Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Testimony: The Failed Attempts to Make Me an Agent – III / Angel Santiesteban

Testimony: The Failed Attempts to Make Me an Agent – III / Angel
Angel Santiesteban, Translator: Unstated

It terrified me to know that I could return to the cells for another
sixty days, or maybe more. But it caused me more terror to imagine
myself "cooperating" with those I didn't believe, with those who I
considered were abusing my country, to know myself complicit disgusts
me. I also knew that to be a writer in the system in which I had to
leave, to be recognized and have the right to publish, I had to
infallibly offer an image of support to the Government or, at least, to
pass unnoticed, a "fellow traveler," apolitical or anarchist. But my
literature critical of the system betrayed me in every publication.

A few days from having returned from sixty days imprisonment, I received
a visit at home from a man who identified himself as a State Security
"agent." He could see on my face that he wasn't welcome. He said he
would take only a few minutes, because a senior officer was waiting to
talk to me.

Outside was a Lada car that took me to an apartment in the Vibora
neighborhood. After greeting the owners they told me to continue to the
last room. I waited for a uniformed colonel. He asked me several
questions that I answered mostly in monosyllables. It was evident that I
didn't like him or that I took those minutes as a waste of time. They
gave me pencil and paper and asked me to write a report in the third
person. When he understood my hesitation he told me to write about
anything because that was why I was a writer. I don't even remember what
nonsense I wrote.

We didn't even say goodbye, he just nodded and withdrew his presence. I
returned home worried, the Colonel's face said something I couldn't
decipher. What I was sure of was that it would be fatal for me.

Days later, the same official came to house, stopped me in the street,
and asked me to accompany him to see if I recognized some guys who were
motorcyclists like me and were, perhaps, those who had thrown the
Molotov-cocktail. They took me to a tenement and asked me to enter the
last room. I refused, saying that I wasn't a cop and had no vocation to
be one. We exchanged various insults and at this point several people
came out whom the official insisted I identify. I said I didn't know
them. Two days later they knocked on my door, when I opened it there was
a man pointing a gun at me. The gun was within reach of my hand and I
felt defenseless.

The sound seemed alien, just the shock of the black, then the smell of
gunpowder. I thought I was unharmed but then I felt something sticky
running down my leg. I looked and raised my arm and I could see the
hold. The bullet penetrated the muscles of my arm, passed through it and
went through my ribs to my chest. A patrol car "happened" to be nearby
and took me to the nearest hospital.

Two days later, the official, Germán, appeared and relocated me to the
Hermonos Amejeiras Hospital and put me in a room with a security camera.
The doctors decided to leave the bullet inside me because removing it
would have required breaking the sternum and caused major trauma.
When I left I went to recover at the house of a friend, who told me that
the same Germán had suggested to him to get me out of his house, and he
had responded that friends don't abandon each other.

That was the direct farewell of their attempt to make me into an Agent
of State Security. Against their will I was winning literary prizes,
especially those they didn't reach in time to block the vote, as in 1992
when they threatened the writer Abilio Estevez. Since then I have been a
thorn in their side that has denied them the pleasure of eating souls.

When the international jury of the Casa de las Americas Prize in 2006,
decided to award it to me for my book "Blessed Are Those Who Mourn,"
they were annoyed. One of them approached me at the La Cabaña Book Fair
and told me the award had made me into a sacred cow. That from that
moment I was more dangerous.

I think he was right. Anyway, I reminded him that the system was
executing even its sacred Generals, so how much could one "cow" more or
less matter.

25 July 2011


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