Berta Soler Fernández

* 1963  

  • “Only God knows that the path I am on is the correct path, the one I was called to take... Not just me, but all of us who have been in this group as human rights activists, and we continue... And when I say continue, I also speak of those who are in exile but who had gone out of their homes to the streets, without any experience, to fight for the freedom of their husbands. And it was He who knew, and who put us on that path. And as I already said, sometimes I don’t know when I’m a wife and when I’m a mother. But it seems to me that I am almost always an activist, or advocate and promoter of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And not a wife or a mother.”

  • “We decided to wear white... Why the white clothes? Because we said that the pain was inside. Well, those white clothes represent justice, love... And we used to wear some black detail. At first, we wore a scarf, or some black detail, something showy, a ribbon… But we slowly lost that detail, and we stopped wearing that little black detail, and everything was full white.”

  • “Moya, the first prison he was interned in, as he was interned four times... The first three times, they always took him to Agüica, Matanzas. And my family is pretty well known there, so I cheated on my children. I took them to visit him, to see their father, but I told them that he was at a karate school, as he always exercised physically... So I said he was taking a course there. But I did not tell them... Instead of telling them that ‘Agüica’ was the name of the prison, I told them that the name of the place was ‘Agüita’ [‘little water’ in Spanish, a play on words – ed.]. Agüita instead of Agüica, I told my children that the prison was called that. So, I did not tell them he was in prison, and well, I cheated on them, which was wrong. And my sister took care of them, but I took them to see their father.”

  • “State Security began to say that I was a gross and illiterate black woman and that I could not lead the Ladies in White. Laura [Laura Pollán, the first leader of the Ladies in White – ed.] died, there was nothing left to do, the Ladies in White were over. They underestimated me. And I told them a year later: ‘You underestimated me, and I’ve been the leader for a year already.’ Well. And here I am.”

  • “In 2009, when I decided to stop working, I dedicated myself only to the children, my husband and my activism as a Lady in White. It was hard. It was very hard because all that time... I have to thank my sister very much, she supported me a lot. Because sometimes I did not even sleep in my house, I had to stay at the house of Laura Pollán [the first leader of the Ladies in White – ed.] or go to another place, another province or something like that. And my sister took care of my children. I talked to my children a lot, about the importance of behaving well, of being good students, of being respectful, of understanding what their parents did, what I was doing, and why we were doing it. My children were very understanding. My children understood everything. My children never reproached us for anything. My children told us that we were an exemplary mother and father. That their mother and father were examples to them. They said it and they keep saying it. So, it seems to me that we did not have to inculcate them in any way, they saw these things because they suffered them. But we did have to talk to them so they would understand. They understood it well. It is not easy to be a mother, to be a father, to attend a man in a prison, but also to be a human rights activist, while at the time we did not yet have many tools. Because today, when I’m talking to you in 2018, we already have a telephone to communicate, you can call Radio Martí, or any other station, you can call to any other country. And back then, I did not have those tools, you could not even connect to the internet. And was informed of anything at all. But I think that when you feel love, or do something for love, things end up being less difficult, even when they actually are difficult.”

  • “Well, in Cuba, there is a double moral standard. People live with double standards. Today they shout at you and tomorrow they leave. Today they shout at you and tomorrow they are at any embassy, in order to leave the country. Today they shout at you and afterwards, they are in their homes, complaining about why they do not have food, why they do not have money to buy their children clothes, shoes, satchels... Or why they are stuck somewhere with the traffic collapsed, unable to get anywhere. And they keep on talking about the Revolution, but they do it stuck inside their homes. And they do not want to do it in public, they do not want to go out and take that step, when they are being called by this so-called Revolution. They don’t want to get marked. Do you understand? But really, here in Cuba, racism seeks to denigrate you, to offend you. But ultimately, although they think in a different way, even if they are organized, even if they are funded, even if they are being sent, whatever they are, we have to realize that we are all Cubans and we are all brothers.”

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    La Habana, Cuba, 08.05.2018

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I don’t know when I’m a mom and when I’m a wife. But I am always a human rights activist

Berta Soler in her youth
Berta Soler in her youth
photo: archivo de la testigo

Berta Soler Fernández was born on 31 July 1963 in Matanzas as the youngest of seven children. Her childhood was marked by the death of her father when Berta was just seven years old. She studied to be a medical technician in microbiology and graduated in the school year of 1980-1981. In 1984, she moved to Havana, where she worked at a maternity hospital as a specialist in her field. Later, under a study program for workers, she studied at the Faculty of Pharmacy and, later, of Biochemistry, though she did not finish her studies. She worked at the hospital in Havana until 2009, when she felt forced to leave her work because of constant surveillance by the Cuban regime. Since then she has been a human rights activist and the leader of the “Ladies in White” [Damas de Blanco] movement. However, her activism began long before - when her husband Ángel Moya Acosta was sent to prison four times for defending human rights, the last time during the “Black Spring of Cuba” in 2003. Berta’s husband was released in 2010 together with other political prisoners, and since then, they continue fighting together for human rights in Cuba. They have two children who reside in the United States of America.