Castro Conquers Miami With Cannon Blasts / Luis Cino Alvarez

cubanet square logoCubanet, 4 April 2017, Havana, Luis Cino Álvarez — A friend was telling me, horrified, that last Friday at the Hard Rock Café in Hollywood Beach, Florida, Cuban reggaetoneros [musicians who perform the musical genre of Reggaeton]–from the Island and from ‘over there’, no way to tell anymore what with all the going and coming–put on a show. The lineup consisted of El Chacal, El Taiger (spelled just that way, not “Tiger”), Diván, Chocolate, Harrison, and Descemer Bueno (the only one of them whom I would classify as a musician).

This Cubatón (Cuban-style reggaeton, guachineo included) spectacle was aptly titled The Cannon Blast, as it was an explosion of “Made in Cuba” vulgarity and bad taste.  And there will be other such events, many more, in Florida. continue reading

To my friend it was all a joke (or a nightmare): The crème de la crème of the reggaetonero set–who would have to include also Yakarta, Baby Lores, Misha, Insurrecto, the detestable Osmany García, and Gente de Zona–profanely performing their low-class crudities, with their sinister appearance and annoying taca-taca beat, on a stage that has recently featured artists such as Don Henley, War, America, ZZ Top and Daryl Hall and John Oates.

No need to be surprised. This particular cannon blast and those yet to come are part of the none-too-slow colonization by the Castro regime of Miami and indeed all of South Florida.  They want to turn it into a type of Hong Kong, to exploit and emotionally blackmail it with nostalgia for fatherland and family. Not satisfied with maintaining their failed regime at the expense of remittances from emigrés and exiles, the Castroites also–in an effort to stir up problems, debase the milieu, and collect even more dollars–send over infiltrators from the G-2, scam artists, provocateurs, short-fused jokers, propagandizing academics, know-nothing cameleons del tíbiri tábara (from the back of beyond and staying out of trouble),TV shows, and…reggaetoneros.

For the record, it’s not that the head honchos of the regime are aware of the damage they do with the reggaetoneros, thus employing them in a macabre plan to penetrate the exile community and turn Miami into one big Hialeah, full of homeboys and every day becoming more like Marianao or Arroyo Naranjo. Save for the minister Abel Prieto, he of such exquisite taste, the top bosses don’t seem to mind the proliferation of reggaeton. On the contrary, their children and grandchildren, as lacking in good taste and class as their parents and grandparents, go crazy to the beat and enjoy it to the max.

Pertaining to music, the bosses export what they have. This is what there is.

My friend would ask himself what became of Cuban music. Little of worth is left in a country that produced Ernesto Lecuona, Sindo Garay, Rita Montaner, Celia Cruz, Benny Moré, and, post-catastrophe, Silvio Rodríguez, Pablo Milanés, Chucho Valdés, Polo Montañéz and Juan Formell. Regarding the few good musicians and singers who remain on the Ilsand, the big guns–with their shopkeeper mentality and proverbial bad taste, and their (anti)artistic promoters–believe it not worthwhile to send them to Miami because they wouldn’t sell enough tickets and, worse, might even get away and defect. It’s better that they remain home, making do as best they can (even though they are rarely featured on radio and TV), making music for “the most cultured people on the planet”–even though these people only want to tie one on and hear reggaeton.

Reggaeton is the perfect soundtrack to accompany the breakdown of a dictatorial system that has lasted too long and which, if not finally dissolving, is coagulating.

Vulgarity, bad taste and social alienation were imposed on Cuba. And this is reflected in the music that is broadcast the most. Reggaeton, the apotheosis of low class and degradation, came about at just the right time in the right place. It is the perfect music for the national chaos.

How was Miami to ward off reggaeton, what with so many recently-arrived homeboys who the only things they left behind were their ration books?

