Art and Necessity / Yoani Sanchez

Installation on the Havana Malecon for the XII Havana Biennial

Installation on the Havana Malecon for the XII Havana Biennial(14ymedio)

The man approaches and pulls a fork from the work Delicatessen that is being exhibited on the Havana Malecon during the XII Havana Biennial. Nearby, two neighbors speculate that, at the end of the event, the sand used in Resaca (Hangover) will be given to the surrounding residents to repair their homes. To art appreciation are added hardships and daring, incorporating the spectators into a show they want to make their own, by taking it home and reusing it.

The arrival of the Biennial to our city is a good time to enjoy the aesthetic surprises that await us around every corner, but it also confirms the collision of art and need. Near the artworks employing major material resources the inquisitive eyes of a guard are always watching. The protected works, with their “Don’t touch” signs or surrounded by closed perimeters, abound on sidewalks and in parks, more than they should. A contrast between the interaction sought by the artists who place their works in public spaces, and the excessive protection to which they are subjected, precisely so that this public doesn’t end up taking them away in their pockets, piece by piece.

The guard who prevents vandalism or looting also adds an ideological curator who ensures that no installation, performance or show deviates from the official script. A group of watchdogs of the artistically correct impeded Tania Bruguera from entering the Museum of Fine Arts at the end of last week. These censors of free creation also forced Gorki Aguila into a car, after preventing him from hanging the face of the graffiti artist El Sexto on the same walls where he had left us his indelible signature.

Need marks each work of art of the Havana Biennial. Material need, where a screw used in some pedestal could end up in the door of a home, or in a chair or even in the bed where four people sleep every night. And the other need, that of freedom, makes us approach the art to take for ourselves a piece of its rebellion, before the guard blows his whistle and we leave, empty handed.

 

Laritza Diversent, the Cuban Lawyer who met with Obama / Cubanet, Manuel Guerra Perez

Laritza Diversent independent lawyer (Internet photo)

Laritza Diversent independent lawyer (Internet photo)

cubanet square logoCubanet, Manual Guerra Perez, Havana, 30 April 2015 — Laritza Diversent is a lawyer and director of the Cubalx Center of Legal Information, an independent office that has offered free legal advice since 2010. She graduated from the University of Havana in Law (2008), she is married and has a 16-year-old son.

What exactly is Cubalex and for what purpose did this project come about?

Cubalex is an office that specializes in human rights issues, focusing on national law and the conventions of international laws, which Cuba supposedly relies on. We try to document violations of Human Rights, but our core business is to provide free legal advice to citizens.

The legal advice is for citizens who are ignorant of the law with regards to disparate issues, topics as diverse as housing, criminal, immigration procedures, in short, the varied issues we face daily. Always in legal terms.

Do you collaborate with lawyers from the collective law firms to represent your clients? Who makes up Cubalex?

Our organization is composed of several lawyers, human rights activists, a medical assistant, paralegal and secretary, here in Havana. We also have offices in Camagüey, Granma and Las Tunas. We received requests from the Isle of Youth and to the East, from Baracoa for example. Continue reading

‘El Sexto’ dedicates his award to his jailers to show them that he is not alone / 14ymedio

Lia Villares collects the award for Danilo Maldonado, "El Sexto” Wednesday in Oslo. (MileydiMC)

Lia Villares collects the award for Danilo Maldonado, “El Sexto” Wednesday in Oslo. (MileydiMC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 27 May 2105 – The Cuban artist Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto, could not collect the 2015 International Vaclav Havel Prize for Creative Dissidence, in the ceremony organized by the Oslo Freedom Forum. The prize, awarded by the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) of New York, was received by the activist Lia Villares, since the graffiti artist has been in prison since last December, charged with contempt, for trying to stage a performance with two pigs decorated with the names “Fidel” and “Raul.”

