Orlando Zapata Tamayo. Guillermo Fariñas. Oscar Elias Biscet. These are some of the names familiar on a global scale. To many, these jailed men are the faces of the Cuban dissident movement.
Yet there is another face, one that is not as known but just as important. Their names? Sylvia Aguado, Sonia Campillo, and Mayelin Gonzalez, just to name a few. Collectively, they and many others are Las Damas de Blanco. These mothers and spouses of political prisoners peacefully march through the streets of Cuba demanding the release of their loved ones from the regime's gulags.
During their marches they face constant taunts, harrasment and even threats of violence. Recently, they were forcefully dragged onto buses as pro-regime counter-protestors, who ironically get to excercise a right to speech Las Damas are denied, taunted them and shouted "Viva Fidel!" These women didn't flinch and held their ground as best they could. The light of their dignity shined through the evil that was descending upon them.
Las Damas don't flinch.
When the regime taunts them, they keep walking. When the regime threatens them, they keep walking. When the regime tries to pull them off the streets, they keep walking.
These incredible ladies have risked their lives and reputations to stand up for what is right. While the regime-sanctioned isolation of Las Damas is difficult to imagine from the United States, their dark reality is a testament to the enduring spirit of these women.
I know Las Damas will always keep walking. This Thursday, I'll be walking for them.
Keith Fernandez is a senior majoring in Political Science at Florida International University. He has been active in several Cuba-focused organizations and will be attending the University of Florida Levin College of Law in the fall.