Each Thursday in the central region of Cuba women dressed in black march to their nearest church, in a sign of honor and respect to compatriots who have lost their lives in the struggle for establishing a country free from dictatorships. Many times the women are beat, arrested or deported, but each week they walk. They are the members of the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights, named so in honor of the American civil rights hero.
The women of the Movement are mainly active in the provinces of Villa Clara, Ciego de Avila and Camaguey. They dress in black “as a sign of mourning“, according to the group’s president, Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera, originally from Sancti Spiritus and who has been known as one of the female leaders of the Cuban opposition for some years now after she begun her activities demanding the release of her husband, former political prisoner Jorge Luis Garcia Perez ‘Antunez’, who spent 17 years in the communist gulags for demanding change and freedom in the 90’s.
But why do these women mourn?
“Because we are honoring the many victims of the Castro tyranny“, explained Perez Aguilera, who explains that she is referring to the martyrs of all generations since 1959, “like Pedro Luis Boitel, Mario Chanes de Arma, Mario Manuel de la Pena, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Laura Pollan Toledo, Harold Cepero, Oswaldo Paya“… but she assures that “the list continues“.
Among the mentioned names are members of the pro-freedom Resistance from different stages in history, like Pedro Luis Boitel from the 70’s, Mario Manuel de la Pena (a young Cuban-American member of Brothers to the Rescue) from the 90’s, as well as more recent cases such as Zapata Tamayo, Pollan and Paya. On occasions, the marches have paid tribute to freedom fighters who died in combat or were executed in the Escambray mountains in the 60’s. They have also remembered rafters who have fled the island in search of freedom and have perished.
“We do this to not forget those heroes who fought for the freedom and democracy of Cuba“, says Yris.
Meanwhile, the political police and other repressive factions of the dictatorship lash out against these female activists each Thursday through different methods. At one point in time, each of the women would be arrested but now Perez explains that the agents have employed a new method, “arresting some” and “others not” in an attempt to try and create divisions among the group, an approach which has not yielded positive results for the regime.
“Some of us always manage to make it to church where we participate in Mass in honor of the martyrs, and also, every time one of our activists are left abandoned in some desolate field, they always return and continue the activity“, assures the dissident, a resident of Placetas, Villa Clara. Other cities where weekly marches are reported are Santa Clara, Grua Nueva and Camaguey.
The Rosa Parks Movement also carries out other civil disobedience demonstrations, such as sit-ins, public debates and protest marches. The goal of these activities is to demand the liberation of all political prisoners as well as to demand better social and living conditions for the everyday population.
And it is precisely because of all these Cubans who suffer under the reprisals of the communist regime or who have lost their lives that this female organization “will continue” with their actions, affirms Perez Aguilera.
Here are some declarations about the group made by Yris to this blog (in Spanish):
This past 28th of August, in honor of Martin Luther King’s legacy in the field of civil rights, exiled journalist, blogger and activist Luis Felipe Rojas interviewed Yris Tamara Perez, Damaris Moya and Yaite Cruz Sosa, all members of the Movement, in his program “Contacto Cuba”, transmited to the island through Radio Marti. Take a listen to the show here.