The Prodigal Friend

He returns speaking softly, knocking cautiously on the door of that friend he hasn’t wanted to see for more than a year. For a long time he doesn’t talk about what happened when he didn’t come, or why, but the way we look at each other says everything. Fear, that element that puts affection to the test and throws corrosive acid over declarations of loyalty, has kept him away. Now he’s back for just a few minutes. While he’s in our house he speaks in a whisper, pointing to the tiny hidden microphones he imagines in every corner. We invite him to share a couple of fried eggs, a piece of taro, and some rice, not a word of reproach. We act as if we’d seen him yesterday or as if we’d talked on the phone just this morning, as if he’d never been away.

Nevertheless, something is broken beyond repair. So we only tell him about family things, about Reinaldo’s granddaughters who grow bigger every day and Teo’s new interest in playing the guitar. Not a single word from this side about the gratifying and painful side of our lives that comes from expressing ourselves freely in a country full of masks. When we seem to have run out of things to say, we extend the conversation by mentioning the rain or the stories of violence that seem to become more common every day in this city. To fill the void created by distance we tell him about our inability to find cooking oil, and the detergent one has to tease out from the hidden stores in the shops. We avoid, of course, future plans, daily worries, the police cordon, and how sad we feel about those who leave.

After a while the friend goes and we’re convinced he won’t return for a year or two, an eternity or two. Who knows, he might be here sooner than we think, patting our backs and telling us that when everyone fled from us in terror he wasn’t infected by the fear and from his room, at a safe distance, he was with us every step of the way.


7 thoughts on “The Prodigal Friend


    NPR: Cuba: My Revolution is a new graphic novel about a 17-year-old girl who forgoes her dream of becoming an artist to join Fidel Castro’s Cuban Revolution. Host Allison Keyes speaks with author Inverna Lockpez, whose personal experiences shape the story, and illustrator Dean Haspiel. (YOU CAN HEAR THE INTERVIEW ON A AUDIO LINK ON THE N.P.R. WEB SITE)

    ALLISON KEYES, host:

    I’m Allison Keyes. This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Michel Martin is away.

    A rising star on the so-called good ol’ boys circuit is a 17-year-old boy from Colombia, South America. It’s part of NASCAR’s effort to recruit talented people of color to the racing ovult(ph) of America. We’ll talk about the drive for diversity initiative in a few minutes.

    But, first, the autobiographical tale of a young woman’s life during the Cuban revolution, told with drawings. The book is called “Cuba: My Revolution” and it’s a graphic novel. The story is set in the late 1950s when 17-year-old Sonya is about to set aside her dream of becoming an artist to join Fidel Castro as his rebels overthrow the government. Along the way, her life takes some challenging turns.

    We’re going to hear from the illustrator, Dean Haspiel, about how his drawings helped the story come to life.

    But, first, the author herself, Inverna Lockpez. Welcome.

    Ms. INVERNA LOCKPEZ (Graphic Novelist, “Cuba: My Revolution”): I am so delighted to be here, Allison, you know, and really great that we can have a conversation.

    KEYES: I am curious. Having read this, it’s so visceral. There’s so much blood. There’s so much graphic – I mean, it was difficult to read. I wonder if it was difficult for you to write.

    Ms. LOCKPEZ: It was quite difficult. I was living in New York. I left New York, came to Florida. And the reason why I did that was a sound, a smell, brings you back to memories when you were a child, of your first love, of your first relationship.

    So I came back to Florida to listen to the sounds of the water, the crickets, the smell of the grass after a big rain. And it brought me back like it was yesterday. I wrote down the first memory and the first one brought the second one, the third, and then 300 pages came about.

    KEYES: What was the first memory you wrote down?

    Ms. LOCKPEZ: The first memory was that night, December 31st, 1958 when we were all getting – putting ourselves together, getting dressed and we were going to celebrate new year. And you know why that came back? Because when we went to the restaurant, the firecrackers were immense. And it was raining and the sound was the rain and the firecrackers, and it was the rebels – they were really were attacking and coming down from the mountains. And they were really entering different areas of Cuba.

