Monthly Archives: December 2012

The Sad Centenary of Virgilio Pinera Part III

Most intellectuals and readers agree the first book that managed to provide deep insights about the writer’s life was Virgilio Piñera en persona (Virgilio Piñera in person), an excellent compilation prepared by the critic and researcher Carlos Espinosa. It started to build the pedestal to the work of the intellectual Virgilio. In these pages his family, friends and colleagues speak, and we are able to delve into the soul of the poet.

The book, as we read it, breaks down the dark parallels that remain hidden in the memories of the readers, allowing us to unveil that secret and mysterious universe of the writer’s life.

Since the beginning of the “revolution” he was harassed by machismo and then, by homophobia and envy, that which socialism knows best how to harvest.  A morning in 1962, as always, he went out to buy bread with two of his friends. At the entrance to the store,  a soldier, suspecting they were three effeminates, sent them as delinquents to the police station in Guanabo, and later they were transported in a truck full of prostitutes, pimps and homosexuals, to the Castillo del Principe. At the first chance he called Guillermo Cabrera Infante, and at once Guillermo contacted Carlos Franqui, who in turn suggested talking with Edith García Buchaca, who had some pull in the arts and who was the wife of Carlos Rafael Rodriguez.

Trip to Hell

That night Virgilio remained imprisoned at the Príncipe, in all he was there for more than thirty hours in that hell surrounded by common prisoners. His friends were waiting for his release at Guillermo Cabrera’s house, when he arrived, worn out and battered, without sleep, he started to sob. That night after confirming he had a lot of “fear” – a word that would follow him for the rest of his life – he stayed in Cabrera Infante’s house. That fear later would become terror when he was called to Villa Marista, State Security’s Headquarters, where they told him that his influence on the young was damaging, therefore he was forbidden to have contact with them. From that moment he could no longer get over that state of panic that would follow him until the day of his death.

After that he didn’t want to return to his house in Guanabo. The terror of repeating those experiences was too much for him. In the ‘70’s came the “Five Grey Years, as they would later be called, but at that moment it was known as “el pavonato” — “the showing-off years” — in honor of that sinister person who managed the arts through revolutionary homophobia, directly controlled by Fidel Castro himself, the homophobe-in-chief. The entire system came down hard on all artists to accomplish what that generation would call: the instruments.

State Security accomplishes its goal: forbidding his creativity

In a letter from 1977, when he was almost 65 years old, he said:

(…) “What it is, dear, is that I don’t have a desire to write, about anything nor to anyone. My life is at an end, I’ve fought a lot, and I’m tired of fighting. I let myself go, that’s all. The days are like drops of water (…) nothing to do with the Theatre. Reading very little (…) no magazines at all. Total literary misinformation (…) tell them that I don’t write to them because I’ve severed my communication with the outside world (…) And that’s what life had in store for me. Death is all that remains, and contemplating old photos of youthful times (…) about this Proust already said it all in the time retrouvé, in that mortal and immortal dance in the house of the prince of Guermantes. Tell them that some days ago the last serving tray (blue) from those wonderful days in the house in Guanabo broke. I think now, and I’m certain that that truly was the life. I thought (how naive!) that we would live there until the end of our days, and there we would grow old with dignity and peace, with the rhythmic cadence you feel when the days remaining are so pleasurable that they cover you with a protective shroud of vitality. But all of that crashed, in the same manner as the sound of the trumpets which are said to mark the final judgement.”

These words from Virgilio encapsulate his absolute censorship, the sadness that ailed him, all the cultural works we lost as a nation. The creative energy of that generation was held hostage against the sacrificial wall. At that time it was impossible to find a work by Virgilio in any bookstore. It was completely prohibited. They hoped to make him a forgotten writer, erase him from Cuban literature. He suffered relentlessly during all of those years, through the months, days and hours, minute by minute, without being able to appease the pain caused by those who defamed him.

He did not accept any ethical compromise

Abilio Estévez says that the first thing he found out about Virgilio was that everything to him was profane except for literature, and he kept that moral without reproach. Virgilio taught him the writer’s code of ethics, the importance of writing well, and not to be partisan (in an economic or political sense). He demonstrated how important freedom is to a writer, and that freedom meant, above all, to be true to oneself.

And knowing this, he abandoned that censored existence. What those who persecuted him did not know is what he one day said to Abilio: “I’m immortal.” The news of his death was reported, ironically, in the newspaper Rebellious Youth, and the news was released after his burial, likely to avoid any type of gathering of intellectuals and admirers to pay homage.

One time he said to his nephew “How unjust they’ve been with me.” Not being allowed to publish or introduce his works was his worse punishment. Now, those who censored him are punished through the publication of his complete works. Some, particularly those from the 70s, will certainly say that’s enough because they conform with the few who never dreamed.

In contrast, my generation wants everything, not just for us, but also for the Cuban people: we want the freedom and dignity that Virgilio Piñera needed to be able to breathe and create.

