Memory of Nation


Rosa María Payá (1989)

 Rosa María  Payá (1989)
We lived freely in one big prison

I grew up free inside one big prison

“In our family we were fortunate that we did not have to keep the rule of double morals, as the majority of Cubans were forced to. I was lucky that our parents taught us to live in harmony with what we believed. And that is really hard in a totalitarian country. When we were older, my friends from secondary school and university started noticing it, and they told almost with admiration or even with a certain amount of jealousy: ‘Lucky you, you can say in public what you hear at home. We’re not allowed to say what we hear at home, nor what we think.’ They were afraid of the consequences, that they’d be expelled from university, that their parents would lost their jobs. I remember how Dad told us: ‘You can say whatever you want. We’ll cope with it somehow.’ My friends weren’t that fortunate. They would come home and their parents would tell them: ‘Please, whatever you do, don’t say what you think. Don’t criticise the regime, so we don’t get into trouble.’ I was fortunate to have been allowed to grow up free in a country that is one big prison.”

  • born 1989 in Havana into a Catholic family
  • her father Oswaldo Payá, one of the most prominent dissidents in Cuba, was repeatedly nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and was a laureate of Homo Homini and the Sacharov Award
  • Oswaldo Payá died on 22 July 2012 during a car accident; the driver was convicted of manslaughter, but the family is convinced it was a political assassination
  • the family always lived in opposition to the Cuban regime and was under state surveillance
  • Rosa María Payá graduated from physics at the University of Havana; she was active in the dissident movement already as a youth
  • cooperated with the Christian Liberation Movement (among others), coordinated Cuba Decide, a project that promoted a nationwide referendum for free elections
  • spoke at various international forums, such as sessions of the UN Human Rights Council, the European Parliament, the US Senate
  • after her father’s death, her mother and two brothers emigrated to the USA; Rosa María has retained her Cuban citizenship but lives mostly abroad
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