This video is the 7th in a series of vignettes extracted from a four-hour interview of Rafael Alcides conducted by the filmmaker Miguel Coyula. Below are links to the previous Chapters.
There have been threats of drastic measures to be taken against any who do not comply with maintenance guidelines, and owners of vacant houses who have not had them fumigated. What you will see here is an open space of state property located just 30 yards from my house. All that’s needed is a light rain.
Theme Music: The Mosquito’s Bite
J. Rudess; J. Petrucci
14 March 2016
*Translator’s Note: This is a take-off from a line in a Spanish-language children’s nonsense song, “The backyard of my house is special: it gets wet when there’s rain, just like the others.”
Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison
16 March 2016
Regina Coyula, 23 March 2016 — The reactions of the press have been quick to come. Yet, the visit from the American president has given us much to talk about. But I want to talk about comments from Rosa Miriam Elizalde yesterday on the Roundtable program on Cuban state TV. With respect to the offering of internet made during Barack Obama’s visit, the director of the portal Cubadebate could not think of a better way to refute this offer than to appeal to the example of an African country where a Swedish NGO installed magnificent internet service and the Africans, because they didn’t know how to use it, have it “filled with noise.” The same thing, she said, could happen here to Cubans.
I will leave each of you to your musings provoked by the journalist’s reflection. In my case, I think the real reason for their eagerness to put a negative spin on it is nothing more than to deny access to the content that each person could choose for themselves had they the freedom that, in Cuba, the government keeps for itself without consulting its citizens. Elizalde, with privileged access to internet of the highest quality, chose to appear arrogant, ignoring the educational level of Cubans and putting Cuba at the level of Africa.
Regina Coyula, 12 March 2016 — In a decision that takes one’s breath away, even among commentators who defend official orthodoxy, the author of the blog El Colimador (The Crosshairs) has decided to stop publishing.
He had been “notified by the monitoring team for the Reflejos platform, due to the publications of comments approved by him that violate the conditions of use established by this platform.”
It turns out that in the conglomerate of blogs about sports, spirit, food, unfailingly full of applause, respectfully forgettable like almost everything on the platform, El Colimador stood out for being interesting and intense. It unapologetically defended what we know as the Cuban Revolution and its administration always managed a balance that fostered a respectful debate.
Who was the “regulator” (the author exonerates the technical team) who expressed the narrow viewpoint of a sector with power that appears not to live in the 21st Century but rather in the 19th.
Those with a better memory will remember the incomprehension with which La Polemica Digital and La Joven Cuba were dealt with, blogs that won their space and their readers not with obsequiousness but quite the opposite.
It would be lamentable if the enemies of El Colimador take advantage of my complaint to justify their censorship of the blog. These people can’t understand that I want a country where the Ruslans and the Reginas can express themselves without fighting under a nick and a false IP and accusing them of receiving “goodies” from the Cuban government or dollars from the American government.
Regina Coyula, 3 March 2016 — A consular official, in a flying interview lasting barely five minutes, told my husband he was not eligible to travel to the United States with a non-immigrant visa. According to the document he was given, my husband was not able to demonstrate that his proposed visit was consistent with the visa he requested.
What did this interview consist of? The official asked the reason for the trip, and the reason for the trip is a cultural meeting to deliver a tribute, in which my husband is the person to be honored. The second and last question was regarding whether he had family in the United States, to which he responded honestly that he has a son that he lost contact with a decade ago
The consular authorities of this (and any other country) have the right to approve or not approve the entry of foreigners to their territory. But haste should not make this interview a mechanical process. This awkward gentleman who face-to-face with the inquisitive functionary wasn’t able to remember the name of the institution intending to honor him, is one of the most important living poets of Cuban culture. A brief glance at Google could have informed the official about the gentleman in front of him, and relieved him of the idea that this traveler would be one more old man wanting to shelter under the Cuban Adjustment Act and Social Security benefits.
