Birthday party for a Cuban hero: the human side of the solidarity
by Alicia Jrapko
June 5, 2007
Gerardo Hernandez, one of the Cuban five, has spent another birthday in prison, but this year something different happened. This time a radio wave of solidarity penetrated the prison bars, the barbed wires, and the metallic doors of Victorville Penitentiary to reach the ears and heart of Gerardo.
"Cantos sin Fronteras" is a 2 hour musical program that broadcasts every Saturday from 6 to 8 pm from KPFK radio station in Los Angeles. The popular program reaches out to a wide progressive audience all through out Southern California and encompasses the 100 miles of desert and mountains up to Victorville.
For more than two years now, Tanya Torres, the host of the program, has been talking about the case of the Cuban Five between nueva trova songs and music of the world to bring attention to the injustice of their imprisonment.
On June 2, Tanya planned to dedicate one of her two hours to Gerardo on the occasion of his birthday. She asked some friends who work in the movement to free the Cuban five in the U.S. to help her to get people to send in birthday greetings and notes of solidarity to fill out the show.
On short notice the messages started piling in right away. The electronic mail box of Cantos sin Fronteras was inundated with messages from all over the world, including Cuba, Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Germany, Belgium, Spain and Italy. From Puerto Rico, the known independentista Rafael Cancel Miranda sent Gerardo a moving message and a poem. Messages also came from Northern and Southern California, including one from ex Congressman Esteban Torres.
The host had to expand the tribute to the full time of the show and also had to edit the messages to make them shorter. Even doing that, there was not enough time to read them all. After two hours 66 of the messages had been read of the hundreds that she received. During the entire show the phone did not stop ringing from people making emotional appeals to send messages to Gerardo.
The highlight of the program was the intervention of Adriana, Gerardo's wife, who was interviewed live from their home in Havana. Adriana with her sweet and unmistakable voice wished Gerardo a Happy Birthday from far away, and sent him her unconditional love. For almost 9 years now, Adriana has not been able to visit Gerardo because the US government has denied her that right. But this last Saturday Gerardo and Adriana were together.
The Five were also present at Cantos Sin Fronteras with songs that made Gerardo go back to the time right after their arrest in 1998 when he was with his 4 brothers in a prison in Miami. "El Necio" was played dedicated by Rene, "El Dulce Abismo" was the request that was played from Ramon, and Fernando dedicated a salsa song that Gerardo used to sing over and over again in his cell.
"This program just knocked me dead" was how Gerardo described how he felt. It was a rare happy day despite the difficult conditions that he and his four brothers face. He shared the day with his beloved Adriana, with his brothers, and with hundreds of people from all over the world who reminded him that he was not alone.
Several prisoners in Victorville also heard the radio program. One of them asked Gerardo, "Did your eyes water when you heard the program? Because mine did."
The music without doubt has no borders, it belongs to everyone, but this past Saturday Cantos Sin Fronteras demonstrated that there are also no borders in the struggle for freedom and justice.
See the playlist for the program here
Listen to the program here