Another anniversary away from my son

Image taken during the Bienal de La Habana

Today could have been a day like any other… I regret not being able to say so. It is my son, Jimmy’s, 11th birthday. It has been six years of forced absence imposed by hatred and evil, incapable of understanding that not all men think alike. That has been my punishment, for the government to separate me from my son, by imprisoning me.

His birth comes to my memory: I was so happy I cried, and If I intend to be sincere with my conscience, I also cried while in my cell the day I left him sleeping like an angel when the state security forces arrested me. Jimmy suffered, and even worse, his mother was unable to take him to day care the same way any child of a working mother would be allowed to. She pretty much had to be with the child constantly wherever she went.

Jimmy’s sin was being the son of an independent journalist. I was finally able to see him in school uniform thanks to a picture taken by my wife on the first day of class. I was far, far away, in the gloomy prison of Aguica, in the province of Matanzas, more than 450 KM from my home in Ciego de Avila.

My son was growing, and Oleyvis served as his mother, father, friend, and teacher. Today he is a decent and educated child, a little bit shy and reserved, and perhaps a bit mistrustful of life. It’s normal. I understand. But he also loves his parents and respects his teachers.

The question that haunts him and that he always asks is “Why did Fidel Castro imprison my father?” As of now, he is too young to understand. I pray to God that he has a happy day today. And I hope we can spend the next birthday together, go out as a family, the three of us: he, his mother, and I, any place where we can have a good time, the way we should have been able to do during these past six years that I have been absent.

He and I still need to forgive those who are responsible for these difficult years of imprisonment. I hope the same thing they have done to Jimmy and me does not happen to them.

Pablo Pacheco, Canaleta Prison


The price of being a free man

Image: Taken during the Bienal de La Habana

The world in which we live cannot be viewed as a drop of water in a glass.  Much less can it be seen in black and white.  If we intend to be just with our fellow human beings, it is necessary to acknowledge all aspects of life.  It is then that something will tell us that sincerity begins with oneself; otherwise, justice will never be attained.

Today’s world has been inevitably globalized. in my opinion, for the benefit of humanity.  Before the island’s authorities made me a prisoner of conscience, I asked myself again and again why some political prisoners can denounce the reality of Cuban prisons and others cannot?

Now that I am in their position, I have found the key: In these six years and four months of captivity many of us have systematically denounced the violations of human rights, and as far as I know, two of my brothers have been able to write down their memories in powerful books.

Obviously, we are not going to all have the same intellectual capacity.  If we are going to be objective and practical we must analyze the importance of writing about the cruelty found in the penitentiaries in Cuba, not be primarily self-indulgent, and see the situation from the most realistic point of view possible.

I believe that in order to criticize one must earn the right.  Not all prisons are the same, and for that reason I can’t imagine the international community thinking that Cuban prisons are a paradise. Only we, the political prisoners, especially those of the cause of the 75, know what it’s like to live, if you can call it living, in solitary and enclosed cells without being exposed to the sun for 18 months, with visits allowed only every three months, and matrimonial encounters every five. In other words, we have sex with our wives twice a year.

Bags weighing 30 pounds. No telephone. Two religious meetings in about two years. Enduring the crazed screams of those condemned to death.  Since they won’t separate us from the common prisoners, we have learned to live in the jungle, together with the actual delinquents, rapists, child molesters, assassins, the worst of Cuban society.

I’m convinced that none of us will ever be the same again.  And it is not because of weakness.  Quite some time has passed and we have remained as hard as rocks.  But really, we now will never return to being ourselves.

Now I have my blog, which as I always say belongs to all.  If someone believes that Cuban prisons are heavenly, then please forgive me: they should cleanse their brains.  There are days when I have written about a common prisoner, with my ulcer acting up and my kidney barely letting me rise from my bed.  Nevertheless I continue forward.  Without knowing if I will ever emerge free from this tomb of living men.  My only hope is in knowing that I am a prisoner only because of my thoughts and my desire to be a free man.  Then it is worth it.

Pablo Pacheco, Canaleta Prison