Translated by: Enrique, @Hachhe, Marina Villa

September 25 2012

Diary of a Desperado. Our Angel of the Cuban Narrative.

By Daniel Morales

The writer Angel Santiesteban-Prats has been sentenced to five years in prison by the gang of assassins that, for more than 50 years, dominates every living creature that lives in the beauty and always Faithful Island of Cuba.

That sentence was so expected by Angel himself, like for all of us who, with him, have suffered the process that the repressive officials of the Castro Brothers’ regime have subjected the renowned writer to for the last two years.

And we couldn’t expect more from some criminals who, with the argument of a mulatto sergeant called Batista had inculcated us (that was one of the poor words used in every era by all sides in conflicts, while they were subjecting plenty of innocent victims to the heavy political speech of our prosperous republic) with liberties established by a Utopian constitution, approved since the decades of the ’40s of the last century, and they burst in, with their effective American submachine-guns, their stinky Galician berets, their lousy beards, their filthy long hair, and their hands stained with the blood of thousands of countrymen, in the lives of all the Cubans living and unborn.

Years later that bloodied wheel took Angel and me, when all those feudal lords, from an Spanish lineage of the Galicia region: stinking, full of brute people, ugly, filthy, fat, angry, racist, envious, boring, miserable, resentful, abusive, treacherous, cowardly (the part of Spain the sons of bitches dispute the Iberian throne with the Basque. I apologize to all Galician and Basque that are trying to feign, unsuccessfully, being evil doers, as their cultural fate inevitably has marked them) caught us in a dynasty whose cruelty is still ignored by all world institutions responsible for ensuring the life and dignity of the human beings who inhabit this, our only planet.

We are as Angel called us, The Children that Nobody Wanted, the victims, the serfs of the soil, the slaves, the offspring destined to satisfy the demands of the sons of a filthy Galician officer with the last name Castro, who came to the Island of Cuba with the satanic Valeriano Weyler, and who, imbued with the early fascist spirit of the Mallorcan bastard, initiated his illegitimate sons in the task of converting, as they did their Biran plantation, our mulatto island in a concentration camp worst than the perpetrated by the German Nazis.

Agony, death, grief, hunger, persecution, harassment, torture, suffering, chiefly that: a lot of suffering, I was trying to explain to my American son in my poor English or my profuse Spanish, when he asked me in the midst of his juvenile happiness in winning a tennis match, what I remembered about my youth when I was about the same age as his wonderful 14 years. I dared not recommend him my ineffective novel La Casa del Sol Naciente (The House of the Rising Sun), because Andy was so happy, he looked so beautiful in his happiness, that I found distasteful spoiling his perfect adolescence with horrors of my 30 years of agony on the Devil’s Island.

The capricious massacres of the modern island tyrants that still suffered by all the heretics who dare to defy, intellectually, the ignominious propaganda system that supports the Regime that rules the Island of Cuba, will be an stigmata that will hang over all the “intellectuals” who remain motionless and/or commit to that shit, who maintain, trembling and soft during their humiliating existence, showing off a category that doesn’t belong to them.

I think that Miguel Correa was the one who showed me in the beginning of my prolific exile on a clear night in his apartment in New Jersey on the banks of the Hudson River, under the influence of good wine and excellent marijuana, a copy of an essay about transgressions of his great friend Reinaldo Arenas. In the essay Arenas outlined the thesis that every artist is a transgressor, a kind of dissident, a heretic, that the great works are characterized by the break with the environment that contributed to it, or even fed it.

The extraordinary narrative work of my brother Angel does exactly that, there isn’t even one of his texts that I hadn’t read with a deep exaltation of all my feelings. His stories have a unique intensity in the Cuban narrative, only commensurate with the Stories of Lino Novas Calvo, but above all with the short North American narrative, which despite so many sorrows, has been the most influential for us.

The American writers are very interested in reality, or rather violence, sometimes very cruel, with which reality hits the human being.

From Poe or maybe from Melville, via Twain and all those geniuses of the so-called lost generation: Fitzgerald, Dos Pasos, Hemingway, Faulkner and Steinbeck, to the authors of dirty realism, who choose meticulously with their minimalist style those “real”pictures that allow them to create an unceasing chain of emotional impacts, that in most cases are enough to overwhelm the reader so much that he ends up hating the writer.

Authors like Charles Bukowski, Raymond Carver, the amazing Chuck Palahniuk, are some of the narrators who, like Angel, including those never published the Devil’s Island: Pedro Juan Gutiérrez and also our generational brother Amir Valle, set up an agonizing battle with their readers, a sentimental struggle where there are swarms of sublime traitors, vulnerable pedophiles, attractive homosexuals, mournful swains, romantic whores, the good cop, the happy alcoholic or the zombie drug addict.

