New Book on Cuban Five Accents Family Ties; Alice Walker Writes Prologue
By Tom Whitney October 2004
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
"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.