Kill the dissonant word. Uproot the voice that stands out in the stone choir of prescribed hymns. This is the mission of the censors. To kill the free and fresh word.
January 28 2013
The case of the arbitrary arrest of Sonia Garro and her husband Ramon Alejandro is confusing for several reasons. That she belongs to the well-known group the Ladies in White and he to an independent Afro-Cuban organization, highlights lack of tactics or support (or both) by our internal dissent.
Recognized international institutions have raised the alarm at such injustice, but what has happened inside Cuba? The recent case of a protest against the police for the arrest of well-known figures like Yoani Sánchez, Antonio Rodiles and Angel Santiesteban (respectively: a receiver of many awards, a new rising star and prize-winning writer) among others, demonstrated what a nonviolent force can achieve pushing back against a repressive government.
In the case of Garro and her husband there has been a lack of actions to pressure the government from the dissident circles where they were recently active before being imprisoned, that is specific actions, specific public planned demands with the idea of exposing their situation to international public opinion.
Just because they are two almost unknowns they should not be neglected, left to their fate; a demand organized in stages, starting with the issuing of letters to the authorities, appearing before every police station, and a call by a considerable part of the internal opposition could pressure the authorities with a different urgency.
Among the most common questions about the case are whether Sonia Garro is a street activist, directly confronting the dictatorship, and this has put her in a select and minority group on the island, which has undermined solidarity, or whether others take individual actions as she did, women who, finally, take a powerful weapon like a “pot-banging demonstration” to make their voices heard.
Another angle that is taken into account is whether her membership in a marginal sector, her social background of extreme poverty and her skin color have resulted in her being deserted by those who don’t feel close to her, considering her level of education, her projection as an opponent, or her open and uncontrolled challenges to daily repression.
This married couple, brave opponents, now imprisoned without a defined legal process, have left a teenage daughter without their daily care. No matter how painful the case, it is no longer uncommon. It is a damaging trend that virtually unknown human rights activists languish in the dungeons of Cuba without proper promotion and attention from the elite dissident.
What I say here may be fodder for debate, but I dare say “another rooster would crow” — it would be a different story — if the renowned photographer Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, the musician Ciro Diaz or me (why not) would have suffered a long detention. Although now I am in exile I have good reason to demand that with my brothers, both on the island and beyond, we raise our voices, but all at once to demonstrate as strongly as possible our outrage at the case of Sonia Garro and her husband, as well as those of all political prisoners.
That the political police officials are confessed racists and use the crime of racism as a weapon to try to humiliate unconquerable opponents, should alarm us even more. If it is the repressors who practice these different variants of apartheid, let it be we who fight this scourge, we should not go along sleeping peacefully, as if nothing is happened.
January 18 2013
I witnessed this during the past Provincial Baseball Series in Holguin province. The teams San German and Calixto Garcia (Buenaventura) were playing against each other. I was trying to get a shot of some of the players when I came across this situation and snapped these shots instead, a blow with the ball, one of the most common in baseball, a straight pitch right to the head.
**All photos by Luis Felipe Rojas
The city of Miami surprised me. Many of its buses pay tribute to someone who is a symbol of defending civil rights in this country. On my daily comings and goings through its neighborhoods, I found that detail. Right behind the bus driver’s seat, there is a small plaque with the details. Miami does it, and so have other cities in the United States, as one day will be done in Cuba with some similar actions.
The fact that Rosa Parks decided, on that afternoon of 1955, not to give up her seat to a white person, ignited the spark among her fellow citizens, leading to known events like the public transport strike in Montgomery. It was a gesture, a pro-active action, an act of non-cooperation, doing. Just like a few women decided to take to the streets of Cuba in 2003, dressed in white and with a flower in hand, or how a group of men have said: “I do not cooperate with the dictatorship”. It is these citizen gestures which turn on the motor of grand human actions.
After so much blood has been shed on the island, years of unjust imprisonment, arbitrary detentions, beatings and harassment against political activists and their families, will the definitive spark be ignited? Everything seems to indicate that it will, although sometimes we may lose hope or think that the dictatorship which has governed us for 54 years is eternal. When Laura Pollan screamed in front of the guards: “We are not afraid of you”, when Marta Diaz Rondon and Caridad Caballero shouted at the top of their lungs: “My house is not a prison”, or when Iris Perez Aguilera protested in a small town of Cuba’s interior in front of a radio station because it was only reporting part of the truth, they too were also paying tribute to Rosa Parks. They are also like her. And although they did not have the immediate protection and coverage which the humble lady from Alabama had, there is still the hope that one day they will be acknowledged for their gestures of reasonable rebellion. Against brute force, reason stands firm, Rosa said it: “Freedom is not free”.
A long time ago, when we were happy and believed that we could fix the world by debating about baseball, poetry and politics (much time has passed since then), we found the Sancti Spiritus-Santiago de Cuba based poet, Reinaldo Garcia Blanco, who reminded us of the time when Christmas was rationed, with his poem “Very long eulogy” which conjured images of those ‘Bulgarian onions and some Rene Barbier Rosada wine’. Years later, they gave me this same wine as a welcome present to this poetic site known as Miami. The wine, the books, and friendship are a tribute to Reinaldo, Marta Maria Montejo, Rafael Vilches, Carlos Esquivel and many others who believe in the strength of words when some believe in the strength of physical blows and stonings at night. 2013 could be the year of uniting poetry and life, of finally getting fed up with so much silence and so much screaming. I leave you with a fragment of the poem which moved us that one time:
“From Left to Right”
‘With the stare of an angel, there is a woman with a mustache. It’s Frida Khalo, and her hand lies over the shoulder of Trotsky (who brings an apple towards his face), and then there is a Doric column (now it’s in sepia but during the photo it was red). Then there is a man with a firefly on his hand and a tobacco on his mouth (he makes circles of light so we can see in this darkness) and it seems as if he’s giving his back to a girl called Greta Garbo (she is playing with a kite and the hand which comes out of nowhere to snatch the toy from her belongs to Salvador Dali). Towards the back, there is a sign which reads “Proletariats of the world, Unite”. Towards the far right one man adds with a paintbrush: “Last warning”. My memory fails me, but I would bet it was Pablo Picasso. Others follow him, and it seems that they are Russian, Chechnyans, or Quakers…God knows. On the table, there are Bulgarian onions and some “Rene Barbiera Rosado” wines. The girl and the old man are Maria Kodama and Jorge Luis Borges. The one getting down from the cross is Jesus. The one with the Second World War nurse outfit is Isadora Duncan and the one with the faint stair holding a Beatles CD in his hand is Mao Zedong.’