Three best friends, one dream…. Now they are all gone. My father, the youngest of the three, was under the tutelage of the two older cousins; one whom I called my uncle. When the United States invaded the Bay of Pigs, before President Kennedy lost the little backbone that he had, the three of them had pivotal roles preparing for the invasion. Angel and Mario were able to escape to Miami and evade Castro and Guevara, who were on a murderous rampage. Eduardo, in charge of the CIA radio operations for the invasion was caught and served 18 years in one of the cruelest prisons known to mankind.
They ninicknamed him “El Abuelo” because he was older than all the other prisoners of conscience. He became part of the original group of “plantados” nicknamed because of the way they stood firm against their jailers. One of the plantados would later on become the Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission named by President Reagan; a president with backbone to spare…. Ambassador Valladares wrote a tell all book of the horrific experiences of Castro’s jails: “Against All Hope”. It is a riveting account of these prisoners being abused physically and psychologically. Forced to go naked for months on end. Sent to the firing squad then fired at with blanks. Sleep deprivation and lack of medical attention were the least of their problems.
Mario continued on the CIA payroll in Miami in charge of finances and benefits for those heroes that survived Kennedy’s betrayal. My father Angel was an exemplary man as a father, husband and man of faith. A lawyer in Cuba, in Miami he washed dishes and worked odd jobs until he became a social worker. At the pinnacle of his governmental career he was named by then Florida Governor Ruben Askew as the Director of the Cuban Refugee Program; the largest of its kind in the nation. Meanwhile, Eduardo spent his most productive years in Catro’s hellhole.
I remember like it was yesterday the day Eduardo was released then was flown to Miami. He walked into our house to hugs, kisses and tears. He looked at me and asked my father if I was the one destined to become a priest! Eduardo’s psyche was intact and his spirit as as strong as ever. Mario and my father Angel both passed away years ago. Eduardo carried the torch for both of them and for all those in exile praying for a free Cuba. We spent weekends suffering the Dolphins and weekdays lamenting the free fall of the Marlins….He was ever presnt at all our family affairs
I found out a few weeks ago that Eduardo was suffering from a blood disorder. I had the good fortune of spending some time with him just two days ago. This morning, Mario’s son, my cousin, called to tell me of Eduardo’s passing. If I am fortunate to get to Heaven and even more fortunate to be able to quiz our Lord at that time….I will ask why men of God leave us so early while those that serve the devil tend to stick around for so damn long….
I know that the three cousins are now together and enjoying our Lord’s everlasting glory. I pray that their dream of a free Cuba comes sooner rather than later and that their years of fight and determination are rewarded. Eduardo’s passing brings to an earthly close the friendship of the three patriots that I knew and loved. It is up to my generation and that of my two daughters – to contine the good fight…. Angel, Mario and Eduardo: La Patria Los Contemplas Orgullosos….