Three days had passed since I was presented before the maximum chiefs of the “Aguica” penitentiary. I found myself in a cruel and degrading world, and what stabbed at my conscience the hardest was the fact that I was separated from my wife and from my only son, who at the time was a mere four years old (and who was sleeping by my side when I was arrested by the political police).
It was a Friday morning when a functionary from the Order of the Interior took me to the prison’s infirmary. The medical chief of the jail was a young man with a captain medal, though he barely used his military attire. With time, I learned that his name was Gaspar.
The doctor jotted down each and every one of my illnesses in my new medical file. If at that time (in 2003) I suffered from migraines and gastritis; seven years later my symptoms and ailments had multiplied. In addition to the first two mentioned, I later began suffering from high blood pressure, kidney infections, chronic inflammation of the right ear, and the dislocation of my right knee (which was operated on without any success). The condition of my knee was product of not having been able to receive sufficient sunlight for 16 months. I also emerged from captivity with a diagnosis of diabetes. The doctors of Canaletas Prison had time and time again denied that I suffered from this disease, despite the obvious symptoms and the suspicion of my wife who is a doctor. Upon arriving to Spain, it was confirmed that I suffered from diabetes.
When I left the infirmary, I bumped into an old friend from Sancti Spiritus- Blas Giraldo Reyes. I knew that he was involved with the Christian Liberation Movement, but I had no idea that he was also imprisoned. I must confess that his appearance thoroughly explained his situation, the same way my own must have given off signs of my state.
We were barely able to chat. At fist, he did not recognize me, and if it wasn’t for a familiar mole on his face, I would have not recognized him either. Upon noticing that we knew each other, the guards quickly separated us.
Blas Giraldo was physically deteriorated. He had lost plenty of weight, while his hair had considerably grown out (many of us from the group of the 75 did not have the chance to take haircuts for nearly 2 months). Perhaps they did this in order to deliver a message to our families: they were going to destroy us. With such tactics, they planned to induce our families into conspiring against us so that we would give in to prison life, giving up our cause. But our families all behaved with much dignity, all the while carrying the heaviest cross of this story.
The guard hurried me off while my hands were cuffed behind by back. I was only able to shout out, “Blas! I’m in the third!”
I heard his response echoing in the distance, “Pablo, they sent me down to that section as well. We’ll see each other soon!”
I was actually relieved that Blas Girardo would be near where I was. Amid my extreme case, I did not fully realize the pain he was going through. For me, knowing he was imprisoned with me was a blessing, but when I noticed my own selfishness, I felt ashamed.
After a few hours, Blas Girardo returned to the third galley. There, we once again greeted each other and I presented him to the other prisoners. They quickly began to ask him questions about everything. I could not help but to laugh by myself because I had already lived through that experience. The majority of the prisoners displayed much affinity towards the story of my friend. They seemed to be interested in his age- nearly 50 years old- and the fact the he was now to serve a 20 year sentence.
I committed my first error as a prisoner on that day. I had shouted out to Blas Girarldo if he wanted to undertake a hunger strike with me on the 20th of May. While some prisoners actually wanted to take part in this, a few others quickly informed the authorities of our plans.
My days in “the third” were counted, and I was to soon learn about the rigor of “The Polish one”.
NOTE: Pablo Pacheco was one of the prisoners of Cuba’s Black Spring, and the initiator of the blog “Behind the Bars.” He now blogs from exile in Spain and his blog – Cuban Voices from Exile – is available in English translation here. To make sure readers find their way to his new blog, we will continue to post some of his articles here, particularly those relating his years in prison in Cuba.