Ay mi’jo, I would die of shame if I told you the things I’ve had to do, to earn a living (…) Fortunately, the best thing about working on my own is that even though beginnings are hard and there are always difficulties, I have managed to find my business (…)
Since I’m from Bauta [municipality about 25 miles southwest of Havana] I have to get up early almost every day, from Monday to Saturday, to be in Havana from 7 to 8 AM at a friend’s house who rents me her kitchen in Cerro. Then I have until noon to cook the food I’ll sell, and I have to make it well (…)
On a daily basis I prepare around fifty lunches. I put them in the containers I have, and around noon I go and sell them at a taxi stop by Parque de la Fraternidad.
Afterwards, I’ll go back to my friend’s house and prepare for the next day, buying anything I might need, or defrosting and seasoning meat. In the afternoon, I’m off to Bauta once again (…)
It’s been like that for five years (…) I’ve always been a dreamer, with many hopes and aspirations, but now at my age I try to not expect much from the future. Better to have it surprise me.
Translated by Leidy Johana Gonzalez and Brenda Rivera
I was a volleyball player in the last golden era of the sport in Cuba. I played alongside the best in the world: Marshal, Dennis, Pimienta, Diago, Iosvany Hernández. I played on the national team in the 1999 Tournament of the Americas in the United States, and in 2000 I almost went to Sydney, but right after that, during the best moment of my career, the team changed coaches and volleyball practically finished for me. They never called me again for the team and I decided to retire from the sport (…)
Since then, I’ve tried a thousand times to get back in. I started training young boys, and I was even on a sports mission to Portugal, but I couldn’t maintain myself financially with that, and I had no choice but to start working as a security guard in various nightclubs, like so many others. (…)
What I want most is to get back to volleyball, at least to train and prepare the youth, but the way things are now, I believe I’m just going to have to keep maintaining law and order in the Havana nights.
Translated by Jorge Vásquez, Aliaksandra Rabtsava, Vanessa Parra Henao
There’s hardly anyplace left to skate. You can walk around here and the only thing you can find are parks, which are really useless and sometimes we bother people. Old people scold us. I have friends that practice in the middle of the street because the ramps and installations that once existed are in ruins and no one bothers to fix them.
I’m not a professional; those who are more involved with skateboarding skate around Prado. I skate more often in Paseo. I do it as a pastime or as a hobby, like they say in English. Sometimes before coming out I watch extreme sport videos. There are even kids who win competitions with incredible technique.
I don’t know if there are competitions here in Havana. I don’t think so. It’s difficult because there’s no place to skate so you have to adapt. My favorite athlete is Tony Hawk, one of the toughest skaters I have seen. But personally I’ve never dreamed of skating seriously, I mean professionally.
I am in 10th grade and there is not much entertainment here, or anywhere else. While other kids my age are listening to reggaeton or, I don’t know, wasting time talking nonsense and telling lies, I grab my skateboard and spend a few hours in the afternoon riding it.
Translated by Cynthia Vasquez Bermeo, Josselyn Lopez, Natalia Pardo
I literally just saw a police officer ask a couple of kids for their identification and I’m pretty sure he did it because they were black. That’s just the life they were dealt. I have almost never seen the same happen to white kids. It’s as if whites are invisible to the police.
And then you hear people say that racism doesn’t exist in Cuba. And the funny thing is that it could’ve been those same whites that just finished robbing a house around here because whites also steal. I walk a lot around the neighborhood of Vedado, so I see many things.
Because of the color of my skin and my mean look, I get stopped all the time by the cops. I don’t want any problems. People look at me and think that I’m a tough guy but really, I don’t like fights or drama.
My thing is, I just like walking around town from time to time, finding small little jobs here and there to make money. Some days I sell fish and on other days I sell cans of paint.
I’m not really committed to anything right now but I have to find my way. I live alone but regardless I have to take care of myself. And on the weekends, I like to drink a little, like anybody would.
Definitely not beer though, because it’s more expensive. Besides, I’m more of a ‘rum’ type of guy, even though I advise people not to drink it. Rum is the reason why so many people are messed up in this country. I have a friend who went blind because he drank whatever he could get his hands on. I think he ended up drinking wood alcohol.
Translated by Oliver Inca, Patricio Pazmino, Marta Reyes
San Lázaro has been my savior. I’ve been through some very hard times and only when I placed my faith in San Lázaro was I able to find my way. Many people don’t understand why I do this. I left school in ninth grade, quite early, to work and help my mom. She earned very little money. How was she going to raise my ailing brother and me, if the money was never enough, not even for food?
