At the age of 30, he was living his dream as a writer and journalist. He had always loved writing. As a child, he had spent countless hours creating stories with the vivid imagination afforded those of a young age. He wrote about adventure, mystery, and romance. His favorite stories were about heroes who saved the day and the villains they defeated.
As he got older his passion for writing didn’t wane, and he followed his dream through the university level, where he earned a degree in journalism. After a few entry level jobs in the news and television industry, he was presented the opportunity to write the script for a soap opera which was to be televised on a weekly basis. He thoroughly loved this aspect of his job as it took him back to his favorite childhood pastime – creating characters and the experiences they encountered on their journeys.
However, lately he was finding it more and more difficult to immerse himself in his imaginary world when faced with the reality of the unrest starting to bubble across the country. The new regime and the changes that were being imposed upon citizens was becoming increasingly more difficult to ignore as the promises made were not promises kept.
Friends and family had come to him in secret, expressing fear of this new way, where food was rationed, shortages worsened, and worship was now being banned both in churches and at home. He heard the whispers of those who worried about the messages being broadcast in the news and schools. They talked of their children being questioned by teachers who demanded to know if their parents supported the current regime or if they were one of the “guísanos” (maggots) as they referred to those who were against them. They were afraid to speak up, but also terrified of further consequences if they remained silent.
He knew he had to be their voice, had to use his platform to share the truth. That night he stayed up all night recording a message. He warned of Castro’s true intentions, that of complete manipulation and control, that of ultimate communism. In the morning, he aired it during the regularly scheduled soap opera time slot. As it played, a strange calm came over him. Words had always brought him comfort, and these words would hopefully bring others a bit of comfort as well, at least in knowing they were not alone in their fears and suspicions of this new regime’s true intentions.
Unfortunately, his sense of peace didn’t last long. As he stood watching the message being aired, two armed militia entered his place of employment and seized him.
Word of his disappearance spread, and after several days of no communication either from him or the authorities, his parents asked his sister to intervene. The young woman approached a member of the militia whom she had known since childhood. She pleaded with him to share any morsel of information regarding her brother’s whereabouts so her parents may find some comfort.
“I recommend you stop asking questions if you care at all about the wellbeing of the rest of your family,” he responded.
Stunned but determined, the young woman continued her plight, eventually finding answers though not the news she had hoped. Her brother had been sentenced to ten years in prison for treason. He was held in a stone cellar, stripped naked, malnourished and mistreated for using his platform to bring light to the cruel and oppressive actions of a tyrannical government.
That brave journalist was my grandmother’s brother, and I pray he found solace in the stories of his imagination while trapped in that cellar. I pray his words were a balm to his soul as he lay alone in darkness. I pray his story may not be in vain, and those who read it choose to use their own voice for good, refusing to remain silent any longer.