Laura, the Rebellion of the Gladioli / Miriam Celaya

A tribute to Laura, in her house.

It couldn’t be true that Laura had died. It was Friday and had gotten dark earlier, perhaps because lately the rain in Havana hasn’t let up, when I got that fatal message from Yoani on my cellphone: “Laura Pollán has just died.” My first thought was it couldn’t be true. Shortly after some friends called me, as incredulous as I was, “Is it true about Laura?” I don’t know, I can’t believe it, I don’t want to be believe it.

We were all sad, angry, feeling orphaned; we all wanted to confirm that this news was wrong. Perhaps it was a mistake, perhaps it was another provocation born of the perversity from official quarters, of those repressors disguised as doctors who swarmed around her hospital bed. How can a person with so much life and energy have died?

Then came other messages confirming the fact and we had to surrender to the fatality: the little woman who, for eight hard years, headed up the Ladies in White, putting in check the forces of oppression and breaking the impunity of the government, that brave and dignified Lady like few others that had made the dictatorship tremble in fear and anger, had died.

But why, then, were the hounds still so frightened? Why did they allow only two hours in the middle of the night for the wake? Why did there have to be so many arrests in several of Cuba’s provinces to prevent Laura’s friends and fellow travelers coming to her funeral and offering tribute? Why were so many others arrested, practically kidnapped, to prevent them from attending mass yesterday at Santa Rita church?

When I signed the book of condolences, opened in Laura’s house, there were already almost 300 signatures there, and friends kept coming. I couldn’t help but think of the triumph of Laura and her near resurrection: despite the repression, the vigilance and the hatred of the authorities, her house remained open, receiving the solidarity and love of hundreds of Cubans. In the little living room, a modest altar surrounded by flowers and candles, presided over by the Cuban flag, showed the respect of her companions in the marches and all the friends who honored her memory.

I left comforted, strengthened, optimistic. Laura not only hadn’t gone, but she will rise again in the spirit of the new Cuba when all Cubans, including the children who today do not even know that they are slaves, will mention her name with respect and gratitude. We make it our charge to see that this is so. Laura is with all the Ladies and with the Cubans who carry out the civic resistance in pursuit of the freedoms they have stolen from us for more than half a century. Laura is now and forever the soul lit with faith who announces the end of the dictatorship: the rebellion of the gladioli.

October 17 2011