All of them are writers who dare to teach us the colossal quantity of shit that the human being is able to produce, on our pathetic way to the death, in our stupid fight to survive this hell that we have to suffer.

But Angel’s narratives have something different from all these famous authors I mentioned, who despite their teaching us about the stinking part of our lives, despite their characters sharing that common hell, they don’t resign themselves to this wretched life they have to bear, and that’s why they reveal themselves; not in the way of the 19th century romantic heroes, who were looking for a glorious transcendence or a symbolic condition, eminence, no, nothing of Hollywood films with vigilante gunmen, or Japanese movies with samurais whose codes pretend an unlikely exaltation of the man.

The heroes of Angel Santiesteban-Prats make us fall in love with their extraordinary individual little flashes of light, adjusted to a certain narrative situation; those daily flashes that you and I are able to produce in the face of the injustice we find every day, e.g. in our work place, in our prison cell, in our homes, or in the neighborhood where we live.

Angel doesn’t want to be bad, he resigns himself to that satanic generational condition. That’s why he always gives a chance to all his characters; he doesn’t justify them but elevates them to an essential category, the human one. He doesn’t conceive that anybody could be so perverse as to not deserve love or a decent death, even when that death comes for a reason that the character doesn’t believe, doesn’t understand, and that in every case is foreign to him, indifferent, let’s say obligatory.

One writes as one can, and if sincere, as one is. To read the stories of my brother Angel makes me feel so nostalgic for those of us who know him in person, it’s like his image emerges from the text to give us a hug, to irradiate us, as no other writer of our lost generation, that sense of belonging to so strange a paradise, so hard to find in a world filled with so much false egomania, so much evil envy, as the world of art and literature of the Cuban Revolution.

To the narrators of my malevolent generation, our angel was Santiesteban: that big guy, cheerful, that I remember more than 6 feet tall, strong, with fat cheeks, so extremely humble as Amir says, that he used to appear on his fast German bike with an unbearable shyness to share with us some colossal perfect stories. We couldn’t envy him; his greatness was so sublime, so essential to Cuban literature, that we had to chill out, let it be, limit ourselves to crumpling up all the pages that we had drafted with so much effort in order to create our literature.

But he loved us so much that he needed us for living, one day not so long ago, he told me that without our presence there, without his dead brothers, murdered or emigrated from the Devil’s Island, without our fraternal literary competitions, without all those intense national meetings, it would be very hard for him to write the same texts, follow the thread, maybe without knowing, of the Greek masters who founded our occidental and superior culture.

Angel Santiesteban has chosen one of the ways that, unfortunately, we Cubans have suffered since our uncertain national foundation; I mean the category of martyr. Perhaps the beauty of our island is so out of proportion that it encourages perfection, to the extraordinary human condition, and it is the fact that the ugly “reality” produced by our countrymen contrasts so much with that nature, that provokes the extreme conflicts that our national conscience suffers.

I won’t ask for continental or Latin American solidarity for Angel’s freedom, because we  Cubans have become accustomed, in these 50 years, to the solitude, to the neglected clamor in the desert, to the slights of all our brothers of the race. We are, as someone baptized us well, the “Jews of the Caribbean.” Hanging over our heads an unexplained curse, irrational, incomprehensible, that despite everything makes us invincible, like the scorned people of Israel, who face a crowd of satanic souls who appeal, with their Islamism, for the extermination of their human dignity.

But here we have those who, showing off their embarrassing membership in UNEAC (the Cuban Writers and Artists Union), thanks to the repressive system that enslaves us now have an excellent opportunity to redeem their guilt of being accomplices, actively or passively, of a regime that has surpassed all the horror of our national history with its evil. To redeem their guilt by going down in history with an act of courage, of intellectual honesty, signing or showing their rejection of the medieval regime ruling the Island of Cuba, which is trying to silence with five years in jail one of most extraordinary writers of our culture. Imagine that thanks to the modernity of the Internet there is a once-in-a-lifetime choice to be against an act like the assassination of the poet Placido or the liberation of the narrator Carlos Montenegro.

You, Cuban notaries, until now official typists for the Castros, here it is a unique personal option, redemptive. Given that your mediocre works are not going to surpass the colossal transcendental works of Heredia, of Martí, of Varela, of Villaverde, of Lezama, of Eliseo di Ego, of Lino, of Labrador Ruiz, of Cabrera Infante, of Lidia, of the madness of Virgilio Piñera, of Rafael Almanza, of Reinaldo Arenas, of Carlos Victoria, of Benítez Rojo, or of Amir Valle, I urge you to sign a repudiation statement against the false sentence given to the Cuban writer Angel Santiesteban-Prats, an act that would guarantee you, like that Dreyfus thing did for Solas and his followers, that so wished-for transcendence that you chase trembling and crouched down in a corner of the Cuban tragedy.

Here is the link to the intellectual Cuban posterity:

Lets see if you have the guts to sign this document; urging you is your friend, or foe:

Daniel Morales.

