I don’t know what I was expecting as we entered her apartment building. She almost reminded me of my grandmother with her honest smile, simple bright shirt, and long flowery skirt.
She warned us, a group of twelve students, that the elevator was small and lacking in air conditioner so we would have to take several trips to reach her floor. Our professor dismissed the suggestion and said the stairs would be fine.
As I watched my fellow classmates rushed up the back staircase, I figured that it would be rude of me to let Rojas take the elevator alone. One other classmate had the same idea in mind. Rojas cheerfully talked to us about her neighbors and the heat inside the elevator and we obediently laughed along. I don’t think she ever realized I spoke Spanish.
Once we entered her home, I knew immediately that she was living the life I wanted. Her living room walls were decorated with paintings of all different sizes and vibrant colors that seem to explode from their frames. She had dozens of trinkets and picture-frames decorating her tables. Her office, my favorite room in her apartment, was stuffed to the brim with books and random posters. Here was a woman that appreciated the arts.
She offered us drinks and bananas from her table; giddy that she was seeing her mentor again. Our professor wasn’t really her mentor, but she felt like he always taught her something new about journalism. It was sweet and his reaction to her confession really endeared her to the rest of us.
Whatever her affiliations are, her life was an amazing one.
When she was fresh out of university, she had a photographer friend that asked her to help write about a fair he was covering. She gladly agreed, figuring it would help her build up her profile. When she got there though, her attention was immediately drawn to something beyond the forest. To her, it sounded like gunshots.
And they were. She and her friend left the fair to follow the noises and caught the end of a skirmish between the revolutionaries and Baptista’s army. They knew that the soldiers would confiscate his film rolls if they caught sight of him. They looked at each other and without a word, her friend removed the rolls of the battle and slipped it into her skirt pockets. And in the empty cases, the pictures of the fair.
The soldiers never even glanced at her. Once her friend left the country, she immediately went to his place of work and delivered the film rolls to the editor.
The editor must have liked her audacity and her determination because when Fidel Castro was placed on trial, he got her credentials to get her into court. She was the only one that took notes of the entire trial; little strips of paper she kept hidden in the pockets of her skirts.
And Fidel noticed. He approached her after the end of a day at court and simply told her to keep those notes guarded. Rojas nodded. History will absolve me, indeed.