When Miriam joined its ranks, the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) "was only a few years old and it really changed her life." This is what his son tells me, who assures that if today he doesn’t "help" his wife in raising children and doing housework, but shares his life with her, he owes it to that "almost mambi federated mother I have. My grandfather used to say that between the literacy campaign and the FMC they changed his only female daughter, but even him, who was a macho peasant, had to get used to it ».
Miriam listens to our conversation and laughs. She is the grandmother of one of my childhood friends and says that, in her seventies, she never did anything extraordinary, only what she had to do. She affirms that girls today have much more work than her, because with the use of smartphones and being connected are very confused.
She speaks low, little; smile effortlessly; tells individual stories: of her students in the eastern hills, of when she stood up against her husband because he wanted to be more communist than she and he would not let her go to cut sugar cane, of the girl who gave him the second dress she sewed using the method Ana Betancourt, because the first one she exchanged it for a small coffee maker, and she was happy to finally own something.
She doesn't want to know about interviews, she doesn't think she deserves them. She tells me things because I could be her granddaughter, not because I’m a journalist, she explains, “I don’t want you to publish them, but “I want that it’s known and never forgotten what mainly three people did, for Cuban women: Fidel Castro, Celia Sánchez, and Vilma Espín. Now you have to go on, see what you do»—she almost challenges me.
That's what we’re doing, Miriam,” I tell her. We really have a lot to do, we’d like the Federation to be the same as when it was created... perhaps I should never have said that phrase, or maybe it was the best thing I did: it worked as a start shot for Miriam's daughter-in-law, who turned from the computer where she was drawing graphics and tables:
«I’m sorry to butt in, but the FMC is the same. I was a social worker and we gave speeches; we went to schools; we approached teenage issues like early pregnancy, abortion, domestic violence; we got jobs for women who were dependent of their husbands or doing something else; we were on top of everything. I believe there’s a need to upgrade methods and focus more on today's needs. The sewing courses back when my mother-in-law was young are no longer enough, things will always have to be updated, but many people have got an idea of the Federation like something that doesn’t work anymore and that’s unfair. There are places still stuck in the 70’s, but the Federation it’s us, women, who can and have to get closer to the organization and energize it, take advantage of the accumulated history and pose new challenges, because nothing is born out of thin air.
When the Federation of Cuban Women reaches its 60 years, I cannot think of a better place to get a feedback, me a Cuban, federated woman, than Miriam's place. However, I know there’s a long way to go to build up homes like this, free from patriarchal rules, where there’s not even room for symbolic violence, where no achievement is enough in terms of equity as long as the balance is not certainly balanced and thus, multiplying justice, we can build a better society every day.
To live up to the three names that inspired Miriam: Fidel, Celia, and Vilma, of those human beings who risked their lives for everyone; in order to win another drive of that magnitude and develop the legal body we need, the spaces we deserve, there’s only one way: to make more Revolution and more socialism, because capitalism and feminism are antagonistic just as capitalism and equity are also antagonists.
We Cuban women have to come together, in campaigns, popular initiatives; meet by ages, by unions, by regions, even by ways of understanding this or that idea, but always aware of what we are and what we want, without getting divided, without excluding anyone, not even the State, rather getting close to it as an ally and a partner, closer to the Revolution as the first mirror in which we looked at ourselves and saw everything we could be and do and that we have never given up on that commitment: «We seriously work to solve debts centuries old that only the Revolution in power has fought with undeniable progress, "said President Miguel Díaz-Canel just a few months ago.
Being a woman in Cuba today is not everything we dream of, but saying that Dr. Belinda is a woman and is on the front line of the breakthrough in the Cuban vaccine candidate approved against Covid-19, saying the Country’s General Comptroller is a woman or that my friend Heidi leads a building crew all of them men, it’s not to be pleased or justify what’s missing: it’s to gain more strength to go out and conquer it. Remembering today and every day the work of the Federation of Cuban Women, its struggles and achievements, is not anchoring ourselves to a formula or the past: it’s hold a truth, congratulate ourselves and recognize the FMC as a strength of the present, with strong walls of history and tradition, which await the Cuban women of these times to keep defending them. (Men too side by side).
Translated by Amilkal Labañino / CubaSí Translation Staff