Protest in white in Cuba – the Damas de Blanco – a conversation with Blanca Reyes

IMG_0013FNF: What are the Damas de Blanco and what do they fight for?

Blanca: During the Black Spring in 2003, the Cuban government arrested and summarily tried and sentenced 75 human rights defenders, journalists and librarians for alleged “acts against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state”. One of the human rights activists arrested was my husband Raúl Rivero.

After the arrest, the government retained them in trial detention in a prison close to la Havana. There, we, their wives, daughters and sisters met and started to give each other moral and financial support.

The Damas de Blanco – Ladies in White – were formed two weeks after the arrests by a small group of women related to the prisoners, mostly their wives. I was present the first day we went to the Santa Rita church for mass, dressed in white in sign for our pacific opposition to the massive arrests. Every Sunday, more women joined the protest and the movement grew bigger. After a few weeks of attending mass in Santa Rita, Laura Pollán, proposed to go out to the nearby park and to organize a silent non-violent protest march.

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Upcoming event: “Protest in white against the Cuban regime – The Damas de Blanco”

Damas de BlancoThursday, 20 June 2013
12.00-13.45

During the Black Spring in 2003, the Cuban government arrested and summarily tried and sentenced 75 human rights defenders, journalists and librarians for alleged “acts against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state”. The “Damas de Blanco” – “Ladies in White” – were formed two weeks after the arrests. They protested against the arrests by attending mass in white clothes and carry out non-violent protests every Sunday.

In 2005 they received the Sakharov Price of Freedom of Thought. When receiving the price on behalf of the Damas de Blanco, Blanca Reyes said that the Cuban government violated its citizen’s human rights “on a daily basis.” Blanca Reyes lives in exile in Spain with her husband Raúl Rivero, a famous poet and author who was sentenced to 20 years of jail in 2003. He was released in November 2004 following international pressure and subsequently relocated to Spain. About the Cuban regime he said: “I was afraid of my own fear. I was afraid of not being able to stand it. Everything is programmed to undo you as a human being.”

You can register for this event before 19 June here. Please find the invitation here.