Bofill, Gustavo and Sebastian Arcos, Martha Frayde and another handful of patriots, changed the history of Cuba from the depths of a cell. They were imprisoned for opposing the Stalinist dictatorship of the Castros and everyone from the ranks of the Revolution.
Imprisoned and isolated, they modified the axis of the Cuban struggles. Starting with the creation of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights, in the remote decade of the seventies, the political battle, where it was anything goes, became a battle for the dignity of the individual.
And it was not anything goes. They could not achieve good ends through violent means.
The struggle for the respect for human rights is a fundamental milestone in the evolution of ideas. It means that there are certain rights that are not granted by the state but that are inherent in the nature of human beings.
Like many elements of our civilization, the struggle began in Athens, at the entry to the Stoa. That was when Zenon de Citia, 300 years before Christ, a Cypriot of Jewish or Phoenician origin, a red-haired bow-legged doctor, as described by his contemporaries, preached that the rights of people did not proceed from the phratry – the brotherhood – to which they belonged or from the cities in which they had been born.
To paraphrase Martí, to be a man was much more than being Athenian or coming from an illustrious lineage. This idea of the Stoics, the philosophical current founded by Zeno, was picked up by Christianity and thus reached the present day. It is in the papers of the American Revolution and of the French. It is in the liberal revolutions of the nineteenth century.
Subsequently, the communists tried to refute this notion, which was tantamount to depriving us our right to a backbone. The argument put forth was that every right was positive and could be abolished or granted by the State, because the human being was nothing but an evolved infant.
Only the key to this evolution was, precisely, the increasing need that this infant has to freely make its own decisions. Without freedom the human being is a mutilated and sad infant. Without freedom, life is worth much less.
We do very well, in commemorating this celebration of human rights, to pay tribute to Ricardo Bofill and all the Cubans who accompanied him on the glorious adventure of changing the tragic sign of Cuban history.
Let us also dedicate this commemoration to Leopoldo Lopez and our Venezuelan brothers and sisters who today offer an unparalleled example of patriotism. Unfortunately, the struggle for human rights and freedom still consumes lives, but it is worth fighting this fight.
14ymedio Editor’s Note: These words were spoken by the author at Miami Dade College on the eve of Human Rights Day.