The Gardens of Indigence / Cubanet, Gladys Linares

For the environmental project, “A Rose-Colored Planet,” children would be responsible for beautifying the green spaces of the capital. Dilapidated Havana requires much more than a community gardening project: sanitizing the city is the urgent business.

cubanet square logoCubanet, Gladys Linares, Havana, February 27 2015 — Now it turns out that children have the responsibility for creating green spaces for the enjoyment of the public, and ending more than fifty years of governmental neglect.

This is unheard of!

In the article, “They celebrate the work day in order to promote the beauty of gardens,” the newspaper Juventud Rebelde describes the environmental project, “A Rose-Colored Planet,” and an interest group composed of 500 children that would be responsible for beautifying the green spaces of the capital.

Will children be able to solve the problem created by the public services that go around collecting the large garbage and debris heaps that proliferate in the city, with 14-ton front-end loaders that destroy the sidewalks, curbs and gardens, and leave craters that become breeding grounds for mosquitos, rats, and other carriers of disease?

Any idiot knows that the complexity of this task requires Continue reading “The Gardens of Indigence / Cubanet, Gladys Linares”

much more than a community project, because the duty of maintaining green spaces in good condition — as well as of implementing public health and sanitation projects — falls to the public administration.

Will children be able to solve the shortage of wheeled bins needed to collect the 20-thousand cubic meters of waste that our city generates? This dearth of bins is often the result of mishandling by Comunales * workers (who are not held accountable for their actions), or acts of “social indiscipline” such as wheels being removed, junk being discarded in the bins, the bins being set on fire, etc. Such actions convert densely-populated neighborhoods such as Diez de Octubre, Centro Habana, Arroyo Naranjo and San Miguel del Padrón into sites for those large garbage heaps referenced above.

Will our children be able to require that the workers who are currently installing the water meters in Marianao not leave behind debris, trenches and water leaks upon completing these projects?

But it is not only Aguas de La Habana which leave behind their mark of shoddiness. The gas company does it, too, when they complete some road “repair” project. They claim that covering-up and fixing the sidewalks is the Comunales’* responsibility, and despite efforts often made by area residents, these projects are not finished adequately.

All this negligence on the part of the State has provoked an exacerbation of acts of “social indiscipline.”  In the absence of parks and recreational areas, the children play in the streets, annoying the neighbors. In the absence of containers, the public alleges (rightfully) that garbage cannot be kept inside the house, so they throw it in the street. Perhaps it is no coincidence that we hear so often of neighbors and relatives of friends dying of leptospirosis, as happened last week to a young man and his dog, who lived less than 100 meters from one of those garbage heaps.

“A Rose-Colored Planet” includes among its objectives the creation of gardens for the enjoyment of hospitalized children and residents of elder-care facilities, applying the methods employed in French gardening — a fine and noble task. Starting at early ages, this community project develops civic consciousness, which we so need today.

But much more than children’s projects is needed to return Havana to its green lushness.

Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison, and others

Translator’s Note:

* Comunales is the state-run waste management company in Cuba. For other articles in Translating Cuba about related issues, click here.

Cuba Punishes Doctors for Using Revolico / Cubanet, Orlando Gonzalez

The government has cancelled your INFOMED email account due to its having been used on a classified ad website.

cubanet square logoCubanet, Orlando González, Mayabeque, Cuba, 12 March 2015 — Since February 23, the government has been cancelling some doctors’ and dentists’ internet and email accounts on the nation’s INFOMED network, which the state designates for health care professionals. The reason? Emails were being used to post classified ads on the popular Revolico website. Punitive actions like this are evidence of the government’s intention not to allow free access to Internet, at least in the short term.

The classified ad website  http://www.revolico.com is very well-known among many Cubans on the island. It lists a wide range of products available on the black market, including merchandise at prices much cheaper than those found in state-owned retail stores. The government has tried, so far unsuccessfully, to block access to the site. Nevertheless, Cubans have managed to make a mockery of the limitations by going Continue reading “Cuba Punishes Doctors for Using Revolico / Cubanet, Orlando Gonzalez”

through web services designed to evade censorship (VPN and web proxies). An offline version of the webpage is also delivered to homes through the popular underground entertainment service known as the “national packet.” It contains all the classified ads from the previous week.

Fifty-nine-year-old retired dentist Tania Alonso stated, “INFOMED email is the only way I have of communicating with my family overseas. Now they have taken it away because a nephew of mine, who uses the computer in my house, posted an ad for his cell phone on Revolico and listed my email address. No one told me anything. Only after I asked why I had not had email service for a week did they tell me that I was being sanctioned and they had cancelled my account. I really don’t know if what my nephew did is as serious as all that.”

Doctors in several cities claim they have made complaints in the respective workplaces but have not received explanations for the sanctions.

“It’s unbelievable that visiting a classified ad page — a right in almost every country in the world, including Venezuela — is virtually a crime here,” says Jose Alberto, a gatroenterologist from the city of San Antonio de los Baños. “For this ’indiscretion’ the authorities punish doctors who have served on various international medical missions, taking away their only means of accessing the INFOMED network. I think this action is ridiculous and shows a total lack of respect for health care professionals. We are practically slaves to the government. We work for a salary which barely allows us to eat. In any other country of the world we would be more recognized and appreciated than we are in our own. I am a veteran of three international missions and they take away my access just for using my email address as the contact in a classified ad.”

Revolico.com, screen capture

Another health professional who did not want to be identified said, “I went a week without being able to access my email account and neither the supervisors at my workplace nor the technical support person knew why. Only after I called the INFOMED offices was I informed it had been cancelled.”

CubaNet contacted Carlos Javier Peña Díaz, a co-founder of Revolico and based in Spain, who agreed to comment.

“It’s been seven years since our website was blocked in Cuba and we still don’t understand why,” he notes. “Revolico’s only goal is to help Cubans by providing them with an alternative marketplace based on the classified ad model. They can use our website to easily advertise products or contact sellers.”

Doctors and dentists who have lost their accounts add that they do not agree with this action and will take their complaints as far as is necessary. Their letters of appeal were sent to the management of INFOMED ten days ago and those affected have not yet received a response.

Being Forty Years Old in Cuba / Cubanet, Camilo Ernesto Olivera

dominó-coverThey are referred to as old folks, half-timers and the pure. They are shipwreck victims of a capsized island. They cling to debris, trying to stay afloat.

cubanet square logoCubanet, Camilo Ernesto Olivera Peidro, Havana, February 27, 2015 — Men and women in Cuba who have reached the age of forty are referred to as tembas (old folks), medios tiempos (half-timers) and los puros (the pure).

