The Crumbs That Pope Francis Will Eat in Cuba / Luis Felipe Rojas

Cuban prison. Photo from

Cuban prison. Photo from

Luis Felipe Rojas, 12 September 2015 — Joy came to 3,522 Cuban homes, this being the the number of prisoners serving sentences for (technically) common crimes who set to be released. Indeed, this calls for celebration, as jails certainly do no reeducate anybody, much less in the island’s repressive atmosphere.

Thus, the Cuban government has just offered another gesture to Pope Francis in advance of his visit to Cuba, which will begin on September 19. The Cuban Conference of Catholic Bishops expressed its gratitude, as no doubt many Cubans have done, but with no questions asked. As the saying goes, you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. And the meager crumbs scattered in recent months by the Castro’s tight-fisted military regime has left many people dazed and confused. Continue reading

Three Al Jazeera Reporters Sentenced to Three Years in Prison in Egypt / Luis Felipe Rojas

The three journalists from the Qatari network Al Jazeera.

The three journalists from the Qatari network Al Jazeera.

AFP/ Khaled Desouki. The journalists from the Qatari network Al Jazeera,  Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, seated in the prisoners’ cell during their trial in Cairo on 29th of August 2015

This Saturday, an Egyptian tribunal sentenced  the three journalists from the Qatari network Al Jazeera to three years in jail,despite the international campaign for their acquittal.

The Australian Peter Greste, the Canadian Mohamed Fahmy and the Egyptian Baher Mohamed were found guilty of having “spread false information” and of having worked in Cairo without the necessary permission. Continue reading

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Asks Maduro to Cease Harassment of the Media / Luis Felipe Rojas

Screen shot of the Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional.

Screen shot of the Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) reacted with “profound concern” to the lawsuit filed by the President of the National Assembly, deputy Diosdado Cabello,against the newspapers El Nacional and Tal Cual, and the website It urged national authorities to “cease these acts of harassment that deepen the deterioration of the right to freedom of expression in the country and threaten the media and critical journalists in Venezuela,particularly in an election year.

The case that Cabello filed against the media, and the judicial decisions that several judges have rendered in it—like the one prohibiting 22 executives of the defendant companies from leaving the countryor the one last week seizing the headquarters of El Nacional—worry the CIDH, a body that is aware of the support that the Supreme Court (TSJ) gave the legislator last May when it described as “lacking foundationthe accusations that he was linked to drug trafficking, as had been reported in Spanish and U.S. media, in stories that were republished in the country by the defendants. Continue reading

Queer* / Luis Felipe Rojas

William S. Burroughs, Ediciones Alma Perro.

Luis Felipe Rojas, 5 July 2105 — For a week I have been steeped in the acidic prose of William S. Burroughs. It is neither a debut novel nor something reissued in the wake of legalization of gay marriage in the United States. The work is an edition released by Anagrama, a Barcelona-based publishing house, and it comes without frills or pretensions. The faded cover shows Burroughs under a blue visor, almost dissolving into a watery background of opaque tones. Reading it took me longer than I would have thought.

Those looking for a world of good manners and polite expressions — or even the insane for that matter — might not want to tread near this literary specimen. In one-hundred thirty tightly packed pages, Burroughs bangs out a chronicle of his alter ego Lee’s travels through the most sordid and filthy corners of Mexico, Panama and Ecuador. This is definitely not everyone’s idea of literature, as Queer attests.

The homoerotic experiences of the intense Lee and his brash companion Allerton — a young man aroused not by other human bodies but by his own flesh and entrails — form a portrait that is somewhat darker than the story of two homosexuals simply trying to live a “normal” life in a Mexico that is more than a little bit macho, which makes it all the more alluring. Their goal is to find what has brought them there: Yage, a natural substance that promises total control over their thoughts. Continue reading

Writer Angel Santiesteban-Prats Released from Prison / Luis Felipe Rojas

L to R: Antonio Rodiles, Angel Santiesteban, Ailer Gonzales, Claudio Fuentes, an unidentified human rights activist

L to R: Antonio Rodiles, Angel Santiesteban, Ailer Gonzales, Claudio Fuentes, an unidentified human rights activist

Luis Felipe Rojas, 18 July 2015 — In the early evening of this Friday, 17 July, the Cuban writer Angel Santiesteban-Prats was released from prison. The news raced from the editor of his blog, the Argentinian Elisa Tabakman. Elisa sent messages to Santiesteban’s friends immediately.

