Home > Miguel Iturria Savón > Frightened Women

Frightened Women

See translator’s note on photo, below.

Several days ago, at a friend’s house, I felt embarrassed to listen to an elementary school teacher who was chatting with the wife of a colleague, whom she consulted about a problem at work over which she had been expelled. When asked if she wanted the matter exposed in the alternative press, the lady got frightened: “What are you saying, man, I don’t want any trouble with the dogs of State Security, who are now going crazy detaining dissidents over the death of a prisoner who died of hunger!”

My friend did not insist, although he knows that the expelled teacher asked his wife for some books that are banned in Cuba and copies of El Nuevo Herald, El Pais and other foreign newspapers that he gets. “She reads, asks questions and shuts up; fear paralyzes her,” said the independent journalist.

The frightened teacher reminds me of a young lawyer, the daughter of an ex-brother-in-law who lives in Miami, who sends her money each month, but couldn’t get her out of the island through Mexico. While waiting to be reunited with her husband who escaped to Florida, the lawyer joined a consultancy, where she applies socialist laws and pays union dues. Behaving well is the tactic she uses so that the government won’t deny her permission to leave.

But fear has a long reach. I know exiles in Miami and New York who while visiting relatives in Havana avoid contact with dissidents, with whom they shared bread and ideas before leaving the island. If they encounter any they tell them, “Sorry brother, but this is very hard; if an informer in the neighborhood reports that I’m with dissidents perhaps they might lock me up again.”

In this category, I place a beautiful friend who has lived in Mexico for over ten years, where she married, became a citizen and has two beautiful daughters. We worked as literary researchers in a cultural institution. From Monterrey, she sends me postcards and she brought me chocolates when she came to visit her parents, whom she treated with care. The distance happened suddenly when she discovered my blog; some posts scared her, according to her mother, who told me on the street in Vedado: “Belinda says you’ve gone mad, that you write as if you do not live in Cuba.”

Other stories show that many ladies and gentlemen sniff danger and run away from the fire; they know that life is short and repression is infinite. Why complicate things with denunciations and contacts with persecuted people? Why challenge the beasts that beat and imprison opponents?

As every rule has honorable exceptions, I know dozens of compatriots who throw aside the masks of fear, pretence and self-censorship. Days ago, Claudia Cadelo posted on Octavo cerco a recording of a verbal confrontation that took place in the lobby of Cine Chaplin, where an employee in the service of State Security prevented her from entering XI Muestra de Nuevos Realizadores (The 11th Annual Sample of New Directors), held in the last week of February.

As the expelled teacher does not have access to the Internet, she could not listen to the confrontation with Claudia Cadelo. Maybe my friend in Mexico and the consulting lawyer will open the blog I mention and smile in admiration. The beasts are afraid of words.

Translator’s note on photograph: This photo is taken from Yoani Sanchez’s blog (31 Aug 2008). Claudia Cadelo (left) and Yoani (right) are holding up a “poster” they made to protest the arrest of Gorki Aguila (center). Claudia had not yet started her own blog, at this time, but wrote a “guest post” on Yoani’s blog, titled “From Paranoia to a Scream,” describing her own turning point which she described: “I believe today marks a turning point from ‘No we can’t’ to ‘Yes we can.’  We have shown that things can change, that we can stand up to injustices and the abuse of power and that fear is NOT infallible.”

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