The other day I went to Matanzas and visited Alejandrina, the wife of Diosdado González Marrero, a prisoner of conscience since the Black Spring of 2003. He was on a hunger strike alone in a cell in the Pinar del Río prison “Kilometer Five and a Half” (Cuban prisons never cease to amaze me with their horrible names, horrible like their conditions, of course). Alejandrina was telling me the ups and downs of going to Pinar del Río for visits, as traveling in Cuba is an odyssey.
I went on this same odyssey to be able to reach her home in Perico, a very complicated little town. I had to ask a lot of people, and I was very paranoid because I was afraid of being intercepted by State Security. However no one seemed to know the name of any street and I refused to say whom I was going to see… until finally I realized it wasn’t so serious, people greatly respected the families and helped them.
At the house you can see in the photo, right at the corner of Alejandrina’s house, I asked my last question and was answered, “I don’t know,” which seemed rude to me… maybe she spent a lot of time giving directions from here to there and was annoyed. The fact is that when I realized I was right next to my destination a wave of reproach hit me in the chest towards that woman who, obviously, had lied.
But I was wrong, that sad family had all the problems of mental retardation and lived in appalling conditions, divorced from reality and forgotten by the social welfare system. Last year the cyclone left them homeless and they haven’t even been able to finish the reconstruction thanks to being forgotten by the government, and in spite of help from the neighbors.
A woman in a doorway, with the roof half finished and the bare block walls, and a red rag on her back who doesn’t know the street where she lives, these are things “The Socialist Revolution” doesn’t take into account.
This is an excerpt to a version of the song, Epitaph for Vladimir Visotski by Karsmarski Jacek (Polish dissident songwriter), which includes Ciro Diaz in his latest album, The Blue Slug, that I listened to compulsively for at least two months, especially on the street with my mp3 inherited from a friend who now has an I-pod. (Download the lyrics here) (Download the recording and album cover here) The song (in summary, which runs about ten minutes) is about a desperate artist going through the circles of hell in search of an answer or death, and at the end of his journey there is only loneliness and the weight of the supreme power above himself. So I found myself at times catching the bus across Havana at 12 noon in August under the perennial sunshine and with the distressing feeling of not going anywhere, or arriving too late, or going for pleasure ... I feel that I have already arrived at the eighth enclosure (this is the finale of the song) where there is nothing, and I feel useless and empty, and I look at people without faith who walk along the street and who have so much fear that they no longer know they're afraid, and who have seen so many Roundtables and so many news broadcasts that they no longer know what belongs to reality or just to the TV screen. They cannot discern that they no longer believe, but cannot disbelieve either, and just move along past me not going anywhere.