Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Not #OWS: The Silent Marches in Communist Cuba

Compare the marches of the Ladies in White to #OWS. These women walk in silence on Havana's Fifth Avenue to draw attention to the plight of political prisoners in Cuba. Their marches take place on Sundays after Mass at the Church of Saint Rita, who is venerated as the patron saint of desperate, seemingly impossible causes. Many of the Ladies are wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters of the 75 men imprisoned in 2003 for writing or speaking about the lack of basic rights in Cuba. The Ladies dress in white and carry gladiolas to signal the purity of their intentions.

Despite their silence, the Ladies in White suffer ongoing insults, beatings, and de facto house arrest by pro-Communist mobs supporting the Cuban government. To torment them into submission, the Communist government moved their men to prisons far from their homes.

Last Friday, a founder and leader of the Ladies in White, Laura Pollán, died in a Cuban hospital. She was 63 years old and a high school teacher. Eight years ago, her journalist husband, Héctor Maseda, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for "the sole crime of speaking his mind about the lack of basic human rights on the island."

In 2005, the European Parliament honored Pollán with the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, an award named after the Soviet scientist and dissident, Andrei Sakharov, who compared the Soviet version of communism to a cancer cell. Pollán was not allowed to leave Cuba to accept the award, but the international attention offered the Ladies in White a small measure of protection.

Shortly before her death, Pollán's husband and many of the other imprisoned dissidents imprisoned in 2003 were released, but many dissidents remained unjustly imprisoned. After Maseda's release, Pollán kept on marching, dressed in white, flower in hand.

The hospital in which Laura Pollán spent her last hours was not the clean, orderly treatment center for elites featured in Michael Moore's movie, Sicko, which has become an oft-quoted chapter of the Liberal gospel. Moore's so-called "documentary" dishonestly portrays healthcare in Cuba as greatly superior to that in the U.S., in contrast to many disturbing videos smuggled out of Cuba at great risk that reveal the true state of Cuban healthcare available to non-elites.

After Pollán's death, police surrounded her Havana neighborhood to prevent members and supporters of the Ladies in White from meeting at her home. Police blocked off the street on which she lived and detained twenty people.

That didn't stop 60 very brave Ladies in White from marching on Sunday, each carrying a single gladiola stem. This time they were joined by men mourning the loss of a heroic fighter against communist repression.


Members of dissident group "Ladies in White" march in front of Santa Rita church in Havana, Cuba, Sunday Oct. 16, 2011. Cuba's Ladies in White have vowed to keep protesting against the island's communist-run government despite the death of their founder and spiritual leader, Laura Pollan, but the loss presents new challenges for a dissident group already struggling to be visible and influential among islanders.
Pollán's mourners marching past St. Rita's Church
Can you hear the sounds of silence in Havana, #OWS?


  1. Very nice find. I was not aware of this. Hear is a group of truly courageous people standing up to their government. I wish more Americans were like this.

  2. These Ladies ask for Freedom. Unlike the Wall Street mob that ask for stuff.

  3. @Trestin - How much better off would these people have been if their predecessors had stopped communism in its tracks?

    @Odie - If you have freedom, you can make your own stuff.

  4. Thank you for reminding us what differentiates a legitimate protest movement from a bunch of barbarians defacing public property.

  5. @Justin -- Courage, for one. Dignity, for another!