Archive for September 23rd, 2013

“Wait for me forever” (Gerardo tells how he met Adriana)

September 23, 2013


Valentine’s Day, or Dia de los Enamorados as it’s called in Cuba,
is a very big day on the Cuban calender, rather more so than it
is here in the United States, where it’s primarily a marketing
mechanism for chocolates, meals and other transitory things.
Last year Juventud Rebelde posted a six-page copy, by Gerardo
Hernandez, in own handwriting, of a letter written by Gerardo
to a friend explaining how he met his wife, Adriana. He writes
in block letters, and fills the entire page with one humongous
paragraph in order to save paper.
Since it was published in Cuba’s second largest-circulation daily
newspaper, I thought people everywhere would enjoy reading his
account, so it has been transcribed and translated, and have had
both checked over by Gerardo before posting it here. Readers can
see the original at the URL provided at the bottom.
JUVENTUD REBELDE February 14, 2012
A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann.

Wait for me forever

The story of how Adriana and I met is a bit long, because it needs an introduction. At the time I was a 4th year student at the Instituto Superior de Relaciones Internacionales (ISRI) [Higher Institute for International Relations] and she was studying chemistry at the “Victoria de Girón” Institute. ISRI was in Playa then and, since I lived in the suburb of Arroyo Naranjo, my dad –who worked in Vedado– took a longer ride in his car and dropped me off in on Fifth Avenue from where I walked a few blocks to the institute.
But one Sunday my dad asked me to wash the car and when I told him I was busy he said, “You’re never too busy to hitch a ride…” That made me feel bad and so I decided to take the bus the next day. Public transportation then was perhaps even worse than now, which is saying a lot! So I got up at 4 AM. First, I had to take Bus 31 to La Palma or La Víbora and from there I took the 68 to Vedado and then either the 32 or the 132 to Miramar. It was on the first stop of the 32, just in front of Cubana de Aviación on La Rampa, where we first met. The girls of Girón, wearing their mustard-colored and white uniforms, were always first in line; the first one who got to the stop saved a place for the others, so the line kept growing at the front.
I remember that Col. Barroso of ISRI’s Military Department, who also took the bus at that same stop, used to get angry and told me, “What is this? When I got here there were only ten people in front of me and now there are thirty!” Later on, when I was already “easy” with the girls and they used to call me to join them at the front of the line, the Colonel said to me, “So you are at it too, eh!” But well, that was later on.
On October 20, 1986, I got to the bus stop at early dawn and a group of girls from Girón were already there. I immediately noticed Adriana. For some reason she looked different from the rest, very quiet, very formal… Her beauty struck me, especially her eyes. Ernesto, a friend of mine at ISRI, was with me at the stop. The girls stepped into the bus and sat down. When it was our turn, I spotted where Adriana was sitting and we stood just beside her. Loud enough to be heard by all, I said to Ernesto: “There’s no decency any more, nobody gives a hand with your books and…, boy is this portfolio heavy!” It worked; the girl who sat beside Adriana offered to take Ernesto’s briefcase while Adriana offered to take mine.
I tried to be funny for the rest of the trip, but I was practically ignored. At some point, I mentioned something about the classes and Adriana’s friend Noelvys -to this day her best friend and a bit fresh to this day- looked at me from head to toe and asked me if I was a student. I was 21 but already going bald. Adriana, who didn’t say a word, was 16.
Ernesto and I got off first, so we got our books back and thanked them. When I got to ISRI, I was “traumatized”. The first class was International Law with Miguel D’Stefano (Yes, we were fortunate enough to receive classes from that eminent scholar). I simply sat at the back of the room and spent the whole class writing my “Poem to the Girl at the Bus Stop”, because I didn’t even know her name.
I told a few friends what had happened to me, Raulito, Aldama, Pascual… I showed them the poem and from then on every day I told them about my “progress” with such zeal that some of them felt compelled to go to the bus stop and see for themselves. When they saw her, since Adriana was –well, is– so petite and dressed in her yellow uniform, they started giving me the razz , that I was a cradle robber, that I was going to get arrested and so forth. But I’m jumping ahead again, all that came later.
