Against All Hope: A Memoir of Life in Castro's Gulag

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Against All Hope: A Memoir of Life in Castro's Gulag (1986) by Armando Valladares is a memoir detailing the author's personal experience as a political prisoner in Cuba from 1960 until 1982.


Prologue, 2001 Edition, Encounter Books[edit]

  • The oldest dictatorship in the world exists in Cuba, and left wing dictatorships, like those of the right, have repugnant disdain for human rights.
    • p. XIII
  • My response to those who still try to justify Castro's tyranny with the excuse that he has built schools and hospitals is this: Stalin, Hitler, and Pinochet also built schools and hospitals, and like Castro, they also tortured and assassinated opponents. They built concentration and extermination camps and eradicated all liberties, committing the worst crimes against humanity.
    • p. XIII

Chapter 5: The Year of the Firing Squad[edit]

  • There were nights when there would be ten or twelve executions. You would hear the bars of the man's cell door and someone coming to the bars to see his friend and cry out to him the last goodbye. There was no way to sleep in the galeras. That was when God began to become a constant companion of mine, and when death became a door into the true life, a step from the shadows into eternal light.
    • p. 34

Chapter 10: On Top of a Powder Keg[edit]

  • Castro, the very man who had declared a thousand times that he was not a Communist and that "the Revolution is greener than palm trees," had stripped off the disguise that had fooled so many people and now had proclaimed the true nature of the Revolution, the nature it had from the beginning: "This is a socialist revolution," He said. "And we will defend it with these rifles!" And he ended his long proclamation with an unmistakably Communist finale: "Long live the working class! Long live the farmers! Long live the humble! Long live the socialist revolution! Patria o muerte! We shall overcome!" — The demagogic phrases of a system which promises the worker, the poor, the humble his freedom, and then enchains him.
    • p. 76

Chapter 15: Martha in the Rain[edit]

  • Every night for those few minutes before sleep came, I thought about my family and I prayed to God to strengthen my faith and allow me to keep firmly in mind the resolve which I had taken, not to allow myself to be spiritually destroyed. I prayed that my soul would not be hardened and degraded by rancor or hatred. My greatest concern and every moment was not to grow discouraged or desperate; I saw the ravages of depression and desperation on many of those in jail with me. In many conversations with God in the solitude of those few minutes, I penetrated to the foundations of that faith which would be so severely tried in the course of years, but which would finally be victorious.
    • p. 108

Chapter 37: The Struggle Against the Blue Uniform[edit]

  • Hernández [Director of the prison at La Cabaña] declared that he was opposed to torture and that he felt that no prisoner should be mistreated. But for him, only beatings might be considered a violation of human rights, keeping us completely incommunicado, denying us any mail, visits, books, keeping us naked and underfed, making us sleep on the floor, and effecting psychological tortures on us were not violations.
    • p.278

Chapter 39: At Last, Some (Apparent) Progress[edit]

  • "You are not political prisoners. You are counterrevolutionaries. In socialist countries there are no political prisoners, that's the first thing you must recognize." [Statement by a Lieutenant from the Political Police]
    • p. 295

Chapter 42: A Nazi Prison in the Caribbean[edit]

  • That last the caravan stopped at the entrance of Boniato Prison. When the door opened, I saw a great billboard saying: "CUBA – FIRST FREE TERRITORY IN AMERICA."
    • p. 319

Chapter 45: An Imposed Strike[edit]

  • Cuba was, for most people in the outside world, a kind of earthly paradise, reached by the grace of the revolution. With their distorted news reports on Cuban reality, the world's press backed the tyrant Castro, and the governments of the capitalist nations of Europe, such as Sweden, offered him diplomatic support, trade, and generous free foreign aid.
    • p. 349
  • This indifference on the part of those who should have been feeling solidarity for our sacrifice made us indignant, depressed, and sad. I tried to be philosophical about the fact that at the moment we could hope for nothing from the indolence and insensitivity of the free world, which allowed indignant voices to be heard only when prisoners were mistreated by rightist dictatorships. I knew it would not be an easy task to create public opinion strong enough to do something concrete for our freedom. I had to trust in Martha and my friends abroad and in God to help. But it was my responsibility, too, to denounce my unjust imprisonment although that would be dangerous; they might even kill me. Still I had to run that risk.
    • p. 349
  • Pierre Golendorf, a French Marxist intellectual... had come to Cuba and worked for the Cuban government. But Pierre had seen through the falseness of what he called the games of the Revolution and realized that the island was one big farm that Castro ran like a slave plantation.
    • p. 349
  • Pierre looked very surprised. "I've learned from bitter experience that many things here are not what they seem to be. I thought the Cuban Revolution was the socialist ideal which would return freedom to the people. I came here as in enthusiastic admirer of the revolutionary process. I was willing to give it my best. But I ran up against an implacable bureaucracy with a new power class that eliminated all liberties and that is so unorganized that disorganization becomes a dogma. The country is governed, as though it were a jail, by implacable dictator who runs everything under the revolutionary phraseology with which he has managed to trick everyone, including me."
    • p. 350

Chapter 49: Transfer to Orthopedics[edit]

  • And the government was lying, saying that no other political prisoners were included because those who remained in the prisons were terrorists.
    • p. 388

Chapter 52: Ultimate Isolation[edit]

  • "You know why, Valladares—We have to take drastic measures against you. You keep sending false reports of your treatment out to the foreign press, complaining all the time. We can't allow that, and you won't write anything here. That's why. And you were the one responsible for your situation." [Statement by Major Guido, of the Political Police]
    • p. 407
  • He turned red. The lieutenant came to his aid; he spoke softly. "No, Valladares. We haven't created the situation. You have. You've forced us to take preventative measures. And you're lucky to be a prisoner in a Communist jail, where an inmate's physical integrity is respected. If this were a jail in one of the capitalist countries they have killed you already or would beat you."
    • p. 412
  • A communist always seems to prefer an angry, blurted, uncontrolled manner. The truth, spoken calmly to his face, always exasperates him.
    • p. 412

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