    And the sounds of that night, with the sounds of the crickets in Florida, brought me back to that first day.

    KEYES: So, these are things that you actually saw and experienced, the body parts and the dead people? These are things that you actually saw and experienced?

    Ms. LOCKPEZ: Yes. Remember when you are very young, you always feel that you are invincible. You really sent to the army. People are really very young. They think, that will never happen to me, I won’t die. And I volunteered. I really believed in what Castro was saying. I total believe him. And I didn’t know that you had to compromise and you have to do with these negotiations as you grow older. So that kid was incredible experience.

    KEYES: Let me back up and ask you to share a little of the story with the audience, who hasn’t read the book. And it starts out with the character, Sonya, as you said, she’s dressed up. She and her mom are getting ready to go out. And then all kinds of terrible things happen to her. Tell us a little bit.

    Ms. LOCKPEZ: Everything that really happened in the book really happened to me. She goes through a period of believing in the revolution, and wanting to participate and putting aside her career as an artist and becoming a physician.

    Then the Bay of Pigs comes. It’s an event that happened in April of 1961 where one of the invaders that was a Cuban, she discover him and he was injured. And at that time, Sonya is a student, but because of the lack of physicians in Cuba, she was able to do a series of surgeries.

    KEYES: She was a doctor. Or she was acting as a doctor.

    Ms. LOCKPEZ: Yes. And they asked me to operate on him without anesthesia. And it happened that this was the first love of my life. We met when we were teenagers. He left Cuba because his family was against Castro. And he was in Miami and he came back as what is called a mercenary. He was trained by the United States to invade Cuba.

    KEYES: And you were on the Cuban side, so you were then on opposite sides.

    Ms. LOCKPEZ: Yes.

    KEYES: And you hadn’t known it.

    Ms. LOCKPEZ: No, I didn’t. So, and he died. So that was the – I mean, first of all, I didn’t understand why he was on the other side. And then, I, who as a doctor have to treat people in any side, because that is my duty, could not believe that the government will let them die. Because there was not enough blood and the blood was only kept for the Cubans.

    And because of that, there is another individual, we were in a school treating the wounded soldiers, the Cuban wounded soldiers. And they brought one of the enemies. He was a captain. And they put him in a broom closet and they locked him and he was screaming the whole night. And I asked the soldiers to open the door because I wanted to give him morphine.

    And I said to myself, I am not going to let this one die. This is not going to happen again. And, of course, you know, they opened the door, I cleaned this guy, I cure, I put bandages around and he has a virgin hanging from his neck, a gold necklace with a patron of Cuba, the Black Virgin. And he gave it to me and I took it.

    And they closed the door. They put the guy back. And the following morning I am really on the floor totally exhausted and they kick me and they asked me, you’re going back to Havana because you are part of the CIA.

    KEYES: So you were tortured.

    Ms. LOCKPEZ: Yes. I was half dead. I was burned. But the burns and the physical wounds are not the ones that remain, it’s the betray – it’s the revolution could be doing that to someone that was a believer.

    KEYES: If you’re just joining us, this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I’m Allison Keyes and we’re talking with Inverna Lockpez about her new graphic novel called “Cuba: My Revolution.” We’re also joined now by the illustrator, Dean Haspiel. And thanks, Dean, for sitting in with us.

    I’m very struck by the appearance of this book. I mean, I want to overuse the word graphic, but it really hits you right between the eyes. And your colors are so visceral. I mean, you used black, you used red, you used gray and white, but why not full color?

    Mr. DEAN HASPIEL (Illustrator, “Cuba: My Revolution”): Early on, before I drew the first page, I decided to – we wanted to have a limited palette and we were going to use two colors and we finally arrived with black and red. Red alone evokes revolution, romance, blood, passion. And I thought it worked really well once we finally decided and settled on those colors.

    And you’ll notice that some of the book kind of sticks to the gray palette, but then the red will come out during the more emotional scenes.

    KEYES: I wonder how the two of you worked as a process. You’re both artists. How did you, Dean, conceive the pictures to illustrate her words?

