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Rene Gonzalez: I never thought I would have to write this letter

24 February 2012


My Brother for life,


I never thought I would have to write this letter. We share the same lack of enthusiasm for letter writing, a fact clearly demonstrated during our respective internationalist missions and – more conclusively – in the unique experience of the last 20 years. In other words, only conditions as extraordinary as the present ones induce me to write.


Under normal conditions, these things should said be face to face, and a lot of them wouldn’t even need to be said at all. You have enough on your plate with this pitched battle against a disease that is trying to devour you, without on top of that having to face a human ailment that is much more lethal: hatred.


The hatred that stops me from reciprocating all the efforts, with that well-deserved hug we Five would like to give you.


The hatred that does not let me laugh with you at the each of the happenings that spring from your immense courage.


The hatred that obliges me to guess, by the sound of your breathing on the telephone, the fluctuating fortunes of the battle you are waging.


The hatred that causes me the anguish of not being able to share in the caring for all those who love you; and which stops me from being there to support Sary and the boys.


The hatred that deprives me of seeing our nephews and nieces grow up; they have become men and women in the last few years. How proud you must be of your children!


The hatred that prevents me from simply embracing my brother. That obliges me to follow from an absurd and distant confinement a process of which I should be part, like anyone else who has served a prison sentence, in itself quite long enough and imposed precisely out of hatred; but for him, still insufficient.


What can one do against so much hatred? What we have always done, I suppose: love life and fight for it, both for our own and for that of others. Confront every obstacle with a smile on our lips, an apt witticism, and with that optimism instilled in us from childhood. Press on, tough it out, never give in, always together shoulder to shoulder, however hard they try to isolate me from family and friends, to punish all of us in that way.


Today I’ve been remembering those great days from your time as a sportsman. You in the pool and us up in the stands, shouting your name as you swam. Our voices reached you intermittently, when you raised your head to breathe. You told us how sometimes you heard your whole name, other times just the beginning or the end. So we trained ourselves to wait ’till your head was out of the water and then all shout your name in unison. You couldn’t see us, but the din we made told you we were with you, even if we couldn’t intervene directly in the fierce struggle taking place in the swimming pool.


History is now repeating itself. While you are committing all your efforts to this struggle, I am here cheering you on, now together with the family that you had not then yet built. Although you can’t see me, you know I’m there, together with yours, who are also mine. You know that this brother, from his strange exile, from the sorrow of forced separation, under the most absurd conditions of supervised freedom, based on the dignity of his status as a Cuban patriot (like you) and on the affection nurtured by the ties of kinship and shared experience that unite us, is and always will be with you. Every time you raise your head, you’ll be able to hear me shouting, together with my nephews and nieces.


Breathe, brother, breathe!!


Your brother who loves you,




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