Monday, September 17, 2012


Survive / Yoani Sanchez
Translator: Unstated, Yoani Sanchez

Martha Beatriz Roque Photo from El Nuevo Herald
The light is dim, the room narrow, the murmur of Santo Suarez seeps
through the walls. On the bed is a bone-thin woman with freezing hands
and a barely audible voice. Martha Beatriz Roque declared a hunger
strike a week ago. I've come to her wrapped in the busyness of daily
life and in the rush of information; but her face wears the calmness of
time and experience. She is there, as fragile as a little girl of such
weightlessness that I could lift her up and lull her to sleep in my lap.
I'm surprised by her clarity, the categorical manner in which she
explains to me her refusal to eat. Every word she manages to pronounce —
with such intensity — doesn't seem to come from a body so diminished by

I thought I would never again be at the bedside of a hunger striker. The
false optimism that all future time had to be better had led me to
believe that Guillermo Fariñas with his prominent ribs and dry mouth
would be the last dissident who would turn to starvation as a weapon of
citizen demands. But two years after those 134 days without eating, I am
again seeing the sunken stomachs and sallow coloring of those who refuse
to eat. This time there are now 28 people throughout the country and
their motive is, once again, the helplessness of the individual before a
legality too marked by ideology. Because of the absence of other ways to
challenge the government, the intestines empty themselves as a method of
demand and rebellion. Sadly, all they have left us is our own skin and
bones, and the walls of our stomachs, to make ourselves heard.

Before leaving Martha Beatriz's house I counseled her, "You have to
survive, this type of regime you have to outlive them." And I went into
the street, wrapped in the guilt and responsibility that every Cuban
should feel before such a sad event. "Survive, survive," I kept
thinking, when talking with the family of Jorge Vázquez who should have
been freed on September 9 and whose immediate release is the demand of
those fasting. "Survive, survive," I told myself, seeing on TV the faces
of those who have turned disagreement into a crime in this country, and
civil protest treason. "Survive, survive, we will survive them," I
promised myself. But perhaps it is already too late for that.

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