The Bunkbed / Yoani Sánchez

We had not been together on a bunkbed for more than twenty years. My sister preferred to sleep in the lower bunk for fear of falling out in the middle of the night. I, more daring, climbed to the heights of those squeaky bunks at the schools in the countryside. Taking refuge in the fact that I was younger, I jumped on my battered mattress which, with every jolt, threw out a dust cloud of the husks over the recently occupied sheet. My sister complained that I dirtied the pillow with my shoes, muddied from the furrows where we cultivated the tobacco that put us to sleep. With the patience of the elder daughter, she also tolerated that I talked in my sleep all night.

Two decades later we were once again together in a bunkbed, this time without so much as a mat. My sister and I, with one bed up and one bed down in a dark cell at the police station at Infanta and Manglar. We who were once mobilized for agriculture were arrested years later by State Security agents who had also spent nights in those camps at Güira, Alquízar, Los Palacios or Batabanó. A woman next to use asked why we were prisoners as I lay on the plywood of the upper bunk. The stink of the toilet permeated everything and outside, instead of a bell calling us to work, was a grim-faced officer guarding the door.

Memory has certain pitfalls. Now when I recall those hostels full of teenagers they merge in my mind with the image of a cell at the 4th Police Station on the evening of 24 February 2010. My sister and I sharing a can of condensed milk with our classmates, suddenly being thrown into a hallway where the police scream and knock us around. My sister and I, on perpetual bunks, exactly the same amid Pinar del Rio’s red earth as in a damp basement of El Cerro. We went from sheltered girls to arrested women, from Little Pioneers harvesting bananas and oranges, to citizens forcibly pushed into a paddy wagon. My sister and I, one bed above another. She trembles, her voice strained, because she can no longer protect and defend me.

It’s been a year since my sister and I were victims of that arbitrary arrest as we were on our way to sign a book of condolences for the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo. After filing a complaint with the Military Prosecutor, the Attorney General of the Republic, the National Assembly and the Director of the National Police, I have received no response from any of these institution. Here, once again, is the audio recording I managed to make that day with my mobile phone.

Translator’s note: These videos have no “images” other than the transcript of the words and sounds. Even to the non-Spanish speaker, however, they powerfully transmit the screams, the blows, the voices of Yoani’s sister and others arrested that day as they try to protect her from abuse. An English translation of the transcript can be downloaded here.