers the phone.
“Yes. What are you saying? It can’t be true! Thank you, comrade. I am on my way over there!”, Ramon hangs up very upset and get dressed in his green olive military
uniform. His wife Hilda comes to the room. “What’s happening Ramon?”, asked Hilda. “I am not sure yet. But I have a feeling these kids are in serious trouble.”
“Can I go with you”, she asks.
“No, wait for me here. If this is what I am thinking I’ll have to deal with this alone,“says Ramon.
“I am going with you. I’m going to get dressed”, Hilda leaves the room. Before she can come back Ramon finished getting dressed. He grabs his weapon, jumps in his sidecar motorcycle and drives away in full speed. Hilda reaches the front door but she comes too short.
“Ramon! Ramon! My god! What might be possible happening?”, she goes back inside very worried, grabs the telephone and dials a number.
“Helen, it’s me Hilda. What happened? No!”, she shouts in a lot of rage and pain.“It can’t be! The boys? What have they done? Where are they? No, my God! It can’t be possible! My son! My son! Rafaelito!”, she throws the phone and bursts in a sea of tears.
“Rafaelito! My poor son! Rafaelito! She passes out in severe grief.
Ramon stops his motorcycle in front of the municipal mortuary in Santa Cruz North. Various officers welcome him with a military salute and they enter the Hospital where laying on a bed rests Rafael’s dead body covered with a white sheet.
Ramon exchanges some words with the Captain in charge of the military compound and separates from the group so no one can see him crying. He manages to recover from his painful momentum and heads to the room to identify his son’s cadaver. Ramon closes his eyes in rage. “Who did this?”, he somberly asks.
“We are not sure”, says t
“An investigation has been opened as we speak.
" “You are not sure? What do you mean by that captain?”, asks Ramon very upset.
The Captain gets nervous in front of the inquisitive look from Ramon, looking for answers. “According to the coast guards version he tried to escape. They tried to stop him.
Ramon does not want to listen further.
“Where are my other son and my nephew? I want to see them now!”, he demands.
Ramon is very upset and he retires to one of the sides to avoid been seen by the officers where he moans while his hands are shaky and his heart aches.
“But why did they do it? Why?”, asks Ramon in desperation.
“I’m very sorry major. We tried to stop him but he tried to split and there was nothing we could do. He didn’t listen...” Ramon is not listening. “How were they leaving?”, asks Ramon.
“In a homemade raft. The captain opens a back door and shows the raft laying on the patio.
“This is the subject”, says the Captain.
This pitiful situation comes very embarrassing for Ramon, because besides the death of his son, it also represents an act of treason according to the revolutionary principles and doctrines, the kind of situation that puts the major in a very uncomfortable and difficult situation with his superiors.
“These kids are out of their minds. I don’t know where they have their heads,“said Ramon trying to excuse them. “Where are they?”, he asks the Captain.
The Captain points to a cubicle nearby. “Are both of them in that office?“, Ramon asks.
“No. They are in two different rooms”, says the Captain.
’Leave me alone with them please,” “Would you like to take them with you?”, asks the Captain.
“Not now. Put them together. I’d like to talk to my son and my nephew first”, said the Major.
The Captain waves to a soldier but Ramon stops him.
“Wait. Let me talk to my son first. I will talk to my nephew afterwards”. The Captain unlocks the door to the office and The Major steps inside.
“Dad!”. Luis hugs his dad in a lot of pain and relief at the same time.
Once inside and where no one can see him Ramon embraces his son and cries with him.
“My sonl My dear sonl What have you done? Why? Why?” He hugs Luis time an again. Ramon hesitates for a moment, but he sighs determined to control himself.
“You are going to pay for this Luis. I can’t let you go like this.”
“No, dad. Don’t leave us here. These bastards are bad news. I hate theml l hate them!” Ramon hugs him one more time in great compassion.
“Take it easy okay. I will get you out but i have to find out what happened to Rafael first”, says The Major.
“They murdered Raf dad. There was no mercy. He didn’t do anything, just got terrified and started running, but there was nothing like fighting or anything like that. The just
killed him. Simple as that. They’re a bunch of cowards and criminals”, Luis says outraged.
Ramon cries again very upset.
“But how have you done this Luis? Where did you get this absurd idea?”, asks Ramon very confused.
“I’m sorry dad!”, Luis trys to excuse.
“What am I going to do? And how about Rafael? My poor son!”
“I am very sorry dadl We were desperate!”, says Luis sadly. “Desperate?”, Ramon keeps weeping. The Major has been caught unprepared for this painful moment as he continues. “Who was leaving?”, asks Ramon.
“Tony, Rafael and me” Have you seen Tony?”, asks Luis.
“No. I’m going to see him now. He’s next door.”
“Listen dad, we are all responsible. lt was my idea.”
“That’s what you say. Let’s see what Tony has to say.”
“Don’t leave me here dad. It will be disaster for me”, beggs Luis.
“Wait for me here. I’ll be back in a few minutes”, says Ramon while opening the door and stepping out of the room.
Ramon closes the door and heads to the office where Tony has been held. He opens it and steps in.
“Uncle!” Tony embraces Ramon. Ramon shows more reserved to Tony.
“What do you have to say Tony?”, asks Ramon.
“Let me explain to you...”
Ramon interrupts him. “What are you going to say? What the hell are you going to say? A dead son, my other son and my nephew arrested by leaving the country illegally. Do you
have an idea what this all means to me? And my son dead while trying to escape”
“They killed him uncle! He only ran out terrified, but he didn’t harm any one or had any weapons on him. He was unarmed.”
“Don’t lie to me Tony!“, shouts Ramon.
“I swear to Go uncle!” Ramon leaves the room after slamming the door behind him.
He goes straight to the Captain.
“Tell me what the hell has happened here Captain.I want the true but only the truth”, says Ramon out of control.
“Exactly as I told you Major”, says the Captain.
“I am going to find out what they did to my son, and believe me Captain if they killed him in cold blood and cowardly, someone is going to pay a very high price for this gruesome murder even I’ll have to take the law in my own hands!“, he warns the Captain.
“I am telling you the truth”, asserts The Captain.
“This remains to be seen”, answers Ramon.
“What should be do with them?” asks the Captain.
“Take them to Maristas Village (State Security Department, G2) I will see them there. They have to learn the lesson, at least scare them and lecture them about this.”
“Have a good night Captain”. Ramon cannot contain his grief and tears keep running from his eyes.
“Take my dead son body to Rivero funeral home in Vedado. We’ll observe his funeral over there. I need a report on my desk first time in the morning”, orders the Major.
The Captain salutes him.
“At your disposal major!“. Ramon heads to his motorcycle very hurt and moved.
The Captain picks up the phone and makes a phone call.
“General, this is Captain Cipriano. We have the boys in custody. One is the son of Major Ramon Soto, the other one is his nephew. His other son Rafael was killed trying to escape. He gave us orders to follow up the investigation and take the boys to G2 unit. Very good. At your orders general, the Captain hangs up the phone and Lieutenant Contreras steps in the office.
“We are going to transfer them to Maristas Village first time in the morning. We have to be careful because they are the son and the nephew of Major Ramon Soto. They are safe
at the moment, but we’ll see what happens”, Contreras smiles.
In his seclusion, Tony is thinking about what happened.
He cannot stop thinking about the murder of his cousin Rafael.
The door of the room opens and Captain Cipriano steps in. “Are you hungry?”, he asks ironically.
Tony shakes his head in denial.
“Well, you better have some rest. We are taking you both to Havana tomorrow morning and you only have a couple of hours left”, said The Captain. He closes the door behind him before turning off the lights.
In the dark, Tony remembers his mother while serving him supper.
“Mom. If you only knew how much I miss you.” He visualizes memories from his father teaching him to ride a bicycle.
“I am so sorry dad. I thought I was going to join you very soon, but I slipped.” At the same time like called by his thoughts the phone rings in Tony’s house and Casilda(Tony1s mother) disturbed and very upset about the situation answers the phone.
“Is it you Jose Antonio? Yes, I have very bad news”, she can’t contempt crying.
“Tony has been arrested Jose Antonio. He tried to leave the country illegally on a raft. He was with Luis and Rafael. Yes, Rafael was killed while trying to escape but I don’t believe that. They killed him!”, They get disconnected.
“Hello! Hello! Jose Antonio, are you there?” She cries inconsolable as she knows the call has been purposely disconnected. Casilda sits on a couch her eyes full of
Tears. Jorge, Tony’s brother wakes up alarmed by his mother’s crying.
“Take it easy mom. We must find a solution. Remember they asked for this”, he said coldly.
Casilda gives her son a painful glaze.
“Why do you say that Jorge? Don’t you see that your brother and your cousins are victims of this disgrace?”
“That was a dishevel and stupid idea! When anything like this happened, one has to be ready to face the consequences.”
Jorge gets back to his room. Casilda sees him go as she bites her lips in great frustration. Jorge gets in his room and lays down reflecting over his mother’s words.
“I don’t have a family. Just you mom! My family is the revolution! I told Tony many times that if I caught him trying to leave the country and betray his motherland I will kill him if necessary. So, he was lucky I was not there. Rafael paid for it already”, He turns the lights off and gets back to sleep.
On his way home, lost on his thoughts and driving under an intense rain, Ramon is trying to make sense of the nightmare he is witnessing.
“This is terrible. Why this has to happen to me? What should I do next? On one hand my son cruelly murdered, on the other hand my other son and my nephew involved in a crime and I have my hands tight because I cannot betray the principles and doctrines of the Revolution.
He closes his eyes in evident pain almost having an accident on the slippery highway. “The Revolution is first, but my sons mean all for me. Should I put my family feelings behind my revolutionary principles that I fought so much for? Because I know these are the determinations or decisions they are going to impose me. I will have to choose and I wonTt have any other alternative than responding and assuming the responsibility of a father.”
He arrives at his house. He gets of the motorcycle, opens the garage door and parks the vehicle. He enters the house and finds Hilda waiting for him in the living room.
She hugs him in a lot of grief as she is devastated by the events. “Did you see them?”, she anxiously asks.
“Yes, and I saw Rafael too. He ran away terrified and they shot him.” Hilda looks at him outraged.
“What are you going to do?”
“Follow the investigation.”
“Why didn’t you get them out and bring them home?”, she asks surprised.
“I couldn’t. I am in deed with the Government and you know it.”
“And you are going to let these bastards put them in jail?”, she asks mad.
“No. I am going to try to move my resources to bring them home tomorrow or the day after.” “Tomorrow? Do you know what you’re saying Ramon?”
“I have to think Hilda. I have to think but I will promise you that Rafael1 s murder won’t be left unpunished.”
“This the least you can do. These are your children Ramon. Way and above your revolutionary bs principles, position, rank or fanatic doctrine that you have been running into for many years”, she shouts desperately.
Ramon is so upset that he does not listen to Hilda, he walks into his room and slams the door behind him.
Hilda picks up her purse and steps out of the house.
“I am not going to stay with my arms crossed without doing nothing.”
She walks for a couple of blocks and steps into Casilda’s house, who is Tony’s mother and Ramon’s sister.
Following the common practice of race and mixture after the Revolution took over, a lot of families made an interracial association by marriages from both black and white community. In the case of Tony’s family, his parents were white and so was his uncle Ramon, whose wife Hilda was African descendant from her mother’s side reason why when she married Ramon, their children had black features from her mother side making them “mulatos”, a mixture between black and white that was very popular since the era of immigration from both Spanish and African cultures who arrived in Cuba in the past century.
Back to the story, in the shadows of a small cell in Maristas Village, the tenebrous headquarters for G2 special intelligent forces as it was called State Security Department, very similar to Gestapo from Hitler’s Germany, Tony lays on the floor very tired and worn by the events from the last hours.
Little he knew that has been observed closely by FRED O’NEIL, an African American journalist in his late twenties.
As a reporter from a very important newspaper in New York he has
been detained under suspicion of being a CIA agent.
Tony cannot conceal any sleep and he awaked frightened. Fred opens his eyes and gives Tony a suspicious glance trying to find out if Tony has been sent by the authorities.
“Don’t think too much my friend”, says Fred.
“Tony tries to spot him in the dark like trying to unveil his true intentions. Obviously there is a lack of trust on both sides as people learn to do when
they have to live under an oppressive regime for so many years.
“Who are you”, asks Tony. “Oh, finally you seem to be alive”, Fred joked. “Apparently so. Who are you?”, Tony repeats the question.
“What happened to you?”, asks Fred.
“Nothing”, says Tony suspicious.
“If nothing happened I’d doubt it very much that you would be here”, Fred responded.
“I rather don’t say anything”, says Tony.
“I understand”, says Fred.
Fred lodges on his corner while Tony closes his eyes thinking over the last events. The door opens and a guard pushes in two trays with food and locks the door again.
Tony slips over the tray to Fred as he tries to see in the dark the kind of food he is about to eat.
“What is it?”, Tony asks.
“Noodles. This is my third day here and they always served the same food”, says Fred disgusted.
Tony tastes the food and pushes the try away from him.
“This tastes awful! It’s undercooked and rotten, says Tony very upset.
“Oh yeah”, Fred asserts while enjoying Tony’s attitude. “You will be used to this, I can assure you”, says Fred while eating.
By the Village entrance, Hilda and Casilda are waiting to be attended. An officer approaches them.
“Good morning. What can I do for you today ladies?”, asks the officer.
“We’d like to see our sons. Tony De Armas and Luis Soto”, says Casilda.
“I see, they are the relatives of Major Ramon Soto, right?” “Yes.I am the major’s wife”, says Hilda.
“I am very sorry madam. But the visits are restricted and prohibited in this compound”, says the officer in correct manners.
“Why?”, asks Hilda.
“It’s the policy of the high command from this unit. They will be transferred to another institution tomorrow and you’ll be able to see them.”
“Do you know where are they taken them?”, asks Hilda.
“I have no idea Madam, but I think it will be right here in Havana”, says the officer.
“And why can’t we see them now?”, Hilda insisted.
“Sorry, that’s out of the question”, the officer firmly answers.
“Talk to the commander of the unit please”, beggs Casilda.
“Again, there’s nothing I can do. We cannot discuss the details right now, but these are superior orders and we cannot violate or oversee them. Sorry!”, says the officer as he turns around and steps inside a hall disappearing from their side. Casilda starts pacing very upset. “But what in the world is this?”, she shouts desperately.
“Calm down Hilda. We have to be patients”, says Casilda.
They finally get out of the terrifying compound and walk toward the bus stop where an old man looks at them compassionate as he sees their anguish and frustration.
“I am sorry ladies. I can see you are very affected”, says the old man.
“Has any of your relatives been detained in this center?”, asks him very touched by the women’s attitude.
Hilda nods” They won’t let you see them here. I have my son in there and they didn’t let me see him either”, says the old man.
Hilda and Casilda don’t feel like talking at the moment, and the bus pulls in before they had time to sit in one of the benches in the bus stop. They climb on the bus and the bus drives away. The man sees them leaving with a pitiful glance while he sits on the bench.
A few hours past and Major Ramon Soto is attending a meeting as called by the Central
Commander of the Military body. They meet in a conference room where more than seven high ranked officers will discuss the incidents unfolding from previous nights regarding Ramon’s sons and Tony, his nephew.
“Major Soto. We’re here to hear from you your own version of the events”, says General Morales, Vice Minister of the Armed Forced. Ramon stands up very affected and embarrassed at the same time.
“General, commanders and officers present. I have called this meeting to express my pain and sorrow about the unfolded events as they happened the night before.
I had never imagined that I had to confront such a pitiful and difficult situation in a critical moment like that when our priorities are to fight the crooks and bandits as well as those counterrevolutionary faulty individuals”
Ramon addresses the commanders for some time and as soon as he finished the Vice Minister of the Armed Forces takes the stand.
“Major Soto, we have carefully listened to your speech and exposition of the actions and I’d like to take the opportunity to offer my condolences for the unfortunate loose of your son Rafael Soto. I can assure you that this is the feeling of those officer present in this meeting. I!d also like to communicate to you that a very serious and intense investigation is taking place just as we speak, about the motives, causes and consequences in the death of your son. We should have a complete report including the autopsy from the forensic department from the armed forces about the direct causes of death. We will keep you posted and will inform you as soon as the investigation is completed.
However in the cases of your son Luis and your nephew Antonio, you know that is not very much we can do according to the irresponsible conduct of any of our relatives, which we are aware that is not under your control but far from these principles moreover lays the obligation, respect and unconditional fidelity to our motherland and the revolution,more than enough reason why we must apply the laws of the land and the power of the people without any distinction or favoritism of any kind because we have to give an example of discipline and obedience to the principles of
our motherland”, he concluds his rethorical and boring speech.
The conclusions have been clear to Ramon. There will be no mercy for his son and nephew and they will have to face the law as well as any other regular individual.
Ramon is devastated. He leaves the office of the Vice Minister in great disorientation.
“I will not stop until my son and my nephew will be released from prison and make the assassins who perpetrated this gruesome murder pay for their crimes”, Ramon asserts.
In one of the offices in the Village, Tony is interrogated by Edison Campos Galvez, the investigating officer in charge of the case. Lieutenant Dionisio Hernandez also
participates in the investigation.
“What’s your name?1,’asks Edison.
“Tony De Armas”, answers Tony.
“Is that your name?”, asks the officer.
“Antonio De Armas”, Tony resentfully answers.
“Fifteen years old”
“Almost a child”, says Dionisio.
“I don’t know where in the world you got these absurd ideas if you haven’t learned to wipe your ass yet boy!”, says Dionisio very angry.
“Did you go to school?”, asks Edison.
“Yes, answered Tony very draught. “What grade?”, asks Dionisio.
“Eight grade”, says Tony.
“Well at least you took some advantage from the generosity of our revolution”, says
“I’m talking about generosity because education is free in this country, you know that don’t you?”, asked Dionisio. Tony does not answer.
“Your profile shows that you have a brother who is in the Military Service, is that right?”, asks Edison. Tony nods without pronouncing a word.
“And your father lives in The United States, right?”, asks Edison again.
“Is that the place where you were going? To reunite with him?”, asks Edison inquisitive. Tony remained silent. “I am asking you a question boy”, Edison presses.
“Yes, my father is in the United States”, Tony answers.
“Very well, and I’d like to know what in the world were you going to do with the Yankees. Really, because sometimes I have a hard time trying to understand the foolishness of some young dudes now days. We give you everything over here. Food, free studies, you live in your own house, however you don’t appreciate what you have.”
“How many years since your father left”, asks Dionisio.
“Five years”, answers Tony.
“He got away you know, because we were after him, but he got away in a boat”, says Dionisio while reading from a file in front of him.
“According to this report he was in the business of terrorism, setting fires, bombs and all kind of counterrevolutionary activities”, says Edison.
“I don’t know anything about that officer”, says Tony.
“Of course, what else are you going to say. Anyway, you are the defendant now, the accused and all the weight of law is going to fall over you. We are soft and kind when we want but we can also be mean, tough and severe when time calls for it, like now for example”, says Dionisio in a menacing tone.
“Who organized this stupid madness?”, asks Edison. “Me.”
“You? Hey boy that’s a very hard pill to swallow. Three boys are going to able to drag a pretty big homemade raft all the way to the coast line without anybody’s help? Just like that, the raft came on its own feet and jumping to the water by itself? Bullshit!”, says Edison very angry.
“There are more people involved in this and you better start throwing up names and places before I get very upset,“says Dionisio. Captain Edison Campos comes near him.
“Talk to me boy. Who are the others?”, he menaces Tony.
“There was no one involved sir”, Tony answers. Edison slaps him on the face.
“I don’t like damn liars and you are lying to me damned!. The lieutenant violently shakes Tony’s shoulders as he pushes him on his chair.
“We are going to leave you alone for a while so maybe you can refresh your memory and spill us the truth. But I warn you that I don’t have too much patience”, says Edison.
“Take him away Lieutenant!”, orders Edison.
Dionisio grabs Tony by his arm and takes him out of the office. Another Captain shows up.
“He gave us green light to proceed the way we wish to make them talk. I just heard form the Vice Minister and he is aware”, says the Captain.
“Good. He’s going to loose his tongue, there are more people involved”, says Edison while lighting a cigar and offering one to the Captain.
In Ramon’s residence, Hilda is serving lunch to her husband.
“What are we going to do Ramon?”, asks Hilda.
“Fight Hilda. Fight to vindicate our son and our nephew. I can’t do otherwise. I cannot renounce to my principles as father and head of this family. know this is going to cost me a great deal because I have a lot of enemies, but I am ready to confront them.”
Hilda embraces him” I am very proud of you darling”, says Hilda very moved by his words. “I didn’t expect anything else from you”, she asserts.
“I’m not justifying what they did, but they murdered my son Rafael and someone is going to pay for it”, says Ramon while holding his tears at the same time that Hilda starts crying again.
A knock on the door. Hilda opens the door and Casilda comes in Ramon embraces his sister.
“I am very sorry my brother, sorry for you and for all of us”, she says in great emotion.
“My little sister. What a painful and horrible moment!”, he moans.
Casilda sits at the diner room table and her sister in law serves her coffee.
“How about the autopsy?”, asks Casilda.
“Not yet. The results will be in tomorrow”, says Ramon.
“What are you planning to do with...”, she interrupts the idea as she can not control her tears either.
“I don’t know. I don’t have the strength to make a decision. I will probably ask for him to be buried next to my dad in the cemetery”, says Ramon very confused.
“What did they say?”, asks Casilda.
“Same crap. Revolution comes first according to them. They are all against me. There is a conspiracy going against me and they are taking advantages of the momentum. Looks like if they were waiting for a big moment like this”, says Ramon somberly. The phone rings and Ramon answers.
“Yes, this is Major Soto. Very good I am on my way right now. Thank you”, he hangs up. “What’s the matter?”, asks Hilda.
“The autopsy results are ready. Let’s go” They leave the house.
Inside the department of Health, in the Military hospital, the forensic doctor who is also a military officer shows Hilda, Casilda and Ramon the way to his offices. They follow his foot steps until a small examination office.
“Have a seat please”, he offers. They sit down and the doctor pulls a file with the results from Rafael’s autopsy.
He reads the results from the file: “impact to the occipital area by rifle shots producing multiple fractures and cerebral hemorrhage due to the penetration of the tracing bullets from an AKM rifle damaging the main vessels which produced the instantaneous death of the person.”
“They shot them in the back”, says Hilda as the two men stood up and left the room devastated. Ramon hardly holds his tears.
“They killed him. I have no doubts Doctor”, groans Ramon. The Doctor does not answer” It was a cold blood murder!”, Ramon insists.
“I am very sorry Major. I will send a copy of the report to your office”, says the Doctor.
Ramon shakes his hand and leaves the office to join his wife and his sister in grief.
A “cage”or prison truck leaves Village Maristas carrying Tony and Luis in the direction of 13th Street and Paseo Avenue in Vedado’s neighborhood, the transit detention center in the heart fo Havana, being one of the most luxurious districts in the city. Inside the truck Tony and Luis talked very low so they can’t be heard.
“Where are they taking us?”, asks Tony trying to find a crack through the sealed walls.
“I’m sure we are going home. Dad probably has taking charge already”, says Luis.
“Hopefully, but I doubt it very much, I don’t trust this people”, says Tony resentfully.
“Remember my father is a Major Tony”, says Luis.
“I know that, he is my uncle. But the most important thing here is the decision that the high commanders will make. And you and I know that uncle Ramon has a lot of enemies”, said Tony” I know dad can get away with this. He is going to pull it off this time”, says Luis with great illusion.
“I wish, that would be wonderful, but now the most important thing is that we’ll stay in the same page. No one else was involved. We have to move forward and do not compromise the others”, says Tony firmly. The “cage” truck continues its path until it reaches his destiny.
This temporary detention center for children was previously called Aldama’s house as it was own by one of the wealthiest men in Havana during Batista’s regime. This is a very luxurious residence with ample gardens in the front and back of the house, high gates on three different entrances as the property is encircled in very tall iron bars sealed by aluminum black sheets to keep the secrecy and privacy of the place. When people walk across the street from the property due to its limit access to the public, everything inside has been isolated and protected by security cameras and guards’ posts on each corner all around.
Fruit trees, well manicured yards, ample halls and dorms conveniently divided in galleries or prison units to ac the inmates in two main groups: those younger than fifteen on one unit and the fifteens and older in the other unit. Each unit has a sole main entrance sealed by an iron door with traversal iron bars and the emergency exit in the back of each unit, sealed with huge bolts as they seemed to be used as storage or cars’ garage in the past.
The big kitchen has a cooking capacity for at least eighty inmates occupying the two units. For each unit there is a central hallway and two rows of double bunkers on each side, a small smoking section, a cell block or special house unit for trouble makers and collective showers and toilets.
The ventilation of the unit is created by large wall fans with their respective spinning wheels separated by small indents as the only slits where the sun light slips through.
Tony and Luis are separated as soon as they arrive. Luis because underage is sent to the smaller unit for minors and Tony is taken to the bigger unit where more troubled inmates normally reside. As soon as he gets inside the unit, Tony is searched by two inmates who give him a tooth brush, tooth paste, a soap and a small towel. The young boy follows one of the inmates who shows him his bunker. Another inmate approached him.
“Tony, what are you doing here?”, asks Pepin, an old pal from school days.
“Pepin, is that you?”, they hug each other with great affection.
“I did not recognize you with that bold hair cut”, says Tony as they laughed.
“What happened to you?”, asks Pepin.
“Illegal rafter”, answers Tony.
“Same here”, saiys Pepin. Come with me. This is a very dangerous place.”
He points to a lower bunk on the left side across the hall.
“We are going to share this bunk. Everything is full, and the newcomers are sleeping on the floor”, Pepin observes.
“It is also very cold and they ran out of blankets”
“Cold in here? There’s no air conditioning”, says Tony surprised.
“Wait and see when night falls the wind coming through those fans. You will sleep with me tonight and tomorrow we’ll get you a blanket and an empty bunk”, says Pepin.
They place the supplies under Pepin’s pillow and sit on the bunk.
“Tell me about you Pepin”, asks Tony.
“I was arrested one week ago. I couldn’t even board the damn raft. They moved the rest of the guys already. Some of them went to a prison, others went to La Cabana (maximum security prison in Central Havana)”
“How is this?”, asks a worried Tony.
“This is horrible. The food stings and the inmates are running the unit. They call them “mandantes”.
“What is that?”, asks Tony with innocence.
“You know, they run the show, they are in charge, they search you. They tell you what to do or where to go and also they decide how much food you’ll get.”
“How about the correction officers?”, asks Tony.
“You mean the guards? They don’t give a damn about us. They won’t interfere. These mandantes are all snitchers and they’ll tell the guards everything that’s going on here. And if they don’t like you, they ’ll get you in trouble. See that big white guy over there?”, Pepin points to an inmate in the entrance of the unit.
“Yes”, says Tony.
“They call him walker or “caminante” and the black guy next to him is “BOZA”, that ’s his last name. They are extremely danger and trouble makers. I was lucky because I managed to land a job in the kitchen so I am out there most of the day and they respect me because I always serve them more food”, says Pepin in a low voice.
“Do they hit people?”, asks Tony.
“Oh yeah, big time. They abuse of most of the inmates and if you complain or mess with them they’ll beat you to death.”
“Fortunately, I’m going to prison pretty soon. So I am going to talk to the kitchen manager to see if you can replace me and you won’t have to deal with these cowards.”
“Thank you, my friend”, says Tony with appreciation.
“Look. I have shampoo, so you can wash your hair. It’s very easy to get lice in here. Get in your bunk now because it’s going to be count pretty soon, and they will turn the lights on.
“Yes, take the towel and don’t let anyone near you. Come with me and I’ll show you.” He leads Tony to the showers after Tony grabs a pair of shorts from Pepin and takes the towel with him.
“I’ll wait for you outside. Don11 take too long”, says Pepin while looking at the clock on the wall. Tony enters the showers and Pepin sits down in the smoking room next to them. “Dead hair” (as they call him) walks into the room smoking a “breva” or improvised cigarette made from stump or cut tobacco wrapped in coarse brown paper.
“What’s up brother? Fresh meat?”, says Dead hair referring to Tony.
“That’s Tony, a school friend, an old pal. We have to help him so he doesn’t get in trouble”, Pepin warns Dead hair.
“Got you. I’ll take care of him when you are not here. I’ll talk to the others and let them know”, says Dead hair.
Dead hair offers Pepin a stroke from his “breva” and Pepin takes it.
Tony gets out of the showers a few minutes later and heads to the bunk. The cell door opens and two new inmates enter the room. They are searched by Boza and Walker. One of them, a blond skinny but tall guy loaded with tattoos all over his body with rebel attitude sets aside as soon as he sees the two men trying to search him.
“What do you want?”, the tattoo man asks. “We have to search you”, says Walker.
“Why? you guys are inmates like me”, says Tattoo.
“We are the searchers here. How do you like that?”, says Boza.
“I don’t like it at all, and I am not going to let you touch me, you know what I’m saying?”, said tattoo defiantly.
“Oh, so you think you are big shot uh?”, says Walker ironically.
“Whatever you say but it is what it is”, says Tattoo very upset.
“Okay. You got it baby”, says Boza jokingly.
“I’ll show you your spot partner”, says Walker.
They show him a corner where he will sleep. Tattoo moves to the spot while Boza talks to Walker.
Some time later after the count, the lights are turned off and the inmates are ordered to lay down. Pepin and Tony talk in low voice.
“This tattoo guy does not know the kind of trouble he’s getting into. These inmates are dangerous, and they will get to you sooner than later”, says Pepin.
“And how much time are they giving to the rafters?”, asks Tony.
“Every case is different. Some got indefinite time which is the worst sentence because they can let you outhe wnever they please. There’s no time frame you know what I mean?”, says Pepin.
“No, as simple as that. You can be here for a year or for ten years. lt all depends on the mood of the President of the tribunal, the prosecutor you know.”
“I see”, says Tony very worried.
“It also depends if you were the leader or not, were you the leader of your group?”, asks Pepin.
“Yes, I was.”
“This is not god because they could give you more time”, Pepin explains.
“And they have common inmates?”, asks Tony.
“What do you mean?”, asks Pepin. “I mean criminals, thieves and regular crooks”, says Tony.
“Oh yeah. I’ve seen them all. There is one guy who killed his mother for money.?.”
“Get out of here!”, says an incredulous Tony.
“I’m serious. Do you see all that row of inmates on the other side? Those are called political prisoners but most of them were hippies. You know, those kind of weird people, long greasy hair, all dirty and wearing worn clothes, tight jeans, smoking pot. All they’ve done is break telephones and write anticommunist propaganda on the walls like “Down Castro” “freedom for the people” and all that crazy stuff. They consider them counterrevolutionaries because they are opposed to the regime. There are others who were thieves or burglars but they tried to escape in a raft so they consider them “rafters” too. For these fanatics everything is political. But believe me if you are a common thief you will have better chances of getting much less time than if you did something against the Government. lt is all about security you know.”
“In other words, you can be a murdered or a thief, worse a sexual offender and that will be fine”, says Tony.
“At least chances are you will end up doing less time than a political”, says Pepin.
“And how is the camp?”, asks Tony.
“You mean the prison farms? Because that’s what they are. There’s one in Aguacate, within Matanzas Province, that’s probably where we will be going. They call it Jaruco II. We have to work in agriculture and the food stinks but it’s all the same everywhere.”
“I see”, says Tony.
“We’ll continue tomorrow. We got to have some sleep”, says Pepin who is closing his eyes very tired.
Pepin swings to the side to give Tony some room and everything turns silence and quiet. Time starts running and late that night tattoo gets up and heads to the rest room.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 23
Tony opens his eyes after not concealing any sleep and observes a few inmates who follow tattoo to the rest rooms.
One of them picks up a broom and another one grabs a floor map. A third inmate takes one of the buckets from the cleaning room. Four men jump over tattoo and throw him on the rest room floor.
They beat the hell out of tattoo. One of them hits him on the head with the bucket . Another inmate strikes him in the back with the broom stick repeatedly. The third inmate smashes his face with another stick to the point that one of the blows brakes one of tattoo’s cheek bones and he starts bleeding profusely. Two guards get in after the screaming and call for help form tattoo.
“Guards! Guards!”, shouts one of them. Three more guards get in and head to the rest room. The three ambushers go back to their bunk. Three guards pick up tattoo from the floor and carry him away while the rest of the guards turn the light up and move
around the bunks hitting them with big sticks. More guards step into the unit and push inmates against the walls.
“Everybody on the floor!“, shouts one of the guards.
All the inmates get down. Some of the inmates who are still asleep get hit by the guards until the y lay on the floor.
The Sergeant in charge addresses the crowd.
“What’s going on here? Right now you are going to tell me who did this?
Where are the wild guys? The macho men! We’re here to slow you down. Who is responsible for this?”, asks the Sergeant. There’s no answer.
“I asked a question.” Five more guards came inside the unit carrying AKM rifles and swab team uniforms.
“Everybody take the cloth off right now”, orders the Sergeant.
The inmates take their clothes off and the guards commence a wild search tearing all the mattresses, messing all the sheets and blankets and checking every inch of the
bunks. Walker tries to hide a knife underneath the mattress of Chori in the bunk next to his. Tony sees the move and pokes Pepin with his elbow, but Pepin orders him to keep silence.
The guards continue their search and find the knife under Chori’s bed.
“Oh, see what we got here”, says the Sergeant.
“It was you right?”, the officer points to Chori.
“No, sir. It wasn’t him”
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 24
Tony confronts the guard.
“It wasn’t him sir. It was Walker. Others held him but Walker was the one who stabbed him”, says Tony.
“And how do you know?”, asks the guard.
“I saw it. I was awake and saw the group going after the tattoo guy when he went to the rest room”, explains Tony.
“Who was there?”, asks Brindi (that’s the name of the Sergeant)
“This guy Walker, Boza, Chori and the other guy”, he signals to Roco, a big and strong black guy.
“Very good. Cell block for all of them”, saiys Brindi. Pepin whispers in Tony’s ears.
“Tony, are you crazy? They are going to kill you when they’ll get out”, says Pepin.
”I don’t care. It was an abuse what they did to the tattoo guy, they are a bunch of cowards”, said Tony outraged. They take the four inmates to the cells.
“Everyone back to sleep. We got enough for today”, says the Sergeant.
“And just remember that we are not going to allow any type of raid or criminal behavior in here”, says another guard.
“We are the bosses here and we got enough of this bossy bullish, is that understood?”, the Sergeant concludes.
They get out of the unit and lock the main door. A group of inmates come to congratulate Tony by his daring attitude. Walker screams from inside.
“You are a dead pig dirty boy! I am going to kill you when I’ll get out of here, do you follow?”, says Boza.
“I’ll be waiting for you guys”, says Tony.
“They are a bunch of cowards and murderers”, says one of the inmates as they return to their bunks.
Pepin talks to Tony in low voice.
“Are you crazy Tony? They are going to kill you, as simple as that”, says Pepin.
“I couldn’t help it Pepin, they abused of that poor guy. They really are a bunch of crooks and criminals”, says Tony enraged. An inmate approaches Tony.