“I was released on parole, which they had denied me April and June and recently they told me they would grant it in August, but they released me today,” was Angel’s statement to the blog “Crossing the Barbed Wire” from the home of regime opponent Antonio Rodiles in the Playa municipality of Havana.

Santiesteban entered prison on 18 February 2013, charged with “violation of domicile” and accused of beating his ex-wife. His case was plagued by clear legal violations and the process was repeatedly denounced by his family members, his first attorney, Amelia Rodriguez Cala, and dozens of human rights activists.

Santiesteban’s release occurred just hours before the beginning of functions at the embassies of the United States and Cuba, which until now have maintained interest sections in their respective capitals since the end of the ‘70s of the last century.

Writers, human rights activists, and people of good will, have generally received the news of Angel Santiesteban-Prats’ release with pleasure.

“There is no homeland other than poetry” / Luis Felipe Rojas

Luis Felipe Rojas. Photo: E. Aguado.

I want to thank my friend and excellent writer, Amir Valle, for this interview for his magazine Another Monday, and for publicizing the book that has just been published and will be presented shortly in Miami.

Amir Valle (AV): Machine for Erasing Humanities is, after Feeding the Dog-Fight, your second book since you went into exile. Although some think that poetry books are simply a collection of poems written over the passage of time, those of us who write know that between one book and another there are always secret threads, pathways that unite or split in two in order to differentiate them. What is the difference then between the two books?

Luis Felipe Rojas (LFR): I believe, without any doubt, in time. What there is between one passage and another is time, and the way in which the two poets have been changed by it: one who arrived as a frightened animal, fleeing from horror, exclusion and suffocation; and the other, who put down his head to rest for an instant and saw his children sleeping in the morning, who no longer expects a kick in the rear, and who experienced many upheavals to live in a developed country. Continue reading

An Abandoned Doll…at the gates of Miami / Luis Felipe Rojas

Story of an Abandoned Doll, Teatro Pálpito. Photos LFRojas.

Artefactus Teatro has been so kind as to receive Ariel Bouza and his team into its southeast space in Miami. Bouza and company bring a gift from Havana for this April: a loose, free version of Story of an Abandoned Doll by Norge Espinosa, which is from the text by the Spanish playwright Alfonso Sastre.

I traveled far into the southern reaches of Miami to see this play for the second time in my life, having already seen it once in Camagüey. It seems they have taken extra care to conserve the grace with which Paquita and Lolita play with ambition, love, envy, and piety within a theatrical framework that places the performance beyond the fallacies that we so often see in current times.

Ariel Bouza (Teatro Pálpito, Havana) directs the action with equal parts drama, laughter, and reflection to carry the spectators into situations where they must decide who are the heroes and anti-heroes, but there can be no middle ground. This piece that Bouza has been taking to the stage since 1999 has the bonus of ambivalence: it can be viewed and enjoyed equally by children and adults. Sastre’s version is classical, hierarchical, and well placed in the history of modern theater–it is rejuvenated with Bouza’s staging and a good push from Teatro Pálpito. Continue reading

There is a Cuban graffiti artist, in jail because of two pigs named “Fidel” and “Raul” / Luis Felipe Rojas

Graffiti from El Sexto, which simulates a rebel commander well known by Cubans.

Luis Felipe Rojas, 16 April 2015 —  His name is Danilo Maldonado, but in Cuba he is known as El Sexto (The Sixth). When the five spies were still in jail in the United States, Maldonado used to say he was the “sixth hero” and started to make graffiti with his spray can on the walls of Havana. This action also took place at the time of the celebration of the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba.

On December 25, 2004, Maldonado was detained and since then has been in jail in the horrible prison of Valle Verde. On that day he wanted to release two pigs in Central Park in Havana: they were painted with the names of “Fidel” and “Raul”, and that was enough to send him to prison. The solidarity with this graffiti artist and freelance artist has not stopped, many voices are being raised for his freedom.

Graffiti from El Sexto, near a police station.

Translated by AnonyGY

Seven Steps to Kill Orlando Zapata Tamayo / Luis Felipe Rojas

Orlando Zapata Tamayo

Luis Felipe Rojas — I published this post a few days after that needless death. Now I again denounce the death and express the same ideas about it. It’s my homage to my brother, Orlando Zapata Tamayo.

