Monthly Archives: July 2010

Prison Diary (1) (La Cabaña Prison)

OUTSIDE OF EVERY imaginable world, is the extreme awareness of reality, you live in cell twelve feet by six feet, usually with four inmates, sometimes sixteen who have to stand up, and when it comes time to sleep they fall slowly, like fainting, like sugar canes thrown on top of one another, creating a deformed mass, you couldn’t guess which extremity belongs to whom.

The air is not enough for two, not even one, and the sound of gasping, of shortness of breath, sounds like an instrument out of tune. But this asphyxia turns into chronic asthma, it’s worse than being alone. Many times, according to the treatment, they leave you alone so the madness will come more quickly. In this case, for some moments, the only thing you can see, other than your own body, are some fingers on a hand that disappears, as if it were the product of your imagination, when they open, three times a day, a small rectangular window in the bottom of the door to put the trays in. Then you have to settle for observing, in those few moments, how one or the other hand pushes the tray into your cell and beans or soup spread across the floor, mixing with the rice that you collect with your spoon, because in these circumstance you can’t waste a single grain.

Sometimes you want to touch the hand, hold it, kiss it, ask forgiveness, mercy and that it would be moved and let you out of there, end the anguish; but it’s not worth the trouble, this hand only knows how to threaten, push and hit.

Let’s call a spade and spade, and a dictatorship a dictatorship

On Tuesday night, June 29, in the city of Pinar del Rio, we delivered as part of the jury, the prizes in the contest of the independent magazine Convivencia (Coexistence).

Upon entering the house of Karina Galvez, one of Dagoberto Valdes’s most fervent collaborators on their publishing project, we were welcomed to what was left of her home, because by providing office and meeting space for citizens she earned a visit one morning from several State officials, escorted by the police, who invaded her property and destroyed the back wall, splitting the house in two.

From the street you can see the double wall now dividing the house: one of concrete and one of metal plates, which serves, of course, as a blackboard to capture the drawings and free thoughts of her visitors.

Ultimately, the officials are not guilty of carrying out their disagreeable role. We know that later, as in the Nuremberg Trials, they will say they were just following orders and if they refused they would have lost their jobs and in the end, others would have replaced them. These murderers have no conscience — and neither does it the country’s police hierarchy, which ordered this action in violation of the several of the most elemental human rights — so their conduct, rather than angering us, causes us pity, as that in our eyes they are so unhappy and miserable. However, as I said publicly to Karina, I feel so proud of her and her family, and even envious. I am afraid I’m not up to her level, as in spite of everything she hasn’t lost her constant smile.

History has shown us that “walls” are demolished. This wall is a symbol that the sacrifices of Dagoberto Valdes, the editorial team of Convivencia, and the participants in the civic education workshops, are necessary.

A lady of 70, whom I remember from my early help on the magazine Vitral (Stained Glass), also welcomed us, and when I got a chance I said to her: Don’t resign. She gave me a kiss, and also the phrase I have used as the title for this text.

Karina’s patio, roofless, except for the mango tree that sheltered several doves, and without the initial extension with which the project started, served just as well as a place to award the prizes. We could feel the human warmth of those who need the light of freedom. The little piece of patio that was left was blessed by Bishop José Siro González Bacallao, Bishop Emeritus of Pinar del Rio, the day he blessed the image of the Virgin of Charity who accompanied us as the great mother protector of the Cuban homeland, wisely called by Juan Gualberto Gomez a “patriotic symbol.”

That night we knew for sure that there was enough left of the patio to carry out the award ceremony and we could hear the words of those in attendance, grateful for a place where thoughts are free, so badly needed by our nation.

It was midnight when we returned to Havana. Yoani Sanchez urgently needing to finish a book she’s in the process of preparing. Reinaldo Escobar with work waiting to be sent out over the internet. And in the morning Orlando Luis Pardo’s photography work would be waiting for him. The fatigue of reading and viewing the work of all the contestants, the journey started in the early morning hours, the discussion in Pinar del Rio to select the prize winners, the night’s award ceremony and the return trip was all reflected in our faces.

The driver jokingly asked what he should do if they called demanding we go back. We all looked at him, with the same feeling we’d woken up with that morning showing on every face; “Of course, we would go back,” we said.

Winners of the Coexistence contest:

Best Book of Stories: Francis Sánchez Rodríguez for The Exit.
Best Essay: Dimas Castellanos Martí for Utopia, Challenges and Difficulties in Today’s Cuba.
Best Book of Poetry: Pedro Lázaro Martínez Martínez for This is not a poetic art…
Best Audiovisual Script: Henry Constantin Ferreiro for When the Other World Ends.
Best Photographic Triptych: Ángel Martínez Capote for Impotence.