Those approaching this age have lived through the periods before and after 1989 on the island. Their childhoods were spent between schools in the countryside and schools like those in the countryside, an ostensible bonanza subsidized by the Council of Mutual Aid (CAME) and the war in Angola. As young people they heard the echoes of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and suffered through the crisis and blackouts.

Those who remain view their lives like those of shipwreck victims on an island that has capsized. Some cling to debris, trying to stay afloat. Others see fulfillment slipping away in a country that continues to deny them a future. Continue reading “Being Forty Years Old in Cuba / Cubanet, Camilo Ernesto Olivera”

Cubanet interviewed people in Bayamo and Havana: one a small city, the other the capital. They offer a portrait of a generation for whom hope has been extinguished.

Bayamo, a country within a country

One couple agreed to be interviewed by this reporter on how they see their lives now and in the future. The man will turn forty in two years. Both declined to give their names.

“They say that in 2016 the outlook in Bayamo could be very different, but that is exactly what the government promised my parents and what I inherited from them was crisis and the urge to leave behind these people and this country,” he says.

“This is a beautiful city,” says the woman, “but it feels very small when we see the tons of opportunities we are missing. The ones who prosper here, more or less, are the ones who get help from those who left when they were young to try their luck in another country. I don’t want my children to live with the despair I inherited from my parents. On that he and I both agree.”

Another man, known as El Pelón (the Bald Guy), graduated during the educational chaos of the last decade.

“I have a lot of family living in the United States,” he says. “At one time I thought about making the crossing to Miami, leaving through Puerto Padre. But life got messy, so I’m still here. By the time you’re forty, you feel the initial urge slipping away. It’s like you have entered a stage of life where you are moving at half speed. You resign yourself to things. Arriving in a new country at twenty is not the same as when you are over forty.”

 In Havana forty at forty

The Maxim Rock theater is a hotbed for the young and not so young. It is Saturday in the capital. Tonight, two generations of music fans co-mingle, intent on having the best time possible. This reporter managed to have a conversation with one couple. He is forty; she is much younger. Both spoke informally without giving their names.

“Twenty years ago,” he says, “I was walking around Vedado, hunting for foreigners and ’hustling.’ It was the 1990s, the era of blackouts and all those nightmares no one wants to remember. You had to be brave to leave but also to stay. That’s what I tell people when they ask me why I am still living in Cuba.”

“Something will have to change. These people’s time has passed,” she says referring to the government. They are committed to the same old same old. But they are very mistaken if they think the public’s silence is due to resignation.”

Dominoes, a game of life and politics

At a Casa de los Abuelos senior center, a buiding which is somehow miraculously still standing, a group of men is getting ready to play another round of dominoes. Everyone here is past the age of forty. As in the game of life and politics, each playing piece is a bet to be wagered in silence. Their faces tell the history of this country, spanning the dying past that landed them at this table and a future as uncertain as a domino.

At the same time their counterparts are playing another round in Miami’s Maximo Gomez Park. They are veterans of nostalgia. Some still unabashedly await the imminent downfall of the two brothers, just as they did when they arrived in Florida at age twenty.

However, the prospect of reconciliation without freedom for Cubans living on the island continues to shadow those on both sides of the Florida Straits.

Reentry to Cuba Includes a Conversation with State Security / Eliecer Avila

Eliecer Avila, 26 February 2015 — After having “conversations” like these, I always ask myself is it is worth the trouble to publish an account of them or not. I do not like even giving these people the impression that I have blabbed about everything. But I also believe not publishing such accounts only hurts me. They have cameras everywhere and have demonstrated they have no scruples. They can release a doctored video recordings and use the information to destroy someone’s life

Upon entering the airport yesterday, I was approached by an immigration official. After taking my passport, he led me to a small office for “routine questioning.” Since I am already familiar with these ploys, it did not surprise me to find Lieutenant Colonel “Yanes” and “Marquitos” there in the room. The latter goes by a different name when he is with other people. He was the young man who “looked after” us some time back. It was he who put me and Reinaldo into the patrol car on the day of Tania Bruguera’s performance.

After my phone was taken away, the “chat” began. Though it was extensive, I am Continue reading “Reentry to Cuba Includes a Conversation with State Security / Eliecer Avila”

highlighting here only certain essential passages that provide some insight into the mindset of these people. Also included are some of my responses and other reflections on their points of view.

State Security (SE): Get this straight: The Revolution is not going to fall apart because you or some other little dimwit want to see it happen. You are a nobody!

I ask myself this: If I am so insignificant and pose no threat, why do they focus this attention on me? Wouldn’t it be better to use the gasoline they’re wasting, the time, the salaries, the clothing and all the other resources to fix the hospitals, build buildings or buy internet antennas?

SE: You are quite mistaken if you believe that we are afraid of the internet. The thing is we provide it to doctors, professors and Revolutionaries. We are not going to provide it to people like you or Yoani Sanchez. And don’t get the crazy idea that the Americans are going to subvert us with the internet. We are going to have a secure internet like Russia or China. You know full well that we have thousands of technicians and cyber experts to deal with that.

It seems surreal to me that someone, especially a young person, would tell me that the model for information access that he wants for Cubans, for his own people, is to be found in Russia or China. On the other hand, it comes as no surprise to me that, given this mentality, the Cuban economy is in such ruins. Here is one of thousands of young professionals in the prime of their working lives trying to put the brakes on the nation’s development. I would give anything to have this conversation in public! I would love to know what Calviño thinks about this. What intellectuals, humorists, workers, artists, students and even the police and military officials think. I invite them to discuss this subject publicly but their response is to change the subject.

SE: So, tell me. How did your trip go? With whom did you meet? What did you do?

It went very well. I will share the details with my family, with my friends. I don’t see why I should share them with you.

SE: O.K. We see you favor diplomatic relations with the U.S., but fundamentally your position is the same as that of other Counter-Revolutionaries. You see this change as an opportunity to import that “perfect democracy” that you like so much, like what they have in the U.S. That’s the conclusion our analysts came to after watching your interview on CNN for example.

I am tempted to say a lot of things but realize that doing so would be pointless, so I say nothing.

