I am down on my knees pleading with you with cries of hope for Sonia Garro and Ramon Munoz / Angel Santiesteban

One year before being cast into the darkness, Sonia Garro and her husband Ramón Muñoz were already suffering the characteristic calamities of Cuban prisons.

Starting from twelve months earlier, their daughter crying for her parents, and her waking up — in the early hours, on hearing a random whisper and thinking it was her parents returning — became common, only to tear up on the embrace of her aunt and so back to sleep. Three hundred and sixty-five days of  the constant questions, from the reasoning of her adolescence, without them being able to explain, to give her a sensible answer as to why she didn’t have them by her side.

The faces of Sonia Garro and her husband Ramón Muñoz, filled spaces in Facebook, and social pressure seemed to be endless, because we knew that the courage they showed made us better people, they taught us to give that little bit that sometimes, out of fear or the simple and natural reflex of safeguarding lives, made us selfish and we therefore did not deliver all the necessary courage; but after their lessons of courage, on March 18 last year, something changed us. A definition disrupted our personalities, and then we were no longer the same, a lightbulb turned on within us and it was the shadow of those two great fighters who, with their example, gave the best lesson of Cubans worthy of their time and their country, giving up their lives, and giving them to a cause in which every child of this island, should be immersed, and they joined their spirits and values to our souls.

Sonia and Ramón who have a child to raise, educate, pamper, kiss, now have to settle for memories of when she was small and they took her to school with her little hand getting lost in theirs. Like almost all other people, they want to share a wedding, a house and dreams.They were not prepared to risk their lives, the emotional stability of the family, to not have other urgent missions or diverse utopias to which they could dedicate themselves. Only they thought firstly of their duty to their country, even though to many people this seems ridiculous, archaic even resembling stories from books which describe a bygone era.

Some months ago, the Paris-based Cuban writer Zoe Valdés, with her wise, sometimes hurtful but always intelligent style was calling for attention, with good reason, for the people who sacrificed for us, to try to give us a country that we do not have to flee, politically or economically, and therefore they are now suffering for their daring, lost between Coca-Cola and the complete triviality of our times, they were beginning to fall into oblivion and she mentioned those whose names were almost forgotten by time. It came to me as a wake up call to our consciences.

Some days after, I was moved by a letter from the Cuban writer Félix Luis Viera, living in Mexico, about the total indifference of Cubans to events on our island (and how well Don Jorge Manach knows how to explain this in his essay of the Joking Cuban), and the lack of solidarity and character with those who have done more and therefore suffer humiliations at the hands of the totalitarian regime.

Sonia and Ramón will soon mark one and a half years of unjust incarceration.

I ask the best Cubans, who have been born on this tumultuous archipelago, not to silence their voices so that the world may see the government abuse, without the smallest of the judicial guarantees which they have suffered and are suffering.

I urge every citizen to not cease in their cry for the freedom of this couple, among the many prisoners of conscience, suffering the punishment of being denied their independence, and the asking themselves the classic question: how long will I be imprisoned? What can be my contribution to reach a decent and uplifting future in my country?

Without you, those who are scattered around the world in more secluded spots, the insiders keep us silenced. God put you there to be an echo, the action of the pain those who can’t do it from within the country. That is your responsibility, your way of acting, and we ask for your cooperation, from one sentence to the action of a finger on your computer.

I urge my artist friends (what Cuban isn’t an artist?!), creators, human rights activists, bloggers, journalists, to join this humble but intense call for a just and noble cause. How can one sleep knowing what is happening there? I have no doubt that as long as we remain silent then we are complicit with the dictatorship. As for those who hide behind the word “apolitical”, know that silence is also a way of practising politics.

Modestly, I want to dedicate the novel which I am currently working on about the 19th Century, starting at the end of the year 1807, to Sonia and Ramón and in as much as I can capture, in tribute, the pain which blacks suffered, like them, under a slave regime similar to our own today.

And if those words were not sufficient for Cuban internet users, I’m kneeling before anyone who has possession of reason and feeling to plead with them for their cry of hope for Sonia Garro and Ramón Muñoz.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton prison settlement. September 2013.

Translated by Shane J. Cassidy

10 September 2013

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