Ode to Joy / Regina Coyula

Two different audiovisual have made me reflect again on our country’s future. The first, a recent BBC report on North Korea. It is one thing to read about this dystopian society and another to view images whose referent is the Orwellian nightmare. Politics is complicated, but they can not be good. Knowing them to be friends of my government gives me a feeling similar to that produced in me by demonstrations of friendship with the Iranian government.

But to dispel that depressing vision, last night, in the Cinema of Our America, I saw “No,” the Chilean film about the referendum against Pinochet. The film left me feeling very positive that the opposition could act from joy, and so from that feeling can call people together.

Not to maintain the scheme that to dissent is dangerous, because people from instinct or fear shy away from dangerous situations, even when they can’t divine them, can’t divine the depletion of public confidence in the government.

From the confrontation and the pulse, the heroism is evident, but this in itself does not add up and often valuable and much-needed life. I’m thinking right now about the hunger strike of a large group of activists from UNPACU — the Patriotic Union of Cuba — which very few Cubans inside the island know about, but which is magnified in this rumor of repression to which they are subjected.

There are ideas that I share with you, readers, because you already know what the associations are. With all due respect for the pain of many families, the joy, that component of our character, should be a basic component in the mortar of our reinvention as citizens.

26 April 2013

Before Geneva / Regina Coyula

My only source of news about this week’s election in Venezuela was Telesur and the Cuban press. Supposedly, Capriles was the villain calling for violence. The victims were exclusively Chavez supporters (though only a carpenter was mentioned and no names or statistics were given). And Maduro made accusations about coup plots and terrorist attacks.

I do not doubt that the situation in Venezuela at the moment is very volatile, but the analysts I saw stressed the fact that Maduro was elected president by half the voting public while forgetting that their coverage made a circus out Mexican elections by claiming that the losing candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, armed and “could arm” crowds in the Zócalo if Felipe Calderón was declared the winner.

The analysts also failed to comment on the quasi-dictatorial attitude of the recently elected Maduro with respect to protests organized by the opposition. “I will not allow it,” he said. (No one told me about this; I saw it live on Telesur.) It is as though the other half of the population does not exist but, more importantly, as though democracy in Venezuela no longer exists.

New coverage of the election in Venezuela confirmed my belief in the need to stay informed. It goes to show how information can be subverted and how the Cuban government will try to retain control for as long as possible. I would therefore like to present this as evidence of manipulation of one of a series human rights outlined in an international letter to be submitted for discussion in Geneva with an official delegation present.

19 April 2013

Indirect Effect / Regina Coyula

TeleSUR: Our NORTH is the SOUTH

The presidential campaign in Venezuela reaches me indirectly through my room, which is adjacent to the window of my neighbor Tomás, below which he has his television. Tomás follows the details of the rough-and-tumble campaign on Telesur. He thunders against Capriles, whom he considers to be little more than a criminal, and thrills to the son of a very precocious Chávez.

These days I avoid letting the remote linger too long on Channel 15. All the bizarre news and images there no longer surprise me and I am bothered by the excessive propaganda. Cuban television, however, certainly seems to have learned little to nothing from the multi-national broadcaster during all the years in which Telesur was only a three-hour program made up of filtered content.

But besides his devotion to the “candidate of the fatherland” Tomás can also see — if he wanted to see — how Venezuelans are able to choose from among various presidential candidates, how opponents from the opposition are able to make their case and, despite whatever my neighbor might say, can come to the conclusion that Venezuelan democracy is fragile. It is fragile, but it exists — a novel idea for the majority of our population, which was born after 1959.

12 April 2013

Everyone / Regina Coyula

Times are changing in Cuba.  A simple comparison to five years ago will sustain this statement. One of the expressions of this change is the proposal brought forth by a heterogeneous group of citizens (I have grown fond of the term) at Laboratorio Casa Cuba* to discuss a topic of interest to all of us, including those who do not know about the existence of such proposal.

