November 6: A New Anniversary in Cuba

Isbel Diaz Torres

I understood that they were good people (2009).

This past November 6 marked the first anniversary of the “March against Violence” that was led by a group of young people along Havana’s 23rd Avenue.

Those of us who participated on that occasion felt strong emotions, but I think that each one had their own motivation and explanation of what happened.  The diffuse, secret and wide-reaching calls for the event can explain such a diversity of versions as well as participants.

Speaking recently with a non-Cuban friend, he told me that he didn’t understand the relevance of such a short march.  For him, a five-block march with such a universal message wouldn’t have a great deal of merit.

The posters “No More Violence” made people along the street wonder: Violence? By whom? Against whom?  That simple fact that people posed questions was, in my opinion, a major benefit of the event.  I also think it was a merit of the organizers not to give the answers.  The time must come when we begin to construct our own solutions.

No More Violence (2009)

Likewise, a message like nonviolence was and continues to be vital for a tension-filled society like ours.  The conflict between the transformations to be executed by the country’s administration and the responses that will arise from people portend a complex situation, and such a panorama offers violence as a tempting solution.

The emotion around leading a march organized autonomously, mixed with the fear generated by the mass presence of plainclothes agents, put my nerves on edge.  It will be an unforgettable moment in my life, that’s for sure.

But it will also live on as a moment in which part of society made known their clearly civilized position and call for dialogue.  Recent video images showing Cuban troops in anti-riot gear on a college campus in Matanzas Province is evidence that the 2009 march was not trivial.

Familiar tactics. (2010)

This past weekend we were reminded of the demonstration a year before through several activities that covered the main parks on 23rd Avenue.  Throughout the day and evening they assembled all the platform scaffolding for concerts, chairs, book sales, sports games, music and food stands.  The official and public reason for this was to celebrate “Student’s Day” (which in Cuba is celebrated on November 17!).

The covert and hidden reason, however, was to do be ready for “dissidents who would engage in provocative acts,” according to people who worked directly with the organization of the “celebration.” I also received the same comment through a member of the Young Communist League (UJC) who studies at the CUJAE university campus.  The UJC members were summoned to be at the 23rd Ave. sites several days in advance.

That was the way the bureaucracy remembered the march.  What a shame!  Perhaps taking into account all the resources spent on preventing a group of kids from walking five blocks would be a better explanation to my foreign friend about the true merits of that action.

In any case, I want to give a big hug to those who organized that beautiful march one year ago.  I’m not even completely sure who they were, but at least for my part —someone who attended half-confused while we walked along singing the songs of los Van Van and Silvio Rodriguez— I understood that these were good people.

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Isbel Diaz

Isbel Diaz Torres: Pinar del Rio and Havana are my cities. I was born in one on March 1, 1976, and I’ve always lived in the other. I am a biologist and poet, though at times I’ve also been a musician, translator, teacher, computer geek, designer, photographer and editor. I’m very non-conformist and a defender of differences – perhaps due to always having been an ever-repressed “model child.” Nothing enthralls me more than the unknown, nature and art; these serve as my sources of mystery and development. A surprising activism has been born in me over the recent period. Though I’m not very sure how to channel it, I feel that it’s a worthy and legitimate energy. Let’s hope I have the discernment to manage it.

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2 thoughts on “November 6: A New Anniversary in Cuba

  • El 6 de noviembre los bloggers cubanos lo conocemos cariñosamente como Saint Geely´s Day. En 29 y G un Geely particular lleno de hombres de civil nos secuestró a Yoani Sánchez, a Claudia Cadelo y a Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, usando supongo que métodos no violentos.

  • Isbel

    Congratulations on the anniversary of the march and for be so progressive and inquisitive mind!

    It seems the Cuban government since it is always paternalistic it can not tolerate anything that comes from the people. Most likely from their point of view they see anything like that as a provocation or something sponsor by those who want them out of power!
    Yes, your are correct there is great significance in this march. Because it was something organize by Cubans without being commanded by the power! There is the significant and the present and clear danger to those in power.

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