A Lawyer Who Does Her Profession Proud
Laritza Diversent is a Cuban lawyer, now living in the United States, because she was forced to flee her country. She has a beautiful name, doesn’t she? The last name is of French-Haitian origin.
I met her at the Oslo Freedom Forum. She told me her story, in brief outline, and I will relate it to you.
Her father “worked in the fields,” as she puts it. He had fought in the Sierra Maestra with Fidel Castro. He was always loyal to the regime — right to the end. (He passed away some years ago.) Laritza’s mother is still living, and is in Cuba. She has a handicap (unspecified, and I don’t feel like pressing).
Was Laritza political, when she was a girl? No. She was indifferent to politics. She never wanted to be involved in the Communist Youth League or anything like that. Her parents told her to study as much as she could, to maximize her opportunities in the future. That’s what she did.
Like a great many dissidents, Laritza Diversent is Afro-Cuban. Did she ever suffer racial discrimination? Of course, she says — from schooldays onward. Black women, in particular, have a hard time of it, she says. Cuban men say that black women smell like monkeys and sweat too much and so on.
Furthermore, black women are very hard on themselves, and on one another, says Laritza. Often, they don’t even call themselves “black.” They use euphemisms like “mulatto” and “brown.” They often say they should marry a white man, so as to make the race better, i.e., lighter.
Laritza dreamed of being a lawyer. To this end, she went to the University of Havana Law School. “Same as Fidel!” I remark. Yes, says Laritza, “but he was not a good student. He did not learn anything.”
After earning her degree, Laritza was in a bind. She could not be the kind of lawyer she had dreamed of being: an honest and helpful one. You had to work for the government, in a way. You had to be complicit in the system. You had to be corrupt.
Laritza had a son, and this was important to her — important in her career decisions. She did not want her son to have a mother who was corrupt. Who was a tool of a nasty, oppressive regime.
One day, she met an independent journalist, who asked her some legal questions. She answered them. She started blogging about such questions, too. Laritza explored an area of the law she had never studied: human-rights law. And that’s what she became: a human-rights lawyer.
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