“Hi, my name is Gustavo, they call me “dirty words”. I congratulate you and you can count on me whenever you need it. That was a very brave thing you did”, Gustavo shakes his hand. Other inmates follow with the same attitude. They shake hands with Tony and go back to sleep.
“These are all hippies, they are kind of loonies but they’re pretty good guys”, says Pepin.
“Let’s see what happens”, says Tony.
“Hey, listen if we have to fight them we’ll do it”, says Pepin.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 25
“This has to end Pepin. They are inmates like we are we cannot permit this kind of abuse and subjugation any longer”, says Tony very upset.
“Whatever happened it’s done already. Now try to rest because you look very tired. We’ll see where are we standing. I’m not concern about that any more. You were right, enough is enough,”, says Pepin while they lay down in the bunk.
Pepin falls to sleep pretty quick, while Tony still refreshing in his mind all the nightmare he is going through.
Luis in his bunk on the other unit also thinking about the unfortunate events of the previous days. He hasn’t stop crying and can’t sleep either.
“My little brother! I am going to miss you! Why my God? Why? This is an injustice!” He turns to the side and tries to sleep but he can’t conceal resting.
“Mother! Dad! Do something! This is Hell!”. He finally closes his eyes overwhelmed by tiredness.
The next morning, they are serving breakfast in the prison’s dining room. It’s the only place where the two units get together and Tony finds Luis seated at a table. Tony picks up one of the trays and sits next to Luis.
“How are you doing Luis?”, asks Tony.
“How am I going to be Tony?”, says Luis devastated.
“I can imagine, but you have to be strong, sooner than later uncle Ramon will get us out of here. You know, last night there was a big fight between the inmates inside my unit”, explains Tony.
“What happened?”, asks Luis.
“Some crazy guy cut another guy in the face because he didn’t let him search him. It was awful”, says Tony terrified.
“That’s disgusting!”, acclaims Luis.
“I saw everything”, Tony gruntes.
“And did you tell the guards?”, asks Luis.
“Yes, of course I did. They were going to blame somebody else. They tried to kill him and there were more than five guys beating the hell out of the man. God only knows if they killed him because they took him out of there in a hurry, he was bleeding badly and the wound in the face was pretty big. If they guy dies they might accuse them of murder”, says Tony.
“You have to be careful Tony, they might try to do something to you, so you won’t talk”, says Luis scared.
“I’m not scared Luis and you know it”, says Tony.
“What are you planning to do?”, asks Luis.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 26
“I don’t know yet, but whatever I’ll decide I’ll let you know. Believe me I am not going to stay with my arms crossed. I’ll see you at lunch time” Tony stands up and moves to the exit of the dining room. Breakfast is over and everyone pick up their trays. They return to their respective units.
Tony goes to the rest room to clean his teeth. One inmate is watching Tony closely, he moves to follow him when Pepin shows up in the rest room entrance. The inmate is going to attack Tony when Pepin jumps over him and punches him on the face knocking him down the floor before taking away a folding knife he was planning to use against Tony.
“Bastard! I’ll make you pay for this!” shouts the inmate.
He stands up and tries to attack Pepin, but Pepin hits him in the stomach making the inmate bend forward in evident pain.
“This is the end of abuses and intimidations! You understand? Tell your people that we are sick and tired of this crap.
Gathering of a lot of inmates in the rest room follows the clash between Pepin and the inmate as various political prisoners join Pepin and Tony and take their side. One common inmate helps the one on the floor to get up and takes him away as others come to help too but very scared by the challenge from Pepin.
“Now things are switching sides here. We are the bad guys now. The difference is that we won’t hurt or abuse anybody unless necessary of course, is that clear?”, Pepin challenges. The group disperses after listening to the bolt unlocking in the front gate.
“Behold the snitchers because you can get in serious trouble, so shut your mouth and close your eyes”, Pepin warns.
Brindis and three other guards carrying rifles show up by the front door. They look around and then get inside pointing at everybody.
“What happened here? Are we still in hot waters?
No one says a word. “What happened I asked”, says Brindis.
“Nothing Sergeant, a slight incident, that’s all” one inmate comments.
“You better be careful because I don’t want to see a war starting here. Everyone might end up in the cell blocks, isolated and fasting. So, if you don’t want to lose a few pounds quickly don’t disrespect me”, he threatenes.
Deep silence. The guards get out of the unit and lock the door.
Tony and Pepin sit on the floor by the entrance of the restrooms and a lot of inmates come over to congratulate them.
“Hi, they call me Mandi “the crazy one” because people think I am crazy. Maybe they’re right. What’s your name?”, Mandi asks Tony.
“My name is Tony. This is Pepin.”
“My name is Roberto, but they call me “dead hair””, says another inmate.
“I am from the hippies group called “the flower boys”, says Roberto.
“What does that mean?”, asks Tony.
“We were a bunch of hippies that were engaged in crazy things like listening to rock music, skip working and pacifically opposing the government by sitting in the parks, smoking cigars and doing nothing but resisting society.”
“You are what they call existentialists”, Pepin asserts.
“At least we do something, right?”, says Gustavo and everyone laugh.
“This is Gustavo “dirty words” I met him last night”, says Tony.
“And this is Osvaldo”, says Gustavo.
“I am a rafter. All my codefendants are in The Cabana, because they are grown ups”, said Osvaldo.
“How about you Tony”, asks Mandi.
“We are rafters too, but only me and my friend Luis, he is in the other unit. They killed Rafael, my cousin and Luis brother when he got scared and tried to escape”, says Tony sadly.
“Did he have a gun and try to shoot them?”, asks Roberto.
“Not at all. He just ran away frighten, he was only thirteen years old”, says Tony upset.
“So it was murder indeed”, says Mandi.
“Absolutely! A brutal and gruesome murder!”, says Tony enraged
“Some one is going to pay for that, you know?”, says Gustavo.
“Well that remains to be seen Gustavo, you know how many of these things end up. If they want to make it look like refusing arrest with violence no one will pay for it, believe me!”, says Pepin.
“Be my guest”, jokes Mandi.
“But you tell people about that and they probably will say you are exaggerating or lying”, says Gustavo.
Osvaldo starts making a “breva” or improvised cigarette with coarse brown paper and cut tobacco.
“How did you learn to do that?”, asks Tony.
Osvaldp shows Tony the machine they have invented for this purpose. A rectangular wooden box with a rolling device where the cut is placed, and the brown paper wraps it using the cylinder until is completed coiled or folded.
“Who invented this machine?”, asks Tony.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 28
“The inmates. There’s cigarettes’ crisis and these are free. They start smoking and pass the cigarettes while they take a puff as it makes the rounds.
“Well Gustavo, and what do the hippies do?”, asks Tony.
“Most of us are here for breaking public telephones. They consider that sabotage. This was the simplest damage that we could do because it created discontent among people. The charges are counterrevolution and attempt to destroy government property.”
“I see. What a job!”, says Pepin.
“At least we did more than the snitchers from the committees”, says Mandi.
“This is true”, says Pepin.
“Has anybody escaped from here”, Tony suddenly asks.
“Yes, but they were caught immediately. There were three guys working in the patio, landscaping. They jumped over the fence, but the police got them two days later”, says Mandi.
“They sent them to San Jose high security prison”, says Roberto.
“Gee they caught them fast”, says Tony.
“Of course. So many snitchers everywhere it’s almost impossible to get away”, says Pepin.
“Where are you going to go?”, says Gustavo.
“There’s always a place where you can hide”, says Tony.
“It is very risky. Once you get caught they double your time and things get complicated”, said Mandi.
“Let’s see what happens”, says Tony while looking at the wall fans in movement.
Through its weak vanes a faint sun light slips into the room as the group continues seated on the floor of the smoking room telling their stories. Pepin stands up.
“I have to go to work in the kitchen. Lunch is coming soon, and I also have to clean the pots and trays. I’ll see you all later “He heads to the door and call the guards to open the gate.
Tony stays talking to the rest of the group. ‘Dead hair’ pulls a drawing he has done with his own pencil.
“What do you guys think?”, asks Roberto showing the painting to the others. “Are you a sketcher?”, asks Tony.
“Yes, I studied in San Alexander, more than a painter. You know small brush painter, but this like animation. I love anything from drawing to paintings.
“What does that mean?”, asks Tony looking at the drawing.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 29
“This represents a beheaded Lion. It means the massacre and cruelty of Communism. The one that Russia did during the first part of the century. The real terrorists who happened to be Lenin, Trosky and Stanivlasky”, says Roberto.
“But why a beheaded lion? What does it mean?”, asks Tony curiously.
“Because Lenin always said that the best way to exterminate the rebels was beheading them. They were the creators of tortures in prison, the “drawers” and other methods they are experimenting in Maristas Village”, says Roberto sadly.
“And this History has not registered it at all”, says Mandi.
“Maybe you won’t hear in this country because of the doctrine by the communists but if you read any book from the west countries you’ll find the truth through bibliography and documentaries as well as witnesses who experienced these horrible events”, says Gustavo.
The conversation continues as we move to the kitchen where Pepin is cleaning one of the side floors. Lacho, a common inmate comes close to him.
“Pepin, I have to tell you something”, says Lacho.
“What’s going on Lacho?”, asks Pepin.
“You know you are my buddy and i cannot hide anything from you. I heard that Walker and the rest of the gang are going back to the unit tonight. And they have managed to get some knives and gravers as they plan to kill you and your friend as soon as they get back”, says Lacho somberly.
“Me and Tony?”, asks Pepin very calmed.
“Exactly. Don*t repeat what I just told you but i also learned that one of the guards helped them to get these weapons. The guard they call Tarafa. Please Pepin don’t say anything because they would kill me too”, explains Lacho very scared.
“Thank you Lacho. We’ll be ready. Don’t worry”, says Pepin patting him on the shoulder.
“And you can count me in. You know I am not scared”, says Lacho proudly.
“I know. I’ll let you know”, says Pepin while watching a guard approaching.
“Let’s move inmate. We still have a lot to do. And you, go back to the rest rooms. They need to be cleaned.”
Pepin goes back to the kitchen and lifts the covers of the pots to check on the food.
“What do we have? Grits again? Peas and grits? My God! I am sick and tired of the same damn food!”, Pepin says very upset.
He gets of an apron he’s wearing and runs into a guard nearby.
“Officer, I need to get back into my Unit. I forgot my serving gloves”, lies Pepin.
“Go ahead, but hurry because we are ready to serve lunch.”
“I’ll be back in a few minutes”, says Pepin while the guard unlocks the unit’s gate.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 30
Pepin walks inside looking for Tony but he can’t find him because he is been interviewed by the Psychologist.
“Have you been in prison before?”, asks the psychologist dressed in olive green military uniform as he gives Tony an intimidating glance although his voice sounds amicable and natural.
“No”, answers Tony.
Tony has been called to one of the offices of the penitentiary for a routine interview that normally the government functionaries conduct to discover things that have not being revealed before and to create a psychologic profile of the inmates at the same time.
“Have you had anxiety any time in your life?”, asks the psychologist.
“Like any other human being, but nothing important”, says Tony calmly.
“Are you afraid?”
“How about afraid to die”, asks the military officer.
“No. Life is a normal cycle that God has assigned us to accomplish a specific mission”, says Tony ironically.
“How are the relations with your mother?”
“Perfect. I love my mother. She’s adorable.”
“How about your father?”, the officer intentionally asks.
“He’s my idol”, says Tony with great emotion.
“But you haven’t seen him in a while”, affirms the officer.
“That’s correct”, says Tony a little uncomfortable.
“Where is he?”, asks the officer.
“You know where he is, I don’t know why you asked.”
“I’d like to hear your opinion”, asks the officer very natural.
“In what respect? He’s in The United States. He left about five years ago.”
“He left and abandoned you?”, asks the officer trying to annoy Tony.
“No, he left because they made his life miserable. They wouldn’t let him breath.”
" He did not want to breath. All those who break the rules I’m sure will feel bad because things are not going their way, but there are laws and rules to follow.”
“it all depend of what rules officer. There are a lot of rules that are arbitrary and unjustified”, said Tony firmly. The officer stares at him vividly.
“Did you go to school?”
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 31
“Eighth grade”, Tony feels uneasy in front of the officer who keeps asking questions trying to intimidate the boy.
“Did you graduate?”
“Yes, from eighth grade.”
“You were ahead of your age. I don’t understand this absurd idea of leaving your country if you had everything”, said the officer while keeping his eye contact.
“What do you want me to say officer, what you want to hear or what I feel?”, asks Tony upset.
’We have enough freedom over here, so anyone can say as they please”, says the officer with great irony. Tony smiles delighted by the big lie the officer is telling him.
“That is what you said but you and I know that this is not the case”, says Tony straight forward as he leans toward him. There is a pause as the officer writes on his notes’ pad.
“Do you have a good relationship with your uncle Ramon?”
“Excellent relations. He is an honorable and dignified man”, Tony says proudly.
“Why didn’t you follow his example as a revolutionary?”, asks the officer.
“We must have the right to disagree but that does not mean that we are better or worse, furthermore that we don’t love a person because we don’t think like he does
think is an understatement.”
“What are your favorite colors?”
“Blue, because it represents freedom. And green because it is the color of hope”, says Tony on purpose.
“What do you love most?”, asks the officer.
“My parents and freedom”, says Tony firmly.
“What do you hate most?”, asks the officer intentionally
“Men’s hypocrisy”, the officer smiles.
“Have you ever tried to take off your life?”
“You mean suicide?”
“No. I think it is a cowardly decision. Only God should have the choice of taking our lives if he understands it is necessary.”
The officer smiles and finishes his report. He stands up and shakes Tony’s hand.
“You may go back to your unit. Thank you for the time”
Tony stands up and leaves the room. The office sees him go drawing a grimace not satisfied by the results of the interview.
Tony enters the unit where Pepin is waiting for him.
“I was looking for you all over this damn place.”, says Pepin disturbed by the last news.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 32
“What happened? I am sorry, I had a visit from the psychologist”
“I smell trouble. We got to make a move”
“When are they getting out?”, asks Tony.
“I am not sure, but I think it will be tomorrow according to one of the inmates who works with me in the kitchen”, says Pepin.
“So we have to split tonight”, says Tony while thinking.
“I have to go back to the kitchen. I’ll be back after dinner” Pepin stands up, moves to the main gate and calls the guard to open it. Tony stays very thoughtful as Osvaldo returns to his side and sits near him.
“Is everything okay?”, asks Osvaldo.
“I don’t know. These creeps are preparing a set up against us”, says Tony.
“Don’t worry Tony. We are a big group too. I don’t think they will give it a try.”
“I don’t trust these criminals at all. They will stab you in the back if you let your guard down. You never now how they’ll react.”
Osvaldo offers Tony a homemade cigarette and Tony takes a puff. Tony starts coughing almost shocked by the smoke.
“What have you just gave me?”, asks Tony alarmed. “This is poison!”
“It’s a handmade cigarette, we call it “breva”, you never tried it before”, asks Osvaldo laughing.
“No. This is the first and last time I’ll try it. This taste’s awful”, says Tony in a grimace.
“Sorry, that’s all we have over here”, Osvaldo jokes.
The music continues and each one of the inmates is meditating over their own memories. Tony observes one of the fans on the wall. He rises and walks to the wall to take a closer look at the fan as he observes that the vanes are rusty.
In his house, Ramon is seated at the table for dinner while thinking. He continues crying in grief while Hilda serves him dinner. She realizes how much he’s suffering and embraces him.
“What can I do Hilda”, asks Ramon very sad. “What can we do?”, she asks somberly.
“On one hand I am in debt with the government and the revolution because the position that I hold and my military rank and prestige, and on the other hand I can’t ignore the injustice that is being committed to my son and my nephew, worst the death of my
youngest son”, Ramon says devastated.
“They killed Rafael, Ramon. That is out of the question. A harmless kid, a boy and shot in the back!”, she shouts. Ramon bursts in tears enraged by his wife’s words. “Murderers! Murderers! It seems like a nightmare! An insanity! A bad dream!
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 33
He lifts from the table. “I’m not hungry” He heads to his room.
“Where are you going Ramon?”, asks a very worried Hilda.
“I’m going to see someone. I’ll be back in a while.”
He enters his room, dresses in street clothes, takes his gun and keeps it in his waste. Hilda returns to the room.
“Ramon, cool down. You look very upset. You might have a heart attack, come down please!”, she cries too.
“Take it easy Hilda. I’ll be fine”, says Ramon trying to ease their pain.
“Where are you going at this hour?”, asks Hilda.
“It’s not too late. I am going to do something for my sons and Tony. I have done a lot for this country.”
He gives Hilda a kiss and walks to the front door.
“Don’t worry. I’ll be fine”, he kisses her again.
He leaves the house after opening the garage and pulling out his motorcycle. Hilda sees him leaves very worried and scared at the same time.
Ramon drives his motorcycle to Miramar, one of the best suburbs in the city where most of the high ranked government officials and military officers live. He stops in front of a very luxurious mansion where a security guard welcomes him.
“Good evening*“says Ramon.
“Good evening Major. I know who you are. How are you?”, asked the guard.
“Fine thank you. I’d like to see General Crescencio, please”, he shakes the guard’s hand.
“Let me call him right now”, says the guard while dialing a number from his booth.
“Tell him that Major Ramon Soto wants to see him”, says Ramon.
“I know your name. Give me just a second. Excuse me.”
The guard closes the sliding door to communicate with his superior. They answer his call and the guard opens the gate.
“Go ahead Major. He is waiting for you.”
“Thank you”, says Ramon.
The Major drives inside the house and stops his vehicle in front of the main driveway where General Crescencio greets him. Ramon gets out of the motorcycle and they hug very affectionate.
“My dear friend. It’s been a long time”, says Crescencio.
“You are right. I miss you very much Cres.”
“Same here. Come inside”, says Crescencio. They enter the house and Crescencio closes the door behind him. Ramon is welcome by the servants who show him the way in after greeting him.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 34
“Welcome Major”, says one of them. “Thank you”, says Ramon.
General Crescencio is a man on his
forties and one of the “comandantes” .
He was next to Fidel Castro in the beginning and enjoys a close relationship with the main figures of the communist party. They embrace in great affection.
“So good to see you my dear friend”, says an emotional Crescencio.
“It’ been a long time”, says Ramon.
“Come on. We have to celebrate this meeting. Let’s sit on the terrace.
He shows Ramon the way to a big patio next to a pool. Certainly one of those wonderful and luxurious houses that high ranked officials enjoy after they were stripped away from their legitimate owners when they had to abandon the country because of their opposition to the regime.
“What do you think? You’ve never been here.”
“No. I was in the other house in Vedado before you got divorcee, “said Ramon. “What would you like to drink?“, asks the general.
“A soda please”, says Ramon.
“Come on. You quit drinking. Don’t tell me that because I would be very disappointed.”
“No. You have a bad memory Cres, I never drank in my life.”
“Oh yeah, that’s right. However I haven’t been able to get rid of it, although I must confess I don’t do it nearly as I used to”, says Crescencio while waving to one of his employees to go for the drinks.
“Bring me a beer Pablo, thank you.” Pablo goes for the order.
Crescencio lights a cigar. He offers one to Ramon, but he refuses.
“Come on. What do you do these days? You want to be running a marathon or what?”, they laughed.
“This is my best pleasure. No one can take it away. A good cuban cigar like no other in the world”, says Crescencio proudly.
“That is true. I won’t argue about that”, says Ramon agreeable.
“I got used to them when we got into The Sierra”, Crescencio remembers.
’Those were good old times. We fought for something pure and clean”, said Ramon with nostalgia. Crescencio smiles.
“How about now? Isn’t that what we are doing now?”, Crescencio intentionally asks.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 35
“Yes, of course”
Ramon’s answer did not sound too convince to Crescencio. The servant brings the drinks and they cheer. “Salute Ramon. For our old friendship!”, Crescencio toasted. They take a zip and Crescencio observes him.
“What brings you to the neck of my woods? That’s a very old Yankee saying, I think is one of the only things I like from those imperialists”, he laughs. “And the Coke of course”, he throws a guffaw.
“What can I do for you Ramon?”, asks Crescencio getting serious.
Ramon thinks for a moment.
“My children Cres.”
“What’s wrong with them?”, asks Crescencio very concerned. “Something terrible has happened Cres”, says Ramon.
“What did they do?”, asks Cresencio worried about Ramon’s expression.
“They...tried to leave the country in a raft”, says Ramon after hesitation.
Crescencio throws a puff trying to digest the news.
“This is serious”, says Crescencio very somberly,
“And the worst part is that my youngest son Rafael was killed on the water”, says Ramon while tears burst into his eyes.
“Dead?”, Ramon nods affirmatively. Crescencio stands up and paces around the pool organizing his ideas.
“I am very sorry Ramon.”
He comes back to him and pads him on the shoulder.
“I am extremely sorry. Tell me what happened”, asks Cres.
“They tried to leave in a raft, my two sons and my nephew. The coast guard stopped them before they could get into the boat.”
“Boat?”, asks Crescencio.
“I mean raft, one of those homemade damn things so insecure and dangerous.”
“I know. I am familiar with those. Go ahead.”
“They started shooting and all the beach was illuminated by flare bullets. My son Rafael got scared and started running. They tried to stop him, but he was too nervous, and they shot him in the back of his neck,”, says Ramon in a lot of pain and very upset.
“They shot him in the back Cres, in the back of his head!” Ramon throws a fist on the arm of the rolling chair where he is seated.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 36
Crescencio takes deep breath and sits next to him. “What do the coast guards say?”, asks Crescencio.
“That he tried to escape and did not stop to their call.”
“Resisting arrest?”, asks Crescencio.
“No. There was no arrest, he simple ran because he was afraid”, says Ramon.
“I understand. But that’s a way to resist an arrest. Running away, you are disobeying the authorities”, analyzes Crescencio.
“They shot him in the back Cres, there was no resisting”, Crescencio shakes his head not too convinced by Ramon’s explanation.
Crescencio thinks for a moment while releasing another puff.
“Where are the others”, asks Crescencio.
“In Paseo and Thirteen”, says Ramon.
“Arrested of course”, Ramon nods. Crescencio takes another deep sigh.
“This is a serious situation Ramon, I won’t lie to you”, says Crescencio very worried.
“I am sorry brother, you know how much I appreciate our friendship”, He sighs before talking again.
“Are these kid nuts or what? Where did they get these stupid ideas?”
“Kids’ wild stuff Cres, you know how they are these days”, says Ramon trying to excuse his boys.
“I need you help Cres, more than ever. You know I have never bothered you before”, begs Ramon.
“What can I do Ramon?”, asks Crescencio disoriented.
“First of all, help me in conducting a fair and impartial investigation”, says Ramon.
“I also demand that the murderers will be prosecuted and punished”
“You’ll have my word on that. We are going to find out exactly what happened and if they killed your son in cold blood they will be punished for the crime,”, says Crescencio.
“How about my son Luisito and my nephew Tony?”, asks Ramon.
“Can you call or do something, so they can be released and sent home?”
Crescencio stands up again and now he paces around the pool followed by Ramon.
“There’s nothing I can do about that Ramon. You know how things function around here”, says Crescencio with extreme coldness.
“But you have influences. You know people. You can make it happen.”
“You know people too Ramon. But you know the revolution is first. And these kids committed a very serious crime.”
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 37
“It was a boyish act”, Ramon tries to explain.
“It was actually a serious offense repudiated by law and the law must be respected and enforced. I am sorry”, says Crescencio determined.
Ramon looks at him trying to find relief and support. Obviously Crescencio does not want to compromise.
“Do it for me Cres. For the sake of our friendship.”
“I’ll know the answer to that when I’ll find out Ramon. It’s a serious crime and must be penalized. They should have thought it twice before doing it.”
Crescencio looks at his watch”, I have things to do. Sorry but I have to go now”, he says very cool.
“Call me at this number tomorrow and we’ll see what we can do about your deceased son”, He gives Ramon a card.
Crescencio leads Ramon to the front door. They shake hands as Ramon felt that his friend has slapped him in the back.
“Good luck Ramon”, says Cresencio while hugging him. They say good night and Ramon turns on the engine on his motorcycle.
“I won’t promise anything, but I’ll try my best”, Ramon nods devastated.
Ramon drives his vehicle to the front gate and leaves the house. Crescencio gets back to the house and gets on the phone dialing a number.
“Hello, this is General Crescencio, let me speak to Major Pozo please, Thank you.” He waits for a few seconds until Major Pozo takes the call.
“This is Pozo, can I help you?”, asks the Major.
“Pozo, Major Pozo? How are you devil?”, asks Crescencio while teasing the Major.
“Oh, General, it is so good to hear from you. How have you been?”
“I’m fine. Listen, when in the world are you coming to see my new house?”
“OH, I am sorry general, I have been so busy, how is it?”
“You must see it. It is terrific!”
“Is that right? I am delighted to hear that.”
“It’s a jewel.”
“Where is is located?”, asks Pozo.
“In Miramar of course. Where else?”
“Of course, that figures.”
“It is closed to the lagoon.”
“I have to come to see you. Maybe at the end of next week that I’ll be a little bit less busy.”
“Good. I’m looking forward to that. Let me know in advance so I can prepare a good barbecue and a couple of cold beers waiting.”
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 38
“Oh, you know I love that General. My favorite sport”, they both laugh.
“Listen, guess who came to dinner?”
“Someone that I know?”, asks Pozo intrigued.
“Absolutely. Major Ramon Soto was here tonight”, Crescencio says with great expectation waiting for an answer.
“Who? Major Soto? Oh, I heard he’s in serious trouble with his family.”
“He just left a couple of minutes ago. Are you aware of what’s going on?”
“Oh yes. He lost a son trying to escape. There are other two kids involved, his older son and his nephew I heard.”
“You are right on the ball. He told me that the coast guard murdered his son in the water.”
“That’s not the report that I have general. They said he was trying to get away and he had a gun.”
“He had a gun? Is that right? Are you sure?”
“I’m positive. In fact I read the report this morning .lt came across my desk. you know
I am in charge of most of this type of situations.”
“I’m glad you told me that because that was not the story he told me”
“I can send you a copy of the whole incident report tomorrow if you want to”, says Pozo.
“You do that please. Send me a copy of that report so I will have more bases for the argument. Are they pressing any charges against the coast guard soldier?”
“Not yet. The investigation is still on the way as we speak.”
“Good. I’d like to see the report and we’ will go from there. Who is in charge of the investigation?”
“The Army Vice Minister.”
“Good. I’ll talk to them tomorrow. Thank you Major Pozo. lt was good to hear from you.” “It’s always a pleasure general. I will pay you a visit sometime next week”, says Pozo.
“Good. Let me know, thanks again”, says Crescencio and he hangs up.
He lights up his cigar again and sits on the couch in his living room while thinking over the conversation with Major Pozo.
“Murder? How are you going to be a murder when there’s a gun involved? That doesn’t make any sense. I think Soto has been misinformed. The evidences are important and according to the report if the kid had a gun, it is definitely going to be self defense. The law is the law.”
He stands up and gets out to the terrace like rewinding his encounter with Ramon.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 39
“These kids don’t have an idea of their irresponsible actions and the trouble they might get into. Worse, they drag their parents into this kind of situation ignoring the consequences that their stupid actions might bring alone.”
Night falls over Havana and in the children’s prison at Paseo and thirteenth street. Lights go off and everyone fall sleep except Tony and Pepin. In the dark Tony brings an iron pipe. Pepin pulls a knife he stole from the kitchen. Tony jumps over Pepin’s shoulders trying to reach the wall fan. As he gets near, Tony starts bending the rusty vanes of the fan trying to open a hole between them and the frame. As he tries to press with the iron pipe Tony loses his balance and they fall on the floor.
In his bunk Boza wakes up and flips over the rest rooms direction trying to see in the dark. Pepin and Tony hide in the rest room. Boza gets up and walks toward the restroom when he realizes that Tony’s and Pepin’s bunk is empty. As the snitcher enters the rest rooms he’s surprised by Pepin who hits him on the head with the iron pipe, making Boza fall on the floor and loses consciousness. They drag him to inside one of the toilets and close the door. They return to their struggle. Pepin now gets over Tony’s shoulder trying to continue the same procedure, bending the vanes of the fan using the same iron pipe. Pepin pulls the knife from his pocket after he realizes that he can’t finish the job with the iron pipe. He starts working in cutting the base of the vane. Tony signs him and Pepin gets off Tony’s shoulders.
“It’s too hard. But I have an idea”, says Pepin.
He pulls a box of matches from his pocket, lights a match and heats the sharp end of the knife until it’s red.
“What are you doing?”, asks Tony.
“I am going to melt the base of the vane so it’s going to be easy to break it appart, we can use the bar and the knife to cut the rest of the vane”, Pepin explained. Pepin climbs over Tony’s shoulders again and continues heating the sharp end of the knife. Once is extremely hot he applies it to the metal and observes how it works. He smiles while looking at Tony who’s having a hard time keeping the balance.
After a few tries Pepin is half way through the vane but Tony is getting tired, so Pepin gets off his shoulders to take a break.
“You should get on a diet Pepin. You are too heavy”, says Tony jokingly.
They sit on the floor and take a breath trying to cool down under the stress and the tension they are going through.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 40
“It’s giving away. Pretty soon we’ll be half way. Pepin stands up and rushes to the rest room after hearing a noise. Boza is trying to wake up but Pepin hits him again with the pipe and Boza falls on the floor.
“Now you’ re going to be cool and quiet for a while”, says Pepin while looking at Boza after he collapsed.
Pepin gets back to the smoking room.
“What happened?”, asks Tony.
“Our friend woke up trying to get on our nerves”, jokes Pepin.
“Is that right? Did he say anything?”, asks Tony mocking.
“No. Not a thing. I spoke with the pipe. He will be out of the game for a good couple of hours”, they laughed.
Pepin caresses the pipe while looking at the wall fan.
“Back to work”, he says while helping Tony up from the floor.
Pepin gets on Tony’s shoulders and starts heating up the knife again. This time he is using a cigarette lighter he got from Osvaldo.
“This is much better. I would probably had to spend the whole box of matches and never succeeded”, says Pepin.
Pepin melts the vane until he can separate a good piece of it, leaving a pretty big hole but not enough yet.
“We have to break at least three of them because there’s not enough space to get through one”, said Pepin while getting down Tony’s shoulders. “It’s not easy. It looks rusty but still strong”, says Pepin.
“My turn”, says Tony.
He climbs over Pepin’s shoulders. Tony now applies pressure over the near vane using the pipe as a lever, succeeding in bending the vane over, leaving a greater space when two vanes are set apart.
“Bravo Tony, you are now qualified as a skilled construction worker”, jokes Pepin.
“It should be skilled destruction worker in any event”, They laugh.
Tony tries to slip through the hole between the two vanes but realizes still too small.
“We still need another one”, says Tony.
“Let me get up there. I’ll do the same with the third one”, saysPepin.
Tony gets down and Pepin gets on Tony’s shoulders once more. He continues the same procedure with the third vane until he bends it back and force, finally breaking it apart. Now they have succeeded in opening a big hole in the vent, good enough for them slip through.
“Now we got it. You can pass a train through here”, jokes Pepin.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 41
“All we need is two passengers to get on the way”, says Tony making them laugh loudly. “Shhhl Don’t forget where we are”, observes Pepin.
“I’m going to slip through and jump to the other side first”, says Pepin. “Then you’ll go next”, he adds.
“Really? How can I get up there if you are not here?”, asks Tony.
“Take it easy brother, I thought about that already. I will we hanging from the other side to give you a hand”, says Pepin.
Tony helps Pepin to get up again and Pepin slips through jumping to the other side. A strong noise is heard after Pepin hits the ground on the patio.
Tony looks around trying to find out if someone heard the noise. Everyone continue sleeping. A few minutes passed, and Pepin does not show up. On the ground on the other side, Pepin is recovering from a strong blow on his head. He feels dizzy and a little disoriented. He observes blood coming from a wound inflicted on one of his arms while falling over a root from a tree, as he looks around he finds a piece of clothing laying over a hand shopping cart. He rips off the piece of cloth and creates a tourniquet, wrapping it around the arm to stop the bleeding.
As he tries to study the terrain, he discovers a guard pacing over a guard booth. He finds a painting gallon resting over one corner and drags it alone to underneath the fan hole. He climbs on it and shows through the hole as he can see Tony on the other side.
“What happened?”, asks Tony very worried.
“I fell over a root from a tree. I almost broke my ankle and still bleeding a lot.”
“Does it hurt?”, asks Tony.
“Pretty much, but I tried to stop the bleeding. Let’s go”, says Pepin.
Pepin extends his right hand trying to reach as far as possible. Tony tries to catch up with him, but he can’t.
“Wait. I’m going to try to bend further”, says Pepin while leaning forward almost to the point of falling over the inside of the building. Finally, Tony reaches Pepin’s hand and tries to grab it. As he holds Pepin’s hands and starts climbing, Tony slips and falls down. Now Tony sees Boza who is awake and is coming from the rest rooms. Tony hides behind the entrance door and when Boza is ready to cross the hall he hits him on the head one more time, lifting him on his way down and dragging the black man to the rest rooms. Boza still awake although disoriented but before he can react again Tony hits him one more time and he falls on the floor.
“You’re hard to kill bastard!”, says Tony exhausted. Tony rushes to the wall fan.
“Did you put him to sleep?”, asks Pepin.” Yeah, this time he will rest alright. He’s a strong dude, My God!”
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 42
Tony hangs on Pepin’s arm and now he finally can climb like a cat over the wall until he reaches the hole in the fan and slips through. Pepin slips to the other side and Tony follows. Now both of them are safe on the side of the outdoors patio.
“Look out! There’s a guard right there”, Pepin points to the guard’s box.
“What are we going to do?”, asks Tony.
“I figured it out already. We have to take a short cut to the opposite side where he can’t see us”, says Pepin.
The two youngsters border the east side of the property next to the large iron fence, leading to another gate on the opposite side. They noticed that the gate has big
padlock on and it’s closed.
“It’s locked”, says Tony.
“Well, it figured. What did you expect? That they would open it for us to we could get away easy?”, jokes Pepin.
“I know that, but this one seems to be condemned because how rusted is the padlock. This door hasn’t been opened in a long time”, says Tony.
“Good news. It means that this part of the house it’s not as guarded as the other side”, observed Pepin.
Tony looks at the height of the fence about twenty meters ending in a blunt arrow shape.
“We can’t do it over this fence. Look at the cutting edges”, observes Tony.
“Yes. Too dangerous.” Pepin loosens his wound creating a blood shed over his ankle and foot. “That wound looks ugly Pepin”, says Tony.
“What else can I do? We have to move ahead. They continued hording the iron fence until reaching a garage entrance.
“Here. This is the perfect place”, says Pepin.
“Do you think so?”, asks Tony.
“Yes. Let’s wait until someone get in or out of the house”, says Pepin.
“How about if no one enters or leave the house”, asks Tony.
“There’s always movement. Change of guard. Usually they bring arrested people about this time, so they take advantages of the dark at night.”
“But we are taking a big chance Pepin. Boza might be awakening any time now and he’s going to pass the alarm to the guards”, says Tony.
