20 03 2010


Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

“In what country are we living?”, asks my almost 75-year-old mother, facing our obsolete television set. “Welcome to the just human time that never was,” I say, and change the replay of the Roundtable show to the ninth inning of the baseball play-off. This tournament is ending and the star team of the Cuban capital seems inspired in the semifinal.

But my mother stays connected to the other channel and asks about these Ladies in White, that no one defends on the other side of the screen. She is a Sunday Catholic and of the “little houses mission”, but no believer in Lawton dares to explain to her what these ladies ask for from church to church. Neither a homily abounds on why the police or the people or both prevent them by pushing during each pilgrimage.

It’s late in Cuba, almost midnight, and with the last cold front falls a Nordic silence, which only the TV survives. We uninhabit a ghostly slum, of zombies watching but no longer expectant. The art of waiting here is pure fallacy of argument. Lawton languishes posthumously right along with the Pacific.

I do not feel like answering my mother at this time. She would be terrified if she finds that her only son has dangerous information about the subject. I just report that they are relatives of journalists jailed since 2003, so as mourners they have certain tacit moral immunity. Otherwise, for much less they would have been condemned with a thousand and one proofs for contempt, disorderly conduct or for just being dangerous.

“Politics is the business for the dead,” my mother unwittingly paraphrases another mother of letters in The Initials of the Earth*. I see her take her pills and sprays, and go to bed without further postscript to my little speech. Clearly I have stated more details than needed. I talk a lot during interrogations (as opposed to Jesús Díaz*, I am a frustrated novelist) and there are instances of power (paternalistic or maternalistic) to which any dialogue is just redundant.

Suddenly I am left alone in the living room, viewing the dull blue dye victory of the Industrialists. Then I clandestinely change the channel and I see them in snippets between diplomats and music of socialist suspense. Untamed ladies dressed in a white that survives the residue of this ridiculous and radical doggerel.

To add fuel to my photoblog, Boring Home Utopics, I once took photographs to the Ladies in White, on Fifth Avenue in Miramar. And when they started chanting “freedom, freedom” under the broken clock on tenth street, I almost hid my full body inside my digital Canon.

Behind that armor I kept firing without breathing for several minutes, until I overflowed the one gigabyte memory card. I could not believe that I was among that small group of women who resolved effortlessly the Gordian Knot of the Cuban Revolution: to demonstrate in public in a spontaneous way.

Be neutral, in favor or against, it is known that to not be able to depart from the government discipline is the totalitarian Achilles heel that undermines and weakens any authority.

During these days I hear about them again through sidewalk and corridor gossip, through text messages that bounce anonymously on my mobile, through the headings and pixels and tribulations of the officially accredited foreign press in Havana, and now they even resonate in the misleading nasal voice of Randy Alonso and on the brashed Reinaldo Taladrid either because of spite or assignment.

Cuba is then left, of course, waiting on the reflections of the ex-Premier in the Granma newspaper or as dessert on any given website. Everyone has something to contribute or stink up about this sacred fading color, a white that refers back to the respect for Afro-Cuban religions (while the remaining gladiators’ gladioli remain for now, less under suspicion).

Given the extreme domestic juncture and the hot international campaign, the Ladies in White, as in a political nightmare of Stephen Vincent Benét, mark a milestone of gender for the future of our very misogynistic history. So while men exterminate each other over idiocies, more or less ideological, the wise sap of females remains a guarantor of civilization: their X-X chromosomes still have the courage to give birth to a new kind of lucidity, to give birth to another home country, that is not so pathetically patriotic as the one from the XX century, and to not stop unless they are run over by the full rotten weight of the law.

With their daring adventures through the uptown neighborhoods and the marginalized ones of 2010 Havana, the Ladies in White stole during a week, the Promethean torch of action. In dramatic terms they are certainly an actantial force, agonizing protagonic stars of an ephemeral play of revolutionary citizenry. The eternal Cuban state or our people, according to their spokesman dressed in olive-green or in civilian dress, can only play the riposte, interpreting the supporting role of the reaction.

The alternatives do not appear to be other than understanding (that virtue negated before any attempt contrary to all opinion) or annihilation (that perversion that Cubans profess so lavishly against any enemy perceived or real). An oracle of the right would say that today there are too many institutional interests who insist that the odyssey of hatred lasts well beyond a return to the island of Ithaca. A leftist fortune teller would say that the nation is still in danger of barbarian invasions as it was half a century or half a millennium ago.

“In what country will we live?” I ask of the question from my mother nearly 75. “Welcome to the unjust human time that never ceased to be,” I say to myself, and the beep from the test pattern revives me amid the unbearable midnight silence.

Finally, I turn off the television and I too head off to bed, wishing good luck on this final stage to my industrial idols, begging that no couch negotiates with the dead during the next brawl over the ground of our soap opera of foolish national learning.

*Translator’s note: The Initials of the Earth (Las iniciales de la tierra), is a book by Jesús Díaz.

Translated by MRZ