Translated by: @Hachhe

December 16 2012

For Shame! #Cuba

By Amir Valle

Ángel Santiesteban is a writer.

It’s a truth so absolute that it can make whoever reads this think, “Amir Valle still doesn’t know what he’s going to write.” And he would be right. Because I could have begun by saying directly what I mean:

“Ángel Santiesteban is a writer, but they want to disguise him as a criminal.”

And now that’s very different. Still more if we see ourselves obliged to remember that Ángel Santiesteban lives in a country that spends its time “crowing” everywhere that Cubans “live in the best of worlds that exist today”; that is to say, almost in a paradise on earth, and that the accusations made by enemies — who in all cases are called “mercenaries of imperialism” — that human rights are not respected in Cuba are false.

Ángel Santiesteban is a writer, and he has told about a Cuba that the government doesn’t want to show; a Cuba that refuses to accept many honest beings of this world who once pinned their hopes on what the Cuban Revolution meant in those beautiful and, I repeat, encouraging, years of the Seventies. But the saddest thing is that Ángel Santiesteban has written, persists in writing and speaking about a Cuba that certain intellectuals of the Left strive to hide.

I have spoken with some of these colleagues, and it has called my attention to discovering that, determined in their personal war against “the evils of imperialism,” against “the genocide that capitalism is causing in the present world,” against the “dangerous and growing loss of liberties and human rights that the United States and the rich countries of the First World are carrying with them wherever they plant their boots,” they don’t want to understand (and even search for thousands of justifications, among others, Ahh! The North American blockade!) that on a more reduced but also criminal scale, the Cuban government has converted “Cuba, the beacon of the Americas and the world” into an absurd marabuzal (convoluted mess) of economic, social and moral evils.

They don’t want to recognize (and even try to find forced explanations) that because of the failed economic experiments and the “war mongering internationalism” of Fidel Castro and his minions, the Cuban people have suffered a true genocide that already numbers more dead than all the deaths that have occurred on the island since the beginning of the 20th century up to today (just trying to escape Cuba for the United States on makeshift rafts to reach “the capitalist hell,” around 30,000 Cubans have perished); and above all, those intellectual colleagues of the Left lose themselves in labyrinths of slogans from the epoch of the Cold War when they try to defend a government that shows its true dictatorial face eliminating freedoms and human rights for all its citizens, enraging itself especially with those who dare to think with their own minds, to say and write what they think.

It’s a shameful position, without doubt. But more shameful is the silence in response. And it’s in the face of evidence of the total disaster that today is the political and governmental “system” imposed on Cubans (and the quotation marks are because more than a system, it’s a desperate experiment to gain time in power to prepare the way for the “sons of the Castro Clan and their acolytes” to assume that power). Faced with the impossibility of defending such a debacle with solid arguments, they now count on changing the subject, and when they see themselves obliged “to fulfill their honorable professional careers” to face the stubborn truth of the facts, they respond with a theatrical “I didn’t know” (at least this happens with the majority of those I know).

But there is even something more embarrassing. A good part of those intellectuals personally knew Ángel Santiesteban when he still hadn’t decided to say out loud and to write journalistically to Cubans and the world what he thought about the harsh reality of his country. At that time he was limiting himself to writing only short stories, which were hard, critical, not at all complacent. But even so he was then considered a prestigious voice in the concert of Cuban narrative. The official critics, many of them cultural functionaries in important political posts, categorized him as “the best storyteller of his generation.”

But none of those critics, none of those functionaries, could ever explain why, while the Latin American Literary Agency (that represents and manages internationally the literary works of the resident writers on the island) placed in good, mid-range and even unknown publishers abroad works that were “not conflictive” (many of them of lesser quality than the books of Ángel), the Agency never managed to place one single one of the much-praised books of  Ángel Santiesteban.

We heard the unofficial response from the mouth of a Cuban editor, then the director of one of the most prestigious publishing houses on the island, at a party in the Pablo de la Torriente Brau Cultural Center. And perhaps that explosion of sincerity had something to do with the several plastic cups of rum and cola that the editor had drunk. Now we know, because life has shown us: children and drunks tend to be implacably sincere. Later I knew that the weight of conscience bothered that poor man, the guilt of not having been able to overcome the fear that obliged him to leave his ethical principles to one side and convert himself into the worst of intellectual marionettes: a censor.

“Some day many things I did will come out into the open…the many masks I had to put on…to save you from the hell that I had to go through…to defend the right of writing with freedom, believe me, I did a lot…a lot….,” he said, with a nasal voice.

“I saved your ass when you wrote the true Manuscritos…and now I can tell you that was a great book….,” he told me, pointing at me with a trembling finger.

“And you, for your book of stories about Pinos Nuevos,” he told Alejandro Aguiar, who I didn’t think was really listening because he was talking with Alberto Guerra, who now also had ears as red as Mandinga from the alcohol.

