The Son that Nobody Wanted
A novelist-turned-blogger live-chronicles his own unjust incarceration.
Since the end of the 1980s, Ángel Santiesteban has been known as one of the most brilliant writers of his generation. In this position he touches upon subjects that are pretty uncomfortable for Cuban political culture: The island’s military interference in Angola and Ethiopia, the genocide of people fleeing towards liberty on rafts, the barbarity of the local prison system, and the human body as a temple for all demons and desires.
- Is it worth-while to focus on the last images and letters coming from the inside of the last living utopia on Earth? Is Cuba by now a contemporary country or just another old-fashioned delusion in the middle of Nowhere-America? A Cold-War Northtalgia maybe? Can we expect a young Rewwwolution.cu within that Ancien Régime still known as The Revolution? I would like to provoke more questions than answers.
- Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo was born in Havana City and still resides and resists there, working as a free-lance writer, photographer and blogger. He is the author of Boring Home (2009) and is the editor of the independent opinion and literary e-zine Voces.
Throughout his career, Santiesteban has had the honor of winning the country’s most prestigious literary prizes: The Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba prize in 1995 (for Sur: Latitud 13, South: Latitude 13), the Alejo Carpentier prize in 2001 (for Los hijos que nadie quiso, The Children Nobody Wanted), and the Casa de las Américas International Prize in 2006 (for Dichosos los que lloran, Blessed Are Those Who Mourn).
Always the nonconformist, Santiesteban joined the booming Cuban alternative blogosphere in 2009 and created an online space for his critical opinion, Los hijos que nadie quiso. A few months later he was attacked in the street—a group of strangers broke his arm and warned him of the risks of being a “counterrevolutionary” in Castroist Cuba.
Finally, four months ago, after a court case based on very shaky evidence, Santiesteban was sentenced to five years in jail for alleged domestic violence against his ex-wife. He has declared his innocence of this crime and maintains that the charges are fabricated and politically motivated. Thanks to loyal supporters, his voice has been kept active on the Internet, and with tweets and posts to his blog that begin “Diario en la cárcel XXXI…” (Journal XXXI in jail…) the Cuban writer has now become a live-chronicler of his own incarceration, life, and literature.
The free world knows of Santiesteban’s case, but doesn’t seem to be paying much heed to the crescendo of harassment that he has been suffering since he opened the Los hijos que nadie quiso blog. Such violations of fundamental rights worry the international intellectuals only when they occur in capitalist democracies, never when they take place in a left-wing dictatorship like Cuba.