21 km for Cuban Political Prisoners / Luis Felipe Rojas

Luis Felipe Rojas, journalist, Cuban writer. (Photo: Daniel Banzer).

Luis Felipe Rojas, 21 January 2017 — This 29th of January I will be running the Miami Half Marathon. It will be 21 kilometers of puffing and panting while I think about the people who are in jail in Cuba because of their opinions.

My legs and ankles will get unscrewed, my liver will tell me to stop throughout the entire 13.1 miles of the run, which I will try to survive. I come from an island where you are not allowed to criticise whichever dictator happens to be there. Isn’t 58 years a dreadfully long time to dictate peoples’ lives?

I am going to run for those who held up an anti-government sign, those who uttered a slogan which clashed with the chorus of sheep who say yes and think no. Also, for those who once took arms against the oldest dictatorship in the west: the two Castro brothers.

I have spent exactly a year puffing away along the road for more than two hours, in the stifling humidity of the Miami swamps, and the sun which doesn’t understand which season is which. Weights, treadmills, long runs, speed runs, and running barefoot. I want to run through the 21 kilometers of this beautiful city and the endless alleys where you can breathe the humidity of the Cuban jails.

I want to get to the 8 mile point, which will totally wear me out, like somebody who gets put in the Guantánamo Penal Institution, “Combinado”, as it is known, the dismal jail in Boniato, Santiago de Cuba, or the monstrous model prison at Km 8 in Camagüey.

I can do more, I know, but it’s a gesture which will do for now. I only want to invite you to watch the 15th Miami Marathon and Half Marathon. I will run slowly, to savour and suffer every mile, every pace within the pack of runners. This Sunday, more than a hundred Cuban political prisoners will hear the shout Count! and some will be beaten.

The country that is Cuba which will be subdued by each kick, each beating. A lock will be fastened. Someone will run along the road in Miami to open it.

Translated by GH