Enriquito, a Good Man, Much Loved, and a Dreamer / Juan Juan Almeida

My name is Ramón Enrique Ferrer Yero, son of Enrique Ferrer (an electrical engineer) and Elisa Yero (a homemaker), I was born on 6 September 1941 in Cuba’s Oriente province, in my dear Palma Soriano, in a home located on Cisneros Street, number 4, top floor, between Martí and Maceo Streets. You can imagine that, with that kind of address, I was born a patriot.

I went to a Catholic school of the Claretian Brothers, then studied at the Sanderson Institute, and later, in the Sinai Baptist school. I didn’t make it to college, due to my views, openly contrary to the evil Revolution, the government didn’t allow me to continue exercising my right to study and chose to cut short my professional life.

In 1962, they started to make my life impossible. They summoned me to the offices of State Security, they pressured me, they tried to blackmail me, they surveilled those who visited my house. All of these things I’m telling you would provoke a discontent in me that I shared with many people.

I’m a practicing Catholic, and I used to attend the church of the late Father Cayo Simón, the parish priest of Palma Soriano. One June day of 1964 or 1966, during a celebration of Saints Peter and Paul, after so much pressure, several of my friends and I agreed to meet in the church to go out and protest, with pots and pans. State Security found out, and together with the Communist Party, brought out many people armed with planks with nails to repress our march. The echo of their cries of “To the firing wall! To the firing wall! Down with the gusanos*!” still sound in my ears… all of a sudden a mob removed me from the church, dragging me before a rudimentary tribunal that they had organized for such needs. I don’t know how I got out of there. The mob that chased me took it upon themselves to stone my house, yelling those stupid chants that struck with the same force as rain against sheets of zinc. Someone I knew well, whose identity I don’t wish to reveal, got me out of that severe nightmare through the patio of my house, put me in a car, took me to the province of Holguín, and, from there to Havana. After some time in the capital, I decided to return to Palma. Immediately after, I was called up to conscripted military service, which wasn’t even military service at that time, but rather the Military Units to Aid Production (UMAPs, by their Spanish initials). There, there were students, doctors, engineers, lawyers… it didn’t matter if they were for or against the Revolution.

They cut the lights off on the town, put us on trucks, and took us, after stopping along the way and picking up youths in Contramaestre, Baire, Jiguaní, Bayamo, Holguín, Tunas… to the stadium in Camagüey, where it rained unceasingly. After registering us, they put me on a cart and sent me, together with a group of lads, to these camps bordered by barbed-wire, in the town of Vertientes, that looked rather like the concentration camps of Hitler’s Europe. Trenches, mud, beatings, torn Bibles, mistreatment, drowning victims, suicides, long walks, early mornings, bad nights, rotten food, thirst, fasting, heat, cold, sickness, skin infections, shivers, rain, sun, forced labor, sugarcane fields, beatings, lost teeth, bayonet-stabbings… Who could forgive such an atrocious thing?

When all of that ended I started looking for work, but I was now labeled and no one wanted to hire me. I got caught by the Slacker Law and they took me to work at a stone quarry, breaking up gravel. On returning to my town, they put me to work sweeping all the parks of Palma Soriano, from where I kept conspiring in activities against the evil Revolution.

The constant threats, disrespect, and summons were my inseparable companions. In 1995, I was taken in by the refugee program offered by the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.

A long while later, and after offering various bribes, they finally allowed me to travel. Upon reaching my destination, I was received with an admirable and emotional welcome that left me speechless. But, to tell you the truth now, in that precise moment, my body was here in the U.S. and my mind over there in Palma, from where I never departed. I want to be among Cubans, so I came to Miami. I could not, nor can I, abandon the cause of Cuba. Here, I signed up with all the different organizations to which I belong to today.