They always called us ‘poorly dressed’, and to top it off we lived in a house cramped with people. (…) Since 2007 I’ve been making my pilgrimage. I remember the first time, I did the whole trip in somersaults. My brother went with me. I swear that one was the most exhausting trip. I passed through many villages, but I was told that was how it was supposed to be, I had to prove my faith. And I did.
Once I got to El Rincón they took pictures of me, movies… I felt that San Lázaro was with me. It was my first time at the Santuario del Rincón [the church dedicated to San Lázaro in the village of El Rincón to the south of Havna], and when I came in the door it was something amazing. Seeing the photographers and the people shouting, giving me water, it felt good. (…)
Today I’m alone, my brother feels better. I start my trajectory in November and I go around the streets of Havana collecting alms. Everyone stops, even the children. I see fear in their little faces, but one day they will understand.
You’re lucky to be witnessing the debut of one of the major go-getters in the bicitaxi business. Old Havana is crammed with ‘yumas’ [foreigners]. You see them on the streets, getting crazy, desperate to move from one place to another, looking and always asking. (…) And here’s Pancho, ready to be of service to those who need it. (…) I’ll admit I still have to fix up my “ship”, paint it, add cushions, lights, music. I’ll even have to dress better; I know the competition will back-stab you with those little details. (…)
Even though it’s my first week, I can already see that a lot of people are trying to get into the bicitaxi trade. You’re in constant contact with foreigners who are the ones with big bucks. (...) Since networking is everything, I’ve already partnered with some hotel owners, so I can play that card. If I happen to pick someone up who doesn’t have a place to stay, I’ll drive them to one of my contacts and afterwards I’ll collect my commission. (…)
I have a lot of advantages, but I’m just getting started. I know the neighborhood. I know five languages, at least enough to communicate the basics. Besides, now that “El Supremo” is gone, I’ll be the king of Havana. As the saying goes: I’ve got my charm going for me, asere! I have the key!
Translated by Camila Fernandez, Kendra Gil, Jingqi He
I studied at a Camilito [one of the Camilo Cienfuegos Military Academies]. But for financial reasons, I had to drop out and start working. My father washed his hands of me and my mom did the best she could. When I used to go out on the weekends, I would come home with no shoes. It was very hard.
I started working as a bicycle taxi driver approximately four years ago. My work hours are around 7AM to 5PM, and I pay 3 CUC [equivalent to $3.00 U.S.] a day for the bicycle rental. Clients call me or look for me because I have a reputation for being trustworthy and honest. Thanks to them I always have work.
What I’d really like is the restaurant business, to be a bartender or something like that. I’ve always wanted to better myself professionally, but if I were attending night school I couldn’t work past 1pm. That wouldn’t allow me to earn enough money to accomplish the goals I’ve set. If I continue down this path, ten years from now, I’m not going to be much good to anyone unless my quality of life changes for the better.
I have thought about leaving Cuba. I love my country, but there is so much that needs to be changed and no one knows where to start. My dream is to have my own business. I’m willing to make sacrifices. But I don’t want to do it for no reason.
Translated by Mayra Condo, Karlina Cordero, Stephanie Desouza
Cubanet, Tania Diaz Castro, 13 March 2017 – This 13 March is the 49th anniversary of the Great Revolutionary Offensive, that economic project that emerged from the little brain of the “Enlightened Undefeated One,” to ruin the Cuban economy even further.
Although each year the so-called Castro Revolution was a real disgrace for all Cubans, the worst of all was the day that Fidel Castro did away with more than 50,000 small private businesses: establishment where coffee with milk and bread with butter was served, high quality restaurants mostly for ordinary Cubans; expert carpentry workshops; the little Chinese-run fritter stands; fried food stalls which, for those who don’t remember, used prime beef; shoe shiners who plied their trade along the streets; people who sold fruit from little carts; milkmen who delivered to homes, etc. A project that caused unemployment among workers with long experience and that upset people. continue reading
Under the slogan of creating “a New Man,” something that today inspires laughter, the Great Revolutionary Offensive is no longer mentioned. Not even one more anniversary of that nonsense is mentioned in the media, as if nobody remembers the great mistake of the Commander in Chief.
