The Pain of Others / Miriam Celaya

Reina Luisa Tamayo. Photo taken from the Internet

On June 20 I received news that has caused me pain. I refer to what we call “the pain of others,” caused by the actions of others and that, involuntarily, moves one to feel a certain mix of compassion and shame for the protagonists.

The information, which came to me via a text message on my phone, literally says, “Federal congressional representatives will have Reina Luisa Tamayo appear before the U.S. Congress to ask for intensification of measures against Cuba.” I read it more than once, carefully, trying to understand what relationship there could be between a simply, barely educated Cuban with no experience in the in intricate vicissitudes of politics, a group of United States congressional representatives well-trained in the art of taking advantage of the situation.

Even more, by doubtful and miraculous virtue has Reina Luisa Tamayo suddenly been turned into the representative of request that can only serve the interests of a group of the most archaic and failed policy and that, what’s more, leads the Cuban government to justify and strengthen its belligerent position? How can they take this most humble of Cubans and demand something which — and they should know this — will reverberate precisely against the most humble of her compatriots and, incidentally, will offer a service so useful to the government of the Island?

I understand, as a mother, the grief this woman must feel after the terrible death of her son Orlando Zapata Tamayo. I can imagine and even understand that she feels hatred and anger against the regime that with such impunity left her child to die without offering to help him medically until his condition became irreversible. With very little effort I can abstract from this that it is the government itself that should bear the costs of the process of emigration, including the passports and permissions to leave, for her and a dozen of her family members, as if that could compensate in some measure for the crime committed; and also — as absurd as if may seem to us — I have to recognize that she has the right to move the ashes of Zapata Tamayo, a Cuban martyr who belongs to us all, to a foreign land where he never was and to which he does not belong. After all, I think, perhaps she decided to have the consolation of being able to frequently place flowers near his beloved remains, and this is, without a doubt, a sacred right. No wonder she tried to visit her son’s tomb every Sunday, facing the repudiating mobs and also the uniformed police, bravely defying the beatings, the arrests, the threats and injuries.

So I’m surprised that now, as if she hadn’t already suffered enough, and now that she herself is safe from repression and will not have to suffer the consequences, Reina Luise has given in to such crude handling, aligning herself with the most radical and retrograde posture, and so offering such an exemplary service to the Cuban regime. I don’t know if, in some magical way, she has become a political figure, if for reasons unknown to me she has made some commitment to the radical sectors of the exile, is she is a victim of mismanagement or of her own naivete, or if — and the other hand — she has calculated the results of will get some personal benefit.

I admit that — as twisted as it may seem to me — she has that right also, provided she does not exercise it as a representative of a people who have not elected her to be their spokesperson. As as Reina Luise has the right to decide her own actions, she must also have the integrity to face the questions of many who, like me, were supportive of her demands for justice in the past, and who now feel sorry for her.

June 24 2011