Miguel Iturria Savón, Translator: Unstated
At the time of her death on October 14 in the intensive care ward of
Calixto Garcia Hospital, three weeks had passed since Laura Pollan
Toldeo had marched with the Ladies in White through the streets of
Havana, the scene of her civic odyssey for the release of the political
prisoners from the oppressive wave of 2003.
Days before Laura was admitted to the hospital, she faced the last
physical aggression of the paramilitary group organized by State
Security officials in front of her house at 963 Neptuno Street in
Central Havana. A plain clothes policewoman violently bit her right arm,
while several criminals shouted obscenities before the masked security
It's easy to imagine the consequences of the stress induced in this
woman of 63, after nearly a decade of persecution, threats, insults and
beatings to try to force her to desist from her Sunday visits to the
Church of Santa Rita de Casia, in Miramar, from which she emerged
accompanied by dozens of mothers and wives of prisoners, who changed the
capital's landscape with their gladioli, white robes and demands for
Only the vocation for public serve and the personal courage of Laura
Pollan, Berta Soler and other women supported the constancy of these
Cuban ladies. They raised their voices in the midst of terror,
censorship and the indolence imposed by the uniformed despots.
Laura emerged as the leader of this civic resistance under extreme
circumstances. She converted her home into the headquarters of the
Ladies in White, in front of which her image traveled the world. The
humble Spanish and literature teacher surprised the foreign
correspondents on the island, the independent press and the Cuban
military regime, which organized a siege and tried to link her face and
her gentle voice to supposed external enemies.
The courage of this woman and her companions is already a chapter in the
history of fights for human rights in Cuba. Her reputation grew in
proportion to the regime's intolerance. It was not for nothing that the
Ladies in White received the Sakharov Prize from the European Parliament
and other international awards.
Laura did not emerge alive from her ultimate odyssey in the intensive
care ward of Calixto Garcia Hospital. There her ailments were
multiplied. The acquisition of a virus increased her anemia, blood
pressure and respiratory problems that led to her admittance. On Friday
night her heart ceased to beat.
The haste with which the authorities incinerated her remains and
delivered them in the early morning hours to her husband and daughter is
suspicious. The end of her life should not be interpreted as a victory
for the government and a defeat of the peaceful opposition. No one know
what will happen at 963 Neptuno Street without her presence, but one
just has to look at the faces of the afflicted her paid homage between
Saturday the 15th and Monday the 17th to know that Laura Pollan Toledo
is already back. She is a symbol of light in the night of the Castro regime.
October 19 2011