The “New Man,” proposed as a part of this, ended up losing his skills and trades forever: cabinetmakers, turners, gypsum and putty specialists, blacksmiths, longtime carpenters, tailors, seamstresses, book restorers and many others, were forced to give up their work and take up screaming “Homeland or death, we will win!” Over the years, between the invasive marabou weed and the “magic” moringa tree, they were converted into the now well-known undisciplined, lazy, lethargic, absent, stealing in their workplaces and dreaming of working outside their country. A kind of worker who, it is true, thanks to the crazy economic juggling of Fidel Castro, is inefficient even faced with cutting-edge technology.
A recent example has been widely commented upon by Havanans: two hundred Indian workers have been hired for the construction of the Gran Manzana Kempinski Hotel, under the argument that Cuban workers cannot deliver the same performance.
Those who ask whether this is appropriate, seem to have forgotten that Cuba still suffers the great drama of lost trades.
The elders of today, who analyze everything through the great magnifying glass of time, come to the correct conclusion that these workers have been not only victims of the economic disaster that the country suffers, and then converted by force into members of a first opposition against the regime, an opposition that has done a lot of damage and the result of which has been to live in a country lacking development and technology for decades and, therefore, instead of good pay they receive alms, as a punishment to shame them.
Raúl Castro said it recently: “We have to erase forever the idea that Cuba is the only country in the world where it is not necessary to work.” Would it not have been more accurate to say: “the only country where people do not want to work, so that the socialist dictatorship will end?”
That would be the real solution.
If Raul does not say it, it is because he is afraid to be sincere. Miguel Díaz Canel, his first Vice-President, may say it through his always lost looks, as lost as those trade that reigned in a Cuba that was not Fidel’s.
Cubanet, Ana Leon, Havana, 3 March 2017 – Jose Vargas is 85 years old and a retired musician. He lives alone in a room in a tenement in Old Havana, depending on a monthly check of 240 Cuban pesos (eight dollars U.S.) and whatever help his neighbors can offer.
For two years this old man has waited for cataract surgery in both eyes. He was “given the run around” without the least consideration at the League Against Blindness; at Dependent Hospital, the operating room ceiling collapsed, causing the indefinite postponement of the surgery; and at Calixto Garcia Hospital there were no doctors available.
In spite of Vargas’ ordeal, the official press speaks with pride of the aging population that today comprises 18% of the Cuban population. It argues that this longevity is an achievement of the socialist system and optimistically describes it as a “challenge” for the near future. But at the current juncture, the free health benefits that the Island’s high officials preach so much about in front of international agencies are not perceived. How can you plan to confront the “challenge” if a helpless old man has to wait two years for a cataract operation? continue reading
Disabled by partial blindness and diabetes, Vargas began to experience hunger. He suffered hypoglycemia more than once from not eating for long hours. Rosa, 68 years old, is the only neighbor who, in accordance with her means, has dealt with feeding him and washing his clothes. “It hurt me to see him so dirty and hungry (…) I have seen him eating things that are not good for an old diabetic,” the lady told CubaNet.
Nevertheless, Rosa could not take on that responsibility for long given that she herself is retired and has health problems; so she tried to seek help.
Trusting in Christian charity, she went to the New Pines Evangelical Church – very near the tenement where Vargas lives – which distributes food daily for some elderly loners. But what a surprise when a woman responded to her, without the least sign of compassion: “That is not our problem. Go see the delegate [to the local People’s Power], the Party and the Government.”
Rosa explained Vargas’ case to Old Havana’s Municipal Government and sought a food quota and social worker services from the Family Attention Centers. Reluctantly, they gave her written authorization that would permit Vargas to carry home, twice a day, a bowl with rice, peas, scrambled eggs and jam; all poorly made and without the necessary caloric content.
As if that were not enough, Vargas had to walk a kilometer a day or pay 30 Cuban pesos (a fifth of his pension) for a bicycle-taxi in order to collect the food. The social worker who should have taken care of this task never showed up.
Behind the suffering of a forsaken old man there is so much administrative corruption and human sordidness that right now the prospect of growing old in Cuba is terrifying. The State does not have the institutions or the specialists equipped to confront the wave of aging that is approaching. The old age shelters – with a couple of exceptions – are worse and do not accept old people with dementia, advanced Alzheimer’s or any other illness that requires care around the clock.
At the beginning of the century Fidel Castro dedicated many resources to graduating thousands of social workers who only served to squander public funds in that crazy “Summer on Wheels” campaign, where the same young people charged with regulating fuel consumption in order to protect State property wound up stealing it. The government spent millions of pesos, awarded college degrees to a gang of delinquents and today cannot even harvest the humanitarian benefit of the investment planned on the basis of political volunteerism and a lack of common sense.
