Friends of Salamanders

It was shortly after I learned that candy is sweet and fire burns, when I came to realize that Cubans are allowed to join organizations created by the government but we are punished, to teach us a lesson, if we decide to create our own groups. And so, as children we were automatically enrolled in the Young Pioneers; at age fourteen women were enrolled in the Women’s Federation; neighbors joined the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution; while workers formed a part of the country’s only authorized union. For their part, students became members of their federation, and peasants were registered in a single group at the national level. We all appeared on the membership rolls of something.

Every time someone would apply for a job, admission to the university, or seek to obtain the right to buy a home appliance, they had to fill out a form quizzing them on their membership in the organizations consecrated by Power. The list began, of course, with the most important: The Communist Party or the Union of Young Communists. It seems ridiculous to me now, as I can remember my hand holding a pencil and marking little X’s next to organizations with acronyms such as OPJM, CDR or FMC. I was on automatic, without conviction, wanting to make them think I was a citizen who fit in, revolutionary, “normal.”

For many years I have not repeated a slogan nor belonged to any of the country’s authorized organizations. When people ask, I say am an independent citizen, a free electron, and that my political platform is limited to demanding the decriminalization of differences of opinion; but I am aware that we are far from achieving these goals. Despite the changes and the promised apertures it is still frowned upon to criticize – be it a minister’s management or a school’s class schedule – and certainly one couldn’t think of founding an independent party, nor even so much as a club for “Friends of Salamanders.”

51 thoughts on “Friends of Salamanders

  1. MIAMI HERALD: Gerardo Hernandez, a Castro agent convicted with four others in the Cuban Five spy trial, says he had no clue about his government’s planned shoot-down of exile planes in 1996 that killed four Miami men.-By JAY WEAVER

    Click Link for Entire Article

    But the 12-person federal jury concluded that Hernandez, a leader among the Cuban Five spies, communicated with his Cuban intelligence handlers about two fellow agents who had infiltrated and flown with the Brothers to the Rescue. The jurors found that Cuban officials transmitted encrypted radio messages, warning Hernandez that the other agents should not fly on any Brothers’ missions between Feb. 24 and Feb. 27, 1996.

    The two agents — Rene Gonzalez and Juan Pablo Roque — were instructed to use code phrases during radio communications with Cuban air traffic control if they could not avoid flying with the Brothers on those dates.

    Gonzalez was convicted of being a Castro agent as part of the Cuban Five. Roque returned to Cuba just before the February 1996 shoot-down and reappeared a couple of days later speaking on TV from Cuba about his mission in Miami.

    The Cuban Five five have gained heroic status in their country and international support around the globe. Their faces are plastered on billboards and posters throughout Cuba. But Hernandez, who led La Red Avispa, or the Wasp Network, in Miami, was the only agent convicted in connection with the shoot-down — and the only one serving a life sentence. The others were convicted of being unregistered Cuban agents or of espionage charges.

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