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

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 without paws, 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

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

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

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

They Taught Us to Lie, Rob 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

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

Women in Battle Dress / Juan Antonio Madrazo Luna

The drag queens warm up Havana with the steam of their bodies. Prostitution has been their lifesaver.

HAVANA, Cuba – Lolita, Alejandra, Samantha, Paloma, and África María are drag queens who stamp their feet on every Havana street corner during the night, while the city sleeps. Some with warrior faces and others as shy princesses patrol the streets and avenues of a broken Havana.

Lady Gaga is not the icon for them anymore. She has been replaced by Conchita Wurst, the “bearded Austrian” who won the Eurovision Festival. They don’t believe in political surgery or the “factory of genders” that the National Center of Sexual Education (CENESEX) proposes, after converting Adela, a transsexual from Caibarién, into the first delegate of Popular Power.

In the stories of these drag queens we find dysfunctional homes, school drop- outs, sexual violation by a relative, and above all, humiliation and rejection since childhood for being different.

As they consider themselves to be in the wrong body, they have transformed it with accessories, paper-mache tits, hormones, or surgery. The will to live has allowed some of them to work in hospitals, as hairdressers, or by singing in small clubs. For others, prostitution has been their lifesaver. Continue reading

Even Toilet Paper Is A Luxury / Lilianne Ruiz

That the State sells cheap products at high prices is a dreadful cynicism.

HAVANA, Cuba. — First there appeared the “SPAR” products.  Then, on a shelf of the Ultra store in Central Havana, we saw the unmistakable seal with the little red bird from “Auchan.”  Imported products from Europe, which is equivalent to saying, in political terms, from the European Union.

But the prices:

“Very expensive.  Are you looking?  Almost no one buys them,” says the grocer at a small neighborhood market that now displays, also, “SPAR” jellies, cans of bonito and tuna at astronomical prices (in comparison with the buying power in Cuba) and that people do not seem to see; committed as they often are to getting a little package of chicken thighs or some greasy alternative and so to complete the Cuban menu of more fortunate days, too distantly spaced on the calendar: rice, beans, meat, vegetables and the main course, that now cannot be fish or beef.

Everything that the State sells is so expensive that for ordinary Cubans any basic product becomes a luxury. Continue reading

Where to Have Sex in Havana? / Camilo Ernesto Olivera Peidro

He who waits, feels desperate. Internet photo

Havana, Cuba. It happened in the Motel on 11th and 24th streets, near the iron bridge connecting Vedado and Miramar. In a room rented for two hours, the unpleasant whisper was heard: “Mami, you have a wonderful stench!” It was the 1980’s, Cuba was still receiving 5 billion in subsidy from the Soviet Union, the shortages of the Special Period were still far away, but vulgarities were emerging.

More than two decades ago those hotels where people go for sex* (or to make love) — Cubans call them posadas — were abolished in Havana. A cyclone was guilty. The wind and heavy rain left thousands of people in Havana without a roof, and the government, due to the lack of housing, sheltered them in these posadas.

It was a difficult solution for the sheltered ones: “We had to put up a sign at the entrance: ’This is not a posada anymore, families are living here, do not disturb,’” said a person housed there, in the old Venus posada, near the train station, and he added. “Couples would arrive, drunk, screaming, ’Desk clerk, give me a room we are dying to …!’ Imagine those vociferous vulgarities, where small children and old people were living. What a shame!’

The destiny of the posadas in Havana definitely changed after the so-called Storm of the Century, in March 1993. During that time the majority of them were under the control of the Popular Power. Some of them were in a state of disrepair, with leaks in the roofs and mold in the walls.

There are cities in the interior of the country, such as Holguin in the east, where posadas still exist. In that provincial capital, the government managed to set aside years ago a budget for basic repairs of old hotels in the urban area; the Majestic and El Turquino. These maintained payment for services in Cuban pesos (CUP).

In another inland city of Cuba, in Santa Clara, the two hotels, Modelo and América, received investments for repairs and were reopened with a grand pomp. The inhabitants of Santa Clara fixed them in order to have a room where to make love for two hours, which the desk clerks don’t report. Sweet deal.

These advertisements (rooms for rent by the hour, night and day) are often seen in the Malecon area. Photo by CEO.

In the capital, the price for one room — in private houses — corresponds with the facilities that offer, and the location. They charge more in Vedado, close to the zone of the Oncologic and the Calixto García hospitals. In Playa, the tenants, situated close to the Casa de la Música de Miramar, have regular customers. The prices range from 5 CUC per hour.  Depending on the quality of the room and the day of the week, the amount may be higher.

Near Havana’s Malecon — basically an area of prostitution — a lot of families rent their daughter’s room, or that of any family member, by the hour to prostitutes and pimps. One tourist said that, accompanied by a mulatto girl, he came to a house in the Laguna Street in Havana, where the family was watching the soap opera on TV and the father of the family said to one of his daughters: “Go wake up your grandmother, a couple is here.”

In the meantime, in the popular memory the remembrance of the posadas of  eastern Havana or of the Circunvalación, immaculate hotel rooms with air-conditioning, bathrooms with cold and hot water, clean sheets and bar service 24 hours, to which any couple could come by car, without being seen by prying eyes.

In today’s Havana you will find it difficult to find a safe, comfortable and clean room to have sex, if you can’t pay in hard currency or a pile of money; you can risk going down to the reefs, venture into the darkness of a park, although this is not recommended: bad guys are roaming there.

*Translator’s note: Because of the crowded housing conditions in Cuba and the fact that young people can’t afford to live on their own, nor do they own cars, privacy is hard to come by.

Cubanet, 20 March, 2014 | Camilo Ernesto Olivera Peidro

Translated by: AnonyGY, Michaela Klicnikova