Things of bricklayers

It is so easy to end up in prison, so short the road leading to a cell, we are all—potentially—convicts who pace the penitentiaries. A piece of beef bought in the black market, a couple sacks of cement purchased from an informal vendor, a piece of paper printed and distributed among a group of friends, or a furtive meeting to talk about the future, could lead us to these low-ceilinged prisons, concrete columns and photos of martyrs in the dining room. Freedom is usually considered an abstract concept, difficult to define or represent, a matter for philosophers; the prison, in contrast, is a thing of bricklayers, ironworkers and locksmiths. It is relatively easy to build a prison, what is hard is to outline the contours of freedom.

P.S. Here are some photos of the walls surrounding the Canaleta prison, in Ciego de Ávila. I have several friends there, mostly independent journalists imprisoned since the Black Spring of 2003. Some of them dictate by telephone to various bloggers—such as Claudia Cadelo, Iván García, Reinaldo Escobar and me—news that we post on the Internet. Which makes me think that there are no bars enclosing opinion and that cyberspace has the capability—also—to slip between the bricks and mortar of these dismal places.


11 thoughts on “Things of bricklayers

  1. The invention of the penitentary was a work of the American Society of Friends. The idea was one of where the criminal would do pennence for his crime. So the penetentary replaced flogging, the stock, branding and other forms of corporal punishment. However in the US the death penalty is still retained as a punishment. If you live here you are more likely to be in prison than any other were else in the world. Large numbers of prisoners are nonvolent drug offenders. Only yesterday I was stopped by the police because I might have made a wrong turn up a freeway exit ramp. I didn’t. However the American police now use any excuse or none at all to stop drivers. Setting up road blocks to save us a all from drunk driving. Than I was accussed of using or having alcohol in my truck. He said he could smell it. I am on a medication that requires I not use any alcohol. I told the cop not only did I not have a drink that night but I never drink. When he was done he informed me I didn’t need a trafic ticket and did I want to ask him questions? Why was I stopped for not violating a law? Why was I acused of having alcohol in my truck? I didn’t ask because we all know the American police are the best liars on the planet. To avoid any esclation I thanked him and was allowed to leave.

  2. Concubi!!!! my friend!!!! I know, and I understand your point and once again,,,,you are totally right,,,nobody,,,but,nobody wants to be a martyr or become an apostle!!!!,,,and that is exactly my point,,,that is exactly the answer.

    It is very sad,,,,because we, the Cubans(included myself), were not able to find, or to create, or to face as,,,,, etc, etc, an Spartacus, or a William Wallace, or an Hatuey, or another Maceo, or one Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, or another Brutus!!!, or anybody who could be able to disappear Castro and his mafia gang,,,,anybody who could be able to reunite all Cubans pointing to a single goal, for the same solution which must be the total eradication of that cruel and sanguinary system,,,,then, we are the responsible, we can’t blame nobody else, because just us are the guilty ones!!!!.

    Now, the only choice we have is just to wait, to see when the “Old killer” dies, and may be,,,just may be,,,everything can change,,,then, may be, right at that moment,,,we will see several Cubans converted into some Enrique de Lagardere, or several Three Musketeers, or several Edmond Dantes,,,etc,etc,,,,anyways,,,,at that point, anything will be valid,,,,and at that moment the most important thing to care about it will be make clear that the same catastrophe can not be repeated again in Cuba,,,never,,,never,,,ever,,,we had the lesson,,,we knew about it for more than half a century,,,it is enough!!!!!!,,,please, we , all must think about it very seriously!!!!!


  3. I agree with Concubino that people who are malnourished would rather leave for greener pastures than pick a fight with a strong adversary, as is normally done worldwide when there is conflict. Unfortunately, migration is not an option when you’re in an island, except at great risk and cost.

    To make matters worse, as Ian mentions below and attested to by Panfilo, there is malnutrition, which weakens the nervous system and deprives the people of their physical and mental energy. The regime has the people seemingly cornered.

    I have friends who visited Cuba recently, and they say that even in the provinces where food is grown and people used to be better fed, the inhabitants don’t have a balanced diet to feed on. They are either not allowed to, or don’t have the motivation or energy to even grow their own, despite having backyard space to have a vegetable garden. Also, transportation in the interior is strictly by horse drawn wagons, so nobody goes anywhere to forage as primitive cultures used to do.

    This is very sad and depressing even for those like us watching. The exception to all these hopelessness is that the old guard does not have long, and there are signs already that many in the population are carrying on, with their own enterprises, whether the dynasty likes it or not. As mentioned by Yoanni in earlier posts, the underground economy is vast, and they can’t jail everybody. The numbers will continue to grow and will reach critical mass one of these days.

  4. Other political prisoners at Canaleta include Adolfo Fernandez and Antonio Diaz. Fernandez, a journalist, recently sent out a report calling on the world to protest abuses Diaz is being forced to suffer because he refuses to wear the uniform of a common criminal. Read more about them and other political prisoners at my blog,

  5. Candido,
    People does not want to be “heroes”, they rather escape the system than fight it.That is what we all of us did after all.
    In previous comments I mentioned how in my oppinion change will come to Cuba. In the mean time,all we can do is pay our respects and support those who believe that they can change the system from the bottom up.
    You may say, well Castro did it against Batista.Why can we do it now?
    The answer is simple, nobody can set a foot to the Escambray, not to mention get even close to the Sierra Maestra.Simply stated “You are death man”. And weapons you better forget about it. It’s a fight of the monkey against the lion, but even worst the monkey has their hands tied up behind their back. You know that cuban saying..
    Anything like the Maleconazo is not gonna work, anything during Juane’s concert is already taken care of, if anything happens at the Plaza,the government will repress it with brutal force. The next day will go in Granma that a small focus of antisocials, lumpens were trying to sabotage Juanes “peace concert”, but found the answer they deserve from the viril and revolutionary people that did not allow that kind of scene to ruin Junaes noble concert. You know how it goes..

