Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. -

26 de Mayo del 2000

A FISHERMAN GETS ONE OF DESTINY'S CARDS. By Rafael Contreras, Cuba Free Press.

La Coloma, Pinar del Río.- Destiny is a gambler who cheats. It always has a card up its sleeve.

Juan the old fisherman and I arrived at our dock that afternoon on his small boat. It had been a so-so day's work of fishing. Juan had caught little. The sea was somewhat choppy that afternoon. I like to compare the sea with men's destinies, above all when the sea is choppy as it was that day.

It has been almost 20 years since Juan began fishing here from the port of La Coloma, 27 kilometers south of Pinar del Río. Juan has spent a total of 38 years in the province of Pinar del Río.

When he arrived in this province Juan was 28. He had been born in Las Villas in the very center of the island. In the 60s' in Cuba rebel bands began nearby to fight against the Cuban government. Consequently, the Cuban authorities had the idea of removing families from the Escambray mountains. It was a kind of reconcentration. The rulers wanted to avoid having the peasants help the rebels against the government. Juan's family, living in that area, was sent to Havana.

He remembers that it was in the Miramar area where the families brought from the Escambray mountains were concentrated. One day some soldiers in olive drab arrived and ordered all the men from each family to get on board the trucks. They got on the trucks and took a trip that seemed to them to be interminable.

They saw villages that they never saw again. They arrived in the middle of the night at the place where they would be finally located. The next day they were able to realize that they were in an extensive territory devoted to the cultivation of the land. They learned the name of that place was Río (River) Verde, although they never saw the river. They had been taken to that place so that they themselves would build the town where they would live with their families.

Three years later the town they made was finally built. They could then reunite with their families who had been confined in Havana in the Miramar area. They all knew that they were compelled to put down roots in the town that they had built by force and that they would never return to the place of their birth.

Although he was still rather young, Juan already had a small son, a few months old. On Aug. 22, 1964 the town was officially inaugurated. The Cuban authorities gave the town the name of Sandino. Now everyone in Cuba knows it as Sandino Township.

During that time Juan did not even dream of being a fisherman. It was right there when destiny took out one of its hidden cards. On one of his visits with some friends to a nearby town, Juan saw the ocean for the first time. He met some fisherman and everything began there. He got on board a little boat of the fishing cooperative for the first time.

He never returned to the town he had helped build. He arrived one day at the port of La Coloma and later got married there. No one knows when Juan remembered that he had left his former wife with a small child in Sandino.

That afternoon when we had been coming in on Juan's small boat, he was recalling those years past. I had a premonition that destiny was moving the cards once again. As soon as we arrived on shore, Juan tied the boat to the dock tightly with his fisherman's hands.

"It's that I wanted to lose myself all at once from that town where they had placed me by force, journalist. My poor wife bore the bad part in the deal."

The old fisherman said these words to me with all the sadness of the world. Juan was a man full of sins thrown on his shoulders by a system and other men.

"I never knew whether she died or if she's alive. Nor have I ever known about my boy."

When he said this to me I remembered then that Juan also had been imprisoned for a long time. He had been arrested when he helped a group of people leave by the port area.

"I was more crazy than those people, boy. Whoever would think of leaving for the United States from the south coast of Cuba? Those people were desperate, Juan. A desperate man does anything. Yes, I think so; a desperate guy will do anything, journalist."

He said this and we then walked along the dock in the direction of the port's only bar. There in the bar I have several friends. The profession of reporter has that good part; one makes friends on the road. At one of the tables, Jacinto was seated. He called to us when he saw us come in. At his side was a young guy I had never seen in town. No one knew him. We arrived at the table and Jacinto introduced us to the young guy.

"Look," he said to us, this is the man who will head the contingent that's going to put up some buildings here in the port."

We all greeted each another. Then Juan and I sat down with Jacinto and the man. I say young guy because he looked very young next to Jacinto and old Juan. But he had the stature of a man.

Jacinto, a black man, was the one who put the first card in destiny's hands when he spoke. "Look, Juan, the chief here of the contingent says he hates fishermen."

"Good heavens! Then I'm leaving this table!"

Jacinto gave a big laugh that shook the whole bar. "It's not as bad as all that, buddy," he said. "What happened is that a fisherman played a dirty trick on the boy. I've been asking him for some time to tell us about it but he doesn't want to."

Juan said, "Go ahead with that story, boy. That way we'll tell you if you're right or wrong. We fishermen are good people. We feed almost everyone who is on land."

It was then that the young man started to talk. We learned that he came from a town in the province, a town that had been built by the people brought from the Escambray in the 60's. He had arrived at that town just a few months after his birth. When the young guy got to the part that told about the death of his mother when she was abandoned by the father, I looked at Juan the fisherman.

Juan had the glass halfway between the chest and his eyes. At that moment he asked the young guy, ""What did your father do for a living, son?"

The young guy looked through the window of the bar at the immensity of the ocean and answered, "I guess he's still a fisherman. That's what he went into when he chucked out my mother with me in her arms."

It's like I was saying. Right there destiny had the card taken out of the sleeve. It appeared to me that I saw it in the middle of the table. I am not going to tell those who read this what card it was. And I'm not going to say what happened next. I want each reader to imagine what could have happened.

Maybe on some occasion destiny will also have hidden cards from you.

Rafael Contreras, Cuba Free Press.

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