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Against All Hope is Armando Valladares' account of over twenty years in Fidel Castro's tropical gulag. Arrested in 1960 for being philosophically and religiously opposed to communism, Valladares was not released until 1982, by which time he had become one of the world's most celebrated "prisoners of conscience." Interned all those years at the infamous Isla de Pinos prison Against All Hope is Armando Valladares' account of over twenty years in Fidel Castro's tropical gulag. Arrested in 1960 for being philosophically and religiously opposed to communism, Valladares was not released until 1982, by which time he had become one of the world's most celebrated "prisoners of conscience." Interned all those years at the infamous Isla de Pinos prison (from whose windows he watched the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion), Valladares suffered endless days of violence, putrid food and squalid living conditions, while listening to Castro's firing squads eliminating "counter revolutionaries" in the courtyard below his cell. Valladares survived by prayer and by writing poetry whose publication in Europe brought his case to the attention of international figures such as French President Francois Mitterand and to human rights organizations whose constant pressure on the Castro regime finally led to his release.


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Against All Hope is Armando Valladares' account of over twenty years in Fidel Castro's tropical gulag. Arrested in 1960 for being philosophically and religiously opposed to communism, Valladares was not released until 1982, by which time he had become one of the world's most celebrated "prisoners of conscience." Interned all those years at the infamous Isla de Pinos prison Against All Hope is Armando Valladares' account of over twenty years in Fidel Castro's tropical gulag. Arrested in 1960 for being philosophically and religiously opposed to communism, Valladares was not released until 1982, by which time he had become one of the world's most celebrated "prisoners of conscience." Interned all those years at the infamous Isla de Pinos prison (from whose windows he watched the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion), Valladares suffered endless days of violence, putrid food and squalid living conditions, while listening to Castro's firing squads eliminating "counter revolutionaries" in the courtyard below his cell. Valladares survived by prayer and by writing poetry whose publication in Europe brought his case to the attention of international figures such as French President Francois Mitterand and to human rights organizations whose constant pressure on the Castro regime finally led to his release.

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

  1. 5 out of 5

    Silvia Abreu

    Castro is a disgusting excuse of a human being. There is a special place in hell reserved for people like him.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Negin

    I loathe communism and also cannot stand it when others like and romanticize Castro. This was an extremely difficult read. The author refused to support Castro and because of that, he was a prisoner under dreadfully harsh and gruesome conditions. Reading about what those prisoners went through was heartbreaking to say the least. Their strong, unshakeable religious faith was incredible. “I was utterly exhausted. The lack of sleep and the tension were seriously affecting me. I sought God then. My I loathe communism and also cannot stand it when others like and romanticize Castro. This was an extremely difficult read. The author refused to support Castro and because of that, he was a prisoner under dreadfully harsh and gruesome conditions. Reading about what those prisoners went through was heartbreaking to say the least. Their strong, unshakeable religious faith was incredible. “I was utterly exhausted. The lack of sleep and the tension were seriously affecting me. I sought God then. My conversations with Him brought me a spiritual strength that gave me new energy. I never asked Him to get me out of there; I didn’t think that God should be used for that kind of request. I only asked that He allow me to resist, that He give me the faith and spiritual strength to bear up under these conditions without sickening with hatred. I only prayed for Him to accompany me. And His presence, which I felt, made my faith an indestructible shield.” As a result of his wife’s efforts and human rights organizations, he was finally released after 20 years. Some of my favorite quotes: “Man is Nature’s most wonderful creature. Torturing him, crushing him, murdering him for his beliefs and ideas is more than a violation of human rights — it is a crime against all humanity.” “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.” “Unbelievably, while many non-governmental organizations like Amnesty International and America’s Watch have denounced the human rights situation in Cuba, there has been a continuing love affair on the part of the media and many intellectuals with Fidel Castro.” “Those who hated the crimes of Pinochet closed their eyes when the same crimes were committed by Castro. The posture of many countries was governed by their hostility against the United States, and they excused Castro out of a reflexive anti-Americanism. (The enemy of my enemy is my friend.) These political games still take place today.” “I have become convinced that hatred towards the U.S. has been a chief reason for Castro’s longevity in power.” “Every effort to get the Commission on Human Rights of the United Nations even to consider our denunciations was fruitless. We sent that organization detailed information about the tortures, the murders, the plans to blow us up with the explosives installed in the Circulars, but it did nothing. The prestigious Commission on Human Rights had deaf ears and blind eyes for what was happening in the Cuban political prisons.” “Exactly the same thing happened with the International Red Cross. Talking to it about violations of human rights in Cuba was like talking to a post; it refused to listen. Cuban political prisoners simply did not exist. Why get upset about them, then? Years later, the Red Cross came to believe what it had been told. The United Nations as a whole and its individual nations know about the horrors of the Cuban jails, but they don’t dare condemn Cuba in their annual assemblies.”