In Cuba today there are not enough social workers, geriatric specialists, adequate food or medicines. Many unfortunate old people live in dwellings that are in a deplorable state. Vargas himself is in constant risk of slipping on the mold caused by leaks in the tenement’s cistern; or being killed by a piece of loose brick from the eaves and balconies of the building whose century-old structure is in an advanced state of deterioration.
In the face of official indifference, people who don’t have a place to live enter “the mansion” in an old folks’ home, to be “cared” for in exchange for staying with the living instead of the dead. While death approaches, who complains of mistreatment? Who can say if the old person accepts his new situation or is feeling threatened?
A country that does not concern itself with old adults leaves them to the mercy of bad people. That is the future that awaits Cuba, given that the State wants to subsidize everything, and it is not possible. Families have fragmented because of the exiles, and not even the Church can be counted on. It is no wonder that the number of suicides by elderly people has increased, although the government hides the statistics.
Cubanet, Tania Diaz castro, 14 February 2017 — Nelson Rodríguez Leiva, 26, was shot in La Fortaleza de la Cabaña in 1971, along with his dearest friend, Angelito de Jesús Rabí, 17.
Also in the same place, but a century earlier, the poet Juan Clemente Zenea was shot.
It did not help Nelson that, in 1960 he had been a teacher in the Literacy Campaign in the mountains of Oriente, or that in 1964 he already had an excellent book of stories published by Virgilio Piñera, in Ediciones R, or that his mother Ada Leiva wrote a letter to Fidel Castro asking for clemency for her son, or that another book of Nelson’s poems was pending publication. continue reading
Just a few days ago El Nuevo Herald in Miami published an extensive report about the exposition of the writer Juan Abreu, with one hundred portraits of those executed by the Castro regime, painted by him, and presented at the headquarters of the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium.
Perhaps Nelson’s face was there.
Abreu received the respect and admiration of former political prisoners such as Pedro Corso, director of the Cuban Institute of Historical Memory Against Totalitarianism, and the poet Angel Cuadra, who said that Abreu’s Exposition “… is like making history talk through the faces, to rescue them and give them new life.” He would have also received the support of the writer Reinaldo Arenas, a dear friend, who lamentably died in New York and who always remembered his friend Nelson.
It’s about, said Abreu, “… not conventional portraits, but an approach to the faces, so often blurred, conserved in old photos.”
Abreu’s project is a history of the Cuban regime, today in the hands of Raul Castro, who wants to erase, above all, those days when this place was used for executions after summary trials, to make examples or simply for revenge or fear of a fierce opposition that arose among all the political opponents condemned to death. Bringing it to the European Parliament must be considered a victory.
The number of five thousand individuals shot dead hangs like a Sword of Damocles over Cuba. The spirit of all these who faced the firing squad hangs over La Cabana Fortress, no matter how many parties are held there, no matter who much fun and excitement and hullabaloo there is, no matter how many books are sold at the book fair that the executioner government hold every year, for a people who are so busy just trying to survive that they don’t have time to read.
In this fortress, with a history as dark as the dictatorship itself, the Book Fair is celebrated, strategic project of Fidel Castro to clean the blood off their graves, cells, bars and walls, as if history could be made to disappear.
The two young writers, Nelson and Angelito, were tied up there, their eyes closed, so as not to see the rifles of the night, close together, as they asked to die.
Not long ago, someone who knew them, told me that Nelson was very romantic, that he wept with the melodies of The Beatles, and even resembled a bit James Dean, the American actor of the fifties and that Angelito, converted Into his noble page, had the face of a child.
Through the sad streets of La Cabaña Fortress, where Nelson and his friend walked towards death, today walk the “grateful” who ignore this story. They are looking for a book to read. Not precisely Nelson’s book of stories, The Gift, or those pages smeared with tears that someone picked up from an empty dungeon.
Cubanet, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, Havana, 14 February 2017 – The story I want to relate has two parts, one is true and the other is fiction. The real one is an event I was involved in at the Carlos III market while in line to buy yogurt, one of the products in shortest supply in this country – despite the fact that it is sold in hard currency – and in this case with a price of 0.70 Cuban convertible pesos (CUC), although there are other yogurts sold in different containers for as much as 5 CUC (1 CUC is roughly equal to $1 US).
