Let Me Tell You About My Daughter Tamara

Ana Lucia Alvarez defends her sister Tamara Davila when Police were trying to arrest her during a sit in on October 14, 2018.  Photo: (Confidencial)

We demand she be returned to us, alive and well.  We demand her immediate release and that of the other 167 political prisoners. Return Tamara to us!

By Josefina Vijil (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – Tamara came into my life when she was 9 years old. It was a totally undeserved gift that life gave me. She was cute, intelligent, curious, generous, and thoughtful, with an impressive capacity for empathy. She entered my life and my heart like someone who does an Olympic high dive straight in, never to leave.

Now Tamara is in jail. December 12, 2021, the date on which her father, Irving Dávila, would have turned 67, marks six months since police raided Tamara’s house, abducted her and put her into a solitary confinement cell in their special jail for political prisoners.

That’s 183 days of anguish, torture, uncertainty, and pain, both for her and for us, and especially for her little girl, just 5 years old. Because Tamara is a mother, she has a daughter who asks about her every day.

Tamara was born on January 15, 1981 in Managua. Her mother was Sadie Rivas Reed and her father was Irving Dávila Escobar, my husband. He brought Tamara to our home, making our family both bigger and better. My siblings immediately became Tamara’s aunts and uncles, and my parents became another set of grandparents.

Tamara and my daughter Ana Lucía don’t share a single gene, but it would be impossible for them to be closer as sisters. They love, understand, and accompany each other with the absolute complicity of sisters. They are always joining forces in whatever they do, including against me when they feel it’s necessary. The photo in which Ana Lucia is defending Tamara with her body to prevent her from getting arrested –with the result being that they were both taken away to jail–, is just one example of their extraordinary relationship.

The same thing is true with our other daughter, María Josefina, who was born when Tamara was 17. Tamara’s love for and closeness with her little sister is absolute. As a big sister, Tamara often played the role of second mother when –either for work or because of Irving’s illness– I was away.

Tamara moved naturally between her mother’s family and our family, to the point that I can say that she turned us into one family. An immense family that loves, admires and respects Tamara deeply.

As a child, Tamara experienced the death of her mother’s husband and her beloved brother’s father, and lived through the health crises of her father. When she was 17 she faced the death of her mother in an accident. Although she has faced tremendous harshness and loss, Tamara has never once lost her sweetness, empathy, or generosity. She has always been a fighter.

One of my first memories of Tami -as we affectionately call her-, was when we took a trip to Costa Rica for a medical consultation for her father. Between one appointment and another, Irving and I took Tamara and Ana Lucia to an ice-skating rink. We put Tami’s skates on first. By the time we had finished putting on Ana Lucia’s skates, Tami was already skating, holding the hand of a girl she had never seen before. In less than 10 minutes she had made a new friend and established a human connection.

In 1993, when Tami was 11, I got a scholarship to do my PhD in Belgium. It was a family scholarship, so everyone came along. She went into 6th grade. She learned French almost instantly from her relationships with her new friends. After she had been in school for six months, I asked for a meeting with her teacher to see how she was doing, especially in mathematics, which was not her strong suit.

The teacher told me: “She is friendly, generous, gets along well with all the children, supports those who need it, loves to read, and writes very well. We are amazed at the speed and skill with which she speaks French, she is very enthusiastic in all the activities of the class. You have a wonderful daughter.”

“Yes, I know. But how is she doing in math?”, I insisted. I noticed that the teacher was staring at me, and looked surprised. She said: “Don’t you worry, I’ll take care of that. The main thing you need to know is that your daughter has outstanding levels of development in all the skills she needs, to be happy and successful in life.”

In April 2017 Irving began his last battle for his life. Twenty-six years of living with two kidney transplants that allowed him to live a full and wonderful life began to take their toll. A month later, he was transferred to the intensive care unit and intubated, in the hope that the drugs would cure a virus in his lungs. One day Tamara, as well as my sister Ana Margarita (also a political prisoner since June 13) and my brother Francisco, appeared in Mexico, where my youngest daughter María Josefina and I were taking care of Irving. The next day my daughter Ana Lucía, who was finishing her master’s degree with a Fullbright scholarship, arrived. I was alarmed to see them all, but soon realized that they had come to understand before I did that we were at the end of Irving’s long road.

With Irving being in intensive care, we didn’t have a room and so the hospital wouldn’t let us stay overnight. They asked us to go home and promised that they would call if anything happened. Leaving the hospital was unthinkable for us. The four girls decided that I would go home and that they would take the night shifts two at a time in the hospital lobby, along with the dozens of relatives of patients who, because they were not from the city, had nowhere to spend the night. The girls settled themselves on the floor with some blankets and stayed there until dawn when I arrived.

They had immediately become friends with everyone there. The first night had not yet ended when Ana Margarita had given her blanket to an elder Tarahumara indigenous woman, while Tamara was leading a blood donation drive for the son of a couple from Morelia. The girls shared their food with the others, and between the four of them, they eventually gave away so many blankets that my cousin Virginia, who was our angel in Mexico, ran out and we had to buy more.

I don’t know what made Tamara such a loving person, but it’s unanimous that everyone around her feels her warmth, her generosity, her sweetness.

The Inter-American Human Rights Court ordered the Nicaraguan government to release opposition leader Tamara Davila. Photo: Courtesy UNAB

This is the person who was abducted and taken prisoner on June 12, 2021. And they have not returned her to us yet. We hope that the conditions to which she is subjected –the isolation and deprivation of human contact, adequate food and bedding– will not cause irreparable damage to this wonderful person.

They have unjustly and illegally incarcerated an extraordinary, wonderful human being, for the mere act of making use of her rights, of expressing her opinions. Tamara was raised –by her mother, by her father, by me and the rest of her family– to live in freedom, community, and democracy.

During the small amounts of time we have been allowed to see her in jail (3 visits in 6 months), we were able to hug her tightly and tell her we love her and that her daughter is fine. We have found her strong but extremely thin, suffering greatly from the isolation, the impossibility of talking and communicating. Someone like her suffers greatly from this kind of isolation and lack of human contact. She really needs sunlight and to eat fruits, vegetables and fiber. She needs to know what’s going on in the world. And she especially needs to see and be with her daughter.

Knowing the conditions in which she and the other political prisoners are being held, we are terrified. Not in our worst nightmares could we imagine that this kind of thing would happen in Nicaragua, that situations from our country’s past would be reenacted today. These terrible conditions can have irreversible impacts on prisoners’ physical and psychological health. We have done research and found evidence that people in these conditions can develop organ failure and serious psychological disorders. Torture seeks to break the personality, disintegrate it, make prisoners feel that they are abandoned and alone.

We demand that Tamara be able to come back home now, alive and well. We demand her immediate release and the immediate release of the more than 167 political prisoners held in Nicaragua’s jails and prisons. Give Tamara back to us.

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times.


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