Ladies in White on My Street Corner

Vicente Morin Aguado

Ladies in White on my block

HAVANA TIMES — I took the photo from a prudent distance, as the incident took me by complete surprise. A reporter armed with equipment more powerful than my modest cell phone was also covering all developments.

Absorbed by her work, much like the director of a chorus standing before her disciplined pupils, paying no attention to her audience, a small, robust, dark-skinned woman was directing the women’s actions. “Laura Pollan lives!” the persistent and daring women yelled in unison, raising their fists and bringing together rose-colored gladioli.

People started to gather around the women. Thankfully, the surprise demonstration wasn’t met with aggression. Those gathered began to comment under their breath, as though the people speaking were expressing the fear in themselves, a fear these government opponents had long rid their minds of.

A woman said: “There they are again, drawing attention to themselves. The black woman in charge is Bertha Soler, the one who takes those trips to the United States, the one who handles the dough.”

A gentleman said: “They probably just came out of the Caridad church. Looks like they’ve had a change of headquarters. Before, they used to go to the Santa Rita de Acacia church in Vedado.”

A street vendor remarked: “I have no problems with the law, I’ve got a license. I don’t know what all the fuss is about. It’d be better to let them be, to ignore them. After all, a bunch of women with flowers in their hands aren’t a threat to anyone.”

There are details lost on most Cubans, whose one source of information are the State-controlled media. The group in question were the Ciudadanas por la Democracia (“Women Citizens for Democracy”), a splinter group that broke off from the organization originally founded by Laura Pollan, when her daughter rebelled against the leadership of the abovementioned Bertha Soler.

People start gossiping, the spectacle becomes more intense, some pulled out their phones. I take my pictures, keeping to myself. I didn’t dare join the debate around me. I could lose my Samsung phone if I say a few words too many. You never know who’s who in Cuba.

A man claims to know some of the women from his neighborhood. He adds that “nothing’s happening in the home of the late Laura Pollan.” I ask myself: “How many of the passersby who are stopped dead in their tracks by these courageous women have access to the Internet? What do people in Cuba actually know about these unwavering ladies, dressed in the sum total of all colors?”

It’s clear spectators have very little information at their disposal to judge this unusual event. This is coupled with the typical way in which things get tangled up when gossips get together.

I think to myself: “It’s hard to judge them. I’m not in their shoes. I regret their internal differences; I reject a number of declarations made by the defiant Bertha Soler. But, in the end, they seem to have taken the floor.”

It’s painful to hear people offer opinions about things they know nothing about. These people may be upset over their daily problems, but they are unable to identify the origin of their day-to-day ordeals.

The woman talks about the “dough” they make and ends up accusing them of being “mercenaries”, sell-outs, untalented drama-queens who take to the street-stage in exchange for a handful of US dollars. How many dollars do they get, I wonder, for being stabbed, for getting a good beating, for enduring people’s contempt and askew glances, often worse than a punch to the face?

I looked in several dictionaries and found several meanings of the oft-repeated word: mercenary. (From the Latin mercenar?us). adj. Of a troop that, in exchange for money, serves a foreign power at war. || 2. Of a person who receives payment for their work or services.

Women armed with flowers do not constitute the battalion mentioned by the dictionary. In addition, we are not at war with other States. And, according to the second meaning offered by the Spanish Language Royal Academy, nearly all of us in this world, workers without properties, are mercenaries.

The Ladies in White are opponents of the political system in Cuba. They defy the government. Few applaud their actions in public, many approve of them in silence, others go as far as attacking them physically and there is no shortage of those who are against them – that summarizes the complex panorama of Cuban public opinion on this issue.

Why the acts of life-threatening aggression? Their opponents can and ought to demonstrate, within the legal framework of the socialist state they respect.

The dilemma pointed out by the street vendor remains: to let them walk around the streets of Havana, ignoring them. The problem is fear, the suspicion that one day, people may start paying attention.

I saluted them from a prudent distance, raising my thumb in approval, not expecting an answer.

In Cuba, many people sprinkle salt on some fresh fruits to make their flavor more pronounced.

It was a Sunday afternoon, and I had gone out to buy a pineapple and a package of salt.
Vicente Morín Aguado [email protected]

19 thoughts on “Ladies in White on My Street Corner

  • These Cuban “Ladies in White” are a US-sponsored copy of the original Ladies in 1980s Buenos Aires, who protested against the vile US backed tyranny that killed, tortured and “disappeared” their husbands, sons and brothers. They protest… if they made no such protests, their monthly alowances in $$$ would dry up.

  • A wonderful example of absolute irrelevance, move up o the top of the class – but leave your books behind.

  • I see your trotting out the same old boogeyman trying to distract from the conversation at hand. Rich, your boogeymen exist only in the history books, they are long gone these 55 years plus…..more than half a century!! What do they have to do with Cuba today, or indeed with anything that Carlyle had to say?

  • All “Dictator Dan” is trying to say, Carlyle, is that Fulgencio Batista, Meyer Lansky, Santo Trafficante Jr., and Lucky Luciano were not exactly angels when they ruled Cuba…or South Florida. Does that make him a “Dictator?” If so, what were Batista, Lansky, Trafficante Jr., and Luciano? Oh, sorry! Angels. I just forgot.