The decision — which cannot be appealed to anyone — recommends that he wait at least a year to return “if and when personal circumstances have significiantly changed.” It is lamentable, because Rafael Alcides will continue to live and write from his inxile in Havana in the same circumstances of today if he survives this year of being ignored awarded to him by the consular official.
Sent from my telephone with Nauta Mail.
Regina Coyula, 5 February 2016 — With a low media profile, sidestepping the incomprehension of establishment colleagues and the suspicions of the independent press, Periodismo de Barrio has begun its journey. Meanwhile, journalism-in-praise-of-the-government on one side and of-criticisms on the other, has appeared in this digital space that in its almost monographic issues has given us an accurate picture of Santiago de Cuba four years after Hurricane Sandy to present a straightforward and effective account of the half-life of those people who never make the headlines, those we are given to call “average Cubans.”
I would like to talk with Elaine Diaz, the lead on this project and former professor at the Faculty of Social Communication at the University of Havana, about this experience. We don’t even have to agree that the excellent articles from her news site not only confirms the government’s inability to provide a prosperous and sustainable life for citizens in the name of whom they say — and should — govern, but they leave them very badly off. I look forward to meeting Elaine; meanwhile I welcome this new site.
Regina Coyula, 18 January 2016 — Alejandro Armengol is the author of articles full of common sense that often clash with the opinions of opponents of the Castro regime inside and outside Cuba, but his article about the aggressions inflicted on the couple Antonio Rodiles and Ailer Gonzales on 10 January, one more day of #TodosMarchamos (We All March) protests, seemed unwise to me.
And not because he’s not right about much of what he says, but because everything is not as explicit as it should be, and it is certain to leave many readers, among them myself, full of speculations about the intricacies of the recent trip of the two well-known activists to Miami.
The violations of personal integrity suffered by opponents at the hands of the repressive forces are real and frequently documented, on Facebook, on personal web pages, or on those of some group or organization. If Rodiles appears frequently as a victim and denouncer of these events it is far beyond “a pattern that repeats itself in Rodiles’ behavior as an activist,” because his activism, and especially his activism in the street, Sunday after Sunday for nearly 40 weeks, is prioritized [by the police and State Security] as a target of repression. Armengol seems to forget that the government intends to defend “Fidel’s streets” at all costs, and the effrontery of the actors, who don’t seem to diminish, predicts nothing more than greater repression.
It makes sense that after observing strange marks on their skin*, Rodiles and Gonzales sought independent medical advice. With regard to Rodiles’ broken nose, such a thing is usually no more complicated that a simple operation, and the spectacular photo — as any photo of a broken nose would be — made clear that a blow from a fist had fractured that bone.
At the risk of being wrong, I believe that the “Ladies in White of Halloween” were apocryphal — a “performance art” action let’s say — by some people in exile with bad taste**, but probably with the best intentions in the world, who wanted to pay tribute to the Ladies, and in particular to one of them who was said to have suffered a miscarriage after a repressive day months earlier.
With regards to the allegations made by Frank Calzon, I don’t know what it’s about, but if it has to do with the idea that historic exile confronting this aggression against activists in Havana is “a sign of clinging to the past or an indication of looking for other means of confrontation with Havana,” it is not surprising that groups on both shores that have openly expressed their opposition to the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States try to demonstrate support and show that that political decision was a mistake.
Let me quote Armengol: “More symptomatic still is this evolution, of a simple and crude display of the Cuban reality — poverty, homelessness, imprisonment — another in the repressive mechanisms that fall within the area of speculation.”
To speculate that one has been injected — or not — with those puncture wounds, is just that: speculation. I do not expect the medical check up to uncover any anomalies, although to merely inject fear would be cruelty enough. To speculate that the event even happened — that is to doubt it — is to try to discredit the couple who founded Estado de Sats (State of Sats), and turn them into mere buffoons.
Far beyond likes and dislikes, whether or not they are personal, or have to do with methods or programs, any opponent who faces systematic repression deserves respect.