On that day, October 20, Cuban National Culture Day, I got home and typed the poem. It basically said that we would meet the next day and that “perhaps tomorrow, when she graciously offers to carry my books, she will learn that an unknown admirer of her beauty paid no attention in class to write her this poem”. The next day there were a million things that needed to fall into place for that to happen, including the bus timetables, because if I missed just one I‘d be doomed.
But all saints came to my assistance and everything happened exactly as the poem said it would. I got up at 4 am again (My dad began to worry…). I took the two buses and when I got to the bus stop, there she was, with her friends again at the head of the line. She got on and took a seat. I got on and stood beside her. She offered to carry my books, like the poem said. I was very nervous but just when I had decided to hand her the poem. Martica, a friend from ISRI, stood beside me and started to make conversation.
It wasn’t until the end of my trip and I asked Adriana for my books, that I was able to give her my poem. She took it but did not unfold the page; she looked at me and said thank you. According to what she told me some time later, she had been about to decline it, but she didn’t, and says that the first thing she noticed about me were my hands… (Lucky me!).
So I got off and the next day it was the same story again. I already had bags under my eyes on account of getting up so early in the morning and one day my dad called me and said, “Come on, what I said wasn’t that serious; you don’t have to take it to heart” But I let him “suffer” a little longer before letting him know what was going on.
I can’t remember if the following day things went well again or if she wasn’t at the bus stop (she knows); but the next time I got to the stop and she was there, I saw the giggling among her friends. When I got on the bus, I stood beside her and again she offered to carry my books. From that moment on our conversations began. After a few days, as soon as I got on the bus whichever girl was sitting beside her was “coincidentally” called by another friend, and I would sit next to her.
Later on, when I got to the queue the girls called me to move up front with them and we got on the bus together. (That’s when the Colonel told me, “So you too, eh!”). Those days I would show up with a poem, a flower, or both. The poems I always chose were by Benedetti, Wichy Nogueras, Retamar… The flowers were roses or “black princes” depending on which of the two rosebushes of my neighbors, Olga and Bienvenida (both sadly gone now), bloomed first.
I would leave home very early in the morning carrying a little razor blade, and as I passed in front of Olga’s or Bienve’s house… zatch! Technically it was theft, but it implied no violence. A few years ago, Bienvenida was interviewed and she commented: “He thinks that I don’t know it was he who was stealing my roses…!”
It wasn’t a nice thing to do but at that hour there was no one around that I could ask for the flowers, and since at the time I was part of the Aspirin Group of cartoonists I used to get home quite late at night, so… Besides, Olga and Bienvenida saw me as “part of their family”.
Some days after that we went out for the first time with a couple of friends, Raul and Nancy, but nothing happened. My persuasive efforts bore fruit on November 7. That day she did not have to attend the first school hour but still –no matter if she denies it– she came early just to meet me at the bus stop. I told her that I was also free (not true, but I decided to play hooky) and convinced her to get off at my stop so I could show her my Institute (the outside, of course).
I invited her to sit at the “Little Beach” in 16th street and there, sitting on a bench watching a deserted beach, I made my move. There was a pretty little boat on the horizon on her left and I said, “Look what a pretty boat over there to your left,” and she turned to look at it.
Then I said, “Look at that other one to your right,” and when she turned to the right, I kissed her. This helped her to make up her mind. That day, an anniversary of the October Revolution, we became sweethearts (and that is why, when we got married two years later, we took flowers to the monument in Lenin Park).
From then on we did even more wonders with the bus connections; she tried to be at her stop in Santos Suarez so she could get on the same 68 where I rode. It’s easy to tell it like that, but many times I got to that stop holding on to the doors. Often times the driver simply skipped the stop she was at…Some story!
Those were very happy days, until I met my mother-in-law… Nah, I’m joking. As a matter of fact, the first time we went out, before we got engaged, I had to meet her parents first, who today have become my own parents. That’s our story, more or less. She remembers many more details.

