THE BLOG
10/16/2014 03:48 pm ET Updated Dec 16, 2014

It's Time to Talk About Cuba, Part 4

Googling myself antes de 2013 is a pretty mortifying experience. Not only does google dish the dirt on my oh so charming move to Gainesville, Florida, it also reveals that despite living in Havana for four months, I knew absolutely nothing about the Cuban Five.

The Militant published an article in April 2007, barely a month after I returned to New York City from Havana, about an event that I attended as a student at New York University. The event was called, "Debunking the Myths: An Event to Defend the Cuban Five" and it caught my attention because well, Cuba was in the title.

The lede of the article goes a little something like this, "I saw pictures of the Cuban five everywhere in Cuba but now I know what their story is," said Kate Oberdorfer, 21.
Oh Kate Oberdorfer, 21, did you really know what their story was?

It was true: I did see pictures of the Cuban Five all over Havana. Specifically I remember their photos curling up the lampposts near the Coppelia, the famously delicious ice cream parlor on the corner of La Rampa in Vedado.

Why I never thought to ask who the Cuban Five were, in my four month study in Havana is one of my shameful ghosts and, thanks to Google, neither I nor the Internet savvy world will ever forget that at age 21, I was quite the under-developed journalist.

But then, I went back to Cuba, and guess what Internet savvy world, Google, Gainesville? I learned a little something.

The Cuban Five are not called the Cuban Five in Cuba. Cuba might be highly educated in the world of languages and their Spanish may be close to impossible to understand but they do speak Spanish and they call the Cuban Five, los Cinco. Photos of los Cinco are pinned all over the streets and on billboards, hung up in the touristy restaurants along the Malecón and even framed in Cuban living rooms. When I attended the event in 2007 in New York City, all five of los Cinco were still serving their sentences in jail. As of today, two of the five have returned to Havana and are active in the fight to free the other three. Cubans in Cuba worship los Cinco, the school children know them each by first name and their parents regard them like heroes.

But the Cubans in Miami, and elsewhere in the United States, regard the five somewhat differently.

Bring up the Five in Miami and you'll hear about the treachery, the spying, the terrorism. Bring up the Five in Miami and you'll hear about the Wasp Network or La Red Avispa, spies sent by Castro to spy on South Florida and convicted of conspiracy and failure to register as foreign agents in the United States.

Somewhere between Miami and Havana is the truth. But as always, I find myself in the middle of two realities.

But this is what I know:

I know that the Cuban Five have names: Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González, Gerardo Hernández and René González.

I know that there was a group in Miami called Brothers to the Rescue, who flew over the waters between Miami and Cuba, looking for Cuban rafters to rescue.

I know that Fidel Castro asked former President Bill Clinton to stop the Brothers to the Rescue Mission after the brothers continually dropped anti-Castro propaganda along the Malecón.

I know that President Clinton said that the mission would be stopped but it didn't stop so Cuba shot down two of the planes killing all four men aboard.

I know that Gerardo Hernández was linked to that shoot down.

I know that Gabriel Garcia Marquez went to President Clinton with a note from Fidel Castro in 1998-warning him of a Miami exile plot to blow up an airplane of tourists on their way to Cuba. Marquez's notes on his experience at the White House can be read here.

I know that FBI agents flew to Havana to discuss further Miami plots that Cuban agents (including the Cuban Five) had uncovered in South Florida a few weeks after Garcia Marquez's note reached Clinton.

I know that FBI agents arrested the Cuban Five in Miami on Sept. 12, 1998.

I know that the Cuban Five were tried in Miami and convicted of espionage and conspiracy to commit murder.

I know that the Cuban Five were held in solitary confinement for seventeen months.

I know that the Cuban Five were sentenced from fifteen years to life in prison.

I know that René González was released and put on parole in 2011 and is now living in Cuba.

I know that in February of 2014, Fernando González was released as well.

I know that Nadine Gordimer wrote a letter to the editor at the New York Times to protest the persecution of the Cuban Five.

I know that Stephen Kimber published a book about the Cuban Five that reads like fiction.

I know that when it comes to the United States and Cuba, we are all haunted by ghosts. But the only way that I know to make a ghost disappear, is to turn around and face it.

So maybe its time that we all turn around and face our ghosts.