[Pnews] The Cuban 5 on Robben Island
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!!!”
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