Not all of those who’ve been part of the struggle to free the Cuban Five have been prominent activists, or even members of organized groups. Meet a few of them.
- Jacqueline Roussie, a French woman who discovered the case of the Five during a vacation to Cuba with her husband in 2003, began corresponding with them in prison in December 2004. In 2006, she and 63 of her neighbours in Monein, a village in the southwest of France, wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, calling on him to free the Five. Their letter, she admits, did not “weigh heavily on the U.S. government!” But after Barak Obama was elected president in 2008, she began writing him monthly letters — 73 in all — often with copies to 20 other “personalities” in the U.S. “I never received a response from these figures, but I have never been discouraged,” she says today. “I knew that justice would ultimately prevail.” The last of the 170 letters she received from Gerardo Hernandez was dated Dec. 1. “Your letters to Obama and other US authorities have been like a water droplet on the stone,” he told her. “Today we have many signs that indicate that the stone has been worn …
- Alina Lopez Marin, a Cuban American whose family left Cuba in 1960, says writing to Gerardo Hernandez “helped me regain faith in my fellow Cubans.” She began corresponding with him in 2008 “after flying over Guanajacabibes in Pinar del Rio, while returning from Belize. Belize had reminded me of Cuba quite a bit, or the Cuba that I had left as a child in 1960. The island felt like a magnet. Something called out to me. I began reading all I could about current Cuba and found out about the Five. I wrote a letter to Gerardo in his prison in California… I tell [Gerardo] that it was his mom who was ailing at the time who called to me to ask me to become his adopted mom.
- Bill Ryan, of Gillies Corner, Ontario, had been making maple baseball bats in his home workshop to hand out to Cuban youngsters during vacation trips to the island for about a decade. In 2009, he decided to create five special bats, one for each family of the Cuban Five, whom he’d come to realize were “national heroes” there. That led to an ongoing correspondence between Ryan and Gerardo. In 2010, Gerardo asked him to make a special bat to commemorate the victory of Havana Industriales, his favourite team, in the Cuban National Baseball League championship. After that, he made wooden plaques to thank those who’d supported the cause. There followed more personal orders, including a Gerardo-designed jewelry box featuring black coral and deer antlers to commemorate his first date with his wife Adriana 25 years earlier. Ryan presented the gift to Adriana while they were both sitting in a restaurant and Adriana was on the phone talking with Gerardo. “It was almost as if he was there.”
Are you one of those who added your own individual voice to the struggle? Or do you know someone else whose role should be celebrated. Share their story with us and we’ll add it to this honour roll.
More on the role activists played in winning the release of the Five here.