Berta

She is old, frail and dark-skinned. She is from Antigua and speaks English. She tells me this is why she’s discriminated against.

She’s been imprisoned four times for talking too much to tourists and speaking out against the government.

Berta’s fourth floor apartment, four blocks from the Capitolio is now off-limits. The building has been condemned. The gas and electricity have been cut off and everyone made to leave. But there is nowhere to go. There are no vacancies so Berta and her thirty-something year old son wait until after dark and sneak back in to the building.

She cooks eggs on a single open flame made by dipping pieces of rags in fuel oil.

She’s tired of eating eggs, but Berta claims that the government poisons the other food.

Her words: “If you don’t eat enough, you get weak. If you eat more, you get sick. This is how they control you.”

For what its worth, Berta says that Cuba will never change. There are too many in power and the rest do not have the will to fight. They are too afraid.

How did I meet this woman and her son?

I was feeling very guilty for having a rich meal with our group on the better side of Havana.  After our late return to the hotel I went across the street to sit in the park, unwind, and think about the poor Cubans I had met earlier that day.

After only a few minutes, this woman and her son appeared out of the dark and walked directly to the adjacent bench, sat down and started talking to me in English. How did she know I would understand her? How did she know I would listen?  How did she know I would care?

As she left, she asked for no money, only prayers.

How did she know I would pray for her?

 

 

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