  3. 4 out of 5

    Carol Bakker

    This is a five-star book, but I did not love it. My soul is gutted, shredded, scraped, pierced. I will be back with more thoughts when I recover equilibrium. Update: This video is a summary of Armando's story in seven minutes. I highly recommend it. Warning: a real execution is shown at 0:50 - 0:55. Valladares spent 22 years imprisoned for refusing to say "I'm with Fidel." For eight years he was naked, solitary, in complete darkness. Later he spent two years in a room where the lights never went o This is a five-star book, but I did not love it. My soul is gutted, shredded, scraped, pierced. I will be back with more thoughts when I recover equilibrium. Update: This video is a summary of Armando's story in seven minutes. I highly recommend it. Warning: a real execution is shown at 0:50 - 0:55. Valladares spent 22 years imprisoned for refusing to say "I'm with Fidel." For eight years he was naked, solitary, in complete darkness. Later he spent two years in a room where the lights never went out. Reading of him of sitting submerged in feces, of malnutrition, of ritual beatings...man, this was grim. Where does the will to resist come from?

  4. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    Great illustration of what it is REALLY like under Castro. Every communism-apologist liberal would do well to read this true story.

  5. 4 out of 5

    JoséMaría BlancoWhite

    Mandatory reading (along with Jorge Masetti's In the Pirate's Den, which allows to see the other side: the middle-class, comfortable punk turned communist, the appropriate acolyte for Castro's genocide). This book is a victory of faith and resilience against totalitarianism. Castro deceived the poor, the peasants of Cuba. He perverted the revolution the people were expecting. Castro had declared a thousand times that he was not a communist and that the revolution was "greener than palm trees", bu Mandatory reading (along with Jorge Masetti's In the Pirate's Den, which allows to see the other side: the middle-class, comfortable punk turned communist, the appropriate acolyte for Castro's genocide). This book is a victory of faith and resilience against totalitarianism. Castro deceived the poor, the peasants of Cuba. He perverted the revolution the people were expecting. Castro had declared a thousand times that he was not a communist and that the revolution was "greener than palm trees", but when he got the power he proclaimed unashamedly the true nature of his beast. This books stands as an invaluable monument to the Cubans whom Castro broke but never bent. Those who refused to say: "Yes, Commissar, I have done wrong. I accept Political Rehabilitation because I see now that communism is the only just system, and it alone can bring happiness to humanity" (p.358). Notes on communism: "The authorities thought, moreover, that weeding out the cabecillas (leaders) would leave the less educated, less 'dangerous' prisoners, lacking leadership, easier to manipulate ... but if there is any ideology based completely on a misunderstanding of human behavior and the workings of man's psyche, their motivations, that ideology is without doubt Marxism ... time would show that every man's conscience, system of values, and personal pride were what led him to resist. No man needed another to show him the way" (p.219). "A communist always seems to prefer an angry, blurted, uncontrolled manner (of speech from their opponents). The truth, spoken calmly to his face always exasperates him. As what I said was unarguable, the two men turned angrily and walked away." (p.477). I have to encourage the reader to get hold of this astounding book if only for the story of Alfredo Izaguirre (pp.239-242): "The only prisoner I know of who never performed any forced labor for his jailers -not even a minute's. It is fitting that his name go down in the history of the rebellion of the Cuban political prisons." On Castro's true revolutionary companions: (Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo) "led the bloody fighting against Batista's Army (in the mountains of Escambray), he had the sympathy of every peasant there -but Eloy had fought to establish a truly democratic system in Cuba, not another dictatorship. Therefore when he saw that Castro was becoming a tyrant, he fled the country; a while later he came back with a small group of armed men who tried to reach the mountains to continue the struggle. But he was trapped, captured and sentenced to 30 years in prison". "Rafael del Pino had been one of Castro's closest allies when Castro was in Mexico preparing the Granma landing. One night Castro confided his plans for Cuba to Rafael, and Rafael was so shocked at their totalitarian aspect that he abandoned Fidel. Castro never forgave Rafael that 'betrayal' ... Rafael was jailed". In 1977 he died in jail. "No one ever saw the body. The Ministry of the Interior flatly refused to turn it over to his family." "Ex-commander Mario Chaves, who had assaulted the Moncada barracks with Castro, been in prison with him, and accompanied him on the Granma landing, was brutally beaten (in jail) and literally dragged to the punishment cells" (p.458) Pierre Golendorf, a French marxist intellectual who had come to Cuba and worked for the Cuban government ... realized that the island was one big farm that Castro ran like a slave plantation ... he wrote letters about the lie the