“I’ll bet you anything they will find the hole on the wall as soon as Boza call them, added Tony.
“Take it easy. Luck is on our side.”
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 43
They rest for a few moments while waiting for their chance to get out. Pepin arrange his improvised bandage. He separates the piece of cloth to give the wound some fresh air.
“It’s very deep”, says Tony.
“I know. It hurts a lot’” Pepin tries to support the foot, but it hurts badly.
“What a damn coincidence that this had to happen to me right now,”, protests Pepin.
He covers the wound again after wringing out the blood. Pepin sweats profusely.
“Are you alright?”, asks Tony.
“No, I’m not. But don’t worry about me.”
Suddenly the main gate to the garage opens. Tony and Pepin hide in the dark as a military jeep drives inside and enters the driveway leading to one of the back entrances.
The duo takes advantages of the open door which starts to close slowly by remote control and slip out of the property before getting caught by the falling metal gate.
“Free! Let’s get the hell out of here as soon as possible”, says Pepin as they start running down the road.
Pepin cannot stand the pain and limps through the street with great difficulty. “Don’t stop Tony.”
Tony helps Pepin walking until they reach a bus stop.
A bus pulls in and Tony signals it to stop. The bus stops and they get in. They are going straight to the back when the driver stops them.
“Ten cents please”, says the driver.
“We don’t have money sir”, says Tony embarrassed. The driver stares at them.
“What kind of uniform is that?”, the driver asks.
“It’s from a high school here in Vedado”, answers Tony.
“And you are dressing like this at this hour?”, asks the driver surprised.
“We are in a scholarship. We are just returning to the school grounds tonight”, Tony excused.
The driver sees Pepin’s bleeding foot.
“What happened to you boy?”, he asks.
“I have a fracture in my heel bone. But I will go to the hospital first time in the morning”, said Pepin.
“That looks ugly, you better take care of it. Alright, move in”, says the driver while letting the boys keep walking to the end of the bus.
The bus is empty, only a sleeping passenger nods in drowsiness by the bus movements.
They sit halfway in the bus. Pepin draws a grimace obviously in great pain.
“Don’t worry. Soon we’ll find a way to cure you and heal that wound”, says Tony re enforcing Pepin.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 44
“Not to the Hospital, they might snitch on us and tell the authorities”, says Pepin very worried.
“We are safe at the moment my dear friend”, says Tony. They embrace in great emotion.
The bus continues its itinerary. As the bus pulls on a bus stop the only leaft passenger gets of the bus. The bus head to a main street and Tony discovers the presence of two military soldiers waiting for the bus in the next bus stop. Tony raises from his seat and helps Pepin to get up.
“We are getting out here driver. Thank you very much”, says Tony.
“Good luck to you boys. And take care of that wound because it looks pretty serious”, says the driver while stopping the bus.
They get out of the bus as the soldiers get in. As the soldiers get in the bus they observe Pepin’s wounded leg and the uniforms they are wearing.
“Hey stop this bus. These are fugitives from a prison”, observes the soldier.
Tony and Pepin run trying to cross the street. Tony crosses first and gets back trying to help Pepin who is in a lot of pain. As Pepin makes a great effort to cross the street, a car impacts him and throws him a few meters away. Tony runs to his side.
“Pepin! Pepin!”, says Tony in desperation.
“Run Tony, run! Save yourself!”, Pepin collapses after his last words. Tony checks his pulse and realizes his friend is dead.
The soldiers get out of the bus and come running to the scene.
The VW stops and the driver gets out. Other curious pedestrians gather around Pepin’s dead body.
Tony runs, disappearing through the corner on the main street. One of the soldiers kneels down to check on Pepin, the other one tries to run after Tony, but he loses sight of him. He returns to the other soldier’s side. Many people keep coining at the scene.
“He’s dead”, says the soldier who examined him.
“How about the uniform?“, asks the other soldier.
“It’s from a prison. They were fugitives”, says one of the soldiers. “The other one ran away”, says a pedestrian nearby.
“Call the central command. Tell them to send an ambulance and a forensic truck”, says one of the soldiers to the other.
One of the soldiers try to detour the traffic. The other one walks across the street looking for a public telephone.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 45
A police patrol arrives at the scene. A few minutes later two more police cars move in and start controlling the traffic. One of the patrols bring a white sheet with them and cover Pepin’s body.
While this gruesome scene is taking place, Tony continues running through a dark street. He stops to take a deep breath when Tony observes a man getting out a garbage can outside a church. Taking extreme precautions, Tony approaches the church main gate opened by the man taking the trash and he slips in before the man returns to the front of the church.
Tony is unaware of the presence of a second man who’s across the street trying to start his car and sees him slipping in.
Once inside, Tony walks through the shadows of the patio. He stops in front of an open glass window and observes inside the chapel where a priest is praying.
The man who threw out the trash comes back inside, and he talks to the priest briefly, then disappears through a back door.
Tony thinks for a moment, then proceeds to walk boarding the property until he finds a closed door in the back of the building. He keeps moving trying to reach the opposite alley on the other side of the place hoping to find a way to get inside. He finds another closed door and as he tries to force it open the door suddenly opens and a priest appears in the doorway pointing at him with a shot gun.
“What are you looking for in the house of God, filthy thief?”, asks father Bonet. The man is in his sixties, gray hair and gentle expression. He is also very educated and gentle
but at this moment, he seems very mean and determined.
“I’m not a thief father. I am a fugitive”, says Tony scared.
“A fugitive? What are you running away from?”, asks a surprised father. “Prison, a prison for children”, says Tony.
“Is that right?”
“Help me father please. I beg you in the name of God”, begs Tony.
Father Bonet puts his hand on his mouth and pulls him in before looking around the alley being sure no one is watching.
He closes the door and orders Tony to follow him. Tony follows him until the end of the property where Father Bonet opens a door and shows him inside his office.
“What’s your name?”, asks the father. Tony stares at a water fountain. “Are you thirsty?”, asks the father.
Tony nods in desperation. Father Bonet shakes his head inciting him to drink from the water. Tony drinks from the fountain and Father Bonet shows him a seat. Tony burst in tears overwhelmed by all the unfolded events.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 46
“What happened?”, asks the father in deep sorrow.
“My friend Pepin is dead. He was killed in an accident”, says Tony sadly.
“How did it happen?”, asks Father Bonet.
“We were running away from the soldiers that got in the bus. We tried to cross the street. I did it but he couldn’t because of the wound he had on the heel. He was rolled over by a car that was coming from the opposite road.” Father Bonet keeps silence for a moment.
“God take care of his soul”, he says.
“Please father, let me pray for him in the chapel”, asked Tony.
“Come with me.” Father Bonet takes him to the chapel. Tony kneels down at the altar and
Father Bonet opens the bible and prays. Tony can not contain his tears. They pray for a while.
The father spreads Holy water over Tony who is devastated. “What was his name?, asks Father Bonet.
“Jose Manuel Ortiz”, says Tony.
The father invokes Pepin’s name and continues his prays until the end, making the cross and so does Tony.
Father Bonet sits on a chair in front of the altar.
“Now tell the whole stroy. I’d like to know about it”, says the priest.
Some time later Tony is eating a sandwich prepared by an assistant to the father. He has told him the whole story step by step.
“It is a misfortune what you told me about your ordeal and your cousin’s departure. How about your other cousin?”, asks the priest.
“He’s still in jail father.”
“Does he know that you escaped”, asks Father Bonet.
“I don’t know, but he will know for sure tomorrow morning. Unless they wake up everyone tonight”, says Tony.
“I am sure they know about your escape and they are looking for you everywhere as we speak, said Bonet very worried. He paces very concerned about the whole situation.
“As a catholic and servant of God I cannot deny the help that you need. Where does your mother live?”, asks the priest.
“She lives in Central Havana, near Prado boulevard”, says Tony.
“I will send for her tomorrow, she will help me to find a solution that I must confess I don’t have at the moment. Follow me Tony.” Father Bonet leads him to a small room next to the hall.
“There’s a small bed and a blanket over here. One of my assistants sleep here when he stays over. Luckily enough he won’t be here until tomorrow night.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 47
I am going to lock the door from outside so no one know that you are here.” “Thank you, father”, Tony kisses his hand.
“I’ll come back tomorrow morning to get you. Write me your mother’s address here in this piece of paper with her name and a phone number if she has any.” Tony writes down the details about his mother.
“Try to rest son, you’re going to need it”, says Father Bonet.
“Thank you, father. God bless you.”
“I hope God puts his hand over you”, He touches his head, makes the cross and he makes the cross as well before leaving the door. He closes the door and locks it from outside. Tony looks around to check the small room. He sits on the bed and takes his shoes off. He gets on his knees and continues his pray for his friend Pepin.
“Help his soul dear God. And help Rafael’s soul too. Please my lord, don’t let me fall in the hands of these criminals.”
His eyes swollen by their overwhelming flood of tears and defeated by tiredness progressively close while the boy lays on the bed thinking of his parents and the life he lived once and now seems so far away in the face of an uncertain destiny.
The next morning Juan, one of the assistants to Father Bonet stops in front of Tony’s house according to the address Tony gave to the Holy Father. The building located in a colonial style area keeps its charm from the old fashion construction from the last centuries as designed by the Spanish conquerors while their occupation in the Island. Juan walks upstairs to the third floor where Casilda’s apartment is located. Juan rings a bell by the entrance. Casilda opens the door hole to see who’s calling.
“Yes?”, asked Casilda from inside.
“Casilda, is that you?”, asks Juan.
“Yes, can I help you? she asks with resentment.
“I need to talk to you. I have an important message to deliver”, says Juan somberly.
“A message? From who?”, asks Casilda very distrustful.
Juan lowers his voice and leans forward to the door hole.
“lt’s from Tony, your son”, Juan said while looking around being sure no one is listening.
Casilda opens the door and asks again.
“How do you know this is true?”, asks Casilda. Juan shows her the piece of paper with Tony’s hand writing. She looks at it and let Juan inside after recognizing his son hand writing.
In the church Tony is seated at a table having breakfast with Father Bonet.
“Did you go to school Tony?”, asks Father Bonet.
“Yes father, graduated from eighth grade”, says Tony.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 48
“Good. Education in a man is most importance. Do you have brothers and sisters?’
“Yes, I have a brother, but we don’t get alone.
" “Why?”, asks Father Bonet out of curiosity.
“He is in the military and adores the revolution”, says Tony sadly.
“So he is against your thought?”
“Totally against my ideas. A sort of fanatic”, says Tony.
“This is a plague that has been spread over the Cuban families. Differences between fathers and sons, brothers and sisters, a total chaos and terrifying that affects all
of us”, says Father Bonet.
“I have lived that experience first hand”, says Tony.
“How about your father? Is he alive?”
“Yes. He lives in the United States. I was heartbroken when he left. Now the family is divided. My brother doesn’t want to hear anything from him and my mother is in a very difficult position because she loves both of us, but she doesn’t want to leave Jorge
“Jorge is your brother?”, asks Father Bonet.
“I understand. Would you like more milk?” Tony nods and the father serves him more milk. “Thank you, father. You are very kind and generous. I’ll never know how to repay you what you have done for me”, says Tony very moved.
“It is our duty to help the unprotected. Are you catholic?”, he asks.
“Yes, father. I used to go to church every Sunday when my father lived here but things have changed because of my brother’s ideas.”
“He won’t let my mother go to church”, says Tony. “I see.”
“His absurd ideas don’t let him act otherwise.”
“And this cousin of yours lived with you?”, asks the father.
“The one that was killed you mean?”, asks Tony confused.
“Yes”, says Father Bonet.
“No. He lived with his brother Luis, the one who still is in jail and their parents.”
“I see. A very complicated conflict as far as family division and separation”
Father Bonet stands up and walks to the window looking at the street.
“He should have been here already”, says Father Bonet concerned.
“Who? May I ask?”, asks Tony.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 49
“Of course. Juan my assistant. I sent him to see your mother”, says Father Bonet while looking at Tony’s reaction.
“Really? Thank you, Father, you make me feel a lot better” “I hope he found her”, he says.
“I hope so too. I am worried about her”, says Tony.
“Why? Do you think they might go after her now trying to find your where about?”, asks Father Bonet.
“I don’t think so. My uncle Ramon, Luis and Rafael’s father is a high ranked military officer. They won’t try any stupid moves?”
“That’s a different situation. Is he involved in the investigation or has he tried to help your cause.”
“Absolutely. My uncle is a great man, decent and honorable. He has been devastated by his son’s murder and is trying his best to help us. Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s
much he can do for me. But if he can help my cousin and avenge Rafael’s murder I’ll be happy”, said Tony resigned. Father Bonet looks at him with watery eyes moved by his sad story.
“Let’s see what happens.”
Father Bonet opens the bible and prays again joined by Tony.
In Paseo and thirteenth street they are fixing the broken wall fan. All inmates have been secluded in the smoking room and there are a lot of armed guards watching over them afraid of a mutiny.
In the infirmary Boza is being attended by a nurse while Capatain Vasallo the Warden is interrogating him.
“What time was when this incident happened?”, asks the Warden.
“About two or three o’clock Warden, I’m not sure”, says Boza very scared.
“Tell me exactly what you saw”, asks the Warden.
“I heard a noise and in the dark, I figured that those two were trying to split. I knocked one down but the other stroke me on the head”, lies Boza.
“Very good. You have been very brave boy.” The Captain talks to Brindis.
“Keep them down here until he recovers completely and then we’ll give him a preferential treatment”, ordered the Warden.
“Understood Sir”, says Brindis.
“You Brindis, come with me”, orders the Warden.
Another officer meets the Warden in the hall way after he leaves the infirmary.
“Excuse me sir. This report came from the forensic office”, says the officer. He handles the Warden a file. He reads it loud.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 50
“The other inmate Jose Manuel Ortiz died as result of the collision in the accident. We just have to worry about the other one.”
“What do we do with the body?”, asks the officer.
“Call the family so they can recognize the body. We’ll deliver the body to them after I see a more detailed report of what exactly happened. So, move fast because we are behind. That body cannot be kept in the forensic office more than 24 hours”, says the Warden.
“Understood!” The officer walks away after giving the Warden a military salute.
“Let’s keep the red warning until tomorrow. Put the dangerous ones in cold cell until further notice. We cannot take any chances. This escape has been embarrassing enough
already and my superiors are going to get on my back soon. Did they fix the fans?”
“We’ll have to replace them as soon as possible. These units are very old and will definitely create more wild ideas in the other inmates’ minds.”
The Warden retires and Brindis returns to the infirmary
“You have gained the sympathy from the Warden young man”
“Good. I almost kick these bastards’ asses but they managed to get away”, says Boza proudly.
“Is that right?”, asks Brindis delighted.
“Almost got them. But I was alone.”
“You did the best you could. And you deserve to be rewarded.” He opens one of the cabinet and pulls a bottle of vodka.
“Here. I’d like you to share this with your partners. We have to double watch over the others. The other stupid inmates probably will like to imitate these bastards.”
“Don’t worry Sergeant. Next time we’ll be ready,”, says Boza as he enjoys the view of the bottle.
Father Bonet is in the Chapel confessing an old woman. The mass is about to begin and various senior citizens sit on the benches. The old woman finishes her confession and she retires to the seats to attend the mass.
One woman in her forties wearing a veil that covers his head and face approaches the confession box where Father Bonet waits.
“Your blessings father”, she says.
“God Bless you my child.”
“My name is Casilda”, Father Bonet’s face transformes.
“Did you come alone?”, he asks.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 51
“Yes, exactly as you suggested”, she answers.
“Have you covered your face?”, he asks again.
“Yes Father, as you ordered.”
Father Bonet sighs.
“Sit down and I’d like you to participate in the mass”, he explains to her.
“As you wish.”
“When the mass is over go across the other side and stay praying in front of Virgin
Mary’s image. I’ll come to get you.”
“Thank you, Father”, she kisses his hand and moves to the main saloon to attend mass. Father Bonet walks to the altar and commences to instruct the mass. Behind the altar and through a curtain, Tony observes the Father’s movements and he pans through the church seats until his eyes lay over a woman with her face and head covered.
He hesitates for a few seconds and stares at the woman again. The woman raises her right hand looking for support in front of the bench when everyone gets on their knees for praying. Tony observes the ring on her right ring finger as he recognizes his
mother’s wedding band.
“Mother!” He can’t contempt his emotions as tears flow over his face while looking at her with watery eyes.
“My dear mother! You have no idea of how much I need you!’”, he expresses in great emotion.
Meanwhile on the first floor of the building where they live, Jorge, Tony’s brother meets Cheo, his neighbor.
“Did you follow her?”, asks Jorge.
“Yes. She entered the church of Reina.”
“That’s weird. She does not go to church any more. Worse she never went to that church in her entire life”, Jorge reflects.
“Good job Cheo. I’ll see you later”, he gives Cheo a packet of cigarettes as a reward for his work. Cheo leaves and Jorge thinks for a few moments.
“There’s something going on here and I am going to find out right now! ,“said Jorge to himself while getting on the stairs to his apartment.
In the church the mass continues. An old classic car stops in front of the church. Inside the vehicle two men observe all the moves and check everyone going in and out the church.
Inside the mass ended and people start getting out to the street. Some remain seated praying. Casilda as indicated by the Holy father moves to the image of Virgin Mary and kneels down on a small altar in front of the effigy.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 52
From the back of the altar Father Bonet opens a door and makes a sign to Casilda showing her the way to the hallway behind the altar.
Casilda walks to the direction of the back hall until she meets the father who opens the door and she gets in. The Father closes the door behind her.
The two men in the classic car get out of the vehicle and enter the church. They observe the people that are still inside and sit on one of the benches by the exit.
Father Bonet talks to Casilda while in motion to his office.
“Your son Tony is here. He escaped from the prison last night”, says Father Bonet in very low tone.
Casilda startles. She covers her lips in great emotion.
“I’m going to lead you to him, but you have to be very discrete because it might cost us our lives”, says Father Bonet somberly.
“I understand” She embraces him very touched by the father’s confession.
They reach the door to the room where Tony is hiding. Father Bonet opens the door and Casilda enters the room where she finds her son laying down the small bed. Tony jumps from the bed and they hug with great compassion.
“My dear son!”, she cries.
“Mother!” he moans while embracing her very tight.
Father Bonet closes the door to leave them alone.
“My beloved son. What have you done?”, he sadly asks.
“I couldn’t stand it any more mother. They were going to kill me if I don’t get away.”
“I tried to defend another inmate and the common inmates tried to kill me .It’s a long story mom. That is hell”, says Tony is desperation.
“I rather die than getting back to that hell, I swear to God”, he says very worried.
“Don’t say that.
“She hugs with a lot of tenderness.
“Sit down mom” They sit on the bed.
“How are my uncle Ramon and my aunt Hilda?”, Tony asks.
“Devastated by what happened to Rafaelito your cousin. And very worried about you and Lusito. Your uncle Ramon is going crazy with all of this. He only goes from one place to the other talking to people in the government trying to get you and Luis out. But
now after this I don’t know what is going to happen.”
“Does he know?”
“You mean about your escape?
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
PAGE # 53
Tony nods affirmative.
“I don’t know. He is going to be very upset about it.”
“I’m sorry mom. But uncle Ramon is not going to get anything out of the government. These people don’t give a damn about family values or anything like that.”
“For them, the stupid revolution and the laws are more important that human rights.” “Poor Rafaelito. lt was a murder”, says Casilda.
“I knew it all alone. I was there mom, remember.” She looks at her son trying to comfort him and herself at the same time.
“How about Jorge?”, asks Tony. Casilda shakes her head in negative.
“He is a fanatic about the revolution and all that nun sense stuff. This is horrible!”
She continues crying as nothing makes sense around her.
“Why? Why have this happened to us? She caresses him very tender.
“Don’t get upset mom.”
He lowers his head Trying to make sense of the momentum.
“Have you talked to dad?”, he asks.
“He called yesterday. He is very upset and worried.
" “Did he really?”, asks Tony.
“He wanted to get on a plane and come down here.”
“What? He can’t do that mom. That will be suicide for him. Another tragedy for the family on top of what we have already.”
“I had a hard time trying to convince him.”
“No, mom. Talk to him again. Tell him to forget about that wild idea. Tell him that we’re fine, that we’ll be alright but make him take that idea our of his mind. I beg you
please, please mom.
“Tony cries again out of control.
“Okay, okay. Calm down Tony, the important thing now is knowing what are you going to do. They are probably looking for you everywhere.”
“I am safe for the time being. Father Bonet has been very good to me. I’m going to think what to do, but I don’t want you to worry about me. Go mom, this can be very dangerous for you.”
They say good bye with great sadness.
“Take care of yourself my boy”, she says devastated.
“Yes mom. Don’t worry. I’ll be fine. Tell uncle Ramon to do something for Luis, he is very depressed and he’s not going to be able to hold on for much time.”
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 54
“I’ll let him know” ”
How is aunt Hilda?”, asks Tony.
“She is worse than Ramon. She is totally destroyed and in a lot of grief.”
“Poor thing. First Rafael and now Luisito. lt has been a nightmare for her.”
“She loves you very much Tony, said Casilda while kissing her son once again.
There is a knock on the door. Tony opens with great precaution and Father Bonet advises Casilda to leave.
“You are running into a great danger”, says Father Bonet very concerned. Casilda understands the priest’s pressure and she embraces her son before leaving the room. Tony stays in the room as Casilda and Father Bonet come across the hall and reach the chapel. The undercover agents are apparently looking at some souvenirs in one of the booths on the side walking, opposing the hall where Father Bonet leads Casilda to the exit of the church. The priest dismisses her and Casilda walks in the street followed by the two men.
Father Bonet closes the main door to the church and returns to the door way leading to the rear hall. He does not notice the presence of dozens of special military soldiers surrounding the church from both sides and the back waiting for Casilda to leave the area.
In his room, Tony tries to forget about the nightmare that he is going through.
“Oh, my Lord, what can I do? Help me to find a solution for this torment.”
He lays on the bed and mediates for a few minutes before he hears a gentle knock on the door.
Thinking that Father Bonet has returned, Tony runs to the door. “Who is it?”, asks Tony before opening.
“It’s me son”, says the father from outside. Tony opens the door and a group of soldiers pointing at Father Bonet jump over Tony and take him in custody.
They dragged him out of the room as several military vehicles pull in the back of the building including a cage truck for prisoners. Father Bonet gives him a pitiful look.
“I am so sorry son”, he moans.
They take Father Bonet to the cage truck and throw Tony inside a smaller armored car. In the offices of Captain Vasallo, Luis is interviewed by the Warden of thirteen and Paseo prison.
“Are you going to tell me that you did not know anything about your cousin’s escape?”, asked the Warden ironically.
“How could I know it if we were in different units?”, asks Luisito.
“That’s irrelevant. You guys have people to pass messages along all the time.”
“I did not know Warden.”
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 55
“Very good. I believe you. Do you know that your cousin made a crazy move? Terrible mistake! And he provoked his friend’s death in the interim.”
“Pepin?”, asks Luis surprised.
“Yes, he is dead. He was run over by a car while trying to run away.”
Luis lowers his head confused and overwhelmed.
“This is the more of what we needed. First the murder of my brother” The Warden interrupts him, “You have been misinformed son.” The Warden watches Luis’ reaction to what he will say next.
“They found a gun on your brother’s waist.”
“What? That’s a big lie! A slander!”, shouts Luis fuming.
“Oh yeah, we have witnesses”, says the Warden very calm.
“My brother was only thirteen years old, he had never touched a weapon in his short life”, Luis screams.
“The soldiers saw otherwise”, says the Warden intentionally.
Luis strikes several blows on the table very upset and frustrated by the set up.
A couple of guards hold him.
“Lies! Lies! It1s a set up! A cover up operation! It’s damn trap! My brother was murdered! They killed him! They killed him damned! Damn you!
Luis has become hysterical. The Warden signs to the soldiers to hold him tight. A nurse enters the room with a syringe and injects Luis with a sedative. Luis progressively calms until he loses consciousness.
“Take him away”, orders the Warden.
Two soldiers bring a stretcher and carry Luis out of the office. The telephone rings and The Warden answers.
“Yes, this is the Warden speaking.”
“Captain Vasallo, this is Major Salgado from Vedado police headquarters.” “How are you Major?”
“Very good thank you, just to inform you that we have the fugitive in custody”, says the Major.
“Excellent Major, congratulations.”
“Thank you. They caught him inside a church. A priest was protecting him”, said The Major.
“Call Colonel Pinares, the orders we have are to take him to San Jose state prison.”
“Very good Warden. We’ll do.“, says the major.
“We should have him there for a couple of months after the trail, then we’ll figure out what to do with him”, says The Warden.
“Thank you Captain Vasallo”, says Major Salgado.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 56
“Thank you Major. Have a good day”
The Warden hangs up as one of the lieutenants comes next to him.
“What are we going to do with this one Warden?”
“Admit him to the infirmary for a few days. Let’s put him in a suicide watch until he gets better, then we’ll send him to Jaruco II, the children’s camp.
“You said suicide watch?”, asks the Lieutenant.
“Absolutely. He is weak and could be a risk at any time so don’t lose sight of him, understand?”
“Understood Captain”, says the Lieutenant.
“I don’t want anyone to have an excuse and come with the stupid idea that we killed him too”, says the Warden sarcastically.
The Lieutenant gives The Warden a military salute and leaves the office. The Warden addresses the rest of the officers next to him.
“I don’t know what we are going to do with these crooks. Because they are social plagues that have no room within our society. If we don’t treat them with strong hand they will continue mocking us at their free will.”
A knock on the door and the Warden orders to open the door.
“Come in. It’s open.”
“Excuse me Captain”, asks Sergeant Diaz after entering the office. He salutes the Warden and the other offices
. “What’s up Sergeant Diaz?”, asks the Warden.
“We have Luis Soto very comfortable resting in the infirmary, sedated and under close watch by the nurses. The fugitive is arriving at San Jose just as we speak.”
“Excellent Diaz. Dead dog doesn’t bite. Pass the order to give the fugitive cold cell for a few days to make him softer a little bit.”
“Understood! At your service Captain”, The Sergeant salutes and leaves the office. The Warden orders the other offices to retire before making a phone call.
In Tony’s house, Casilda opens Jorge’s room very upset. Jorge is laying down reading a book.
“Jorge! What kind of nonsense madness have you committed?”
“What are you talking about mom?”, says Jorge.
“Don’t try to fool me because I know everything”, she says very mad at him.
“What is it?”
“You alerted those myrmidons on Tony’s whereabout so they could catch him, right? They followed me, is that right Jorge?”, she asks out of control by her outrage.
“Calm down mother”, Jorge lifts from the bed and tries to hug her.
“I had to do it mom. It was for his own sake. Look what happened to his friend.”
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 57
“I can’t believe what you are doing to your brother. Your own brother!”
“He is a traitor mom!”, Jorge shouts as he can’t help pretending any longer.
“That what he is. A traitor! Look all the pain that my uncle and my aunt Hilda are suffering because of this irresponsible lunacy.”
“Are you aware of what you are saying Jorge? You are talking about your brother, your same blood.”
You are wrong mom. My brother, my family is the revolution and anything that opposes it will become my enemy.”
He throws the book over the bed and leaves the room in a rage, leaving his mother devastated.
“Dear God! What kind of madness is this? I can’t believe that this is happening! What can you allow this? He does not what he is doing!“, she moans and covers her face with
her hands terrified by her son conduct.
Father Bonet is escorted through the dungeons of The Cabana Fortress, a high security prison for high risk adult prisoners.
They give the father a blue uniform, a towel and a soap before locking him up in a maxim security galley.
This fortress was built in the era of Spanish domination to protect the city from pirates’ attacks and its structure is built over a bed of rocks in the entrance to Havana Bay, a very strategic position, surrounded by water and very difficult for escaping from any inmates who dare defy high waves, dangerous reefs and tight security from twenty four hours surveillance around the compound. The prison divides in patios and each patio separates the galleys where the inmates’ dorms are located. This place has a long an tenebrous History of massacres and murders by fire squads to a lot of political prisoners, specially in the early days of the revolution. The inmates are also obligated to conduct force labor cutting rocks and cleaning the underground sewers. This cruelty as a result of the punishment they inflict over those who simple oppose the regime or disobey the doctrines imposed by the revolution.
Father Bonet is greeted by some of the inmates who knew him from church services. Saul, a white man in his sixties is one of them. Father Bonet recognizes him
as they embrace with great emotion.
“Father, what are you doing here?”, asks Saul.
“Saul, I’m very pleased to see you”, says the father very calmed. “What happened Father Bonet?”, asks Saul.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 58
“We are in disgrace son. But fortunately, we are ready for everything. God is our protector and we are under his wills.”
“Can I ask what happened if you don’t mind?”, asks Saul very sorry.
“I tried to protect a fugitive who escaped from the children’s prison. They followed his mom and snitched on him.”
“They arrested both of us”, Father Bonet adds.
“What a shame”, says Saul in deep sorrow.
“And why are you here?”, asks Father Bonet.
“Counterrevolution”, says Saul ironically.
“We tried to blow up a refinery”, says Saul somberly.
“Were a lot of people involved?”, asks the father.
“Oh, yeah. I have about ten codefendants. Luckily, we are all political. Come please I’m going to introduce you to some of them” Saul starts walking but stumbles and almost falls on the ground.
“What’s the matter?”, asks Father Bonet.
“I am almost blind father. And it’s not form age. It’s glaucoma. I have lost one hundred per cent of my vision on the right eye and the left eye is half way already.”
“Have a doctor treated you?”, asks Bonet.
“Absolutely not. They will see you only when you’re dying”, jokes Saul ironically.
They near a group of inmates seated on one side of the galley.
Saul introduces Father Bonet to the group. They salute the priest with great respect as they are pleased by the presence of a God’s servant. After the introduction, Saul leads the father to the interior of the galley where a bed has been assigned to him.
“This is a galley for those inmates who accepted rehabilitation. But they did not ask us, just brought us over here. The “plantados” are on the other side. Plantados mean those rebels who don’t want any concessions or rehabilitation. They don’t dress in blue uniforms, just under wears, have no privileges, are not allowed to have any visits or other stuff like cigarettes that they give to the other inmates”, says Saul. “What a horrible nightmare! “, acclaims Father Bonet.
“The sanitary conditions are terrible.”
They reached the bunk assigned to the priest
“this is your bed father. Give me the sheet. I’m going to help you making the bed.” Saul helps Father Bonet to make the bed and slips the towel under the thin mattress.
Saul continues his rundown.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 59
“Food is awful. Breakfast is brown sugar mixed with hot water and a piece of rotten bread. There are no human rights over here father. They were lost in the night of the
“One of the only good things is the brotherhood between the inmates as we have our own organization where we defend the few rights that we have.”
“So, you don’t have too much work to do”, says the father curiously.
“Not much to be honest with you, but at least they know that we are organized.” As the conversation continues, Saul gives Father Bonet an update of the deplorable conditions of the prison.
In San Jose prison, also called the bivouac by the military, Tony has been locked In an individual secluded cell (special unit) alone. A hole on the ground for physical relief and a small water pipe emerging from the wall are the only commodities in the filthy place, allowing the inmates to take a shower only once a day for a few
minutes. The drinkable water is contaminated by all kind of bacterium and contagious infections. Tony is laying down a bare iron bunk looking at the rust ceiling while
“I have to resist this hell, I have no alternatives.! can’t not let these assassins get their way.”
He tries to scratch the top of his bunk with his fingernails as an attempt to write his name but it’s too hard. He reads the names of other inmates written by pen or scratched on the bunk by blunt instruments. He closes his eyes and remembers his childhood. His father is helping him to drive a bicycle that he just bought for his son. His brother Jorge plays with a bucket full of sand by the beach line where the whole family enjoys a day at the beach.
His uncle Ramon kisses his wife Hilda passionately. Rafaelito, Luis and Tony run and jump in the water, while his father is serving beers to the rest of the bunch, as they try to cool down from the intense sun light. His father and his mother laugh while playing with other kids nearby.
“How many beautiful memories! We were very happy then.” He closes his eyes and continues weeping while biting his lips.
“Yes, let me talk to her”, says Ramon while picking up the phone.
“Hi Casi, what happened?”
“I came to see Tony, but they didn’t let me. They said he is in the hole isolated.”
“Don’t worry. I’m going to visit both of them today”, says Ramon.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 61
“I also tried to see Luis, but he wouldn’t let me either. He had a nervous breakdown and he was admitted to the infirmary”, says Casilda very upset.
“What? I am going over there right now”, says Ramon extremely worried.
“Let me go with you”, says Casilda.
“Where are you now, I’m picking you up.”
“In front of the Emergency Hospital. I came to pick up the doctor’s prescription.”
“Wait for me there. I’m going with Hilda, she is with me.” Ramon hangs up.
“What is it now Ramon?”, asks Hilda terrified.
“Luisito had a nervous breakdown and they put him in the infirmary.”
“Oh God, it can’t be!”
“Let’s go”, said Ramon while Hilda bites her lips in outrage.
“Do you want me to go with you?”, asks Jorge.
“No, Jorge, thank you. I am driving my motorcycle and there’s no room for everybody”, said Ramon while pulling his keys.
“Okay, please call me and let me know how are they doing.”
“I’ll call you later.”
Ramon and Hilda head to the parking while Jorge sees them leave with a wry face.
“See the big mess that these stupid kids have dragged everyone in”, he says madly.
“But they are going to pay for all this suffering and grief they have caused to the family. This is insane and ridiculous” He closes the window and gets back to the
Captain Vasallo, The Warden at the transit prison in thirteenth and Paseo receives Ramon in his office while Hilda and Casilda wait outside.
“Major Soto, it’s an honor to see you again”, says Vasallo with great hypocrisy
“How are you Vasallo?”, asks Ramon bluntly.
“I am at your disposal Major. I was surprised you hadn’t come before.”
“I have been very busy with all this situation. What happened to my son?” “He had a nervous breakdown and I had to admit him in the infirmary.” “Why didn’t you call me?”, askes Ramon very serious.
“We were just going to do that. I t happened only a couple of hours ago.” “Where is he now?”, asks Ramon.
“In the infirmary still”, says the Warden.
“Let’s go. I want to see him now”, he orderes.
“My pleasure sir. Follow me please.”
The Warner talks on the phone with one of his men and they leave the office.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 62
Luis is still asleep. The group including Hilda, Casilda and Ramon is led by the Warden and two other officers.
Luis opens his eyes after hearing the footsteps of the group and smiles showing a lot of tiredness. Hilda hugs him in great emotion. Ramon and Casilda follow.
“I’ll leave you alone, so you can talk”, says The Warden.
“Thank you, Captain”, says Ramon out of respect in front of the other officers. The three officers leave the infirmary. Ramon embraces his son and cries after holding his tears in front of the other officers. “How have they treated you son?”, asks Ramon.
“Very good dad. I’m weak but I’ll be alright.” “You look pale Luisi”, says his mother.
“Are they feeding you Luisi?”, asks Casilda.
“Yes, aunt. The nurses are excellent.”
Ramon comes near of the nurse to talk to her.
