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Vol. 77/No. 13      April 8, 2013

(feature article)
‘Thank you, Angola, for allowing
us to know our comrades better’
Prensa Latina/Vladimir Molina
Adriana Pérez, wife of Gerardo Hernández, at Feb. 21 Havana book fair event. “These five men weren’t bred in a laboratory,” Pérez said. “They are men with the heart and courage to do what they did—and are still doing.”

“When Gerardo is put in the ‘hole’ in prison,” said Adriana Pérez, “my mind returns to when he and the other men slept in an underground dugout in Angola and had to take baths outdoors in the middle of the night.” Above, Gerardo Hernández, right, in front of dugout.

…These two books—Cuba and Angola: Fighting for Africa’s Freedom and Our Own and The Cuban Five—have particular relevance at this book fair, which is dedicated to Angola. They describe the experiences of Gerardo, Fernando, and René in that country.

Gerardo left for Angola on July 14, 1989, the day before our first wedding anniversary. It was the first time we’d been separated. Through all the letters and information we exchanged, I had the opportunity to share the Angola experience with him.

We were lucky, since it was the final stage of the war in Angola. There were risks involved, but it was nothing like the risks René may have faced when he carried out his mission from 1977 to 1979, or when Fernando was in Angola from 1987 to 1989.

Gerardo didn’t complete the second year of his mission. The peace accords had been signed at the end of 1988, and in 1990 Namibia became independent. Cuban troops were being withdrawn by stages, and another group of graduates from the ISRI [Higher Institute for International Relations], where Gerardo had studied, was given the opportunity to go to Angola that final year.

For me it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. There’s no doubt the Angola mission—for Gerardo as much as for Fernando and René—was a school that helped prepare them for what lay ahead. It prepared them for the imprisonment they’ve been enduring for nearly 15 years.

Whenever Gerardo has been put in the “hole” [in U.S. prisons], especially those difficult moments when there was no communication between us, my mind returns to the experience in Angola. There Gerardo and the other men had to sleep in an underground dugout for six months; they took baths outdoors in the middle of the night.

Although Antonio and Ramón didn’t go to Angola, they, too, went through the kind of training that prepared them to carry out their mission in the U.S. They had other responsibilities at that time.

Magali [Llort, mother of Fernando] and I had the good fortune to visit Angola and Namibia, and we have excellent memories of that visit. I always say that when Gerardo returns home, one of the countries he must visit is Namibia, a country with a small population and a big heart. A country that achieved independence in great part through the victory of the struggle in Angola.

We very much appreciate what the compañeros of Pathfinder are doing, because through these accounts you are making known the values these men stand for.

I ask all of you to help us spread this message: the human essence of who these five men are. They weren’t bred in a laboratory. They weren’t prefabricated. They are men who have the heart and the courage to do what they did—what they are still doing—and to continue contributing to the revolution.

Thank you, Angola, for being free, for being here with us at this book fair, and for allowing us, through your history, to know our own comrades better.
Related articles:
‘It is only through international solidarity and action that we will bring our compañeros home’
Among the participants
‘I’m proud of what our lieutenant did and of what he continues to do today’
‘Fight for their freedom is inextricable part of sharpening class struggle in United States’
‘Letting the people of the US know the truth about the Five’
‘Diverse religious institutions are united behind Cuban Five’
Who are the Cuban Five?
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