The Allure of the Forbidden / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 27 June 2015 — Strolling through the streets of Havana, it is odd to see the profusion of American symbols on clothing, flags, decals, handbags and other items.

While walking in the vicinity of Yara cinema in Vedado recently, I happened to notice with some amazement a cart selling slushies. Such carts are not allowed to park for more than a minute. They must be in constant motion or risk getting a fine, a stupid rule since it requires customers to run along behind the vendor. At any rate, this same cart was sporting two American flags of considerable size on both its front sides. Too bad I did not have a camera to capture the image. Continue reading

Forwarded: A Very Good Article! (forwarded Tuesday night) / Rebeca Monzo

From: Vera Pravdova [mailto:verap@enet.cu]

Sent: Thursday, June 18, 2015, 4:56 p.m.

To: abetancourt@cubarte.cult.cu

Re: A very good article! (forwarded Tuesday night)

Hello friends:

I’m forwarding you these two articles (Alpizar, Ravsberg) with the intention of distributing them to as many people as possible, since we should immediately demand the enforcement of laws protecting plants and animals, the urgent creation of new laws in this area, and the imposition of severe punishments on all violators. Continue reading

One Year and Already Walking with Solid Steps

Rebeca Monzo, 22 May 2015 — A little over a year ago our friends Reinaldo and Yoani came for a visit to tell us that, finally, the long-cherished dream of starting an independent newspaper was about to be realized and to ask us if we would be interested in contributing articles.

Why such an unusual name for a newspaper? I’ll tell you: The number fourteen refers to the floor on which they live, Y stands for Yoani, who came up with the idea, and medio is a reference to communication media.*

We, along with others, enthusiastically began making our modest contribution and the dream quickly came true. On May 21, 2014 the first issue of the digital daily 14ymedio was published.

Yesterday, we all gathered at the newspaper’s headquarters: the founders, the staff and the contributors. We had a delightful evening of conversations and discussions in which the main course consisted of new suggestions and ideas to further improve 14ymedio.com.

HAPPY FIRST ANNIVERSARY!

*Translator’s note: The title is a play on words. In Spanish, 14 y medio literally means fourteen and a half. The word medio can mean either half of something or medium, as in the medium of television.

Information is Power / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 19 May 2015 — The year was 1985. I was still working at a state agency, like everyone in our country, and there was talk in the Cuban media about an “enemy” radio broadcast that had been named, improperly, Radio Martí. This generated fierce government propaganda against it, above all, for having baptized it with the name of the “Apostle,” (as Cubans call José Martí) which the Cuban misgovernment feels it owns absolutely.

As could be expected, like all human beings we relish forbidden fruit, especially in the case of a source of information whose censorship is imposed by a totalitarian regime. My curiosity grew and I gave myself the task of finding a formula for reaching it. Continue reading

Check the Air in the Tube / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 4 June 2015 — One evening at the beginning of the “Special Period,” when I was meeting with friends at home, I told them to drink lemongrass tea, because coffee would now become scarce: “What I most regret is not the wretched goods that will be coming, but what wretches we are going to become,” speaking in general terms of course.

Unfortunately this has happened, and on a gradually increasing scale we have thievery, deception, fraud, double standards, and many other social vices.

Right now corruption cases on the island are alarming, at all levels: stealing and selling exam answers and graduation certificates, selling jobs, falsifying payrolls, and many others. Not to mention joint ventures, where the scams and their dividends reach into the millions. Continue reading

Honey from the Bees / Rebeca Monzo

From the time we were little, our grandparents and parents gave us spoonfuls of honey to cure our coughs, or anointed our minor injuries with a dab, or simply put it on our lips, chapped by the cold or a high fever. Its curative properties came down to us from our ancestors for hundreds of years.

This natural substance has been used as a culinary sweetener since ancient times in many countries, and also appreciated for its curative qualities. Treatment with honey is known as apitherapy and replenishes energy, increases physical vigor, and strengthens people weakened by illness or because of ongoing stress. Continue reading

Elections…for What?* / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 22 April 2015 — I have a friend from the old days who has a big heart, but a mouth even bigger than that vital organ. We meet a bunch of years ago when I moved to this neighborhood, and we bonded over our noble sentiments towards our fellow humans, animals and nature — despite our great differences insofar as ideas about homeland and liberty.

A few days ago she sent me, via a mutual neighborhood acquaintance, an unexpected message: “Tell Rebeca that if this time she will not vote, I myself will go get her and drag her by the hair, kicking her in the….”

Gross error, I told the messenger. Above all, I do not accept, under any circumstances, threats from anyone — but even worse, that type of message is one that only she can give to me directly, if she respects herself — and even less do I accept vulgarities. Taking advantage of the fact that the intermediary is a member of my block’s Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, I made the following remarks to her: Continue reading

The Kingdom of the Lie / Rebeca Monzo

Civil society activists from other countries confronted the Cuban government’s “civil society” representatives with these signs, reading “Democracy is Respect” / Source, Internet

Rebeca Monzo, 19 April 2015 — A magnificent professor of philosophy, deceased now for some years, of whom I had the honor to be a student, would invariably begin his classes with a saying. He would assert that all of life’s wisdom could be found in a compendium of Spanish popular sayings.