In front of me, while we were waiting, was a young woman of around 30 something, but I could see she’d had a pretty rough life. She had the money in her hand, some of it in 5 and 10 centavo coins in CUC and a note for 5 Cuban pesos (CUP) – because, as you know, now the stores have to accept both currencies. All of a sudden she dropped a 10 centavo coin and to her great misfortune it rolled under one of the display cases and although the woman made a great effort to retrieve it, she could not.
She turned to leave the line and I asked, “Are you leaving?” and she said, “Yes, I had the exact amount of money and I dropped 10 centavos under that case.” Without thinking twice I said, “No, don’t leave, take the ten centavos.” continue reading
She accepted with the happiest look on her face and told me, “You have no idea how grateful I am, because my older daughter is sick and she doesn’t want to eat anything.”
From that moment, with the facility a Cuban has to establish communication with another person, even if they don’t know them, we spent the next thirty minutes while we continued to wait in line talking to each other.
She explained that she worked as a teaching assistant at an elementary school, but often had to be the teacher because there aren’t enough educators. She is divorced and the monthly support she receives from the children’s father is 50 Cuban pesos (roughly $2 US). That plus her own salary is not enough to live on and she has to “invent” and go begging to her mother. She told me, literally, “You have no idea what I have to do to be able to feed my kids.”
Like any good Cuban, she lives in a building considered uninhabitable, but she won’t accept going to a shelter because she knows other people who live in those conditions and it is dangerous for the girls, now that they are becoming young ladies. Because her apartment is on the second floor and nothing works, she has no running water and every other day has to carry up 10 or 12 buckets of water to meet highest priority needs, although she says she is grateful to her mother who washes and irons the girls school uniforms.
“Imagine. My mother was a member of the Party (Communist) and worked in the Federation of Cuban Women and as for my my father, may he rest in peace, his surname was Castro, so it occurred to her to name me Mariela [after Raul Castro’s daughter]. Now she regrets it.”
Then she said that she did not listen to her mother and married a man who drank a lot, and when he came home he beat her. It took a lot of work to get out of that torture and now she regrets not having listened to her mother’s advice.
He left them that disastrous apartment where they live in Centro Habana, and now she is stuck because her sister is married and has two children and also lives in the divided living room, which doubles as a room for both her and her sister’s families in the home of their parents.
She confessed to me that she had been so distressed that she takes her daughters and walks along the Malecon. And she said the girls understand the whole situation and do not ask for anything. But they’re growing up and they have to have shoes and school uniforms and something to eat for a snack at school, which is almost always a piece of bread, because at breakfast they eat half of her daily quota (on the ration book).
I think she had a great need for someone to listen to all her problems and saw the opportunity to vent.
With a little imagination, while I was on my way to my house, I began to think about how the other Mariela might live, the one her mother named her after.
At the entrance, everyone can see that other Mariela’s super residence in the Miramar neighborhood even has a pool, always filled with water. There are several cars and they and the house are all beautifully maintained. This is something that you don’t have to imagine, and it is not fiction.
But surely that Mariela Castro does not line up to buy yogurt at 70 cents CUC and much less would she be sad if she dropped a coin, as all her food problems are taken care of without her even having to leave the house.
When she gets up for breakfast she does not “donate” her bread to the children. A maid prepares the food, certainly with ham, milk, bread, juices, etc. She is assured of coffee every day, very likely imported, she probably gets the most desirable brands brought in from Miami.
She doesn’t have to worry about what time the bus will come to take her to work; in the first place because she doesn’t have to mark a timecard and in the second because she has a modern car to take her to work without having to get all sweaty and push her way onto the bus with all the other people.
I could continue imagining things that we all know are part of the standard of living of the high government hierarchy, but I leave it to the reader so we can all share in this fictional (?) part of the story.
Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez, Havana, 9 February 2017 — Try as I might—to avoid being a bore and accused of holding a grudge against the boy—I cannot leave Harold Cárdenas, the ineffable blogger at La Joven Cuba, in peace, I just can’t. And the fault is his own, because the narrative he makes out of his adventures defending his beloved Castro regime, and his loyal candor, strikes one as a kind of masochism worse than that of Anastasia Steele, the yielding girl in Fifty Shades of Grey.
