“We are Frustrated by the Stress of the Constant Repression”, declared the dissident Sonia Garro / Iván García
From a public pay phone and despite the fact that she was being watched by police agents in civilian clothes, the woman for which one man decided to climb up on his roof and yell anti-governmental slogans (as can be seen in this video,), Sonia Garro Alfonso told El Mundo that she and her husband, Ramon Alejandro Munoz Gonzalez, feel overwhelmed by the “stress of the constant repression” which the Cuban regime has maintained over them for quite some time.
She did not know that they would have recorded the video and uploaded it onto YouTube. The final straw which led Munoz Gonzalez to protest in that way was the desperation he felt when, on May 9th, his wife Sonia, and three other women (Niurka Luque, Niola Camila Araujo, and Leydis Coca- all of which are Ladies of Support to the Ladies in White) were violently suppressed and beaten by fifty agents of the “rapid response brigades” (the name given to paramilitaries used to oppress dissidents in Cuba) at 51st Avenue and 100 Street.
Her crime? Having taken to the streets with a white blanket on which she had written in black letters “No more police repression” and “Sentence the murders of Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia”, the dissident who died in Santa Clara on May 8th as a consequence of a beating.
After they were beaten, the four were arrested and taken to different police units in accordance with where they live. When Munoz found out about what happened, and after he investigated in his corresponding unit, Sonia’s husband headed to Section 21 of the Department of State Security where they did not tell him where she was being held.
It was the final straw. He decided to do what he did, and continues doing: protesting on his own. He says that as long as the violent repression continues against them or the dissidence on the island, then he is even willing to chain himself to a tree in the middle of a central avenue of Marianao. Munoz Gonzalez goes out to the street with the chains he has thrown on himself, and not with his machete, which he only wields when he is on the roof of his house.
Sonia has not only been beaten and detained on various occasions, but she has also had to withstand scornful and humiliating treatment for being black. In this last arrest they told her: “Nigger, we are going to send you straight to Manto Negro (the female prison) because you have us tired out already.” In the case of Sonia, as occurs with all dissidents who are black or mulattoes, the State Security agents always shove this sentence in their faces: “I can’t believe that you are black and a counter-revolutionary.”
Sonia Garro Alfonso has spent years suffering because of her skin color. Because of her very dark skin color, on the day she graduated as a Clinical Laboratory Technician, functionaries from the Public Health Ministry chose a white student to go up and receive her diploma from the hands of the minister. This was a humiliation she has never been able to forget. In 2006, when she refused to give up her activities in favor of afro-descendants or her independent cultural project which she runs with children of poor neighborhoods, she was expelled from her work place.
Nor has life been easy for her husband, Ramon Alejandro Munoz Gonzalez. He is a mulatto professor of folkloric dance who was also expelled from his work due to his social activism. That was the pretext which the police found in order to apply the “social dangerousness” law to him and send him to prison for a year.
The scene of the unusual protest is a blue house located on 47th Avenue, No. 11638, between 116th and 118th in Marianao. It’s just a few steps away from Los Zamora, Los Pocitos, and Palo Cagao, three of the most marginal and conflicting neighborhoods in Havana, filled with prostitutes, pimps, and delinquents. But also filled with professionals and dissidents like Sonia Garro and Ramon Munoz. Even if today they are on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
Translated by Raul G.
May 22 2011