When I left Cuba to fulfill my mission, I gave her two things: the lyrics of “Amada” (The Sweet Abyss), a song by Silvio Rodriguez, and the poem “Filin”, by Roberto Fernandez Retamar, that says:
If I am told that you’ve gone
And are not coming back,
I shall not believe it.
I will wait and wait for you.
If you are told that I’ve gone
And not coming back,
Do not believe it,
Wait for me
I hope I haven’t been too tiresome but – for obvious reasons- I am passionate about this story.
A hug from
Gerardo Hernández Nordelo
Victorville Prison
January 13, 2012

Transcribed, translated and edited by CubaNews.
Both checked for accuracy by Gerardo, August 2013
In a letter to Walter Lippmann, August 12, 2013, Gerardo wrote: “Thank you so very much for translating my words on how I met Adriana! I’m glad you had that idea because once in awhile a friend asks. I was moved by reading it in English, even though it’s exactly what I wrote myself!”
Gerardo writes in giant paragraphs which fill the entire page. He explained that he does this to save paper, “But I know, my grammar teacher would kill me…”


Transcription of Spanish original

Espérame siempre
La historia de cómo Adriana y yo nos conocimos es un poquito larga, porque hay que hacer una introducción. Por aquella época yo estudiaba en 4to. Año en el ISRI y ella en el tecnológico de Química “Victoria de Girón”. Entonces el ISRI estaba en Playa y como yo vivía en Arroyo Naranjo, mi papá -que trabajaba en El Vedado- hacía un recorrido un poco más largo y me llevaba en el carro hasta Quinta Avenida, desde donde yo caminaba unas cuadras hasta el Instituto. Pero un domingo mi papá me pidió que fregara el carro, y cuando le respondí que estaba ocupado me dijo: “Para montarte nunca estás ocupado…” Aquello me molestó y decidí que al día siguiente me iría en guagua. Por aquella época el transporte estaba tal vez peor que ahora (que ya es mucho decir!) Así que me levante a las cuatro de la mañana. Tenía que coger primero la 31 hasta La Palma o La Víbora, donde cogía la 68 hasta El Vedado, y allá la 32 o la 132 hasta Miramar. Fue en la primera parada de la 32, frente a Cubana de Aviación, en La Rampa, donde nos conocimos. Las muchachitas de Girón, vestidas de mostaza y blanco, siempre estaba de primeras, porque llegaban unas y marcaban para las demás, y la cola iba creciendo por delante. (Recuerdo que el Coronel Barroso de la Cátedra Militar del ISRI, quien también cogía la guagua allí, se insultaba y me decía: “Mira eso! Yo tenía diez personas delante cuando llegué y ahora tengo treinta!” Y después cuando ya yo estaba en “la guara” y las muchachitas me llamaban para adelante el coronel me decía: “Ah, pero tú también!” (Pero bueno, eso vino después.)
Ese día, 20 de octubre de 1986, llegué a la parada cuando apenas amanecía, y un grupo de muchachitas de Girón eran las primeras. Enseguida me fijé en Adriana. Por alguna razón se veía diferente, calladita, muy formal… Me llamó la atención su belleza y sobre todo sus ojos. Conmigo llegó a la parada Ernesto, un compañero del ISRI. Ellas subieron y se sentaron, y cuando subimos nosotros busqué donde estaba Adriana, y nos paramos al lado. Le empecé a decir a Ernesto, de manera que ellas escucharan: “Ya aquí se ha perdido la educación, no le llevan los libros a uno ni nada ¡y como pesa este portafolio!… Aquello funcionó y la amiguita que iba con Adriana le pidió el maletín a Ernesto, mientras que Adriana me lo pidió a mí. En el resto del viaje traté de hacerme el gracioso, pero prácticamente me ignoraron. Hubo un momento en que mencioné algo de las clases, y la amiga (Noelvys, hasta hoy su mejor amiga, y hasta hoy un poco fresca) me miró de arriba a abajo y me dijo: “¿Y tú eres estudiante?” Yo tenía 21 años, pero ya me estaba quedando calvo. Adriana, que no dijo una palabra tenía 16. Nosotros nos bajábamos primero, así que pedimos los libros y dimos las gracias. Llegué al ISRI “traumatizado”. El primer turno era de Derecho Internacional con Miguel D´Stefano (Si, tuvimos la suerte de ser alumnos de esa eminencia). Me senté al fondo, y me pasé la clase escribiendo el “Poema a la muchacha de la parada”, porque ni siquiera sabía su nombre.