In a post on 19 January, Harold Cardenas complained of the terrible limbo, for a communist, in which he finds himself (not to mention that it would be the envy of many militants who accepted the red card because they had no other option): Harold, being past the requisite age, was removed from the Union of Young Communists (UJC), but he is not accepted into the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) because, they explain, he is still too young. continue reading
His situation reminds me of a 1976 song by the British rock band Jethro Tull (which Harold probably doesn’t know, because of his age, and because I can’t imagine him listening to any music other than that of Silvio, Buena Fe and Calle 13). The song tells the story of the disconsolate and hairy motorcyclist and failed suicide, Ray, who was “too old to rock and roll, too young to die.”
Harold Cárdenas rightly intuits, given the entrenchment recently being displayed by the regime, that he has been given the boot—or the bat, as his contemporaries say—from both organizations because of his publications “in other media.” And so he knocks himself out with explanations, challenges his punishers to find one counterrevolutionary line in his writings, “but without taking a line or a post out of its context—conducting a serious search through the totality of the content.”
As if these guys needed to go to so much trouble to suspect someone and consider him an enemy!
The blogger, with his foolish sincerity and wild innocence (Ay, Julio Iglesias!) has annoyed the stony big shots and their subordinate “hard-core” little shots—always so unsympathetic towards those who, even while remaining within the Revolution, dare to think with their own heads and give too many opinions. This is why they consider him undisciplined, hypercritical, and irresponsible, why they don’t want him in the UJC nor the PCC.
Overall, he came out all right, because in other times, not too long ago, who knows what the punishment might have been…
Harold Cárdenas, with his faith intact through it all, assures us that he does not have a single complaint about the Party, although, as he says, it hurts him “how some dogmatists detract from the collective intelligence of the organization.”
As far as Harold is concerned, his punishers do not answer to an official policy, but rather are dogmatic extremists who think themselves more leftist than Stalin. He warns: “We must take care not to confuse sectarian procedures with State or Party politics, even if they try to disguise themselves as such. The individuals who apply them, although they might try to justify their actions as being taken in the name of the Revolution or some institution, are doing it for themselves. They are trying to preserve the status quo of the known, motivated by fear, ignorance or other interests.”
Harold Cárdenas, who seems to believe himself the reincarnation of Julio Antonio Mella (who, by the way, seems to have been assassinated by order of his comrades and not the dictator Machado, due to his Trotskyite connections) believes that what is happening is a “tactical struggle among revolutionary sectors” of which he has been a victim. But he does not despair. With the patience of a red Job, having been warned that “it is very difficult to fight for a better society outside of the movement that must lead the construction,” Cárdenas says that he will join the Party when he will not have to “subordinate the political struggle to a vertical discipline… when they give me a way, there will be a will.”
And one, faced with such resigned masochism, does not know whether to pity Harold in his wait for the blessed little red card, or give him up as incorrigible, and let him continue to self-flagellate. May Lenin Be With Him!
Cubanet, Roberto Jesus Quinones Haces, Guantanamo, 10 February 2017 – The Havana International Book fair and its provincial offshoots would be more important events if there were debates where all Cuban intellectuals could participate without exclusions. But they are walled prosceniums where there is only room for writers who never raise their voices against any internal injustices. The discriminated and persecuted find solidarity in other parts of the world; here, no.
So it is not news – nor will be – that these uncomfortable writers are excluded from debates and even the Fair itself, if they do not fit the established molds for “docile wage earners of official thought,” a phrase from the Argentine guerrilla with a happy trigger finger and fierce hatreds. continue reading
Beyond the characteristics of the Fair, where there are more people eating and getting drunk than buying books and participating in cultural activities, I want to dwell on the intolerance of Cuban publishing policy.
“We do not tell the people to believe, we say read”
This phrase is from Fidel Castro and belongs to the earliest days of his totalitarian state. When the National Printing Company of Cuba issued a massive printing of “Don Quixote,” our country inaugurated a luminous time for culture by making available to readers, at very cheap prices, innumerable classics of universal literature. That effort, which is maintained, was and is praiseworthy, although it has also been marked by prohibitions and notorious absences.
Disciplines such as Philosophy, Sociology, Law, Politics and History did not receive the same attention as literature, and today, after 58 years of Castroism, authors and works of international prestige still have not yet been published because the censors are the ones who decide what we can read, and what is published must be consistent with the policy imposed by the regime. To this is added the justification that Cuba cannot pay copyright fees to the affected writers.