“And just now I came from a meeting where a bastard from the Agency, whose name I won’t mention, said clearly, clearly, that he is not promoting outside Cuba “gusano books” — the books of worms — like those of Ángel Santiesteban.

That I remember. Of course with all the repetitions, all the babbling and all that comic slurring of words that drunks usually do. Even tears, especially when he complained that it hurt him to be seen as a censor by colleagues like us.

The period of time, and above all the secrets that some writer friends told us under their breath who also were functionaries “of confidence” would allow us to prove that that behavior was not an aberration of one particular censor. It was a clear political tactic: books that showed the island in a way that was “not convenient” to the official image that Cuba projected were shelved and the authors were always told that “we don’t know what’s happening, but we are not able to place your books…it’s difficult, the international market is very hard.”

And when they placed some of those books it was strictly for propaganda purposes, well calculated. One writer who protested too much had to shut up (and was then published by a very small house of almost no distribution, so that the book didn’t circulate except for guaranteeing a few samples for the author who boasted of being published abroad) or had to show that it was a lie that Cuba censured him, for which they flocked to false or blandly “conflictive” books of writers who clearly adhered to the Regime, most notably the “critical” novel “The Flight of the Cat,” by Abel Prieto.

Nothing of that, of course, do they accept, those foreign intellectuals who then came to Cuba and were astonished at the “fabulous narrative capacity of Ángel Santiesteban,” as some told me personally in those years. I even dare to assert that some, if they are asked, upon receiving the official version (in which, I am also sure, they don’t believe) have decided to make like ostriches and hide their heads in the sand.

None of them, even where it is known in the intellectual milieus of the island and exile, has interceded for this writer they praised so much when he was unknown by “the enemy press, mercenary of imperialism”; none of them, in their numerous trips to Havana, has demanded that the right of Ángel Santiesteban to say what he thinks, to publish what he thinks inside and outside Cuba be respected, not even with 0.5 percent of the rage with which they defend a phony like Julian Assange (who presents himself as a paradigm of free expression of the press but runs to seek refuge under the wings of a government that is a paradigm in the world of repression of a free press).

None of those who verified with their own eyes that Ángel Santiesteban is, above all things, a sincere writer, with a literary career that has persevered since its very beginning in offering a critical look at the Cuban reality, none of them, I repeat, has pronounced publicly, like they should, to simply defend the right of Ángel Santiesteban to be considered thus, a writer.

Berlin, November 9, 2012

Translated by Regina Anavy

Facing State Counterintelligence Part 2

When we got to the police station Aguilera, led me to the dungeons. The guards held me by the arms, I was almost dragged. I had no energy, the pains ran all over my body, but mostly because of blows in the ribs I did not get enough air and it was like a knife stabbing me again and again. I did not want to scream in pain so as not to give them the pleasure of seeing me suffer, but I certainly felt like doing it.

They took me down to the basement of the building. The stench warned the proximity of the dungeons. Several doors of bars were opened. I had my eyes closed because my clouded vision bothered me. They left me in a cell on a concrete bed. I spent several hours struggling not to stop breathing, every time I took a breath it was like a knife cutting into my ribs. Then, slowly, I began to get relief.

A guard asked me if I wanted lunch. I told him no. Is this a hunger strike? I told him yes. He walked away and I heard him inform his superior, meanwhile what he said gave me to understand that he didn’t care. He said what he had done. Which was not true, because when I communicated my decision not to eat, he looked at me worried, very worried.

Soon the photographer Claudio Fuentes, who had arrested with me, walked past my cell.  They brought him lunch. He greeted me with his eyes and I saw the surprise of seeing my state of calamity with my shirt torn and bloodied. I asked about Yoani Sánchez, he told me that he didn’t know what happened to her. I asked about the lawyer Laritza and he told me she had been released the night before and had been in the same cell as I was now. At least I had a few seconds of joy. What about Antonio Rodiles? Nothing, no one else knew, he said, and the guard yelled at him to hurry up and not to talk with me.

That night, after I refused to eat, they decided to change my cell.  They put me in with Claudio. We took tremendous joy in being able to talk. On the wall, in huge letters, someone had written: Down with Fidel. Long Live Human Rights. We barely slept. We passed the time talking about movies, photography, girlfriends, literature, history, and the dreams of justice we both long for, for Cuba.

The recurring question we kept returning to was whether Yoani had been released, or if she remained imprisoned. I remembered all the time, during the altercation with the police, that my greatest worry was that they would beat her so I tried to stay close to her to avoid their doing that at all costs. Luckily this time that didn’t happen.

The circus of finding me guilty begins

The following morning they came to get me up and “formally” accuse me. They charged me with two things: “resisting arrest,” and “Injuries.” I explained the events as they happened and said it was a shameless and blatant attempt to try to accuse me of something I didn’t do, rather the accused should be the entire troop of abusers who presented themselves as “Counterintelligence Agents,” a perfect name for those repressors and paid assassins, as Yoani shouted at them.