If, in the final analysis, we are all Cubans, whether here or there, we bear a common karma, and we must share our misfortune: portion it out, and see if we can reduce it.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison 

The Taliban Has Returned / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez

Hassan Pérez Casabona

cubanet square logoCubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez, 15 March 2017 – At the beginning of the last decade, when Fidel Castro would call a “march of the fighting people” for any reason whatsoever and the multitudes who seemed to have arrived from Pyongyang would chant slogans and wave little paper flags, prominent for his impetuous verbiage was a young man called Hassan Perez Casabona.

Gesticulating like a dervish, with a crew cut, camouflage trousers, and huge Russian military boots that seemed suitable for kicking any dissenters, Hassan Perez, who at that time was the second secretary of the Union of Young Communists (UJC), was the most Taliban of the Taliban of the so-called Battle of Ideas, Fidel Castro’s personal version of Mao’s cultural revolution. In this “battle,” young men like the bellicose Hassan, indoctrinated to the core and supposedly immune to the corruption, were called to play the role of the Red Guards. continue reading

Hassan Perez, who improvised his leftist militant teques* of the barricade with the ease of a Candido Fabré, seemed to have no brake. Nothing contained his quarrelsome and intolerant eloquence. When in 2002, in the Aula Magna of the University of Havana, the former American president Jimmy Carter referred to the Varela Project, quickly and aggressively Hassan Pérez requested the floor to refute him, in the presence of the Maximum Leader, who observed him pleased, although ready to stop his jackal if he let his passion run away with him.

With the retirement of Fidel Castro in July 2006, the Battle of Ideas was fading away, and the Taliban, who with their supra-institutional nonsense represented a nuisance to the succession and the Raul regime reformers, were removed from the scene.

In 2008, in an extraordinary meeting, the National Communist Youth Bureau agreed to work with Hassan Pérez and send him as a professor to a university of the Revolutionary Armed Forces. Although they acknowledged his work as a youth leader, first in the Federation of Middle School Students (FEEM) and later with the University Student Federation (FEU) and Communist Youth, this was interpreted as a setback. Especially given that, shortly before, at the Fifth Congress of the UJC, he had not been elect, as expected, first secretary of the organization.

From that point Hassan Perez lectured in full military uniform – which must have been to his liking, in view of his fondness for military attire – as a lieutenant, in the classrooms of the Military Technical Institute (ITM) teaching history classes.

For almost eleven years there was no mention of Hassan Perez. He only saw himself on TV, dressed in uniform and in his delegate’s chair, during a meeting of the National Assembly of People’s Power, where he voted unanimously in favor of everything that was put before him.

But now, the entrenchment of immobile orthodoxy is generating a neo-Stalinist reflux that has once again brought Hassan Perez to the fore. He is now an assistant professor at the Center for Hemispheric Studies and the United States at the University of Havana and his extensive and bizarre articles appear in the official press.

It seems that Castro’s monks do not have too many better options to choose from if they have had to dust off and get to grips with the annoying Hassan Perez. In short, if it is a question of becoming intolerant and frightening in the discourse toward the sheep who want to go astray, the boy does the job well. And in the years that he spent in professorial penance he is assumed to have overcome the immaturity that he was previously reproached for.

*Translator’s note: (Source: Conflict and Change in Cuba, Baloyra and Morris) “El teque is Cuban slang for the unrefrained barrage of official rhetoric that emanates from the state. I is the old, the formal, the staid, that which has become meaningless through repetition. El Teque is the officialese, the discourse of a revolution that is no longer revolutionary.”

A Hero To Justify The Cuban Failure / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez

What in abundance are those who distort and manipulate the ideology of José Martí (Reuters)
What we have in abundance are those who distort and manipulate the ideology of José Martí (Reuters)

We continue on without wanting to admit that if our “wine is sour,” even if “the wine is our own,” it is no more than that: sour wine.*

Cubanet, Luis Cino Álvarez, Havana, 28 January 2016 — Today marks the 163rd anniversary of the birth of our national hero, José Martí. It is the time to repeat by rote the two or three of his sayings that all of us Cubans learned since grade school. It is but a short time before we again commemorate his death on May 19. Those two remembrances comprise most of the veneration of Martí that was instilled in us from childhood. What a shame! continue reading

