|María Elena Cruz Varela|
Friday night, February 7, 2014 friends and admirers gather in the courtyard of Cafe Demetrio in Coral Gables, Florida to listen to the poetry and reflections of María Elena Cruz Varela twenty years after being exiled. She has not been able to return to Cuba and was unable to see her father before he passed. Below are excerpts from her presentation that evening which includes a powerful poem dedicated to her dad.
Its a long way from her days of being subjected to a bloody act of repudiation and years in prison for refusing to be submissive and live in the lie that Fidel Castro was the daddy and 11 million Cubans the children who must obey. Mairym Cruz-Bernal in a July 1, 1995 essay published in The American Poetry Review wrote about her encounter with the poet:
Maria Elena described to me how, made to kneel in the street, she had clenched her teeth and refused to open her mouth until she could taste her own blood, could see it flow on the ground before her. But as her accusers cursed and beat her she remained silent. Six days after her arrest, a closed trial was held, the official charges against her, "illegal association and libel."On Tuesday, February 11, 2014 a different kind of poet, a punk rocker and musician, Gorki Águila will be subjected to a summary show trial. Twenty years have passed but the underlying nature of the dictatorship has not changed nor has the courage of some Cubans to defy it. Please take a moment and sign the petition for his freedom.
Maria Elena's accounts of the arrest blurred with stories of her subsequent imprisonment, blurred with her cellmates' stories, some of which would later find their way into her poems, and some that would not - among them a fellow inmate's dispassionate report to Maria Elena that she had strangled her newborn because she couldn't stand the sound of the crying. Maria Elena recalled her own fourteen year old son's first visit to see her. Soon I would learn from the poet's family that our initial meeting marked the first time Maria Elena had spoken to anyone of her two years in prison. As yet stranger to her, I had become the person through whom she could, as she later described it, exorcise the demons of her memory.