revolution had turned into ... the political police accused him, like everyone who stood up to the revolution, of being an agent of the CIA. He got 3 years and 2 months in prison. "The tribunals do nothing but read sentences (imposed by politicians)". Spain is not very different today. See how judge Gómez de Liaño was disposed of his toga for sentencing a big pro-Statist media shot (the El País media group). Children of the Devil: "One would naturally assume him to be a doctor, but he wasn't. He had been a traveling salesman for medical supply companies. This man, "Dr" Herrera Sotolongo, a Spanish communist, had fled to Cuba because of the civil war in Spain, and thanks to the solidarity of the Cuban revolution with Spanish communism, he had become chief of all medical services of all jails and prisons in Cuba. And you always had to call him doctor, or he wouldn't answer you. He knew nothing at all about medicine, of course, but he was a man the leader could trust." (p.233-234) The Western world's ignominious role: Conversation between Martha, Valladares' wife, and Pierr Schori, social-democrat big shot in Sweden: "-So if you know there's an implacable dictatorship in Cuba, if you know all liberties have been suspended, why don't you speak out? -Because that would be giving the Americans a publicity weapon." (!!) "Schori warned her not to speak to the press about this interview. Perhaps he didn't want to provoke Fidel." This indescribable book by Valladares, who should be the president of Cuba and give Castro a tour of his own jails and lacks, ends by remembering one of the anonymous victims in this genocide, a Christian martyr at his moment of death: "a heart overflowing with love, raising his arms to the invisible heaven and pleading for mercy for his executioners. 'Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.' And a burst of machine-gun fire ripping open his breast." Valladares writes beautifully, and even through all the horrors of more than 20 years of torture described here he keeps a tone of hope, of mysterious sanity and confidence all along, and which assures him that what he's doing is write, according to his conscience and to the power the Almighty God sustains him with. Why is this book unpublished in Spanish-speaking countries or so hard to find? That's another ignominy.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Michael Connolly

    The author was a political prisoner in Cuba for twenty years for refusing to support Fidel Castro. Castro treated his political prisoners harshly. I'll never forget his description of the prisoners being forced to wade through a ditch filled with excrement. In contrast, Castro enjoyed a comfortable stay when he was imprisoned by the previous dictator, Batista. In fact, Batista had even allowed Communists to serve in his government. After the revolution, hundreds of Batista's soldiers were execut The author was a political prisoner in Cuba for twenty years for refusing to support Fidel Castro. Castro treated his political prisoners harshly. I'll never forget his description of the prisoners being forced to wade through a ditch filled with excrement. In contrast, Castro enjoyed a comfortable stay when he was imprisoned by the previous dictator, Batista. In fact, Batista had even allowed Communists to serve in his government. After the revolution, hundreds of Batista's soldiers were executed without trial by Raul Castro. Cuba's While in prison, Valladares heard many people being executed. Their bodies were taken by the National Institute for Agrarian reform, taken to Cristobal Colon Cemetery in Havana and buried in a common grave. Agrarian Reform Chief Antonio Núñez Jiménez declared 1961 to be the Year of the Firing Squad. One of the places Valladares was imprisoned was the prison on Isle of Pines (Isla de Pinos), which was the largest prison in Cuba. The island had an area of 58 square miles. When Valladares entered the prison there, they confiscated the wooden crucifix he wore around his neck and stomped on it. At one point in 1967 the prison authorities decided to conceal the large magnitude of the number of political prisoners present by forcing the political prisoners, who had been wearing khaki uniforms, to change into the same blue uniforms that the common criminals wore. One thing I have noticed about totalitarian regimes is the fact that no matter how brutal they are, they make an effort to conceal that brutality from the civilized world. For example, the Nazis sent the Jews of Western Europe to the East to be killed, instead of killing them in, say, France or the Netherlands, where the executions would have been more easily discovered. This is why it is so terribly important to shine a light on the dark, hidden corners of the world. It is too late to help the victims of the Nazis and Communists, but by revealing their crimes, we can become more able to prevent such crimes from happening in the future. The largest group of people currently oppressed in the world is, in my opinion, women living under Sharia (fundamentalist Islam). Valladares was released after twenty years of imprisonment, due to the efforts of his wife and human rights organizations. What most impressed me about the book was the unshaken religious faith of Castro's political prisoners. I guess Jesus is more lovable than Marx and Lenin.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kitty Red-Eye