The “Instructor” (a combination of investigator and prosecutor) barely spoke, he was only following orders. He did his job as best he could, because I did not agree to cooperate with the injustice. I reminded them that they were the first to violate the law, that I had not been allowed my phone call as established by their own laws. He was quiet, he did not know what to say. He said he would consult with superiors and then tell me. Of course, I never saw him again, much less received permission to make the phone call.

On returning to the dungeon I told Claudio what happened, and we laughed so as not to cry from anger at the government cynicism and its injustices. A while later an officer came to tell me that my family was at the station and they had brought me toiletries. He asked if I wanted to send a verbal message. I told him to let them know that I was happy and I was where my heart led me. The officer looked at me like I was insane. I thought he wouldn’t pass on the message. Later I learned that he did tell them, and then my family was able to confirm that I was there. I took advantage of the opportunity to send them my shirt torn and stained with my blood. I thought that maybe the guards would take it out of the bag and not give it to my family.

At moments, Claudio and I reminded the jailers that we had the right to a phone call, and they responded that they were only allowed to give us food and watch us, but they was no authority over other aspects, that this was the power of the “State Security”.

Meanwhile, we saw how they authorized ordinary prisoners to make phone calls as many times as they wanted. As I had been able to hang on to my phone card, it occurred to me to negotiate with those offenders who, if they made a call for me, I would let them use the card, and they agreed. But when I asked them to pass on my request to take picture of the bloody shirt and put it on the internet, they were nervous. Then I talked with one who had a deposit of 500 pesos, and his family didn’t have the money. I told him to make the call and that my family would pass on that amount. He finally agreed.

After lunch they released Claudio. While gathering his belongings, including his camera, he tried to take a movie peering into the dungeon where I reached out with the index finger and thumb held out in the L-shaped, as a symbol of Liberty, but the jailer realized what he was trying to do and was furious.

The Claudio left and I felt the full weight of my loneliness bearing down on me. Some common prisoners called to me from their cell. One of them, I knew from childhood, told me that if I would accept it he would pass me hidden food. I said now, that this trick would hurt me, because it undermined my decision to remain on strike. In any event he didn’t understand. Nor will I ever know if he was sent by my captors. Soon they brought in a detainee for beating his wife. We just talked, I suspected he might be an envoy of the “State Security”.

I called the jailer to let me wash up, but he said that the prisoners who weren’t eating weren’t allowed anything. After a while they took my clothes and sheets. That night I had to cover my cold shoulders with my shorts. Then they brought in three black men, very burly. It was obvious they were in the service of the “State Security”. They told their false stories. And I played the game, but took the opportunity to say everything I wanted to scream at my captors.

The only thing they responded was that if I were out of the country, that “God gives a beard to he who has no jaw”; they were mocking me because I could be abroad, I had traveled to the United States, Europe, America, and look where it got me, that was the crazy thing. I told them again and offended them with my sentiments. Meanwhile, they went quiet and I sensed it pained them not to be able to shut me up with punches.

In the morning an “agent” of the “State Security” came. I yelled, from my cell, I did not want to talk to anyone, the only thing they could do was go back to hitting, but they wouldn’t get any conversation out of me. The officer entered the cell after taking the other inmates out. I thought they would beat me.

December 8 2012

Facing State Counterintelligence Part 1

Our adolescence was fertilized with novels and TV series that marked our aesthetics and personalities.

How many times did we read the novels, “Here the Sands are Cleaner,” “If I Die Tomorrow,” or the series “It Had to Be in Silence,” with most of us enjoying those fantasies of socialist heroes who, guided by Cuban “Counterintelligence” managed to outwit their enemies.

Over time they have become socialist fantasy trash and the young people of today consider them terrible literary works because of their insubstantial content and their unbelievability.

On Thursday, November 8, we went to present our respects to the parents of Antonio Rodiles, elderly people around 90 years old, and of course his closest accomplices and companions in their ideological ideas. We also wanted to demand the release of the unjustly detained lawyers Laritza Diversent, Yaremis Flores, and Veizant Boloy. We arrived at the Acosta police station and met up with the independent attorney Wilfredo Vallín in the offices there.

They refused to let us see them, from which I inferred they had beaten one or more of them and so they hid them from us.

We could not be fainthearted before the abuse

We stood in front of the police station, coming to be, if I’m not mistaken, seven human rights activists, or bloggers, or opponents, or whatever you want to call us, among them Yoani Sanchez of course, Claudio Fuentes, the professional photographer, Eugenio Leal, the activist Arabel Villafuerte, among others. The truth is that we found ourselves there because it pained us to know that there was an innocent suffering in Castro’s dungeons.

The operation was already closing in. Around us we found a group of “civilians,” military whom we know aim to repress. We were aware that our abusers were just three yards from us. At times I stared at them fixedly to unmask their intentions, dreams, fantasies, but their criminal visage prevented me from doing it. I assure you we were laughing, or perhaps it was a laugh of pity for them.