SE: Look, Eliecer, since it is my duty to advise you, I suggest you don’t get involved in all these initiatives that are sprouting up, in the house of your friend Yoani, or in the the events for the summit. Remember the instructor (investigator) who took care of you in Regla on the 30th? Well, don’t be surprised if there is a knock on your door and you are arrested for breaking the law, what with all the things you peope have been up to. We have laws here, just like in the U.S., and you didn’t break any laws there. Right?

Expressing oneself is not a crime in any normal country in the world. I will keep saying what I think in Cuba, in Greenland, on Mars. Wherever I am invited to engage in serious conversation, I will be there, whether it be Yoani’s house or the Council of State!

When they finally let me go, they were waiting for me at Customs on the other side. They took me to another small room and conducted a thorough inspection of my luggage. They finally saw I was clean and had almost no luggage. Their focus was on analyzing a book which René Hernández Arencibia had dedicated to me: The Book of Cuba; 500 Years of History. After the young customs agents and their boss had a good long look through it, they arrived at an encouraging conclusion: “Wow, it looks like it covers everything.” And then they let me go.

Still fresh in my mind is the loss of thirty-six books which were confiscated for being “of inadequate literary value.” Clearly, the literary training of Cuban customs officials must be a serious matter. I doubt the world’s great men of letters could arive at such a conclusion so readily.

I finally left the airport and went home. Then begins the “yoga” to refresh and detoxify with the little left to us in Cuba to enjoy: family, friends… and faith in the future, which refuses to be broken.

Eliecer Avila, Engineer

Footnote: This post should have been published a day earlier but was a delayed due to communication difficulties arising in Cuba.

 

A Bucket of Cold Water / Cubanet, Rafael Alcides

Photo from the internet

cubanet square logoImagine you are at a party where a suckling pig is being roasted and all of a sudden, at the height of the festivities, Raúl Castro comes along with a bucket of water and douses out the fire. I cannot conjure a more apt image to illustrate the effect the army general’s speech at the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) summit had on the spirits of Cuba’s dissidents.

What Raul said was a recycling of what the secretary of state was saying. It was the spitting image, cut to size, to summarize the state of affairs. While the inhospitable bucket of water was being filled, he left it to the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) to release the statement by the American government indicating that the reestablishment of diplomatic ties between that country and ours did not include a lifting of the embargo, the closure of the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo or permission for American tourists Continue reading “A Bucket of Cold Water / Cubanet, Rafael Alcides”

to travel to Cuba.

“So the Americas have not had to hang their heads as low as TV and newspapers have been telling us,” noted one party stalwart while waiting in line at a pharmacy.

With the PCC not being terribly secretive on this issue, one dissident was heard to express the following words of despair:

“Rather than making our work for democracy easier, this could make it more difficult. The United States and the Soviet Union had diplomatic relations and even then it was a cat and mouse game. Given that experience, if up till now they have imprisoned us, in the future they could execute dissidents for being American spies, which is what happened to Russian democracy advocates in Soviet times.”

Other dissidents are less pessimistic. After the initial impact of the unwelcome bucket of water that Raul used to dampen the festivities, some began to look at the glass and realized it was not half empty but rather half full.

Times have changed. No matter how much Raul might like to resurrect the tactics of the USSR, he cannot. According to Marx every organism contains the seeds of its own destruction, as I heard said to a proverbially enthusiastic dissident and learned man. Such is the case with socialism, to which Raul Castro must ever increasingly apply capitalist remedies in order to survive. The now almost five-hundred thousand self-employed workers — an army that just keeps growing — will be the gravediggers of the system.

Clearly, they are not politicians; they are merchants. They are in the business of making money and, not surprisingly, would prefer not to court problems with the government that might stand in the way of their making even more money. The great paradox, however, is that, by choosing to be economically independent, they have become a potent political force.

Behold a people, a sector of workers, with initiative but with no knowledge of their rights, as the dissident scholar of my story keeps saying. For example, the “botero” still does not know that, by paying taxes, he has the right to demand streets without potholes. The same applies case by case, sector by sector, to the restaurant owner, to the mechanic. Before you know it, you have created a public with intentions similar to the multitudes who stormed the Bastille.

Based on what they have told me, other dissidents more optimistic than the one mentioned above are betting on the perhaps exaggerated notion that Raul and his few remaining cohorts from the old days do not have many civilians from which to choose. And with perhaps even more exaggerated optimism, they do not see anyone in the Council of State with the status to command respect in their homes much less, they claim, under circumstances in which a fixty-six-year-old government has shown that socialism is no more than a fantasy dreamt up by Karl Marx.

Havana, the Cuban city from where I am gauging the pulse of the political situation, is experiencing a period of forecasting comparable to that of the Institute of Meteorology during hurricane season. Except that, unlike cyclones, no one knows when or where things will happen.

Meanwhile, the public — the frowning general public — is dying from trying to catch a bus while waiting for remittances from overseas, as if the guy with the bucket is not on their side. Neither the divinations of dissenters nor the enthusiastic forecasts of the governement’s new economic model matters to them. Trying to interpret this feeling, a seasoned retired teacher who sells empanadas in hospitals told me the following:

“Don’t waste your time listening to them. It’s not going to happen here. And they can stop talking about Raul and his opponents. What happens will be what God wants.”

20 February 2015

Mariela Castro’s Eloquent Silence / Cubanet, Tania Diaz Castro

Raul Castro’s daughter Mariela Castro Espin

cubanet square logo

Cubanet, Tania Díaz Castro, Havana, February 19, 2015 — Homosexuality has been around longer than humans have been walking upright. But Fidel Casto — working through State Security, an organization he founded and of which he has always been in charge — has done everything possible to banish it from Cuban soil. He once looked upon it as a cancer capable of eating away his dictatorship.

In an August 2010 interview with the journalist Carmen Lira for the Mexican newspaper La Jornada, the Cuban leader for the first time confessed feeling guilty for the emergence of homophobia in Cuba, an attitude that is still prevalent in the country’s top leadership.

In the interview he acknowledged that “there were moments of great injustice” and noted that he personally had no such prejudices. On this particular occasion the Comandante was not lying. Several of his friends in positions of power were widely known to be homosexuals, including Alfredo Guevara and Continue reading “Mariela Castro’s Eloquent Silence / Cubanet, Tania Diaz Castro”

Pastorita Nuñez. To the guerrilla leader, they were neither “twisted trees” nor “a byproduct not found in the field,” as everyone else used to describe them.

