Poster: Rolando Pulido
Luis Leonel León: The Black Eyes of Rosa María Payá
From El Nuevo Herald
The magazine “People en Español” chose her as one of the 25 most powerful Latin women. On a list that includes Jennifer López, Sofía Vergara, Kate del Castillo, Lupita Jones, Paulina Rubio, Doctor Polo and other celebrities across the entertainment industry, this young woman stands out. She doesn’t design jewelry, isn’t a business woman, doesn’t star in reality television, nor does she scream or cry in soap operas. On the contrary, she contains her immense tears that television would love to scoop up. Many have tried, from Bayly to María Elvira, but she keeps her black eyes still, shaking from within. They only cry in private. And that may be their greatest power.
Paradox of fate, her image became popular for a terrible event that marked her life and her gaze, perhaps forever: on July 22nd her father, Oswaldo Paya Sardinas, leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, and his colleague Harold Cepero, lost their lives on a lonely rural road.
The Cuban authorities say that it was a “traffic accident,” where these two Cubans died and the two foreigners that accompanied them were saved: Swedish politician Jens Aron Modig (who was asleep at the time of impact and then lived eight days of Kafkaesque prison in Havana) and the Spaniard Angel Carromero (who in Cuba was convicted of vehicular manslaughter and who in his own country demanded an international inquiry into what her considers a State crime).
The two foreigners were isolated and coerced by the State Security. There are witnesses who saw these four people enter the hospital alive, but the only “investigations” permitted are those of the same dictatorship that more than once threatened to kill Payá, whose version is validated by the Spanish government. Rosa María, like many others, we are convinced that it was a shadowy operation still pending, like so many other manufactured horrors, for the Castro government will never admit the answer.
For many, Payá was a prominent international figure of dissent on the island. Founder of the Varela Project, he is to date the only man who has gathered thousands of signatures from Cubans (with names and identity numbers) requesting an opposition to the dictatorship.
Never in 54 years, has anyone gone so far in a peaceful confrontation to totalitarianism, to the point that the island autocracy was forced to change its constitution, to contain the purpose of the signatures with not only manipulations and state terror, but also with chains legislated to force people to vote for the irony of a single party, damaging free elections, Payá and his followers still claim, risking everything, even death.
No wonder he won the European Parliament’s Andrei Sakharov Human Rights Prize in 2002 and was an official candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize several times. The official version crumbles before the darkness of the facts and background, as an answer blowing in the wind: it was eliminated because it would not agree with the false reforms that the Cuban government sells the world and its own citizens, cementing the power of new leaders with consumer checkbooks fattened on behalf of that hypocritical melodrama called socialism.
Despite daily violations of the most elementary freedoms, Cuba has once again joined the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Rosa Maria Payá has not stopped speaking before this or other international forums to denounce the reality, to ask for help to speed up democracy and to ask for a serious investigation that would show the true reason for the death of her father and her friend Harold.
Also under death threat by the agents of the regime, for some months she has lived in Florida with her mother. As a good daughter and tenacious disciple, she continues fighting for the holding of a plebiscite that would provide the basis for authentic democracy in Cuba.
Opposing the great hoax called “cosmetic change” which will make the leaders of the Communist Party (or whatever they come up with) legally richer, while making poorer those who asphyxiate every day and that luckily are losing their fear of protesting publicly in the streets. For many this is a chimera. For her it is a desire. Her faith. Another inheritance from her father.
Thanks to People the image of this 24-year-old Cuban (the youngest on the list) is repeated in news and signs, newspapers and social media along with other popular Latinas, powerful (even millionaires), talented and beautiful. Her message, unknown to millions, will be transmitted through other channels a lot more popular to keep attempting to break the blindfold that has covered the eyes of a people for more than half of century, and also the eyes of a good portion of the world.
Neither sad, nor happy, it is Rosa Maria who looks at us from this snapshot by Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, taken in Lawton, Havana, a few months after her father’s death. The collapsing building where she appears, between reality and a metaphor: the wall of Cuba.
And her black eyes, deep and sincere, through which we can see the horror and the hope, the persistence and the tenderness, and that reward with another nuance, this kind of almanac of successful women. Vagaries of fate. From there, again overcoming again the invading eye of the press, she sustains her fixed look at the kidnapped island.
Translated by: Boston College Cuban American Student Association (CASA) and LYD
15 November 2013