It should not surprise me, but it does surprise me, to see how from the fringes of the political spectrum, Cuba Soñada** (Cuba Dreams)…receives arrows; from each one according to their position and comprehension: each one of them absolute owners of the truth, each one from the meta-reading, each one disqualifying*** (surreptitiously or not) the project.

Now that is fashionable to defend homosexuals, blacks, women, the disabled and any other socially excluded group, a little bit of respect for politically different ways of thinking would not be bad; and, in this, Laboratorio Casa Cuba is ahead of everyone else: laypersons, Catholics, anarchists and communists have taken equal places around the same table. The document may seem scandalous to many –better controversial than anodyne- but they will not be able to attack it for being offensive toward other schools of thought. Cuba Soñada…gives us the opportunity to discuss.  And, I say this to the orthodox within the one (legally allowed) political party and to those who plan agendas for the transition, in and outside of Cuba, and of course, to everyone else.

Translator’s notes:

*Laboratorio Casa Cuba is an initiative born from the Cuban Catholic publication Espacio Laical that has stated its mission as “to study the Cuban institutional framework” and to promote “research, suggestions for change, reflection and respectful dialog.”  It is integrated so far by communists, democratic socialists, anarchists and Catholics.

**The full title of this document, from the Archdiocese of Havana, is “Cuba dreams – Cuba possible – Cuba future: proposals for our immediate future.”

***”Disqualify” is a term used by the regime towards any expression of dissent as a way of dismissing the source. That is, the speaker/actor is told, essentially, “You are not qualified to speak or act because we — the powers-that-be — say so.” Yoani Sanchez described this in a blog post about a meeting with State Security.

Translated by: Ernesto Ariel Suarez

3 April 2013

Pre-Mortem / Regina Coyula

Image from mundodesubikado.blogspot.com

(After seeing a meeting of Cuban bloggers at City University of New York (CUNY))

I clarify this is pre-mortem, because the Spiritualist Congress here is not going to believe that it is my ectoplasm who speaks for me. And as for post-mortem, I don’t believe in it, the only post I give credit to is coming from my keyboard.

The cathartic need to express an opinion, at first led me to write steadily at a rate of two, three or even four weekly postings. I thought about everything, and consciously, although diffuse, fixed a position, which does not necessarily have to be aligned with anyone, so I had (I have) affinities and disagreements with friends and strangers, officials and dissidents.

When the heady sense of freedom derived from expressing an opinion or connecting to the Internet ceased to cause me anxiety and insomnia, I lowered the crest of that wave with the desire to compare views with real people, whether or not they had a (better) way of thinking like me.

My long-time readers will remember the opinions in the form of the posts I dedicated to responding to the blog La Joven Cuba (Cuban Youth), an experience that more than once made me “get serious” and pull our my History, its sister Philosophy and its cousin Ethics. I stopped commenting there when I realized that the young people from Matanzas were not interested in an open-door exchange with someone with a different position.

After complaining and suggesting rules of behavior; not wanting to use censorship, unable to use moderation, and unable to interact with the opinionated, I stopped having expectations about the comments area of the blog as a space for debate.

I thought to find in Estado de Sats that physical space, but this being our society where freedom of expression it so restricted, Estado de Sats proved to be sufficiently transgressive as to merit a warning (prohibition?) for anyone with a governmental affiliation.

In Jueves de Temas* (Thursday Topics) they identify opinion trends, people committed to the future of Cuba, but the selection of the panel, having to ask to permission to speak before listening to the guests, and the two hours allotted, don’t allow any possibility of “hot” debate.

And I’m not usually a good speaker, so I return to the blog. I also use Twitter, this tool so valuable in our state of non-communication, only to try to supplement what you are doing now, with what is happening now.

I feel so comfortable with my blog what I visualize myself older (that is, as a little old lady) writing about recipes, or the grandchildren, although it will be difficult not to write about everything — especially — to speak about the evils of the government of the time.

*Translator’s note: “Thursday Topics” was a discussion space in the officially sanctioned Cuban culture organization La Jiribilla, but it was cancelled in 2012.

