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A DECORATION FOR THE PRESIDENT

APRIL 1961

MR. PRESIDENT: 

ENCLOSED IS A DECORATION AND A MEMENTO OF YOUR GALLANT LEADERSHIP OF THE BOMBING MISSION 

WHICH RESULTED IN THE COMPLETE DESTRUCTION OF HOUSING PROJECT 7, 

HERE ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF HAVANA. 

THE DECORATION, IF IT HAS NOT TURNED TO BLACK BY THE TIME IT REACHES YOU, 

YOU WILL RECOGNIZE AS A HUMAN HAND.  

IT HAS STILL A GOLD RING ON ONE OF THE FINGERS. 

YOU MAY MELT THE GOLD AND ADD IT TO YOUR MILLIONS, 

OR YOU MAY WANT TO GIVE IT TO LITTLE CAROLINE. 

IT IS THE HAND OF A CHILD. HIS NAME WAS EMILIO. 

HE WAS FOURTEEN, THE SAME AGE AS EMMETT TILL, WHEN HE WAS MURDERED. 

EMILIO HAD NO FATHER, NO MOTHER, ONLY A LITTLE SISTER, SIX YEARS OLD. 

HIS FATHER WAS KILLED BY BATISTA, HIS MOTHER DIED LONG AGO OF TUBERCULOSIS. 

EMILIO WAS AN ORPHAN BUT HE WAS A GOOD BOY. 

HE TOOK CARE OF HIS LITTLE SISTER, CONCEPCIÓN, EVEN UNDER THE BATISTA DICTATORSHIP, 

WHEN HE WAS ONLY 11, AND SHE WAS THREE. 

HE WOULD SHINE SHOES, BEG, STEAL SOMETIMES, I AM SORRY TO ADMIT, 

BUT HE WOULD FEED HER ALMOST EVERY DAY, 

AND HE WAS CLEVER AT FINDING PLACES FOR THEM TO SLEEP AT NIGHT. 

LATER, AFTER THE DICTATOR WAS OVERTHROWN, EMILIO GOT LAZY. 

ESPECIALLY AFTER THE NEW GOVERNMENT FOUND A FOSTER HOME FOR HIM AND 

THE LITTLE GIRL IN HOUSING PROJECT 7, AND HE DIDN’T 

HAVE TO RUN LIKE A FERRET EVERY NIGHT LOOKING 

FOR NEW, SAFE PLACES TO SLEEP. 

HE STOPPED SHINING SHOES. HE STARTED TO SCHOOL,  

ONE OF THE NEW ONES, AND SOMETIMES, I CONFESS, HE WOULD JUST PLAY. 

I SUPPOSE NOT BEING HUNGRY ALL THE 

TIME NOW MADE HIM DULLER, SLEEPIER, LAZIER. 

PERHAPS THAT IS WHY HE DIDN’T RUN FAST ENOUGH 

WHEN HE HEARD THE FIRST BOMBS, SOME DISTANCE 

AWAY. OR PERHAPS HE WAS TRYING TO CARRY HIS 

SLEEPY LITTLE SISTER – SHE WASN’T SO SKINNY 

ANYMORE SINCE CASTRO TOOK OVER THE FOOD 

MARKET. WE WILL NEVER KNOW.  

WE FOUND ONLY HIS HAND. WE SHOULD HAVE SENT YOU AND YOUR WIFE 

SOME MOMENTO OF THE LITTLE GIRL, BUT ALL WE 

COULD FIND WAS THE LITTLE BOY’S HAND, THE HAND OF 

EMILIO, FOURTEEN YEARS OLD THE SAME AGE AS 

EMMETT TILL, WHEN HE WAS MURDERED. 

 

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