By Rouslyn Navia Jordán
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
How is a hero born? What clay makes the men who arouse the admiration of their peers and becomeparadigms? Could it be that the difference is made by life itself and the environment in which they grow up?Perhaps the difference is determined by the values their family teaches them; or the school and society in which they develop their existence?
Interesting questions we all ask and Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, the young Cuban we approach with these lines, answers with his usual directness from his unjust imprisonment.
“My mother was born in the Canary Islands. She arrived in Cuba at age 15, and was a person without muchschooling. Until her last days she was a housewife and took care of the household chores. She first raised her children and then her five grandchildren. Although there was not much she could provide in my political education, I largely owe to her my ethical and moral values. She was a very humble person, devoid of all kind of malice. So much so that sometimes it was thought to be flaw. She was always very concerned aboutothers, much more than for herself.”
“It is known that children are never a carbon copy of their parents; but I've always said that all I may have in me of humility, kindness or any other feature that emanates from those, I owe to her, to her example, and to the way she raised me.”
"She and my father complemented each other. My old man was not much given to showing affection, but his image of righteousness and strong character disguised his big heart. I don’t have many childhood memories of outings or walks with him, because he was a person totally committed to his work. Ever since I can remember, and until illness forced his retirement, he worked in tanneries and always worked long hours. Onweekends, if he was not doing voluntary work somewhere, his "break" would be working on something in the house.”
"At home he was the counterpart of my mom. She would provide the tenderness, and he would establish order. "Wait till your father comes" was a phrase I never wanted to hear from my mom. The old man was very revolutionary, and very early on became a party member. He and my sister María del Carmen had much to do with my political education. The latter, when she died in an accident in 1998, was a lieutenant colonel of the FAR [Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias- Cuban Army] and a professor at the Military Technical Institute,where she had studied.”
"All throughout my childhood –until the in-laws and nephews arrived– my family was made up of my parents and my two sisters. I learned something from each one of them. Above all, I am grateful that it was a functional and united family, without major conflicts. I never had a bad example from my parents or my sisters; nothing that could have been a negative influence. This is something that you do not often stop to think about when you are a boy, but later on you realize its importance.”
"But if home and family significantly influenced my training, I think my way through the Instituto Superior de Relaciones Internacionales (ISRI) [Higher Institute for the Study of International Relations] was essential in that regard. There we were privileged to be taught by a first-rate staff of professors and specialists, and I alsobecame part of a group of classmates from which I learned a lot.”
"Some came from the Facultad Obrera [College for in-service workers] and were older than those of us whohad just finished high school. There were party members, union leaders, and some even had been oninternationalist missions. "The elders" as we called them, entered ISRI to be full-time students, and became true mentors for the group of less-experienced kids who came from high school. Among the young peoplethere were some with tremendous backgrounds as student leaders, National Vanguard winners; andinteraction with them was part of my training.”
"There were two parallel schoolings: that of International Relations, and ethics, politics, ideology, and ethics which was the result of spending six years of my life sharing all kinds of experiences with that group of people I’m so grateful to, and of which I have so many good memories.”
"I was always inspired by the heroes and martyrs of our history, and most especially those in our more recent history. The young people of the Generación del Centenario, the fighters of the Sierra and Llano [guerrillas in Sierra Maestra and clandestine fighters in the cities], the Bay of Pigs ... I was always inspired by Che's example, of course, and by Fidel, Raul, Almeida ...”
"I am inspired by the anonymous heroes of our country, those of yesterday and today. I have had the opportunity to know some, and others I will never meet, but I know are there. When one is in a situation like ours, we need inspiration from the moment we wake up every day, because we never know what will happen in the journey ahead. This has been going on for more than 15 years; so, do the math ...”
"I'm inspired by the letters and other expressions of solidarity that we constantly receive. I am inspired by all patriots: our internationalist combatants, the doctors, the teachers and other collaborators who carry out noble missions in various parts of the world. I am inspired by the athletes who defend the colors of our flag.By the dancers, musicians and artists in general who travel the world earning prestige for our culture.
"I am inspired by all Cubans who, even living abroad, do not ride the wagon of hatred or lend themselves tothe task of denigrating and attacking their homeland. I am inspired by the retired old man who today mayhave to make ends meet by selling peanuts in a street corner, because his pension is not enough, butcontinues to support the Revolution, because he sees the glass half full, not half empty.”
"And believe me, these are not empty words. When I open a newspaper and read what Viengsay Valdes[Cuban dancer] said about how important Cuba is for her... that inspires me. When I read the story of the girlwho asked for a piece of land full of stones and marabou, and she is today a leading producer of food... thatinspires me. I was inspired when I read about the self-employed flat-tire fixer in Las Tunas who in his business gave priority to ambulances and did not charge them. All this encourages me, because it reaffirmsme in the conviction that one has not made sacrifices for nothing; and that, although there are some who have become discouraged, there will always be many other Cubans willing to carry the torch, and put theirshare of sacrifice not only to survive, but to continue solving our problems, and so that, with Pablo’s leave [paraphrases the lyrics in a song by singer-composer Pablo Milanes], that society which is not perfect, willcome closer to what we dream."
(Taken from Soy Cuba)