27 March 2013

I, Citizen / Regina Coyula

The Laboratorio Casa Cuba makes a very interesting proposal, a space of which I have vague references. Invited to give my opinion, I sent some ideas after a first reading. We are many who dream about Cuba, although our dreams might be like life: diverse and even opposed; the challenge is in finding consensus.

I invite you to enrich this proposal with your opinions. (labcasacuba@gmail.com)

Translated by: JT

22 March 2013

The Violence that Touches Us / Regina Coyula

I believe I have successfully crossed the threshold of the 21st Century, a century that I prefer to believe more inclusive, comprehensive, and cohesive. After having been educated in certain social and ideological intolerance, I’ve gotten past them. My lesbian friends — they aren’t my friends so I can be “tuned in” — rather because their friendships enrich my life. I have other friendships whose political or religious posture could make us enemies, but for a long time my values of good and evil are established according to my beliefs; no more will I leave in other hands the thinking I should be doing for myself.

Gender-based violence just hasn’t not disappeared, but it remains buried, and sometimes so much so in our machista society, where the publicity campaigns look very pretty on the posters and audiovisuals; but looking at it closely, or listening to reggae music, you see it like a persistent bad weed.

The quantity of women with whom I’ve discussed this subject who have confessed to being victims is alarming; victims of the passions of a boss and of the consequences of rejection, and the higher the position of the boss, the worse it is for the woman; some end up giving up and almost all remained silent about it in shame because they (we) were educated in blame.

It might seem contradictory from the above that I should defend Ángel Santiesteban. As I have known him for many years, and I’ve taken interest in this case from the beginning, I allow myself to doubt the transparency of the trial and the objectivity of the witnesses, and I allow myself to think that the accuser has been manipulated, “another subtle form of the exercise of violence.”

I see a group of intellectual women passing judgment on this case of which they do not possess sufficient evidence, despite adding that … nobody can judge these facts without knowing the depth of the damage …. I want to point out a quote from a letter these intellectuals circulated on International Womens’ Day … whoever uses these theories is reproducing aggression; like those who blame the victim of a rape of having provoked her aggressor.

It’s inevitable for anyone who knows even minimally the hostage state to which the Ladies in White have been subjected to keep that in mind. On the margins of political beliefs, to ignore the copious testimony of the violence exercised against them, is to blame them for having provoked their aggressor.

It’s not enough to bring focus on the phenomenon through a particular mention of an alleged act of violence and a general mention of the rest of the violence against women in our society.  Anything one might do with this approach isn’t enough, given the environment tainted by the stereotypes in which we’ve lived. It won’t be with a bland and superficial reading of a text filled with ironies that the poet Rafael Alcides might write that the struggle for equality and respect. will be won. Equality and respect for women and for any other form of discrimination.

Translated by: JT

15 March 2013

In Baseball / Regina Coyula

My worst fears came to pass. Holland has us sized up. Like the majority of readers pontificated, we aren’t going to the next round. I’ll leave it to those who know the analysis of factors of the defeat of a team into which so many resources were invested. Marginally, my personal impression is that the charisma of Victor Mesa was adverse to the team and applied additional pressure to that it already carried. Differently than those who are happy about it, I so lament not being able to see them play in San Francisco.

Translated by: JT

11 March 2013

Angel Santiesteban and the Handwriting Expert / Regina Coyula

Angel and Regina

Angel and Regina

In Minority Report, the precogs were used in the pre-crime unit to predict possible murders. Already the presupposition is morally questionable while at the same time familiar as we have seen in our own Penal Code the “crime” of “pre-criminal dangerousness.” But can graphology emulate the precog, or at least can prove with scientific accuracy that traits of a criminal personality, or criminal, can be detected through handwriting? The answer is categorical and is negative.

I speak advisedly. Certified as an expert in documents at the Central Laboratory of Criminal Science, my specialty was handwriting. Many books have been written on the subject that “prove” that the handwriting reveals personality traits still hidden or that one tries to hide. Always using familiar characters, whose life history is closed and whose biographies have been widely documented to “prove” what their handwriting reveals in this or that characteristic. But nothing can be found in the wide literature on this subject with respect to a single systematic study of the relationship between handwriting-personality, and if there is, it is greatly subjective.

