The Man at the Door Won’t Let Me Leave

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 26 November 2019 — It was a Saturday, it was a Monday, but it could be any other day of the week. The man at the door of my building barely articulates a word, just mutters “Luz Escobar, you can’t leave.” I ask the reasons for home confinement and demand that he identify himself. But he flashes his card in front of my eyes so fast that I can only see huge letters DSE [Department of State Security].

I take out my cell phone to take a picture, but when he sees the phone, the man turns his back, runs and hides behind a column.

My daughters laugh nervously, it’s Monday and they know that what is happening is exactly the same as the last two Saturdays. The one who gives the alarm is Paula, who arrives from the school shouting: “Mommy, mommy, there is Ramses* down there again.” She comes home hungry, as always, and we go down to find bread and sweets, but ‘the man at the door’ prevents us, with his body, from going out. My other daughter is studying at a friend’s house.

For some reason, the little girl, at nine, knows she is untouchable and asks me for my wallet. While she goes to the bakery I stay on the ground floor of the building waiting for her. The man, who wears a black backpack on his shoulders, walks left and right while talking on his cell phone. “I am here in the lobby with her, but it seems that no, she will not go out,” I managed to hear.

When Paula returns, we go up in the elevator and a lady asks: “What did that man say to you?” I explain what happened, but she is silent with a smile on her mouth whose motive I can’t guess. There is a huge sign on the door of the building with the face of Fidel Castro, the third anniversary of his death is commemorated.

That happened yesterday, but last Saturday we couldn’t leave, on that occasion to go to lunch with my daughters’ paternal grandmother, an important meal, because it is routine and the routines are respected. They make us what we are until the day we decide to break  them and create others. I didn’t want to break anything that day, but the man at the door didn’t let us out.

Another Saturday, back on November 16, when the 500th anniversary of the city was celebrated, we could not go to lunch with Grandma. The fireworks they launched for the celebration we had to watch from the window of our home.

The first time my daughters saw this man on the ground floor of our building was the day of Jaime Ortega Alamino’s funeral. I left with my camera to go the cemetery and they were going to skate in the park, when the man approached me and them at the same time. “Luz, you can’t go out,” he said.

The girls asked me questions that I answered vaguely: “Don’t worry, it’s just that he doesn’t want me to go outside.” The youngest girl says: “But he’s not your dad.” The big one adds: “What you have to do is call the police.”

In addition to being a citizen and mother, I am a journalist. When I am prevented from leaving, they are not only violating my civil rights, but also labor rights. It limits my freedom of movement and also my freedom of expression.

The man on the ground floor of the building may also be the man at the border. Last May, when I was going on a trip to Washington, a migration officer also looked me in the face and said, “You can’t travel.” It was difficult to explain that to my daughters when I returned home. It had never happened.

At this point, with 42 years and five as a reporter, nothing will change my mind. No pressure will let the vocation that was born the first time I wrote a chronicle about a neighborhood bus. Nor do I stop capturing with the camera of my cell phone pieces of my country’s life, testimonies of women and men living in Cuba today.

I don’t dream of Luz exiled, nor silenced. The journalistic work that I do every day when I wake up will continue, like that old dinosaur that makes us a postcard of the past and that we have just not extinguished. This is an endurance race.

To others, those who love and respect me, I say that when a new Cuba is born I will also be here to tell it.

*Translator’s note: A previous State Security agent that prevented Luz Escobar from leaving home identified himself as “Ramses.”


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.