I Raise My Glass to Freedom Day
I must confess that when they seized Raul Rivero in the Black Spring, and he was part of “The Group of 75? that was seeking political change in Cuba, at that time I had no political conscience, or maybe I did not want to have one. My thinking protected me and I needed to believe my literary teachers who insisted that the work was primary and that from writing we should fight for change, that books were our rifles and words our bullets.
I do not doubt that is true, but there was a moment in which it was not enough for me, and so I have recognized on many occasions, and when I ripped off the mask that covered my face — stuck there since my birth, weathered and clinging to my skin throughout the time of my education — then I felt for the first time the cool, clean air caressing my skin.
My shame obliged me to start the blog. I felt that I had a double debt: to all the national readership — where I perceived the need for the fight — and to my contemporaries, in particular and especially to the great Cuban poet Raul Rivero, who abandoned the life of a passive writer with which he collected great achievements in order to become one of the fiercest critics of totalitarianism. There was an instant where it all began, and his face, poetry and attitude towards life were made present, and I wanted to continue in his footsteps. The bar is very high, like his poetry.
Maybe you will not believe it, but at this moment, while I write this post, I was interrupted by Officer Abat — one of the many bosses of this prison — and he tried to assert his authority over me, he wanted me to notice that he was prohibiting my family from coming to see me.
When I ignored him, he asserted that he was going to win — I suppose he was referring to a dose of suffering for me — then I assured him that he would never beat me because for me a cell was a badge of honor, but that I recognized that he could do it as a henchman, abuser, weak in manhood, and several other things that — in the heat of the moment — occurred to me.
He screamed at me to shut up, and I told him that they would never achieve it, certainly not on a day like today. Finally, he left threatening, surely looking for help in the headquarters to make me pay for my rebelliousness.
Today is Free Press Day, and this is the best way I have to honor it. And it is also the best day to express my gratitude to the great Raul Rivero, who lights the free path with his lantern of poetry, who in his turn inherited from the master of all, Jose Marti.
Lawton prison settlement. May 2014.
To sign the petition for Amnesty International to declare Cuban dissident Angel Santiesteban a prisoner of conscience follow this link.
Translated by mlk.