    I didn't finish this book, not because it doesn't deserve to be read - it does. I just had too strong a feeling of deja-vu. I've read too many stories like this one. I feel a bit bad about it, but I just want to "move on" with my reading. I wish I had heard about this book many years ago, maybe it would have helped me better to understand what I saw in Cuba when I was there. No excuse for it, really, but I absolutely didn't understand what dictatorship meant when I was there. Couldn't understand I didn't finish this book, not because it doesn't deserve to be read - it does. I just had too strong a feeling of deja-vu. I've read too many stories like this one. I feel a bit bad about it, but I just want to "move on" with my reading. I wish I had heard about this book many years ago, maybe it would have helped me better to understand what I saw in Cuba when I was there. No excuse for it, really, but I absolutely didn't understand what dictatorship meant when I was there. Couldn't understand why people acted (I thought) weirdly when I or some of my friends said or did something which could potentially be dangerous - not to us, but perhaps to the Cubans. For example, how our hosts freaked out when we wanted to travel without supervision across the island to see Fidel himself give a speech. What could be wrong in wanting to see Fidel, we thought? - Of course, they were afraid we'd see something we shouldn't on the way. In the end, we could go, but it did cause a lot of fuss. Maybe we couldn't understand, we were young. I don't know. I just wish I had understood better, earlier. Also I wish there was an "update" of sorts, exactly how strict is the regime today? Anyway, bottom line is, all dictatorships are murderous and all Communist regimes are dictatorships. I'm just sad it took me so long to understand that.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Samuel

    Shortly after Castro's death I got into a conversation with several people who were mourning his death, at the time I said good riddance, the world, and Cuba was a better place without him. Of course they said it was a horrible thing to say and started telling me all the good things he did for Cuba like education. I don't think this is true, I think the gains in Cuba were going to happen regardless, literacy rates went up everywhere in the second half of the 20th century, but even if it were tru Shortly after Castro's death I got into a conversation with several people who were mourning his death, at the time I said good riddance, the world, and Cuba was a better place without him. Of course they said it was a horrible thing to say and started telling me all the good things he did for Cuba like education. I don't think this is true, I think the gains in Cuba were going to happen regardless, literacy rates went up everywhere in the second half of the 20th century, but even if it were true, the cost to the Cuban people was far too high for any benefit Fidel may have initiated. Against All Hope is a record of just how brutal the revolution was. Armando Valladares was arrested for speaking against communism, he was deemed an anti-revolutionary because he said he didn't think communism would work. While in prison he suffered beatings, malnutrition, starvation, humiliation, torture both physical and psychological, watched other prisoners get stabbed or shot, all political prisoners whose crime was speaking out speaking out against communism and/or the regime. This is a hard read, the content is not for the squeamish, but it should be required reading in every high school. There was and is a regime every bit as bad as the Nazis that has survived just off the coast of Florida for more than 50 years, and most Americans don't even know it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mad Russian the Traveller

