With this guest column I would like to introduce a new blogger from
Havana, Laritza Diversent. Laritza is an attorney. She graduated from
the University of Havana in 2007, and the same year also took up the
profession of independent journalist. Her Blog, The Laws of Laritza, is
now being translated into English, so I am happy to be able to show you
A Sad Story
by Laritza Diversent
I recently struck up a conversation with a stranger on the P-6 bus, one
of the articulated bus lines that runs in the Cuban capitol. As if in
competition, we started to tell grotesque anecdotes, looking for the
most exaggerated things that had happened to us. My partner won.
"Even saying goodbye to the dead is hard in Cuba," he told me. And he
told me that six months ago his little niece had died. A small
one-year-old born with a congenital heart defect, who could not
withstand the complicated surgery.
A sad event that this man told naturally and tenderly, describing to me
the short life of his little niece. And I discovered the pain that can
hide in an apparently pleasant conversation, undertaken to kill the time
while waiting for the bus and along the journey. Between us there were
no introductions. He didn't give me his name, nor I mine to him. But I
knew that he lived in Cotorro, a municipality on the outskirts of Havana.
The baby was laid out in the city mortuary. At the nearest florist he
wanted to order a wreath to say goodbye to the little angel, from
himself and his cousins. The employee, without any sensitivity, asked
him who had died. He didn't understand, thinking she wanted to know more
about who she had been and described the little girl. He imagined, that
for a baby of one, they would make a beautiful floral arrangement.
How wrong he was! The insensitive woman looked at a list of the dead to
see which families had ordered wreaths. Because two wreaths and no more
are authorized for every death, and the baby had already received the
two to which she was entitled.
Caught between astonishment and indignation, I asked if this had really
happened. He told me yes. But the story did not end there.
He protested and the assistant just replied, "This is what is directed."
After much pleading, the woman told him that if no one else died before
four in the morning, he could order a wreath. In gratitude, he gave her
some money which she happily accepted.
I thought that was the end of the sad story. Almost at his stop me,
already at the door, the stranger told me, "But that's not the only
thing that happened." They placed the baby in a coffin half a meter
longer than her size. The indignation of the mother was such that she
loudly called for an independent journalist to report the lack of respect.
He got off so fast I didn't have time to tell him that I am an
independent journalist. During the rest of the trip I didn't talk to
I was meditating. And I realized the importance of the work we do. It
gave me satisfaction to hear, from the mouth of a stranger, that when
there is helplessness and outrage they think of us, the independent
journalists, as a valid alternative way to protest.
But I also wondered: How far does the rationing system go in this
country? Outside Cuba, few can imagine how, in the midst of so many
problems, we manage to survive each day. And the agony that we go
through from the time we get up until the time we go to bed. A truly
On behalf of the pain and impotence of a family that has gone through
the difficult experience of losing a child, I wanted to tell this story.
I dedicate to her this beautiful floral arrangement.
Even Saying Goodbye to the Dead Is Hard In Cuba (12 December 2009)