.“Miss, I’m Luis’ father”
“It’s a pleasure Major”, says the nurse very politely and sweet.
“How is he doing”
“He’s much better. He had a major depression attack nut he has been recovering with the medication we gave him”, says the nurse while smiling at him.
“Prepare his medical records. I am taking him to the Military Hospital”
“At your orders Major.”
Ramon returns to Hilda and Casilda by Luis’ bedside.
“Ifm taking him to the Military Hospital. They have very limited resources to take care of him over here. I’ll be back”, says Ramon while heading to the infirmary entrance. He leaves the infirmary and heads to the Warden1s office where he is chatting outside with the two other officers.
“Captain Vasallo. I am taking my son to the Military Hospital. Prepare the paper work for release please. I’ll take full responsibility of my son”, says Ramon firmly.
“At your disposal Major” The Captain addresses his officers.
“Prepare the release forms for Luis Soto”
The officer obeys the command. The Warden turns to Ramon.
“What happened? He is not recovered yet?”, asks the Warden.
“Not as I wish. In the Military Hospital we will be more closely supervised, there are better specialists there. He’s very happy with the treatment and care here, but over
there it will be easier and more effective”, says Ramon.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 63
“I see him very depressed. He needs to be seen by a team of Psychologists. He is under a lot of stress and I am very worried about him.”
“I understand perfectly sir.”
“Thank you, Captain. I appreciate your support and cooperation”, says Ramon before heading back to the infirmary, but turns back to the Warden.
“One more thing I forgot please, get me the release report as soon as it’s ready and get me an ambulance. His mother and his aunt will go with him in the ambulance and I
will follow them until he is admitted in the Hospital.”
“Not a problem. We will follow your orders exactly as you commanded.”
“Thanks again Captain”, Ramon returns to Luis side.
“What did they tell you?”, asks Hilda very anxious.
“I sent for an ambulance. We are going to the Military Hospital. You and Casilda will go with him and I will follow you.”
Ramon takes his son’s hand after he had closed his eyes again.
Tony opens his eyes in his cell. He remembers his father’s smile when he brought him the diploma from sixth grade graduation.
“Congratulations Tony. You have overcome the first step in your education. You have to keep going until you will finish your graduate school and become a professional”
Tony smiles as he remembers his father’s words.
“Don’t worry dad, one day I will please you. I promise you”, he says proudly.
In the patio inside The Cabana, a group of inmates walk outdoors to feel the sunshine. “One day less or one day more, it all depends of how you see it”, says Saul to Father Bonet.
“That’s a good philosophy and helps you ease the effect of seclusion”, says Father Bonet wisely.
“Come father, I’d like you to meet someone”, says Saul.
They near a black man who is writing on a pad while reflecting over his notes.
“Hello Fred”, says Saul.
“Hello Saul, how are you?”, asks Fred.
“Good thank you. I’d like you to meet someone very special”, says Saul excited. “Hello, my son, I am Father Bonet”, they shake hands.
“Hello Father. It’s a great pleasure. My name is Fred O’Neill.”
“Are you American?
“From New York. I’m a journalist.”
HOLY HELL IN CUB
Page # 64
“That’s interesting”, says Father Bonet.“What are they accusing you? If I can ask of course.”
“Of course. It’s public domain right now. CIA agent.”
“That’s normal. How long have you been in Cuba?”, asks the father.
“Four months. Three and a half in jail.”
“Have you been in court already?”
“No, they haven’t given me date yet.”
“And does the American Government think about that?”
“They are trying to meet with me but it’s not easy. There’s no Embassy her as you know so things get even more difficult.”
“You are right”, says Father Bonet.
“Fred is a brilliant man Father. He has written several books which have received international awards”, says Saul.
“And you father? What are you doing here? I can’t imagine someone like you in this place”, says Fred preoccupied.
“I gave shelter in my church to one fugitive.”
“He escaped from children’s prison. I don’t know where is he right now because he’s a minor. Poor Tony, I feel sorry for him”, said Father Bonet touched by the memory of the child.
“Tony? I met someone called Tony in The Village.” “Tony De Armas,“, says Father Bonet.
“I don’t remember his last name, but he was a young boy about fifteen or sixteen years old. And very rebellious”, says Fred.
“This matches perfectly his description, but we’ll never know. Are you writing a book right now?”
“Yes, my diary.”
“Something dangerous if you tell things exactly the way they are.”
“That is true, but I will be very cautious, so they won’t catch sigh of it.”
“He has a little girl in United Sates”, says Saul.
“Really? How old is she?”, asks Father Bonet.
“One year, she was born a few months before I came to Cuba.”
“It’s a shame that you haven’t be able to enjoy her enough. I am sure you will have time to be with her soon”, said Father Bonet optimistically.
“You’ll never know. Future is impossible to predict”, says Fred somberly.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 65
“That is true. We have no idea of how much we’ll have to stay in this inferno”, said Father Bonet sadden.
Fred stands up and they start moving to stretch the legs.
Three weeks past and Tony is taken to the prison in Aguacate, a little town in the province of Matanzas, two hundred miles east of Havana. The prison camp is called Jaruco II. Luis continues in the military Hospital but he has made a full recovery as his father is trying to take him home.
In the main offices of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from the Army, Ramon is in a meeting with high ranked officer from the Military.
In the conference room various generals, the Vice Minister of The Army and other high ranked officers are listening to the arguments by Major Ramon Soto. After the customized military salute Ramon is called to the conference room. The Chief of Staff addresses the military crowd.
“Comrades, the reason for this emergency meeting is to evaluate the critical situation of our comrade Major Ramon Soto, according to the events unfolded in the night of July 8,1968. As you all know we at the high command ordered a report which copies rest on the desk of each one of your offices and I proceed to read textually:
’In the early hours of July 8, 1968 three youngsters: Antonio De Armas, Rafael and Luis Soto,15,14 and 13 years old respectively tried to leave the country illegally in a home made raft with the intent of arriving in the United States coasts incited and supported by the imperialist propaganda that as we all know has been disturbing and trying to deviate ideologically to our children with false promises of freedom and enjoyment of a fictitious Paradise only real in the sick minds of the bourgeoisie. The last two named youngsters are the sons of Major Ramon Soto here present and the first one called Antonio Be Armas his nephew on a direct sanguineous bond as the son of his Major Soto’s sister Casilda Soto. It has been informed after a careful investigation by the revolutionary government and its respective departments that an embarrassing and unpleasant incident occurred that same night, when after trying to run away, even been alerted to stop by the coast guard officers, Rafael Soto, the younger son of Major Soto did not obey the command by the authorities, not only ignoring the call to stop but also drawing a fire arm which he carried in his waist threatening the comrades. This unexpected situation left the coast guard soldiers with no other alternatives than defend themselves in front of the danger created by the possibility of opening fire from the escapee. This refutable act which is clearly penalized under the penalty code under the article number 1234 and of 1963 states as follows: ’Trying to abandon our nation in any illegal or illicit manner is an attempt against the integrity and stability of our nation.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 66
Furthermore, if during the commission of this illegal act the party committing the crime is in possession of any type of weapon or fire arms this constitutes a very serious offense due to the fact that the use of any fire arm is strictly prohibited by any citizen of this nation except for those enrolled in the military body or any other organism of defense or special security or secret services. Further investigation lead to the conclusion that the fire arm was registered under the name of one officer from the navy body and had been stolen from that department months before. This leaves no other alternatives but pressing the following charges to the individuals involved in the crime: possession of illegal weapon, use of a stolen fire arm in the commission of a felony, better classified as use of force or violent crime, conspiracy to commit a crime and finally the illegal leave from the country as an attempt against the stability and security of our nation’, signed and delivered on July 15,1968.
However, in spite of the results from this investigation, we are not here today to judge or condemn any of the above mentioned individuals because this task corresponds to the Number 1 Revolutionary Tribunal in the city of Havana, who will shortly proceed to indict and prosecute the defendants. lt is our position today to scrutinize, evaluate and reach a conclusion over the severity of the attitude assumed by Major Ramon Soto by his position when not accepting the culpability of his deceased son Rafael Soto as well as trying to justify the irresponsible attitude in the above mention crimes committed by his relatives.
It is unfortunate that Major Soto’s position contradicts his exceptional conduct that during all these years not only as a detached member of the glorious armed forces but also as a soldier of honor in any of the battle fields where he has been assigned. Bla, bla, bla. The boring speech continues for another hour until Ramon is condemned for his attitude, degraded or stripped from his grades as major, Luis to the prison in Jaruco II, where he and Tony will be processed and charged for the above mentioned crimes according to the report. The soldiers involved in the incident where Rafael was killed will be exonerated and not indicted due to sufficient evidence of an act in self defense.
Ramon is devastated. His reputation, his prestige and his impeccable trajectory as a brilliant army member has been crushed in a few minutes by the high ranked chiefs of the body he put his life and soul for so many years.
They proceed to strip him from his grades and he is reassigned to civil duties, indefinitely separated from the armed forces or any other military body as ordered and signed by the First Minister.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 67
A cage truck pulls in the entrance of Jaruco II, the prison camp, bringing Luis and two other inmates from Thirteen and Paseo detention center. This camp is located in the
middle of a jungle, surrounded by sugar cane fields and can only be accessed by an unpaved main road without street lights and uneven dusty access very limited to vehicles other than trucks, tractors or military jeeps.
The compound divides in two main farmhouses functioning as dormitories for the inmates, another huge shanty for entertaining, a large dining room and kitchen next to it, and a one story building for the correction officers. Outdoors different huts stand around the open yard used for visitation. The big shanty also serves that purpose when bad weather prevents the relatives to stay outdoors during visitation.
There is a peerless fence standing on about twenty feet high with sharp point ends limiting the camp to a five acres extension. Four guard cabins are located on each corner of the prison with enough access to the inmates moving inside the compound. The Warden of the prison is Captain Mora and the Vice Warden is Lieutenant Cardona. The inmates are obligated to work in the cane fields five days a week and the tough labor consists in cutting burned cane as a very well known procedure that is used in the fields. The cane field is set on fire in order to facilitate the access and elimination of the blunt leaves the cane trunks and the cutting has to be done very early in the morning because of the high temperatures almost impossible to tolerate
when the sun reaches his peak height usually by noon time.
It’s lunch time and Tony has managed to land a job in the food service. From his position in the dining room, the boy has seen his cousin as soon as Luis gets out the cage truck.
“Hey, fresh meat!”, says one of the inmates.” “They keep coming”, says another inmate.
Tony asks permission from the chef and runs to welcome his cousin Luis who embraces him and starts crying very moved by the encounter.
“Come on. We have to be strong Luis, we can’t not show any weakness.”
Luis nods. “Come with me. I’m going to talk to the guy in charge of supplies, so he’ll give you tooth paste and all the stuff you need.”
“Thank you Tony”, says Luis.
“What do you mean thank you? I’m your cousin. I think there’s an empty bunk next to mine so let’s see if we can get it.
They step into the dorm. The supplies’ guy is seated by the small storage in the entrance.
“Look here Inaudi, this is my cousin Luis”, says Tony.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 68
“Hello Luis, did they give you the supplies already?”, asks Inaudi.
“No, I just got here.”
“Come on in”, says Inaudi while pulling the supplies and he gives them to Luis.
As soon as they finish Tony leads Luis to the empty bunk.
“Here, this is the bunk” Tony helps him to make the bed and they sit down. “How is the family?”, asks Tony very interested.
“Not too good Tony”, says Luis.
“What happened?”, asks Tony.
“Dad has been fired from the military, they degraded him and separated from his position as major indefinitely”, says Luis in great sorrow.
“Oh, no. I t can’t be”, says Tony very upset.
“Exactly as I told you. He is devastated. He tried to defend us and he was (punished for taking his family side. Can you believe that?”
“I believe anything from this people Luis. Nothing surprises me any more”
And not being happy with all the injustice they have committed they placed a weapon in Rafael’s possession”
“They are saying that Rafael had a gun in his waist and he tried to open fire.”
“I cannot believe what you just said”, says Tony ins shock.”
“Exactly like that, says Luis in outrage.
This is the last thing I never thought it could happen “, says Tony very upset.
“They are going to base the soldiers’ actions in self defense. They even have the weapon, apparently fabricated evidence”
“Of course. This is insane! This is outrageous and ridiculous”, says Luis mad fume. Tony reflects over Luis’ words.
“How is aunt Hilda?”, asks Tony.
“Devastated since the first day. Worse because my father is out of his mind”
“The only good thing about this place is that you can have visitations every Sunday. I’m sure they’re coming this next weekend”
“They wouldn’t let me see my parents during the last days”, says Luis.
“Of course. Uncle Ramon is not dangerous anymore”, says Tony.
“Yes, that’s true”
“He no longer enjoys the same privileges”
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 69
“Horrible!”, moans Luis.
“This is a real nightmare Luis”
“What can we do Tony?”
“I think the trial is going to be next week”, says Tony.
Luis shows Tony around. After a while Tony wants to inspect the whole facility because he still has ideas about how to react to the whole situation. Luis finishes organizing his things while Tony continues to the kitchen. In the dorm, a fat blond guy called Noel approaches Luis.
“Hello, my name is Noel”
“Hello Noel, I am Luis” They shake hands.
“You are a rafter, right?”, asks Noel.
“Me too. When did they catch you?”
“A few weeks back”, says Luis.
“I have been in the can seven big ones already”, says Noel proudly.
“Seven years?”, asks a surprised Luis.
“No, hell no. Seven months. If I had to be here for seven years I would be nuts already”, Noel jokes.
“Yes. I wouldn’t blame you”, Luis answers.
“Go ahead and finish putting your stuff together. I’ll see you in the big house”, says Noel while moving away from him.
Luis continues organizing his things. Noel walks toward the exit of the dorm where he meets other inmates as they are getting ready for lunch. Noel takes a plastic spoon and fork together with a plastic cup and gets back to Luis.
“Here, take this. You are going to need it”, he gives Luis the utensils.
“Thank you”, says Luis.
“This people think that we are animals. They won’t give us a spoon or a cup for water. I’m telling you. Only living through this you’ll be able to believe it”, said Noel while Luis smiles appreciative.
After lunch all inmates meet in the big house where they gather every day to relive their memories while listening to the music from a popular radio station. This place is about 5000 square feet big and there’s a big radio with several speakers where everyone enjoys a very popular program called “MUSICAL SURPRISE” at noon time every day.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 70
Once more, the same hippies from Paseo and Thirteen street are reunited. Among them Gustavo, Osvaldo, Mandi, Roberto and many more.
On one side Tony, Luis, Noel, Osvaldo and Raul, another “rafter’ listen to the music and cheer Noel who is dancing “HANKY PANKY” a popular dance of the time. One of the inmates stands up and starts dancing after Noel, as a huge circle develops, and they pace around the big house clapping, dancing and singing the song.
“This the only entertainment we have around here”, says Osvaldo.
“Every day we get into this, but at least we have a good time”, says Raul.
Luis smiles carried over his nostalgia as he remembers his brother Rafael. Tony tries to read his mind and gets him out of his thoughts.
“Come on Luis. Get up and dance. You can do it!”, says Tony apparently happy,
Tony grabs Luis and helps him up. At the end of the song everyone applaudes and another popular song follows. lt happened to be the same song Luis and Tony heard when they
“Listen Tony, ’THERE’S A KIND OF HUSH’”, acclaims Luis.
“Yes, what a coincidence”, says Tony as they sing the lyrics:
“There’s a kind of hush, all over the world tonight, all over the world living in me and will never die...you know what I mean...just listen very carefully...for ever and ever...”
As Monday arrives so does the families for visitation. All inmates hurry to iron their uniforms, take a shower and get dressed neatly to receive their families, anxious to see them after a week absence. Luis and Tony greet Hilda, Casilda and Ramon who came loaded with provisions for their children. They hug in disproportioned emotions and they sit in one of the huts that Tony had reserved for them.
“Uncle Ramon. How is my favorite uncle?”, Tony acclaims in great affection.
"“Good my boy. Here we are, hanging in there. Ready to continue fighting. Like they say never give up”, said Ramon smiling. Tony cannot hold his tears, Ramon embraces him.
“You have shown us to be a brave man and with a lot of courage. I will never forget that uncle!”, said Tony very touched.
“Don’t worry my son, family is the most important thing one have. It’s more important that anything else in life. Like my grandfather used to say we lost more in the independence
War”, he joked.
Casilda and Hilda started preparing the food they brought.
“Sausages, the way you love them Luisito”, says Hilda.
“Really mom? I love them. You don’t know how much I missed this, because the food here sucks”, said Luisito while looking at the sausages with bulge eyes.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 71
“I can imagine”, says Hilda.
“Here Tony. Ice cream cake. I had a very hard time trying to find it”, says Casilda.
“Wow! Thank you, mom. Chocolate ice cream. This is awesome!”, says Tony elated.
Hilda and Casilda sit with Lusito while Ramon and Tony walk to the near bushes.
“I talked to your father. I had to convince him because he wanted to come down.” “He can’t uncle. You know the way he left Cuba.
’Oh, I know that perfectly well”, says Ramon smiling.
Tony hesitates for a minute as he stares at his uncle.
“How is Jorge”, asks Tony. Ramon keeps silence for a few moments.
“You know Tony. It was Jorge who snitched on you. I had to tell you because it was an unprecedented cowardly action. He has a lot of resentment and does not want to hear about you, worse from your father.”
“My God1Is this really happening? My only brother.”
“That’s exactly what I thought.”
“What have he said about your situation?”, asks Tony.
“He won’t speak to me. I’m not important to him any more.”
“Have you thought about what you’re going to do uncle? Asked Tony very worried.
“No, in reality I feel like I’m kind of numbed all over. The whole damned think happened so fast that I was caught off guard. I can’t even conceive sleeping at night. Your mother and your aunt are even worse than me. Your brother won’t leave your mom along annoying her with all that rhetoric about the revolution and all that big lie because everything is a big lie”, says Ramon in a mad mood.
“Whoever had listened to you before could not believe that’s you talking”, says Tony impressed by his uncle’s attitude.
“It’s true, but I was blind like many others are”, says Ramon in outrage.
“I agree”, says Tony in deep sorrow.
“I have given everything in exchange for nothing. All my sacrifice, all my youth, my entire life. Luckily, I created a beautiful family, but this is the reward I have received from them. I feel like if I had received a knock out straight to the chin, a technical knockout as they say in the boxing world”, he smiles.
“But I am not going to annoy you with these things, we have to get you both out of here. I am moving all my resources with some of my friends. Hopefully these ones left won’t betray me”, said Ramon.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 72
“Uncle, get us out of here. This is very hard to swallow. I might handle it for some time, but Luis is not going to make it. This whole situation is going to break him down”, says Tony somberly.
“I know, and I am more concerned about him that about you. You were always stronger, full of energy, like me. However, Lusito is weak, exactly like your aunt Hilda. Rafaelito on the other hand was...“he can’t hold his tears. Tony follows his grief as they stop behind a tree where they can moan without being seen. After a few minutes they recover and continue the conversation.
“How is the food?”, asks Ramon.
“Awful. lt tastes terrible, undercooked and rotten.” “I can’t believe it”, says Ramon upset.
“The only thing that helps a little bit is the Russian meat they give us for dinner, it’s small amount but at least tastes better. The peas are normal habitat for all kind of bugs and the grits give refuge to weevils and vermin of all species”, They burst in a laughter.
“What a mess! I am glad that after all you keep a good sense of humor”, says Ramon. “What else can I do? Look at you. I am very proud of you uncle. You are my raw model. You and my father. I haven’t stopped thinking about the good old days when we used to spend time together at the beach house, remember?”, asks Tony in great emotion.
“Of course. You said it. They were good old times Tony.”
They start walking back to the rest of the family when they pass in front of the shack where Osvaldo chats with his family. Tony called Osvaldo. Tony and Ramon come to the shack to salute Osvaldo.
“Look mom, this is Tony, my good friend I talked to you about.”
“Hello Tony, my name is Estrella and my son says many great things about you”, said Estrella.
“Thank you, ma’am. This is my uncle Ramon”
“Hello, it’s a pleasure madam”, says Ramon.
“And this is my daughter Ritica”, says Estrella.
“She’s my beloved sister Tony”, says Osvaldo. Tony is very impressed by the gorgeous girl. She is fifteen years old, blond with a golden straight hair, dark skin and blue eyes, and a very charming personality which has made Tony speechless.
“Hello Tony”, she shakes his hand as they feel an immediate connection when they enter in eye contact.
“Hello Ritica, it’s a great pleasure”, says Tony.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 73
“Would you like to join us?”, asks Estrella.
“No, thank you”, said Ramon. We have to get back to our family.”
“Okay, I’ll see you later Tony. You have to show my sister the dancing steps we have learned”, said Osvaldo.
Tony smiles and they continue walking to reunite with their family.
“Don’t think for a moment that I missed this one. I could tell that you were very impressed with the girl”, says Ramon sarcastically.
“Did I make it so evident uncle?”, asks Tony intrigued.
"“Well, remember that you can’t lie to me. I know you since you were born”, he laughs.
They arrive at the family visiting spot.
“How was that ice cream cake Luisi”, asks Ramon.
“It was excellent dad. Tony, you’ll have to try it”
“Right now”, says Tony excited. Tony sits next to his mother and Hilda serves cake for him and Ramon.
“Noel!”, Luis screams calling Noel who is walking alone in the middle of the open field. Luis waves at him calling to join them. Noel comes to the group.
“Good morning”, says Noel.
“Noel, this is my family. My mother Hilda, my father Ramon, and my aunt Casilda, Tony’s mother.”
“It is nice to meet you all”, says Noel.
“Sit down Noel, I’d like you to try a piece of chocolate cake. It’s delicious”, said Hilda.
“No, I’m sorry madam. I’m full”, says Noel.
“Come on dude, I know you love it.”
Finally, Noel sits down and participates in the family reunion.
Tony trying to be unnoticed stares at the shack where Osvaldo and his family are seated, and he noticed that Ritica has also being staring at him. They both smile. He waves to her indicating that they will meet later, and she nods very happy. Ramon has caught him in the act and shakes his head in approval. Tony smiles as his uncle approaches him.
“I can see you liked the girl”, says Ramon.
Tony keeps silence.
“Don’t be afraid to say it. When I was your age I was a dangerous bad boy”
He pats him on the shoulder.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 74
“Your father and I used to hang around when we were dating your mom and your aunt. Those were different times. There were a lot of struggle, a lot of problems, we were poor but happy”, he said sadly. Luis takes his mother and his aunt to show them the place.
“Come with me. I’d like to show you how big is this”, said Luis while holding his mom and pulling her to follow him.
They walk boarding the dormitories outskirts. Luis points at his spot inside the dorm.
“There’s the bed where I sleep”, says Luis.
“Let us see it son”, says Hilda.
He takes the two women to the inside of the dorm.
“Excuse me, can we get in?”, asks Luis.
“Come in, there are other families inside”, says an inmate. They get inside and near Tony’s and Luis’ beds.
“Tony sleeps on the top bunk, this is my lower bunk”, says Luis.
“Tony as usual not being able to make his bed, look at the mess he got,”, jokes Casilda.
Casilda makes Tony’s bed while Luis and Hilda sit on Luis’ bed.
“Mom, you hadn’t mentioned dad’s troubles”, Luis reminds her.
“I did not want to talk about it, they crushed him.”
“And it was all our fault”, says Luis.
“Don’t say that my son. The worst part of that was your father outrage in front of those military bosses when he heard the infamous lie about the weapon and all that stuff, making him very upset. He argued with them very strongly and they fired him.
Tony comes up to his mother.
“Mom, what are you doing?”
“Washing your clothes”, says Casilda.
“Hello Ritica, I did not know that you were here”, says Tony.
“Yes, I was talking to your mom. She gave me an update about you”, she smiles.
“What have you told her my beloved mother?”, Tony asks ironically.
“Nothing, she is teasing you”. she laughs.
“We didn’t have too much time”, she adds. Casilda finishes washing the clothes.
“I’m going to set them to dry.”
She walks to a spreading nearby to hang the wet clothes.
“I’m glad you know something about me because I don’t know anything about you”, says Tony sarcastically.
“What do you want to know?”, asks Ritica.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 75
“Everything. I’m interesting in everything about you. How old are you? Where do you live?”, asks Tony very interested.
“You should never ask her age to a woman.”
“Oh, I did not know. I thought this was only for men”, he mocks.
“What is the difference? Are you a macho man or something like that?”, she laughs again. “Absolutely not. On the contrary I am delighted to know when the woman is prosperous and gives orders. I like a woman with strong personality and up forward.”
“Yes, men always say the same thing”, says Ritica.
“Men? Have they told you that before”, he curiously asks.
“Of course, it is obvious that someone is always going to say something”, she says very serious.
“I am disappointed. I would love to be the first one who told you that.” “That’s impossible”, says Ritica.
“I know, I t’s only a jealous wish”, says Tony very interested.
“And what you do you have to say in that respect?”
“What? Women you mean?”, she nods.
“Not much really” Tony excuses.
“Liar. Don’t say that because your ears are going to get big”, she jokes.
“And even your tong is going to get bigger”, she adds bursting in a laughter.
They both laugh. “You have a wonderful smile. And I love your hair.
And your eyes”, says Tony excited.
“Hey, slowly because you are going to give evil eyes.”
I would never do that to you”, Tony gets serious.
“I’m just kidding.”
“On the contrary I will always look at you with bleary eyes”, says Tony tenderly.
“Thank you. I’m flattered” She tries to change the conversation embarrassed by the compliments. “Are you going to school? Well, I should ask were you going to school?”, asks Ritica changing the subject.
“Yes, I finished eighth grade. How about you?”
“I’m going to be in ninth grade”
“What are you going to be?”, asks Tony.
“After I’ll finish college I’d like to go to nursing school. I feel very compassionate with toward sick people.”
“Oh, nurse I’m not feeling good, I have this pain in my chest”, he teases her.
“Isn’t that funny?”, she smiles.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 76
“Nurse please, I need some medication, touch my heart, it’s pounding very fast!” He takes her hands and puts it on his chest.
“Turn, turn, turn, you see? My heart is sick, it needs immediate attention”
He continues his teasing. “No, I rather have someone to take care of me. Would you have time?”, asks him.
“I don’t know about that. I just examined the patient”, she follows his game.
“What do I have to do if I need your help?”, he continues.
“Behave, that’s all you have to do”, she warns him. He has not released her hand. She starts slipping his hand away very politely.
“I have to get back to my family. My brother is waiting for me”, says Ritica.
“Are you coming next Sunday?”, he anxiously asks.
“Of course. I’ll be here earlier than ever”, she says vividly.
“Will you remember me?”, he asks silly.
“Humm, let me see. I think so.”
“Is that a yes?”, he asks again very excited.
“Let’s see. I’ll let you know next week”
She runs away while he sees her leaving amazed by the charms of this young lady. He obviously has been very impressed by the young girl. His mother returns to his side.
“What is this strong head planning?”, asks Casilda.
“Nothing mom. I have been talking to her, that’s all.”
“Oh yeah. I know you Tony, don’t try to fool me”, she smiles.
“Let’s go back to the others mom” He takes one of her her hands and she puts her other hand over his shoulders. For the first time Tony looks more animated. Hilda and Luisito have returned to Ramon’s side. Ramon grabs Luisito’s hand.
“Come on my son. I’d like to talk to you”, says Ramon while pulling him away.
They walk a few steps and Ramon touches his head with great compassion.
“Luisi, my son, I don’t the difficult moment our family is going through. Specially both of you secluded, separated from your family, in captivity. Freedom is the most important privilege a man can have, But I’d like you to know that your family will support you in every sense of the word and we won’t rest until we see you free again. No matter
what we have to do or endure. You have my word on it!”, he says with great emotion.
“You have proved that already dad. What else can I ask from you?”
“Anything you want. And I don’t want you ever to feel guilty. You did what you thought was right and there’s nothing to regret about. When a man takes a step like that and things
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 77
go wrong the way they went all he has to do is regroup, recover from the adversity and look forward with faith and dignity.
And should be your position from now on.”
“What are you planning to do?”, asks Luis in vivid emotion.
“I’m not going to slow down. Keep forward until I’ll see you both free and Rafael’s dead will be avenged by justice. I am not going to allow under any circumstances that our family name will be sullied by any man, ideology or entity. Is that understood? “, he breaks down again and both embrace emotionally united by the momentum.
“I am so sorry dad. I know it was stupid and crazy”, begs Luis.
“There’s nothing you can do now Luisi. I told you already. Let’s look forward. The important thing now is that the trail will go well. I will remove any single piece in sky and earth if I have to do it provided that justice will be done.”
“Thank you, dad”, says Luis very sad. “Why do you thank me?”
“For the ice cream cake”, Luis smiles.
“I found it cheap. He shakes his son’s head and the get back with the others.
“How is my father?”, asks Tony.
“I know that you won’t get tired of asking but I tried to calm him down as much as I could. He’s very depressed and worried”, says Casilda.
“He wouldn’t take a plane and come down here, will he mom?”
“No, Tony. I don’t think he will made that stupid move. They would put him in jail too. He’s not allowed to enter the country”, says Casilda.
“That’s what worries me more mom”, says Tony.
“I don’t think he will dare to do it. Well, let’s change the subject because Ramon and
Luisito are coming”, says Hilda.
“Well Ramon, you talked so much about the ice cream but the only one who couldn’t taste it was the one who found it.”
“Who’s that supposed to be?”, asks Ramon ironically.
“Who else Ramon? Me”, says Casilda naively.
“Liar! Who was the one who found it?”, asks Ramon.
“It was you. I was kidding”, says Casilda.
“Besides she tried a big piece don’t let her fool you Ramon”, said Hilda
“No wonder it was gone already. She got the best of it. In any case it was me the one who couldn’t even taste it and I bought it. Thank you for forgetting about me”, said Ramon faking mad.
“You are wrong Ramon. I saved a piece of the cake for you”, Hilda smiles.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 78“My dear and beloved wife. You see? That’s one of a million reasons why I would never leave you darling. Thank you”, Ramon kisses his wife passionately. They sit at a table to enjoy lunch.
“Tony, who is the Warden of this place?”, asks Ramon.
“Captain Mora. Do you know him uncle?”, asks Tony.
“No. I think I heard that name before, but I am not sure. I am going to do a research and find out who is the subject. I still have a lot of influences around”
They continue the visitation until three o’clock when it ends.
It’s time to say good bye and families gathered around their relatives as the guards put pressure on them to leave the place. Osvaldito calls Tony.
“Tony. Come over here, my family want to say good bye to you”, says Osvaldito after greeting Tony’s family. Tony approaches Osvaldo’s family.
“It’s been a pleasure ma’am”, says Tony very gentle.
“Same with us son. Take good care of my son”, she smiles.
“He’s going to have to take care of me. It’s been a pleasure Ritica”, says Tony while kissing her on the cheek.
“Same here Tony”, she shakes his hands afterwards as Tony squeezes her hand in appreciation.
“We look forward to see you next Sunday”, says Tony.
“They’ll better be here,”, jokes Osvaldo.
“Take care of yourself”, says Tony as he returns to his family side, while Casilda and Hilda have finished cleaning the table and the shack area. Ramon calls Tony and Luis apart.
“Listen to me. I don’t want you to get in trouble. I’m going to do all my best to get you guys out of here but don’t make me look bad. I am going to use all my connections and move my resources, okay?”
“Yes uncle, don’t worry about it”, says Tony.
“Dad, don’t forget about us. This is extremely hard to take”, says Luis.
“How do you dare to say that Luis? Have I abandoned you so far?” Luis cries desperately.
“You are our only hope dad.”
“I won’t stop until justice is done”, he assures them firmly.
Hilda and Casilda kissed them also in great emotion. They accompany them to the main entrance where families are going out the gate after saying good bye to their relatives. The inmates return to their dormitories, many of them in a lot of grief and sad by their relatives’ departure. Osvaldo joins Tony and Luis.
“So, what do you think about my family?”, askes Osvaldo.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 79
“They seem to be very decent and educated”, says Tony.
“Yes, it’s true. And your mother is very sweet Osvaldo”, says Luis.
“They liked you both. My mother was very impressed with you Tony. Of course, she had more time to share with you because Luis was with his mom and aunt, but she said you were very kind and gentle”, saiysOsvaldo.
“How about your sister?”, asks Tony intentionally.
“Obviously Tony. My sister is very special and she’s not easy to please. She’s very observant and always looks for the minimal details in any person. In other words, she is very picky. She hates vulgarity and appreciate good manners. And you impressed her with that.
“I’m very glad honestly”, says Tony delighted.
“Well, everybody listens, let’s get together after count because we are going to have a real feast”, says Luis.
“I am sure, with all the food our families brought alone I think I’m going to gain a lot of weight”, says Osvaldo. Luis makes a fizz.
“What was that? You sounded like a flat tire”, says Tony.
“That’s precisely what I am doing, trying to flat my stomach after that ice cream chunk which made me so stuffed. So bad that I am afraid I’m going to explode”, says Luis.
They enter the dorm and keep the groceries their families brought them.
The next day Ramon walks inside the Jury Consultants’ building in Vedado district. This place is the headquarters for the lawyers assigned by the Government to defend in multiple cases that in other countries are called public defenders. In the case of Cuba there is no private practice for the attorneys, reason why the justice system is broken and corrupted. Ramon stops in front of the receptionist.
“Good morning. How can I help you sir?”, asks the receptionist.
“l’m here to see attorney Manuel Estrada.”
“One moment please. Your name?”, asks the receptionist.
“My name is Major Ramon Soto.”
“Have a seat please. I’m going to call him right now” Ramon sits down and starts to skim the pages from a magazine.
“Excuse me Major. Attorney Estrada said he will be with you in a few minutes”, says the receptionist.
“Thank you, Miss”, says Ramon cordially.
The activities continue as people come in and out the building.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 80
This institution has a lot of visitors as they represent a lot of clients in all type of negotiations including passports, official documents, titles to properties or immigration for foreigners and associated foreign affairs. One secretary gets down stairs and calls for Ramon.
“Major Soto?”, she asks.
“It’s me madam.”
“Follow me please.” “Thank you”, says Ramon.
“I apologize for the delay, but Attorney Estrada was in a meeting.”
“It’s perfectly alright. I understand. He must be a busy man”, says Ramon politely.
“Oh yeah. This is a very busy institution.”
They reach the second floor and she leads Ramon to a private office where Estrada welcomes him.
He is a tall man, grey hair, elegant in his fifties and under first look he reveals his profession showing a very aggressive personality and politeness. They embrace.
“Major Ramon Soto. Ex Major Soto I should say”, he jokes bluntly.
“Wait a second partner. The game is not over yet”, Ramon defends. “Sit please”, Ramon sits, and he offers him a soda.
“No, thanks. I just had breakfast”, Estrada sits on his chair across Ramon’s seat.
“Don’t think that I am not aware of your situation”, he says apparently concerned.
“Who told you?”, asks Ramon curiously.
“You know gossips spread and explode like gunpowder. Specially when a big fish like you goes down. But I’m glad you came because you’ll give me the details of your problems.” “There are a few things that I’d like to discuss with you Manuel, but the most important and delicate right now is the claim for justice over the death of my son Rafael.”