    Mr. HASPIEL: Well, I’ve been writing and drawing comics since I was 12 and professionally the last eight years I’ve written and drawn by own semi-autobiographical stories. So I feel like I can discover and create a good balance between the hyperbolic and the sensitive.

    And when Inverna finally divulged her story to me, I saw both and I felt like it was going to be the greatest challenge of my career thus far. But I was ready to meet that challenge with what I had drawn before.

    KEYES: And Inverna, why did you decide to tell this story with pictures instead of something with words?

    Ms. LOCKPEZ: First, because I am a painter and I see the world very much in pictures and frames and colors. And, second, because I know Dean for a long time and Dean wants to illustrate the book and I know his work. And also because I like things that are quite difficult. When you are working by yourself as a writer or as a painter, you take all the decisions. You don’t have to consult with anyone.

    In this case, I was putting my trust on Dean’s being able to visualize all the emotions that I was going through, and the pain and the drama and the joyful and the humor. And also we were working with a colorist and we were working with an editor. All of that is like a piece of theater.

    And when the collaboration went ahead, it was extremely inspirational. It was difficult. It was a challenge. But I think the book became very much like a piece of artwork.

    KEYES: Inverna, I just need to ask you, what do you want readers to take away from this novel?

    Ms. LOCKPEZ: It’s about very much believing in yourself. The narrative has been, really, the backdrop of my life. And when we are younger, sometimes we are fools, but, also, we’re gods. And the majority of the situation, we rise to the occasion. You have to believe in yourself. You can’t be full of fear or intimidation. You have a responsibility, when you don’t like injustice, you have to talk and you can make a difference in the world.

    KEYES: Inverna Lockpez is the author of a new graphic novel called “Cuba: My Revolution.” She was kind enough to join us, along with illustrator Dean Haspiel from NPR member station WLRN in Miami, Florida. You can find her book in stores now, and we will have some pictures from it on our Web site. Just go to, click on Programs and click on TELL ME MORE. Thank you much for joining us.

    Ms. LOCKPEZ: Thank you to you for really asking pertinent questions.

    Mr. HASPIEL: Thank you, Allison.

    RADIO NEDERLAND: Cuba: la espera de Yoani-23 de noviembre 2010
    (Escuche la entrevista a Yoani Sánchez, autora del blog Generación Y adetro del articulo)

    La bloguera cubana Yoani Sánchez espera en las próximas horas un pronunciamiento de las autoridades cubanas para saber si puede salir de la Isla.

    Sánchez quiere estar en los Países Bajos para recoger el premio Príncipe Claus.

    Afable y directa, Yoani Sánchez responde que ‘es la octava vez en tres años que pide autorización al gobierno cubano para viajar al exterior, y que nunca le han explicado el por qué de la negativa en todas las peticiones que he solicitado’.

    Sánchez recibió de la Fundación Príncipe Claus de Holanda el Premio de Periodismo 2010, conjuntamente con el cineasta iraní, Mehrad Oslouel, y la periodista Aung Zaw de Tailandia. La Fundación Príncipe Claus les distingue por proclamar la libertad y resistir el autoritarismo en sus países respectivos.

    Sucede que el régimen tiene miedo que yo salga y regrese a la Isla, que es lo que han logrado con el grupo de disidentes que están liberando de las cárceles. Quiero ir a Europa y conocer nuestra realidad desde fuera. Mi deseo es dictar conferencias en universidades, hablar con la gente, y estar en Holanda para recoger personalmente el premio´, explica Yoani Sánchez.

    Sánchez es autora de ´Generación Y´, un incisivo blog basado en crónicas del entorno cotidiano de Cuba. Supo, de esta forma, volcar la utilización de tecnologías de redes sociales para enfrentar al régimen castrista. En la actualidad ´ Generación Y ´ es una de las bitácoras con más impacto en el ciberespacio.

    ‘Quisiera aprovechar el viaje también para promover mi libro Un blog para hablar al mundo, que son mis experiencias personales en torno a Generación Y y lo que allí ha acontecido. Las autoridades algún día tendrán que ceder’, dice Sánchez.

