Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Pain of Others / Miriam Celaya

The Pain of Others / Miriam Celaya
Miriam Celaya, Translator: Unstated

On June 20 I received news that has caused me pain. I refer to what we
call "the pain of others," caused by the actions of others and that,
involuntarily, moves one to feel a certain mix of compassion and shame
for the protagonists.

The information, which came to me via a text message on my phone,
literally says, "Federal congressional representatives will have Reina
Luisa Tamayo appear before the U.S. Congress to ask for intensification
of measures against Cuba." I read it more than once, carefully, trying
to understand what relationship there could be between a simply, barely
educated Cuban with no experience in the in intricate vicissitudes of
politics, a group of United States congressional representatives
well-trained in the art of taking advantage of the situation.

Even more, by doubtful and miraculous virtue has Reina Luisa Tamayo
suddenly been turned into the representative of request that can only
serve the interests of a group of the most archaic and failed policy and
that, what's more, leads the Cuban government to justify and strengthen
its belligerent position? How can they take this most humble of Cubans
and demand something which — and they should know this — will
reverberate precisely against the most humble of her compatriots and,
incidentally, will offer a service so useful to the government of the

I understand, as a mother, the grief this woman must feel after the
terrible death of her son Orlando Zapata Tamayo. I can imagine and even
understand that she feels hatred and anger against the regime that with
such impunity left her child to die without offering to help him
medically until his condition became irreversible. With very little
effort I can abstract from this that it is the government itself that
should bear the costs of the process of emigration, including the
passports and permissions to leave, for her and a dozen of her family
members, as if that could compensate in some measure for the crime
committed; and also — as absurd as if may seem to us — I have to
recognize that she has the right to move the ashes of Zapata Tamayo, a
Cuban martyr who belongs to us all, to a foreign land where he never was
and to which he does not belong. After all, I think, perhaps she decided
to have the consolation of being able to frequently place flowers near
his beloved remains, and this is, without a doubt, a sacred right. No
wonder she tried to visit her son's tomb every Sunday, facing the
repudiating mobs and also the uniformed police, bravely defying the
beatings, the arrests, the threats and injuries.

So I'm surprised that now, as if she hadn't already suffered enough, and
now that she herself is safe from repression and will not have to suffer
the consequences, Reina Luise has given in to such crude handling,
aligning herself with the most radical and retrograde posture, and so
offering such an exemplary service to the Cuban regime. I don't know if,
in some magical way, she has become a political figure, if for reasons
unknown to me she has made some commitment to the radical sectors of the
exile, is she is a victim of mismanagement or of her own naivete, or if
— and the other hand — she has calculated the results of will get some
personal benefit.

I admit that — as twisted as it may seem to me — she has that right
also, provided she does not exercise it as a representative of a people
who have not elected her to be their spokesperson. As as Reina Luise has
the right to decide her own actions, she must also have the integrity to
face the questions of many who, like me, were supportive of her demands
for justice in the past, and who now feel sorry for her.

June 24 2011

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