*Recently, after participating in violently repressed street march, Antonio Rodiles and Ailer Gonzalez discovered what looked like puncture marks on their skin and were concerned that in the melee they might have been injected with some noxious substance without their knowledge. (See photos below)
**Photos of individual Ladies in White were altered to show injuries as an illustration for an article.
Regina Coyula, 21 December 2015 — With his general’s uniform, the Cuban president delivered his summary of the past twelve months of relations with the United States. I imagine that much has been written on the subject, but I would like someone to me help to understand what share of sovereignty is surrendered when one is attempting to build a democracy. To a good year’s end and a better 2016.
Translated by: Araby
Regina Coyula, 11 December 2015 — There are moments when not even knowing grammar saves you when the time comes to decode information. News arrives of change in Latin America and on discussing it with people better educated and informed than average — people I know, who are convinced of the need for change in this country and want it as much as I — it turns out I see them repeating like a catechism the same views from a lady who commented on television, someone not characterized by the acuity of her arguments, or those of the announcers and guests on the Telesur channel, which though it is a paradigm of media manipulation from the left (?), at least has the decency to cover events “in real time,” and when I put this information together with what I got from other means, I can judge for myself.
These commentators on the news have the habit of translating for the Cuban public the intentions, personality and projects of government opponents (in the interests of the government, if it relates to the Cuban government), but never, for variety, do they let me hear it from the mouths of the protagonists themselves.
Thus, Macri, the brand new Argentine president is almost always “the ultra-rightwing millionaire,” and “the neo-liberal,” a terrible man who systematically and out of pure envy will dismantle all the achievements of the “Gained Decade,” as the Kirchner era is referred to [as the previous ten years are referred to as the “Lost Decade.”]
Yesterday, this terrible gentleman surprised me with a temporizing and patriotic speech. Without raising his tone or relying on boastful histrionics, he seemed an individual of sufficient intelligence to not reject the positive left by his predecessors. Despite the lugubrious tones in which I have painted him, he is aware that he will govern with the approval of half the voters and, therefore, was very attuned to building bridges to understanding.
To talk about the fight against corruption, the independent character of the judiciary, and adherence to the law sounds pretty good for a Latin American where both issues are scourges that corrode citizen wellbeing.
With the Venezuelan opposition that just took over the parliament, I’m left with the desire to know what it thinks, because my information only endorses what the losers will do: I see Capriles on the screen, but for those who don’t know who he is, it was a face in the background for a few seconds while in a voice over one of those translators, the preachers of Armageddon, didn’t stop predicting catastrophes.
And there must be great nervousness given the spoils of Chavismo achieved by Maduro, because the prerogatives of a two-thirds parliamentarian majority like that achieved by the opposition, range from reassigning crucial positions (such as that of Tibisay Lucena herself, president of the National Electoral Council), to promoting referendums and changes in the Constitution.
But we don’t hear this; we Cubans see on the screen agitated Venezuelans asserting that they won’t let the Revolution end. Seeing such venting before the cameras, I would tell them: “You keep on with your revolution while the rest of Venezuelans are busy rebuilding a country.”
I won’t talk about the treatment of events in Syria, Russia, Brazil, Spain, China or the United States, because I would have to surrender to fatigue. Meanwhile, the translators with broadband who can look at any newspaper, webpage, interview or analysis published, prepare a corrected and degraded version of reality for the masses.
Regina Coyula, 25 November 2015 — There is a joke that goes, in short, if Napoleon had owned a newspaper like Granma and lost the Battle of Waterloo, the newspaper would have acted like it never even happened. So true. Something similar occurred on Sunday evening with the presidential elections in Argentina and the victory by “the billionaire Macri,” as the Cuban media likes to describe him. Oddly, they never showed any curiosity about Mrs. Kirchner’s fortune.
It took the Venezuelan broadcast network Telesur half an hour to report the results. After the losing candidate acknowledged defeat and Marci addressed the Argentine people, the news anchor was “informed” that “preliminary polls indicate the possible winner to be…” when there were neither polls nor fortune tellers saying any such thing.
