Two Wings of the Same Bird – Puerto Rico, Cuba, Hurricanes and Political Prisoners
by DIANA BLOCK
Photo by Rob Oo | CC BY 2.0
Six months after Oscar López Rivera was released from prison having spent 35 years inside, he traveled to Cuba. “I feel at home, this is a dream come true; for many, many years, I have wanted to come to Cuba and today for the first time I have arrived,” Oscar told Fernando Llort González, the President of ICAP (Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples), who greeted him when he stepped off the plane.
The last time Oscar had seen Fernando was in the cell he shared with him for four years in Terre Haute prison where they became good friends. Their friendship wasn’t surprising. Oscar was in prison because of his participation in the struggle to win Puerto Rican independence from the U.S. while Fernando, one of the Cuban 5, was in prison for his efforts to protect a sovereign Cuban nation from U.S. aggressive interventions. A Puerto Rican and a Cuban freedom fighter sharing a cell was a twenty-first century manifestation of the historical bonds between the two islands, eloquently expressed in the lines that Puerto Rican poet Lola Rodriguez de Tió wrote in 1893:
Cuba and Puerto Rico are
as two wings of the same bird,
they receive flowers and bullets
into the same heart.
When Oscar arrived in Cuba on November 13, 2017, both Cuba and Puerto Rico had recently received bullets into the geographical hearts of their islands. Cuba was hit by Hurricane Irma, a category 5 hurricane, on September 8, 2017. Two weeks weeks later, on September 20th, Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria, a category 4 hurricane. In Cuba, the electricity was restored to the entire island within a few weeks. In Puerto Rico, over four months after Maria nearly 40% of the island is still without power. The scandal-plagued response to the hurricane on the part of the U.S. and Puerto Rican governments exposes the operation of disaster capitalism at its worst.