    I had some difficulty getting through this book, not because of bad writing (the writing is excellent), but because it hits close to home. The account of this man and those he knew who suffered under communism in Cuba will be like the millions of average citizens in the USA who will have to suffer since such a large part of the 'Murikin population has embraced the ideas of communism. It's only a matter of time before some charismatic asshole takes over and starts murdering and imprisoning folks I had some difficulty getting through this book, not because of bad writing (the writing is excellent), but because it hits close to home. The account of this man and those he knew who suffered under communism in Cuba will be like the millions of average citizens in the USA who will have to suffer since such a large part of the 'Murikin population has embraced the ideas of communism. It's only a matter of time before some charismatic asshole takes over and starts murdering and imprisoning folks for not going along with the party line. Read this book and "The Black Book of Communism" and "The Gulag Archipelago" and others like them and you will see the true face of socialism/communism as it is played out in murder, theft, and injustice. It is no wonder that some consider anyone who has embraced communism as no longer human and in need of extermination. I don't hold this view, but I understand it. I've tried to warn anyone who would listen about the danger of trust in and worship of government, but most do not listen. Socialistic/communistic governments are among the worst governments to plague humanity, so testimonies like this book are necessary for anyone with even the slightest intelligence to read and think about. Be a human! Don't be a lying, thieving, murderer like the revolutionary thugs involved in the take-over and rule of Cuba....

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bill Thompson

    I was speaking to my Cuban neighbor (who got out as a child in 1961 in Operation Peter Pan) about America's new reconciliation with Castro and the Cuban government. Obama appears to want to normalize things as much as possible. My friend gave me five books to read. This was the second and I hope none of the others will be as disturbing as this one was. The treatment of political prisoners in Cuba is deplorable and inhumane. The author of this book was imprisoned for TWENTY-TWO YEARS for disagree I was speaking to my Cuban neighbor (who got out as a child in 1961 in Operation Peter Pan) about America's new reconciliation with Castro and the Cuban government. Obama appears to want to normalize things as much as possible. My friend gave me five books to read. This was the second and I hope none of the others will be as disturbing as this one was. The treatment of political prisoners in Cuba is deplorable and inhumane. The author of this book was imprisoned for TWENTY-TWO YEARS for disagreeing with the government. He was subjected to treatment worse than any animal should have to endure, much less a human. The Castros are not America's friends, no matter what anyone would have you believe. Read this book - it's difficult but essential, in my opinion - to learn how they treat their own.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Gregory

    The stories that Armando Valladares recounts of the tortures that he and so many other counter revolutionaries have gone through in Communist Cuba are shocking. So close to America, atrocities have, and occording to Armando at the time of publishing, are still happening in Cuba. Armando Valladares truly survived against all hope, but he constantly affirms that it was not his own strength, that got him through, but rather his habitual recourse to God. His faith and hope was what got him through w The stories that Armando Valladares recounts of the tortures that he and so many other counter revolutionaries have gone through in Communist Cuba are shocking. So close to America, atrocities have, and occording to Armando at the time of publishing, are still happening in Cuba. Armando Valladares truly survived against all hope, but he constantly affirms that it was not his own strength, that got him through, but rather his habitual recourse to God. His faith and hope was what got him through what caused others to go crazy. For anyone who wants to fight communism today, I would recommend this book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    A revealing memoir on life as a political prisoner during Cuban communism under Castro. After reading a couple more factual accounts of oppression under communism, it was a good change of pace to read a personal memoir with a little more narrative and heart to it. Valladares’ account shows him to be a man with incredible faith in God and a truly indomitable spirit.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Bailey Marissa

    A great book describing the atrocities done due to Fidel Castro. It also shows how your faith can help you survive even when it's not your faith you are being persecuted for. Recommended 17+ for violence, torture, and other adult themes/situations. A great book describing the atrocities done due to Fidel Castro. It also shows how your faith can help you survive even when it's not your faith you are being persecuted for. Recommended 17+ for violence, torture, and other adult themes/situations.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Brown