It is possible to establish the authorship of a document, because handwriting is a somewhat scatterbrained sister of the fingerprint in its individuality; by the same principle it is possible to detect a forgery, although there are fakes with a high degree of complexity and elaboration that shed a false positive. By the handwriting may know the approximate age and sex. Writing reveals, among other things, personality traits, cultural level, if a person is writing with their other hand, if they try to disguise their writing (for which there must be a comparison between two or more documents).

I find it irresponsible and manipulative to present at a trial an “expert” to certify by the handwriting of a paragraph, that a defendant has such and such a tendency in his personality. With a mere glance at a piece of paper copied reluctantly and under pressure, an expert certifies in court with his statement that the accused has the characteristics necessary to convict.

Graphology is a pseudoscience. No crime lab expert could offer an unproven statement by a photo-tableau illustrating their expert conclusions. To do so borders on the ridiculous: the case of my friend Angel Santiesteban, was judged in advance.

March 4 2013

A Personal Theme

I am against war. All weapons, but especially nuclear ones, seem to me to be an aberration. The armies should be disbanded and spend their budgets to solve the problems of hunger in the world (an issue in which the Vatican would be decisive with its influence, but above all with its wealth). I believe in an economic independence that guarantees political independence. I see the United States as a neighbor. And here I apply the same principle as in my neighborhood: I say Good Morning, I help if I am needed, I ask for help when I need it, and if I don’t like the neighbors sticking their noses in my business, I don’t stick my nose in anyone else’s.

Trying to go along with the new century, I like to think of the global village, and whether you live in Africa or in Europe, it makes no difference. I know we have a long way to go, at worst the natural state of man, as history shows, is one of confrontation. But it is now with the visionary and arrogant heads of state that we find a balance between our ambitions and the common good. And how good it will be when we define the common good as that of humanity.

The fact that I have absolutely no influence in these events makes this a rant, a catharsis, that I write one weekend for people I don’t know and who don’t know me, but if my readers take the smallest thing away from this, it could be a butterfly effect, and if not the youngest, their grandchildren, or beyond, will see the result. That is, if some lunatic hasn’t already pressed the button.

An Iranian Theme

Just the fact that I am a woman makes me look with disfavor on the current government of Iran. As a housewife who reads, I remember that the era of Mohammad Reza, with everything bad that could mean, signified for the Iranians the opportunity to emancipate themselves. I do not know very well what happened after Khomeini, but the Revolutionary Guards persecuted those who had opposed the Shah but did not agree with the fundamentalism of the Ayatollah, and in this purge of Persian society many Communists were killed. And for women, they imposed backwardness, the role of object, all at the expense of the most ferocious repression in the name of Allah.

It would be worth remembering who pulled the strings behind the Iran-Iraq war of the eighties. It would be worth asking why Mr. Ahmadinejad does not want to sit down to talk now, but would be willing to do it later.

And certainly it would be worth considering if the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

A Korean Theme

I would like to discuss a detail that I do not know, which the rest of the world has been reading about. The Korean heir must not have been very convincing on his trip to China following allegations about the sinking of the Cheonan, in that China voted against North Korea in the Security Council.

I still remember when that son of his father claimed to be developing atomic energy for peaceful purposes. I do not know if the poor Koreans will have electricity from the atomic plant, but their president has the Bomb. If he lied then, I don’t know why he wouldn’t lie now.

Second Calls Are Never Good

In a previous posting, I had commented on the entrance exams for university education, which this year were a disaster, so a second call was made to compete for places that were not occupied by the kids who passed at the first opportunity. For this second call they gave reviews from May until now. The test should have taken place on Thursday July 15, but when the students arrived in the classroom, the test had been suspended. It soon leaked out that the suspension was due to the questions leaking out. I cannot imagine a bunch of kids executing a robbery Mission Impossible-style; rather I see a tempting wad of money passed with discretion under the table. Do you remember a recent post titled “Explode“?