The thousands who were identified by State Security suffered imprisonment, harsh treatment and were forced to do hard labor in the notorious Military Units to Aid Production (UMAP).

Half a century has passed. The Castro dictatorship is still in power. The same problems still exist, only to a lesser degree. It is perhaps for this reason that the current president’s daughter, Mariela Castro, spends her free time on a campaign of sorts against homophobia and discrimination in general.

It seems that she may have been inadvertently criticizing her uncle, Fidel Castro, when in an interview with the ANSA news agency she said, “There is no doubt that in their creation in 1965 and in their operations, the UMAPs were arbitrary.” Arbitrary is another term for unjust, despotic, abusive and tyrannical.

Mariela’s current silence is curious given what recently happened on the TV soap opera La Otra Esquina (The Other Corner), which can be seen on Cuban television’s Channel 6.

As is now public knowledge, this soap opera — written by Yamila Suarez — was apparently forced to conceal a storyline concerning the characters Oscar and Esteban, a gay couple played by two wonderful veteran actors.

Changes involving episodes being edited and brief blackouts occurring during the broadcast strongly suggest that, since the show could not be cancelled — its schedule had already been announced and there was no available replacement — it was censored on orders from the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party.

So what has the defender of gay rights done in response in the months since?

Nothing.

She has not said if she participated in the heated discussions at the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television (ICRT) in an attempt to fend off eliminating the love story between the elderly Oscar and Esteban in favor of more filial relationships that had nothing to do with the plotline

In last week’s episode a photo of the two lovers could be seen on a table. They were standing with their heads pressed together, a classic and tender expression of love. The censors forgot to remove from the set this and other props that revealed what was going on.

On February 9 the independent journalist Frank Correa denounced the action in an editorial published on CubaNet, thus bringing to public attention the difficulties La Otra Esquina had to go through to get on the air.

In this production Mariela exited stage left.

She was not looking to create more problems with her little old uncle.

The way the show has been changed is evidence that in Cuba homophobia is still with us.

20 February 2015

Gerardo Machado: Was He Really an Ass with Claws? / David Canela Pina

MIAMI, Florida. — In the North Cemetery of Woodlawn Park, in Miami, lie the remains of the former Cuban president Gerardo Machado y Morales (1871-1939), who was the politician who constructed the most works during the Republic, and also was the first who opposed the international influence of communism.

To Machado, the new writing of history is simplified by a caricature: the ass with claws, and as all that is not convenient to them, they leave his image, alone and deformed, surrounded by a sea of silence, in which the only thing heard is the murmurings of the communists.

Was he a dictator? Yes. One that induced a reform in the Constitution in 1901, to govern for ten years? Yes, but he was highly adored, in an epoch quite convulsive. Did he close the University of La Habana (Havana), in 1930? Yes, but he had constructed  its staircase, and the then new buildings of the Colina — including the School of Engineers and Architects,which today is in ruins.

Did he suspend constitutional guarantees? Yes, but terrorism had seized control of the streets, and there did not exist negotiations with opposing groups. Did he engage in political assassinations and torture? Yes, but not so much as since 1959. Continue reading “Gerardo Machado: Was He Really an Ass with Claws? / David Canela Pina”

According to Ramiro Guerra, some 5,000 revolutionaries were imprisoned provisionally, and Juan Clark affirmed in his book Mito y realidad (Myth and Reality) (1990) that “the prisoners were usually treated correctly, enjoying prisoners’ privileges and amnesties that returned them to liberty after a short stay in the presidio (prison).”

His legacy of modernity

With all his shortcomings  —  of repression, and desires to prolong his mandate — his government defended national interests, and constructed in Cuba, as had never been done before. To mention only a few such works, during the eight years of economic growth, he constructed:

— The Carretera Central (Central Highway) (with its 1,144 kilometers, just under 700 miles), that until today has not been exceeded, in such a project of vital integration of the provinces.

— The Capitolio Nacional (National Capitol) (1929) that remains the paradigmatic building of Cuban architecture, and the most luxurious in the country.

— Important plazas (the Park of Fraternity, or Brotherhood), walkways (the Avenue of the Missions, in front of the Presidential Palace), and avenues (Fifth Avenue, (Avenue) de Playa (beach)). Furthermore, the Paseo del Prado was remodelled.

— Important buildings, such as the National Hotel, the Asturian Center (today the National Museum of Fine Arts), the Bacardi, the Lopez Serrano, the hotel Presidente del Vedado [“forbidden,” probably a place name].

— Public works: the already-mentioned University of Havana, the Technical Industrial School, de Boyeros [“oxherd,” probably also a place name], the Pier of Slaughters or Meat Markets, the Palace of Justice of Santa Clara, the Model Prison of the Isle of Pines, among many others.

He increased tax collections, providing that the Law of Public Works would impose a charge of ten per cent on all imported articles considered to be luxuries, and another of three per cent on all products of foreign origin, except food. That caused a lowering of imports, and the development of national industry, creating works of painting, shoes, matches and of products not linked to sugar cane and tobacco.

And in 1927 he approved a new Law of Customs and Duties (Tariffs) to protect and stimulate agricultural and industrial production. It was the first time that Cuba independently had its own customs tariff, of a modern type, one designed to protect its own interests. The production of birds, eggs, meat, butter, cheese, beer and footwear increased markedly. Likewise, Cuba joined several commercial treaties (Spain, Portugal, Japan, Chile) in a completely independent manner.

Machado was a popular president, during his first term. In April of 1927 he travelled to Washington, and sought from President Coolidge a treaty that would eliminate the Platt Amendment. In the act of inauguration of the Sixth International Conference of American States, in January 1928, a proclamation was declared “a vote of gratitude and applause in favor of the excellent Sir General Don Gerardo Machado.”

And on the 1st of November of that year, in the elections celebrated under the electoral Law of Emergency, Machado was presented as the only candidate and was re-elected without opposition of the other parties, for a mandate that would end on May 20th 1935.

The Enemies of Machado

The discontent towards Machado had above all economic roots. The Great Depression — that began with the bank crash of October  1929, and that only began to ease in the middle of the decade of the Thirties–unleashed a great popular animosity against his government and members of his administration.

The almost total paralyzing of commerce, the sudden devaluation of the price of sugar (which had attained its highest price in 1927), the lack of work, and the reduction and the delay of State payments, brought the country to a state of misery overnight,  that reached its maximum degree in the summer of 1933.

