The year almost over saw many pivotal events in and related to Cuba, and people who shaped them, from the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo to the release of many — but far from all — of his fellow political prisoners.
Here is my attempt to recognize those Cubans who made a difference in 2010.
4. Political prisoners.
The most significant event in Cuba this year was the July 7 deal between the Cuban Catholic Church, the Spanish government and the Castro dictatorship for the release of 52 political prisoners unjustly jailed since the "black spring" of 2003. Eleven of the prisoners remain imprisoned because of their refusal to accept overseas exile as a condition of their release.
As imperfect as an agreement as it was, it did highlight the pivotal role the status of political prisoners plays in Cuba today. As long as there are political prisoners, any normalization of relations with the dictatorship is impossible — or at least it should be — and the true nature of the Castro regime will be obvious to anyone paying attention.
Most of the "black spring" prisoners released have taken exile in Spain, and in their own ways assumed new roles in the struggle for Cuban liberty. For example, Pablo Pacheco has resumed blogging about his experiences — something he started while he was still in prison.
And after almost a year in jail with no charges ever filed, Darsi Ferrer, who was not one of the "black spring" prisoners, is again campaigning for human rights on the island.
The "black spring" prisoners are Cuba's best known political prisoners, but there are hundreds, if not thousands of other Cubans in jail because of their opposition to the Castro dictatorship. To learn their stories, just click on some of the days on the right sidebar.
3. Reina Luisa Tamyo and Damas De Blanco.
The Damas De Blanco, or "Ladies In White," has been the most effective dissident organization on the island this decade, campaigning tirelessly for the release of their husbands, fathers, sons, brothers and others imprisoned because of their political opposition to the Castro dictatorship. They — and not the Catholic Church or the Spanish government or the dictatorship itself — are most responsible for the deal that has lead to the release of more than 40 political prisoners this year.
For more than seven years, the Damas have marched through the streets of Havana, with a courage and grace to which the dictatorship had no response — until this past spring, when it unleashed its secret police and other goons to harass and threaten and attack them as they marched in peace. The images shocked even the conscience of the church hierarchy, which after years of ignoring them, intervened with the government on their behalf.
Each of the Damas is a hero, but special recognition is due to Reina Luisa Tamayo, the mother of prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died Feb. 23 after a lengthy hunger strike.
During his protest, Sra. Tamayo was her son's chief advocate, and after his death, she proudly made his legacy her own, demanding justice with a grace and dignity and courage to which again, the Castro regime had no response except for more of its thuggery.
This is my tribute to them: