I met Marta Perdomo in 2021 when, with several friends, she was accompanying relatives of the political prisoners of the protests of July 11 that year. This woman, whom I met through a telephone conversation, continues to surprise me every day with her capacity for resilience and her deep Christian feeling which prevents her from insulting her oppressors. With the passage of time, loneliness, repression and my departure from the country, mutual support and understanding turned our relationship into a solid friendship.
This piece is for Marta. I want to eliminate impersonal writing, because I have recently contemplated the lethargic views of several intellectuals who become accomplices of repression and the lack of rights of oppressed citizens. I choose to tell the story of a woman who has had to reinvent herself and who has experienced a process of political awareness since she began to demand freedom for her children.
My friend’s story is similar to the path traveled by so many mothers, couples, grandmothers and fathers who have been separated from their children after the popular demonstrations on July 11 and 12, 2021, demanding a better country.
Marta is, first and foremost, the mother of Jorge and Nadir Martín Perdomo, two young people who were arrested the afternoon of July 17, 2021, after having participated the week before in protests in their native San José de las Lajas. Before July 11, 2021, the Martín Perdomo family lived in a happy home, although afflicted by the difficulties of a Cuba in constant crisis.
Every afternoon the family gathered for coffee at the family home to chat for a while. Marta and her husband Jorge realized that their children were becoming politically aware, moved by the civic events that occurred on the island since November 2020. After the arrests on July 17, 2021, everything changed for the Martín Perdomos, and Marta’s martyrdom began. Marta, a neighborhood seamstress, has demonstrated a process of civic maturation stemming from the central purpose of her life: motherhood.
Several things have marked the recent years of her life. Months without being able to see her children. The helplessness of knowing that her children were tortured in the AIDS Prison in Mayabeque. Jorge and Nadir’s politicized criminal process. The continuous blackmailing by State Security, and the separation of the brothers into different penal units.
Marta, accompanied by her husband and daughter-in-law Greicys, has sustained public dissent, beginning with concrete acts like putting a sign on the front of her home.
Fighting for the freedom of her children has pushed her to overcome the obstacles of fear and pain: interrogations, detentions, threats, social rejection, abandonment by her neighbors and the death of her elderly mother without the presence of her grandchildren.
Marta, without being an activist, and earning her living at the foot of a sewing machine, demonstrates to activists, artists and academics that freedom and community spirit are born out of concrete action, removed from fanfare and limelight. Marta, along with her friend in struggle Lissette Fonseca, began a march every Sunday through the streets of the city to demand freedom of their children and that of all political prisoners. They have marched without any one destination in mind. They have gone to the village church or to the cemetery where Marta’s mother rests.
Marta has not given up. She has assumed the burden of the education and maintenance of three grandchildren, as well as the disintegration of her family, because the pain of injustice deteriorates and divides. She dresses in black as a sign of mourning and has been supported by dozens of mothers and fathers. This seamstress from San Jose has demonstrated the importance of harmony and consensus. With her maternal instinct she gambles on the culture of dialogue, which is why State Security has subjected her to such degrading treatment.
Amid the climate of desolation and helplessness, dozens of mothers have also been forced to prepare a sack of food and pay exorbitant taxi fares to reach penal institutions. The family narrative is exacerbated by the worst economic crisis in Cuba of the last 30 years. In the absence of fundamental rights, intellectual complicity and the whitewashing efforts of power constitute a crime against human dignity.
Today, supporting the struggle of so many Cuban mothers — like Marta — is a humanitarian responsibility. Openly demanding freedom for her children, which transcends any political nuance, shows that Marta is very clear about where she is going.
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