We have the myth, but the counsels and teachings of Martí have served us precious little. Rather, from the era of independence [from Spain] up to today, we have systematically devoted ourselves to incurring everything against which he warned us. We have done as the Israelites in the Old Testament, who continually disobeyed Jehovah and were punished for it. Although we are not even remotely like the Hebrews, our people, too, have received their due punishment. And what awaits us, still…

Whatever became of all that which was quoted so often but has never come to pass, of the republic and the nation “for all, and for the good of all”?

We Cubans have exploited, with no compunction, the legend of Martí. Few peoples enjoy the privilege of having a poet as their national hero. But poets and their worldviews are not easy to comprehend. We never understood Martí well, and we have idealized and inflated him into the politician that he was not and never wanted to be.

Upon preparing for the War of Independence, Martí fulfilled his principal historic role. There was little else by then that he could do. His death at Dos Ríos, on 19 May 1895, confronting a Spanish patrol, was almost a suicide mission. It provided him the out that that he could not find before such great obstinacy and lack of understanding among the principle leaders of the Mambíses.

But the official story, that which was taught before [the 1959 Revolution], and which is badly taught today, refuses to acknowledge the conflicts that existed among the leaders of the independence movement…

Would Martí, after independence had been won, been able to work with those who were intending to lead the Republic as if it were a military camp**, and instill in them his civic and democratic vision?

Very few Cubans have read Martí deeply. What we have an abundance of are those who distort and manipulate his ideology. Thus, they have created a multi-purpose Martí, useful and convenient for all.

The greatest plagiarist, Fidel Castro, made of Martí the intellectual author of the attack on the Moncada barracks, his guide for the construction of a socialist society, and mentor to his pathological confrontation with the United States. To justify his single-party dictatorship, Fidel cited the case of the Cuban Revolutionary Party, overlooking the fact that it was created solely to organize the War of Independence, and not to perpetuate the rule of any political caudillo.

The legend of Martí contributed to the construction of a meta-history, a teleology of the nation’s destiny, which has done us more harm than good. Rather than redeem us, it bequeathed to us, among other things, a bad conscience and the fate of national misfortune.

Writing from exile, Martí idealized a Cuba in which he lived barely 20 years of his life. But the Cuba he invented surely would have been much better than the real one, if we Cubans had been able to make it come true—if not exactly as Martí envisioned it, at least close to it. But we were not able. And we continue not being able.

They beat us over the head so much with the pure heroes and the bronze statues that they ended up boring us. As a result of this boredom, today many Cubans, especially the young, associate Martí with the Castro regime’s harangue, and they reject him outright.

We Cubans should be ashamed of all the ignorance of and distortion of Martí. But it is easier to feel sorry for ourselves. So we continue to quote his sayings—even if they are out of context, or we do not understand them well, or we interpret them according to our whim and convenience—to justify our failure as a nation.

Thus attached to Martí, we continue not wanting to admit that if the wine is sour, for all that it is our wine, is no more than that: sour wine. Or even worse: vinegar. Which stings so much in our wounds…

luicino2012@gmail.com

Translator’s Notes:

*A reference to a quotation of Jose Martí well-known to Cubans, “Nuestro vino es agrio, pero es nuestro vino” – Our wine may be sour, but it is our own wine.

** A reference to another oft-remembered phrase from José Martí (though not one commonly invoked by Fidel or Raul Castro): “Un pueblo no se funda, General, como se manda un campamento” — A people is not founded, General, the way one commands a military camp. Martí wrote this in a 20 October 1884 letter to General Maximo Gomez, in which he resigned from the revolutionary movement.

