The Old Act of Repudiation / Yoani Sanchez

Perhaps you don’t know — because not everything is related in a blog — but the first act of repudiation that I saw in my life was when I was only five. The commotion in the tenement caught the attention of the two girls we then were, my sister and I. We peered over the railings of the narrow corridor to look down to the floor below. People were screaming and raising their fists around a neighbor’s door. As young as we were, we had no idea what was going on. What’s more, now when I recall what happened I have barely the memory of the cold railing under my fingers and a brief flash of those who were shouting. Years later I could put together that kaleidoscope of childish evocations and I knew I had been a witness to the violence unleashed against those who wanted to emigrate from the port of Mariel.

Well, since then I have experienced several acts of repudiation up close. Whether as a victim, observer, or journalist… never — I should clarify — as a victimizer. I remember a particularly violent one that I experienced with the Ladies in White, where the hordes of intolerance spat on us, pushed us and even pulled our hair. But last night was unprecedented for me. The picketing of the extremists who blocked the showing of Dado Galvao’s film in Feria de Santana was something more than the sum of unconditional supporters of the Cuban government. They all had, for example, the same document — printed in color — with a pack of lies about me, as Manichean as they were easy to refute in a simple conversation. They repeated an identical and hackneyed script, without the least intention of listening to any reply I could give them. They shouted, interrupted, and at one point became violent, and occasionally launched a chorus of slogans that even in Cuba are no longer said.

However, with the help of Senator Eduardo Suplicy, and the calm in the face of adversity that characterizes me, we managed to start talking. In short: they only knew how to yell and repeat the same phrases, like programmed automatons. So the meeting was very interesting! Their neck veins swelled, I cracked a smile. They attacked me personally, I brought the discussion back to Cuba which will always be more important than this humble servant. They wanted to lynch me, I talked. They were responding to orders, I am a free soul. At the end of the night I had the same feelings as after a battle against the demons of the same extremism that fueled those acts of repudiation in 1980 in Cuba. The difference is that this time I understood the mechanism that foments these attitudes, I could see the long arm that controls them from the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana.