It was the summer of 1995 in the sinister maximum severity prison and punishment regimen located in the Camaguey penitentiary “Kilo 8”: commonly referred to as “I-lost-the-key.”
This was when repression there was at its peak, when Barbaro Teran Valladares “Barbarito” and Joaquin Morales Valiente, among others, threw themselves from the roofs to commit suicide, and others like Luis Enrique Portuondo “Chicho” and Hector Consuegra Prin of Holguin cut themselves on their legs, thighs, and arms with shaving blades so that on their way to the clinic they could pick up some cigarette stubs or so that some prisoners could toss them some pieces of bread or small packets of sugar as they saw them walk by. It was only a few days before the official, La Rosa, would wound his niece with a knife after his frustrated attempt to rape her. To this day, along with his metal club, he continues striking fear from his overbearing position as Group Chief.
The disturbing screams and death rattles of Julio Cesar Flores Cespedes, native of Bayamo, were fresh in the air from when the police assassinated him with a series of kicks, just for screaming “Hunger!” A smiliar situation had occurred just days earlier with Cornelio Castro Lasorna, also for screaming “hunger.”
This was during the times when Jose Antonio Gonzalez Abreu, aka “Papito la Pela”, deeply lacerated his cheeks with a blade in an attempt to awaken compassion in the closed and numbed hearts of the guards. The guards just took him out of his cell and forced him to clean trays in exchange for a little more stew. They also allowed him to pick up the used trays on the floor and let him eat the banana peels that not all the prisoners had eaten.
There, in the midst of all this repression and resistance, when almost daily the henchmen beat the untameable political prisoner Jesus Chambert Ramirez, still during the time when his other brother, Israel Salvia Ricardo, had not yet lost his vision in the dark cells, the guards had to confront an unexpected and new ghost that would transform that dump of torture and death: the Political Prisoner Pedro Luis Boitel. The oppressors could not forgive that it was there where the key was lost, where they told you “You are in now, but now you won’t know when or how you will get out, the magic is over.” In that famous place, a war and resistance faction formed. In it, we constantly denounced the atrocities committed, and solidarity between the political prisoners and the common ones continued to grow.
The movement came to be known as “Pedro Luis Boitel.” It comprised the prisoners of the jail we were in and also our relatives, who stood together in the legendary National Civic Resistance Movement of the same name. Later, thanks to the stupid error of the oppressors as they decided to separate us by placing us in different prisons, this effort of ours actually spread throughout different provinces and eventually throughout the internal opposition.
The result is that now, between the days of May 13 to 25, Cubans in jails, on the streets, and even from exile, come together to pay tribute to the hero of the civil resistance movement in the Castro gulags, that is, to the student leader known as Pedro Luis Boitel Abraham, who died in “El Principe” prison, located in the capital, on May 25, 1972 after a 53 day hunger strike. He was born on May 13, 1939. This year, the tribute will be especially significant.
You’d have to be here to see the activities we will carry out on May 19 of this year to honor the life of Orlando Zapata as part of the tribute to Boitel.
Translated by Raul G.