The Corner of the Indignant: Arrests, Fine, and Threats Cannot Destroy Independent and Popular Point of Sales

[A special thanks to Ivan Hernandez Carrillo (@ivanlibre) and activist Maria Cama (@mspianoteacher) for providing this interview]

Rosario Morales, better known as “Charito”, with some of the merchandise she sells in her independent sales spot

Rosario Morales La Rosa, better known amongst her friends as “Charito“, was expelled from her job in Cuba because of her participation in the Ladies in White.  Upon not being employed, Charito remained without any source of economic income, considering that she does not have any family in exile who provides her with remittances.  For this reason, the activist from Havana decided to take matters into her own hands and turned to self-employment, setting up a sales spot on Villa Panamericana in East Havana.  She named it “The Corner of the Indignant“, and she sells house products such as towels, bags, mops and coffee.  Despite the frequent threats by the political police and State Security agents dressed in civilian clothing, Charito has been working hard on her store, which she opens from Monday to Saturday (not Sundays because she has dedicated this day to the traditional march to church with the Ladies in White).

At around 2 pm on the afternoon of Friday, August 10th, 2012- as “The Corner of the Indignant” celebrated its 4 months of being established- 8 police vehicles stationed themselves outside the store.  According to Charito, the vehicles were full of police agents and inspectors, who kept a tight watch over her.  They soon interrupted her sales.

The agents walked up to where I was and told me that they were going to confiscate all my merchandise and that I had to leave with them to a police unit because as of that moment I was detained”, narrated Rosario, “I gathered all my merchandise and they took me to the police unit”.

Once in the unit, Captain Wilfredo Gonzalez, along with two inspectors, gave the activist a warning letter and fined her for 400 pesos.  In addition, “they told me that I could not return to that spot to sell and that I needed a license.  I told them that I am going to continue selling because work is a necessity for me.  I have worked all my life and I was left without employment.  I am not going to allow that my family dies of hunger…cost me what it may”.

Charito, along with other Ladies in White, demanding freedom for her then-jailed son

Charito denounced that she was also threatened with being applied with charges of disobedience “for selling illegally”.  To this accusation, the Lady in White replied, “I d0 not care what they all do, I am not going to apply for a license and I am going to continue selling.  They are going to have to take me to the police unit every single day and I am simply not going to pay the fine.  I am an independent self-employed seller and I am not going to allow that, with my own sweat, they higher the ranks of a police officer or an inspector”.

During her detention, the accustomed insults against groups of the internal opposition were not missing.  According to Charito, the agents told her that the Ladies in White were “counter-revolutionaries” and were paid by the “empire” (term used by the dictatorship to refer to the United States).

Nobody pays me anything”, assured Charito, “I am a Lady in White because I sympathize with the cause as I sympathized with the cause for the freedom of the 75 dissidents arrested in 2003″.   The activist is also known for the public protests she has carried out, among them the one in 2011 where she and another Lady in White- Ivonne Malleza Galano– carried out a demonstration at the Cuatro Camino Market- one of Havana’s most popular markets- demanding “food for our children” and “fair salaries”.  The everyday people joined the protest and both participants were jailed.

Ever since her involvement with the Ladies in White, Charito and her family have suffered constant threats at the hands of the regime’s forces.  In fact, her son Reinier Biscet Morales has been imprisoned and has received beatings by political police agents.

According to Charito’s testimonies, The Corner of the Indignant is a place of much patronage by everyday Cubans who come searching for products that are difficult to find throughout the country.  Charito has also said that people frequently congratulate her and have even defended her when she is harassed by the police.  In one specific case which occurred earlier this year (2012), a lady who had participated in a violent repudiation attack against Charito approached the store to buy a product she desperately needed for her child.  When both women realized what was happening, the lady- shocked and ashamed- asked Charito for forgiveness for what she had done.  Morales la Rosa told her that she did not have to ask her for forgiveness and gave her the product, free of charge.  The woman has not been seen anymore participating in state-sponsored acts of violence and repudiation against the Lady in White.

Charito was released from her detention at around 7 PM on the night of that same Friday, August 10th.  Although they did not confiscate her merchandise, she was released under orders that she had to pay the fine (#234590) and that she could not continue selling.

Tomorrow I am going to go back to selling, cost me whatever it may.  I am neither going to pay the fine nor am I going to stop selling because I am not going to die of hunger and misery.  I am tired, I am going to keep selling until the final consequences”, affirmed Rosario “Charito” Morales La Rosa.

Ivonne Malleza (left) and Rosario Morales during pots and pan demonstration in Cuatro Camino Market in Havana. 2011.

The following is an audio of Rosario Morales narrating what happened in her arrest, courtesy of former political prisoner and independent journalist Ivan Hernandez Carrillo:

The Corner of the Indignant: Arrests, Fine, and Threats Cannot Destroy Independent and Popular Point of Sales

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