    El 17 de diciembre se entregarán los premios en el Palacio Real de Amsterdan, Holanda.

  3. A spot on reminder about how the rebolution changed lives forever …
    In other places is called paranoia, when in reality is legitimate fear.
    Since we as humans have rights … our rights are those we can defend … if we can’t defend our rights … we live in a dictatorship.
    Hence the fear, the lack of trust …
    What a life, we were promised freedom from “the opressors” ….

    YOUTUBE: “Money” – Liza Minnelli, Joel Grey (from CABARET)

    MIAMI HERALD: Cuba might lift restrictions, let baseball players sign abroad-After years of rising defections, Cuba might let its players sign with foreign leagues — except Major League Baseball.BY UZIEL GOMEZ AND JORGE EBRO-11.23.10
    Something is moving silently within Cuban baseball that, if it comes to pass, would end five decades of imposed tradition and push Cuban players into what was once derided as “the slave game.”
    The Cuban Federation of Baseball is considering a proposal that would permit Cuban players to join professional leagues in other countries, a source close to the federation told El Nuevo Herald.

    Federation vice president Antonio Castro, son of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, floated the proposal to members of the Cuban delegation during the 17th International Cup in Taipei, Taiwan, according to the source.

    “Many rumors had been heard about Cuba looking for some sort of deal with professional circuits,” said Carlos Pérez, president of Miami Sports Consulting, an agency that represents several Caribbean players. “But we’d have to wait and see if this will work out or if it’s just another idea dead on arrival.”

    The initiative would allow Cuban players to join professional leagues and keep 60 percent of their wages, while the government collects the remaining 40 percent, the sources said.

    The countries where Cubans would be permitted to play are: Taipei, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Italy.

    Players would not be allowed to sign with Major League Baseball clubs because of the United States trade embargo on Cuba.

    Antonio Castro’s proposal was submitted to his father, Fidel, and his uncle, President Raúl Castro, the sources said. It has the support of the national federation, although figures such as former star shortstop Germán Mesa are said to oppose it.

    “Should this be put into practice, it would generate a very interesting panorama,” said attorney Jaime Torres, who represents players José Contreras of the Phillies and Alexei Ramírez of the White Sox. “Let’s say a kid goes to Mexico to play. There, he could look at Major League Baseball and compare. Nobody could prevent him from playing in the United States, if he so wished.”


    If approved, the proposal would doubtlessly make it easy for players to go abroad — most of them with years of experience — and pursue their baseball dreams.

    Cuba might have no alternative but to give a green light to the project. As has happened with the timid moves in the economic sector, immobility could be a worse choice.

    Recently, former player Victor Mesa recommended that the government allow players to sign contracts with foreign teams to slow down defections, which have risen alarmingly in recent years.

    “Other countries do it, so why can’t we? In the end, they’re stealing our players, even those in the minor leagues,” Mesa said. “I favor they be inserted into foreign teams after eight years of playing in our national series. And through our channels, too, not as free agents.”

    Mesa’s comments were made public shortly after El Nuevo Herald announced the defection of Yasiel Balaguer, a 17-year-old center fielder who is looking to settle in a third country before signing with a major-league team.

    After pitcher René Arocha escaped the island in 1991, defections by baseball players rose from a trickle to a flood. In 2009 alone, 35 players fled the country. This year, Cuba’s favorite pastime lost several figures, among them Leonys Martín, an experienced player on the national team.

    Several sources say that more than 350 players have left the island over the past several years. Currently, there were about 20 Cubans on major-league rosters.


    The total value of the contracts signed between 2009 and 2010 by Cuban players in the majors exceeds $70 million.

    In the late 1990s, Cuba considered the idea of allowing veteran players to participate in foreign leagues. Several played in semiprofessional leagues in Asia and Europe, among them the legendary Omar Linares, who played professionally in the twilight of his career in Japan.

    The baseball authorities “have a problem with so much talent that has gotten away from them, so they want to stay on the good side of both God and the Devil,” Pérez said.