    If I were a more emotionally expressive person by nature, this memoir by Armando Valladares would have had me weeping. Constantly. I had known (somewhat in the abstract) about the Castro regime's human-rights violations, its persecution of dissidents, etc., but the depths of human depravity seen here are on par with any Holocaust memoir. Valladares spent twenty-two years as a political prisoner. His crime? Declining to put a Communist slogan on the desk at the post office where he worked. His ex If I were a more emotionally expressive person by nature, this memoir by Armando Valladares would have had me weeping. Constantly. I had known (somewhat in the abstract) about the Castro regime's human-rights violations, its persecution of dissidents, etc., but the depths of human depravity seen here are on par with any Holocaust memoir. Valladares spent twenty-two years as a political prisoner. His crime? Declining to put a Communist slogan on the desk at the post office where he worked. His experience behind bars is... beyond words. Beaten bloody and forced to swim in human sewage. Mocked, broken, starved, fed with maggot-infested food.... But the memoir also gives insight into how he survived, how he kept going. He talks now and then of his faith. He also speaks very movingly, though not as often as I'd like, about a pastor imprisoned alongside him, called the "Brother of the Faith" - a man who helps the other prisoners catch up in their work, encourages them constantly to forgive their captors and keep their spirits up, and repeats the words of Jesus, "Father, forgive them," when the guards beat him with machetes. Toward the end, this Brother eventually is martyred by a hail of bullets. That kind of faith and influence, and the solidarity formed among the other prisoners, is the only way to survive decades of hell on earth. It's difficult to read this deeply personal account of the Castro regime's crimes (for which they will stand quite accountable before the Judge of All the Earth one day) - it's gut-wrenching, heart-wrenching, an astonishing immersion in the lowest sinkholes of the evil that the human heart is capable of. And yet, for the sake of the faith and resilience of Valladares and his fellow prisoners, and for the sake of bringing to light the truth, I highly recommend this book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bert Stanaland

    Hell is too good for Fidel Castro and his henchmen. I just finished reading Against All Hope: A Memoir of Life in Castro's Gulag by Armando Valladares. It has taken me more than a month to read 380 pages simply because I could only stand to read a couple of chapters at a time. The torture, the mutilation, the murder by various means, the starvation were just too much for me to read for very long at a stretch. Castro is no different from other dictators on the planet. They all want total control Hell is too good for Fidel Castro and his henchmen. I just finished reading Against All Hope: A Memoir of Life in Castro's Gulag by Armando Valladares. It has taken me more than a month to read 380 pages simply because I could only stand to read a couple of chapters at a time. The torture, the mutilation, the murder by various means, the starvation were just too much for me to read for very long at a stretch. Castro is no different from other dictators on the planet. They all want total control and power, and will use any means to keep that power, and believe me, he used every means imaginable. I am in awe of the men who withstood all of the brutality and would not give in to the torture to become a communist. I am in awe of what the human body can stand before dying, and I believe their faith in God sustained them through it all. There is a tiny chapter called Robertico toward the end of the book that tore my heart. Mr. Valladares became aware of a 12 year old boy who was in a cell near his. The child had been thrown in jail because he found a pistol laying on the seat of a car (with the windows down). The boy took the gun and began playing with it; the gun discharged and the police came running. He was thrown in jail with common criminals who raped him repeatedly, gave him STDs and injured him so badly he had to be put in the hospital. We do not ever find out what happened to the boy, but there are many political prisoners who are still rotting in those squalid jails in Cuba. The United Nations refused to acknowledge the torture, which shows that the UN is useless, totally useless and a waste of money and oxygen. And if you think that Castro, Che Guevara, and others are just romantic cigar smoking rebels, read this book, if you dare, and then decide what they are.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Heather Manheim

    Exceedingly sad, but a well-written, emotional journey of what it would be like in a prison of Communist Cuba. People have often asked me why I would never go to Cuba, even if it was allowed. It is because I could never support a government who has done these inhumane an unspeakable acts to the people of Cuba. Mr. Valladares was, in addition to other things, abused and tortured by his guards, including being forced to eat other people's excrement. He was sent to jail for 30 years for the grand c Exceedingly sad, but a well-written, emotional journey of what it would be like in a prison of Communist Cuba. People have often asked me why I would never go to Cuba, even if it was allowed. It is because I could never support a government who has done these inhumane an unspeakable acts to the people of Cuba. Mr. Valladares was, in addition to other things, abused and tortured by his guards, including being forced to eat other people's excrement. He was sent to jail for 30 years for the grand crime of refusing to put an "I'm With Fidel" sign on his desk at work. He saw one of his friends/co prisoners machine-gunned down and nearly cut in half by the bullets because this man said, "Forgive them, Lord, for they know not what they do" as he and other prisoners were being beaten - he was murdered for forgiving his torturers. This is a long post, but this is STILL GOING ON in Cuba! It has opened my eyes in a whole new way. These stories are just the tip of the iceberg. Why are we not screaming our heads off about this in the USA?