The second obstacle of his government was international communism. Barely three months after he attained the presidency, the first Communist Party of Cuba was founded in Havana, the 16th of August, 1925. The new ideology, that was guided by the soviet ideal, utilized methods that were unknown until that epoch. The terrorism of bombs in the cities was introduced in Cuba by Catalan emigrants.

The Sixth World Congress of International Communism (between July and September of 1928), which took place in Moscow, approved the slogan of “class against class.” Dozens of foreigners were expelled from the country, for being dedicated to “the propagation of communism.”

Machado tried to stop the discontent; but neither the suspension of constitutional guarantees (in June of 1930), nor the imposition of martial law (with the use of military tribunals instead of civil tribunals), nor press censorship, nor assassination and imprisonment of the opposition were able to halt the campaign of terrorism of the revolutionaries, headed by the ABC, the Revolutionary Union, de Guiteras, the Student Left Wing, and the Student Directorate of the University.

The United States followed with concern the political situation in Cuba, until on the 8 August 1933 the ambassador of that country, Sumner Welles, presented himself at the Presidential Palace with a note from the President of the United States, Franklin Roosevelt, in which Roosevelt demanded Machado’s resignation, and with that the end rapidly approached.

The incipient liberty of the press also conspired against Machado, given that the journalists would not write in favor of a government, unless they were given payment,  or they received a “bottle” — that would be worth about 500 pesos. Machado refused to give “bottles” to the press, unlike the previous government, that of Zayas.

But his greatest enemy was the fickleness and immaturity of the Cuban people, which, equal to that in 1959, left them blinded by messianic illusions that promised them heaven on earth. The Revolution of the 30 produced Fulgencio Batista, who would pull multitudes in 1940, with the support of the communists. Then came student leaders like Ramon Grau San Martin and Carlos Prio Socarras, who governed in the name of the revolution.

The magazine Bohemia, in October 1933, published an article by the overthrown president, in which he reflected: “During a time I was the Man God, the New Messiah, the Mentor Man, who could do everything, and afterwords, by the same people who had exalted me, I was Satan, Moloch, Mars uplifted. Thus is all Cuba: the country that appears to be made with the blades of a windmill.”*

The story of the political conflicts cannot be divided into the good and the bad, without defining the relationship of social groups surrounding a power structure. Some kill in the name of the Law, others in the name of the Revolution. But some build, and leave a legacy of modernism, such as Gerardo Machado, while others empty history, and they destroy all in their path, such as Fidel Castro.

Cubanet, June 23, 2014

*Translator’s note:This appears to be a reference to Don Quixote, as if Cuba became what it did by its vain tilting with windmills. 

Translated by: Diego A.

They Direct the Machinery of Harassment Against a Cancer Researcher / Lilianne Ruiz

Young Oscar Casanella is threatened in the public roadway by “factors” of the revolution. State Security wants him fired from his work.

HAVANA, Cuba. — Someone must have heard the telephone conversations of Oscar Casanella.  Those days he was organizing a party with his friends to welcome back Ciro, the guitarist for the punk rock band “Porno for Ricardo,” who had returned from abroad.

Unexpectedly, on Thursday December 5, 2013, at 9:15 pm, just across from his house (at 634 La Roas between Boyeros and Ermita, Plaza de la Revolucion, Havana), four unknown people, two men and two women about 60 years old, blocked his path to tell him:  “Oscar, you cannot do anything these days and if you do, you are going to suffer serious consequences. People unknown to you can harm you, and even we can hurt you a lot.”

This was the preamble to a Kafkaesque story:

Some neighbors told him later that among those who had threatened him was one named Gari Silegas, and that the four were members of the communist party, which met in something known as the “Zonal Nucleus,” a group of militants retired from various “Committees in Defense of the Revolution” (CDR). Continue reading “They Direct the Machinery of Harassment Against a Cancer Researcher / Lilianne Ruiz”

The next Saturday, the day of the party, Oscar went to the Police Station at Zapata and C to make a complaint.  But there they referred him to the Sector Chief, named Eusebio, who operates in the streets surrounding his house; which meant that Eusebio, the police and Silegas, the communist, knew each other and even worked together. Let’s remember that in Cuba that work group is known as “neighborhood factors.”

“They asked Gary Silegas not to threaten me again.  It was all a prophylactic work, they told me.  I tried to make a complaint but they dismissed it,” explains Oscar.

That same day there appeared a Suzuki motorcycle with a blue (i.e. state-owned) plate. The intimidation increased in tone. Two individuals dressed in civilian clothese refused to show him their identification but presented themselves to him as agents of State Security. Oscar narrates:

“They threatened to put me in jail. They told me that I could think whatever I want but I could not say it to anyone, and I could not meet my friends at my house. They also told me that I should leave the country and that they were going to ’fuck up my life and my family.’ Having committed no crime or infraction that harms anyone, I feel threatened. They mentioned also my attendance, as a spectator, at Estado de SATS, which is held in Playa township at the home of Antonio Rodiles. Witnesses to those events were practically all the neighbors.”

That night the party took place. Oscar’s neighbors, active CDR members, to give him more “flavor” of the process, dedicated themselves to copying the plates of cars that were parked in the street without it mattering if their owners attended. There were more than fifty invitees, the majority young graduates of the University of Havana. Oscar played records by Juan Luis Guerra and the 440 and Ciro’s punk music, but everyone spoke the same language and spent the night dancing and having fun.

The reaction was swift

On December 9, a surprise was waiting for Oscar at his workplace, the National Institute of Oncology and Radiobiology (Cancer Hospital), where he works as a researcher. His doctorate thesis is about sporadic colon cancer. He also works as an adjuct professor at the Biology School without receiving any salary for this latter work.

A colleague of his, Pedro Wilfredo Fernandez Cabezas, was waiting to tell him that by continuing to attend activities with counter-revolutionary groups, “mercenaries, annexationists and neo-liberals” — a cocktail of amazing accusations — he could suffer negative consequences in his work.

Oscar answered him that he has friends who express themselves against the government but they are not mercenaries or annexationists*. Calmly, he explained to him that he did not believe that they were of a neo-liberal tendency, although he thought that if that were so, it did not justify any action against them.

We return to the starting point

“Wednesday December 11, 2013, I tried again to make a complaint about these threats at the PNR Station at Zapata and C. The first lieutenant Abad refused to write the complaint because, according to him, the threat is registered and attended to only when it is a death threat, not when they threaten to hit me or put me in prison or take my job,” continues Oscar in this absurd saga.

