In the spring of 2003, the Cuban government arrested 75 journalists, intellectuals, independent librarians and other dissidents as part of an effort to suppress a growing demand for reform in Cuba. After one-day trials the individuals were sentenced to jail terms of 20 to 27 years. Although a few suffering very serious health problems have been released, most are still imprisoned in unimaginably bad living conditions. (The Red Cross is banned from Cuban prisons.)
At the same time as the arrests, many books were also confiscated from the independent libraries. In some cases the courts specifically ordered library materials "? immediately destroyed by incineration." The current display at the library includes several of the titles that were burned by the Cuban government.
In November 2004, the Vermillion Library Trustees voted to sponsor the Dulce Maria Loynaz Library in Havana, which had lost most of its collection in government raids. Although we followed the French cities of Paris and Strasbourg, Vermillion was the first library in the United States to sponsor an independent Cuban one.
Sponsorship has included periodic shipments of library materials, paid for by designated private donations, the moral support our solidarity with them provides, and increased publicity for the cause of free libraries everywhere.
During the first months after our sponsorship, Vermillion received a great deal of radio, newspaper and magazine coverage, including in the Wall Street Journal and the Village Voice in New York. The current display includes a folder with some of those articles and more information about the issue.
Please visit your library, see the exhibit, and appreciate the intellectual freedom we all enjoy.