“Tell me exactly what happened”
Ramon gives Estrada every detail of the incidents as he pays close attention to Ramon’s story,
“How many witnesses will testify that the weapon was in your son’s possession”, asked Estrada.
“Various coast guard soldiers, but there seems to be a lot of discrepancies between them”, said Ramon,
“What type of discrepancies, you mean inconsistencies”, asks Estrada.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 81
“Well, contradictions you know. One said he drains the gun from the waist. Another one said he was holding the gun already when they arrived at the scene”
“Do you have the case number with you?”, asks Estrada.
“Yes” Ramon pulls up a piece of paper and gives it to Estrada.
“We have to review all details of the allegations”
“My son Luis and my nephew Tony who were leaving with him are willing to swear that my son Rafael did not have any weapons on him.”
“They are weak witnesses”, says Estrada very cool.
“Come on Manuel. How can any one possible think that a kid, thirteen years old, could have a gun with him, worse know how to handle it”, says Ramon upset.
“The tribunal won’t believe them because they will call them contaminated or biased with the deceased.”
“Oh really, what about the soldiers?”
“Listen Ramon, the first thing you have to understand is that I am on your side. I am your friend, more than your friend I am your brother and you know it. But I must speak to you bluntly and from a realistic point of view. You came to see me because you need justice and we’ll do everything possible to get this straight and search for the truth, but it won’t be easy. You are not going to fight against a neutral judge like in other countries, you are going to find prosecutors who are anxious an eager to punish those who they feel are the most probably offenders and they will exonerate those who in their opinion better suit their conveniences. These bastards are hungry for recognition, promotion and rewarding gestures by the revolution. As simple as that. This is the way the system has been designed and I don’t think we are going to be able to change it. In your son’s case obviously they are trying to justify a murder, a serious crime that according to your explanation and your relatives testimonies it was unjustified, in cold blood and cowardly executed. You don’t have to convince me that it was impossible for your son to handle a gun at only thirteen years of age. But the problem is trying to convince them who happened to play in the same team of gangsters the others are playing. This was a cold murder and those who committed this murder are true assassins! Simple as that!”, Estrada stands up very upset.
“They know all of this, but because it was committed by one of them they are going to clean the image of the Coast guard’s bloody soldiers and they will definitely fabricate evidences that do not exist. They will put together a great show to acquit the soldiers or more specifically the one who killed your son. The fight won’t be easy, but I am willing to fight with all my energy until we find the truth.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 82
I don’t want to discourage you, but the fight is going to be like the one between the lion and the monkey and basically the monkey will be fighting with its bare hands. We are the monkeys and they are wild lions. Savage wild animals in the middle of this jungle that we are living now days”, Ramon stares at him trying to make sense of his words, although he knows he’s friend is the first person who has spoken the truth about this cruel reality.
“I am very proud of you Manuel and I appreciate your honesty very much”, he shakes his hand.
“I don’t play games Ramon. If I am your friend I’m nothing else but that.”
Ramon leans back on your seat. Manuel pages his secretary.
The young lady enters the office and Manuel gives her the piece of paper Ramon gave him
“Alina, please. I’d like you to check on this case number. Make a copy of the paper and give it back to me. Open a file with that number”
“Understood sir”, says Alina.
Alina gets out of the office.
“When is the trail for your other son and your nephew?”, asks Manuel.
“October 20. The hearing about Rafael my youngest son is next week.” A knock on the door. “Come in” Alina gets in.
“Here is the paper sir.”
“That was quick. I have a very efficient secretary Ramon”, she smiles.
“I printed the information, so this is a print out of the case and the piece of paper you gave me. I will open a file shortly”, says Alina.
“Excellent. Thanks again Alina.”
“You’re welcome sir” Aline retires and closes the door behind her.
Manuel observes the documents and then reads them carefully. Ramon takes a cigar from his desk top.
“Can I”, asked Ramon jokingly.
“Why do you ask if you took it already?”, says Manuel.
“I’m kidding you. You know I don’t smoke” Ramon smells the cigar and puts it back in the box. Manuel is taking his time as he goes over the documents. Ramon stands up and
moves to the open window to enjoy the view of the entire city from his point of view. “Good. I got it. Here, let me explain to you”, says Manuel while Ramon gets back to his seat. Estrada knows already how the game will be played.
“They had chosen a defense attorney already because in this case the defendant is Gerardo Abreu, the coast guard soldier who opened fire.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 83
Now, there are three witnesses saying that they saw when your son drew the weapon. I know this attorney who is a joke, because he only will serve as a puppet because they are going to dismiss this case.”
“What is the purpose of the trail then?”, asks Ramon.
“Because they want your deceased son to be guilty too and that will add to the indictment of the other two. Your son Rafael will be prosecuted in absence because he
won’t be present, but the intent of using a weapon will complicate the case as a violent case and the rest of the defendants will be charged of conspiracy to a violent act based on the fact that the weapon was stolen. lt will appear as illegal possession of a stolen weapon and used by force or intent of aggression or assault on a military subject. This is the formula they’re going to use, what I am going to do is take over the case as the defense attorney. I’m not sure if they will give it to me, but if they do I will sit down with the prosecutor to see what can be done. I promise you I will defend your sons and your nephew in the trail. We still have time for that.”
Ramon sighs very disappointed.
“It’s the way has been set Ramon, but it is not lost yet. I think we are in a fifty fifty situation, but things could change dramatically if they make a mistake.”
“What kind of mistake?”, asks Ramon.
“A contradiction in the testimonies. These soldiers are not very clever in their declarations. Most of them have a very low scholar education. They come from families
not very brilliant to say the least. A very well prepared defense lawyer could
“But I can image that this prosecutor responds to the interests of the government”, says Ramon.
“From some spheres but not all fortunately. As I said before I know this prosecutor and he is not an easy target. He has been appointed from no other than the Minister of Interior. We are not too unlucky right there. What do you think?”, asks Manuel.
“I did know that”, Ramon shows a very special interest in the news he has just heard.
“It seems like someone is very interested in getting to the truth and prevent from an injustice be committed”, says Manuel.
“What is going to be your strategy?”, asks Ramon.
“Let’s follow the steps as they come. First the trail in reference to the weapon and your other son death.
Then we will deal with the other one. Last, but not least, I will file an appeal so your grades and position in the military will be reestablished.”
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 84
“I see that a little more difficult”, says Ramon not very optimistic.
“There’s no such thing like too difficult Ramon. You are a decent man and full of integrity. Your moment has to come through” Manuel lifts from his seat.
“Now let’s get to work. Leave me a telephone number where I can reach you. We will be talking more often during the next week and the week after. Don’t lose your faith”, said Manuel very optimistic. They hug each other and shakes hands.
“Thank you ray dear friend. I will never forget this moment.”
Ramon salutes him military and leaves the office. Manuel sits down and calls the secretary. “Yes sir.”
“Give me a more detailed print out on this case. Every single detail that is relevant. Have it in my desk after lunch”
“Yes sir. At your orders”, says the secretary while returning to her desk.
“Alina”, Manuel calls her, and she returns in the office.
“Sorry I forgot. Get all the details over the trail from the defendants Antonio De Armas and Luis Soto”, she writes down the information.
We must send them a request form or motion for defense of these two defendants. And we have to hurry up because we’re running out of time.”
“Very good. Will do sir”
“Thanks Alina. Did they make coffee?”
In The Cabana, a general search is being conducted on the inmates. Saul, Fred and Father Bonet are standing in front of the bunk naked while the search goes on individually. Other two inmates, Rigoberto Reina and Gilberto Leon stand across the bunks from Saul and Fred.
“How long is this going to last?”, asks Saul very upset.
“Until they please”, says Rigoberto.
“You know that we have no rights in this bloody hole”, says Gilberto.
“We have to do something about this abusive insanity”
“We must stop this do you hear me?”, says Saul loudly addressing the other inmates.
A nearby guard hears the comment.
“What are you talking about?” asks the guard.
“About the endless abuses that you are committing. That’s what I am talking about”, says Saul in defiance.
“And what are you proposing? A raid? You can start right now if you want”, says the guard challenging Saul.
Two guards join the first one carrying AK rifles with bayonets.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 85
“This are your favorite weapons, menacing and intimidation”, Gilberto responds outraged. A guard kicks him a blow with the butt of the rifle. Gilberto collapses on the ground.
“You will say something only when we will decide it.” The others run to help Gilberto who is badly wounded on the floor.
“God, could this be possible?”, Father Bonet demands.
“In the name of God stops this injustice”, he prays.
“Shout up phony priest before you will run into the same luck!”, shouts one soldier.
The heat and pressure are on.
“Go ahead and hit a defenseless old man. What an impressive performance by a bunch of cowards”, shouts Saul.
“Hey you, I’m fed up with your stupid comments and your showing off.”
He throws a blow which is counter attacked by Saul, then both flip over falling on the ground. A riot follows, and more guards are coming in hitting the inmates while other group of guards show up carrying water hoses pushing the rest of the prisoners to one corner of the galley.
“Rehab is over”, shouts Fred. From now on we are in a fasting strike and no one is wearing the damn blue uniform any longer. How do you like that?”, he says mad fume.
Fred receives a blow in the back, but the mutiny continues. Finally, the guards dominate the actions due to her superiority and armament. The guards get out before locking the gates and the wounded inmates are helped by their mates.
In the camp Jaruco II, Tony is seated inside the big house by himself, taking a break from his kitchen duties. Two days past and he starts getting restless. He keeps thinking to himself trying to make sense of the ordeal they are going through.
“God, how much longer do we have to put up with this? This injustice has to stop.
Help me to keep my prudence because I am capable of committing another foolishness.” He gets up and steps out to the ground on the back side of the camp, observing the guard’s box. A guard paces carrying an AK rifle. Tony analyzes the coiled sharp pointed fence which encloses the compound. The young boy now borders the skirts of the prison
until he reaches the opposite side where another guard is watching over.
He takes a deep breath and returns to the big house. Hector, the cook comes to meet him.
“Where in the hell where you Tony? I have been looking for you all over.”
“I am taking a break. Can’t I? Do I have the right to take a break?”, he askes ironically.
“You have been off for more than a half an hour. Let’s go. A truck loaded with live chickens has just arrived and we have to kill them and then prepare them for dinner”, says Hector.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 86
“This a great moment for that. I feel like twisting some one’s neck.”
“Good, take advantage of the moment and let your emotions run. That will help you before someone break your neck”, said Hector in a guffaw. Tony draws a grimace and follows the cook to the kitchen.
Night arrives, and Luis is seated behind the dorm with his sight lost in the horizon, trying to figure out the big mess he has in his mind.
He remembers the moment they were surprised on the water. The boy vividly recalls how his brother Rafael runs scared and the minute the soldier opened fire against him as his brother fell on the water mortally wounded.
Once more, his tears run in anguish as he has been the most affected by his brother’s death when he witnessed the whole incident and the brutality of their captors.
He follows his sequence when he and Tony were carried over the Russian truck and the music pounding in the distance. At Santa Cruz military base, where the soldiers started mocking and making fun of them and finally their arrival at State Security Department in Maristas Village.
“It seems like a century passed since they arrested us”, he remembers. Tony interrupts him while approaching.
“What’s the matter cousin? What are you doing here all by yourself?”, asks Tony.
“I don’t know, I have very strange illusions and weird visions”, says Luis.
“What type of visions?”, asks Tony very concerned.
“I don’t know. At times I feel like they were coming to arrest us again.”
Tony stares at him extremely worried as he sees the incoherence of Luis words.
“Sometimes I feel a sort of pain on my neck that seems like my veins are going to blow up”, Luis said somberly” I better take a nap and maybe I will feel better” He stands up and runs to the inside of the dorm.
Osvaldo nears Tony when he sees Luis running and Tony shows a lot of confusion.
“What’s the matter?”, asks Osvaldo.
“I don’t know. Luis is not doing good at all Osvaldo. He is going to get crazy here”, says Tony with great compassion.
“What did he do?”
He is talking very incoherent, nonsense things like a vein blowing in his neck, I don’t know. He is in serious trouble. His mental status is getting worse and soon I suspect he will be out of control.”
“Why don’t you take him to the infirmary, so he can check on him?”, asks Osvaldo.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 87
“That guy doesn’t have an idea where he’s standing. He knows about medicine like me about plumbing. lt’s a waste of time”, says Tony upset. “So, what do you think we should do?”, asks Osvaldo.
“Luis needs to see a psychologist. All this process has affected him a great deal.”
“That’s going to be highly improbable, they won’t let him out of here unless he is dying”, says Osvaldo.
“We have to do something soon because his health is deteriorating and we’re running out of time”, says Tony alarmed by the situation.
The trail of the soldier who killed Rafael is about to begin. Manuel Estrada and his fellow attorney Pedro Labaut are seated on one of the benches by the entrance of the court room.
“So what do you think?“, asks Manuel.
“You know me already Manuel. I am going to do everything possible to find the truth.” “It’s not going to be easy”, says Manuel while putting his hands over Pedro’s shoulders.
“I trust you. I know you are a man of honor”, says Manuel.
“You just heard what I said. I am a warrior and a tough fighter”, says Pedro very proud.
Ramon returns in a hurry from inside the court room.
“They are ready to start”, expresses Ramon very nervously.
The three men rush to the court room where Hilda and Casilda are seated on the audience. Ramon and Manuel join them as Pedro sits on the prosecutor’s desk.
The president of the Tribunal (that’s the way they called the judges) is introduced by one of the secretaries and the military man dressed in green olive uniform enters the room and sits on his podium after everyone rise. The public in the audience occupy their seats.
The evidences start pouring in and various witnesses are called to testify on behalf of the defense until the court calls one of the key witnesses, one of the coast guard soldiers reaches the witness stand.
“What is your name?”, asks the defense attorney.
“Gabriel Blanco Ibanez”, says the witness.
“Where do you work?”, asks the defense attorney Labaut after it was his turn.
“I’m in the coast guard division of the Armed Forces”, says the soldier proudly.
Ramon and the two women follow the interrogatory very closely. Ramon notices the arrival of General Crescencio, who joins several high ranked officers that were present already in the audience.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 89
“Did you see him?”, whispers Hilda to Ramon.
“Yes, strange move. What is he doing here?”, asks Ramon intrigued. The interrogation continues.
“Can you describe what you saw the night of the arrests soldier Blanco Ibanez?”, asks Labaut.
“We proceed to the arrest of the fugitives.”
“How many were there?” “Three.”
“Were they young?”, asks Labaut with great intention. “Very young”, says the soldier.
“How young?”, asks Labaut.
“I’m not sure”, says the soldier.
“I can tell you. Antonio De Armas was fifteen years old, his cousin Luis was thirteen and Luis’ brother Rafael, the youngest boy who was murdered was thirteen”, pounds Labaut. “Objection your honor. lt has not been proved that this was a murder”, said the defense lawyer.
“Objection sustained. Modify your vocabulary Mr.Labaut”, says the judge.
“I’ll be happy to your honor. I will refer as the deceased boy.” “Correct”, says the soldier.
“Please state in detail what you saw and did”, says Labaut.
“I saw the boy trying to withdraw a weapon from his pocket”, big roar from the audience.
“Quiet! Quiet! Or I will dismiss the audience”, says the judge by repeatedly pounding his desk with the hammer.
“Did you see the weapon?”
“No. I didn’t see it”, says the soldier.
“What did the Sergeant do?”, asks Labaut.
“He opened fire because he thought that the fugitive was going to shoot him first.
Deep silence in the audience. The soldier suffers a break down and started crying.
“What happened soldier?”, asks Labaut.
“I can’t lie sir. I’m sorry. The boy was unarmed. The Sergeant shot him outrage by the boy’s movements. He thought he was going to attack him, but he was unarmed”, the soldier keeps repeating while devastated by the memory.
“I don’t have further questions your honor”, says Labaut.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 90
Only the moaning from the soldier is heard in the court room. Ramon looks at Crescencio as he smiles.
Manuel squeezes Ramon’s hand as Casilda and Hilda embrace in great emotion.
“We are going to take a recess and will continue in one hour”, says the judge.
Back to The Cabana Gilberto and Saul talk in their bunk.
“The days turn very long, and nights become boring”, says Saul.
“What else can we expect from this hell?“, says Gilberto.
“When I was a kid I used to stand my window to look at the moon, specially when there was full moon and I kept asking myself if it was possible to live up there, because you could see so neat and clean that it made sense to think there was life in the moon”, says Saul.
“When they did the first voyages and proved that life was not possible I felt disappointed”, he concluded. “I had the same hope”, says Gilberto.
“Why? You wanted to live in the moon too”, asks Saul sarcastically.
“No, but I thought it was not a bad idea”, says Gilberto.
“Because that way I could get away from madness on the earth”, says Gilberto sadly.
“This is going to be very difficult to avoid”, says Saul.
“Where ever you’ll go there always be malice, envious and injustice. That’s the nature of humanity”, says Saul.
“Unfortunately, you are right.”
“Reason why we have to keep fighting my dear friend”, says Saul.
“That’s why we are here. And that’s why they are not going to snatch a single word from what I did or did not do”, says Gilberto.
“Way to go partner”, says Saul proudly.
“You know that they are trying very hard that I plead guilty of a crime I didn’t commit and that’s always going to be my answer”, says Gilberto upset.
“I don’t care if they kill me, but I will never change my mind about that.”
“What are they blaming you for?”, asks Saul.
“They’re looking for evidences to charge me with the murderer of an officer.” “And that is true? Did you do it?”, asks Saul.
Gilberto keeps silence for a few moments.
“Whether I did it or not is irrelevant. My attitude is never going to change”, says Gilberto with pride.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 91
“I am proud of you Gilberto. You are a brave man and we need people like you to confront these bastards”, says Saul while shaking his hand.
In the court room of the. Revolutionary Tribunal the verdict in the case of the
Sergeant who killed Rafael is about to be read by the judge. He enters the court room, and everyone stands up out of respect.
“Please be seated”, orders the magistrate.
The audience obeys the order and sits down.
“After a careful review of the evidences and conclusions over this case we found the defendant guilty of second degree murder against the young Rafael Soto.
Total roar by the audience. Some applauses are heard as Ramon’s family enjoy the first part of the verdict.
“I have not concluded yet. Please refrain from all comments until the end of the session”, orders the judge.
“This Tribunal has reached the following conclusions:
Number one: It has been verified and concluded that there are no evidences that the victim was in possession of a fire arm, at the moment of the accident”
There’s a hush over the audience.
Ramon talks to Hilda very private.
The judge continues.
“This will exclude the deceased Rafael Soto of such possession as there is dismissal of the offense as stated at the beginning of the trail.
Number two: After carefully reviewing the evidences and the witnesses’ testimonies we have concluded that Sergeant Abreu acted appropriately according to his duties and responsibilities when he tried to prevent the fugitive from escaping the scene, causing the death by accident as it was determined that it was not a premeditated murder, yet and inevitable and terrible accident in the face of disobedience by the fugitive. I find the defendant innocent of second degree murder.”
A huge roar and the audience goes wild.
The judge tries to calm the audience.
“This tribunal has concluded its sessions for the time being”, says the judge and President of the Tribunal. One of the security guards calls for dismissal.
“It is mandatory that the public leave the court room at this time, thank you.” “This is an injustice! shouts Ramon. Crescencio looks at him embarrassed and shrugs. Ramon approaches him.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 92
“Do you think that is real justice Cres”, askesRamon outraged.
“At least it was proven that your son did not have any weapons in his possession.”
“And what is the difference?”, asks Ramon out of control.
“It makes a lot of difference. When they will charge them will be a lesser aggravating argument. If they had proved that he had a fire arm in his possession I’m sure they would, receive a more severe sentence”, said Crescencio trying to calm Ramon down.
“I don’t see it that way”, says Ramon.
“Yes Ramon, be reasonable. Whenever there is a weapon involved it means violence and all of them are responsible for the charges”
“You are giving me a lot of hope Crescencio.”
“i couldn’t do more Ramon. I tried to help you, but it was impossible to get away from these things”
“This system is corrupt and inefficient Crsecencio”, says Ramon insulted.
“What system are you referring?”, asks Cresecencio starting to get offended by Ramon’s words.
“The legal system of course. lt has failed in the face of all the evidences and let a murder gets his way just because he was protected by someone who did not want him
to go to prison, as simple as that”
“Don’t see that way. Think about what I just told you.”, Ramon continues talking very mad at Crescencio. After he separates from Ramon, Crescencio calls one of his security officers.
“Let’s get a twenty four hour surveillance on him just in case he wants to commit a foolish mistake”
The guard calls another security officer and gives him the order by his boss. Crescencio stares at Ramon as he joins Hilda and Casilda outside the court room.
“What did he tell you Ramon?“, aska Hilda very upset.
“The same crap Hilda. Everything sucks! Talking about the damn weapon, if he had it in possession and all that nonsense stupid argument. But I’m going to keep fighting until they punish this bastard! I swear in the name of my dead mother!”
They continue walking through the hall and reach the street where the soldiers including Sergeant Abreu are laughing celebrating their victory. Ramon and his family give him a full of hatred look.
“You got your way for now Sergeant, but it won’t be long before you receive the kind of punishment that you deserve”, shouts Ramon.
“Are you threatening me Ex Major?”, he asks sarcastically.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 93
“No, I am accusing you wicked bastard! You killed my son and you won’t get away with that murder. I swear!” The other soldiers take the Sergeant away before they run into
a fight while Hilda and Casilda hold Ramon from going after him.
“This son of a bitch has been favored and protected by some one, but I am going to find out no matters if they hide underground or inside a cave, but I’ll get them!”
“Calm down Ramon, you’re going to have a heart attack”, begs Hilda.
“Leave me alone Hilda”, said Ramon very upset while walking away from them. Hilda tries to follow him but Casilda stops her.
“Leave him alone Hilda. You know him, he’ll slow down.”
“I’m afraid he will get in trouble by hurting someone.”
“He won’t do it. He has a lot of people whom he has to fight for. Let’s go home”, says Casilda.
In the prison camp it’s lunch time. Tony is serving the food when he sees Ramon’s car arriving at the front gate. He makes Luis aware of his father’s presence and talks to
“My uncle is here Hector.”
“Go ahead boy. I’ll use someone else to serve the trays.”
Tony and Luis walk to the entrance to welcome Ramon who is inside the compound already. The guards let him in and they head to the visitation area.
“What happened dad?”, asks Luis very worried.
“Nothing. I just wanted to see you guys”, says Ramon. They sit inside one of the huts as the weather is overcast outside.
“We lost but we also won”, says Ramon very sad.
“Why? What happened uncle?”, asked Tony.
“They couldn’t prove Rafael’s possession of the fire arm, but the bastard was found innocent and acquitted.”
“Acquitted?“, asks Tony.
“Yes, as simple as that. He’s been protected by some one”
Luis throws a kick in outrage.”
“Calm down son, I know how you feel. I felt like that when it happened, and I have to take it easy because there’s nothing we can do right at this moment,” “What are you going to do dad”, asks Luis.
“Me? Keep fighting until the truth will prevail. I am going to appeal the tribunal’s decision even if I have to go to the highest spheres and talk to the President I’ll do it.”
“Let’s see if they want to hear you uncle, worse if they let you get up there”, says
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 94
“We’ll see. The other reason I came is to talk to you about the trail that is coming over next week. Things will get better after they couldn’t put the weapon on the scene”
“What can we expect?”, asks Luis.
“It’s hard to tell. Having this tribunal in their payroll you’ll never know. But we must prepare for the worst. My friend Manuel Estrada will be your attorney. He’s a great lawyer and it is very possible that he will come to see you this week”
“Trust me son”, Luis bursts in tears once more. Ramon clings him.
“Vent it Luis. Let it go”, Ramon tries to comfort his son, but he is breaking down too. Tony leaves them alone, so they can’t have more privacy in their intimate conversation.
“Listen to me Luisi, you have to be strong. You have no choice. I am doing the impossible, but we have to move ahead. Promise me that you’ll try to be strong. Please”, he hugs him very compelled and in a lot of sorrow. Luis finally recovers, and they sit next to the other.
Tony returns to their side.
“Tony, please help him. You were always stronger than him.”
“It’s the only thing I’ve been trying to do uncle. He knows it.”
“I know, but you have to be closer than ever. The battle is long and loaded with obstacles, but we must look forward.”
“I am aware of that”, says Tony.
“I have to go. We’ll be back on Sunday”, says Ramon. They walk to the entrance. Ramon embraces them and leaves. Tony and Luis return to the shacks.
“Luis, sit down. I’d like to talk to you”, said Tony very serious.
Tony stares at him very compassionate trying to help him react.
“Look Luis, this was the path we chose, and we cannot go back. There’s no momentary solution for that and we must continue our endurance with pride and strength. We must forget about the outside world, dismiss from our minds what we did, what happened no matter how painful it was for us. Because we are going to break down and that’s what they want. We must face the rail with extreme cautious and relaxation, whatever the outcome. Do you understand?”, Tony keeps watching him as Luis is behaving strange. Luis keeps crying and he starts shaking and flushing. Tony jerks him repeatedly.
“Luis, what’s wrong?” Luis goes into a hysteria attack.
Tony slaps him on the face trying to make him react.
“I don’t want to die II don’t want to die! “, He tries to stand up, but Tony pushes him down the seat. Luis starts screaming and several guards come to their site.
The sanitary runs to the scene as the guards try to hold him. Luis keeps his struggle trying to get away from the guards. The sanitary applies him an injection and they take him to the infirmary followed by Tony.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 95
In the infirmary they put him flat on one of the beds and forces him to a straight jacket while one of the nurses’ assistants try to open a vein for more direct medication.
“This boy is not good at all”, says the assistant. He’s having a hysteria attack. A nervous breakdown.
“Get a line. I’m going to give him a strong dosage of a sedative”, says the sanitary.
“What can we do?“, asks one of the guards.
“Should be call an ambulance and take him to the Hospital?”, asks the Sergeant coming in.
“Let’s have him in observation for a while”, says the sanitary. Tony sits next to him as Luis has lost have been controlled by the sedative. “Why don’t you send him to the Hospital”, asks Tony.
“I am not allowed to make that decision. The doctor is coming tomorrow. He will exam him and he’s the one who will make the decision”, said the sanitary.
“We’ll leave him here for now”, he concludes.
Tony raises from his seat. “Please Inaudi, let me know if he gets worse.” “Don’t worry. I will”, says the sanitary. Tony returns to the kitchen.
In the kitchen they have finished lunch and are cleaning the floors and the trays.
“How is he doing Tony?”, asks Hector.
“Not good at all. Luis is getting worse by day and he does not show any signs of recovering”, says Tony.
“And did you uncle say?”, asks Hector, getting nosy.
“I am sorry Hector, but this is private, a family affair and no one has to interfere.”
“Hey listen, I was trying to be polite and concerned. Take it easy okay?”, said Hector upset as he moves to the storage.
Tony mops the floor. Hector finds Jaoquin, another cook doing an inventory in the storage.
“This damn boy has a bad temper. We have to keep an eye on him as the Lieutenant said. I couldn’t get anything out of him.”
“Relax. He will talk when the time is right, and he’ll feel lonely”, says Joaquin.
“He’s not going to stand this for too long”, says Hector.
“That’s not our problem. We’re not here to pamper anyone. Our purpose is to make them respect the law and go by our rules”, said Joaquin bluntly.
“Let me tell you. This kind of game he’s playing.”
“What game?”, asks Joaquin.
“Don’t you see it? Every time someone comes to visit him he leaves the kitchen. I am sick and tired of that”, says Hector.
“Fire him. Dump him from the kitchen and tell them to put him somewhere else”, says Joaquin.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 96
“I can’t. His uncle has a lot of connections and has made a great influence. But I have another idea that might work perfectly”, says Hector enjoying his plan as both smile
“Bring one of those potatoes sacs, we need it for dinner tonight”, asks Hector. Joaquin moves to the dining room and he gets by Tony. He pads the boy in the shoulder.
“Hey Tony, you’re kind of slow today, what’s going on?”, asks Joaquin purposely.
“There’s nothing going on. Why?”
“Everyone is complaining about your job performance. You have to be careful”, says Joaquin.
“Who’s everyone because I haven’t heard a thing from no one”, says Tony upset.
“I know what I’m telling you Tony.”
“I have a feeling that you are the first one talking bull about me and you love to talk behind people’s back”, says Tony defying him.
“Hey, take it easy and don’t yell at me okay”, says Joaquin enraged.
Tony pushed him. Hector tries to hit him, but Tony blows a punch on his face knocking him-dawn the floor.
Various people separate them including Hector who ran from the storage as soon as he saw the fight.
“What is going on Tony”, asks Hector.
“Nothing, this guy is making me sick with all his insidious comments and I’m not going to let it go any longer.”
“Guards!” Hector calls the guards. Two of them show up.
“What’s the matter?”, asks one of them.
“This boy hit my assistant on the face”, says Hector madly.
“Are you out of your mind boy?”, asks the other guard.
“He started offending me”, says Tony.
“That is a damn lie. He pushed me first”, says Joaquin after getting up. “Ok, the show is over. Cold cell”, orders the soldier.
“Why? He was the one who started”, says Tony fume mad.
“Cold cell I said”, yelled the soldier. One of the soldiers grabs a pair of manacles and handcuffs him. They take the boy away as Joaquin rubs his face in pain by the blow.
“It cost me a little bit, but we got rid of him”, says Joaquin proudly.
“Bravo! Did he hit you hard?”, asks Hector while putting his hand on Joaquin’s shoulders.
“I’m okay. I’ll get him”, says Joaquin madly.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 97
“Well, now he is in serious trouble. I don’t see any way out for him”, laughs Hector. They lock Tony in the cold cell of the main offices. In the dark Tony sits on the floor very upset not even being able to see his hands sore by the blow.
“I take black mails from no one. I could care less about cold cell! I am in prison anyhow”, says Tony before taking his shirt off feeling the hot temperature inside the cell.
Luis is being taken in Mazorra Psychiatric Hospital. Although this is a Hospital for mental illnesses, the place has been classified as a violent institution because many of the mental patients were criminals or common thieves and they were admitted as insane to escape from death penalty.
They took Luis to one of the pavilions called Castellanos. This concept for the ill was introduced in Cuba by The Spaniards who built the Hospital as villas structured by independent pavilions to produce a psychological effect of a small town with streets and sidewalks dividing them. That way the patient feels like he is not secluded and walks around under surveillance, helping them in their rehabilitation in the interim.
At the entrance of the pavilion stands a high iron fence with a main electric door remote, controlled by a guard inside the security booth, in a twenty four hours watch and alert. The rooms are very similar to cells because of their iron doors and security bolts locked from outside and one only access. Closed circuit cameras are set around the compound due to the maxim security status of the prison Hospital.
Luis is lead to an empty cell, with no beds or any other furniture, making the boy lay down the cold floor.
The doors are sealed with bolts instead of lockers and only a small port hole for slipping the food and medication through it.
Luis recovers his consciousness and as he discovers the awful surroundings, the boy starts screaming.
The door opened, and three paramedics enter the room trying to control him, but he continues hysterical. They manage to neutralize him after applying new medication and as soon as Luis passes out they take him to the infirmary.
Heriberto Mederos is waiting for him. This is an infamous, sadistic and despicable nurse whose methods and tortures were very well known by the population at the time. This loathsome and filthy individual has developed a reputation based on his abuses, physical aggression and cruelty making him one of the most dreaded subjects in the whole community, specially in the Psychiatric field.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 98
Heriberto does not waste any time and as soon as he sees Luis he prepares his most sophisticated devices, including electric cords and brain electrodes to create an electric shock to Luis’ body.
The gruesome procedure continues until totally lose his consciousness again. The whole scenario looks like a nightmare as conducted in a lugubrious operating room. Luis lays down the floor and a rubber denture has been placed inside his mouth preventing him from biting his tong.
Dr. Minoso enters the gloomy room to exam the patient and he writes down in the patient’s file:
“This patient has been diagnosed as a serious case of Acute Schizophrenia concomitant with Paranoia attacks.”
By the way, this diagnosis was reached without a complete physical examination of the patient, additional supporting lab tests or any other necessary analysis of the boy’s personality or behavior. The patient only procedure has been the application of the insane electric shocks by a dreadful nurse even before the doctor was present. This abusive conduct by the Hospital and the penal system in Cuba at the time says a lot about the cruelties and abuses that were committed during these years. The doctor orders some more medication for the patient as Heriberto, the nurse reads over his recommendations. Luis in the mean time. remains unconscious, far from his family and in a stage of regression very hard to recover from.
A nurse comes inside the room and calls another paramedic to help her lift Luis from the floor and put him on the examination table. Heriberto tries to intervene but the
nurse nods in disapproval asking the beast to leave the room.
They close the door after Heriberto leaves, and the nurse starts bathing Luis who has stained his clothes by vomiting after the inhuman procedure he was put into.
In his cell Tony tries to open his eyes in the dark but he can’t see anything.
nLuisito.What1s going to happen with him now?” he thinks, ignoring the atrocities that Luis has been exposed to.
Ramon drives his motorcycle through one of the streets in Havana without noticing that he’s been followed by and old classic ford auto. Inside the vehicle several men
watch Ramon closely while one of them talks on the radio.
Ramon turns on a small street and right before reaching the intersection his motorcycle is charged by a Russian truck which produces a tremendous collision with the motorcycle and expelling Ramon from his driver’s seat triggering him to the air by the impact.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 99
The motorcycle is shattered in pieces as Ramon violent blow when impacting the ground kills him instantaneously.
The old car which had being tracking Ramon stops and the men get out. The driver from the truck escapes from the scene of the accident. One of the men continues talking on the radio. Dozens of curious pedestrians gathered around the dead body of Ramon. One ambulance rushes to the scene sounding its alarm. As soon as the ambulance arrives at the scene the paramedics get out and approach Ramon’s body. The men in the old car come to view and identify themselves as policemen.
The paramedics bring a stretcher as one of them covers Ramon’s dead body with a white sheet.
“He’s dead,”, says one of the paramedics. Police vehicles pull in and police officers start getting in the site. One of the police officers brings note pad in hand to take notes of the incident and make a report. One of the paramedics near him.
“We couldn’t do anything. He died instantly.”
“The driver was a hit and run. He split immediately after the collision”, explains one of the men dressed in street clothes who identified himself as a police man. The police officer writes down his notes.
“Any witnesses?”, asks the police officer.
“We were behind him driving that old car”, he points to the vehicle.
“The truck impacted the motorcycle whose driver was spilled on the air and fell a few meters further.”
“Could you get the tag of the truck?”, asks the police officer.
“No. Everything happened so fast that we couldn’t do anything.” The police officer continues writing the witnesses testimony.
“We have to inform the relatives”, says the police officer. One of the paramedics gives the police officer the documents found on Ramon’s body.
The police officer picks up the documents and gives them to the Sergeant in charge. The
Sergeant reads over the drivers’ license: ‘Ramon Soto’
The forensic vehicle arrives at the scene and the doctor and his assistant get off the vehicle.
The next morning, the sadistic nurse Heriberto Mederos throws a bucket of cold water on Luis face to wake him up.