In an article published in the daily Granma, on 15 april of this year — a fragment of which I reproduce below — the First Vice President of the Councils of State and of Ministers, during his visit to the city of Matanzas, urged solutions to grave problems in education. He stated, “There is a deficit of 1,086 teachers, primarily in the municipality of Cárdenas and surrounding areas, and so far in this school year, 244 requested leave of absence…”

The Minister of Education remarked that, “One of the causes of the exodus of teachers, and of the current lack of activity, is the teaching overload that the teachers remaining in the schools take on.” The First Vice President also inquired about the construction status of the schools, 43.4% of which have a rating of average or poor.

How is it possible that only six months ago — when announcements were made with great fanfare in the press, radio and television about the start of the 2014-15 school year — it was said that everything (teachers, classrooms, uniforms and books) was ready? It is obvious that there were lies then, as there have been in all spheres throughout all these years.

As a recent highlight of this string of falsehoods, the decisive blow was administered by the official delegation, organized and prepared by the regime, to represent us at the recent Civil Society Forum during the Summit of the Americas in Panama. The prefabricated members of this delegation themselves were those charged with nakedly showing themselves with their wrongdoing and the marginalized way they acted before the press and international public opinion, exposing yet another of the great lies of the regime.

 Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

To the Government supporters: “You showed your trashy ways” / Rebeca Monzo

Image of the pro-government supporters taken from the Internet

Rebeca Monzo, 15 April 2105 — The 7th (of April) arrived.  The Summit of the Americas in Panama and, with it, the invited and participating delegations started to arrive in the Central American country.  The official Cuban delegation, one of the largest, had a good time organizing and preparing, under the optics of the totalitarian regime, making up a series of NGO officials, with the objective of making themselves look like the only Cuban civil society.

The inconceivable and unacceptable thing was to send characters well-known as loyal to the regime, pretending to make them pass as members of this civil society. Among them, just to mention the most known, was Dr. Eusebio Leal, the historian of Havana, Miguel Barnet, President of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC) and Abel Prieto, Adviser to President Raul Castro who, along with many others chosen, lended themselves to serve as bullies in the famous meetings of repudiation against the Cuban opponents, real members of nascent civil society, insulting them and even sometimes, hitting them and preventing them from leaving through the front door of where they were staying, having to remove them safely from the hotel by the kitchen and the backyard of the property.

These acts, absolutely unacceptable, have set a terrible precedent in front of governments of other countries, the international press, who have remained amazed before similar acts of marginality, vulgarity, and lack of respect to the host country.  As my friend Mary would say: “They showed their trashy ways,” confirming with their deplorable attitude what the opposition from within the island has been condemning for years.

As  if these abuses of power were not sufficient, they have tried to monopolize Jose Marti, as if he doesn’t belong equally to all of those born on this battered island.

Translated by: BW

Cultural Crime / Rebeca Monzo

Celia Cruz

Rebeca Monzo, 27 March 2015 — For the last few years I have been tuning-in to a program broadcast on Sundays, from 6 to 9am, on the Cuban Radio station Radio Rebelde, ironically titled, “Memories.”

Because I love good Cuban music of all eras, I am a faithful listener of this program, and I also take the opportunity to dance a little, as a means of morning exercise. I must, I confess, bite the bullet to ignore the tedious sermons (“….had to travel thousands of kilometers to buy the molds….when the island was blockaded….”) and which year after year they play on the air lest, as they say, we forget.

What this program keeps quiet about is that it has been the Revolutionary government itself which has subjected its people to a criminal cultural blockade, depriving more than three generations of our best musicians and singers, for the sole fact of their having emigrated after 1959 Continue reading

The English Patient (remake) / Rebeca Monzo

atrio-donde-se-encuentra-la-lucernaria

After seeing “The English Patient,” a magnificent film directed by Anthony Minghella and played brilliantly by actor Ralph Fiennes in the principal role, I felt as though I had been to its locations on those days when I have had to visit and remain for hours around América Arias hospital — so-called in honor of she who was once First Lady and a great patroness of the arts, the wife of President José Miguel Gómez of the Republican era.

Anyone with a relative or friend who is a patient at this hospital, better known as “Maternidad de Línea” (“Línea Street Maternity”), if he has seen the same film, will do as I did: mentally recreating the movie’s locations as he moves among the trash and Continue reading

Great Achievements of the Cuban Woman / Rebeca Monzo

Patchwork by Rebeca

Rebeca Monzo, 8 March 2015 — The year 1931 was the first time that the International Day of the Woman was celebrated.

By 1942, all women teachers in our country were certified, not counting the growing number of women professionals, increasing every year, occupying positions in universities and diverse organizations. By then, also, many women were prominent in the arts, sciences and letters.

But it is not until 1959 that we see Cuban women maximizing their creativity. Forthwith, some of the great achievements of the Cuban woman in these past five decades:

Manage to convert that old dress into a cute blouse; cover her grey hair with the powder from old radio batteries; cover her one pair of shoes multiple times to match her outfits; obtain, after three days of waiting in line and sleeping on a porch, a Soviet-made record player; wearing down her index finger dialing the phone to obtain a reservation at a restaurant; suffer along with her child on Three Kings Day at the toy store where she is assigned, and try to console him, because the toy he wanted was already sold out; figure out how to look “put together,” using shoe polish for mascara; manage, after an hour of waiting at the bus stop, to climb on and get down from the bus in one piece; find a way for her child to grow and flourish without ever having tasted fruit, compote or cereal; create some kind of meal every day for the family table; manage to have survived through all the difficulties, and still give to others with a smile.

I take this opportunity to congratulate those women who emigrated, risking all and dodging innumerable difficulties, and who attained success in a foreign land, where they did not even speak the language.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison