The Place Where My Father Wished to Be…

Dictatorships, in particular totalitarian, are very much alike. That of Cuba is not an exception. The State is perceived as an absolute entity that covers and understands everything and makes use not only of children, but even of the dead.

There are many examples to support this and the best is perhaps the event that occurred on April 26, 1987, when the body of the deceased political leader Blas Roca (1908- 1987) was deposited, by express order of Fidel Castro, in El Cacahual, south of Havana, where the remains of Antonio Maceo, Panchito Gomez Toro and other personalities lie.

Blas Roca. Foto: Tania Díaz Castro
Raul Castro and Blas Roca . Foto: Tania Díaz Castro

That’s where Blas Roca rests now, one of the most honourable politicians of the Republic, a man who devoted his life to fighting for full social justice and who generously broke with his party due to the turbulent political circumstances of the sixties.

His son Vladimiro Roca, a peaceful opponent of the Castro dictatorship and a relentless defender of democracy, said in his testimony that his father wanted to be buried in wild land, where his body would act as a useful fertilizer; he wanted to be buried in the shade of a mango tree, where he used to sit and think, next to the house on the junction of streets 87 and 105 in the New Vedado district.

In 1999, the 59-year-old Vladimiro Roca was convicted of the alleged crime of conspiracy and spent long years behind bars as a political prisoner. Shortly before his arrest, he was a member of the opposition groups Corriente Socialista Democratica (Democratic Socialist Current) and Grupo de Trabajo de la Disidencia Interna (Working Group for Internal Dissidence). Apart from that, he was a signatory, along with Marta B. Roque, Felix Bonne and lawyer Rene Gomez Manzano, of La Patria es de Todos (The Homeland Belongs to All), one of the fundamental documents of the Human Rights Movement in Cuba.

Many people in Cuba still wonder how Blas Roca would have reacted to his son’s imprisonment imposed as punishment for his trying to confront the horrors of the era: incarceration of thousands of political prisoners (including independent journalists), shooting of black youngsters only for the sake of intimidation, poor economic management of the country, escapes of young people across the Strait of Florida, etc.

“My father told us on several occasions,” says Vladimiro, “that he didn’t want to be buried in a coffin. Nor did he want to be cremated. This is the only reason why I have never been able to visit him at the El Cacahual mausoleum, unlike Maximo Gomez who used to come every week to honour Maceo and his son. My heart has not allowed me to pay the visit. My father meant a lot to me. He was an exemplary father. Those who knew him well remember him as a simple man, very humble and very affectionate with everyone. Although he rests in a pantheon – the National Monument, in the middle of a beautiful and peaceful landscape, surrounded by royal palms, squares, avenues, flowerbeds and a gazebo – a real place of past glory, I know that he would have preferred to be buried under his mango tree to lie there forever. I hope that I will be able to fulfil his last wish one day.”

TaniaDiazCastroReciente

Tania Díaz Castro (*1939) is co-founder of National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba. For over two decades she was reporter for official magazines. In 1980's she spent 18 months in jail for joining Human Rights Party.