“This is the best way to wake him up”, says the evil nurse sarcastically.
Luis awakes very lethargic as the nurse looks at him with satisfaction.
“Are you feeling better?”, asks the beast ironically.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 100
Luis does not answer.
“I’m positive you will feel better”, says the nurse. Luis looks at him confused and dizzy.
“Your breakfast is on its way. It will be here in a few minutes”, says the nurse enjoying the show.
Heriberto gets out of the cell locking the door behind him.
Luis squeezes his head trying to ease the pain and soreness, feeling like his head is ready to exploit. The boy is unaware of the misfortune his father ran into which means a disastrous low blow to his already fatal stage of insanity.
But the worst was yet to come. For Hilda and Casilda it was total devastation. People next to the family couldn’t understand how have these two ladies been able to survive so much disaster and support so much pain. Specially Hilda when losing her son Rafael first, then the imprisoning of his son Luis and her nephew Tony, and finally the tragic death of her husband Ramon and Casilda’s brother.
Hilda had to be taken to the hospital after she heard the news of the death of her husband, making the situation even more difficult for all of them.
Tony was unaware of this tragedy because he had been punished to seclusion in cold cell and visiting suspended for three weeks not even being able to communicate with the other inmates like Osvaldo or Noel. One morning Noel is assigned to clean the commanders’ offices and he takes the opportunity to try to see Tony when he found a few minutes where no officers were around.
“Tony! Are you there?”, asks Noel approaching the cell door. Tony awakes from his lethargic stage and sticks his ear to the iron door.
“Tony, it’s me, Noel”, says Noel in a low voice.
“Noel, is that you?”, asks Tony.
“Yes. I have horrible news for you Tony. I am very sorry.”
“What happened?”, asks Tony very worried.
“A lot since you got locked. And they are all very sad news. I’m very sorry”, said Noel sadly.
Noel stares at him trying to find the best possible way to give him the horrible news.
“Would you like me to wait until you get out?”, asked Noel. “No, tell me now”, said Tony firmly.
“They are terrible news Tony”, Noel insists.
“I don’t care. Tell me now!”, demands Tony.
“It’s so painful.”
“Is it about my family?”, Tony asks very anxious.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 101
“No. She is alright at the moment”, says Noel undecided.
“It’s about your uncle”
“Ramon? Did they arrest him”, asks Tony ready to explode.
“No, worse than that. He was killed in an accident.”
“What?”, asks Tony devastated.
“He died on the scene. A truck charged upon his motorcycle while was driving. lt was a hit and run. The driver got away.” There is a somber silence. Only the moaning from Tony is heard.
“Tony, are you alright?”, asks Noel terrified.
Tony progressively transforms into an outrage out of control as he starts shaking, his hands tremble and his features become blush and tense.
“Get a hold of yourself Tony. If they find out that I came to see you I’ll get in real trouble”, says Noel scared.
Tony takes a deep breath trying to control his sorrow and emotions.
“What else happened?”, he asks devastated.
“Your cousin Luis. They took him to Mazorra. He got very sick and they had to admit him over there”
Tony bangs the wall very furious. Now his tears run in a rage shed.
“Please Tony, they are going to find out that I’m here”, begged Noel.
Steps are heard outside the office coming from the hall.
“Your mother has tried to see you twice, but they won’t let her.”
The door opened, and Noel continues mopping the floors.”,
What are you doing here?”, asks Sergeant Brizuela as he came in.
“Cleaning the office Sergeant “, says Noel very nervous.
The Sergeant looks around to check on the floors, then he moves to the cell door to eardrop on Tony who barely holds his tears and outrage.
“Did this fool wake up already?”, asks the Sergeant.
“No, sir. I haven1t heard him moving.”
“Get the hell out of here!”, says the Sergeant mad.
Noel goes to the door.
“Look. Clean the rest rooms because they are filthy and have a foul smell.”
“I understand sir”, Noel gets out to the hall and heads to the rest room.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 102
“There is the mop and the bucket. Also use the fragrant liquid. Those toilets stink. And put chloride in the bucket.”
Noel leaves and the Sergeant opens the small hole to check on Tony who lays on the floor flipping to the opposite side, so the Sergeant can’t see him crying.
The Sergeant sits inside the next office and turns the television on. Tony is bleeding from his mouth after biting his lips with rage.
“Poor uncle Ramon. Why? Why?” He now closed his eyes, clenches his teeth on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
His whole body shakes and feels sore. It’s a combination of rage, pain and frustration.
“I have to get the hell out of here. I have to leave this place as soon as possible!“, he reflects while shaking his head.
Passages from his childhood start pouring in his mind as he remembers his uncle Ramon dressed in military uniform carrying him on his shoulders and playing with him. He memorizes when one day his father and his uncle had a good time together, drinking while swimming in the pool. Another sweet memory follows as Luis, Rafael and Tony got together to play monopoly. His parents walk through The Prado boulevard while he drives a bicycle.
His cousins and him play ball in one of the corners in his neighborhood while the kids play, argue and scream at each other during the game. He remembers his father’s words.
“Someday things will change, and I won’t be by your side to protect you, but you will have to confront these new challenges with dignity and courage. I know you can do it. Most of all never abandon your family. Family is the important thing a man can have. Family! Family! Family! The word pounds inside his head like a hammer becoming a lethargic echo seemingly trying to slip through the cold walls of the cell.
“Dad! If you only knew how much I need you now!”, he says very sad.
He bits his lips over showing a lot of frustration as blood keeps sprouting out.
The lower port hole opens, and someone slips through a tray with food.
The small door is closed again, and Tony gives the tray an upsetting look.
He reflects over his father’s words and pulls the tray toward him.
“I have to be strong! Very strong to defeat these cowards who have destroyed my family. But they won’t do it to me!”, he starts eating determined.
Fred O’Neill in his cell in La Cabana continues writing his diary with extreme precaution avoiding been seen.
“There are two types of chapels: one black and another white for those sentenced to the death, as a dreadful antechamber.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 103
The area for the execution by shooting or fire squad is also called the fossa of death or “stick” because before the unfortunates are executed soldiers tight them to a stick facing the fire squad. There is also an isolation and punishment vault that during the epoch of colonialism it was called “Surtida” which means assorted. When midnight approaches one can feel that coldness in the whole body as you hear the steps of the fire squad soldiers coming to claim their next victim. The iron doors open when you feel the creak of their rusty hinges. The sound of the cuffs rumbles through the stone walls announcing the end of the road for the unfortunate. A flood of tears from some, shouts of bravery from others, deep silence for most, awaiting their time in front of the executers to show them they are not afraid.
In front of me, the dark wall, conforming the faulty corridor bathed by shadows and sentenced to permanent frigidness.
The corridor ends to the right over a bars window on top of the rest rooms which don’t allow you to see exactly where you are as they are sealed and enclosed by wide iron
walls and metallic doors and ceiling.
The space is very narrow, barely enough for a personal bunk and short steps in a radius of about one meter.
Hours go by and I lean to the bars like waiting for a message from my wife Laura or my daughter Vanessa.
“How does she look like? She has to be beautiful like her mother, o elegant and intelligent like her father”, he smiles on his ostentation.
“But she is my daughter indeed. One day I will be able to see her, caress her, take her in my arms and play with her.”
A few days past and Tony is taking out of his solitary cell. They have reassigned to work in the big house cleaning the floors and in charge of all entertainment games like monopoly, domino, chess and music equipment. Osvaldo comes to see him after lunch.
“How are you feeling?”, asks Osvaldo.
“You don’t have the slightest idea of how I feel. I feel numbed, depressed, floating on the air sometimes. It’s a terrible feeling.”
“Hey, you have to encourage yourself. You know, my mother and my sister Ritica have been very concerned about you and they haven’t stop asking how are you feeling.” “Really?”, asks Tony a little enlighten.
“Of course. They are coming for visiting tomorrow so I’d like you to join us for lunch.”
“Thank you, Osvaldo. I hope my mother comes too. I haven’t seen in a long time.”
“Oh. I’m sure she will be here. She has tried to see you many times, but they never let her.”
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 104
“Yes, Noel told me. Let’s see what will happen tomorrow.”
“Change that face my friend. I know it has been terrible for you and your family, but you have to get back on your feet. I’m sure there will be better times ahead.”
“I hope so”, Tony turns the radio on and tunes into their favorite program and once more the popular song is heard through the speakers.
“Listen to that song again. lt has become like an anthem to me, I love it.”
Tony sits first and closes his eyes as his mind gathers his old memories again. Osvaldo leaves him alone to give him room for his thoughts.
A few minutes later after the song is over Tony stands up and walks outside near the fence dividing the compound from the neighboring property. He glances at the guard on the security box and pans around studying the setup of the facility.
He stays there for a few minutes and returns to the inside of the big house to avoid suspicions. Osvaldo approaches him.
“Hey, don’t let me out.”
“I don’t what are you talking about”, saysTony trying to mislead him.
“I know what you’re thinking Tony. I know you already. You can count on me that’s all I have to say.”
“I hear you. I’ll keep it in mind”, says Tony while smiling.
“I am serious Tony.”
I know. But we have to wait.”
“We’ll wait. That’s all we can do in here. Wait.”
They sit down again enjoying the music. Tony continues to organize his mind thinking in the possibility of escaping while Osvaldo looks at him trying to foresee his ideas.
Noel approaches them.
“Any news about your mom Tony?”, asks Noel concerned.
“No, but I’m sure she is coming to see me tomorrow”, says Tony.
“They should be devastated”, says Noel.
“What can we do? Have you heard about Luis?}, asks Osvaldo.
“He is in the Psychiatrist Hospital”, saysTony.
“They told me that place is horrible”, says Osvaldo somberly.
“I don’t want to think about that”, says Tony.
Tony stands up and goes over the same walk he did before checking the outside of the compound.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 105
He stops near the fence, grabs a piece of grass and starts chewing on it. He spits in disgust the liquid squeezed from the leave while looking at the guard with great resentment.
“I am nauseated with all this, the people, the lies, the miserable life that we are living. Maybe Luis will feel better when he is not aware of what’s happening around
In The Cabana, Father Bonet is celebrating mass for the inmates.
“The Lord addressed me and said: ’You as a man, speak in my name and say:
’Pray for the day that’s nearing. The day is approaching my lord. It will be a cloudy day, a terrible day for the nations and war will unfold. And that day when they will kill many, the world will shiver. Save me God because I am on the verge of drowning, I am sinking in muddy swamp and I ran out of place to rest my feet. I have touched the
deepest layer in the mud and the current is dragging me. My voice is getting hoarse by screaming. My throat is sore.’ The march of the fire squad is heard through the stone walls.
“Stop!”, orders a commander voice. The order to fire is given and dozens of bullet rounds are heard producing a rending yell from the victim before falling on the ground mortal wounded. The chief of the squad approaches him and shots him in the back of the neck for the grace shot in close range in case the squad missed their target. There’s a somber silence. Father Bonet continues his mass.
“My lord, oppose to those who oppose me. Attack those who attack me. Take your shield and come to my help. Take your lance and face those who prosecute me. Tell me that you are my saver! Make run away those who want to kill me. Scare away embarrassed and ashamed those who want to hurt me, let them be like rubbish quarrels blown embarrassed and ashamed blown away by the violent wind as they are dumped by the angel from the lord.”
Hilda and Casilda are setting flowers in Ramon’s grave. They are devastated by the departure of the one who was their support and strength for many years.
“What can I do Casilda? I can’t live without him. Why God has sent me this punishment? What have I done? I don’t deserve this. My son Rafael first, my husband and
Luis sick and helpless. What can I do? I don’t feel a reason for living any longer.”
“Don’t say that Hilda. We have to be strong. The hug seeking support on each other. In the Hospital, Luis awakes in his bed and looks around. He tries to get up but feels very weak and his kegs does not respond. He gets back to bed dispelled. In his mind he remembers his father’s words as an echo far in the distance: ’You have to be strong, I’m very proud of you’. He tries to raise from the bed again. He limps to the window from where he can see the patio of the pavilion.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 106
They have improved his lodge because his clinical status has improved as well. It’s nothing real impressing but at least he doesn’t feel like in prison anymore as there is more freedom and the environment and atmosphere are more agreeable. He keeps fighting his thoughts while looking down.
“I have to get out of here. I have to see my mother. I’ll wait until night time but I must get out of this place.”
He returns to his bed and lays down as he sees the nurse coming. He closes his eyes and the nurse enters the room. She checks his pulse gently. He opens his eyes.
“Hi. How are you feeling?“, He smiles.
“My name is Celia, I’m your nurse. I can see you have a much better expression. Are you hungry?” Luis nods in affirmation. She smiles and looks for a tray. Luis closes his tired eyes. The nurse returns with the food.
“Here, I hope you’ll like it. Fried chicken with rice and beans. How do you like it?” Luis opens his eyes and smiles again. He is real hungry; she helps him up and sets the tray on a table in front of him. She places his pillow behind his neck to get him in a comfortable position.
“Feels better?“. He nods again.
“You can’t complain. You have a personal assistant. He shakes his head in agreement. Celia is blond, in her twenties, long hair and gentle. Luis shows appreciation by her treatment.
“Thank you”, said Luis.
“Don’t thank me. It’s my job” He smiles once more while devouring the food.
“I’ll be back. This meal is good, it needs to be accompanied by a good refreshment”, says Celia walking down the hall.
Luis continues eating while watching over the window. She returns with a glass of lemonade.
“It’s sweet and cold”, she observes.
“Do you like lemonade”, asks her.
“I love it”, he says very pleased. He eagerly drinks the liquid that she offered him.
“You are thirsty. I can see that. It must be the medication”. Celia checks on the dripped medication and touches his head.
“Everything is improving dramatically. There’s no fever, no sweating. Good appetite, what else can you ask for?”
“Get out of this place”, says Luis bluntly. But he has said this intentionally. She stares at him very serious and looks around.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 107
“That’s out of the question” She walks to the room door and returns next to him.
“At least for now”, she smiles and walks out of the room.
Luis got the message. There’s at least hope, to look forward to. He knew since the first minute that she was trustful and someone who he could relay on.
Sunday finally arrived and the most anticipated visitation for all the inmates in the camp in Jaruco II.
Osvaldo kisses his mother and his sister after they pass the security point.
“You are late today. What happened?”, asks Osvaldo a little unrest.
“The bus from Havana broke down. We had a miserable morning”, says Osvaldo’s mom.
“Late night we should say because we left at three o’clock”, said Ritica.
“Come on. I reserved our shack already”, says Osvaldo while taking their bags. They move to the hut where Tony is seated waiting. Ritica and her mom show great pleasure as soon as they see him.
“Tony, how are you?”, they kiss him with compassion.
Ritica is very excited to see him and Tony is very nervous.
“We can see you at least. How have you been?”, asks Ritica.
“Not too good. This whole thing has been a disaster. Please sit down.”
Tony offers them the seats. Osvaldo sets the bags aside on the table while his mom takes her shoes of.
“My feet are killing me. They feel so sore. I dumped my feet in a hole full of mud and if Ritica does not help me I had been stuck up to my knees”, says Osvaldo’s mother.
They laugh. “Is your mother coming today?”, asks Ritica.
“I hope so. I am dying to see them”, says Tony very anxious.
“I feel so sorry about your uncle Tony”, says Osvaldo’s mom.
“Osvaldito told us”, said Ritica in deep sorrow.
“Thank you. It was terrifying and very sad indeed. I can’t imagine how my family felt about It, said Tony.
“I’m sure everyone has been hurt deeply”, says Ritica.
“What do you know about Luisito?”, asks Osvaldo’s mother,
“Nothing. I am very worried about that. I prayed for him a lot”, says Tony saddened.
“We have to keep our faith. Everything can’t be bad”, said Ritica.
Casilda and Hilda walk inside the compound.
“Here they are, my mother and my aunt”, says Tony while jumping from his seat. He runs to the main entrance to greet his family.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 108
They pass the security point and embrace Tony as soon as he comes near them.
“My dear son!”, says Casilda with a lot of emotions.
“You don’t know how bad I wanted to see you both mom”, says Tony.
“Aunt Hilda, how are you?”, he hugs her very touched by her mourning.
“How do you think we are? You tell us Tony. This is the end of the world”
She moans trying to hold her tears in front of Tony.
“Come on. Let’s get to our place.”
“I was missing this a lot Tony”, says Casilda while they walk to the visitation area.
“Any news about Luis aunt Hilda?”, asks Tony while walking.
“He’s much better Tony. They transferred him to a much better pavilion where they take care of him as a patient and not as an inmate”, says Hilda.
“How does he look?”, asks Tony.
“He looks much better. He’s feeding and looks like is almost recovered”, said Hilda.
“These are great news”, says Tony.
“Excellent news, we were both very worried about him and you”, said Hilda compassionately.
“How have they treated you Tony”, asks Casilda.
“I don’t want to talk about that. It makes me sick”, says Tony disgusted.
“So Luis is definitely better?”, Tony asks again trying to change the subject.
“Thank God”, says Hilda. They reach the shacks. Osvaldo, his mother and Ritica come to greet them.
“It’s so good to see you again”, says Osvaldo as they kiss and embrace.
“Tony, I’d like you to know that Ritica and her mom has been wonderful to us. They have been by our side all alone and have supported us in everything”, said Casilda.
“Thank you both of you”, said Tony.
“That means a lot to me”, he added while exchanges gazes with Ritica, who started at him with admiration and compassion.
“I’ll see you in a while, you need to be alone now”, said Osvaldito while pushing his family away to leave the family with their privacy. Tony leaves the bags over one of the tables and they sit.
“I know that it is very painful aunt Hilda, but I’d like to know the details about uncle Ramon accident”, said Tony embarrassed by the memory. Hilda shows her watery eyes.
“I am very sorry aunt. I don’t know if this is the right moment”, excused Tony.
“But I understand that it is the only one we have”, said Hilda very sad.
“We can’t hide it. I never felt this pain before”, said Casilda crying.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 109
Tony caresses both of them in clear support and understanding although he is in a lot of grief too.
There’s a pause and Hilda sighs before telling Tony his version of the painful incident.
“It was an accident. Ramon was as usual very worried about the whole situation. He was on his way to see one of his friends. A truck assailed his motorcycle, he...“Hilda stops as she can not continue. Tony hugs her one more time.
There is a long pause while Hilda recovers. Tony offers her some water and Casilda grabs a napkin from the table.
“Are you sure that it was an accident aunt Hilda”, asks Tony suspicious.
“At least that’s what the report says. The driver ran away, and they haven’t been able to locate him”, said Hilda while wiping her tears.
“The whole thing sounds very strange to me”, says Tony in anger.
“We think like you. But there’s nothing we can do in this case”, says Casilda.
“Some day the truth will surface. I’ll promise you both that I will not rest until I’ll find out who did it and why”, said Tony in anguish tone.
“What happened with the trail?”, asks Tony.
“They postponed because Luis illness. They will let us know when it’s going to be scheduled”, says Casilda.
“We talk to attorney Estrada. He is very upset about Ramon’s death. He has shown so far that he and Ramon were very good friends”, says Hilda.
“Well, at least we have someone on our side”, says Tony resigned.
“Tony let’s go. I’m going to wash your clothes”, says Casilda while pulling his arm.
“Of course. You know me already and I’m sure that you must have a big mess under your bed. After all this tragedy I bet you are so depressed that you don’t care about those things like dressing clean or maybe skipping showers”, says Casilda jokingly to ease the mourning mood.
“Let’s go Hilda so you can heat the sausages he brought. They are delicious”, says Casilda.
“Are you hungry Tony”, asks Casilda.
“Not much auntie.”
“You must eat something. I can see you have lost a lot of weight”, Casilda observes.
“Not a lot mom. Don’t exaggerate. Only a couple of pounds. What do you think auntie?”, asks Tony showing his belly.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 110
“We’ll be back”, says Casilda. I know where your bed is already”
Hilda and Casilda walk in the dorm’s direction.
“I’ll wait for you here”, says Tony while organizing the groceries they brought. Ritica approaches him.
“How are you Tony”, asks Ritica.
“Come on, sit with me”, he offers her a chair and sits next to her. Ritica refuses to sit down.
“Let me help you with the groceries. I’ll take care of them”, Ritica continues taking things out the bags while Tony nears her.
“How have you been”, asks Tony while caressing her hair.
“Very worried about you. It has been one thing after the other.”
“I know. But I’ll pull it out. I am a courageous man and I’ll get through no matter what”, says Tony very firmly.
“That’s what I want to hear from you. Do you have any hopes regarding the trail?”
“Hopes? What kind of hopes?”, asks a hesitating Tony.
“I mean do you think they will give you only a short sentence?”
“I don’t know. I don’t trust this people. The only hope is that this good friend of my uncle is going to defend us. And he is the only person I trust”, says Tony thoughtful.
Ritica breaks in tears. Tony caresses her.
“What is it?”
“I have suffered a lot for you and your family. It’s not easy all you had to go through.”
“You don’t have to do it”, says Tony trying to comfort her.
“Yes, I have to do it. I am very worried for your family, Lusito, your mother, your aunt.” “How about me? Are you worried about me?”, jokes Tony.
I thought you forgot about me after I didn’t see you all this time”, says Tony trying to get her reaction.
“How can you say that Tony”, she says very hurt.
“I mean that once you left every Sunday, I would be out of your mind.”
“I haven’t stop thinking of you Tony”, she says very passionate.
“I like that. That means that I am in your mind and your heart, right?”
She smiles. He caresses her face.
“That is the kind of answer which definitely will make me a very happy man.”
“Of course Tony, I felt something very special since the first time I met you.”
“How about me? What do you think?” Tony stares at her passionately as she looks away embarrassed by the confession. Tony takes advantages and surprises
her with a kiss.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 111
“I haven’t stopped thinking of you Ritica. I felt many different emotions. I know that one day I will get out of here and then everything will be different”
“I pray to God every night”, she cries out in great emotion. He wipes her tears.
“I hate to see you sad. Promise me”, he kisses her again.
“Tony. Everyone is watching.”
“I don’t see any one.”
“There’s always someone watching. Walls have eyes and ears”, she jokes.
“But there are no walls around darling.”
“Look at my brother. He’s probably watching.”
“Your brother is a great guy. He’s not only my best friend but also someone who knows about our mutual admiration. He never stops talking about you as he always
mention your name with great love and compassion. I am sure he knows” “I love my brother. And I suffer a lot for him too.”
“I know. But have faith it will be over pretty soon.”
“I can’t wait to see that happen”, she moans.
“Come with me. I’d like you to see my mother.”
They stand up and start walking bordering the east side fence of the compound.
“Do you like kids?”, asks Tony intentionally.
“Of course. Like any other woman. Or most of them I should say.”
“I love they said Tony. “Really?”, she asks surprisingly.
“Of course” He stops and they exchange deep passionate glazes.
“I would do anything for you Ritica. You are an unbelievable girl! I can’t wait to advance in our relationship, so we can spend time together and know each other
more and more every day. We have a lot of things in common.”
“I think so too Tony.” She pauses and gives him a bleary glance before resuming her thoughts.
“Promise me Tony”
“Promise me that you are going to love for ever. That you’ll never stop thinking of me.”
“Of course, dear. My love for you is genuine. Sometimes I feel that we have been lovers all our lives.”
“How beautiful this would be”, she smiles touched by his words.
“I have no doubts about it. Can you imagine it? A king and a queen from medieval times?”
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 112
He starts walking, jumping and dancing around her acting like a king with reverence manners and royal gestures. She smiles while enjoying his performance.
“Or maybe like two lovers from the caverns when he used to carry her on his shoulders while getting on a haunting journey” He tries to lift her but she refuses. As he keeps trying she starts running away from him and Tony runs after
her until he reaches her, and the two youngsters fall on the ground. She tries to calm him down to avoid curious stares from nearby.
“Please Tony, people are watching!”, she demands softly.
“I don’t care. We’re doing nothing wrong”
He helps her getting up and kisses her passionately.
“Tony! Tony! They are watching now. This time is for real.”
Tony grabs her hand and rushes her to the site where his mother is washing clothes.
“Mom, are you going to spend the whole visit doing the same thing over?”, Tony
asks her a little upset. -
“You always come up with the same type of joke”, says an upset Tony. “Look who I got here”, says Casilda.
“Do you remember that program? What have I got?”, she adds.
“Is this a contemporary or middle age object?”, jokes Tony.
“I think this is contemporary and very young”, laughs Casilda.
Fred in his bunk keeps writing on his journal.
“Thinking about death gives life an explained meaning, regardless of you being innocent or not. Those condemned to die always cherish the hope that just before being executed some” things will come up allowing them to stay alive, wishing they could stop time. Those condemned to die by the fire squad are not the same as those terminal ill waiting for their lives to end. That same illness and the progressive building up of those vivid painful events prepare them for the final path”
In the yard Saul and Gilbert keep talking.
“This long agonizing respite becomes further distressing with time”, Saul confessed.
“Same happened to me. The worst part lays on the fact that we don’t know how much we are getting”, answers Gilbert.
“I wonder why your case has taken so long Gilbert”, asks a worried Saul.
“I told you before that they are waiting for my confession, but that is not going to happen”, Gilbert grunts.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 113
“Oh, this is about the dead body you told me about”, Saul vividly inquires, waiting for an answer.
“Exactly!“. acclaims Gilbert” No one knows where that body was buried. lt was declared missing, however they think that I killed him and hided the body”, Gilbert said somberly as a long pause followed.
“And was this the case?”, asks Saul. Gilbert gives Saul a dubious glance.
“No. One day I will tell you the truth about that”, replies a disgusted Gilbert.
“Unfortunately, if you don’t confess you will end up in this hell hole forever”, observes Saul.
“Maybe, but I still have hopes that one day they will relinquish on this crackpot idea”, Gilbert asserts.
“Was this person so important to them”, asks Saul.
“I rather don’t talk about it now Saul. It brings me bad memories”, answers Gilbert in a somber mood.
Saul gives him a compassion glare. Gilbert takes a deep breath and continues.
“Of course, it was important. He was an army captain. It happened during a sabotage operation that was conducted in a sugar cane station in Camaguey province. The captain’s death was not planned”, admits Gilbert.
“Was it an accident?”, asks Saul.
Gilbert had a hard time recalling these events. He closes his eyes and shook his head.
“Don’t keep asking me please. It’s very hard for me to keep pounding in the same events” Gilbert says disgusted.
“As you wish”, replies Saul.
“Look there! Hundreds of pigeons are landing on the patio looking for food”, observes a troubled Gilbert to take his mind off the subject.
“Of course. Don’t you see George feeding them”, Saul smiles.
“No wonder, I kept asking myself why”, says Gilbert.
They continued walking alone the yard as Gilbert seemed to be troubled by his thoughts.
Saul kneels trying to touch one of the pigeons, but she flies away.
“I wish I could be one of them. Free as a bird”, Saul observes sadly.
“They move at their own will and decide their own path to follow”, affirmes Gilbert.
Fred joins the group.
“Hello Fred, I haven’t seen you the whole day”, observes Gilbert.
“I have been busy writing. You know how much this means to me”, Fred answers.
“Are you talking about your journal”, asks Saul.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 114
“Exactly. There are a lot of interesting stories to be told. Each day something new comes up “I hope one day you can publish it”, says Saul.
“At least I will keep it as firsthand witness to everything I am going through. Doesn’t it seem to you like we were plugged in on a neverending lethargy?”, asks Fred.
“It happened to all of us”, says Gilbert.
“Very often feels like a nightmare, unreal wish I could close my eyes and never wake up again”, says a somberly Saul.
“We cannot lose our faith, gentlemen. The lord is great!”, says Father Bonnet while joining the group.
“God is with us”, predicts Fred.
“I love those words Fred. That is exactly right. lt is more of a prediction. A proverb, a symbol of faith. God is great, and he will reach us with his hand in a way that will make us leave all behind as a forgotten dark passage”, said the priest. His words sounded prophetic.
One day after the other, time continued passing by resembling a static storm, producing deva stating effects, sweeping alone the tiresome load of lonely days and winding nights.
Luis is brought back to the prison camp after been totally recovered.as he is welcomed by Tony. They embrace in great emotion.
“You never looked better than today”, expresses an emotional Tony.
“I see you have gained some weight”, he laughs.
“You are right. I gained ten pounds, I have been just eating without doing anything else”, he admits.
“Didn’t you have time to work out”, asks Tony curiously.
“Of course, although the food was so good. Maybe the medication opened my appetite”, Luis affirms.
Noel and Osvaldo approach the two cousins.
“Hello pal! You little piggy!”, jokes Noel.
“Hey, watch out, just a little overweight”, grunts Luis.
“Don’t lie to yourself partner! Admit it!”, Osvaldo replies.
“That sounds good to me. That way I can do better than him in football”, laughs Noel.
“Come with me. I prepared your bunk. I got you new sheets, a set of blankets, brand new towels everything”, says Tony.
“This is what I call a great welcome”, Luis acclaims.
They take Luis inside the dorm. Their real purpose is to pull him away from any depressing memories, specially the death of his father that affected him so much. After chatting for a while, Osvaldo and Noel return to their normal activities leaving behind Tony and Luis alone.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 115
“Any news about the trial?”, asks Luis intentionally.
’it has been scheduled for the 20th of next month”, answers Tony.
“What are you planning to do Tony?”, asks a worried Luis.
“I have a plan”, Tony lowers his voice.
“What is it”, Luis asks vividly.
“I am preparing a spilt Luis Luis”, his eyes glare up.
“Count me in!”, shouts an emotional Luis. Tony covers Luis’ mouth trying to calm him down.
“Are you sure Luis?”
“Of course, what do you mean by that”, Luis protests.
“I mean, are you feeling physically fit for this? Most important, are you emotionally ready after all you have gone through?”, Tony fixes his eyes on his cousin.
“The worst part is over Tony. I feel totally recovered”, Luis explains.
“I’m glad to hear that Luis.”
“I had a lot of time to think in the hospital. I am determined to not allow these people to crush me”, Luis expressed with bravery. Tony gives his cousin a compassion look. “I have to defend myself life an upside cat”, Luis asserts.
“That’s my boy!”, acclaims Tony. He gives Luis a huge and warm hug. “How are you planning to do it?”, asks Luis vividly.
“I have been watching over the guards’ movements during each shift, the time they’re taking to do the switch, how many guards participate in the rotation, everything. Now I am convinced about the best spot to escape through and the perfect timing to do it”, Tony affirms.
“Perfect!”, says an elated Luis.
“When are we going forward”, Luis continues.
“We’ll wait a couple of days. You and Osvaldo are coming with me. I was just waiting for you because I did not want to feel guilty after leaving you behind”, says Tony.
“I would have killed you Tony!”, jokes Luis.
“I can see that you are now back in business”, adds Tony as he observed Luis actitude.
“I love that!”, Tony observes. “Osvaldo’s family is going to bring us some clothes on Sunday If they can make it through and we can get our hands on these clothes we’ll wear them as soon as we get out. With this bloody uniform we can’t even reach Aguacate, the nearest town”
“So, it’s happening this coming Monday, right?”, asks Luis.
“No way. I am not taking any chances. We’ll do it the same Sunday night.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 116
We have to take advantages of the dark and the surprise factor is important too, they probably won’t expect something like this to happen on a Sunday night. I have been preparing myself for this. I have some flashlights and other stuff, Osvaldo’s family will bring more stuff alone, so we can be ready”, says an elated Tony.
“You have covered pretty much everything”, says an excited Luis.
“I am very proud of you too Luis. Your health was the issue that worried me the most, although my aunt told me that you were totally recovered”, expresses Tony.
They continued their animated conversation about the plan. Osvaldo joins the duo as they discuss the different options and arrangements for Sunday night.
Saturday night arrived and Beatriz and Ritica attended mass in the church to pray for the next day events success.
The mass is about to begin, and the two women sit in the front row to listen to the priest’s lecture.
“I will save them out of the reach from all, because i love them and know them well. When they’ll call me, I will answer. ’I myself will be with you, I will free you from anguish and overwhelm you with honors”
Confined to a corner in his cell, seemingly coordinated with the preacher’s words and prays, Father Bonnet is also praying in the company of other inmates.
“If the evil and bandits grow like polluted grass and they thrive with apparent success, they will be crushed and destroyed forever”, Father Bonnet carries on his prophetic lecture with stirring delivery.
On his bunk, Tony is meditating with wide open eyes like he has been listening to both priests and his prays He repeats in his mind reassurance words of self comfort and determination.
“0ne thing is certain my God, your enemies will be destroyed, all villains will be squandered”
Luis is also seated on his bunk thinking about the escape. He dreams about freedom, his weeping eyes fixed on the ceiling of this filthy cell trying once more to hold on his settlement.
The next day, Osvaldo is seated closed to the sentry box, observing the guards’ movements exactly like they discussed the previous night. The shift is about to take place, and Osvaldo measures the time elapsed between each shift exchange.
The boy realized it took about fifteen minutes for the whole operation to occur and he takes notes of it.
Osvaldo heads back to the dorm and approaches Tony, who joins Luis for the discussion.
“Listen closely. It’ll take fifteen minutes for the guards’ shift to take place. The guard who has been released leave his post before the other guard arrives. So, we have about fifteen minutes to cross the path between the warehouse and the wired fence and jump to the other side”, says a somberly Osvaldo.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 117
“We might have even more time. I have seen the guard getting lazy talking to the ongoing partner a few minutes before assuming his post”, affirms Tony.
“This will definitely help us”, says Luis.
“You are right Tony”, says an elated Osvaldo.
“I have been studying the whole scenery for weeks Osvaldo”, says Tony.
“Good deal, so let’s go to bed because tomorrow will be a long and exciting day”, says Osvaldo while patting Tony and Luis on their shoulders. The group splits and the lights go off. The voice of the CO is heard loudly.
“Shut up. Quiet time!” He closes the front gate while another guard closes the rear access. A third guard crosses the outskirts of the dorm moving his flashlight to check every window
as he passes around.
In their house, Ritica and Beatriz prepare their provisions for the visiting next day. The two women carefully hide the black t shirts in the secret compartment of one of the suitcases.
Ritica wraps a thread around another plastic bag to secure the clothes while Beatriz concealed a pair of scissors and a pair of pliers in her make up purse.
Each woman slips through a flash light inside their shoe heels conveniently bored for that purpose.
When Sunday arrives a long line of relatives gathered around the prison camp’s gate entrance for visiting day.
One after the other the family members walk through the main gate to a room where they are thoroughly searched.
Ritica and Beatriz barely manage to control their disquiet.
Inside the compound Tony and Luis are having a hard time controlling their patience. Osvaldo paces in evident nervous wreck.
“Have they got through already?”, Osvaldo asks very concerned.
“Good question! “, acclaims Tony.
“They must be scared to death, specially my mother. She’s very fragile and fearful”, a worried Osvaldo replies.
“Nothing is going to happen. You’ll see”, Luis asserts.
Inside the search room Beatriz and Ritica are next in line. The CO welcomes them with an ample smile.
“Good morning! You ladies look very elegant today”, he flirtes.
“Thank you. Officer, you also look very sharp and impeccable in your clean uniform”, Ritica replies with obvious naughtiness.
