Three Memories of Angel Santiesteban / Miguel Iturria Savon

Angel Santiesteban

On September 2, 2011 I published the “SOS for Angel Santiesteban” in Cubanet, when despite his having been awarded multiple prizes by the regime itself, the Cuban government’s own political police were harassing the writer. In late 2012 Angel was sentenced to five years imprisonment after a show trial in which his ex-wife was used as a spearhead against him. I will not refer to details of the case because they are still circulating in various writings and in Santiesteban’s blog, but I will offer my personal impressions of this word artist.

Before personally coming to know the author of “Dreams of a Summer Day,” “The Children Nobody Wanted,” “Blessed are Those Who Mourn,” and “South: Latitude 13,” I read his books and listened to several anecdotes that reflected his temperament and satirizes the political situation in Cuba. It’s hard to forget some of the characters of his stories about prison and Cuba’s intervention in the wars of Africa. Perhaps the masterful design of these alienated beings who gallop through the pages of his works are the real cause of humiliating trial that attempted to annul his rebellion and the voice of this audacious man without masks.

As my son was Angel Santiesteban’s lawyer, I had the privilege of welcoming him to my home in Havana and chatting with him over a glass of water — Angel does not drink rum or coffee. We talked about literature and his family experience. Only once, when asked by one of his characters, did he reveal the traumatic imprint of his brief stay in prison before the age of 20, after being arrested on the northern coast while saying goodbye to a relative who tried to leave the island on a raft.

I met Santiesteban several times at the house of the blogger Yoani Sánchez and at cultural gatherings organized at the residence of the physicist Antonio Rodiles, leader of the Estado de Sats program. I remember that Angel barely took part in those debates and almost always sat at the end of the hall, far from poses and prominence poses but friendly with anyone who approached him. In the end he left in his car with 4 or 5 people whom he drove to, or closer to, their homes.

The last time we met was in front of the police station at Infanta and Manglar,  next to the “Fame and Applause” building, where fifty opponents demanded the release of Antonio Rodiles, arrested after the funeral of Oswaldo Paya Sardinas, who died in suspicious accident. We chatted there while Wilfredo Vallin and Reinaldo Escobar tried to negotiate with the Head of the Station, also surrounded by a gang of criminals who awaited orders from State Security officials to kick and drag opponents.

The judicial farce against Ángel Santiesteban reminds me of the famous narrator Reinaldo Arenas and the poets Heberto Padilla — imprisoned in 1971 — and Raul Rivero, sentenced in 2003, victims of a dictatorship that punishes free expression and promotes quietism and the complicit silence of the intellectuals.

19 May 2013