Maria Matienzo Puerto

HAVANA TIMES, Jan 18 — At one point in her life, Amelia acted with violence. She stabbed her husband. He simply pushed her to the edge. He was always an aggressive and threatening type of guy, regularly swearing to beat her up again, to take their daughter away from her or spreading the rumor to everybody that she was a lesbian.

Amelia simply couldn’t take any more of the pressure, and that’s when she stabbed him. She was tried, convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison, but she only served four because she really isn’t the aggressive type. She loves peacefulness, adores her daughter, and though she’s not attracted to women, now she doesn’t have a problem with those who are.

She could have had her sentence reduced to only a few months because her husband asked to have sex with her while she was awaiting trial.

Her lawyer advised her to agree to it because that would have been a point in her favor, but Amelia knew that if she accepted the sentence would have been another: she wouldn’t be able to get rid of him, ever, and sooner or later she’d end up killing him.

Although she was practically a teenager back then, she was smart.

During her four years in prison, Amelia took advantage of the time. She got her bachelor’s degree and now is about to get her master’s in medical technology. Since she’s a skilled professional in a state-of-the-art technology, she has been offered the chance to go on an international mission. She can’t accept the offer, though, because then her past would come out and everyone would know that she was once in prison.

She has given various reasons for not being able to go. First it was that her daughter was too little and she didn’t have anyone to leave her with; the next time it was that the girl’s “sweet fifteen” celebration was approaching and that she, as her mother, was responsible for organizing it; and so on infinitum.

Meanwhile, her co-workers traveled on missions and improved their lives economically.

It’s been over seven years since she was sentenced, so she’s started investigating how she can have her criminal record expunged. However, she met with some bad news.

According to the Cuban criminal code, for the criminal records of seven-year convictions to be erased, a person has to wait ten years – no matter the circumstances. There’s no way to appeal that ruling. It’s a ten year wait, period.

Amelia feels like she’s serving two sentences for the same offense, and actually I agree with her.

It’s not assumed that the law should consider the exceptions in society? Or am I making a bad assumption? But shouldn’t Amelia have the right to hire an attorney and fight for her case?

I keep making the bad assumptions.

What we have is a law that condemns women who defend themselves, but not men who beat, humiliate and kill them.

Why am I not surprised?

She told me that the day of the trial she sensed that the prosecutor and the judge felt sympathy for the victim (meaning him, not her). These could have just been subjective perceptions on her part, but the truth is that her husband continues to be the same good-for-nothing as ever, beating other women in addition to Amelia, who still hasn’t been able to get him out of her life for good.

The daughter who they share suffers the consequences whenever the father comes to visit. At the same time she’s gaining more respect for Amelia because she knows that her mother is “a woman who has managed to earn the little she has through hard work.”

Those were Amelia’s words when she decided to recount me her story so that I could write it.

But that’s all I can do. I can only tell her story and hope that someone publishes it. I have no power to change unjust laws (and I don’t think I ever will).

 


Maria Matienzo

Maria Matienzo Puerto: I dreamed once that I was a butterfly who had come from Africa and discovered that I had been alive for thirty years. From that time on, I constructed my world while I was sleeping: I was born in a magic city like Havana; I dedicated myself to journalism; I wrote and edited books for children; I met to discuss art with wonderful people; I fell in love with a woman. Of course, there are certain points of coincidence with the reality of my waking life and it’s that I prefer the silence of reading and the pleasure of a good movie.

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