And last April an official from the National Revolutionary Police left a citation at his home for him to appear the next day at the Zapata and C Unit. The reason? An interview with Captain Jose A. Blasco.

“But when I presented myself at the Unit, Captain Jose A. Blasco directs me to an office and immediately withdraws. There was never an interview with the said captain. Three men younger than I were there, dressed in civilian clothes, only one of whom identified himself as Marcos, although the others said they were from State Security.

In short, they told me that they were going to take me out of my job, where I have worked for 10 years without any work problem, and put me to work in a less important center or in a polyclinic. They told me they could hurt me and my family even more, because State Security says that I cannot keep communicating with some friends, like Ciro, the one from Porno para Ricardo, whom I have known since before the university,” continued Oscar.

His alternatives were clear, and there were only two, in his case complementary. Talk with this reporter and complain to the institutions of the State.

The young researcher wrote letters to everyone. He gathered signatures from many of his friends and students. He took them to all possible institutions and delivered minted copies to each of those who supported him.

The Kafkaesque machinery seemed to stop at one point, but in reality it continues. All this has stolen many hours of research from him. He has had to dedicate them also to studying the law and trying to understand why a regime dedicates itself to interrupting the people and discouraging the talents themselves of people that interest it, above all, providing knowledge. Oscar still is not a dissident.

Lilianne Ruiz, July 4, 2014, Cubanet

*Translator’s note: “Annexationist” is an accusation made against opponents to the regime which implies that they want the United States to annex Cuba.

Translated by mlk

5 July 2014

A Light for My Loved Ones / Estado de Sats

Una luz por los míos” / Collective Action

To all Cubans

July 13 marks the 20th anniversay of the 13th-of-March* tugboat crime against a boat that carried 72 Cubans, sunk by the Cuban regime off the Havana Bay to prevent their escaping to the United States coast. This criminal action cost the lives of 41 people, among them 10 children.

The collective action “A light for my loved ones” will be a tribute to the victims of the 13th-of-March tugboat and to all Cubans who have lost their lives in the sea, trying to escape a suffocating realitythat has lasted for 54 years. It is also a tribute to the Cuban family and a call to hope and the spiritual rebuilding of our nation.

On July 12, at dusk on the eve ofthis anniversary, Cubans, wherever you are in the world, take a candle to the sea, a bridge, a lake, a river, your doorway, balcony, or in the privacy of your home (in case repression in Cuba is doubled on this date).

Given the disconnection of Cuba from the world, Cubans who live abroad can help to promote this symbolic action, inviting families and friends on the island to participate and sharing, in turn, photos and images of the tribute on social networks.

Let’s light this candle on 12 July to remember a friend, a family member, who didn’t make it, a child who never appeared.

A candle as a complaint.

A candle against forgetfulness.

A candle for the future.

A light for my loved ones.

*Translator’s note: The tugboat was named after the day in 1957 when students launched an attack on the presidential palace in Havana.

Somos+ Launches a Project to Save History / Eliecer Avila

Among the first victims of January ’59 was the history of Cuba, especially the phase of the Republic. A radical rupture caused the immediate divorce of the new generations with a past that was reduced to four lines in scholarly books. (From Somos+)

La Havana, Cuba – “Puppet State, governing mafias, corruption, and poverty” are the only emblems, according to the official version, of the first half of the twentieth century in Cuba

A tour of eight libraries in Havana, while inquiring whether there existed some available texts on the Republic, resulted in only one book in two libraries dedicated to the theme: “The Republic of Cork” by Rolando Rodriguez.

The disconnectedness from the Internet worsens the situation. It is such that the access to documents, testimonials, videos, statistics and serious studies, are reduced to such a small number of people that they do not rely on a platform to discuss the contents.

To this situation we are already working on a series of testimonials, with people who lived, worked, fell in love and started families, and dreamed during the Republic. Men and women who are a living treasure because of their accumulated experiences and unprejudiced vision of the different realities that nuanced a whole era.

We want to investigate, from the household perspective, how that society felt. How was the health, the education, the exercise of democratic participation (when it existed), the press, the architecture, the cost of living, the markets, the music, the recreational activities, the institutions, the problems of the moment . . . finally, everything that can provide understanding about a tumultuous period, but one that was productive in the construction of the Cuban nation.

We also seek to shed light over many deeds and historical circumstances that have been strongly manipulated or distorted. The objective is not to establish truths or impose visions, but to enrich the debate and provoke a flourishing of knowledge and vital analysis for the current age.

The people who wish to participate in this historical series can contact us through email, by phone, or through mail.

Eliecer Avila, Engineer, (Somos+)

Cubanet, 13 June 2014

Translated by: Bianca Martinez

Spanish post
14 June 2014

There’s No Room, Wait Outside / Julio Cesar Alvarez

Gatehouse clinic in Central Havana. Photo courtesy of the author.

HAVANA, Cuba — Doctors working in the clinic located within the gatehouse of Central Havana Children’s Hospital refused medical treatment to a three-month-old infant named Alexander because his parents refused to comply with an internal policy of the hospital.

The policy allows only one parent to be present in an exam room. According to the doctor and nurse on duty the lack of space in the rooms is the reason for this policy.

According to Dr. Mario Lorenzo Medina, vice-director of health care at Central Havana Children’s Hospital, overcrowding in the consultation rooms was the reason why only one of the parents could be present.

“My doctors don’t have the room. They work in crowded conditions,” the director told the infant’s father. Continue reading “There’s No Room, Wait Outside / Julio Cesar Alvarez”

For the parents — 25-year-old Yanela Durán Noa and Augusto César San Martín, an independent journalist — this policy violates the right of both parents to be present during an examination of their son.

The director of the hospital politely acknowledged this right but said that the policy would remain in effect until working conditions for his doctors improved. If parents refuse to comply, they are denied access to an exam room.

Dr. Giselle from the Coco and Rabí clinic in the 10th of October district is of the opinion that the rights of the parents trump any other consideration, especially a hypothetical lack of space.

The nurse who denied medical assistance. Photo courtesy of the author.

“The patient is always right. There is no significantly compelling reason to deny him care,” says Giselle.

For the father, not only was the directive an embarrassment, but so too was the treatment by the clinic’s medical and nursing staffs.

“They didn’t even ask why we brought the child in. The doctor and nurse refused to treat him. And when I asked for their names in order to file a complaint, they rudely told me that I was not the police,” says Augusto César San Martín.