After presenting a brief music video, with the refrain repeating “Three years [in prison] for two pigs, no,” and closing with the images of a rally to demand freedom for the artist and the phrase, “Contempt should never be avoided,” Villares read a letter written by El Sexto from Villa Marista penitentiary. Continue reading

Visits by Americans to Cuba rose by 36% between January and May / 14ymedio

Female entertainers take photos with foreign tourists to earn a few convertible pesos. (14ymedio)

Female entertainers take photos with foreign tourists to earn a few convertible pesos. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 26 May 2015 — The number of visits by US citizens to Cuba has increased 36% in the first five months of the year compared to the same period of 2014, according to data released Tuesday by the Associated Press. The figure, which includes travel through third countries to circumvent restrictions on tourist travel, comes from statistics provided by Jose Luis Perello Cabrera, professor at the University of Havana.

In the months that have followed the announcement of restoration of diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana and easing of the rules governing the travel of US citizens to the island, Cuba received 51,458 visits from its neighbor to the north. Of this total, 38,476 traveled directly from the US, while another 12,982 did so through a third country (57% more than in 2014), mainly from Mexico, the Bahamas, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. Continue reading

Reporters Without Borders to Hollande: “Mr. President, France should…”

Reporters Without Borders to Hollande: “Mr. President, France should seek the immediate and unconditional release of Yoennis de Jesus Guerra Garcia, Juan Antonio Torres, and Angell Santiesteban-Prats.”

Note: This post was written by the editor of Angel’s blog.

Once again, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) demonstrates its commitment to the serious situation in Cuba and writes an open letter to French President Francois Hollande.

On the occasion of the upcoming visit of Hollande to Cuba, they asked him to live up to the pledge he made in 2003 in a column in Le Nouvel Observateur, “Tell the Truth”, and asked him:

“Mr. President, France should seek the immediate and unconditional release of Yoennis de Jesús Guerra García, Juan Antonio Torres, and Ángel Santiesteban-Prats. France can do no less than urge the Cuban authorities to stop the repression and censorship of purveyors of independent information.” Continue reading

Orbiutes / Maykel

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Maykel, Sagua la Grande, 20 May 2015 — My sister is telling me about what she just read: the unpublished autobiography of an elderly doctor in Camaguey. The memoir writer was an octogenarian when he wrote down his memories. The coming of electricity to the village of Cascarro, for example, figures in his review. A Galician installed the generator, pushed a lever, something trembled and there was light. I felt like I was there, my sister concluded.

I also enjoy reading memoirs. I value the survival of time as much as Proust. I’ve been obsessed with lost times since I was a child, when I would ask my grandmother to tell me something about “the olden days.” What came before, with its character of unknown certainty fascinates me, it motivates me more than now. Continue reading

State Inefficiency, Convenient Business / Cubanet, Ernesto Perez Chang

Selling yields no benefits (photo by the author)

Selling yields no benefits (photo by the author)

cubanet square logoCubanet.org, Ernesto Perez Chang, Havana, 22 May 2015 — Attestations about poor or non-existent attention in Cuban state businesses are so abundant that few pay attention to them. In order to offer a response to the indignant, the island’s official press searches for causes of such abuse not in the inefficiency of the state enterprise but in other absurd factors like poor education or lack of professionalism, which do not reveal the corrupt essence of a system that, in spite of the proof of its uselessness, will be kept in place by government will, as is expressed in the Guidelines of the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party.

Why do we receive better treatment in a private restaurant or cafeteria? Why do customer demands bother the clerk and managers of a state eatery and why do they not improve the quality of their offerings? Why do they hide behind any justification in order to remain closed or to reduce their public service hours to the minimum?

According to Vladimir Rodriguez, owner of a busy little restaurant in downtown Vedado, the problem is in the objectives of each:

“As the owner of my business I seek to attract more customers, to offer more variety. I listen to the opinions of the people, the suggestions, I serve them like they were kings because it winds up as earnings. In a state restaurant the earnings do not come from the clients’ consumption and satisfaction but in that quite miserable thing that happens in the warehouse, in the sale to the black market of everything that arrives to be produced and sold to the customers, who turn into a nuisance. What little gets to the table is only to justify the work in case an inspector comes, but the clerks as well as the manager live on the black market. Continue reading

Fidel Castro’s Former Bodyguard Juan Reinaldo Sanchez Dies / 14ymedio

The cover of Juan Reinaldo Sanchez's book, "The Secret Life of Fidel Castro"

The cover of Juan Reinaldo Sanchez’s book, “The Secret Life of Fidel Castro”

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 26 May 2015 – Juan Reinaldo Sanchez, Fidel Castro’s bodyguard between 1977 and 1994, died from lung cancer on Tuesday in Miami. The author of the tell-all book The Hidden Life of Fidel Castro, written in collaboration with the journalist Axel Gflden, had left the Island in 2008.