  • I posed the question whether you and four others I named were going to explain why a few ladies in white are a threat to the regime and why they should be persecuted.
    You chose to respond by writing that “the treatment of these women does not begin to arise to a level of what US law defines as persecution”
    The wider world unlike you as one US immigration lawyer, uses the English language as a means of communication and my usage was correct. The Ladies in White have been and are being persecuted.
    I am not the slightest bit interested in reading the case histories of some US citizens who may or may not have been persecuted, that is irrelevant.
    You obviously are unable to explain why the Ladies in White are a threat to the Castro family regime and why they should be persecuted. Maybe Analyser, Mr. Goodrich, pipefitter and Dani will come to your rescue.

  • Yes, as a matter of fact I am. I think Maduro is an idiot but he is the idiot Venezuela duly elected. Venezuelans, without undue Cuban influence nor the abrogation of their basic human rights, should be able to decide to throw that idiot out of office if that is their choice, and it appears that it will be.

  • In sum, you respect the right of sovereign people to make their own decisions – provided it’s done at the ballot box. That’s why you are such a staunch defender of Venezuela !! Entendido !

  • Oh,so Moses is being “persecuted” by the security guards at the mall? Anyway, did you read the cases ? Care to articulate the difference between “harassment” and “persecution”, and why what the LIW are subjected to is not the former ? You obviously have the time.

  • Let’s try this another way. You speak for yourself and I will speak for myself. I don’t want to “dismantle” anything in Cuba. I want Cubans to have the freedom to decide for themselves. Allow Cubans to speak freely. Allow them to form legal political parties. Finally, send the Castros packing. Wait….maybe I do want to see the Castros dismantled.

  • OK Dictator Dan, so folks shouldn’t compare Cuba under the Castro family regime to any other country? You should try to understand that these are the pages of the Havana Times and as such are available to those who have Internet connection. We are free to express our views just as you express yours.
    I live in Cuba and Canada. I have in the past lived in three other countries. Like you I have travelled a little – somewhere over thirty countries. But you in your arrogance would try to prevent me making comparisons between Cuba and any other country. Such arrogance and dictatorial tendencies are sufficient to qualify you to become a member of the Communist Party. Go have a mouthful of caviar and wash it down with fermented potato swill!

  • As a lawyer you ought to study and understand English!
    subject to hostility and ill-treatment, especially because of their race, or political or religious beliefs
    Oxford English Dictionary
    The Ladies is White have been and are being persecuted!
    I use the English language and suggest in all humility to you as a lawyer, that it would help you in your professional role to act similarly.

  • You are not trying to improve Cuba, that is clear. You want to see everything about today’s Cuba dismantled and replaced. I compare Cuba to the US,not just the 3rd world many times by the way. Easch time you’ve said it wasn’t relevant.

  • So let me get this straight: As long as Cuba is better than Haiti or Honduras, why bother trying to improve? I compare Cuba to the US when an example of what is possible is needed. You compare Cuba to other Third World countries when you want to justify what you imply is not possible. If it is bad in Cuba, you are quick to point out that it is worse somewhere else. This, in simple minds, in done to justify doing nothing to change.

  • Moses, who appointed you Havana Times Comment Monitor ? You are like a schoolyard kid making up silly rules to bolster your indefensible arguments. Don’t compare Cuba to the US or any other country ( Which I might add you do w/o fail when the comparison is unfavorable to Cuba). The world is replete with countries that make Cuba appear wonderful in comparison.I’ve seen a few in person. Sorry that you and your fellow barigon, mojito swilling freedom fighters don’t want to hear this. But I think that the word is starting to get out.

  • You are likely beyond hope. This site is about CUBA. Discussions about state-sponsored repression in Honduras can be found elsewhere. If indeed conditions were worse elsewhere, does that justify the human rights abuses perpetrated by the Castros upon the Cuban people?

  • The photo was taken a “prudent” distance away…what did the photographer have to fear I wonder?

  • You are asking these Castro sycophants to explain the inexplicable. The answer to what is it that strikes fear in the Castros was expressed in this post. Vicente writes, “The problem is fear, the suspicion that one day, people may start paying attention.”

  • Read some basic asylum law Carlyle. The treatment of these women does not begin to arise to a level of what US law defines as persecution. You are an expert googler, so I’ll give you some case names. I don’t have the time to waste to give you the cites. The following do not qualify as persecution: applicant briefly detained 2x, home was bombed , father kidnapped,brother held 3 days and tortured (Mikhael v. INS.5th Cir.) Haitian subject to severe isolated beating insufficient to find persecution( Anacassus v. Holder, 1st Cir.) Pakistani beaten w/ sticks and subject to electrical shocks while imprisoned, insufficient ( Khan v. Mukasey 1st Cir,) Subject kicked, struck w/ fists and hit on head w/ brick requiring stitches, but not detained is not persecution.(Zhu v. Gonzalez, 11th Cir.) Ect. So the LIW were persecuted how Carlyle ? As I’ve said many times, and as the SINA has candidly admitted once, it’s hard to find anyone who qualifies on the merits for political asylum in Cuba. If you want to find candidates look to the US allied countries in Latin America. So,deja la boberia, asere.

  • Isn’t it amazing that a few ladies dressing in white and carrying flowers and walking the streets of Havana should be regarded as a threat to the state.
    Are Dan, Analyser, Mr. Goodrich, pipefitter and Dani now going to explain why these ladies are a threat to the regime and why it is right that they should be persecuted? Alternatively they can provide moral support by criticizing the regime for its policy towards the Ladies in White, should they be permitted to demonstrate?

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