We are all familiar with the hunger which is the semi permanent state of Cubans, not because of the tattered embargo but because of a political system both inept and corrupt. But recent events point to another kind of hunger altogether. The death from a hunger strike compounded by malicious neglect on the part of his jailers- he was reportedly denied water for eighteen days- of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, and the grave condition of Guillermo "Coco" Fariñas after a month on hunger strike in tandem with the hunger strike of activist Franklin Peregrino del Toro, as well as the news that Dr. Darsi Ferrer* has been on hunger strike for the past week lead to a thought.
Yes, we can say Cubans are hungry: hungry for food, hungry for change, hungry for freedom. But these brave men point to a deeper kind of hunger- to be acknowledged in the land of their birth as human beings with all the attendant dignity thereof and not as serfs, slaves, chattel. Deprived by the Stalinist regime of any semblance of self-determination, muzzled, abused, and subject to imprisonment in subhuman conditions at the whim of the current military junta, the hunger strike becomes the ultimate assertion of self, the last resort. They have taken away everything else, but it was Orlando, it is Coco and Franklin and Darsi who chose to exercise the ultimate power over their bodies. How wrong a system is it, when the only possibility of freedom is to dance with death, even that only allowed because it suits the regime?
*Recently Dr Ferrer, who is jailed for allegedly buying black market paint, I believe, and has never been tried, received an award from the US State Department and has subsequently seen the conditions of his incarceration decline. He has declared his hunger strike in response to his maltreatment in prison.