A Balcony with Ferns

Several years ago, a soap opera called El balcon de los helechos (A Balcony with Ferns) was broadcast by the Cuban television. It was quite successful and had good ratings. My balcony is not adorned with ferns or any other decorative plants but I still remember the song every time I hang my clothes on the clothesline. The refrain was: “White laundry hung on the balconies…”

by Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello
by Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello

On Wednesday January 15, like on all Wednesdays since the middle of November, the Political Police came to my house, along with the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) and several members of the Rapid Response Unit, to prevent several members of the Cuban Network of Community Journalists (RCCC) from entering and taking part in our regular weekly meeting.

We were surprised at their new strategy. Instead of arresting or driving people to far-away places, they just told them that they were not allowed to enter the house. One of the RCCC members, Maritza Concepcion Sarmientos, asked one of the members of the Political Police: “When are you going to lift the ban?”. He answered: “When Martha starts behaving well.” She was told that only Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique and Blanca Hernandez Moya, both in their seventies, would be allowed to enter.

The journalists of the RCCC then gathered at the corner of the Belascoain and San Jose streets and waited for the others to come. When most of the group showed up, they all congregated under the balcony of my house and we were thus able to have our weekly meeting as usual. Some of us were speaking from above, some from below, everything that was said was said publicly, so that anyone could hear what we were talking about, especially the curious passersby, who were wondering why there were so many Police and such a crowd of people.

The rain brought by the cold front did not put a stop to the meeting. Nor did the distance of 5 meters between the balcony and the street prevent us from offering those who had come the usual cup of coffee – we sent it down in a straw basket tied to a rope.

Nobody understood why the Political Police chose not to intervene because letting the situation unfold as it was only caused upheaval in the neighbourhood. It resembled a play by the American playwright Eugene O’Neil (winner of the Nobel Prize and four Pulitzer Prizes), who revelled in situations that went from the sublime to the ridiculous, usually at moments of peak tension.

Every Wednesday, members of the Cuban Network of Community Journalists show the Political Police their willingness to continue doing their work with the aim to defend their fellow citizens in the island and abroad and inform those who are interested in the current happenings in Cuba and the issues faced by its people.