The Environment of Subjugation

By Yoani Sanchez

The environment of subjugation was once in an old thick-walled prison like that of the La Cabaña fortress in Havana Bay. A prison that had previously been a military barracks, because both soldiers and inmates suffer similar impediments to behaving like free beings. Both are subject to the shackle, which is imposed as a criminal penalty, or by the power of sergeants and commanders. It would not be surprising if José Martí, instead of writing, “One cannot establish a people, general, as one commands an encampment,” had drawn the comparison with a prison where the citizen is at the mercy of his guards, under the shadow of his keepers.

Now we also have modern prisons, with the same architecture as the high schools in the countryside, but just as atavistic in their methods of subjugation. Rather than thick bars they have lieutenants who lower self-esteem, doctors who aren’t there when needed, and the pressure of a doctrine that blames the accused for not having turned himself into a “New Man.” In many Cuban prisons they try to take away a person’s self-respect. Hence, they must live with their own excrescences and those of their cellmates. The walls of the Manto Negro prison for women, for example, are splattered with tears, blood, fluids and saliva, as well as names and dates, spells, threats and promises.

The bricks of either prison – the ancient or the modern – have been placed so that freedom does not seep through them, so that no crack allows the passage an ounce of optimism. The builders have constructed them from their own phobias, harnessing everything that will create terror. The squalor of a prison is the perverted face of justice and those who erect and maintain certain shadowy prisons in our country have confessed their fear of being human.

Translator’s note:
The narrator in the video is Dania Virgen Garcia. Briefly, she is speaking of women she encountered in the prison where she was sent on April 23. She speaks of women sentenced to ten months for selling nylon shopping bags, cutting themselves, cutting their veins, not receiving medical care or care for mental health conditions, depressed from having to leave their children, and being treated badly by the guards. She says that bit by bit she will tell all the stories from the prison. A series of posts in Laritza Diversent’s blog cover the arrest, trial, and appeal, starting with this one.