I’m an only child, and my mom wanted to see me after such a long absence. I attempted to go back to Cuba to give her my last farewell, but they denied my entry. That has been the worst punishment. My mother died of sadness; you can imagine how much family separation can hurt. Today I live here with my Virgin of La Caridad del Cobre, with my St. Jude, and with my little dog, Niña. What I most wish for, when that horrific tyranny falls, is to fly off to Palma even if I have to live on the banks of the River Cauto in a house built of palm fronds and timber. I want freedom and democracy in my country; maybe that’s why, each time I lay down in my bed, I can’t fall asleep without first going for a stroll, in my mind, all over my Palma Soriano.

* Translator’s note: although less in use today, gusano, literally “worm”, has been the political epithet historically used by the state, its media, and its supporters in post-1959 Cuba to denounce counter-revolutionaries and citizens who wish to leave the country.

Translated by: Yoyi el Monaguillo

Support, Fraternity / Juan Juan Almeida

Today I was overcome by a horrific fatigue, my vision is blurred, and I fell while bathing; my sister and my friend Tomás helped me into bed.

I will continue my strike, asking for help and solidarity, to visit the doctor, hug my family and return.

I think it’s practically normal that some citizens engage in violations of the law, but NOT that it be the government that violates it. This is a homicide, a torture, a defiance.

I thank all those who have, in one way or another, raised their voices for me, those who have remained silent, and those who have criticized me. I’ve said, I am plural; to the latter let me say that if, being the son of my father, asking for specialized medical care and wanting to be with my family makes me guilty of something, I assume with pleasure full responsibility.

My goal is purely family, humanitarian, domestic and very Cuban; perhaps somewhat stubborn and unwavering, but nothing epic.

August 20, 2010

Solidarity / Juan Juan Almeida

Sixty-four days of hunger strike I feel a decline in vision, nausea, cramps, malaise; talking tires me quite a bit and ideas get lost in my head.

Curiously, yesterday (Tuesday, August 17, 2010), they should have sent me from the hospital where I was admitted a the medical summary and its recommendations but suddenly the doctor went on vacation. Luckily it’s been some time since I stopped believing in coincidences.

August 18, 2010

Whims, Sir? Are They Whims?

It seems incredible, a gentleman as old as that who once painted himself green, today faded to such a gray.

Of my siblings, I can’t even speak, I don’t speak with my family. With all the many problems we have in this country, I want to insist that it is obvious that the President acting as Cuba is wearing himself out trampling all over me, pursuing me, arresting me, even crushing me in violation of the law. It’s totally ridiculous.

I hope that Raúl Castro is very clear on the fact that I am neither inspired nor interested, faced with his immense power. The only thing I ask of him is to let me go.

Who could imagine the president of a country throwing all his power (military, secret service, digital media and much more) against a sick man separated from his family, now on day 42 of a hunger strike? Whim? Complacency?

It’s ridiculous, illegal, inhuman, anti-family, senile and even hormonal.

What can I do. Smile. I saw him facing a cassock, I will see him facing a toga.

Photo: Fidel Castro greets children of Juan Almeida Bosque,
siblings of Juan Juan Almeida, yesterday in Havana.

Is There a Law that Allows a Person or Institution to Trample My Rights With Impunity?

I will not go on and on, I don’t intend to bore anyone. My name is Georgina Noa Montes and I live at number 24 First Street, between Calzada de Bejucal and A Street. There is my home and if you want to call me you can do so at (535) 236-1408.

On December 7, 2009, I was granted a visa to travel to the United States as a refugee. On December 14 of the same year I presented my documentation to the Immigration Office, they took the papers and told me to come back after a month. I waited the prescribed time and returned on March 1 and an official attended to me… Well, rather he neglected me because he said neither I nor my family could leave the country.

I won’t deny that it bothered me. I am powerless, knowing that in my country, and this is true for everyone, there is always someone who decides for me. So I counted to ten, took a deep breath, and turned back to ask, calmly, “For how long and why?”

The official said he couldn’t give me an answer because the information is not in the public domain.

Fine, it is not in the public domain, but it doesn’t affect the public.

On June 9, 2010, I wrote a brief letter to the Council of State demanding an explanation. No one has answered me, I am still waiting for a reply. I remind them that it is a violated to refuse to answer the complaints and letters of the citizens.