Cuban doctors travel to inhospitable locations in order to provide medical care in very difficult conditions.

Photo: A dog sleeping in one of the clinic’s exam rooms.

While on these international “missions,” they work in open-air exam rooms under conditions of both sun and rain. They do this without objection and without a word of complaint. Even snakes pose no barrier to their work overseas.

The parents in this case consider denying them entry because of an alleged lack of space to be absurd since the policy is followed even when the rooms are empty.

Alejandro’s parents filed a complaint with the Ministry of Public Health almost two months ago. They have yet to receive a reply.

Cubanet, June 23, 2014, Julio Cesar Álvarez

State Security Summons Estado de Sats Members to “Warn” Them About “For Another Cuba” Graffiti

Campaign for Another Cuba. Graffiti Collective, #WeWantItNow, June 8 at 10 am, Wherever you are!!! For the ratification of the UN covenants/ (Estado de Sats)

Several members of Estado de Sats were summoned by State Security to a Havana police station this Saturday, to “warn” them about the Grafiti Colectivo Por otra Cuba, organized by the independent project for this Sunday, to support the campaign demanding that the Government ratify the United Nations covenants that it signed in 2008.

“They wanted (…) to threaten us, as always, and to say that they would not allow any type of action,” the visual artist Lía Villares told Diario de Cuba.

“I told them it was an international action, a global movement in support of the campaign, and that they couldn’t prevent what was happening in different parts of the world,” she added. Continue reading “State Security Summons Estado de Sats Members to “Warn” Them About “For Another Cuba” Graffiti”

Two years since the start of the campaign, Estado de Sats has proposed “simultaneous and collective graffiti,” within and outside Cuba, of the For Another Cuba logo, created by the graphic artist and caricaturist Gustavo Rodríguez (Garrincha).

Also “to document the actions and post photos and videos on social networks, to make this ’collective graffiti’ a media success in support of the message For Another Cuba.”

In addition to Villares, also summoned were the photographer Claudio Fuentes, the writer and independent journalist Camilo Ernesto Olivera, and the activist Dixán Romero, who did not appear because of irregularities in the summonses.

“I went out wearing a shirt with the campaign logo and they were so upset, evidently so disturbed, that they talked to the logo, not to me,” related Villares, who was “warned” by two officials.

“I asked them why they don’t combat corruption, delinquency, why a person like myself sitting there at three o’clock on a Saturday afternoon (…) why they were doing this work while the country was falling apart. But that didn’t interest them, they wanted to deliver their threatening and intimidating message,” she added.

The Campaign for Another Cuba demands that Havana ratify the United Nations covenants on civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

Diario de Cuba, 8 June 2014

They Taught Us to Lie, Steal and Pretend / Gladys Linares

HAVANA, Cuba – Very often we hear the officials of the Ministry of Education stress our country´s successes in this field from 1959 onwards, and we ask ourselves how can they possibly talk about this without the slightest shame, ignoring the profound loss of values confronting Cuban society, when even Raúl Castro, on July 7, 2013 at the 1st ordinary session of the 8th Term of the National Assembly of Popular Power recognised that for the more than twenty years of the Special Period “there has been an acceleration of the decline of moral and civic values such as honesty, decency, shame, respect. honour, and an absence of sensitivity toward other peoples´problems.”

With these words he recognised that the destruction of Cuban society did not start in the Special Period. What happened is that, from the start of the totalitarian Castro dictatorship, Cubans have had to lie, be dishonest, distort childrens´ education and many other things in order to survive.

Now they say that the school and the family are fundamental in the development of the citizen, but for many years they have not cared about the training and care of the educators. In Cuba, before 1959, they had achieved great advances in public education, and although even more effort was needed to deal with the serious deficiencies in rural education, our schools were forming professionals capable of improving the culture and education of our people.

While it is true that the literacy campaign was an important event in the fight against illiteracy, not everything was wheat, because at the same time a difficult period was starting for Cuban teachers.

With the intention of imposing an educational system which would answer to the interests of the new government, they introduced the law nationalising teaching and set up a unitary educational system under the pretext that the schools we inherited were schools which tended to serve the “spurious” interests of imperialism. Those teachers who were against this were removed from education. The Kindergarten “Normal” Schools, as well as the “Normal” schools for teachers, disappeared, and distinct programmes started up for turning young people into a new type of teacher, like the voluntary teachers (who took intensive courses in the Sierra Maestra). the Makarenko teachers and, more recently, the emerging teachers.

In 1975, in view of the scarcity of teachers, they started the Teacher Training Schools, where 6th grade pupils entered, and which functioned until 1990. These schools started up again in the 2010-2011 academic year, now with 9th grade pupils. There are 22 in the country and this year will be the first graduation.

This is the way they improvised teaching: with kids, adolescents and young people without either the teaching experience, nor the necessary knowledge to carry out the complete activity of teaching and educating.

At the same time, the arbitrary programmes applied in the system, like the boarding schools in the country, where the students had to devote a part of their day to farm labour, separated the children and young people from their families at decisive stages in their upbringing, which accentuated the loss of values.

Also, during all those years, there was the continuous exodus of teachers, driven by the low salaries (no more than 400 Cuban pesos a month, less than twenty dollars U.S.), as well as the poor teaching methods, which impacted on their professional evaluation, and the very bad working conditions.

Nowadays the Cuban school is characterised by the absenteeism of pupils and teachers, by the inappropriate form of dress and way of addressing each other, and also some teachers frequently use obscene words to control the students. And we can´t avoid mentioning the deterioration of the state of the facilities.

As a result of all this, the recent scandal about fraud in the maths exams to enter higher education was no surprise, which came to light when the echoes of the previous case were still reverberating, in relation to the maths test for the eleventh grade the previous year. And the worst of it was everyone knows these weren´t the only incidents, just the ones which were made public. And, sadly, I would dare to say that they won´t be the last. I hope I´m mistaken.

Cubanet, 6 June 2014, Gladys Linares

Translated by GH

The Sewer Waters’ Phantom Truck / Gladys Linares

Many Havana streets barely have any pavement. The drains are clogged. With the rains the overflowing sewers allow sewage out. They try to justify these difficulties with the Special Period, everyone knows that the neglect began in 1959.