  17. 5 out of 5

    Erik Surewaard

    Ever heard of Fidel Castro? Or... Che Guevara? Or... maybe the United Nations? Most likely you do. This book shows how evil, lying and rotten these people are. It shows what torture and inhumane these people stand for. And what the United Nations let happen without taking any action against it. At some points in the book, I was totally shocked by what torture was performed on political prisoners. That the author even survived is almost a miracle. Fidel Castro and his compatriots are clearly comparab Ever heard of Fidel Castro? Or... Che Guevara? Or... maybe the United Nations? Most likely you do. This book shows how evil, lying and rotten these people are. It shows what torture and inhumane these people stand for. And what the United Nations let happen without taking any action against it. At some points in the book, I was totally shocked by what torture was performed on political prisoners. That the author even survived is almost a miracle. Fidel Castro and his compatriots are clearly comparable to Adolf Hitler with respect to inhumane treatment of people, the concentration camps and the propaganda to hide all of it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    This is a very difficult book to read. My wife is the first American-born, in an extended Cuban family that have all escaped Castro's "Dirty Little Secret", over the span of decades.The book was lent to me by an aunt, who herself was able to get "out" in 1968. The stories I have learned around a family dinner table, only serve to make the life and story of Armando Vallardes that much more personal. His writing is incredibly powerful, but never loses his idea of the humanity in us all, even in This is a very difficult book to read. My wife is the first American-born, in an extended Cuban family that have all escaped Castro's "Dirty Little Secret", over the span of decades.The book was lent to me by an aunt, who herself was able to get "out" in 1968. The stories I have learned around a family dinner table, only serve to make the life and story of Armando Vallardes that much more personal. His writing is incredibly powerful, but never loses his idea of the humanity in us all, even in the face of inhuman treatment. I will return to his story,, I think we all should,,

  19. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    Wow, this was a hard book to get through at times. Well, most of the time actually. It's stories like these that remind me how much punishment a human being can take and survive. This man's story is up there with Lauren Hillenbrand's Unbroken, and Elie Wiesel's Night, when it comes to survival in inhuman and unimaginable conditions. It never ceases to amaze me what human beings can do to each other. I don't know if I could even recommend this book to anyone because of how brutal it is. It isn't Wow, this was a hard book to get through at times. Well, most of the time actually. It's stories like these that remind me how much punishment a human being can take and survive. This man's story is up there with Lauren Hillenbrand's Unbroken, and Elie Wiesel's Night, when it comes to survival in inhuman and unimaginable conditions. It never ceases to amaze me what human beings can do to each other. I don't know if I could even recommend this book to anyone because of how brutal it is. It isn't for the squeamish, that's for sure.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Oliver Eike

    This is a book that a few more heads of government should have read before praising Castro and the paradise he had made Cuba into. It was saddening to see just how many praised him after his death. But then again people still praise Stalin, Honecker, Mao and Sung. This is a harsh book to read as it contains torture and death. But it should be read by as many as possible, for it is clear that not enough people read history.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Carrie Guinn

    The Arthur does an excellent job in describing the conditions he had to survive through in Castro's jails. I would refer to the as concentration camps. I've heard the same stories from relatives of mine who were also prisoners in those jails. The sad part to the story is that today, these things continue to happen. I have many relatives there and they are afraid to communicate openly with me. The Arthur does an excellent job in describing the conditions he had to survive through in Castro's jails. I would refer to the as concentration camps. I've heard the same stories from relatives of mine who were also prisoners in those jails. The sad part to the story is that today, these things continue to happen. I have many relatives there and they are afraid to communicate openly with me.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Dana

