The first time I heard talk of the Ladies in White was on a Father’s Day. The Ciro and Claudio Fuentes made a documentary about the Cuban opposition, as a counterpart to three days of a fictional soap opera about the dissidents, which had been airing on the show The Roundtable.
I will never forget the contrast between the interviews in the documentary, and the manipulated images from Cuban television. A friend of mine always says that common sense is what allows us not to believe something that only shows one side, and I answer him: Exactly, I live in a foolish country. Despite knowing that the official press lies, the first time my instinct was confirmed, the delight was indescribable: I had proof.
Saturday, the day before Father’s Day, I had been to greet the Ladies; it is to them that I own my deepest congratulations. During the twenty-four hours of the festivities, they will be the voices of the fathers who cannot play with their children, and their white clothes will be a reminder that behind the bars of the socialist paradise there are just men. Pablo Pacheco cannot play with his son Jimmy. He is not alone, however: in a church in the capital a group of women will pray that next year they can be together.
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.