An Hour with a Revolutionary

In thirteen years, a baby grows to an adolescent, a child finishes education, and a man grows paunchy and gray. Imagine spending over a decade in solitary confinement in a cell the size of a closet? Picture being tortured for fighting for equality?
The world remembers the names of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King,Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, but who has ever heard of Mauricio Rosencof?
In the 1960’s and 70’s, like a modern day Robin Hood robbing banks and kidnapping political prisoners, he worked with the Tupamaros Revolutionary group in a fight for of social justice in Uruguay. Never heard of him? Me neither. Worse yet, I had to look up Uruguay on the map.
Though technically, I am the teacher, I learn more from the people I meet each day at an international school in Geneva, in this culturally diverse community in the heart of Europe. Yesterday my English class met with Mauricio, a small-stature man from a little country whose big ideas for humanity made a huge difference.
Dressed in a grey jacket, beret and brown trousers, 76- year- old Mauricio addressed a room full of thirteen-year-olds. “ The most important thing in life is having a dream. My dream– everyone has the right to have basic needs met.”
In Spanish he recounted the story of how Uruguay, an agricultural country, had “millions of cows” and only a few owners. While most of the population starved, a few got rich and fat. The Tupamaros tried to talk to the owners, but no one would listen. Instead they threw the leaders of the movement into jail in hopes of crushing the revolution.
“We were in three separate cells without any daylight or human contact. We drank urine and ate bugs to survive,” Mauricio said, “but we learned that flies make a good dessert because they are sweeter.”
How does one survive such torture with an intact sense of humor? What they did do all day to pass the time?
“Think,” Mauricio answered. “We devised a type of Morse Code to communicate through the walls. We talked about our childhood, our families, our girlfriends, our revolution, our dreams.”
My student asked him, “Do you believe in destiny or the work of man?”
“I am profoundly religious but do not believe in any of the religions. However, there is too much harmony in the universe for there not to be a God,” Mauricio answered by paraphrasing a quote from Albert Einstein. “God didn’t have time to enter into the destiny of man because he was too busy balancing the universe. Therefore, every individual needs to help him out. Everyone holds the whole world in his hands.”
“Was it worth it?” Another student asked.
“Yes. It took a long time but today, Jose Pepe Mujica, my friend, in isolation in the cell next to me, is set to become the next President of Uruguay.”
In 1985, democracy was restored in Uruguay and Tupamaros returned as the political party, Movement for the Popular Participation. Mauricio lived through WWII, solitary confinement, and tremendous social upheaval. Though he regrets now that the Tupamaros resorted to extreme measures, he believes in non-violence. He continues to write books and run a children’s Cultural Center of the Arts, yet he remains humble enough to cook dinner for his wife when she comes home from work.
“My belief? Equality for all. Men, women, rich, poor, black, white, brown!”
This self-effacing, courageous fellow retains a twinkle in his eye as he tells simple stories with profound lessons. Little man. Small country. Big dream. Great change.

Posted in social view.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.