    “The Cuban government wants to be both owner and agent, to satisfy the players and simultaneously to keep control over them. It will profit, because 40 percent of a contract is an abusive share. We’ll wait and see what happens.”

  5. Me lo contó el propio ciudadano Braulio Cuenca Cruz. Dijo que fue multado con 30 pesos por expresar públicamente su inconformidad con el sistema de salud cubano. El hecho ocurrió en una reunión del poder popular realizada en el pueblecito de Antilla donde él haciendo uso de su derecho a opinar criticó las carencias en el servicio de neonatología del hospital municipal de ese municipio.
    Agregó Braulio que en la reunión se encontraban presentes directivos del partido y del gobierno y al terminar la asamblea fue abordado por un policía que le impuso la multa por ‘supuestamente’ querer sabotear el mitin gubernamental. Me aseguró el antillano Cuenca Cruz que no va a pagar la multa y sabe que quedará expuesto a que se le multiplique el monto de la misma. Dice que lo hará por porfiado y que por creer que puede haber justicia irá a los tribunales a reclamar. Considera que tiene derecho a expresarse libremente acerca del proceder de quienes tienen la tarea de dirigir el país y el municipio.
    No le dije mi parecer con relación a su intención de reclamar la multa porque no creo prudente inducir a las personas a tomar decisiones. Recordé que no hace mucho mi esposa y yo hicimos algunos trámites ‘legales’ si así pudiera llamárseles en este mi país. Entregamos una reclamación formal a la Fiscalía Provincial y al cabo de tiempo que la ley en Cuba establece me citaron a las herméticas oficinas de Holguín. El resultado lo conocieron mis lectores porque lo expuse en este blog.

    Pero como de cualquier manera no quiero sentirme culpable por no advertir a los demás, le leí este reporte que el guantanamero Anderlay Guerra Blanco hiciera hace semanas para el blog El Palenque.
    Dolín Dachao Alexander en una Asamblea del Poder Popular que se efectuó en su área de residencia, volcó todo su sentir por la dictadura cubana desde el techo de su casa; frente a todos los presentes gritó ¡Abajo la dictadura! ¡Abajo Fidel Castro! Y ¡Abajo Raúl Castro!
    Fue detenido inmediatamente y conducido en una patrulla de la policía hasta la unidad provincial de operaciones de la seguridad del estado. En el tribunal popular de esta ciudad le realizaron un juicio por el supuesto delito de Desacato, en la causa 20/2010. Al dictarse la sentencia de 10 meses de trabajos forzados, Dolín respondió con el mismo ímpetu y las mismas palabras que lo llevaron a la cárcel.
    El 13 de abril de este año, en el teatro del Combinado de Prisiones de Guantánamo le realizaron un nuevo juicio sumario a Dolín. Esta vez por desacato al tribunal, en referencia a sus palabras pronunciadas contra el régimen terminada la vista oral anterior. No estuvieron presentes sus familiares, solo militares presenciaron el círco romano. Le agregaron otros 10 meses de castigo a cumplir bajo encierro. Dolín no se amedrentó, volvió a gritar ¡Abajo la dictadura! ¡Abajo Fidel Castro! ¡Abajo Raúl Castro! ¡Justicia para el pueblo cubano!
    Recuerdo las veces en que mi esposa les ha gritado esas frases a la policía que ha venido a detenerme, ella sabe a lo que expone y no titubea en decir lo que piensa de ellos. Recuerdo los relatos de Caridad Caballero, Marta Díaz Rondón, Idalmis Núñez y de mis compañeros de la Alianza Rolando y Cristian Toranzo cuando me contaban que dentro del centro de instrucción en Pedernales continuaban gritando la libertad a todo pecho. Ellas me mostraron los labios hinchados por los golpes que les dieron para taparles la boca.

    Recordé Reina que me dijo “Con una paño untado en gasolina me taparon la boca, pretendían asfixiarme para que no dijera Zapata Vive, los Castro asesinaron a mi hijo.