Someone warned that at the corner they were arresting those who wanted to join the group. They started to force them into the patrol cars and began beating them as usual. We were about a hundred yards away, and in the distance, perhaps out of fear and love, we thought it was Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo. It wouldn’t be a lie if we said we were still for a few seconds, we all knew what approaching them would mean, but without any starting pistol we ran as one, I remember that Yoani went like a mother when one of her pups is stolen and she had already forgotten the words of Reinaldo Escobar, her husband, when he said before saying goodbye to be careful, and also the caresses of her son, whom perhaps she would not be there to hug when he got home from school.

The truth was that she went asking for an explanation of why he was being arrested and beaten. In the midst of the siege I watched her unchecked bravery and in a second the door of the patrol car where they had two arrested activists opened and they wanted to put her body into the car. There was a moment where I was frightened because her feet were under the back tires and the car started to move. But they pulled and pushed her. Yoani faced the police and her bravery made them small. Then a boorish official came wanting to provoke her, challenge her. And the brilliance of Yoani was to ask her from which tenement she’d emerged, and to say to her that she was showing no composure at all with her display of trashiness

I was right next to Yoani and I could see the eyes of the officer, and see she was disarmed, as if an iota of shame had escaped against her will because she saw that he was knocked out before the round even began. And to Yoani, whom she knew wasn’t in her weight class ideologically or in principles, she turned her back.

When the order came to grab us

Then we heard when they gave the order to grab us. They pushed us, separated us. I looked around while they were grabbing me and saw Claudio in a patrol car, they took Eugenio off in handcuffs and Yoani as well, and even put her in a patrol car.

When the patrol car came I gave in. I think we were not a force of resistance but of conscience, of justice, of the disorder that we had not originated. When they took me to sit in the car someone behind me said “get in, go,” and I was punched in the neck, without thinking I returned the blow, and they were devastating, as if they had suffered the greatest offense, or it was only that this horde of abnormals had been waiting for a tiny spark to explode into cowardly and abnormal violence. It was like they were waiting for the sound of a whistle to begin their cowardice.

I never imagined that this might be recorded, you already saw the beating they gave me. Although I have not seen the video, you know that watching YouTube from Cuba like everything else is impossible. The blows that hurt most were when they opened the back door on the right: they were like the kicks from a beast, and for a moment I thought they had fractured my skull, there were so many of them and they were so hard that the blows others were giving me on the ribs, back and legs weren’t important. I don’t know if they were beating me with a ring or brass knuckles, but the blows were so forceful they broke my head, my lip, and like an urgent warning of personal salvation, in my semi-conscious state, I decided to get up and get out of the car.

I will not describe more what you can see in the video. But one details that perhaps you can’t see is that, on leaving an officer who was at my back was bragging, he said, “You’ll see if he straightens up now,” and he squeezed me with his arm around my neck until I started to feel faint from lack of air, he did it with such force I thought he’d separated my head from my body.

They led me to another patrol car to take us to the back yard of the police station. I looked at the other cars and they were sitting there, like me, waiting. Next to Yoani there was a woman dressed in civilian clothes. Then they changed the car I was in and I sat beside Eugenio. The voice coming out of the station said, “Let’s get out of here, we have to get out of here,” but it was said with terror. I think they feared more activists would come or that the people who had watched were starting to move towards the entrance to the station.

The journey begins

There was a line of patrol cars led by the Chief of the Operation who traveled in a green Lada with yellow license plates. At the end there was a red van with more hired assassins. They drove around aimlessly, talking on cell phones, from which I infer that the operation had gotten out their hands. The whole time Yoani was making signs of freedom, of Victory, and the bystanders were watching her without understanding much, this severe lack of consciousness that most of the Cuban people have, covered with a mask of innocence and fear. We arrived at the Monumental — the highway surrounding Havana — an ideal place to massacre us and leave us in the gutter. There were no witnesses present.

They stopped the line of cars, there were about nine. Immediately two uniformed women who were so huge they barely left any space sat down next to Yoani. They were searching us, taking our documents. When it was my turn the Chief of the Operation pulled me to my feet by the handcuffs, and despite being able to feel the metal of the handcuffs in my bones, every time I looked at Yoani with that nobility, my strength multiplied

The Chief of the Operation started to kick me with his boot to make me open my legs for the frisk, but he did it with rage, I shouted that this was the best they knew how to do, beat a handcuffed man, defenseless, that they always did the same. Eugenio shouted for them to stop hitting me, that violence wasn’t necessary. While he searched me I took the opportunity to tell him that the dictatorships of the seventies in America had to wait thirty years to be judged, that now they were old men and they were being tried. That the violation of human rights doesn’t expire and that some day he would have to pay for his excesses. He shouted at me, “When I pay you already will have.” I suppose he was saying I would suffer first before him. He told me, “It seems that the five years you’re going to get in court soon isn’t enough.” I told him, of course, the judges are you, that it was all theater and you already decided the penalties before the trial. But I told him it doesn’t matter, here there is a body and courage to face it. “Yes, I know you’re brave,” he told me sarcastically. I’m not brave but neither are you cowards who beat people as a group because you are afraid to do it alone.

