The Solitude of the Barracks Multiplies My Strengths / Angel Santiesteban
Posted on April 26, 2014
When the 20 convicts who accompany me go out on pass for family
reunions, I send them off with the joy that spreads to me from their
happy faces. They are barely gone when I plunge myself into literature.
Nothing will hurt my exorbitant creation, not even the knowledge that
they will deny me the passes I should get according to the Penal Code.
They return to violating my rights, now as a prisoner serving a wrongful
How could I be bored with the quantity of work that awaits me? I
remember that night of November 8, 2012, when we were arrested and taken
away by the Santiago de Vegas police, after being beaten in front of the
police station of Acosta, where we were demonstrating our disagreement
with the unjust detention of Antonio Rodiles.
Sharing a cell with the dissident Eugenio Leal, they released me at
midnight, but scarcely had I advanced 100 meters when in the darkness of
that road–and like a childish game–some seven guards who were waiting
for me surged from behind the bushes to announce that I had to return to
the cell. I did it happily, since my brothers in struggle remained
there, and I felt humiliated at having been the only one to be set free.
Now neither do they notice in me any anxiety, except that which provokes
me to want freedom for the prisoners of conscience that today they keep
in different prisons throughout the island, the dream of democracy with
the disappearance of the totalitarian regime, and free literary
creation. Outside of that, nothing drives away my peace.
I am happy in this life because I have learned that I want to struggle
even with my fingernails; it's the way to grapple with the need to
comply with our conscience, feelings, family education and patriotic
All that impels me to leave the path of masks with which an artist can
live in a dictatorship. I simply ripped up the immorality with which you
survive in the Regime, and I decided to renounce everything I had
obtained. I presumed a pure honest talent.
Beginning then, of course, I received the answer that totalitarian
regimes have for these cases: first the threats, later the direct
rebuff, beatings, fractures, censorship, the diabolic mechanism of the
"injustice" of the organs of State Security, hidden behind courts that
answer to their designs, and, finally, prison.
All that has only served more to multiply all my strengths, hopes,
dreams, and my creativity. Now I am more conscious of the need for my
country to attain the rights proclaimed by the United Nations in the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whose Pacts the Regime still
hasn't ratified in spite of having obtained a seat on the Human Rights
Council of the United Nations.
The solitude of the barracks is a great stimulus for dedicating myself
to writing, and the constant vigilance of the uniforms around me adds to
my verve. I know they are beaten because they search for a way to get
rid of my power without receiving punishment for their offenses.
Lawton Prison Settlement. April 2014.
Source: The Solitude of the Barracks Multiplies My Strengths / Angel
Santiesteban | Translating Cuba -