The Inferno on the Other Corner / Henry Constantin

Orlando Zapata Tamayo
Orlando Zapata Tamayo

I want to talk about breathtaking scenery, as Cuba has a ton, of people in solidarity with the traveler, of which there are also thousands on the island, but it fell through. In those moments the journey beat me, short and dry, it’s about a scary place. I went once, only as far as the entrance, and because I stranger I never knew asked my help.

On the road that goes from Camaguey to Sierra de Cubitas and the north of the province — the Lesca highway — past the International Airport and the Albaize neighborhood, on the second entrance to the left is the 26th. This is the common name for the maximum security prison of Camaguey, one of the most fierce with the human beings of so many that populates the island that transformed barracks into schools. From an airplane you only see the suspicious uniformity of the enclosed buildings.

There are inmates who, for having committed crimes related to politics, were judged unfairly. So, they are political prisoners. And there are also common criminals, who probably deserve to be in jail. But everyone, the misjudged politicals and the common prisoners guilt or not, share a condition: all are condemned not just to lose their freedom, but the human condition, which is ultimately what is lost there.

Why serve them rotten food? Why are they cheated of medical care? Why can some barely talk to their families. Why do some people sleep with their legs bent because there’s no space for a bed. Why are there so many suicides there? Why was one prisoner’s television lacking sound and another had sound but the screen faced the wall? Why aren’t the guards brought to trial for the crimes against the prisoners? Why so many questions without answers, in the Camaguey prison, as there are in so many others in Cuba?

In the United States there are five Cubans imprisoned. Prisoners for violating U.S. law, although it is true that, as I don’t sympathize with who spy on those of their own country, whichever side they are, but I haven’t followed the case much. I know that a little bird landed of one of those who senses the loneliness of the prisoners, and that the photo, real or not, was famous.

And a young prisoner in The 26 also has his history with a sparrow who chose him to befriend. A sparrow who managed to get into his cell, live with him, eat his food and sleep in his uncomfortable bed. A sparrow that besides feathers, feet, beaks and the freedom to fly, had the inexplicable urge to accompany this man in his suffering, just as other human beings were responsible for increasing or ignoring it, or avoiding any sign of support. A simple sparrow.

February 23 marks the third anniversary of the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo. The one who died for fighting, with his body as weapon and battleground, against those who mistreat Cuban prisoners. What a problem for this country, that the only thing the enters the prisons to east these subtle cruelties upon prisoners, are sparrows.

February 21 2013