Friday, February 12, 2010

Naked Before Power

Punto y Coma hosted an event in Two Gardenias when I was 18, I went to see them every week with a friend who lived in Playa.  By that time a huge operation -- popularly known as "The Scourge" -- picked up any women just for being on the street, under the alleged suspicion of prostitution.

My friend and I were standing on the terrible Fifth Avenue, we knew that was the the center of operations, and we started to hav a drink.  The first car that stopped, while and clearly occupied by Cubans, asked us innocently, "Is everything alright?"
To my absolute amazement, a guy jumped out of the car and stuck his DTI Police ID in my face, while with his other hand he grabbed me by the back of the neck so that I couldn't breathe, and threw me in the back of the car.  Five seconds later my friend fell on top of me.  Inside I learned that I was hustling and was detained for engaging in illegal prostitution.  Our explanations were useless, they took us straight to the notorious station of the National Revolutionary Police known as "The Fifth."

There were about forty women there, many of the crying, and the majority were no older than 16.  According to what one told me, those who were from Havana would go to jail, while the others would be sent back to their respective provinces... all would be prosecuted. The prosecutor interrogated me, disagreeably and to the point of exhaustion, threatened me, and told me that I had no proof I was not a prostitute, to which I responded that he had no proof to the contrary... I called him names and he called me worse.

At about four o'clock in the morning I'd had something like seven attacks of hysterics because they wouldn't let me phone my mother or my boyfriend, I'd smoked against the rules, and had tried various times to reach the public telephone.  I suppose the cops were sick of me, my friend asked me quietly to calm down but I couldn't... at that time I still believed in the power of the existing legislation and believed I had the right to call my mother.

They let us go at five, but I refused to leave, demanding to be taken home in a patrol car -- it was late and I was scared to go alone.  The prosecutor replied, "You already have a warning card for being a 'ho, you don't want to leave with another."

The following morning my mother and I went to the Ministry of the Interior, facing the Plaza of the Revolution.  She was certain that if we complained everything would work out: they would withdraw my warning card and even punish the prosecutor... My poor mother! Even she believed this then.

I will not detail the extreme hypocrisy with which those at MINIT revered and entertained us, including a paper that said my card had been revoked and the prosecutor had received a month's sanction.  I was a little skeptical, after fifteen days of paperwork it seemed that something wasn't clear: why hadn't we been visited personally by the prosecutor and the police who detained me.  Why were all the declarations blank?  My mother calmed me down and in the end I forgot the incident.

Two years later the sector chief of my block visited us.  It turned out that after two years of verification they had finally come to the conclusion that I wasn't a hooker, and they canceled the damn warning card, which had been there all the time.

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