Le hice la historia a varios amigos del aula: a Raulito, a Aldama, a Pascual…Les enseñé el poema y en lo adelante todas las mañanas llegaba contándoles sobre mis progresos, con tanto entusiasmo, que algunos no pudieron resistir y se iban para la parada también… Cuando la vieron, como Adriana era chiquitica (bueno, “es”…) y con su uniforme amarillo, empezaron a darme “tremendo cuero”. Me decían “robacunas”, que iba a caer preso…etc. Pero bueno, me adelanté otra vez, todo eso vino después.
Ese día 20 de Octubre, Día de la Cultura Cubana (Nacional) llegué a mi casa y escribí el poema a máquina. Básicamente decía (dice) que al otro día nos encontraríamos, y que “tal vez mañana, al pedir cortésmente mis libros, se entere de que un desconocido admirador de su belleza, desatendió una clase para escribirle este poema”. Al otro día habían un millón de cosas que tenían que coincidir para que eso ocurriera (incluyendo las guaguas, porque si se me iba una perdía) pero todos los santos me ayudaron, y ocurrió exactamente como el poema decía. Me levanté otra vez a las 4 de la mañana (ya mi papá comenzó a preocuparse…) cogí las dos guaguas, y al llegar a la parada, ella estaba alante en la fila, con sus amigas otra vez. Subió, se sentó. Subí, me paré al lado, y me pidió los libros tal y como decía el poema. Yo tenía tremendo nerviosismo y cuando ya me había decidido a darle el poema, se me paró al lado Martica, una compañera del ISRI, y empezó a hablarme… No fue hasta el final de mi viaje, cuando le pedí los libros, que le di el poema. Ella lo tomó, pero no lo abrió, y me dijo “Gracias”. Según me dijo tiempo después, estuvo a punto de rechazarlo, pero no lo hizo… y dice que en lo primero que se fijó de mi fue en las manos…(¡ menos mal!). Pero bueno, me bajé, y al otro día, la misma historia… Llegó el momento en que ya tenía tremendas ojeras por la levantadera a las cuatro de la mañana, y un día mi papá me llamó y me dijo: “Compadre, lo que yo te dije no fue para tanto, no tenías que tomarlo tan a pecho…” Pero todavía lo dejé “sufrir” un poco más antes de decirle lo que estaba pasando. Bueno, al día siguiente del poema no recuerdo si las cosas me salieron bien otra vez, o si ella no estaba en la parada (ella sabe), pero la próxima vez que llegué a la cola y ella estaba, ya noté el cuchicheo entre las amigas. Al subir me paré a su lado otra vez, y me volvió a pedir los libros. A partir de ahí comenzaron nuestras conversaciones. Unos días después, ya cuando yo subía, a la muchacha que estaba sentada al lado de ella “casualmente” la llamaban para otro asiento, y yo me sentaba. Y unos días después, ya cuando yo llegaba a la cola, ellas me llamaban para adelante, y subíamos juntos. (Ahí era cuando el coronel me decía: “Ah, pero tú también!?”). Por esos días yo me aparecía casi siempre con un poema o una flor, o los dos. Los poemas eran casi siempre de Benedetti, de Wichy Nogueras, de Retamar… Las flores eran rosas o príncipes negros, en dependencia de cuál de las dos matas de mis vecinas, Olga y Bienvenida (tristemente fallecidas ya) floreciera por esos días. Cuando salía de madrugada de la casa, me llevaba una cuchillita de afeitar, pasaba por casa de Olga o de Bienve, y Zas!… (Técnicamente era hurto, pero sin violencia). Hace unos años Bienvenida dijo en una entrevista que le hicieron: “El se piensa que yo no sé que él era quien me llevaba las rosas…!” No es un buen ejemplo, pero a esa hora no había nadie despierto a quien pedírselas, y como en aquel tiempo estaba en el grupo Aspirina de caricaturistas, casi siempre llegaba a la casa tarde en la noche también… Además, tanto para Olga como para Bienvenida, yo era “de la familia”.