Binomial of Three

Frank Delgado and Buena Fe have made a record together. I like the chemistry of these artists a lot, they have a very good eye for looking and for making music which is catchy and makes you think at the same time. The first song, Extremistas Nobles, from which the record gets its name, is a statement of intentions. The songs of love (and loss) are excellent, Retazos de amor, and especially the bachata song Loco por ti have beautiful lyrics. I have always been a fan of Frank Delgado, a rebellious singer who hasn’t been broadcast as much as he deserves precisely for that- he answers back. The duo of Israel and Joel, who are also among my favorites, have had a successful career starting with Sicología al día, and even though they have been marketed, broadcast and received several awards, some of their songs have been censored; but beware: the young crowds still sing their songs and fill their concerts.

This new record is a mix between both styles, which makes it very unconventional. Lacking any pictures for this post, I post here the lyrics for Cubannolito.

Please visit rockason.wordpress.com. I wanted to post some audio from the song here, but I didn’t know how to do it.

Hey, my brother, how come nobody wants to be Cuban anymore

And everyone is busily searching for their ancestors

Do you remember the black Marcelo, all dark and with long grelos

He got a blue passport*, yes, because he’s got a Basque great-grandfather.

Patriotism comes with many strings attached, I’ve been a Cuban for four generations.

The Spanish are achieving what the Gringos couldn’t

Maybe next year we’ll already be subjects of King Juan Carlos.

Nor was it that the Bourbons managed to be a panacea

But they got into the parade and now they’re the door to the European Union.

Perucho Figueredo** points his arrow up. It so happens the Spanish anthem doesn’t have lyrics.

I say what I think: Little Spaniard, say pal what’s up, or low grade Cuban.

And so I find many acquaintances, practicing this new sport, running with the whole family to make sure nobody ends without a passport.

And since it comes with the right to vote in spanish elections, their candidates will be coming to campaign in Cuba.

The good things and the bad things. Fighting to paint or to fade the flag.

If you’re Cuban they will bust your balls (with a stone). The voice of command has a Spanish accent.

When you finally get to be a Spaniard you’ll feel important, you’ll finally be able to travel and even open an elegant restaurant.

What I would like the most is a trip to Spain, but everyone is going from the slum to luxury, it’s becoming a crowd. To the Nigerian embassy!

Translator’s Notes:
* Spanish passport.
** Composer of the Cuban national anthem

Translated by: Xavier Noguer

Telephone

Since I started this blog I’ve felt like never before the isolation produced by not having a phone line. It’s not that I didn’t want one. If blame needs to be apportioned to anyone or anything besides the boycott and the imperialist menace it should be to my husband who never wanted a phone line when he was still an active member of the Cuban Artists and Writers Union (UNEAC for its initials in Spanish). His reasoning was that the telephone ring, the same as the door ring, would upset the state of grace in which he needed to immerse himself in order to write. By the time he knew about answering machines he was already a “writer on hiatus” as he likes saying, and despite my begging he didn’t want to ask for a letter from UNEAC avowing his condition as a founding member of the institution. For those who are lost at this point of the story, I have to clarify that the telephone company is in charge of deploying new lines, but only after being authorized by the Poder Popular Municipal, which is more or less the equivalent of a city government.

Somewhere around six years ago, and without my husband knowing, I went to UNEAC’s literature section and filed a written application for e-mail service, to be “anchored” to the telephone line from my mother’s house. I was told back then that it would take some time because of upgrades on the CUBARTE server taking place at the moment, and I never got an answer afterwards. It seems that my husband doesn’t meet their criteria on reliability, or they knew beforehand that he wouldn’t accept the signed user agreement included in the contract, which implies that no information criticizing the government may be sent or received.

I’m considering now applying for a mobile phone, but I haven’t decided yet, for as long as there are no fixed tariff plans, which is what I really want, a mobile phone may be a luxury or a necessity depending on circumstances.

Translated by: Xavier Noguer