I am still experiencing the pain caused by that avoidable death, and I feel impotent because I didn’t attend the funeral honoring him due to political impediments, but that hasn’t stopped me from saying that in any case, what I present here seem to be the seven final steps that advanced the repressive machinery used to kill Zapata.

1. Setting up that para-judicial theater that imposed a sentence of 63 years on him for contempt.

2. The continuous beatings accompanied by obscene words and insults about his race and the region where he lived (shitty negro, shitty peasant). Continue reading

Ángel Santiesteban: “I am a social reflection of my times” / Luis Felipe Rojas


The writer Ángel Santiesteban Prats

Luis Felipe Rojas, 12 February 2015 — Just days after Ángel Santiesteban Prats sent this interview to Martí Noticias, he was transferred in an untimely manner to Villa Marista, the general barracks of Cuban State Security. However, his replies were already safeguarded, as was he.

This storyteller — who won the UNEAC (Cuban Writers and Artists Union) prize for his collection, Sueño de un día de verano (Dreams of a summer day, 1995), the 1999 César Galeano prize, the Casa de las Américas award of 2006 for his Dichosos los que lloran (Blessed are they who weep) — later started a blog where he set forth his ideas on human rights in Cuba, and he did not cease even unto imprisonment.

In 2013, Ángel won the International Franz Kafka “Novels from the Drawer Prize,” which convened in the Czech Republic, for the novel, The Summer When God Slept. Today he is responding to these questions from his improvised cell Continue reading

“United States or Die” Demand Cubans in Veracruz / Luis Felipe Rojas

Photo taken by Universo Increible (Incredible Universe)

Rafael Alejandro Hernández Real, who says he was an agent of State Security in Cuba — infiltrated into the Eastern Democratic Alliance — in September 2014 chained himself in the Plaza Bolivar of Bogota, Colombia, and now is on a hunger strike, demanding that he be allowed to go to the United States, according to a report from Universo Increible.

“Ten young Cuban emigrants have declared a hunger and drink strike in the immigration station at Acayucán, in the state of Veracruz, in order to avoid being deported to Cuba. Right now there are seven men and three women. The group of strikers has been increasing before the official denials and threats of being returned to the island,” reports the news source.

Hernández Real made himself known in 2008 when, together with Eliecer Ávila and other students at the University of Information Sciences in Havana, they questioned the then-president of the Peoples’ Power National Assembly. Ricardo Alarcón. On that occasion Ávila and Hernández Real called for the freedom to leave the country, to visit historic sites of the world like “Che Guevara’s tomb in Bolivia,” and they questioned the supposed unanimity of the general voting that takes place in Cuba.

Translated by Regina Anavy

6 February 2015

Angelito Santiesteban Does Not Believe Himself the Center of the World / Luis Felipe Rojas

Graphic: Sonia Garro Alfonso, recently freed Lady in White. Collage over a piece by Rolando Pulido.

The writer and blogger Ángel Santiesteban Prats, from the prison where he is serving an unjust sentence, just published–thanks to the help of a friend on Facebook–a brief post expressing his thoughts about the recent releases of political prisoners. As always, Angelito is filled with Light and strength. May my embrace reach him though the faithful reproduction of his text.

Ángel’s post:

I have received the expressions of pain from many friends, my publisher, and my relatives–some stupefied, others offended–over my exclusion from the list of prisoners recently released by the Cuban government.

Upon completing almost two years of unjust imprisonment, I can assure everyone that never have I asked the correctional authories or, even less, the officials from State Security who have visited me, when I will be released. I will never give them that satisfaction, just as I have never inquired whether I will be given the pass* which is granted to all “minimum severity” prisoners like me, who am sentenced to five years. Continue reading

The Sword of Raul Castro / Luis Felipe Rojas

Lady in White Aideé Gallardo, recently released from prison. Photo taken from the page about Cuban matters,

All said and done, more than half of a list of 53 political prisoners that nobody knows are already free, completely secret and that nobody we ask clarifies for us. Of the fifty who were out, I have the list of 36 prisoners who were surprised to be free again, without formal charges and under different conditions for their release: immediate release, probation, and extra-penal freedom (the latter is awarded regularly after inmates suffering from illness that prevents them from staying in the difficult prison conditions on the island).

