Many years ago, when you were still a child, you wanted to know if we had a Christmas tree “at my house.”
What you called “my house” was then a small cell. It is still the only “house” that I have.
On that occasion, when you asked me about the Christmas tree, I told you the truth: we did not have one, but I painted one that I hung on the wall and that kept me company from Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, until January 6th, which is the best fiesta that we celebrated in San Sebastián, the feast of the Three Kings. It will still keep me company this time, in this symbolic dawn, the same Christmas tree that I draw with lights and sparkles, with gratitude and love for my people, who have been so valiant and full of solidarity throughout the whole year.
For me there have been months of great surprises and emotions. I can tell you that I have grown in humility.
I feel an immense respect for my people, for all they have done to obtain my release. They have a heart full of compassion and love for justice.
I have understood, further, that we have the principal resource to transform our small archipelago some day: the tenacity, the strength to eradicate racism, and the intelligence to contribute to the creation of a just world.
I have always believed that we should celebrate every moment that is significant not just for ourselves, but for others. Where I am, there is nothing like a Christmas party. In the 80s, I was in a prison where they tried to create a different atmosphere, with musical groups who visited the prison and sweets appropriate to the season. But later, when I was transferred to other prisons, the special activities disappeared. Here, in Terre Haute, they give us a special dinner for Christmas and another for the New Year. The type of food that they gave us, though, does not mesh with my vegetarian diet.
During this epoch, I try to share memories with other Puerto Ricans and Hispanics in general. When they let us, we get together; we converse and tell jokes, we remember the Christmases that we had in our childhood. I always remember that in San Sebastián, the fifth was doubly happy: I prepared for the arrival of the Wise Men (we collected grass for the camels) and I prepared for my birthday party, which coincides with Three Kings Day. In a few days I will turn 71. Time passes rapidly, although in the prison it seems slow. You have already reached the age I had when I left for Vietnam. I was also very young, younger than your mother is now, when they put me in the first gulag, that ill-fated month of May in 1981.
This January 6th, being my birthday, I will make a little dinner and ask for permission to bake some cakes. There are four Puerto Ricans, two Colombians, and a Cuban, along with another five (North Americans) who will come to the celebration. Here in prison, when there were more Puerto Ricans in my unit, the day was more fun. But now it is different; the Puerto Ricans are in other units and we don’t see each other unless we happen to meet in the activities of the church. It is an important date for me; it’s funny, but I remember back to my first birthdays, the ones that my mother and brothers celebrated with me by giving me humble presents, but which now, looking back at a distance, are the most precious that i can imagine: a t-shirt, a little wooden car, a ball….
With everything, it will be my most hopeful birthday, the most luminous that I remember, knowing that the people of my nation are faithfully awaiting me. .
In this Christmas season, Karina, and for the new year, I send you a kiss full of our homeland, intensity, and pain.
In resistance and struggle, your grandfather,
Oscar López Rivera