To mark International Women’s Day 2023, PEN International and PEN Sydney are featuring the case of Cuban poet and activist María Cristina Garrido Rodríguez, imprisoned since July 2021 for her criticism of the Cuban government, and for participating in the peaceful protests that saw thousands of Cubans taking to the streets around the country and demanding reforms.
On International Women’s Day, as we embrace the theme of equity, let us not forget the case of Cuban poet and activist Maria Cristina Garrido Rodríguez. Her unwavering courage in the face of unjust persecution serves as a reminder of the urgent need for equitable action in every society. Let us work towards a world where every woman is free to express herself without fear of punishment or persecution. Zoe Rodriguez, Chair of PEN International Women Writers’ Committee and Co-President of PEN Sydney
Take action today to free María Cristina Garrido Rodríguez.
María Cristina Garrido Rodríguez is a Cuban poet and activist. On 10 March 2022, she was sentenced to seven years in prison on charges of ‘public disorder,’ ‘assault’, ‘instigation to commit a crime’, ‘contempt,’ and ‘resistance’.
This follows her arrest on 12 July 2021 for participating, alongside her sister and thousands of Cubans, in the July 11 peaceful protests against the repression of their fundamental rights, including over the government’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis and worsening economy.
Upon her arrest, Garrido was beaten several times by the Cuban political police, and was subjected to enforced disappearance for 18 days.
She is currently held in the women’s Guatao Prison where since her arrest, she has been subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, including solitary confinement and beatings, and denied food, water and adequate sanitary conditions, as well as family visits and calls at times.
In December 2021, in a letter from prison, Garrido spoke of her pride in taking part in the events of 11 July, and denouncing the horrors faced by those inside Cuban prisons. ‘On July 11, we showed courage, decisiveness, breaking with the silence of the years; we demonstrated unanimity and pluralism, because young people, adults, the elderly, university students and farmers, housewives and workers, also leaders and even party cadres took to the streets to say yes to the overthrow of the dictatorship and for a prosperous and democratic Cuba’. She also said that State Security ‘punishes me for every letter I write, but I cannot stop breathing’.
Together with her sister Angélica, Garrido went on hunger strike for five days on 20 September 2022 to protest their sentences and continued detention. According to family members, the Cuban authorities had relied on false testimony from police officers and others who served as witnesses during her trial in January 2022.
Garrido was born in Quivicán, Mayaquebé in 1982. She is the author of Examen de tiempo (Time examination), published in 2022, and the recipient of the 2008 First National Prize in the Carlos Baliño Tobacco Competition. She is a member of the Cuban Women’s Network, where she supports the visibility of women in various spaces, and other activist networks such as the Fundación Vuelta abajo por Cuba and of the Latin Federation of Rural Women. Large part of Garrido’s work has been seized by the Cuban state from her home in Quivicán.
For more information on freedom of expression in Cuba click here.
The cemetery of the living
This is a fragment of “The cemetery of the living”, a poem written while in prison:
I’m writing this moan right now
in an early morning of prisoners and opprobrium
where the doors sound like tears and oblivion.
I can’t sleep.
I discovered that it is better to write at this time
in which the pain of others sleeps
and silence softens the mind
and the spirit.
The night is my spur
although it is the greatest danger.
Doctors without a coat and without a vocation
they flee from the pleas
and I fear dying in a long unexpected pain.
We call this place The Cemetery of the Living.
Here justice is buried without an undertaker
inexorable of the motherland
as if the crime of a child was buried
or a flower
María Cristina Garrido Rodríguez is facing a hefty prison sentence solely for exercising her right to freely express herself. PEN International calls on the Cuban authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Garrido, and to drop all charges against her. This is what you can do:
Write to the Cuban authorities, calling on them to:
- Release Garrido immediately and unconditionally, and drop all charges against her;
- Pending her release, ensure that she is provided with regular communication with her family and adequate health care, and that she in not subjected to any form of ill-treatment;
- Release all imprisoned writers and artists unjustly imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of expression and artistic expression
- Abide by their international human rights obligations and uphold the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly.
Send appeals to:
President Sr. Miguel Díaz-Canel:
Minister of Justice Oscar Silvera Martínez:
Minister of Culture Alpidio Alonso Grau:
Minister of Foreign Affairs (Minrex) Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla:
The Cuban Ambassador in Canberra:
Excmo. Sr. Ariel Lorenzo Rodríguez
1 Gerogery Place, O´Malley, ACT 2606, Australia.
E- mail: firstname.lastname@example.org