Among these, are the Chileans Roberto Bolaño and Isabel Allende, while Nobel laureates Octavio Paz and Mario Vargas Llosa, have been published very little, although perhaps the exclusion of the latter is due to his criticism of Castroism. Gabriele D’Annunzio, Aldous Huxley, Milan Kundera, Boris Pasternak and Alexander Solzhenitsin also appear in the waiting circle. William Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury,” Robert Musil’s “The Man Without Attributes” and Vasili Grossman’s “Life and Destiny” have also not been published and still unknown in Cuban are Karl May, Enid Blyton, Albert Camus and Heinrich von Kleist while other authors are being re-published to exhaustion. And don’t even talk about contemporary European and American literature. I am writing from my declining memory, for if I consulted a book on the history of universal literature, the list would be immense.
Authors and texts with a strong democratic vocation remain unpublished here, although historical developments have proved them right. Within that extensive group are Simone Weil, Nikola Tesla and Wendell Berry. After little tirades made in 1960, not published again in Cuba are “The Great Scam” by Eudocio Ravines, “Anatomy of a Myth” by Arthur Koestler and “The New Class” by Milovan Djilas.
An extraordinary book, “The Man in Search of Sense” by Viktor Frankl, remains unpublished. The list is joined by Erich Fromm, Ortega y Gasset and even socialists such as Leon Trotsky, Antonio Gramsci and Ernst Fischer. To this we can add “Thirteen days” by Robert Kennedy, “Gabo And Fidel, The Landscape Of A Friendship,” by Ángel Esteban and Stéphanie Panichelli and “God Entered Havana” by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán. “The End of History and the Last Man,” published in Spanish by Planeta 25 years ago remains beyond the reach of Cubans and only last year, more than forty years after its initial publication, “The Great Transformation” by Karl Polanyi was published and that topped those of universal literature by Ferdydurke and Witold Gombrowicz, while Borges remains almost unheard of.
Cuban authors who have written objective analyzes of Castroism or unauthorized memoirs are also blacklisted. I can cite here Carlos Franqui, Dariel Alarcon the “Benigno” of Che’s guerilla), Juan F. Benemelis with “The Secret Wars of Fidel Castro,” Juan Clark with his extraordinary book “Cuba: Myth and Reality,” Norberto Fuentes with “Sweet Cuban Warriors” and Commander Huber Matos with “How Night Fell.” Antonio Benítez Rojo, Zoé Valdés, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Reinaldo Arenas, Manuel Granados remain proscribed along with Eliseo Alberto Diego, with the great majority of Cubans not knowing his shocking testimony “Report Against Myself.”
That these books and authors are not published belies the much vaunted tolerance for diversity that the main representatives of the regime claim to the unsuspecting and others who are always ready to believe them. And saying that these books are not published because they can’t pay the authors for the copyright is a half-truth.
If they didn’t print so many insignificant books and allocated resources to truly relevant works, the panorama would be different. The bland books do not make you think and their destination is on the dusty shelves of bookstores, or their pages torn out to make cones to sell peanuts in, or to use for personal cleansing. The significant books are always dangerous and that is well known by the censors.
Cubanet, Augusto Cesar San Martin and Rudy Cabrera, Havana, 23 January 2017 – In 2014, Cuban doctor Nelson Cabrera Quinta, his wife and two teenage children were declared illegal occupants of his home located at No. 1705 – 200th Street in the Havana neighborhood of Siboney. The house has been part of the family patrimony for 40 years and they have been been permanently residing in it for 12 years.
Six months after Dr. Cabrera left on an official Cuban medical mission in Saudi Arabia, his wife Bisaida Azahares received a notification from the Ministry of Construction to evacuate the house immediately. continue reading
“In the resolution it says: Leave the house [and go to] to your place of origin. We do not have options and much less a place to go… We are afraid, we have been told so many things about the eviction, that they are very violent people who open the doors, they break them down, they come in and they just put you out and that’s it. Imagine yourself, alone with two children,” says Bisaida.
Dr. Cabrera was warned that when he traveled abroad as a health worker, that they were going to evict his family from the house. For a long time that was the reason he rejected the chance to serve on several collaboration missions, and continued to direct one of the polyclinics in the Playa municipality. The doctor lowered his guard when the municipal president of the People’s Power assured him that while he was on a government mission, there would be no “forced extraction” at his house.
The right to reside in a garage
The resolution of “forced extraction”, the Cuban “neo-eviction,” is the result of a claim filed five years ago by the University of Medical Sciences of Havana (UCMH) against Nelson Cabrera Quintana and his family. According to the institution, the family lives in one of the 17 houses owned by the school in the residential division of Siboney, considered a “frozen zone,” which means the family registered as living in the residence must be “officially verified.”
