Donald Rhodd | Forever indebted to Fidel
This is an open letter to President Raul Castro Ruz.
Dear President Castro Ruz, On behalf of my wife, Barbara, and my family, I would like to express my sincere condolences to you, your family, and the Cuban people as you mourn the passing of our beloved Comandante, Fidel. I pray that God's mercy and grace, which is always sufficient, will comfort and heal you all in the ensuing days ahead.
On behalf of my generation, I would like to express profound gratitude to the government and people of Cuba for a scholarship, in 1978, to study medicine in Cuba. I witnessed daily the sacrifices of the citizens of your great country, denying themselves innumerable material goods and services to give tens of thousands of students the opportunity to pursue university and college programmes in your beautiful country.
I experienced repeatedly the love and generosity of countless families that opened the doors of their homes and shared their meals and warm hospitality.
That experience was part of the culture shock that many of us experienced, having been told so many negative things about Comandante Fidel Castro while we were children, growing up in Jamaica.
I was pleasantly surprised, upon arriving in the country, that I could take the bus and travel anywhere I wanted to go at any time. During my seven years of living and studying in Cuba, I visited every province and the Isle of Youth. I always felt safe and was never stopped or harassed by a police officer.
In addition to my medical degree studies, I was given the opportunity to represent my university in track and field athletics; represented the Jamaican students at civic ceremonies; and participated in voluntary workdays, cutting sugar cane and picking coffee. All those experiences have helped to mould me into the person who I am today. I will always be indebted to Comandante Fidel and the Cuban people.
You have enabled tens of thousands of individuals to acquire careers in myriad professional disciplines, many of whom are leaders in various spheres today. During our stay in Cuba, we forged friendships with persons in every continent since in our classrooms were students from several countries across the globe. This is an enduring legacy for contributing to the creation of peace worldwide.
The resilience of the Cuban people was tried, tested, and proven indomitable during the chemical warfare attack on your livestock industry, causing you to slaughter and destroy all the pigs in your country. I saw, up close, the pain and suffering endured by hundreds of farmers and thousands of rural folk.
During all of those struggles, Comandante Fidel was front and centre of your recovery efforts and triumphs.
I would like to salute your iconic hero, Fidel, who took his people from the poverty and ignorance of the Batista regime to a revered country in today's world, boasting some of the highest levels of literacy and health care.
I salute your visionary and courageous leader, Fidel, and the Cuban people who liberated Angola and defeated the South African army, which contributed to the dismantling of Apartheid.
I salute Comandante Fidel Castro Ruz, a gift from God to humanity, who, in the latter years of his presidency, granted religious freedom to the Cuban people, allowing them to worship our heavenly Father.
I salute Comandante Fidel for his genuine love and respect for the poor, notwithstanding his privileged upbringing.
I thank and salute former Prime Minister Michael Manley for his visionary leadership, which gave me the opportunity to not only study and live in Cuba, but also the honour of meeting this great Caribbean and Latin American hero.
Long live the ideals for which he fought and which he defended: peace, justice, respect, honesty, kindness, educational opportunities to the tertiary level, First World health care, employment, care of the elderly and the physically and mentally challenged. And above all, he did it with love.
Comandante Fidel, your love for humanity is your enduring legacy, which will continue to inspire millions worldwide.
Hasta siempre, Comandante!
- Dr Donald Rhodd is a graduate superior of the Institute of Medical Sciences, Santiago de Cuba, 1985, and a former member of parliament and minister of state. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.