[Pnews] The Cuban 5 on Robben Island

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Jun 30 10:44:17 EDT 2015

  The Cuban 5 on Robben Island: A Tribute to Mandela

By Deisy Francis Mexidor on June 25, 2015

Gerardo Hernandez, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando Gonzalez 
and René Gonzalez visited the island where Mandela was imprisoned and 
paid tribute to his example of the triumph of human spirit over adversity

ROBBEN ISLAND, South Africa.—A sign in English and Afrikaans announces 
the arrival to Robben Island, situated off the coast of Cape Town. It is 
a site which encompasses a painful history, thankfully one that is now 
in the past for South Africans.

The island of dry sand and strong winds, is surrounded by sharp reefs 
and the unique sound of the thousands of birds that fly overhead, is 
today a symbol of freedom. To get there you have to board a boat at the 
Nelson Mandela memorial located in the commercial and tourist district 
of Waterfront. The journey is about 12 kilometers, a half hour boat 
ride, which is enough time to reflect on the triumph of human spirit 
over adversity encompassed by this historical site.

Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González 
and René González, the Five Cuban anti-terrorists who t, were greatly 
inspired by the spirit of resistance of Prisoner No.46664, Nelson 
Mandela, during their imprisonment in the U.S. Today they traveled to 
the island as part of their historic tour of South Africa.

Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years of imprisonment by the apartheid regime 
on Robben Island.

Accompanied by Ahmed Kathrada, who was also imprisoned alongside 
Mandela, the Five toured the historical site that was opened as a museum 
on January 1, 1997 and was declared a World Heritage Site by the United 
Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1999.

Certain areas are usually off-limits to tourists, but Kathrada was able 
to gain access for the Five to view Mandela’s cell; a small, damp and 
unimaginable space. They studied the iron bars through which only hands 
could pass, the blanket on the floor was all that Mandela had for a bed, 
along with a bench and a small window. Each of them looked, touched the 
walls and tried to take an almost photographic image with their own 
eyes. It was a private moment of reflection. No questions were required.

Then, as they gathered to take a photo, Fernando noted the date: “Today 
is June 23, in 2001, 14 years ago, the Commandate Fidel Castro said we 
would return (to Cuba).” Meanwhile, Gerardo wrote in the guestbook on 
behalf of the Five: “It has been such a great honor to visit this place 
together with some of the brave comrades of Nelson Mandela.” The message 
continued, “All of them were a source of inspiration and strength for 
the Cuban Five to resist more than 16 years in U.S. prisons. We thank 
South Africa’s brave patriots for their legacy and example, which the 
Cuban Five will honor for the rest of our lives. On behalf of the Cuban 
People: Thank you!!!”

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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