Monday, December 22, 2008

The heroes lost to time

How many times do you see an old person, someone hobbling down the road using a cane, or taking extra long to walk across the road as you wait, getting impatient. How many times have we all just seen someone like this and just discounted everything they said automatically because we assumed they were senile or simply talking nonsense because of their age?

I admit to being guilty to the above. As I know are allot of us. It really isn't our fault. We are caught up in a society that worships youth. A world that has learned to shove the old away in homes. It wasn't always like that. Many years ago, we used to truly respect the wisdom that came with age. The old had a special place as advisers where we could use the knowledge learned from their life experiences. It was an acknowledgment of their achievements in the past, and a way of harnessing that knowledge.

Every time I see my folks I am reminded of times past and a little bit of my family history that shaped who I am and to be honest makes me more than a little proud.

My folks now are in their early 80's and holding up quit well. Oh they have had their share of health issues ( mother had recent heart surgery and dad has had a few bouts with cancer) but all in all they have weathered the problems pretty well. Mentally though they are pretty sharp still. When they are here I cant help but pump them for information of their adventures from Cuba.

Years ago, in the early 60's my folks were very active in the anti-Castro underground. In fact most of my family ended up as political prisoners due to their being highly involved either directly or via support to the anti-Castro movement.

As a child growing up they didn't really talk about their past too much. I just new they were the typical Cubans who were rabidly anti-Castro and anti-communist. To this day god help anyone whp dares say that the US should open talks with the Cuban government.

Knowing their history helps explain this. Back in the day my folks used to be part of the cuban underground that supplied the anti-castro guerillas with medicine and safe houses. My father used to transport medicine up to the mountains were my grandfather and uncles were hiding out in their battle against Castro's Army. Eventually they were all captured (except for my folks). My grandfather died in prison. My uncle spent 20 years as a prisoner.

As I said, they were also a safehouse for fugitives. One story I heard two years ago when my mother had just undergone heart surgery. I was in the hospital and all of these family friends I had seen over the years just came out of the woodworks.

Anyhow these folks started for some reason talking about things that happened years ago in Cuba. One story involving my mom and her cousin: He was part of a resistance movement that eventually was infiltrated and they were all captured. However, at that time he would stay at my folks house during the day hiding in a secret room under some stairs. In the evening my mother would dress up "go on a date" and escort her Cousin to another location where they were having their late night gatherings to organize an uprising. She would act like his girlfriend because the military was looking out for a single male, not a couple. He would stay there for a few hours. Then a different woman would go on a date with him and he would end up back at my parents place before dawn to resume hiding for the day.

Because my folks were a safehouse and there were a number of strangers going in and out of the house they were always a subject of house searches by the police. They were always persons of "interest" so to speak. My mom used to make ham croquets to sell as a cover so that she could tell them that yes she was breaking the law ( it was illegal to sell anything since capitalism was a no-no) she was selling croquets and the people would come into the house to buys them.

Here is the best part. One I find kind of amazing. Despite so many of these fugitives who stayed at my folks home and at the homes of others that helped them and provide them supplies. Not one of the captured guerillas ever supplied the government of the information of who was helping them. At the point of turture and death, they never gave up the information.

I was priveleged to meet some of the people that my folks used to hide in the house. His name was Fernando, and he told me they would take the prisoners and tell them if they did not tell them the names and locations of the safe house they would execute them. They would tak ethem put them up to a wall and line up a firing squad, ask them again after some beatings, tell them its their last chance, then fire ...Blanks. They would do it over and over. Occasionally actually executing someone so that they never knew if it was for real or not.

Yet not one ever gave up my folks. They literally chose death instead of giving them up.


We often hear stories like this but how many actually get the chance to meet people who actually lived it. As a society we will never really appreciate what they did, because unfortunatly they were on the losing side from another country. But when you see those old cubans out there protesting anything about Castro in the news, understand they are still out there fighting their war.

And when you see some old person hobling down the street using a cane moving across the street a little too slow to make the light, lay off the horn. These people did their time in the world and we owe them big.



Kona Shelley said...

When I was there I was on a tour in a museum that told of the whole uprising..I was saddened and appalled at how the Cuban people were treated.

PJ said...

Wow. Your parents sound like amazing, tough people. I can't imagine how much courage it takes to do something like that. Thanks for sharing that story.

Pam said...

Awesome. Thanks for sharing.