  6. Candido..
    i agree with you,why do we allow people like the Castros & their gang invade our country;to me they are invaders;people who imprison the locals,& rob them of their heiratage & rights.But the thing i’ve learned & have had to accept is that they just come in & take over…theres nothing we can do about it…by the time someone is ready,they have cemented their authority & instilled their fear,& well its too late for the people to do anything :-( ..& before you go saying i’m one of those pessimistice types,i’d like to clear that i’m an optimistic person,whos just very sad at this certain observation..alot of people are

  7. Why we allow one man and his gang, all this repression imposed for more than 50 years?

    We all know, that for more than 50 years, each Cuban has been in two different stages of his life.

    The first one is, when, for whatever the reasons ,he was part of the system, directly, or believing in that cause, or confused, etc, etc,,,, , but, in one way or another supporting it, with more or less passion, but supporting it!!!!, passively or actively,,,,but supporting it!!!!

    The second one, when he arrives to the conclusion that the system does not work, or the repression already played it rolls and felt the cruelty of the regime in his own back, etc, etc,,,, then, decides to escape, or opposed to it,,,whatever the final result will be, at the end this person is not supporting the system any more.

    Those two stages are something “almost without exception”, then, we all know that the majority of the people sooner or later will be in the second stage.

    The transition from stage #1 to stage # 2 could be too slow or very fast, but sooner or later, it will be coming!!!!!

    During 50 years, we had millions of examples where someone, who “was a powerful or a simple person supporting the regime”, then, suddenly or step by step, that person was in the other side of the game, opposing the ideas and supporting the criticism against Castro’s dictatorship.

    I think that if we are able to reunite all those persons we will get an “Army with more than one million soldiers”, that definitely would be able to bring down the system and the leaders!!!!! Is this correct or not?

    Then why, we have been under that cruel fist for so long?.

    Why we have been allowing Castro’s repression for so long?

    The answer is so complex, but, there is an answer!!!!!

    Could somebody mention it?


  8. Prisoners aren’t the only people starving. Acording to the British group Amnesty International:
    Cuba’s inability to import nutritional products from the US has led to an increase in the number of cases of iron deficiency anaemia, according to a report produced by Amnesty, using data from the UN.
    Some 37.5% of Cuban children under the age of three have been affected.
    Since 2000, when the US Congress passed The Trade Sanction Reform and Export Enhancement Act, the Cuban government has been able to import food from the US. However, it must pay cash and is not allowed credit.
    According to Cuban government figures, it has spent more than $4bn on direct purchases of food from the US since 2001.
    US legislation allows Cuba to purchase medicines, but Havana chooses not to buy directly, opting instead to purchase US medicine from third countries.

  9. ***
    I think that I may see Yoani Sanchez and other brave Cuban bloggers in this prison one day.
    The Castro Brothers are getting a lot of economic help from Hugo Chavez. The Chinese communists are getting oil riches for Cuba. The Castros may decide to act against you soon.
    Creo que puedo ver Yoani Sanchez y otros valientes “bloggers” Cubanos a dentro de esta carcel una dia.
    Los hermanos Castro estan recibiendo muchas ayudas economicas de Hugo Chavez. Los Chinos communistas estan sacando riquezas petroleros por Cuba. Los Castros pueden actuar contra ustedes pronto.
    John Bibb

  10. The Castros in their fervor to kill and encarcerate the opposition for so much as saying they’re hungry, take after the Spanish Colonial governor of the late 1800’s Valeriano Weyler. According to scholars, this Spanish character is credited with creating, for the first time in history, concentration camps in Cuba, where it is estimated hundreds of thousands of people perished due to starvation.

    Today, we have a situation where the Spanish Prime Minister is a co-conspirator with the Castro brothers in helping perpetuate their dictatorship. I can imagine Zapatero’s financial advisers and the greedy corporate interests behind all this, telling him that there’s much money to be made and other benefits, to maintaining a stable dictatorial environment in Cuba, so that they have a free hand in maintaining their businesses viable. What the heck, they’re back in business, after they lost Spanish Sahara without firing a shot. Their dream colony is back in business, filling their coffers.

    Not that Zapatero will twitch his toe over this, but it would be nice if he had some shame as a freely elected leader and showed the same focus on obtaining freedom for the political prisoners, – who have no reason for being jailed other than because they differ with the dynasty on the meaning of freedom and justice – as he does when asking the regime to allow a new hotel complex to be built. More European tourists visiting the island means more money for the Castros so they can build themselves a bigger yacht.

  11. This post is dedicated to all Cubans Prisioners of Conscience,that for the obvious reasons Yoani can’t mention in her post.
    They are many.Oscar Diaz Bicet, Darsi Ferrer, the remaining of the 75**(Black Spring),one these prisioners is Pablo Pacheco.He is at Ciego de Avila’s Provincial Prisio called “Canaleta”. He is one of many who is friend of Yoani. He has been behind bars since 2003. He has a Blog called Voice Through the bars.It’s being posted in English in this page, however the Spanish version is the most updated one.

    ** they were 75 in a vindictive response to the five spies who are imprisioned in the USA. Castro’s response was 15 Cubans dissidents for one Cuban Spy.

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