Continue reading

Five Years of “Crossing the Barbed Wire”: How Long Should I Continue? / Luis Felipe Rojas

Photo of the author: @alambradas

Photo of the author: @alambradas

My baby, my third child, this blog, is five years old and at times I ask myself this question. How long should I continue? I started writing against the grain of what a blog was, doing it like a daily without wi-fi, nor nearby cybercages, but with the recklessness with which one distributes a samizdat.

I remember, it was December 2009. My brother Orlando Zapata Tamayo #0ZT began a hunger strike, impelled by the Castro regime to take off the mask: the arrests and beatings of activists for supporting #0ZT happened in Holguin and several other cities, one after the other. I wanted my neighbors to know, the neighborhood snitches, the police, those who were afraid and those who supported me then and have supported me since, that it is you, the cyberactivists, the fine people who have accompanied me in sixty months of words and actions.

Now with the new refrain of “intimate enemies” I paused, passing several weeks without publishing, listening to my friends, reliving the same party with such naivety. My parents told me that in 1959 people were stunned by so many firecrackers and so much sabotage, on January 1st coming out to salute the rebels, and on the second loudly crying out “To the wall!” (demanding executions), and on the third beginning to fall silent, three days after the Cuban Revolution.

Now the road is long because in Palma Soriano, Manzanillo and Cumanayagua there are still hungry people who know nothing of diplomatic relations. In Camagüey, my friend Millet continues to have the Rapid Response Brigades after him every day to prevent him from putting up a poster against the government or buying kerosene on the black market. Last weekend they defaced Mirna Buenaventura’s house with tar, in Buenaventura, where people now call the Yankees “the fraternal and supportive American people.”

Now that the Furies have changed their spots there are friends who stayed inside the fence and are not going to shut their mouths because they never have. Yannier P. wrote from Guantanamo to tell me, “You don’t have to write for us, we know the horror. Write so that the world will know the horror to come.” I want to send a bouquet of flowers to my friend Nancy Alfaya, a Christian woman with a bulletproof resistance: her husband, the writer Jorge Olivera Castillo received 18 years in prison, but Nancy refuses to stop laughing. In Havana she leads a workshop against violence against women, is the first to read Olivera’s poems, and goes to church every day in the poor neighborhood where she lives. I want to send flowers to Nancy but I would not want them to arrive wilted.

I would like to write an article and travel to shake hands with Manuel Martinez Leon, in La Jejira in Holguin, with Emiliano Gonzalez in El Horno, in Bayamo, or Barbaro Tejeda in Mayari. The three are dissidents, open opponents of the Castro brothers’ tropical dictatorship and work the land from sunrise.

Emiliano has given me interviews seated on a mountain of peanut bags, and wrote to tell me of the tortured rules of the State cooperatives and that he dreams of fields of peanuts while they hold him prisoner in stinking dungeons.

Barbaro has talked with me on a trail where he goes to fish illegally, to be able to eat and to feed his family. For years the “Watching the Sea” Detachment — a kind of rapid response brigade with the pretext of being anti-drug troops— monitors and represses its neighbors in Puerto Padre, Levisa and Macabi, throughut Cuba. They cannot sell fish, catch fish or eat fish. They don’t know which law prohibits it, but the people there who talked to me are afraid of breaking the rules. Sometimes Barbaro Tejeda fries plantains or beans and dreams of a modern fishing rod.

With friends like this my blog will have ten more years of life. Still, I have to explain to the world why Cuban mothers live without their children and what the Law of Pre-Criminal Social Dangerousness is; first I have to learn to write a legal monstrosity of such a package. Ileana, my Venezuelan friend living in New York doesn’t know what Showing Contempt for the Figure of the Commander-in-Chief is, and I have to explain with examples.

Many more years of life, of survival, remain to this blog. A house organized from within and not for elegies without knowing its neighbors, living in the turbulent and brutal south or north that now appreciates us.

27 December 2014

Miami in a graffito / Luis Felipe Rojas

We went to Miami’s Wynwood District today, a zone of street art, of abundant graffiti. Miami is also redeemed by these beauties and daubings, by this joy that is the festival of color mediated by no other rule than the imagination.

We walked today from one point to another in the district accopanied by the benevolence of a sun that heralds good times. I avoided taking pictures of the compositions and the depths already discussed in books — to gaze upon these lovely things and then press the shutter is to try one’s luck at Russian roulette.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison