“That first interview was fatal, very hard for me. There were strong knocks on the table. I suffered tremendous violence because he told me: "I'm a macho, so what!" There were two men. One stood behind me, and another in front, the Major, the one who was interviewing me. They say that those in the back are the most important, I don't know. I told to the one in front of me: 'but you are wrong, you do not realize that Cuban women need to free themselves, for example, from domestic burden', I said this because we were talking about those things. I told him then: 'I think you don't understand what I just said', and it seems that at that moment I got him out of his mind, he smacked the table and said 'I'm a macho and what!' and I thought: 'This man is going to beat me up.' And I felt, with that scream, all the hatred and the unleashed rage of those who have been trained to be repressors, a repressor who, in addition to being a repressor, is a huge macho.”
“The Alas Tensas [magazine] was doing something they were afraid of. Later on, over time, I have realized it and wondered why feminism is attacked in Cuba if they say in their agenda that they are fighting for women's equality, that the entire Revolution has been an example of showing and empowering Cuban women, and of their autonomy, but long term, even though there are, of course, some achievements, you realize that in the in recent times, since the 1994 crisis, discrimination against women and gender violence has increased. It is a huge problem and it has been made invisible because they considered it to be an achievement of the Revolution and you truly realize that what has been accentuated are the problems: discrimination has increased, violence has increased, femicides have increased. And when there is a publication that is independent, that is not going to be in favour of an institution and which is making this problem clear, and spreading to other places because it is using the internet, what is the form of communication; so, they were very scared with the creation of the magazine.”
“When we were 5 years old we had to say 'We will be like Che'. What a macho expression within a formation! This is psychological violence, child violence. The fact that they force a boy or a girl, who does not yet know how to read and write, to say ‘We will be like Che’ when everyone who knows who Che is realizes that he/she does not want to be like Che, he/she doesn't want to be a macho, he/she doesn't want to be this kind of guerrilla, he/she doesn't want to be a person who thinks in a totalitarian way, who doesn't admit diversity. That's not what I want to be, I want to be someone else, I want to be Ileana, why are you forcing me to say at the age of 5 ‘We will be like Che’? For me that is one of the greatest violence of Cuban totalitarianism, precisely that it forces you to be like someone else and do not allow you to be different, to be yourself. A man who is misogynistic, who is homophobic, everyone knows what he did; although there are countries and people who are still wrong, everyone knows who Che is. Well, they forced us to say that we were like this person, they forced us to say ‘We will be like Che’.”
“One of the things that marked me the most at school is that I suffered tremendous bullying for being religious. I say bullying or we could say repression, even child abuse... I remember that we all had a school record, and the teachers constantly said: 'behave yourself well because if you don't I will put a mark in your record’, ‘You know that if you have a stain on your record you cannot take university or vocational school’. They used to say this to me, as one of the most advantageous students. One day they stopped me in the middle of the square and a fifth-grade teacher said: ‘We are very sorry, but Ileana is the only stain in the school because she is the only girl who goes to the Catholic Church.’ I never stopped going to the Catholic Church. And in the midst of all children and the other teachers, one Friday -the day of the week when those political acts were held-, they stopped me to show me that I was the only stain of Los Maristas’ school - which continues to be called like this even though it was named after a revolutionary hero. They stopped me and I was booed by all the children. I was barely 10 years old.”
I don’t want to be Che, I want to be someone else, I want to be Ileana, why are you forcing me to say, at 5 years old, ‘We will be like Che’?
The writer and poet Ileana Álvarez González was born in the city of Ciego de Ávila, in central Cuba, in a marginal neighbourhood known as “Chincha Coja”. From a very young age she had to get used to living with violence and took refuge in literature, which would later become her great passion. Despite the harassment she suffered at school for practicing the Catholic religion and the harshness of the preuniversitario en el campo [pre-university education in the countryside], she managed to go to the University and study Hispanic Philology. There she understood the lack of freedom of expression and the rejection of diversity in Cuban university education. Later on, in her job as an editor at Videncia magazine, she faced censorship. Despite everything, she managed to publish a number of invisible Cuban female authors, some of them exiled. In 2016 she founded the first Cuban feminist magazine, Alas Tensas, with the aim of denouncing sexist violence and feminicides that occur in Cuba. However, directing this magazine supposed a strong harassment by State Security to herself and her two children, which led her to go into exile in Madrid in 2018. Currently she continues to direct Alas Tensas from Madrid, and she has founded, together with her husband Francis Sánchez, also writer, the Deslinde publishing house.