Honourable Mention in the 18 to 35 age category – Wadadli Pen Challenge 2016
Author’s comment: “Life in the time of dictatorship. In this creative non-fiction piece, a young boy speaks of Cuba during the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista and the men who stopped it all.”
Judge’s comment (positives only*): “I liked the Spanish infusion and the style of writing. The short sentences gave it a punchy rhythm. …it was an interesting piece.”
Note: Though only the positives are highlighted here, in keeping with the development goals of Wadadli Pen, all long listed entries are returned to the author with the judge’s note – both positives and negatives – for revision. Congrats to Jemelia. Keep working on your craft; keep valuing your voice and your art. And hope to see entries from your students next year as well. – JCH
Here now is Les Trajó Aquí by Jemelia Pratt, a teacher of Spanish and Accounts at McChesney George, and, our records suggest, the first finalist from our sister island Barbuda:
¡Para veinti-cinco años, les trajó aquí! For 25 years, he brought them here. That dictator, Fulgencio Batista, brought them to our home.
Mama said he showed promise. He gave us schools, yes. Mama got work, fair work. Life in the time of Fulgencio Batista was like a game of serpientes y escaleras, and we saw nowhere to go but up. But then he left us. Señor Batista ran off to Florida in 1944, and our Cuba was never the same.
Oh, how mama rejoiced when he came back! But little did she know that Señor Batista had brought the snakes with him. In 1948, he lied to mama. He promised to make life even better, pero nos mentió. ¡Les trajó aquí, los yumas! He brought the foreigners here! And the new name of the game was Monopoly. They bought our lands. They gambled away their money. They lived like kings in our country, and Señor Batista joined them.
He forgot about us. The country’s money never reached to us, but we could not speak about it. That was the worst part. We could not speak. And trust me, there were many tried. Mario Kuchilán: he talked and they got angry. Los soldados came for him in the dark of the night; they dragged him from his home. They tortured him and bludgeoned him half to death. That is the price he paid for breaking the silence. So no one else spoke.
La vida estaba dura. In other words, life was hard. 500,000 of us lived in miserable shacks. Now Mama only worked four months a year and we starved for the remaining eight. With no water, no electricity, and the scarcity of kerosene oil, the darkness surrounded us and the darkness consumed us. Each wretched day that we managed to survive, we had no more than 25 cents to buy food, clothing and shoes. And as for the schools Señor Batista started, now only 44% could go. La vida estaba dura.
We remained silent until those two men. Fidel Castro and Ché Guevara: two men who spoke differently, and fought fearlessly. They had a plan. Su deseo era poner fin a todo. Their wish was to put an end to it all. They fought in the name of political and economical freedom.
There were spies, eyes everywhere. Señor Batista trusted no one. But that did not stop our saviours. Señor Castro and the rebels attacked the Moncada army in 1953. They took prisoners, by the 20s, by the 50s; but then they were outnumbered and out-gunned. The rebels tried to retreat, but Señor Batista captured them. He was angry that his men died. He said, “Ten prisoners must be killed for each dead soldier”. That diablo killed them! The walls were painted and the lawns were watered with their blood. Then, for many long hours their mangled corpses were left there, like animals!
They captured Señor Castro and sent him to jail for 15 years. Quince años! In 1955 they exiled him to Mexico. Our people suffered.
But then he returned, and with him he brought Ché, his brother and a boat load of people. The rebellion was not easy. Señor Batista did not make it easy. Within two years I saw it all. They descended from the mountains like warriors. They fought, they conquered, and Señor Batista fled. He ran to the Dominican Republic but I wanted him dead.
Oh, how things changed! Fidel Castro: that was the man’s name. Ché Guevara: that was the man’s name. Patria o muerte, venceremos!
For earning honourable mention in her age category, Jemelia received:
A certificate and book sponsored by the Best of Books.
EC$150 from Frank B. Armstrong
Anna In-Between by Elizabeth Nunez, Turn Thanks by Lorna Goodison – courtesy Pam Arthurton of Carib World Travel
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