  6. DEJA VU! Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962! KOREAN MISSILE CRISIS 2010! OLD “NUTS” AND THEIR OFFSPRINGS ARE STILL THREATENING THE WORLD! Thank GOD, “THE MUMMY” and “LA CHINA” dont have access to this technology! or do they? via “EL ENANO” (Chavez)?

    L.A. TIMES:U.S. scrambles to limit Korea hostilities-Washington and allies begin trying to round up support for a U.N. Security Council statement that would condemn North Korea’s shelling of South Korea’s Yeonpyeong island. The U.S. hopes to enlist China’s aid.-Reporting from Washington and Seoul —

    As South Korea threatened retaliation for North Korea’s deadly shelling of a South Korean island, U.S. officials scrambled Tuesday to avert any catastrophic escalation of hostilities following one of the most serious confrontations on the Korean peninsula in decades.

    The shelling — which killed two soldiers and injured 19 people, including three civilians — sent South Koreans fleeing the west coast island of Yeonpyeong as their government put the air force on high alert and declared that North Korea would face “stern retaliation” if it launched further attacks.

    Condemnation of the North came swiftly from foreign capitals. President Obama was “outraged,” an aide said, saying Pyongyang was “an ongoing threat that needs to be dealt with.” The White House called on Pyongyang to end “its belligerent action.”

    The Obama administration sought to build diplomatic pressure on North Korea by enlisting the aid of China, which provides vital energy assistance and other aid to the impoverished communist country. U.S. officials and allies began trying to round up support for a United Nations Security Council statement that would condemn Pyongyang’s action, diplomats said.

    Such a statement would mark a significant shift for China, which strongly resisted international efforts to penalize North Korea after it sank a South Korean warship, the Cheonan, in March. Diplomats said it was not immediately clear whether China would be willing to condemn its neighbor, despite the growing international pressure.

    A number of high-ranking members of Congress called on China to exert stronger influence on the North. Rep. Howard Berman (D-Valley Village), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, urged Beijing to “immediately suspend its economic and energy assistance to show Pyongyang that its aggression has consequences.”

    The South Korean military was conducting drills near the island, which is close to the North-South border, when the North opened fire about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday. Pyongyang had sent messages to Seoul that it considered the exercises “preparation for an invasion.”

    The killing of soldiers and the attack on civilians put South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in the difficult position of having to respond strongly while avoiding dangerous escalation, analysts said.

    Senior U.S. officials, including Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, met at the White House on Tuesday to discuss the crisis. Obama planned to call Lee late Tuesday to express a firm U.S. commitment to South Korean security, officials said.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who was visiting Belarus, warned on Russian television of “a colossal danger that the accident may deteriorate into combat actions.” He called on Koreans to show restraint.

    U.S. officials said they were consulting with their allies, especially South Korea, to jointly decide the next step. They also suggested that Washington probably would not make any immediate fundamental changes in its approach to North Korea.

    A U.S. Defense official said Tuesday that he saw no signs of movement of North or South Korean troops or equipment into the region.

    But another U.S. official said the Pentagon might decide there is a need to move into the region to demonstrate a commitment to defend South Korea.

    The attack followed the disclosure over the weekend that North Korea was building a uranium enrichment plant at its nuclear site in Yongbyon, news that suggests the secretive regime is seeking a second method of building nuclear weapons.

    That disclosure, followed by the attack on the island, stirred wide speculation that North Korea was seeking to pressure the U.S. to agree to further diplomatic concessions and aid.

    There was also talk that Pyongyang might want to make a show of force to help establish military and popular support for Kim Jong Eun, the son of and presumed successor to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

    Senior U.S. officials refused to speculate publicly, however. Gates told reporters that he had no answer for any question about North Korea that began with “Why.”

    Another U.S. official acknowledged that the North Koreans have often launched provocations “to try to get other nations to sit down and talk. That could be what’s going on here, but it’s hard to tell.”

    Several officials said Tuesday that they found the events alarming because of the North’s apparent willingness to risk military confrontation and its interest in expanding its nuclear program.,0,3064131.story

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