New book on Cuban 5 accents family bonds

At a public meeting in Havana on Sept. 18, the book “El Dulce Abismo” (The Sweet Abyss) was introduced to the world. As an index of the book’s significance, Ricardo Alarcon, president of the Cuban National Assembly, and Abel Prieto, minister of culture, attended the ceremony.

“The Sweet Abyss” is a compendium of letters, poems, stories, drawings, photos, dreams, and hopes from the Cuban Five — Fernando González, Ramon Labañino, Gerardo Hernández, René González and Antonio Guerrero — the five political prisoners held in U.S. prisons for having tried to foil Miami-based terrorist crimes against the socialist island. Their family members are contributors, too.

U.S. author Alice Walker (“The Color Purple”) wrote the introduction and the Cuban poet Nancy Morejon, the prologue. The book also contains an epilogue by Leonard Weinglass, appeals attorney one of the Five.

Morejon writes: “No only is a battle being joined here for the image and the dignity of Cuba, but also for that of the whole universe, because with human beings like Olga, Mirta, Rosa, Elizabeth, and Adriana [the spouses of the Five], a better world — not just an island — is more than possible.”

The book has to do with familial love and above all, with constancy. It is about being a parent, and for Alice Walker, how fathers act and what they say to children.

Walker places the lives of the prisoners and their families within the context of prisoners in general and of North American slave families, who after they were divided, often lost their will to resist. She cites the loneliness of those African Americans bereft of family ties who languish in jails or sink into the world of drugs.

Translated from the Spanish, Walker writes: “What cropped up in my consciousness while I read these letters was the realization of how old in fact this story is. When I read these letters and poems and saw the drawings, there I was, in touch with our own ancestors who for the first time experienced the pain and devastation caused by the destruction of their families. I felt in my own body the long centuries of slavery and the systematic zeal of the slavers to separate families.

“How many centuries had to pass for them almost to eradicate family devotion! They succeeded in eliminating family sentiment in some of them, converting them into zombies to help the bosses subdue and destroy other slaves.”

While in Cuba, Walker found that “there was no conversation that did not end without talk about the situation [of the five prisoners]. … I began to see how important this book is for our time — a time when so many fathers are in prison. … It contains a most important lesson: how to be a father, how to be a husband, how to be a lover, and how to act like parents, especially when something so big and so cruel as the U.S. government imposes itself between you and everything you love.”

She concludes: “These men, like our own beloved Mumia Abu-Jamal — just as innocent, also subjected to accusations, likewise a hero by whatever criterion, held on death row for so many merciless years — are demonstrating something extraordinary. The rest of us must never overlook their deep, tender, and continuing love that does honor to the highest achievements of the Revolution.”

It is hoped that “The Sweet Abyss,” published in Spanish by Havana’s Jose Marti Press, will soon be available in English.

The author can be reached at **(See related story below)

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U.S. House rebels on Cuba travel ban

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 225-174 on Sept. 21 for an amendment presented by Rep. Jim Davis (D-Fla.) to the Treasury and Transportation Appropriations Bill to ease the Bush administration’s new restrictions on Cuban Americans’ travel to Cuba. The next day, the House passed two more amendments that would ease sanctions on Cuba — one sponsored by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) that would make it easier for Cuba to get financing to buy agricultural products and medical supplies, and the other by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) that would deny funds to enforce Bush’s new limits on student exchange programs in Cuba.

While the amendments are likely to be eliminated in conference committee meetings with the Senate, the House actions are seen as significant rebuffs to President Bush’s new anti-Cuba measures and rhetoric.

— Weekly News Update on the Americas