Until Wednesday, April 29, when intense rains fell on Havana, Agustin — a private-sector farmer who grows chard, lettuce and peppers on a patch of parched land on the outskirts of the capital — was looking skyward to see if he could discern storm clouds on the horizon.
“My yields are low because of the water shortage. I have had to throw out hundreds of kilograms of vegetables because they were too small and their color was bad. It hasn’t rained for months,” says Augustin, who is now worried because too much water is falling on his crops.
National meteorologist Jose Rubiera had declared that the island was experiencing record heat levels in the month of April. It seemed that the rains would have to wait. Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 18 April, 2015 — 2015 is another Year of the Tiger. The avileño* team, headed by former receiver Roger Machado, scored twice, then in the 2012 season they won their first title in the local league to unseat Industriales in five games.
Cuban baseball right now is very even. For years it was dominated by the usual suspects: Industriales, Pinar del Río, Santiago, or Villa Clara.
It is necessary to go back to 1979, when Sancti Spiritus surprised more distinguished rivals. Or to 2001, when in a dramatic play-off to the best of seven against those Sancti Spiritus roosters when Yulieski Gourriel and Frederick Cepada, the Holguin bloodhounds, clouded the sky with the all the bottle rockets that went up after their unexpected victory. Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 12 May 2105 — On Campanario Street, in the Havana neighborhood of Pueblo Nuevo, where in the fall of 2013 tremendous downpours caused the collapse of a house and the death of its two residents, all that remains is a vacant lot.
Several boys play there, seeing who can throw a piece of stone from the old foundation the farthest. Across the street, a man surveys the scene, sitting silently on a wooden stool, smoking, listening on a battery-powered radio to the Champions League game between Real Madrid and Juventus.
“A year and a half ago my neighbors, Fidel Vega and Pastora Góngora, died when the roof of their house collapsed. There was a tremendous roar in the middle of the night, as if a bomb had gone off. Now, since the April 29th rains, many more houses and apartments in Pueblo Nuevo have suffered damage,” he says quietly. Continue reading
Second and third from R. are Cuban Human Rights Activists Manuel Cuesta Morua and Laritza Diversent — see more details at the bottom of the post.
Ivan Garcia, 7 May 2015 — The harm caused to Cubans by the military dictatorship is anthropological. We have an economy that has tanked, a fourth-world infrastructure and salaries that are a bad joke.
Chances are that we will eventually recover from the economic disaster but it will take two or more generations to overcome the damage done to ethics and civic values. The ideological madhouse Fidel Castro created in January 1959 has polarized society.
The regime has divided families and exacerbated differences. It has criminalized political differences while the special services and Communist Party propaganda have turned repression into an art form. Continue reading
Iván García, 20 April 2015 — Hildebrando Chaviano could pass for Obama if the US president’s secret service wanted to use him as a double. At his 65 years, Chaviano shines with the ability to lead. He likes to intone with the voice of a radio announcer, and doesn’t hide his affection for politics.
Like father, like son. His father was a member of the People’s Socialist Party, the Marxist party of Republican Cuba, with a vast labor union and influence on the intellectual and cultural environment.
He came to dissent from the bosom of the Revolution. He was a member of the Young Communists and for five years worked in the Ministry of the Interior (MININT). Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 29 April 2015 — The urology ward at Calixto Garcia Hospital is a bleak scene. Patients in soiled pajamas wander through the halls like zombies with serum on their hands, in search of a urologist, who hasn’t come through the intake room all morning.
Ubaldo, sitting on a granite bench outside the room, chain smoking, waits for a nurse to change his bag full of discharge and urine after emergency surgery for an intestinal blockage.
The old hospital, built in the early years of the twentieth century, is being remodeled at a snail’s pace. But work has not yet reached the urology suite. Nevertheless, Ubaldo claims that Calixto Garcia is one the best hospitals. Continue reading
Iván García, 29 April 2015 — The first time that Yumilka, a teacher, felt discriminated against because of the color of her skin she was only four years old. “It was in the daycare center. I remember coming home crying. A group of children called me ‘negritilla’ or lousy black girl. They didn’t want to share their toys with me. My parents talked to the director and she told them that this was just kid stuff, which couldn’t be classified as racism.”
