November 2nd will mark the one year anniversary since the death of Carmen Nordelo,
mother of Gerardo Hernández, one of the Cuban 5 political prisoners being held in
the US for fighting against terrorism.
That morning a year ago, when we learned that Carmen had died without receiving
the kiss and the tenderness of her only son we felt a profound pain. We also felt
a great sadness for Gerardo who was isolated from the comfort of a love one, something
any human being needs at the time of the loss of a mother.
In 1998 just months before the long detention of Gerardo and his four brothers began,
his sister died in a tragic accident. Years before his father Gerardo Hernández
Martí also died.
The unjust imprisonment of Gerardo, who was only 33 at the time, deeply affected
the life of his family and particularly the health of Carmen. Her boy, as she used
to call him, was the victim of a colossal injustice and was sentenced without any
proof to two life sentences plus 15 years. All the hatred of the terrorist Mafia
of Miami and the perversity of a system of justice only in name fell squarely on
For her commitment, along with the mothers of Antonio, Fernando and René, Carmen
was awarded the Mariana Grajales order, the highest honor given to a Cuban citizen
for heroism. Despite all the blows that she received in her life, Carmen actively
participated in the campaign to bring to the world the true plight of her son and
his four brothers and to demand their justice and freedom.
“If there is something in me that is noble and good, there is no doubt I inherited
it from her” said Gerardo in his book “El Amor y el Humor todo lo pueden”. When
Carmen was buried Gerardo asked that a ribbon be put around the flowers to be placed
on her casket that read “To mamucha, from her little boy”.
In May last year, a few months before her death, we visited Carmen at her home.
At the time she could no longer speak and was barely able to move her body, but
when we spoke to her and told her we were friends of Gerardo a tear came down her
During all these years Carmen was only able to see Gerardo a few times thanks to
the punitive,restrictive and manipulative way that visas have been granted to the
families of the 5 and Carmen’s own precarious health. On one of her first visits
to see Gerardo after he was sentenced she spoke with a Cuban journalist, “When I
first saw him I do not know where I got my strength, but then he told me, “Mami,
I am very proud of you”. I had to remain strong at that moment because in the conditions
he was in if he saw me crying he would worry. In all his letters he would always
say to me “Mami, please take care of yourself, the worst that can happen to me
here is to find out that something happened to you.”*
In April 2002 Carmen was allowed into the US for 10 days and got to visit Gerardo
5 times during that time. “On the last day of the visit when I saw him entering
the visiting room in his beige prison uniform I stood up and embraced him with all
my strength. When I held his hands on top of the small plastic table that separated
us the guards told me that I was prohibited from doing that simple act of affection
that a mother naturally shows to her son.”
Mother’s day was getting closer that year, and when the same journalist asked Carmen
what she would tell mothers in the US if she had the opportunity to publish her
message in the US media: “First I would greet them for such a beautiful day, as
I will do to all the Cuban mothers. And then I would ask them to help us to achieve
justice for the Five.”
Carmen died without seeing her son and without achieving justice for the Cuban 5.
The US corporate media never interviewed her, did not listen to her request and
she was never able to deliver her message to US mothers. On November 2, 2009 Gerardo
received the worst news of his life absolutely alone, in a maximum security prison,
and now a year later he has not been able to bring flowers to the tomb of his mother.
Family members of the Cuban 5 continue to have problems getting regular visas to
visit their sons, and husbands in prison. The visas of Adriana and Olga, wives of
Gerardo y René have been denied now for more than a decade. Recently Amnesty International
denounced this treatment in a letter to US Attorney Eric Holder on October 4, 2010.
The world-wide community asks itself, how much longer are we are going to have to
witness such violations to prisoner’s rights, the rights of families and human rights
in general? Until when do we have to face the double standards of a country that
keeps 5 innocent men locked up while sheltering, protecting and financing confessed
terrorists such as Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles?.
On the day after Carmen’s death Commander Fidel Castro said, “You cannot deceive
an entire people all the time. We not only will bring flowers to the tomb of Carmen
Nordelo, we will continue the struggle without resting for the freedom of Gerardo,
Antonio, Fernando, Ramón and René, unmasking the infinite hypocrisy and cynicism
of the Empire, while defending the truth!”
“Only then will we honor the legion of mothers and women like her that in Cuba have
scarified the best and most precious years of their lives for the Revolution and
For the memory of Carmen and all Cuban mothers we send a demand to Obama: End the
injustice, Freedom Now!
*Interview to Carmen, May 12, 2002, Juventud Rebelde