Sanchez, who belonged to the former presidents personal security force with the rank of lieutenant colonel, was the only member of the guard to flee Cuba. After asking for early retirement, he spent two years in prison.

In his book, the former bodyguard told of the luxurious life of Fidel Castro, revealing that he owned yachts and some twenty residences scattered throughout the Island.

“True Intentions”: Brief Sketch of a Long Relationship / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

Raul Castro with Barack Obama at a press conference at the Summit of the Americas

Raul Castro with Barack Obama at a press conference at the Summit of the Americas

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 14 May 2015 — Few sentences of the Cuban official discourse have been as well-worn as one that refers to “the true intentions” hiding behind the actions of the US government.

This explains the discomfort that the “Paused General*” feels about the American Interests Section in Havana teaching courses to independent journalists or when they hold teleconferences about digital journalism, among other activities. These “illegal activities” that the US government promotes through its Havana Section even award certificates of studies to its graduates. Because “the true intentions” of the government of that country is for these journalists to undermine the strength and ideological unity of our people, piercing it with the intimidating US influence. Continue reading

They Murdered My Son in the Streets of Camaguey / 14ymedio, Pedro Armando Junco

Mandy Junco killed last Saturday in Camaguey.  (Pedro Junco, Fury of the Winds blog)

Mandy Junco killed last Saturday in Camaguey. (Pedro Junco, Fury of the Winds blog)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Armando Junco, Camaguey, 22 May 2015 – Pedro Armando Junco Torres, alias “Mandy,” 28 years of age, was stabbed to death in Camaguey in the early morning of Saturday, May 16, a day before the beginning of the rock festival Sounds of the City. Mandy would have participated in it as guitarist and leader of the band Strike Back. His father, writer Pedro Junco, Thursday posted on his blog, The Fury of the Winds, this open letter in which he asks for “true justice.”

They Murdered my Son on the Streets of Camaguey

By Pedro Armando Junco

It is very difficult for me to write. All you mothers and fathers who read these lines, put yourselves in my place. Just for a minute think that it was your son who was stabbed to death in the street at the hands of four killers who did not even know him, who did not even do it to steal from him or to settle accounts. They think that the motivation was to kill, the pleasure of killing. Put yourself there for only one minute and then assimilate what you have felt in your hearts. That is what I am enduring and will endure until the end of my existence. Continue reading

“If I had someone to sponsor* me…” / Cubanet, Rafael Alcides

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cubanet square logoCubanet, Rafael Alcides, Havana, 19 May 2015 – This morning I woke up pessimistic. There was no milk in the house, and the kind they sell at the “shopping” [hard-currency* store] is priced out of reach for anyone who is not an executive at a firm or who does not have relatives out there who love him very much and are well-off.** But at the bakery where I purchase the bread allotted to me via the libreta [ration book], I ran into somebody who today was more pessimistic than I am. He is a retired teacher and, without taking into account his age, one of those characters who pride themselves on being well informed told him that the ration book is about to be discontinued, that in fact it would be eliminated before August.

The teacher understands that this book weighs heavily in the pocket of the government, but he also thinks that instead of taking it away, the government should make it selective. Neither the powerful musician, nor the executive, nor he who receives remittances from abroad, nor any other characters of the New Bourgeoisie, need the ration book. The teacher, however, retired on a pension of nine dollars per month (that is, less than 30 cents a day), and with no one abroad—what would he do without this small assistance? There are just four little items that the ration book now subsidizes, but these four little items keep him from begging in the streets. The teacher spoke to me very badly of the Revolution, to which he had dedicated his life. Continue reading