When they received the order we now had destinations. They divided us among the city. Eugenio and I were sent to Santiago de las Vegas. There they took me to the hospital because the jailer wouldn’t receive me in such a precarious state. The pains in my ribs were like stabbing needles, and blood was all over my body, coming out of my mouth and my head frightened them, plus the swelling in my lip and cheek.

There I took advantage, thanks to their oversight, to let friends know we were being held in Santiago de las Vegas. On returning to the station they took me to a cell. Before entering I saw Eugenio through the bars and Veizant. The lawyer who set off this chain of injustice when, like an attorney and a husband, he went to inquire about his wife, the attorney Yaremis Flores. We greeted each other with a nod of the head and I assured them that for me it was an honor to share those cells with them. Then he said he was worried about his daughter, because they didn’t know who had taken charge of the girl, he was very worried and like everyone, they had refused to grant him the telephone call which, by law, everyone arrested is allowed in the first 24 hours.

Between Kafka and Virgilio Piñera

Around midnight they took me out of the cell. I thought it would be for an interview. Then they returned my clothes and announced to me that I was being released. For me it was a humiliation, to let me go, to distance me from the fate of my companions was the worst thing they could have done to me. I begged the jailer to let me go back and inform them but he refused. I asked him several times and he said it was impossible. I was very sad, I didn’t know how to face that disdain, at least that’s how I saw it.

At the station door the Duty Officer gave me my ID card. The street was desolate, as is customary in country towns. I asked a passerby how I could rent a car and he pointed to the place. I walked 200 yards and saw a telephone. I called two people, while talking I saw emerge from the darkness two officials who told me I had to go back, “You didn’t want to leave? We’re going to make you happy.”

I hung up the phone but not before reporting what was happening. My interlocutors didn’t understand anything about what was happening. To Kafka and Virgilio Piñera it would have been difficult to imagine. In my daze even I didn’t understand, but I was happy they were taking me back to my brothers.

At the entrance to the cells, after taking my shoelaces and belongings, they took me to a small room where the Operation Official hit me in the ankles. After I sat down he handcuffed me and calmly took out his pistol, cocked it and put it to my head. I felt the weight of the metal on my skull which accentuated the pain from the blows I’d received before. Those seconds were the longest of my life. I don’t know how I got out the words, “At some point you are going to have to pay me.” More seconds passed in silence and he answered, “This is true, I’d better wait until you’re on the street and I can hit you in the head with a hammer and leave you like someone assaulted you to rob you.” He took off the handcuffs and pushed me outside to the jailer to take me to the cells. Outside there was an activist who they’d also arrested whom they were letting go, and he told me, with regards to the pistol to the head and the hammer that they had played out that scene of terror on him too, in the style of Alfred Hitchcock.

I told the others what had happened and no one understood clearly why they had let me go out to the street. Eugenio said they were sick, it was an aberration, and they did it to destabilize me psychologically.

Soon they called Veizant for an interview and told him he would be released, then that his wife Yaremis was being processed by State Security at 100th and Aldabo for a blog post that she had written in which, according to them, she had lied.

Eugenio and I were happy because there were two less in that injustice and this way Veizant could take care of his daughter, who was surely worried about her parents. The body aches were exacerbated to the extent that the nerves were relaxing. Eugenio and I passed the night talking about justice, history and freemasonry.

In the morning they released Eugenio. We hugged and loneliness is the worst enemy, although I preferred seclusion to my friends being detained. At midday four military came for me. They told me to come out of the cell. I asked them where they were taking me. “Wherever we want,” they answered.

When, slowly, because of the pains, especially in my ribs, they made a move to get me up, they wanted to panic me, I refused, and told them not to touch me, but they didn’t wait, they pulled me out by the hair while kicking me some more. They pounced on my as if it was the “pile” game we played as kids, only I was the one underneath; they put a boot in my chest, then my knee, another beat me on the same injured side, with a vengeance. I shouted to give it to me on the other side because those ribs were already broken, and that made him more eager, “Who told you not to obey,” he said, and continued. They tightened the handcuffs with this mania they have to tighten them around the skin until they cut off your circulation.

I was taken at full speed to the middle of the city, they ran the lights and even went zigzagging between the buses and cars. In a few minutes we were at the Aguilera barracks.

How unjust to use the name of our vice president of the Government in Arms!*

*Translator’s note: Francisco Vicente Aguilera was vice president of the Cuban “Government in Arms” formed during an early war of independence fought against Spain in the 1860-70s.

November 19 2012