The Cabrera family resides in the garage of a mansion, divided into three units. One-third of the house was granted in 1979 to the grandfather Gilberto Falcón Darriba, because of his work; he was a founder of UCMH, then the Institute of Medical Sciences of Havana, where he worked for more than 40 years.
Falcón lacked the mental and physical health to claim his property rights when he arrived at the end of 15 years residing in the garage. According to the provisions of the Ministry of Public Health, the houses are granted after having been leased for 15 years, giving the property to the lessee. Librada Arancibia, Falcon’s wife was on the verge of gaining title after her husband died in the United States, afflicted with Parkinson’s Disease.
“My grandmother was not recognized as the owner even though she initiated the process. I have documents from various UCMH lawyers who explicitly say that they were being deprived of the house they lived in for more than 20 years, and that they had paid the bank for in full,” says Nelson.
However, UCMH recognized the right of the elderly woman to live until the last day of her life in the residence transformed into a fortress.
Siboney, residential enclave
Each third of the residence has a different history, tied to its being property of the UCMH. On the main floor of the house, lived Dr. Caridad Dovale, retired from the UCMH, who emigrated to the United States in 2012. According to a document from the university center, her husband stayed in Cuba, managing to obtain the right to the property. In 2016 Dovales returned to Cuba, was repatriated and regained ownership of the house, as a university doctor.
The so-called “part behind,” belonging to the third, was claimed by the educational institution in 2013. Nelson affirms that Armando Hart Dávalos (former Minister of Education and Culture) and his wife interceded for those residents, and managed to get the eviction process cancelled.
The Cabrera family asks: Why if Falcón emigrated to the US, his wife did not get the benefit of housing, like the neighbors above? What has more value in Cuba, citizen rights or a good godfather in the government?
The answer is clear in the Siboney area, a neighborhood full of mansions built before 1959 by the so-called “bourgeoisie,” but which today is dominated by the government upper class.
Cubanet, Tania Diaz Castro, Havana, 3 January 2017 — In the Cuban national press there are many stories of the Castro dictatorship that are very rarely told. Unfortunately the official journalists do not investigate before they write and repeat like parrots the official script.
One of these stories is about the armored train of Santa Clara and what happened between the last two days of 1958 and January 1, 1959. Despite being wrapped in a blanket of badly connected lies, the story is still used by the national press, and by the government’s own version of a Cuban wikipedia, Ecured, for the chronologies of the regime, and it supported above all by the Cuban History Institute.
Just a few days ago, Nelson Garcia Santos, correspondent for the newspaper Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth), wrote an article about the battle of Santa Clara and the armored train, highlighting the version of Luis Alfonso Zayas, today a general. Zayas said, “The guards, holed up on Capiro Hill, opened fire. The crew of the armored train, when they saw things going badly, retired to the box cars. There, they were personally liquidated by the forces of Ramon Pardo Guerra.” continue reading
The general’s false testimony is as false as were Fidel Castro’s statements, when he described it as a “… bold attack by Che on the city of Santa Clara, with 300 fighters, when they faced an armored train on the outskirts of the city, they intervened on the path between the train and the main headquarters, derailed it, took the train, made everyone surrender and seized all the arms.”
In reality, the armored train did not carry shock troops, but rather dozens of engineers who were intending to repair the bridges and roads destroyed by the rebels. Derailing it was certainly part of the plan for a skirmish, but by the time the train arrived on Capiro Hill it had been sold to Che Guevara by Batista’s military forces, in the person of Colonel Florentino Rosell, for 350 thousand dollars.
Initially, the buyer was to be Commander Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo, as it appears in his Memoirs and, being a great friend of mine, he told me this before he died, but Che, cunningly, got ahead of him.
Also in the memoirs of Fulgencio Batista, printed in Miami in 1960, under the title of Response, he says that: “… the armored train had not been ambushed by Che, but delivered and sold by Rosell, who with the money from the sale, about 350 thousand dollars, fled to Miami in the first days of January of 1959.”
And finally, there is a letter from Che Guevara, written on the same date to Enrique Oltuski Ozacki, the top leader of Las Villas, which has never been reprinted in Cuba, whose contents also explains this story because, in it, Che reproached combatant Oltuski, who refused to rob a bank to obtain the money he needed.
The purchase of the armored train was so hidden by the leadership of the new regime that even impartial historians of those years barely mentioned it, although without noting that since mid-1958, Batista’s troops were tired of the war, corrupted and in the process of negotiating with Fidel Castro.