“Thank you, I try my best”, the officer answers trying to be humble.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 118
“Your uniform is fully pressed, and your boots are shinning like a rainbow, Ritica laughed.
“I am always very cautious with my appearance. Like that all saying. Keeping up appearances is a virtue”
The officer continues searching the bags.
“Any blunt instruments?”, he finally asks.
“What did you mean officer?”, asks a hesitant Beatriz.
“I mean a razor, a knife, or any other cuttingedge instrument?”, he insists.
“No”, Beatriz answered.
“Oh, wait a minute. The knife for the cake mom, where is it?”, asks Ritica intentionally.
“You mean...Oh, I see what you mean, it’s inside the cake box”, Beatriz confirms.The officer pulls the knife out of the box.
“This can’t get through. I am sorry!”, he explains. He sets the knife aside with the rest of the confiscated items.
“You can get it back on your way out”, the officer asserts.
“Thank you, officer, you are very kind”, observes Ritica.
“What is your name madam?”, the smiling officer asks.
“Ritica”, she answers.
“Beautiful name”, he replies. She smiles to the compliment.
“Thank you. You are very gentle officer”, she tries to show him appreciation for his gallantry. No doubts Ritica had reached her goal, coaxing the officer to distract him from further searching. Her flirting had paid off.
“Go ahead and proceed. have a nice day”, the officer salutes to the women.
The two women stepped inside the compound. Beatriz sighed after a very tense moment. Once inside, the boys waved to them to let their presence known.
They had previously chosen a very private shack in the visiting yard. Ritica runs to embrace her brother. Then she kisses Tony and Luis. “Luis, I’m so happy to see you! You have changed so much!”, admires Ritica.
“A little over weight according to these guys!”, Luis laughs.
“You are! Just a little! But believe me when i tell you that fits you very well”, says Beatriz.
“Don’t say that Beatriz. I started to work our already”, shouts a grumbling Luis.
Osvaldo whispers in his mom’s ears.
“You’re shacking all over mom. I know how scary you’ll get. Am I wrong?”, he bursts into a guffaw.
“Shut up boy! I almost died when that man saw the cake knife. I thought he would keep searching the whole bundle”, she expressed with wide open eyes.
“Did you ask him to search you?”, Osvaldo asks.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 119
“Are you out of your mind? That’s what I thought he would do at the time, but luckily your sister who is a very smart girl started to flirt with him, flattering him making the man forget
about the search”, she explains.
“What? Is that right Ritica?”. a jealous Tony asks.
“Nunsense. lt was only a trick to pull ourselves out of the tight spot”, Ritica asserted. They sit down, and the women start pulling the things out of the bags. By the entrance Hilda a and Casilda step into the front yard.
“Don’t say anything. Keep the clothes away from my mother and my aunt because they will have a heart attack if they find out what you carried over”, warns Tony. They keep the clothes and Luis runs to embrace his mother.
After exchanging warm welcomes and salutes they gathered by the shack and the visit continued. After lunch Ritica and Tony walk together alone the back patio.
“How are those nerves?”, asks an emotional Ritica.
“Everything will be alright”, Tony replies calm.
“Be careful Tony. How do you think Luis is doing?”, she asks vividly.
“He’s better than ever before. Totally recovered to tell you the truth”, Tony affirms.
“I am so glad to hear that. You have going through a lot. Both of you”, a somber Ritica replies.
They stare at each other in great emotion.
“What is your plan”, she brakes the ice after a long pause.
“I will take refuge in a farm outside Guanabo city. A country house. It’s a safe and solitary place. After I’ll do that I will figure out what to do next. I have learned to follow my steps one at a time. Your mom has the address already, but remember, you can’t let anyone follow you after tonight if everything turns well”, Tony gave her a profound glance.
“I understand”, Ritica responds after listening to him closely.
“No phone calls. No visiting to anyone. I am sure that once they’ll find out that we escaped they will search every single corner of this country to find us and you will be their first target. Does that make sense?”, he asks.
Ritica shakes her head in approval.
“Tony. I’m scared”, she cries.
“We must think positive”, he caresses her hair.
“You’ll see. Everything is going to be fine”, Tony asserts.
He gently wipes her tears as she gets extremely emotional.
A couple of hours passed, and visiting is over. Relatives start to leave the compound. After the last family member retires the inmates are ordered to clear the visiting area and bead to the dorms.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 120
“I am not hungry. I really don’t know if this has anything to do with my nerves or all the stuff I ate during the visit, but I’m so full like I am ready to explode right now”, says a joking Luis.
“You better settle down all that blowout because we are going to be on the run for a long time”, Tony warns Luis.
“Don’t make me more nervous than I am right now, Tony”, cries Luis.
Tony checks the flashlights and the plier. Luis puts away the knife and the black t shirt.
“You have to wear this t shirt underneath your regular shirt. Once we’ll reach the open bushes we’ll get ready of the tops”, observes Tony.
Osvaldo approaches them.
“The 7 o’clock shift is on. The other one will get there at 11:00 PM”, 0svaldo advises.
“Are you carrying your stuff with you 0vi?”, asks Tony.
“Yes. I am wearing the black t shirt. Take the other flashlight”, Osvaldo handles the flashlight to Tony.
“No. Give it to Luis. I will carry the water”, Tony advises.
The night advances in quick fashion. It is now ten thirty and the three boys slide through the back door before the guards lock them. The count has been done already and it won’t be repeated until the next morning although they have set their beds in a way that it will seem that they will still be asleep. Outside there is a tense calm. The trio shift alone the side of the dorm and they reach the big warehouse. A guard steps outside the main commander offices and moves toward the dorm and between the two buildings next to them. The group takes refuge behind the warehouse avoiding been
seen. After a long’ pause they head to the escape point. A three guards’ squad marches in a routine formation toward the shift point where the transition between guards is conducted. Tony signals to the other to follow him Just like they have observed during previous days the guard on that post leaves his position between he is relieved and be lights a cigarette, relaxing before he is being replaced by the oncoming fellow soldier. Tony and the rest of the group take advantages of this slip and storm to the wired fence behind the big warehouse where they can’t be seen by the guards that have grouped together.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 121
The boys commence to cut the wires in the fence with their pliers until they create a large opening. One by one, slip through the gap. Osvaldo tries to get through, but his shirt jammed on the wires. He struggles to get away from the fence with no success. Tony who bad advanced a few meters returns to help Osvaldo as be noticed an open wound inflicted on his right heel by one of the wires in the fence.
“Bloody fence!”, shouts Tony while helping release from the trap.
“Let’s go, fast! “, Tony helps Osvaldo to walk toward the bushes as he lumps from the right leg. They disappear through the bushes and run for a while until they find a clearing in the woods nearby. They get rid of their white shirts and conveniently advance in the dark wearing now their black shirts Tony and Luis light on their flashlights to help them see in the darkness of the dense bushes. Far away over the paved road, the lights of a passing truck iluminates the area, making them throw on the grass to avoid been seen.
The truck fades away in the paved road and they rise resuming their motion as Osvaldo stops to exam his woumd, now bleeding profusely.
The young boy fraws a grimace.
“What’s the matter?”, Luis asks him.
“It hurts”, Osvaldo complains.
“It’s bleeding pretty bad”, Luis observes.
“That is what worries me the most”, Tony observes very concerned.
Tont tears off a piece of the white shirt they removed and applies a tourniquette to Osvaldo’s heel to help stop the bleeding.
“This is going to help you”. asserts Tony.
“Thank you. I am not used to this situation”, admits Osvaldo.
“My feeling is that you were overprotected by your family”, jokes Tony.
“Not exactly. On the contrary my father always tought me to be tough and try to be a survivor, a warrior as he used to say”, Osvalod hesitates by his father’s memory.
“What happened to your father if I may ask”, Tony asks him.
“He passed away a few years back. I was eleven”
“How did be die?”, asks Tony very interested.
“He had hepatic cirrhosis”, answers a sadened Osvaldo.
“Did he use to drink a lot?“, Tony innocently asks.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 122
“No. He catcbed hepatitis and it got complicated”, says Osvaldo while tears poured down his face.
“I am sorry. I don’t want to talk about it”, he refers in great emotion.
“I’m sorry. My bad. It was not my intention”, Tony apolagizes.
“It’s alright. Ritica had a very hard time recovering from it”, Osvaldo composes himself. Another light is seen in the distance.
“Another train. This mustbe the one!”, claimsTony.
Luis returns to their side. The familiar sound is heard again. The train starts slowing down, as it approaches the station.
“It’ s a cargo! Hallelujah!”, acclaims Luis.
The train comes to a firm stop. The group now observes the large amount of vagons that the train is pulling.
The three boys start running and reach one of the close wagons just on time while the train resumes motion and speeds up progressively. They help each other to jump inside the wagon until they finally lodge themselves in. Tony grabs a pile of grass sings and use them as cushing, so they can lay down on it.
“We got ourselves a comfortable bed, boys”, they burst a laughter.
“I feel sorry for the caws next door. We are taking their food away”, jokes Luis.
“I am going to take a nap right now”, Osvaldo says while finding shelter on the grass.
“That’s a great idea”, says Luis while following suite.
Tony sits next to the open sliding iron door of the wagon enjoying the view of the country side as shown by the train in its movement.
“What a beautiful site. It’s a shame we cannot enjoy it as we wish”, Tony observes.
The train reaches an amazing high speed, crossing one station after another as it heads to Havana, the capital. One hour has passed as they approach their final destination.
In the prison camp, lights go on. One of the correction officers opens the main gate and wakes up the inmates by his routine shouting.
“Count time! Wake up!”, he screams with a mean voice.
The inmates start waking up. Another CO enters the dorm from the aft side and the pfficers start counting both sides of the aisle. One of the guards reaches Tony’s and Luis bunk.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 123
“Hey.Are you dead or deaf?”, the officer gruntes.
“I said wake up idiot!”, he kicks the covers from the bed with the intention of bitting Tony but the sheets and blankets disperse, scattering on the floor to the guard’s astonishment.
“What in the world is happening here?”, the shocking revelation has stunted the guard. The other officer joins him in front of the inmates in disbelief.
“Everyone back to their bunkIRight now!” The inmates still amazed by what’s happening.
“Didn’t you hear the man damned?”, shouts the other officer.
“I said back to the bunker!”, he reaches for his gun while the other guard grabs a whistle and blows it. Another officer shows up on the front door.
“What’s going on?”, he asks confused.
“Lozano! Call the Sergeantl We are missing three inmates!”, warns the first officer.
The observation of the officer is made after the other guard realizes Osvaldo’s bed is empty as well.
The guard named Lozano rushes to run the voice and alert to the rest of the Co’s while Noel in his bunk cannot believe what’s going on.
“They split and did not take me, this is insane!”, he groans.
In the central commander’s offices there is a tremendous outrage. Dozens of soldiers grab their rifles and surround the dorms with great caution
while still in confusion and infuriation. The captain and his main assistant
start searching every corner of the compound followed by anothr group of officers that have spread all over the place initiating a real hunt for the missing boys.
The guard in the post next to the point where the three young men scaped shouts as he has found the opening where the group slipped through. The captain and a group of soldiers, head on the direction of the post, and discover the cut wires on the fence.
“This is the place where they escaped”, observes the guard while pointing it to the Captain.
“Call the center commander!”, he orders very upset. Another soldier runs into the Captain.
“They cut off the phone lines captain”, the soldier shouts.
“They had it all figured out!”, the captain comments. Another guard brings alone a piece of wire and showed to Captain Elias (that’s the captain’s
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 124
“Quick! Take the jeep and go directly to the central commander unit. We have to make Havana aware of the escapees. Be sure you have all their informa tion including home addresses in Havana, relatives, everything damned!”, Captain Elias screams furiously.
“At your order captain!”, the officer salutes the Captain and runs to obey bis orders.
“All of you. I want a completee search of the dorms. This is a real coup!
I want every single site to be searched and turned around upside down.
I don’t care bow far do we have to go but I want witnesses, we have to find out who might have helped these bastards to get away. No matter how much do we have to push these crooks to snatch them for a confession. Move! Now!”, he pushes a couple of soldiers around him and storms to his quarters while he keeps talking to those who follow him.
“No inmate will get out of the dorms today! We have to give an example no one gets crazy ideas on bis mind that they can follow these pigs’steps. I
don’t want more crackpot ideas from these animals”
There is a very tense moment and the inmates are getting out of control. The guards take advantage of the caos and push all the inmates out of the dorm. All their belongings are thrown on the floor, teared appart and every single locker is searched and messed up. Everything including tooth paste tubes, matresses destroyed and everything the guards find on their way.
“My God! What is this?”, Noel acclaims while he sees the total wreck as part of the frustration on the guards. The search continues, and everyone is ordered to get naked and get back inside the dorm facing the walls. The Captain looking like a caged lion checked the telephone cables that have been destroyed trying to find a solution. A truck loaded with soldiers carrying assault weapons arrives to the scene. The Sergeant in charge of this group nears the captain and salutes him with a military bow.
“Let’s begin the search at a radio including the perimeter of the compound and all the way to the main highway”, the Captain orders.
The Captain takes a good look at the platoon that just arrived.
“Are more people coming?”, he asks resently.
“Yes, and the dogs are coming too”
“You mean the K9 unit?”
“Perfect. If they are still here they won’t escape. I can gurantee yoy that,“he proudly acclaims.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 125
Another truck loaded with soldiers also carrying assault weapons arrives and as they jump from the vehicle, the squad starts forming in a search alignment ready to commence the search.
Not far from there, the cargo train disminishes its speed in a rural area called “El Rincon”Tony and the rest of the group take advantages of the slowing down of the train and jump out, running fast to get refuge behind some nearing bushes.
“Follow me. We are in El Rincon. I’m very familiar with the area. Here it won’t be easy to find transportation. They motion toward the main highway and after a few minutes pa ssed a horse carriage used as public transportatopn between the district and the San Lazaro sanctuary (very famous among Cuban people) advances on their direction. Tony signals to the rider and he stops the carriage. As the group mounts on the carria ge they nottice just one passenger because it’s too early in the morning. The carriage resumes motion toward the town of Santiago de Las Vegas, the nearest destination.
When they arrive in the town the boys get off the carriage and thank the conductor.
Tony spots a small cafeteria nearby and signals to the group to follow him.
“I am hungry, do you guys have money? “, asks Tony.
“Yes, my mom left me some money”, asserts Osvaldo.
“Great!”, observed Tony.They approach the counter in the cafeteria.
“They have sugar cane juice, order three please”, asks Tony.
“Order two only,“protests Luis.
. “You don’t want anything? Are you alright Luis?”, asks a worried Tony.
“I am amazing. I don’t know if it is the emotion or the nervous wreck I am going through, the truth is I have lost my apetite”, smiles Luis.
Osvaldo ordered sugar caine juices and some cookies and he and Tony start devouring them showing great startvation. Osvaldo pays the shop assistant and they run toward the bus barn where a bus is ready to departure. Osvaldo and Luis are ready to board the bus, but Tony stops them.
“No. Not in this one. See how many soldiers are boarding that bus. We can’t take that chance. Follow me.”
Tony guides them away from the terminal as they head to a nearby gas station. Two classic old fashion american cars functioning as taxis are parked waiting for passen gers.
“Taxi?”, asks Tony.
“Where are you going?”, asks one of the taxi drivers. “To Havana”, Tony answered.
“How many?”, the driver asks.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 126
“Three”, Luis replies.
“You’ll have to wait. I need to complete five seats”, the driver explains.
“We’ll pay for the other two empty seats”, saysTony.
“Are you sure? It won’t be long before some one else show up”, says the taxi driver.
“We are in a hurry chauffer”, acclares Tony.
“It’s going to be twenty dollars more”
“I don t care. That way we will be more confortable too”, Tony smiles. “Good.Get in!”, the driver tells them. They mount the car and the driver starts the engine.
In their house Ritica and Beatriz are getting out the front door in a hurry, carrying two suitcases with them.
“Hurry up! We can’t waste any more time. It’s early morning and I am sure they found out the boys are missing”, laments Beatriz.
“I wonder how did it go for them”, says a worried Ritica.
“Oh my God, help them! Please, listen to my prays!”, Beatriz moans.
They arrive in a corner around the block where a truck is waiting for them. Frank, the friend of Tony who helped him the night they carried the raft welcomes them.
“Come on, get in”, he hurries. Frank helps them jump inside the truck.
“Let’s go. We have to pick up Hilda and CasiIda”, says Beatriz.
The truck rushes to departure at a high speed and after storming through the streets of Central Havana it stops in front of a park where Hilda and Casilda are waiting. Frank gets out of the truck and helps the women to get in the back chamber of the truck. All the women embrace showing a lot of tension.
“Any news?”, asks a restless Casilda.
“Nothing. We are heading to the farm. I hope they’re there already”, explaines Beatriz.
The truck departs while in the main cabin Roger, Frank’s friend and confidant tries to calm down the women as he also points to Frank due to the high speed.
“Slow down. If the police stop us we are dead”, Roger gruntes. Frank slows down as he smiles out of nervousness.
“Give me a cigarette”, Frank asks Roger.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 127
Roger pulls a cigarrette out of his box and lights it on. Frank pushes a big drag on the cigarrette and smoke floods into the cabin.
“Hey, watch out! Take it easy or we’ll be set on fire before we’ll know it!”, Roger protests.
“I am sorry. I can’t help it!I am in a nervous wreck!, Frank says.
“Yeah, I can see but better to be safe than sorry”, Roger observes.
They continued their path toward the farm. It started to rain, and Frank must slow down the speed to avoid the slippery road.
The taxi carrying Tony and the rest of the group stops by the shoulder of the highway next to the small district of Campo Florido, in the region of Guanabo town.
“Leave us here, please”, says Tony. The group of boys get out of the vehicle and Tony pays the driver.
“Do you remember the address?”, asks Osvaldo.
“Of course. This was the place where we built the raft”, Luis points out.
“How about the people? Can we trust them?”, asks a very concerned Osvaldo. “Totaly trusted! You don’t have to worry about that Osvaldo.
They enter a narrow unpaved highway heading south. They pass by a small shack where a farmer stands by the front door and salutes them as they cross over.
Finally, they stop in front of a huge wooden gate leading to a farm with a considerable sized terrain and a main house in the center of it. Many fruit trees surround the main residence in a way that it cannot be seen from the distance, a strategic distribution that perfectly suites this type of operation.
The place also serves as lodge for dozens of henks, chickens, horses and cows as they pasture in the open land enclosed by a long tall wooden fence defining the property. The three young boys enter the main where they are welcomed by Frank’s mom, in her seventies. Maria (Frank’s mother), embraces the boys with great emotion.
“Welcome Tony. I’m so glad to see you! Luisito! I thought that I would never see you a gain”, she cries.
“Here Maria. Let me introduce you to Osvaldo, a great friend of us”, Tony tells Maria.
“Glad to meet you Osvaldo.Come on inside. I had all arranged for your arrival”, says Maria.She takes them inside and shows them the rooms she had prepared for them.
“You always been so efficient Maria, never miss one!”, acclaims Tony.
“Where is Frank?”, asks Luis.
“He went to pick up Hilda and Casilda. They should be here soon”, Maria says.
“I hope they won’t have any trouble”, said Tony worries.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 128
“They will be Ok. Come with me please. I am going to show the rest of the property.
“This young boy does not know it”, Maria graciously acknowledges.
“You are very kind Maria.Thank you”, says a humble Osvaldo.
They move outdoors, and she shows them the large lot full of trees.
“This is a huge land! Marvellous place! We can build a secret town down here”, says an inpressed Osvaldo.
“Of courselWait and see the big lake they have here,“says Luis.
“It’s not a lake. It’s a river Luis”, asserts Maria.
“Oh, I’m sorry Maria. My geography is pretty bad”, says Luis while all laughed at his innocence.
The noise of the truck arriving is heard as Frank drives inside the property and mo ves the truck to the back, so no one can see it from the front. The boys run to meet the newcomers and they embrace in emotive fashion. Tony squeezes Frank as he hugs him touched by his friend.
“Frank. I don’t know how to thank you. I am so proud of you!”, says a crying Tony.
“I’m very proud of you too Tony.You never gave me up. I will never forget that. Same to you Luis”, he observes.
“This is our friend Osvaldo”, says Tony.
“My pleasure Frank. I heard a lot about you”, Osvaldo shakes his hand.
“Nothing bad I hope’”, Frank jokes.
“Mom!”, acclaimed Luis.Luis embraces his mother once and again. Osvaldo also gives his mother a caress pat. They all end up in a very emotional moment. There’s a long pause and another tense moment.Frank breaks the ice.
“Well, I’m sure mom has a very nice surprise for all of you. Right mom?”, Frank makes a mocking gesture to his mother.
They step into a well, camouflaged foliage field, masking a subterrain cave hidden in the middle of the bushes.
“This is a great susrprise for me Frank”, acclaims an elated Tony
“This is the most secure place of the farm”, asserts Frank.
“This is better than a bunker”, observes Luis delighted.
They step down the cave and Frank leads them toward an indoor dining room with tables bonfire and everything found in a cozy house.
“This is incredible!”, says Osvaldo.
“But the game is not over!”, Frank observes as he enjoys the ride.
Frank uncovers a piece of land where something is hidden underneath a large canvas.
A two out of board twin engine speed boat emerges as the canvas is flipped.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 129
“This is the great surprise!’,’Frank entertaines.
Everyone has been left speech less. Tony has dropped his jaws as he enjoys the view in front of his incredulous eyes.
“Where in the world did you find this?”, asks Tony still in shock.
“Shhhh, don’t tell anyone. Elias and I stold itfrom a water front house in Guanabo beach. We brought it through the river. Easy streight path, right?”, laughs Frank.
“Are you kidding me? How convenient!”, expresses Luis.
“It was the property of a foreigner resident, but now is the property of a national”, says a proud Frank. Everyone burst in a guffaw.
“What a great piece of sailing”, admires Tony while sliding the canvas completely and showing the ample deck of the speed boat.
“It can lodge between twelve and fifteen passengers. This is the biggest that I have seen in Cuba so far. And the speed might get well into the eighties or nineties”, Frank exaggerates.
“Is that right? So, we can be in Miami in a couple of hours”, expresses Luis delighted.
“Maybe less, depends on the pilot”, observes Tony.
“This is great! Don’t mention anything to our women because they will panic right away”, observe Osvaldo after the women stayed back enjoying the outside view and the great
distribution of the farm.
“This is like a dream to me Frank, are you sure we are not dreaming? Is this for real?”, says Tony shaking his head.
“You bet it is. You have no idea how much I struggled to pull it through”
“I can’t understand why it could be so complicated’, says Tony.
“Come on Tony. We did it through the river but as soon as the police found out the boat was missing they have been haunting every were. You know this kind of stuff is like a gold mine for any body”, Frank observes.
“That makes sense”, Tony recognizes.
“it makes a lot of sense. A twinengine sucker that flies instead of diving. Very convienence don’t you think?”, mocks Luis.
“Extremely convienence”, says Frank proudly.
“This is unbelieveable”, acclaims Osvaldo.
“Like a dream come through”, says Tony.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 130
“Let’s go. We have to discuss all the details on this plan”, smiles Frank.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 131
Luis reflectes on the subject for a few minutes unsuccesfully trying to avoid the tears pouring from his watery eyes while recalling memories from his family. Tony embraces him and as they stare at each other in great emotion Luis prepare his dry lips to to force a’smile before being able to articulate a single word. He loves his cousin and they both know how difficult is to make a decision in such a dramatic moment. “Now is different. I know that, but on the other hand I don’t want to rot in prison. I refuse to be shield for these murderers!,“he dramatically
“If we get caught again they will double our sentence,“Luis resumes.
“That is true,“adverts Tony. “What do you think Tony?’,’Luis asks vividly.
Tony sighs as he fixed bis eyes in the distance, trying to get lost in ti me, like not wanting to be in this difficult position of deciding what to do.
“Certainly your father, my uncle’s presence was important. I knew that with him they would never be alone. But now. Why? Why now?”, Tony strikes
the trunk of the tree with extreme violence to the point that he inflectes a wound on himself. He holds his right arm in evident pain and blood stars coming from his right ring finger.
“What are you doing Tony? You are hurting yourself!”, Luis helps him by holding his hand.
“I’ll be alright. It’s only a small cut”, observes Tony after a grimace.
As Tony stares at a drop of blood falling on the grass he squeezes his finger and stops the bleeding by pressure, but the presence of blood
coming from his body serves the boy as a wakeup call to give his cousin a firm answer.
“I think that we must take a chance. We have nothing to lose and a lot to gain. There is no future ahead of us. Our chances to survive are slim.
That’s my final decision”, Tony remaines firm in his words.
“Count me in Tony”, Luis affirms in an extremely tense moment. They embrace again.
“I don’t know about Osvaldo, but I know Frank will come alone. I know him. I will speak to Osvaldo tonight”, Tony explains.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 132
“There’s nothing else to be said”, says Luis.
“You can claim your mother later from Miam, although this is not my case. She will never leave George behind”, Tony observes.
“I have heard her saying that many times,“says Luis.
“I know. However, I must respect her opinion and decisions. Wow! Frank has left me speechless with the speedy boat. I never expected to witness anything like that, a still stunned Tony observes.
“We have to move fast Tony, we can’t let them room to catch us,”, says Luis.
“Let’s go eat”, says Tony by getting on the way.
As they return to the main house meal was served for everyone. Laughs, sad and happy memories entertained the supper.
“Mom. I am of the opinion that we must wait a couple of days until the heat cools down. I don’t want any of you to return home at least in three days. I don’t wany the police to hasle you and make your life mi
Serable”, says an annoying Tony.
“What about George Tony? I can’t leave him alone”, Casilda complains.
“He’s a grown man mom. You are not going to be after him for the rest of your entire life. One day he’ll find a woman and probably forget about you”, Tony bluntly replies. Casilda shakes her head in disapproval.
“I am not sure about that. My opinion is that we should not get into hiding because that way they will be suspicious about us”, she asserts.
“What do you mean?”, asks Tony.
“What I mean is that they might think that we know where you are”, Hilda interveens.
“They are right Tony”, says Frank very worried. “It is important that they return as soon as possible. They are not the fugitives, there’s nothing they can do about it. All they can do is interrogate them and these two ladies are very smart to let them coax them”, Frank concluded.
“Ok. You got a point Frank. Then you’ll take them. All you have to do is leave them somewhere near Central Havana, so they can take a taxi to avoid been suspiciuos. I’m sure by this time they are in the bullseye”, Tony warns very worried.
“This is what I’m going to do. I will drop them right here in Guanabo. There is a taxi station in the main street.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 133
That way they will go streight home like nothing happened”, says Frank. “Makes sense Frank”, says Tony.
They continue their meals the day advances. They all have a feeling that the meeting is emerging as a farewell reunion.
In his cell Fred continued writing his journal.
“Thinking is the only living resource I have to inflict myself new energy. My writing also sereves me as a reflexion of my inner thoughts as a solitary witness to my sorrows, I have recalled my youth so many times that it makes me sad. I had heard about the inmates, the cruelty of the prisons or had seen them in the movies. The way I saw all of this was a place for criminals only.murderers,violence.I could never imagine for one second that I had to go through this endurance. So many difficult times that made me extremely scared just the thought of it. I had to be very strong in order to survive all of this. Furthermore, the thought of your family that suposely bring me some relief made my struggle even worse realizing how far they are from me and see them in the near future seems near impossible”, the journalist takes a deep breath trying to organize his ideas energized by the oxigenation of his lungs amid his
difficulties to catch fresh breath in a filthy and secluded place. Fred continued his reflexions:’One day, on December 23th I woke up as usual and as I stood in front of my galley for the count, one of the inmates told me that somone had hung himself.The name of the inmate who gave me the sad news was Abecedario(which means Alphabet in English) it was his nickname and he was well respected among the inmates in his
dorm because of his honesty, discipline and respect for others. The suici dial man was Pedro Zaporta Alonso,“El General”(The general) After the count they we run to his bunk and when they opened the cell door of his cubic we saw from outside a couple of feet resting on the floor, once inside we witnessed the guy had a sheet wrapped around the neck, also attached to the water fountain from the sink in the cell. The deceased head was resting on the wall, leaning back, like he was sleeping,“related on his own words by Abecedario.I told the whole strory to Saul and Gilbert, to their atonishment because they knew the guy and had a good friendly relationship with him. “Did you hear what soldier Benitez said?”, Gilbert asks Saul.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 134
“No”, Saul responds inquisitive.
“He said that he was going to cuff the stiff, so he could not escape”, Gilbert expresses with outrage.
“Wretch bastards!”, Saul shouts. Mocking on someone else’s pain”, Saul states with great indignation.
“This is another good reason why they will never find out about the dead body they are accusing me of never ever will learn about his
whereabouts,“Gilbert grumbles. “Excellent conclusion Gilbert.Did he have a high rank in the military?”, Saul asks subtlety.
“Of course. He was an air force commander. We killed during an ambush to the Escambray mountains.He deserved because he had ordered the killings
of dozens of our men in combat. Very often they executed them without a
trial or depriving them of a legitimate defence”, explains Gilbert. “Don’t you think there might be a possiblility that they found the body already?”, asks Saul.
“I doubt it very much. They would have told me already”, Gilbert says.
“WowI Then you hid it very well”, Saul says intentionally.
“Of course. lt was in the area of Escambray, in a settlement called Jobabo ”
“I’ve heard of that place somewhere”, Saul affirms while trying to remember.
“It’s not very popular, but in one of the houses that my grandparents own at the time”. Saul interrupts very excited.
“Inside the house?“, Saul vividly asks, following his interruption.
“No, are you nuts? It was buried in the back yard facing the cemetery of the area. It’s fair to say that it was in the limits between the back yard and the cemetary’s fence, so it could well be confused with someone’s else burial”, Gilbert remembers. “That was a brilliant idea,“says Saul while given Gilbert a glaring glance.
There is a long pause and Saul changed the subject.
“Poor Pedro. He couldn’t resist to prison rigour”, as Saul stares at Gilbert, he notices how his friend is deffudled bythe memories he has just reset.
Saul continued his observation trying to create a sort of reassurance on his friend that his just revealed confession will be safe with him. Gilbert’s eyes seem to be lost in the distance as Saul pat him on the shoulder to show confort and support.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 135
It’s early evening already and Frank and Elias have taking the women to the taxi station. Tony, Luis and Osvaldo are seated on the grass around a tree while talking. Maria has gone to bed already.
“This is the right moment to make a decision”, says Tony.
“I have no doubts Tony”, said a determined Osvaldo. Furthermore, we have no other options. They are probably searching every inch of this town looking for us”, Osvaldo concludes.
“I hope that’s not the case because they will find us here”, jokes Luis.
“You are right Osvaldo.There’s nothing to think about,“Tony asserts.
“Would you like some coffee?”, Tony asked while standing up and heading to a nearby table where coffee has been just made by maria before she
“I love that coffee, it’s genuine, strong and sweet, exactly what we need’,′ says Luis.
Tony offers them coffee and continues talking after he enjoys the aroma of the black liquid.
Frank stops his truck in a roundabout of the main street in Guanabo. The women step out of the truck and after saluting Frank they head to the taxis station.
Two men inside a car are watching their move and they speak on their radios without been seen. Another two men across the street to the oposite side of the station are watching the truck still parked on the other side.
A Russian made car stops in the intersection to have a better view of the truck.
The truck departs after Frank sees th women enter the station and the Moskovich (Russian car) follows them closely.
The trucks advances through the streets in the direction of the farm as Frank has no idea that he is being followed.
The truck arrives at the farm and Elias opens the front gate. They are welcomed by Tony andf the rest.
“How was it?”, asks Tony very worried.
“Perfect”, acclaims Frank.
“Great. I was very worried.”
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 136
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 137
“It could be a coincidence”
“I don’t believe that”
“We are wasting time. We have to keep moving”, says Tony. ,
“How?, we have no fuel”, Luis observes.
“Of course, we do. I am always prepared”, Frank says.
“That’s great my boy! We’ll have to leave tonight”, orders Tony.
“I will have to get out and buy some more fuel”, expresses Frank doubtful
“Out of the question. Any one who leaves this property is a dead dude. That’s what they are waiting for. I know this people like the palm of my hand. They are getting ready to search the house”, says Tony.
“We can’t wait. Let’s go”, says an alarmed Elias.
“Wait, I have an idea. Stay right here, I’ll be right back”, says Frank before he moves to the inside of the house,
Frank goes streight to his mom’s bedroom and wakes her up.
“Mom. We are going to hide in the cave. If they come in tell them that you don’t know anything. Let them believe that Elias and I were here but we went to ride our horses to the next property”, Frank explains.
“Why? Are they here?”, Maria asks restless.
“Yes. There’s car in front of the property and I am sur there are many more coming. lt seems that they followed us when we came back from dropping the women. At least it looks like that”, Maria covers her mouth in panic.
“Do you think they will hurt Hilda and the rest of the women?”, she asked very concerned.
“I don’t think so, they have not found the boys yet. But let’s go, we don’t have time and they could be here any minute”, Frank alerts his mother.
“ Be careful my son!”, Maria says tenderly embracing him.
Frank kisses her on the cheek and rushes to the back patio.
“Elias, quick!” Elias nears Frank while the others watch over the entrance.
“You guys come here”, Frank calls the rest of the group. Tony signals to Osvaldo to keep his eyes on the entrance.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 138
“This is what we are going to do. Elias, you will get out in the truck and try.to get more fuel. Stay calm if you’ll see that they follow you and believe me they will. If they stop you and start asking questions tell them you are an employee of the farm and you know nothing,you understand Nothing!Elias moves his head in approval.
“Once you have the fuel and you verify that they are not following you head streight to the Boca Ciega bridge. I’ll be there waiting for you.
Remember that spot where we used to hang out with Martha and the rest of the guys?”, Frank asks.
“Of course. How could I forget. lt will be quiet later at night. The marine patrol passes by early but not that late at night”, Frank observes. Elias walks toward the truck.
“Wait. Take some money with you. Tell Rene to fill two tanks of diesel. Remember, try to get away from them if they’ll follow you. It’s important that they don’t see you getting to the gas station because they’ll find out that we’re trying to escape”, Frank insists. Elias jumps on the truck, Frank signals to the others to push the truck down a small hill going backwards to start the engine further away from the entrance and avoid being heard by the agents, Elias starts the engine and Frank shakes his hand.
“Good luckl The truck drives toward the entrance. You come with me. Let’s take some provisions. I’m sure they are going to search the property. We are heading to the cave. They won’t find us there”
Elias drives the truck out of the property while Frank and the rest of the group run inside the house to take more provisions. Hiden in the dark, the russian car has been joined by a military jeep. Elias drives the trucks to the main highway at the time that the military jeep follows the truck. On the main highway, a caravan of military vehicles coming from the opposite side makes a u turn and follows the military jeep behind Elia’s truck. As the caravan approaches an intersection in the main highway, a military vehicle standing by the road shoulder signals to Elias for pull over the shoulder.
Two military vehicles pull in front and behind the truck blocking the vehicle while two soldiers carrying AK rifles approach Elias.
“Good evening!”, says one of them.