Unos días después hicimos nuestra primera salida juntos, con dos amigos (Raúl y Nancy) pero nada… Mi trabajo de convencimiento dio frutos el 7 de noviembre. Ese día ella tenía su primer turno libre, pero (aunque diga que no) se fue temprano para verme en la parada. Yo le dije que también tenía mi primer turno libre (aunque en realidad me lo salté) y la convencí para que se bajara en mi parada, para poder mostrarle el Instituto (por fuera…). La invité a sentarnos en la Playita de 16, y allí, sentados en un banco, con la playa para nosotros la enamoré. Había un barquito de lo más lindo en el horizonte, a su izquierda, y le dije: “Mira qué lindo aquel barco…” y ella volteó la cara para mirarlo. Después le dije: “Mira aquel otro”, y cuando volteó para el otro lado, yo había puesto mi cara, y le di un beso (que la ayudó a decidirse…). Ese día, Aniversario de la Revolución de Octubre, nos hicimos novios. Por eso, dos años después cuando nos casamos, llevamos las flores al monumento a Lenin en el Parque Lenin. A partir de hacernos novios, hacíamos todavía más “malabares” con las guaguas, porque entonces tratábamos de que ella estuviera en la parada de su casa en Santos Suárez, cuando yo llegara en la 68, para que ella se montara… Se dice fácil, pero muchas veces yo llegaba enganchado en la puerta…Otras veces el chofer se llevaba la parada…Tremendo. Fueron unos días muy felices, hasta que conocí a mi suegra… (Na, mentira. En realidad para salir la primera vez, antes de ser novios, tuve que ir a conocer a sus padres primero, que hoy son mis padres).
Esa es más o menos la historia. Ella se acuerda de muchos más detalles que yo.
Cuando salí de Cuba a cumplir mi misión, le dejé dos cosas: el texto de la canción “Amada” (“El dulce abismo”) de Silvio y el poema “Filin” de Roberto Fernández Retamar, que dice:
Si me dicen que te has marchado
y que no vendrás
No voy a creerlo
Voy a esperarte y esperarte.
Si te dicen que me he ido
y que no vuelvo
No lo creas
Espero no haberte cansado, pero -por razones obvias- esta historia me apasiona.
Un abrazo,
Gerardo Hernández Nordelo
Prisión de Victorville
Enero 13, 2012

Spanish original:

(with Adriana, dog and his late mother)

WLRN apologizes and re-invites Cuba book author

September 23, 2013


WLRN radio station has apologized for canceling an interview with the author of a book that criticizes the Miami trial of five Cuban, and has re-invited him to appear on a news show to answer “our own hard questions about his claims.”

“We want to apologize to our South Florida listeners for the decision made this week by Joseph Cooper, the host of WLRN’s Topical Currents show, to cancel an interview” with author Stephen Kimber, said a statement issued by General Manager John Labonia.

An initial email sent by a WLRN staffer to Kimber’s publicist said Cooper had decided that the book, What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of the Cuban Five, was “incendiary” and canceled an interview scheduled for Tuesday.

That was “a judgment that I and the rest of WLRN’s management strongly disagree with,” Labonia said. “Mr. Cooper’s decision, in fact, was made without our knowledge…

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