Tamara Davila: “The Patch of Sky in My Cell Saved Me.”
Isolated in the El Chipote jail “I talked with the spiders and the birds.”
For the first 90 days, she knew nothing about the fate of her 5-year-old daughter, who had been with her on June 12, 2021, when she was violently abducted from her home.
HAVANA TIMES – Activist Tamara Davila wasn’t only deprived of her freedom for 606 days, but also denied the right to see her five-year-old daughter. For the first 90 days she was locked up alone with no word of her. In order to finally be allowed a visit with the little girl 14 months later, she had to resort to a hunger strike. All this time, Tamara was kept in solitary confinement, a situation mitigated only by the piece of sky she could see through a tiny window that served as ventilation in that cell, where a little bird and the spiders were her sole companions.
Tamara spoke of this and much more during a lengthy interview with Lucia Pineda Ubau of 100% Noticias. “I would talk to the spiders. When there was a cell inspection and they killed them, after the guards had left, I cried for my little spider friends, because I used to talk to them.” This tenacious fighter arrived at the Directorate of Judicial Assistance – better known as the El Chipote jail – on June 12, 2021, dripping blood, because at the moment of her arrest a woman official struck her hard and bloodied her nose.
“The little piece of sky that I could see saved me – the bird that came to my 18-inch window, the wind, the rain that flooded my cell, I got pleasure from all of these,” she stated. Tamara Davila even expressed gratitude to the policewoman who struck her, because even though she hit her hard, she did so with an open palm, instead of with her fist. In those first moments, she recalled, she feared they were going to kill her.
For 90 days she lived with the torture of not knowing what had happened with her little girl, who was at home when the police came to capture Tamara. Likewise, she was given no information about what was happening with her family. She was allowed no communication with anyone, and no visits. Instead, her guards, as part of the psychological torture, told her that her family hadn’t even come to ask about her and told her that after all her efforts running around yelling on behalf of everyone else, they’d all forgotten about her.
After three months, she received the first visit. As soon as she learned that her daughter was well and in good hands, and her family was okay, the insomnia she’d been suffering disappeared.
In the interrogations, they asked her who she was working with, but she refused to talk about other people, only took responsibility for the struggle she didn’t regret and blamed the dictatorial couple for everything that was happening in El Chipote.
“When we received that first visit, it only lasted 20 minutes. For all of us prisoners, it rushed by like water through your fingers. I could finally breathe though, because I learned that my daughter was safe and well, and that my mother was alright. After that, I didn’t have to take the Alprazolam (Xanax) anymore, that they’d been giving me for anxiety. The method used by the directors of the jail complex, under orders from Ortega and Rosario [Murillo], was psychological torture. They know the terror that invades you when you don’t have any contact with your family. They used this from the very first moment,” Davila accused. “Nothing went on there without first receiving orders from “El Carmen” [Presidential residence/headquarters], and that’s why they’re the ones responsible for everything that’s happening in [Nicaragua], and everything we Nicaraguans have suffered has been because of their orders.”
Tamara Davila says she labored to be strong and flexible like a bamboo plant. As a political prisoner, she explained, she had to learn to live one day at a time. During her 606 days in solitary confinement, she began to value the beauty of life that God gives us.
She strengthened herself spiritually and physically doing exercises in her cell, and she prayed a lot, not only for herself, but also for the other political prisoners locked up in El Chipote.
Food as a weapon to soften or punish
Tamara noted that after maintaining the prisoners on a starvation diet for a year and two months, the jail began to give them abundant food. This was after the international campaign of spoken portraits (in which artists posted drawings of the prisoners based on the descriptions of those who had seen them in jail) illustrated how extremely thin they all looked. As a result, the authorities then decided to fatten them up, so they could later publish photos of them.
“The food portions were tiny, and we lost weight. Food was used as a mechanism of psychological torture, and as a mechanism for softening or worsening the imprisonment. The first months, they gave us very tiny amounts of food, but after the campaign of spoken portraits our families launched with the media and with people in general, they began to give us exaggerated quantities,” she recalled.
Instead of horrible, “the trials were wonderful”
Even though the trial they held against her was considered a pantomime, she now smiles recalling it, and declares that she enjoyed it. While it was going on, she got to leave her cell every day and see some of her fellow prisoners, who were being tried along with her. She learned a lot listening to the well-founded arguments of the defense lawyers against the prefabricated official declarations.
It was incredible, “The prosecutors gave orders to the judges,” she noted. However, it was wonderful “to see the defense of each of our lawyers, see the strength of those lawyers and their arguments, in the face of such ignominious behavior on the part of the District Attorney’s Office. The prosecutor told the judge what to do. I watched the witnesses from the same police file by for 7 days, while listening to the utter nonsense of the prosecutor, but I learned a ton about the law by listening to the legal arguments used by our defense lawyers”, who they were not allowed to meet with before the circus trial.
Her visit with her daughter
Tamara Davila chokes up when she speaks about her daughter, who was finally allowed to visit her in prison, after 14 month of petitions and a five-day hunger strike to demand the right. When she saw her in prison for the first time, Davila stated, the little girl gave her a great lesson in strength and optimism.
“I hugged her, I cried, I told her I loved her. She dried my tears and said: “Mama, take it easy. All this will pass, and we’ll be together,” Tamara remembered. The little girl, then 6, showed great strength.
Her daughter had seen the police violently carry off her mother and knew that was it was the police that were keeping her distanced from her mom. During Tamara’s time in jail, the girl received permanent help from a psychologist, who helped her comprehend what was happening.
Now released, but banished to the United States, Tamara hasn’t yet been able to reunite with her daughter but hopes that it will be very soon. She affirmed that the United States government was doing everything possible to achieve family reunification for the 222 released political prisoners.
Tamara Davila expressed her determination to continue in the struggle for freedom in Nicaragua and for the liberation of the political prisoners who still remain in the country. She firmly believes that the days of the dictatorship are numbered.
We provide the full video of the interview in Spanish