“Good evening”, Elias replies.
“May I see your documents please?”, asks the soldier very calm.
“Yes sir”, Elias shows him the documents while the other soldier searchs inside the back and front compartments of the truck.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 139
The first soldier returns to his vehicle and talks on the radio to verify Elia’s documents while two more soldiers approach the truck and sig nal to Elias to get out of the truck. Elias jumps out and the three soldiers get into the truck searching every single spot of the vehicle. As they open the back chamber they notice the two empty fuel tanks.
“What is this?”, asks one soldier.
“These are fuel tanks. I always use them to deliver gas to some of the company trucks where I work. “
“Where do you work?”, asks another soldier.
“I work for a a moving company. They have more than seven trucks. It’s an interstate transportation”, Elias said. The soldier checking Elia’s documents returns to the side of the truck.
“His documents are clean”, he whispers to one of the soldiers.
“You can continue. Sorry for the inconvenience, have a good night”, says th the soldier very gently.
“Thank you, officers” Elias picks up his documents, jumps in the truck, starts the engine, salutes the group of soldiers and drives away.
One of the soldiers signals to another vehicle standing on the same side of Elias’ car, and follows him at a moderate pace. Outside the farm’s entrance, there are a considerable ammount of soldiers and military vehicles boarding the property, taking possitions around the front and the back to avoid any in or out movements. The lieutenant in charge of the operation approaches the main gate followed by various soldiers and a Sergeant. Using one flashlight the sergeant finds a bells and rings it. Maria appears through the main entrance of the house and nears the main gate.
“Good evening ma’am.”
“Good evening officer, what can I do for you?”, Maria asks sweetly.
“I am sorry to bother you at this hour, but we have a search warrant for this property”, says the Lieutenant gently.
The commander shows her the warrant.
“Is there anything wrong?”, Maria asks seemengly surprised by the visit.
“Nothing wrong, just a routine search in the area”, said the lieutenant with a smiling face.
“Come on in”, Maria invites. They step into the property.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 140
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 141
Before Maria has a chance to answer to his request, Romero pulls the foto out of the frame and gives it to the Sergeant. She shrugs while the lieutenant gives her a daggering glance.
“Where is your son?”, the lieutenant asks intentionally.
“He still working”, Maria replies.
“At this hour?”, asks Romero.
“Yes, he’s working night shift, my nephew went to pick kirn up”, Maria explains.
“Got you. Please, tell your son and your nephew when they return to report to the military unit in Guanabo. l’d like to have a chat with them”, says a sarcastic lieutenant Romero. Maria smiles while shaking her head.
“Thanks grannie. I am very sorry for the inconvenience”, Romero shakes her hand and kisses her while drawing a friendly smile. Maria escorts them to the front door.
“You are not afraid of being here alone?”, asks Romero intentionally.
“No, I know how to defend myself very well”, Maria replies firmly.
“Oh, I have no doubts about that. You’re smart and very eloquent ma’am,
I’m sure you won’t have any problem getting alone in this property by your self. If that is t’he case of course,”, Romero ironicly answers. The group of soldiers get out of the property after the great display of force and retrive to their vehicles. Maria sees them off while the lieutenant provides instructions to the soldiers. One group split and heads to the back side of the property bordering the river, another group follows the skirt of the property on the opposite side taking positions around the perimeter. This new deployment shows clear evidence of distrust on the lieutenant’s mind as he has not been convinced by Maria’s explanation. Elias stops the truck inside a gas station by the highway called White Road. He approaches one of the employees and after identifying himself the two men head to the gas pump.
“Have the two gallons of diesel ready. I’ll pick them up in one hour”, says Elias while looking around him. The employee puts gas in the truck’s tank to dissemble any watch overs.
“You don’t want the fuel now?”, asks the employee.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 142
“No, it would be too dangerous. I’m going to pay for them now but have them ready behind the station, close to the house on the other side of the
Street”, Elias instructs.
“How long you said”, asks the employee.
“I’ll be back in one hour.”
The employee finished putting fuel in the truck and closes the cover. Elias jumps in the truck and drives off the station. The employee returns to the inside of the station while Elias continues heading north on the highway as been followed by the military vehicle. As Elias gets out of the highway in the next exit he pulls over a dark street and disappears from the view of the soldiers following him up.
“Where did he go?”, asks one of the soldier very upset.
Elias drives the truck through an unpaved road and retakes the highway now coming back in the opposite direction. The men in the military jeep stop the car in outrage after losing Elias.
“God Damned! Where did he go?”, one of the soldiers shouts.
“He knew we were following him”, grunts the other soldier.
“Let’s get back to the gas station, I have a felling he’ll return to that place”, the other soldier asserts.
The soldier starts the engine while the other one talks on the radio. As soon as the car gets moving they make a U turn and return to the highway heading toward the gas station. Elias slows down the truck as he sees a police patrol car stopping the vehicles in the highway. After a few miles drive, Elias stops the truck in a telephone booth. He turns around and pulls to another station a few meters from the highway entrance. This is a transportation station that serves as weigh station and loading for big trucks. By the entrance, Elias salutes a guard that approaches his truck.
“Hi Elias, what’s going on?”, asks Felipe the guard.
“Hello Felipe. I’m coming to get some fuel. I paid Rene already”, Elias explains.
“I know. He called me already. I have it ready for you”, says Felipe.
They head toward the back of the station after Elias drives the truck in
The telephone rings in one of the offices. As soon as Felipe gets inside the office the telephone stops ringing and Felipe dials a number.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 143
The phone rings in Rene’s gas station.
“Yes, yes it was me. I wanted to be sure that Elias picked up the merchandise”, says Rene.
“Yes, as a matter of fact he’s here now”, confirms Felipe.
As soon as they hang up the military vehicle carrying the two soldiers pulls up in front of one of the pumps ready to put gas on the vehicle. They look around trying to spot Elia’s truck at the time that Rene approaches them.
“Can I help you officers?”, asks Rene gently.
“Fill it up please”, orders one of the soldiers.
“My pleasure sir”, Rene answers.
On the station Elias finished loading the truck with the fuel tanks as he was helped by a forklift driven by Felipe. Elias closes the back door in the truck and gives $20.00 to Felipe.
“Thank you, my friend”, says Elias.
“Come back any time. It is always a pleasure serving you”, says Felipe while kissing the twenty dollars bill. Both men laugh after shaking hands and Elias drives his truck out of the station. Inside the farm, Frank steps into the bushes carrying a flashlight guiding the group toward the river side. Suddenly Frank stops after spotting a military vehicle stationed next to one of the river shoulders on the opposite side.
“Jee, they are waiting for us!”, acclaims Luis.
“What are we going to do?”, asks Osvaldo.
“We have to wait. There’s nothing else we can do right now”, observes Tony “Any false move and we’re dead”, says Frank somberly.
Frank looks at his watch.
“Osvaldo, you and Luis stay here. Tony and i are going to put some fuel in the boat”, says Frank while pushing Tony toward the cave. Luis and Osvaldo take shelter behind some bushes watching over the military vehicle on th the other side of the river. Inside the cave, Tony and Frank start moving a tank filled with fuel.
“This is too heavy. Isn’t it?”, asks Tony.
“I know, but this is the only choice we have right now, so you better be ready for it”, laughed Frank. Thay move the heavy tank to the side of the covered speed boat and as Frank removes the cover canvas Tony admires the beauty of the vessel.
“What a beautiful baby!”, acclaims Tony enjoying the view.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 144
“I wonder how in the world could you fit this monster inside this cave?”, Tony jokes.
“Very simple. All this side facade was built after I pulled the boat in.
It is made of leaves and tree trunks”, says Frank while pointing the side wall of the cave.
“No wonder”, says Tony elated. “No one can tell that this cave existed what so ever.
“Follow me and I’ll show you”, says Frank walking toward the interior of the cave. They border the side of the boat and reach the lateral fake wall.
“Do you see this wall? All we are going to do is separate the leaves and trunks that they have been made of and there is a ramp behind it that leads streight to the river in the deep waters. That was the place that Elias and I slipped the boat through and inside the cavern”, says Frank.
“Amazingl No one could ever imagine that this place would exist at all”, an impressed Tony replies.
“It took me a long time to prepare for this Tony.I knew that this moment will come sooner than later. All we have to do is wait until these people get tired and disappear”, Frank advises.
“What time is it?”, asks Tony. Frank looks at the watch.
“it’s two o ’clock in the morning, but be patience. They will get tired as the night advances, time is the only thing they can’t stop.”
“But it also works against us”, observes Tony.
“I know. Hopefully we can do it tonight. Time is tickling, and we can’t afford to stay one day longer in this hell”, Frank predicts. They get out of the cave and turn off their flashlights just on time whe when the military vehicle shows the soldiers iluminating all the area with their reflectors.
“To the ground!”, Frank throws Tony on the ground while the lights pass by them. The two young men start crawling towardd a nearby bush where the grass is more copious and dense.
They succeed in their crawling until they reach Luis and Osvaldo.
They hear in the distance the voices of soldiers talking on the radio.
Another soldier nears the fence of the property and iluminates the area with his flaslight looking for suspicious activity inside the compound. The group threw on the grass avoiding being seen.
“We have to be patient, they’ll get tired soon”, affirms Tony.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 145
“I’m going to get some blankets and more provisions, we are goingto need them”, said Frank while moving to the inside of the house. Luis
finds comfort on the grass as he lays back.
“We’ll have to take a break because I got a feeling this is going to be a long night or what is left of it”, jokes Luis.
Osvaldo nods and he also finds shelter on the grass yawning, a clear sign of bis tiredeness. Tony keeps his eye on the soldiers who keeps moving around the property.
Two hours passed and one of the soldiers is heard again talking on the radio. Frank is awake and on guard while the others are sleeping on the grass wrapped on a blanket. The mosquitos are making their presence known as evidenced by Luis complains of their sting.
“This is disgustingl These suckers feel like wading birds”, says Luis while trying to make them go away unsuccessfully.
“Attentionl They are leaving”, says Frank while waking up everyone.
One of the soldiers starts the engine and the vehicle drives away. The moment has arrived boys, let s go”, says Frand in great emotional voice.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 147
“Osvaldo and Tony, you stay here watching over the boat. Luis, come with me. We have to find the truck. I’m sure that Elias is waiting for us”.
Frank grabs Luis and they jump out of the boat stepping into the bushes.
“Be carefull”, Tony advises.
“Don’t worry Tony. I am hard to kill!”, jokes Frank.
As Frank and Luis move through the tall weeds, they spot the truck parked on the shoulder of the highway.
“There he is. Elias is waiting for us already”, Frank observes. Luis gave Frank five.
As soon as they reach the shoulder of the road Elias leaves his hiding behind the truck and meets them.
“I was so worried, what took you soo ling?”, Elias asks.
“We got company. The agents and military soldiers paid us a visit”, Frank explains.
“No kidding, how did it go?”, asks Elias.
“Fine.They got tired and hit the road, how about you?”
“I got a hard time with those crookes. It wasn’t easy”
Frank interrupts Elias. “Tell me later, we have to keep moving. Where is the fuel? Did you get it?”, asks Frank.
“Sure.I am going to back up the truck, so we can roll down the tanks.
Those yellow ones that aren’t too heavy”, Elias explains.
“Good, on second thoughts don’t move the truck in case they followed you”, Frank tells Elias.
“I can’t make them roll down like this. The truck is facing the opposite side of the road”
“Doesn’t matter, we’ll carry them. Let’s get on the way”, Frank orders.
“You’re right. Better to be safe than sorry”, Elias smiles while opening the back gate of the truck.
A few minutes later the group reaches the boat and helped by Tony and Osvaldo they load the fuelin the boat.
“Now we are all set to go!”, offers Frank amused. Let’s make it happen steamship!”, jokes Tony.
They advance for a few knots until Frank finally starts the engine.
Just a few seconds after it started the engine dies off”, What’s the matter?”, asked a worried Tony. “Let it heat up,“said Osvaldo. Frank keeps trying but the engine does not respond. “Give me some fuel,“Frank asks Elias.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 148
Elias hands him a small tank of fuel. Frank opens the cover of the engine and pours some fuel in.
“Strange, I tuned on last night and it worked perfectly”, Frank explains. “What can we do?“, asks Tony.
“Try to paddle as much as you can. We have to get out of here as soon as possible”, Frank warns.
They follow Frank’s orders and accelerate the paddling trying to reach the open seas. They advance a few meters until suddenly are susrprised by a coast guard vessel. Another
military spped boat surrounds the boat.
“Stop where you are”, says a commanding voice.
“Oh, God. Oh nooo”, grunts Tony.
“Hands up, freeze!”, shouts the commander of the coast guards.
Several border patrol soldiers jump in the boat carrying machine guns. They hurry to hand cuff the group which does not offer resistence. As soon as they are neutralized, a larger coast guard vessel approach, they are rushed to this ship and thrown on the
The commander in charge approaches Frank with a big smile.
“We have been following you very closely, boy. Who did yo uthink we are? Dummies or puppets that would let you get away with this nun sense stupidity? Well, you see you made a big mistake”, laugha the commander.
The officer kicks Frank in the head, treating him like dirt. He turns his attention to the rest of the group.
“What’s your name boy?”, he refers to Tony, but the young boy does not answer.
“Do you have a name I repeat? Don’t play fool with me dumby?“, says the officer very angry.
“You know my name, don’t you officer?”, asks Tony ironically.
“Of course I do. We know everything cone head.That’s why we have an excellent security organization.The best in latin America.After the yankees of course.And not because they are smarter,just because they have more money,” smiled the officer. The officer turns his attention to Luis who stares at him with fired eyes.
“And you must be Luis? Right?”, asks the officer in a hoarse boy.
Luis nods bitting his lips.
“It figures. The whole thing makes a lot of sense to me. We are all here, so it looks like the party is about to begin”, he jokes.
A soldier signals to the commander and he heads to the main cabin to talk on the radio.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 149
In his cell Giiberto is asleep. It’s two o’clock in the morning. The main door to the dorm opens and several guards enter the facility carrying assault weapons.
“Giiberto Perez!”, the Sergeant shouts almost in an amusing tone. Giiberto wakes up surprised oy the call.
“Get dress and follow us!”, Giiberto hesitates.
“Let’s go, I don’t have too much time”
Giiberto gets dressed in a hurry and notices Saul’s bed’s empty. They storm him out of the dorm as Father Bonnet approaches Fred’s bunker.
“What happened?”, Father Bonnet asks Fred.
“I don’t know. They kicked him out of the dorm”, observes Fredy.
Fred is still asleep.
“Where is Saul?”, asks an intrigued Father Bonnet.
“I don’t see him anywhere”, Fred responds. The guards slam the door behind them after t they push Giiberto out. “Nothing good I hope,“says Fred routinely.
“You are absolutely right Fred. They seem very upset.
The lights are turned on and many soldiers enter the dorm armed and shouting to the inmates.
“Every body against the wall! Now!”, shouts a Sergeant. “Not again!”, protests Fred.
The inmates are thrown against the wall and otheir belongings are thrown on the floor and the matresses turned upside down.
“It’s going to be a long and tortuose day fellows”, laughs the sergeant while the rest of the soldiers burst in laughters.
One of the offices’ door opens and Giiberto is pushed inside where a captain is waiting for him.
“Welcome Giiberto Perez”, says the captain in a warm voice. “What is this?”, Giiberto asks very frustrated.
“Finally we got a confession from you country boy”, affirms the captain very calm.
“I don’t know what are you talking about”, says a worried Giiberto.
“Come on. Be for real. I am talking about Mayor Miravalles, I said Mayor because we promoted him after he lost his life. I mean when he was murdered by you and your friends.
“I have no idea of what this is about”, Giiberto tries to justify.
“Oh, so you are confused? Maybe I can refresh your memory. We went to the place, the cemetery you know and unburied the body. It’s better late than ever. Now the Mayor will ha
ve an honorable burial with full military honors.
And you, you will be honored with the death penanlty in the hands of a fire squad, do you copy?”, said the Captain very sarcastic.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 150
Through a glass window, in a neighboring office, Saul watches.the scenary, dressed in a green olive military uniform bearing captain rank’s epilets over his shoulders.
The next morning Tony, Osvaldo and Luis are escorted to the office of the Operative
Guardian Officer (0G0).
The road to this building was built by the spainards using underground access as part of a military fortress that was frequently used those years to reject the attacks from pirates and other smugglers.
“Do you know what is your next destination?”, the officer asks ironically.
The three boys nod.
“It makes a whole lot of sense. Take a wild guess.”
They continue their obligated tour through the labyrinth until they reach several ga lleries separated by central yards. The patios are divided my numbers from one to three on one side, and three more on the other side, having only one access from the patios and forming a consequtive row, also divided by revol inmates who refuse to dress the blue uniforms and the ones who are apparently rehabilitated. This s a high security
prison designed exclusively for adults with high risk, high sentence and those who have been sentenced to die by the fire squad.
Tony and the rest of the group are escorted to one of the dorms where it’s time for shower and a long line of inmates has been formed as they wait for their turn in the showers. To his astonishment Tony spots father Bonnet among those waiting to take a shower.
“Father Bonnet!”, Tony shouts amazed by the encounter.
“TonylMy son!”, says father Bonnet with great satisfaction before embracing for a very emotive moment.
One of the guards assign them the bunks and a few minutes later father Bonnet introduc ces him to the rest of the inmates.
“Tony, this is Fred, a good friend and very brave”, smiles Father Bonnet
. “I know him. We met in Villa Maristas”, Tony remembers.
“You have a good memory Tony. I thought I would never see you again”, Fred embraces him.
“What happened Tony?”, asks Father Bonnet.
“We escaped from the camp and tried to leave the country in a boat, but they caught us again. We have a bad luck when the engine failed to start”, Tony jokes.
“You certainly are stubborn boy. Never give up”, smiles father Bonnet.
“You know me father. I’m so glad to see you. I also feel so sorry that you had to go through all this suffering. It’s all my fault”, Tony regrets.
“Please Tony, don’t say that. It would happen sooner or later. lt would be a matter of time before they arrested me”, Father Bonnet observes.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 151
“What you did for me?” Father Bonnet interrupts him.
“I did that for many people. That was my mission as guided by GodI was just following his instructions”, he conforted the boy with his words.
“It was bad for me and bad for you Father”, says a saddened Tony.
“I have no regreats what soever Tony. If I had to do it again I would be more than happy to help you. You are a brave young man”, says Father Bonnet very proud of Tony.
“But we are here now. This time more convinced than ever before that our fight is not
over and our cause is a legitimate one”, affirms Fred.
“I have to give you an update of what this hell is about. They are coming every day at least once to search everything. They will kick our butts and rip off our belongings.
Matresses, sheets, blankets and what ever they find on their way will be teared appart.
“They have no mercy here. The good news is that we’ll get used to all of this. Do you know where we are?”, asks Father Bonnet.
“I have no clue”, said Tony confused.
“El Morro fortress,“says Fred.
“Everything is different here. Specially for us the revols. Don’t be surprised if you se e someone been beaten to death. They take the law in theiir hands”, said father Bonnet.
“This is the law of the strongest”, Fred remembers.
They continued their conversation as Fred and Father Bonnet made a summary of the situation inside the prison. After a while they all decided to go to bed specially Tony who was very tired.
The next day Fred was assigned to the pavillions as the sanitary or nursing assistant due to his advantage of being bilingual to communicate with those inmates who did not speak Spanish. While in the infermery Fred is approached by one of the ill inmates.
“Fred”, Julio called.
“What’s happening Julio?”, Fred asks susrprised to see him in the infermery.
“I faked to be sick, so I could find out about Gilbert”, Julio confesses. “What happened to Gilbert?”, asks Fred intrigued.
“You don’t know? He’s going to be executed”, Julio laments.
“What? Are you serious? Why?”, an anguished Fred inquires.
They found out about the place where the military officer was buried”, says Julio.
“How did they find out? He promissed me will never say a thing to them”, Fred remembers.
“Yes, but he made a big mistake. He told Saul.
“So what? Saul was his close friend”, Fred notices.
“That’s what Gilbert thought. How ever Saul was one of them posing as an inmate. He was assigned specially to snatch the confession from Gilbert,“Julio says saddened.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 152
Fred turns pale by the news. He almost falls on the ground by this unexpected turn of the events. Julio jumps from the bed and helps him to sit on the edge of the empty bed next to him.
“Are you alright Fred?”, asks a worried Julio.
“No, I’m not alright. I feel like fainting right now. I cannot believe this Julio. This is absurd. This is disgusting. This is one of the most horrendous situations I ever heard in my life”, Fred laments.
“This whole scenario will give us a clear idea of what kind of people are these bandits”, Julio insists.
“Shame on you Saul! I wish I could have you in fronnt of my face right now!
How dare you be such a coward? How could you do such a low blow miserable action?”, Fred starts crying.
“Poor Gilbert”, he moans.
“They took him away this morning. I’m sure he was taken streight to the tribunals tonight.
I’m sure we will hear from the fire squad. It’s horrible”, says Julio. Fred lowers his head in shame and sorrow.
“Dear God. Why? Why is this happening? Are we going to see justice one day?”, Fred is
ready to throw his fist on the wall when Julio stops him noticing the doctor is coming t to the infermery. Fred jumps from the bed and approaches the dirty laundry in one corner and picks some clothes from the floor pretending he’s putting everything in order. As he paces along the infermery, the journalist observes the movements and location of the guard post outside as they can better be seen from his angle.
A few later went by. What many people were waiting for is about to happen. Gilbert had been secluded and confined to the death row and his execution has been schedulled for that night. A lot of tension transpired in the pavillion where the fire squad bullits
were heard and the grace shot drenching to the skin of those witnessing this genocide.
Fred writes in his journal: “‘It’s frightening frozen and drizzle night, in the presen ce of a remorseful waning moon who seemed disappointing, standing indolent in the presence of injustice. One of those inevitable moments when the cruelty from humanity strips off the skin and stifles our soul.’”
Time and time again another victim would be executed. Thoso condemned to die in this fashion where separated from the rest of the inmate population and no one will hear from them again. I n this hell hole there was no rest room, no beds or bunkers. Only the frigid ground will serve as unique shelter for the unfortunated.
Every time it rained there was no protection, because the place barely was a couple of meters deep.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 153
The nights were impressively cold because they did not anything to cover with. Around the clock a guard will keep an eye over the hopeless convict to prevent him from commiting suicide.
Ironicaly it was Father bonnet who had to give Gilbert the last service before his execution. The place was so frightening silence that everyone could hear the priest’s voice as it spread in a horrifying tone across the penitentiary as a true mourning farewell.
“Dear GodI My Lordl Let me have your reach and assistance. Deride those who try to murder me, anxious to quench their insatiable bloody core. Scare away shamefuly those who dare to harm me. Keep away gibe and giffy. Those who believe in you, who follow you blindly will recieve joy and happiness.
They shall sout: ‘God is great!’
’Regarding me as I am poor and helpless, my lord, please come to my side soon and help melYou are the only one who can help me and set me free again!
Don’t make me wait too long!’”
There is a long and painful emptiness. The frightening noise of the black dreadful gate opening served as a reminder of the epilogue to this tragedy. Father Bonnet returns to his cell as the steps of the firing squad escorting Gilbert through the death alley seem to hammer mercessly over the heads of those resentful witnesses.
The infamous execution dwelling will undoubtly host another victim.
“Ready? Aim! Fire! The fire squad coldnessly carries out without hesitation making the heavy body of Gilbert fall on the ground striking the baring rocks on his way down. Then the closed range bullet guarantee of the job being completed.
The very next day there’s a very somber atmosphere filled with sadness specially among those who kne Gilbert closely.
Mourning included those who did not meet him personally in this posthumous tribute. A moment of silence before breakfast.
Through the window, the rain pretended to serve as a unexpected visitor to offer support, ironically adding up to the sorrow, nostalgia, sadness and inevitable devastation.
Not much was said during the course of that day. Fred apporaches the bunk where Tony and Luis laid down lost in their thoughts while Father Bonnet also joins the gathering.
“We’ll do it tonigh. I prepared the blankets already and stole the military uniforms”, said Tony delighted to have the entire gorup united in the same cell again.
“Will those uniforms be enough?”, asks Fred.
" Absolutely. After count I will come back to get you al”, says Tony.
“Got you”, says Fred.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 154
The group will be formed by Osvaldo, Luis, Tony, Fred, Father Bonnet, Elias and Frank.
Right as it was planned the group went to the infermery one by one to avoid suspicion. This time they’d have until six o’clock in the morning to make their move before the guards will notice their escape.
Moving alone the dungeons of the fortress their intention was to reach the roof of the galleries taking advantage of the poor visibility in that area. Making things worse the rain was stopping them to see in the darkness. The group tied the sheets together and to the old canons of the roof used as a relic and monument from the ancient times where they served the defense of thw fortress on the edges of the protuberant. They started to descend the rocks crushed within the structural.
After they complete their descense, the group advances between the reef rocks managing to stay away from the strinking violent waves approaching the cliffs. After a while, they reach a more still area where they changed to military uniforms.
“Listen carefully!”, says Tony” We are almost out of the reach of the prison. Our next step is to catch up with the people in the Peruvian Embassy in Fith Avenue.We have to stick together all the way, understood?”, asks Tony. Everyone agreed.
They continued bordering the riefs until catching up the main road over the tunnel separating the main land with the fortress. As they approach the control point in and out of the fortress they pretend to be military soldiers getting off duty. A few meters ahead a truck is parked. and they realized the driver is out of the vehicle as he was stopped by a patrol car and is given him a ticket. Frank snicked into the truck and relized that the keys are in the ignition and the engine still is running. He signals to the rest of the group before they stormmed inside the front and the back of the truck verifying that it is empty. Before the driver of the truck can react, Frank drives the truck away heading in the direction of the Malecon on the main land side. One of the highway patrols astonished by the daring robbery hurries to the radio to inform his superiors of the incident. The truck rushes inside the tunnel and reaches the Malecon, at a very high speed. Before they
reach the Miramar tunnel, a few miles from the Peru Embassy another highway
patrol car started to follow them alarmed by the high speed the truck is displaying. Frank slams on the acelerator doubling the speed until they run into the front of the Embassy.
“Here it is!”, points Tony.
“Hold on tighly”, adverts Frank.
Frank slams the truck into the fence of the Embassy and smashes the bricked wall of the front storming inside in an unbelieveable fashion.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 155
The truck comes to a stop as it hits the different concreet wrecks it has swept in. They get out of the truck in a hurry. The guard in the main gate is stunned by the incident and he’s so confused that does not dare to move from the post.
The police car stops in front of the embassy and they are ready to enter the property when the guard reacts and stops him.
“Stop right there”
“I am very sorry officers, this is a diplomatic zone”
A few minutes later, several diplomatic employees show up in the main front door of the ambassador’s house and they alert the ambassador of what has transpired outside the facility.
“What’s happening?”, asks a trembling ambassador.
“I am Fred On’Neal, a citizen fo the United States, these are political prisoners that are coming with me. We’d like to seek political asilum as our lives are in great danger”, Fred almost beggs.
“Come inside!”, the amabassador showed a lot of courage after the group is welcomed inside the building, and he approaches the policemen outside the entrance still arguing with the security guard and trying to get inside the embassy.
“Gentlemen, I am the ambassador of Peru in Havana and these individuals have seeked political asylum. I will kindly request from you to respect the diplomatic immunity”
One of the police officers talk on the radio and he receives the order to pull back the police car a few meters from the entrance, although they are adevised to remain in the area.
As soon as the police car clears the entrance people coming from everywhere started to jump inside the embassy’s terrains. The ambassador is now so confused that he does not know how to react.
A few minutes pass and the official enters the house, where Fred and the rest of the group have found shelter in the living room.
“I am so sorry ambassador, but our life is in danger! I am begging you for your help please!”, cries Fred. The ambassador moves to a telephone inside one of the officess and started making phone calls. Through the window while the functionary talks on the phone he observes dozens of people getting inside afetr they discover the big opening in the main fenced wall. As the minute s advance more people are getting in because word on the streets has spread all over Havana. It’s getting to the point of becoming a caotic situaction and out of hands. The guards from the government are gathering outside but they showed a lot of confusion and they don’t know what to do. Various military vehicles are arriving. One of the jeeps is carrying a high ranked military officer who came to evaluate the situation. Many more people are getting insi de the embassy. The military police unsuccessfuly tried to stop them but the situation is now out of control. The high ranked military officer addresses the guards from the government side and they are ordered to retire and leave the gates unguarded.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 156
People outside realize the doors are open to everyone and they find their way in with no opposition from the government forces.
“Following the orders from the First Minister our Commander in chief comrad
Fidel Castro the guards have been ordered to retire and any one who desires to enter the embassy will not be stopped”, announced the commander through a megaphone.
All the embassy personeel try to accomodate the incoming citizens arriving at the scene. Some of them not finding enough room in the side and back patios commence to climb into the trees. Others find shelter and lodge on the ground or the roots of the big trees. The green manicured grass also served as refuge to the unexpected guests. A few hours passed and the amount of people inside the embassy now reaches the 10,000 amount and keeps rising fast. Thousands of curious expectators, some of them undecided, others witnessing first hand an unheard of event like never before. In Casilda’s house all mothers have reunited including Maria, Frank’s mother, Beatriz, Ritica, Casilda and Hilda. The tv is on and Fidel Castro is about to speak to a crowd in the Jose Marti Plaza off the Revolution. They hear on his own words:
“If these elements are not capable of understanding the values of this Revolution, we don’t want them, we don’t need them. Ihave ordered to open the doors of the Peruvian Embassy to all those to desire to leave the country and also I am now announcing the opening of the Mariel Port for those relatives from Miami who are interested in picking up their family members through boats or any other kind of sea vessels”, says Castro.
Casilda is trying to reach Tony’s father on the phone for a half hour until she can finally get through.
“Jose Antonio? Is that you? Yes, Peru Embassy. The boys broke into the Embassy and now there are more than 10,000people inside and they keep coming. Castro has just finished talikng to the people and he has ordered to open the Mariel port to any one like he did with Camarioca many years ago, remembeer?”. Casilda shows a lot of emotions while talking to her husband.
“People, come and get us. We are about twenty, including the ones inside the Em bassy, Tony’s friends and mothers of all of them”, Casilda explained.
“Find out exactly how is going to happen. Yes darling, this is my final decision. George? I don’t know but I’ll ask him too.
“God bless you darling. Be carefull!”, she hangs up th phone.
George enters the house and heads to the living room where they are gathered.
“What’s going on mom?”, asked George astonished.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 157
“Your brother and your cousin broke into the Peruvian Embassy. Castro just delivered a speech advising the people that anyone who wants to leave can do it. He’s opening the Port of Mariel for this purpose”, says an elated Casilda observing his son’s reaction.
“I also just hung up the phone with your father, and he is coming to get us”, she asserts.
Geroge starts motion quickly and his mother followed him.
“What’s the matter my boy7”, she asks very worried.
“That I am also going with you mom. I am fed up with so much starvation and misery”, shouts George.
She embraces him with tears in her eyes.
“I did not expect less from you my dear son”, she acclaims full of happiness while returning to the livingroom to join the other women as George hurries to step out of the house.
“Finally, my son George has decided to come with us”, a delighted Casilda expresses.
They all get a round of effusive apllauses while George appears in the main door.
“I can see I have a lot of fans now mom. I think you did it on purpose”, George jokes. They all laugh elated by the good news.
Inside the embassy more than 20,000 people have now mounted, including folks coming from the most remote provinces of the country. Places as distant as Camaguey and Oriente, the eastern provinces of Cuba have adventured to take the chance desperate attempting to reach freedom.
Jimmy Carter, the current president of the United States has approved the immigration and exodous from Mariel Port and has also authorized more than 2000 boats to travel from the Port of Miami and pick up their relatives in the troubled island. Castro has ordered to empty the prisons and psychiatric institutions and fill up the coming boats with these unwanted elements persuading them to leave the country, leaving these people no
Castro also includes the prostitutes and homosexuals in his undesurables list. But against his odds, an avalanche of people from all kinds of religions, sex and cultural background show up for this solicitation. Among the boats caravan heading to Mariel is Jose Antonio, Tony’s father who rented a fullsize cargo fish boat with a capacity for 500 people. To those who entered the Peruvian Embassy seeking asylum a save conduct is provided so they can return home and are authorized to leave the country via the boat lift. After more than thirty days in Mariel Port, a very strong hurricane which destroyed more than one hundred vessels, finally Jose Antonio had the opportunity of picking up his family.
The whole group including Father Bonnet and Fredy gets on board.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 158
How ever the crew of the boat has been ordered to carry more than 200 people besides their families, among those many mental ill, convicted fellons and homosexuals to whom Castro named “the escoria’ or junkies. George, Tony’s brother could finally join the group after a repudiation meeting was conducted against him in his neighborhood. Government mob gave him a merciless beating after they considered George a traitor to the Revolution
The encounter of Jose Antonio and his family produced a great deal fo emotion, an event that paid off after so many years of suffering by this family including the death of Ramon Soto, murdered by the mob at the Government’s services, a man who was a Comandante of the revolution who afeter dieing in such strange circunstances was never decorated, not even remembered by the high jerarquy of the government as a just, noble, loyal and
decent man, who chose to lose everything while staying faithful and on the side of his family. Fred on the other hand could finally meet his daughter, whom could never see when her mother was pregnant at the tine of his arrest.
George also had the opportuniy of asking forgiveness to his brother and hi s mother for his wrong past behavior, making him reflect and reach the conclusion that they were right all alone. His encounter with his father also brought an inmense satisfaction and profound emotio amid his wrongdoing. Ritica and Tony continued their romantic relation to the satisfaction and approval of both families. Luis could recuperate his mental health and recommended by Fred he could register in the school of journalism in Miami. Father Bonnet joined the Archidiosis of Miami to continue preaching God’s word. Frank and Elias remained together with their families and they could eventually land jobs in the construction and transportation industry providing them with excellent opportunities in years to come.
Tony joined forces with his father in the business of developing and build ing where the boy learned in the field of Real State, later on becoming an important developer and investor following his father’s foot steps. Ritica returmned to school and became a prominent nurse and Jose Antonio and gasilda got back together to recuperate all time wasted while they
were separated by a communist regime. Luis found a fine young girl who help him forget the penuries from the past.
Despite all these accomplishments this is not a happy ending, it’s a real epilogue for one of the many families who were forced to endure this pain ful nightmares and dramatic events.
History will tell us that many other families did not have the lucky opportunity of being happy and successful.
HOLY HELL IN CUBA
Page # 159
Many lives were lost during the risky journey trying to cross the Florida streight in home made rafts, others remained behind apart from their loves ones and died before they could reunite again. Quite a few family members were teared appart, divided by hatress and political disagreements over a dictatorship that never cared about human relationships, just concerned about mantaining power and complete domination, bringing alone misery, starvation and seclusion as their own isolation from the rest of the-
However, despite the ongoing efforts, the sad last chapter about Cuba is not over, there are a lot of key players remaining that will be responsible for writing the end of this heroic deed.
Most of all, those whose voices will arise to accuse and make the final judgment against these bandits will have the undeniable right to be heard!