    This was a hard read both for the content as well as the writing style. I still think it deserves 3 stars and not less. Anyone that thinks people like Castro and Guevara (I'm looking at you Berkeley) were heroes needs to have their head examined. Those guys were murderous dictators and complete human rights abusers and so is Raul, Castro's brother. Having said that the writing was spotty in numerous parts with the narrative lacking transition. He'd be on one subject then at the end of the paragr This was a hard read both for the content as well as the writing style. I still think it deserves 3 stars and not less. Anyone that thinks people like Castro and Guevara (I'm looking at you Berkeley) were heroes needs to have their head examined. Those guys were murderous dictators and complete human rights abusers and so is Raul, Castro's brother. Having said that the writing was spotty in numerous parts with the narrative lacking transition. He'd be on one subject then at the end of the paragraph go right into another completely on another topic or area. The book really did need an editor and could have been shortened. I know he wanted to tell the details of his story and it is important but some editing would have helped it in my opinion. I still think students in high school should read at least some chapters of this book to get an idea about human rights abuses and also a different perspective on humanitarian organizations such as Amnesty International and the U.N. who each had different impacts (one positive, one negative) on the whole ordeal.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    There's Elie Wiesel's "Night," Viktor Frankl "Man's Search for Meaning," the story of Louis Zamperini as told in "Unbroken", and others; there is also Armando Valladares' "Against all Hope." Valledares chronicles his 22 years in Castro's concentration camps. From his seemingly innocuous arrest (come down to the station we want to ask you some questions) to the torture and work camps of what was then called Isla de Pinos, though crippling malnutrition. Valledares with poignancy, describes the wha There's Elie Wiesel's "Night," Viktor Frankl "Man's Search for Meaning," the story of Louis Zamperini as told in "Unbroken", and others; there is also Armando Valladares' "Against all Hope." Valledares chronicles his 22 years in Castro's concentration camps. From his seemingly innocuous arrest (come down to the station we want to ask you some questions) to the torture and work camps of what was then called Isla de Pinos, though crippling malnutrition. Valledares with poignancy, describes the what, why and how he survived. Despite the horrors involved, his story is a triumph of faith, patience and forgiveness over the monsters running Cuba.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Bandusky

    A difficult read due to the subject matter - terrible abuse/violence in the Cuba prisons - and the lack of help from the United Nations. Uplifting in the sacrifices the author and others made and in particular the author's strong faith. Worth the time to learn to avoid repeating history again and again. A difficult read due to the subject matter - terrible abuse/violence in the Cuba prisons - and the lack of help from the United Nations. Uplifting in the sacrifices the author and others made and in particular the author's strong faith. Worth the time to learn to avoid repeating history again and again.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Matt Skirving

    This book is absolutely one of the most difficult reads I have had & yet it is an absolute favorite. Probably just as relevant now as it was when written. One thing that really stuck with me is the topic of faith and the roll it played for him from the start till his release. Cannot wait to share this book with others so we can discuss.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Grace Ohlhaut-Ly

    I read this in high school - my Dad made me read it, I think it was his attempt to try and make me realize how good I had it. I wouldn't say it worked, but, it did open my eyes to nonfiction and true stories, I have been reading them ever since. I read this in high school - my Dad made me read it, I think it was his attempt to try and make me realize how good I had it. I wouldn't say it worked, but, it did open my eyes to nonfiction and true stories, I have been reading them ever since.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jackie Allen

    Moving, raw, and horrific to read at times.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rick

    I gave it a positive review in the stuwbt bewspaper I wrote for.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Alicia Corley

    Very difficult to read about the horrifying experiences this man and his fellow prisoners were put through. His resolve and faith is amazing.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Liz Echavarria

    Rivating Valladares is truly remarkable as a person and in spirit. His story of human torture and abuse in the grips of Castro's dictatorship goes beyond anything I have ever read aside from the Nazi Concentration Camps & the African Slave Trade. The writing is raw, unapologetic, and truly captures the anguish experienced by the Cuban political prisoners and the ostracism of their families in Cuban society. Those of us not accustomed to the level of savagery and brutality described by Valladares Rivating Valladares is truly remarkable as a person and in spirit. His story of human torture and abuse in the grips of Castro's dictatorship goes beyond anything I have ever read aside from the Nazi Concentration Camps & the African Slave Trade. The writing is raw, unapologetic, and truly captures the anguish experienced by the Cuban political prisoners and the ostracism of their families in Cuban society. Those of us not accustomed to the level of savagery and brutality described by Valladares will be shocked by the capacity of humankind to do such atrocities to one another. I have read about the Inhumane treatment of Jews and African Slaves but never have I experienced reading a book with such graphic descriptions of torture in such a way that will make you turn away in repulsion and shame at the level of inhumanity in the world particularly what dictators and powerful leaders will do to control and repress their own people. Shameful.

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