I understand, and even respect, those who remain silent. But I have no reason to accept this violation of my rights, or that anyone has the right to punish me for exercising my right. Do we or do we not have rights? Are we or are we not prisoners? Are we or are we not hostages? Is there a law authorizing a person to institution to trample on my rights with impunity? No, no there is not; and if there is, we will change it. That is why we are Cubans.

Declaration of Jorge Luis Garcia Perez (ANTUNEZ)

In view of certain statements appearing in the media and on the Internet saying that, together with the dissident Juan Juan Almeida Garcia, I have accepted political asylum in the Republic of Chile through the efforts of that country’s Foreign Minister, I would like to take this opportunity to clarify that at least in my case, I have not undertaken the slightest effort to leave my country, although I sincerely appreciate any efforts made on my behalf, and I once again reaffirm my position that I will not leave. I continue consistent with my slogan: I will not shut up, I will not leave Cuba. Any declaration, affirmation or insinuation to the contrary should be considered erroneous and unfounded, with infinite thanks for any gesture or concern for my person and for my compatriots.

Declaration of Jorge Luis Garcia Perez (ANTUNEZ)

In view of certain statements appearing in the media and on the Internet saying that, together with the dissident Juan Juan Almeida Garcia, I have accepted political asylum in the Republic of Chile through the efforts of that country’s Foreign Minister, I would like to take this opportunity to clarify that at least in my case, I have not undertaken the slightest effort to leave my country, although I sincerely appreciate any efforts made on my behalf, and I once again reaffirm my position that I will not leave. I continue consistent with my slogan: I will not shut up, I will not leave Cuba. Any declaration, affirmation or insinuation to the contrary should be considered erroneous and unfounded, with infinite thanks for any gesture or concern for my person and for my compatriots.

The Street Belongs to Me, to You, and to Every Cuban

My name is Julián Guerra Deriet. I was born March 11, 1972. I live in cubicle 1 of hall 6, on Varona Street between Mayia Rodriguez and Lindero, in the Poey neighborhood, Arroya Naranjo municipality. My wife is names Marisol Bolanos Cordero, she’s pregnant and we already have one daughter.

My life is like that of many, a constant struggle. And if I decided to get married and have my own family, at least I have work to support them. I am not impudent, I was a shoemaker, craftsman, I tried a lot of things until one day I met a gentleman and with him I learned to make sweets. Nothing ever fell from the sky for me, I had to mow a lawn the size of a baseball field to earn $10. With this money I bought an oven, fixed it and went to work. Now many people know me as Julian the Pastry-maker. I live from this, making sweets. I don’t think it’s a good thing that there are political prisoners, I make them cake and with much love send it to them in prison.

Wait, allow me a commercial, I also make donuts that you know are better than glory and smell of resurrection.

Currently I’m a delegate of the Havana Political Prisoners Movement, and we go out often with a group of friends and perform acts of disobedience to demand respect for civil rights.

If I were to receive any help from the exile I would not leave this country; but I don’t get anything and I survive by performing a thousand tricks. My family is persecuted, harassed, they have beaten us, abused us, targeted us with acts of repudiation… My mother lives in Vedado, in Linea Street at the corner of 10th, just next to the newly opened “Casa del ALBA,” and when some bigwigs come, or the whole “10th of December” group, State Security goes around to her house and won’t let her leave.

For all the reasons I’ve explained, I’m asking for political asylum, and on February 1st I was awarded refugee status from the United States Interest Section in Cuba. In order for my wife and I to leave we need to go to Immigration to ask for the famous Exit Permit. Time, money, bad treatment… you already know it all.

In a few days my wife got the White Card (exit permit); but the little girl and I, nothing.

You understand? No, not me, I got angry, imagine, I’m working my life away here, sweating like crazy, and then some trash talker comes out with his buoyant face and destroys my family. No.

Later officials from State Security came by and asked me to stay calm, and promised me that on July 17th I could leave.

Look pal, this is called blackmail and I also won’t allow it. Leaving is my right; and my family is sacred. So be sure of it, buddy, I’m not going to stay calm, and I’m not going to be convinced.

The street belongs to me, to you, and every Cuban.