Vaclav Havel: A Cuban Friend / Dora Leonor Mesa

Several months ago, in one of my online classes at the University of Texas El Paso, I had to choose a leader whom I greatly admired. At that time I chose Václav Havel and my selection and drew criticism from one of the students in the class for not choosing a Cuban. I was far from imagining that one day I would make public my opinion, much less on account of his death.

Cuba, like many other countries, has famous leaders. I could mention Laura Pollan, then living, and other Cuban leaders who are still alive and whom I deeply admire; but I explained in the course to avoid creating misunderstandings and being unfair. Actually, I do not consider my opinion important, but just in case … I chose silence. Now that the Czech president went to another dimension, that of the Titans, I am going to say the real reason for my choice.

Whoever has read the book “The Power of the Powerless” will find a sincere man. Many called him naive. I’m no expert in the biography of Havel, but I know some of his speeches, lectures and books. I believe he deserves to be revered as one of the people who best understood the suffering of the Cuban people and in particular of the patriots, who are called “dissidents.”

The sacrificed Cuba, had in Mr. Havel a true counselor and guide. He always recommended not focusing only on overthrowing Castro. Either way, he would go, he would say. The important thing, he repeated, is to prepare for when he is no longer. The news of Havel’s death reached us Cubans with the departure of another kind of champion, those who delight in injustice and abuse, the North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. Paradoxes of life? Maybe …

I am honored to have chosen Mr. Havel as one of my most admired leaders and add an aside. We had a picture of him, Gandhi and Martin Luther King stuck to the refrigerator of the house. The color faded so one day so I had to remove it. I will leave you with the words of another giant of the great leaders.

“Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent” Eleanor Roosevelt.

The phrase, printed on a small note, is well placed in my kitchen. Lest I forget.

Cuba has always been extremely proud to have the unconditional love of the Generalissimo, the Dominican Maximo Gomez, nevertheless there were times when we did not understand him. With Václav Havel something similar happens. It gives me the impression of not understanding very well. I hope one day we Cubans will return to him. Seeing is believing.

January 3 2012