Happy Mother's Day, mom. This Sunday, May 13 was Mother's Day and the 71stbirthday of Isabel Urquiola Cruz, who, therefore, should receive double the warm wishes.
There will be well wishing, but laced with bitterness for her. On May 8, the Municipal Court of Viñales in Pinar del Río condemned her son, Dr. Ariel Ruiz Urquiola, an eminent biologist and conservationist involved in the protection of the biological diversity of Viñales National Park, to one year of incarceration for the crime of "contempt".
The scientist was accused of called a ranger a "rural guard" when he appeared for what seemed to be a routine check of his property, but whose conduct proved to be inappropriate and vulgar on the land that Ariel takes care of.
The biologist filmed the civil servant, who ended up acting like an intruder, with the camera on his mobile, but the footage was seized by the police and not presented at trial. The ranger's testimony alone, with no other evidence to support it, sufficed for the Court to punish his "contempt" to the fullest extent of the law.
Omara Isabel Ruiz Urquiola, Ariel’s sister, reports that in a phone conversation her brother explained that he had not called the ranger a "rural guard", but rather, in response to his hostile attitude, and after refusing to show him his identification, he asked him if that invasion was like that of a guardia real.
Ariel Ruiz Urquiola has had a brilliant career. His project to salvage the biological diversity of the oldest inhabited area of the insular Caribbean has received intellectual and material support from Humboldt University in Berlin, where his studies were found to be of such merit that they have been added to development programs. They have also received support from other biologists, professors at the Department of Biology at the University of Havana, such as Elier Fonseca and Emir Pérez, in addition to his sister and mother.
On this day for mothers and birthdays, Isabel Urquiola will not be able to be with her son, whom she could not see during his pre-trial confinement or after the sentence was handed down. In a photo that her sister shares, Ariel seems to threaten to spray her, as she takes the picture, while her mother sits in the background.
"Ariel had tried," says Omara Isabel, "to tell my mother how to sow, and she reminded him that it was she who taught him. I told him that it was true, that my mother planted better than him. Then he pointed the hose at me, like that."
"My mom really has a green thumb. Everything she sows flourishes."
In 1959 Isabel Urquiola was 12 years old when she fell in love with the idea that every Cuban would know how to read and write, so she made her father's property, in the Pinar del Rio municipality of Mantua, available for worker literacy efforts.
Shortly after, as a member of the Literacy Campaign, she travelled to the province of Camagüey, where her father, worried about his teenage daughter, went to pick her up.
With the obstinacy that her children inherited, and is well known by her friends, Isabel Urquiola disobeyed paternal authority for the first time, and remained there teaching.
In 1973, the year her daughter Omara Isabel was born, she graduated as a teacher of Biological Sciences and Agricultural Production. She had decided on teaching, abandoning her interest in Medicine, in response to the need for teachers announced by the country.
As a teacher, she was the founder of the Lenin Vocational School at its initial location on the Calle Vento, and for decades she was the Biology Chair at the Marta Abreu High School, in the Havana municipality of Playa, where she lives.
The year after her graduation, in 1974, Ariel was born.
Her daughter Omara Isabel, 44, is a graduate in Art History, a teacher at the Advanced Institute of Design (ISDi) at the University of Havana, and a specialist in the history of Cuban design and culture, specializing in the conservation of buildings as heritage elements.
If all this were not enough for Isabel Urquiola to feel that her years of life and efforts have all been worth it, her children's fraternal relationship boasts the beauty of that tested under adversity.
Since 2005 Omara Isabel has suffered from breast cancer, and her brother's dedication and commitment to saving her has made him Cuba's leading expert on infiltrating ductal carcinomas, the type from which she suffers.
His efforts have paid off, as Omara Isabel is the longest-surviving Cuban patient with this type of pathology. In fact, she is one of the longest survivors in the world.
For her medications, sometimes poorly distributed by the Cuban health authorities, Ariel has organized protests, even going on a hunger strike in November of 2016 to force their acquisition by the Cuban state, after Omara had been without them for over two months.
None of these protests, none of these major efforts – from saving his sister's life to creating a plantation harboring valuable animal and forest species, and the ambition to develop biodiversity in a setting marred by illegal pig breeding, administrative corruption and paramilitary siege – depended on the use of the media or legal and political instruments that Cuban civil society placed at his disposal.
It is due to all of this that legal manipulation was resorted to in order to incarcerate the scientist and turn him into a political prisoner, one of the first of Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez's fledgling government.
Such love and talent, such pride in being Cuban, had to be attacked by Castroism and its persistent perfidy, characterized by the very worst spirit festering on this Island.
The day will come when every Cuban will personally take it upon themselves to repair the damage Castroism has done to the nation. Omara Isabel and Ariel undertook this task long ago, a great source of pride for their mother, their friends, and the country where they were born.