Racial prejudice continued into her youth. When her boyfriend, a caucasian, took her home to his parents, their silent treatment had an overtly discriminatory overtone.
“After we broke up, I learned that his parents criticized him for not finding a ’whiter’ woman, since they were not in favor of ’combing raisins.’ His father told him that black women were for having sex with, but not for marrying. These were members of the Communist Party, who worked in foreign trade,” recalls Yumilka. Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 15 April 2015 — There were two Summits of the Americas. The one that will be remembered by history is the one of Raul Castro, wide-eyed in the presence of Barack Obama, like a boy waiting to ask for an autograph from a movie star leaving a hotel.
When the tale is told of the VII Summit (which took place in Panama on April 10 and 11, 2015), historians will recall General Castro’s 48-minute speech and his flattering remarks about the U.S. president. And Obama’s comments.
Cuba in 2015 will be remembered for what it is: a country of autocrats where human rights are limited to the right to life, work, universal health coverage and education.
The remaining rights are, according to the regime, fairy tales of bourgeois democracy. Presidential elections? For what? There is no need for multiple parties when one will do. Public demonstrations in the streets and at universities are only for those who support the Castros. Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 6 April 2015 — Without being an expert in economic matters or the Wall Street currency market, Erasmo likes to trust his instincts. For fourteen years he has been engaged in buying and selling dollars and euros.
Also convertible pesos. In the doorway of his house, within walking distance of a state-run currency exchange (CADECA), he offers his services in a lowered voice to the people standing in line to buy or sell CUCs.
“Privately buying or selling currency is illegal in Cuba. The police have already sent me a warning letter and I have paid two fines of 1,200 Cuban pesos (about 50 dollars) for transacting currency exchanges.” Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 14 April 2015 — While a marathon of presidential speeches takes place at Panama City’s Atlapa convention center, back in Cuba the real civil society — the one about which many talk but to which few listen — is biting its nails in front of the television, watching the Cuban baseball playoffs between the Tigers from Ciego de Avila and the Pirates from Isla de la Juventud.
Yordan, a steel worker from the outskirts of Havana, was one of them. It was while sitting down to play dominoes and drink rum with neighborhood friends one night that he learned about the meeting between Obama and Castro.
Suddenly in the role of armchair analysts, they speculated a bit about what a future partnership with the U.S. might hold.
“Listen, in spite of fifty-five years of being bombarded by negative press about the Yankees, most Cubans who decide to emigrate choose to go to the Yuma*. In Cuba everyone goes wild for American brands. Those old, worn-out theories and that stuff about annexation have nothing to do with what you see. Relatives and friends come back fatter and better dressed. They take you out for a beer, they show you photos of their cars and later they send you a tablet or smart phone. That is more powerful than any propaganda,” says Yordan, ebullient after downing half a liter of cheap rum. Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 9 April 2015 — After the Sunday hangover drinking beer with various friends, Jose Pablo reluctantly tends to his stall where he sells pirated CDs with Hollywood films and Mexican and Colombian narco-novelas. At his stand you can find 2015 Oscar winners and in a worn black backpack, a collection of national and foreign pornography.
Jose Pablo is a talkative type. But when you ask him what benefits the upcoming Summit of the Americas, to be held in Panama April 10-11, would bring, with a sneer he responds, “Nothing. All these summits, be they Latin American, or CELAC, are more of the same. Speeches full of promises that in the end resolve nothing. It’s all rhetoric. It is an unnecessary waste of money. Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 28 March 2015 – It feels like a lot of time has gone by since noon on December 17 when Rogelio Horta’s family sat dumbfounded in front of the television listening to Raul Castro announce that Cuba and the United States would reestablish diplomatic relations.
Everything seemed perfect. There would be improved telecommunications and internet. Self-employed workers and cooperatives would have access to credit. If differences between the two countries were patched up, the economic situation would improve. But as time passed, people’s expectations changed,” admits Rogelio, the owner of a cafe southwest of Havana.
Three months after the newsflash, the feeling among average Cubans is that the new developments will not significantly change their lives. Continue reading