Cubanet, HAVANA, Cuba, June 13, 2014 — We residents of the capital have seen how the streets and avenues have been deteriorating for more than 50 years, arriving at the critical situation in which they are today. Although roads are an expensive activity, and the government says it has assigned millions to the rehabilitation of the capital’s main arteries, if a profound drainage restoration is not undertaken, the situation, which is critical, the problem of the floods, as well as the sewer water in our streets, will not be resolved.

The sewer system was designed for a certain number of residents, but Havana’s population has been growing by leaps and bounds, and this creates difficulties. A few days ago through the media it was announced that the government was engaged in improving the capital’s pipeline system.

Barely two years ago the official media released a lot of propaganda about the repair of the avenues, among them Calzada de Dolores, Lacret, Porvenir, Diez de Octubre. But, as is already customary, these jobs were not well done, and a few days ago it made headlines again that the avenues already need new repairs. Continue reading “The Sewer Waters’ Phantom Truck / Gladys Linares”

Today many city streets are practically back roads, full of dirt, because there is barely any pavement left. The drains are clogged, and as the sewage system networks are not rehabilitated, when heavy rains flood the streets, the overflowing sewers allow sewage waters to get out. Although there is an effort to justify these problems with the Special Period, everyone knows that the neglect dates from 1959.

Many Havana neighborhoods exemplify this reality. To just mention one, in Santos Suarez, Diez de Octubre municipality, in Rabi and Enamorados streets the situation is critical. But that is not the only place where this occurs. Today Ricardo, a young man who lives on Lagueruela street in Lawton, told me that his patio was full of dirty water that smelled like a grave, and that as the downpour got worse, more came out and ran through the halls towards the street. Also the neighbor, an older lady, called him, startled because water was coming out of her bath drain.

For some time, some people have been removing the drain covers when the streets flood. They think that this way the water will drain faster and so they will prevent the flooding of their houses. But as these grills almost always are in the middle of the streets, this constitutes a danger not only for the pedestrians who try to cross the streets, but also for vehicles like bicycles and motorcycles. Jorge, a neighbor, tells me that recently a man caught his attention and directed him to call the high pressure truck that extracts black water, and he looked at him mockingly and shot back: “Buddy, that truck is a ghost!  I’m tired of calling it and it not coming!”

Translated by mlk.

14 June 2014

Travelling by Tram / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Dámaso | La Habana | 1 Jun 2014 –- My generation used trams when we were kids and early adolescents. After that they disappeared, to be replaced by English Leyland buses, supplied by Autobuses Modernos, known as “nurses” because they were white with a blue stripe running along the bodywork, which looked like the white uniform with a blue cape, which nurses wore.

A Havana tramway token: “Good for one journey” (FD)

Taking a ride on a tram was a whole experience in itself, with its hard basket seats, its wooden windows which you could slide up and down, and the motorman and conductor – that’s what they called the fare collector – with their ’20’s style uniforms, trying to connect the end of the  trolley pole with the electric wires, pulling on two ropes, when the pole had become detached after going too fast around a bend. Continue reading “Travelling by Tram / Fernando Damaso”

The trams had platforms at the front and the back, at a lower level than the floor of the car itself, which you used to get on and off at the stops. The former had a grill, looking like a moustache which stuck out to push away possible objects on the road, the motorman had the use of a gadget located to his left which allowed him to regulate the speed in a range of between one and nine. If he needed to, he could put it in reverse, making the wheels turn in the opposite direction. The brake was a crank located at the front, which you operated by turning it. The right pedal was used, when going up or down hills, or when it rained, to drop sand on the rails from boxes over the wheels, improving the grip and avoiding skids.

There was also an iron lever used to move the points to change the direction of the rails.

A traffic jam of trams, when one of them had a problem, lasted some time, until the broken-down one was towed out of the way onto a siding. Opposite the stairway to the University, in San Lázaro Street, in the days of the student protests, the students put pieces of soap on the rails, and the trams, abandoned by their passengers, with the motorman trying to control them with their shiny bronze crank handles, shot off downhill, crossing Infanta at top speed, and often getting as far as Belascoaín, so long as they hadn’t derailed on the way. It was also very impressive going down the Loma de Jesús del Monte, where they got up to a high speed, until they arrived at Toyo.

The trams were made of wood and iron and were painted white with yellow stripes. On their front platforms, over the windows and on the right, there was a large letter which indicated the stop – V, Vedado: P, Príncipe; C, Cerro; S, Santos Suárez; and M and L, Jesús del Monte – followed by a number for the route or line, and, on the centre another number which was the vehicle series number.

Under the windows and above the grill, a flag with colours indicating the itinerary: Lawton-Parque Central, Víbora-Vedado, Cerro-Muelle de Luz, etc.

You paid with a special token showing an H in the centre, which had engraved on one side “Havana Electric Railway Co.” (the name of the company), and on the other side “Good for one journey”.

Crossing in a tram over the Puente de Pote, now called the Puente de Hierro, you could see the transparent and clear water of the Almendares River, which was not contaminated in those days. The El Vedado trams looked more elegant. The passengers got on them and got off again in a ceremonious manner at the different stops. It was a comfortable, slow, democratic and safe mode of transport, belonging to a world now gone. It had more to do with a straw hat than a cloth hat.

The Jesús del Monte stop, popularly known as the “The Viper”, was a hub, with cars entering and leaving, with all type of businesses around it. When the bigger buses came along, the traffic got worse: trams and buses crossing and overtaking with just a few centimetres separation, only avoiding scrapes by the expertise of the bus drivers, since the trams moved on fixed rails and couldn’t manoeuvre to one side.

When it was decided to take them out of service, most of them, after having the motors, bearings and trolley poles removed, were used as filling for new streets and avenues, principally in El Vedado and Miramar. Now they are lying under them. They removed the overhead cables and the tracks, some of which were simply covered over with asphalt. Sometimes they stuck out of the many potholes that existed. One of the last trams, converted into a cafe called “Desiree”, remained for several years on a site near the Fuente Luminosa.

The tramway was noisy, and open to the elements, the best way to enjoy it. When it rained, everyone ran about, trying to close the windows which, given their primitive system, they tried several times, and the conductor had to come and help the passengers. If the tramway was near the pavement, there was no big problem in getting on and off, but if it was far away, nearer the middle of the street, it was impossible not to get wet, apart from having to be careful not to be run over by any motor vehicle. There were lots of accidents like that. The tramways were part of an era, and disappeared when it did, leaving those of us who enjoyed it with happy memories

Translated by GH
8 June 2014