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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

In Memory of Jorge Valls: Remembering the Christian mystic and Cuban human rights defender

Requiem for a good man

Jorge Manuel Valls Arango (1933 - 2015) Photo: The Miami Herald
Cuban exiles in Miami have been blessed with the presence of at least two saints. One was a man of the cloth forcibly exiled at gun point, who inspired a community to build Our Lady of Charity with individual small donations and have it become a national shrine for the Cuban exile community. His name is Bishop Agustín Román and he was called home on April 11, 2012. The other was a Catholic layman who had a leading position in a student movement resisting the Batista dictatorship that led prison in Cuba and exile in Mexico. He returned to Cuba only to be jailed in 1964 for supporting a friend in a show trial, disguised as a judicial proceeding, to 20 years in prison. Jorge Valls would complete the 20 year sentence and then be forced to serve another 40 days in prison. He was released in 1984 and two years later published his prison memoir, Twenty Years and Forty Days: Life in a Cuban Prison. In 1987 the former prisoner of conscience gave his testimony in the documentary, Nobody Listened that is available online. In a December 12, 1992 article in the Sun Sentinel, Jorge gave the following description of prison life:
"Prison is a very spiritual place. You`re always dealing with good and evil, right and wrong. Every night there were five or six executions. That was the reality of Christ. Because everyone goes to the cross; everyone dies. Christ suffered with us, and afterward he resurrected. That`s important. It means you don`t accept injustice as the only thing."
In 2009 the former prisoner of conscience and poet sat down with a member of the Free Cuba Foundation and spoke about his life, human rights and Cuba. Below is the first part of the interview.

Jorge Valls was called home on October 22, 2015. Today, family and friends gathered to pray for him in a Holy Mass at St. Kevin's Church and said "until we meet again." Below are two poems from Jorge Valls` award-winning 1983 book Where I am There is No Light and It is Barred. He is greatly missed.

I am up to my neck in rising blood.
It`s a black and sour blood.
I am tied up with a rope of blood.
I`m speaking with a voice
made of bubbles of blood.
I`m being heard by five ears of blood.
I`m  traveling in a blood-smeared car.
I`m disintegrating into worms of blood.
The worms grow and multiply
(it is the destiny of blood).
They are invading everything.
They are sputtering like clay rattles:
... Abel ... Abel ... Abel ...
A hundred skulls are served up in blood
upon a bare table.
I`m talking, unwittingly, with the creator of the blood,
with the bestower of the blood.
The blood reaches my nostrils.
The whole world is sinking in a vomit of blood.
... Abel ... Abel ... Abel ...

-- Where I am there is no light
and it is barred.
Just beyond
there lies a lighted space.
Therefore light must exist.
further on, there is an even deeper gloom.
There are no hanged men now:
all of them are on fire.
Could they be made of kerosene inside?
They go on talking,
moving from here to there,
from there to here,
Some are sleeping.
Someone is outside.
Somewhere there is sunshine.
Inevitably, the sun exists.
I can no longer leave:
I`ll go and sleep.
Inevitably, I`ll wake up again.
And so on, and on and on.
The kerosene burns inexhaustibly.

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