About the Author

Luis Cino Álvarez (Havana, 1956) has worked as a professor of English, in construction, and in agriculture. He entered independent journalism in 1998. Between 2002 and Spring 2003, Cino was a member of the reporting team at De Cuba magazine. He is assistant director of the online magazine, Primavera Digital [Digital Spring], and is a regular contributor to CubaNet since 2003. A resident of Arroyo Naranjo, Cino dreams of being able to make a living from writing fiction. He is passionate about good books, the sea, jazz and blues.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Forgive the Castro Regime? Never! / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez

raulfidel322013-300x218Cubanet, Luis Cino Álvarez, Havana, 11 January 2016 — I am a resentful person. I have to admit that, at least in this regard, the officials from State Security are correct, they who have condemned me as such during multiple, more or less menacing, interrogations throughout the past almost-20 years.

I am full of resentment against that calamitous abomination that some people still call “the Revolution.” And how can I not be? I would have to be a masochist, or emulate Mother Teresa of Calcutta, to love the perpetrators of the system that has crushed my life for as long as I can remember.

I would have to be exceedingly hypocritical to say that I am willing to reconcile with and forgive those who have never, in the slightest way—arrogant as they are—asked for forgiveness.

I am not a man given to hatreds and vengeances, but I cannot abide duplicity and hypocrisy. So leave me to my resentment which, in the reasonable doses in which I dole it out, will do no more harm than it already has; on the contrary, it helps me to keep going and not give up. continue reading

I cannot forgive those who thought themselves infallible, with a monopoly on the country, keepers of the keys to Paradise, with the right to decree the collective, obligatory happiness of the masses—all at the price of turning us into cogs in a machine, with no freedoms nor hope, yoked to the wagon of a mistaken history.

I cannot help but begrudge those who caused our individual dreams and aspirations—grand or simple, but valid and legitimate as any others—to be indefinitely deferred, annulled in the name of the Revolution, the Homeland and Socialism: all of which, according to what they said, were of a piece, despite the fact that the words did not rhyme, and we knew they could not rhyme.

I cannot be at peace with those who, in keeping with catchphrases that invariably posited death as the alternative, divided our families and pulverized our values, turning us into impoverished, vulgar riffraff, cynical and suspicious, perennially wandering in the desert…

My love for my neighbor (why deny it) is insufficient to be lavished upon those who fucked up my life: those teachers who, applying punishments prescribed by Comrade Makarenko, pretended to be forging The New Man; the sergeants in the compulsory military service; the psychiatrist-prison guards; the jailers at police precincts; the snitches who compiled exhaustive reports on me; all those who were wont to expel me from anyplace because of ideological divergences; the agents of the political police who “tend” to me, that is, who watch me even while I sleep…

Of no use have been the many times that they have tried to convince me that all the bad things that happened were not the Revolution’s fault—no, Man, of course not, they happened because of those extremists of which Lenin spoke—opportunists, as he called them—and all kinds of other shit. As if such as these were not the ideal subjects of a system like this!

Do not tell me anymore that those terrible events were errors—because in those “errors” have our lives been lost, and there is no getting them back…

I do not resign myself to having been one more rat in the Castros’ laboratory. The damages have been irreversible, and I do not believe that at this point they can be compensated.

Therefore, all we have left is the memory of what was and what could not be, because they prevented it, by force.

The poet José Mario—one of those who suffered the severities of the UMAP*—was right when he said that that those explanations of how “things were not as bad as they really were, it was a matter of errors committed by some extremists,” are worse than forgetting.Do not expect me to slobber. I am one of those who do not forget. I cannot, nor do I want to. For this reason, I am a resentful person. And proud of it.

luicino2012@gmail.com

Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison

cino.thumbnailAbout the Author: Luis Cino Álvarez (Havana, 1956) has worked as a professor of English, in construction, and in agriculture. He entered the field of independent journalism in 1998. Between 2002 and the spring of 2003, Cino was a member of the reporting team at De Cuba magazine. He is assistant director of the online magazine, Primavera Digital [Digital Spring], and is a regular contributor to CubaNet since 2003. A resident of Arroyo Naranjo, Cino dreams of being able to make a living from writing fiction. He is passionate about good books, the sea, jazz and blues.