The Origin of the Ladies in White

The female family members of 75 arbitrarily detained prisoners join together to call for the peaceful release of their husbands, brothers or sons in March 2003.

The Cuban "Black Spring" in March of 2003 generated international attention; 75 Cuban human rights activists, journalists and opposition activists were arrested and sentenced to prison terms of 6 to 28 years.  Two weeks later, some of the female family members of the "Group of 75" came together to protest the arbitrary detention of their husbands, sons, or brothers. Hence, the prisoner aid organization ‘Damas de Blanco’ (Ladies in White) was born. Dressed in white, they regularly attend Sunday Mass together in the church of Santa Rita de Casia in Havana to pray for their imprisoned relatives. Afterwards, they march silently through the streets of the Cuban capital, with a gladiola in one hand and a photo of jailed relatives in the other hand. The organization suffered a bitter loss at the end of 2011 with the death of its charismatic founder and spokeswoman, Laura Pollán.  According to its current spokeswoman, Berta Soler, over 115 members are involved today, and take part in organized protest marches in many cities of Cuba (including Havana, Santiago de Cuba, Palma Soriano and Santa Clara). Outside of Cuba, the organization is represented by Blanca Reyes Castañon in Spain and Yolanda Huerga Cedeño in the US.