Cubans have nightly news shows, news magazines, news every ten minutes, a twenty-four hour radio news channel, print and digital newspapers, and national, provincial and even municipal television stations. Yet, except for North Korea, we paradoxically remain the worst informed people in the world.
There is a rumor going around that Etecsa’s Nauta* internet service was unavailable not because of technical problems but because of a decision to cut off communication between Cubans stranded in Costa Rica and their relatives on the island in order to suppress information about a mass protest intended to raise awareness in Cuba, and by extension throughout the world, of the humanitarian crisis.**
Whether true or not, the fact that people without Communist Party affiliation are casually discussing this serves to illustrate the lack of transparency in our news media. It should be added that the visit by the Cuban foreign minister to Ecuador and Central America was reported in a way that suggested a trip scheduled some time in advance, one in which emigration was to be only a tangential topic of discussion. The visit by the president of the International Red Cross was reported in a similar way.
This is nothing new. Quite the contrary. Once again the press has managed to turn conferences, workshops, meetings and seminars into crumpled paper. It shows a lack of self-respect, but even less respect for citizens, whom it is trying to keep uninformed. It is an accomplice to a political decision that interferes with a right as basic as the right to information.
*Nauta is service by Cuba’s state telecommunications monopoly that offers wifi internet access in public spaces such as parks and hotels throughout the island. Accounts can be refilled from overseas at a cost of roughly US$2.00 for every two hours of access.
**Thousands of Cuban migrants trying to reach the United States by first passing through Ecuador have been stranded in Costa Rica after the government of Nicaragua denied them passage through that country.
Regina Coyula, 28 September 2015 — Since the words respect and reconciliation are so popular these days — both were mentioned in the announcement of the restoration of diplomatic relations with the United States as well as in the recently concluded papal visit and in the agreements to end of the war in Colombia — I would like to share with readers the story of my neighbor, Oscar Casanellas, a researcher at the Institute of Oncology and Radiobiology (INOR), commonly known as the Oncology Hospital.
After graduating with a degree in biology in 2004, Oscar joined the staff of INOR as a researcher in molecular biology. After winning a scholarship, he studied at the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics from 2009 to 2011, becoming a specialist in the use of information technology in the field of immunological research related to cancer.
From 2011 and to the present, Casanellas has also taught courses and lectured at the center and at the Department of Biology at the University of Havana. He also served as executive secretary of the Forum of Science and Technology between 2011 and 2013.
Given all this information, it should be clear that there is no question as to this young man’s level of professional competence. His workplace troubles began in December 2013 after a friend, Ciro Diaz Penedo, came home during the Christmas break from his doctoral studies in Brazil and Oscar threw a party for him. Besides working with numbers, Ciro also belonged to a punk band known as Porno for Ricardo. The “official who overseas” the oncology institute brought this and other equally damaging information to its assistant director, Dr. Lorenzo Anasagasti Angulo.
Dr. Anasagasti carried out the order to isolate and constrain the wayward Oscar. Casanella’s arguments that he had never discussed his political views while at work or committed the sin of using the public health ministry’s email server (Infomed) for personal business were to no avail.
In his zeal Casanella’s boss limited his access to laboratories, excluded him from any projects involving Havana’s Polo Cientifico research center, and banned him from teaching at INOR or acting as a thesis advisor. A bio-information course that the director general of INOR had already approved was cancelled by Anasagasti under the pretext that it had to offered by the Department of Biology. Using veiled or explicit threats, he then “dissuaded” INOR workers from participating in the course.
Dr. Anasagasti’s threats led to strains in the workplace. He tried to prohibit other workers from having any interactions with Casanellas. The pressure was strongest on those closest to him, who are were torn between preserving the friendship or keeping their jobs. Some of them could not handle it and requested transfers out of the institute.
Oscar Casanellas has gone to his union and to the hospital management. He has written letters to the Ministry of Public Health, to the head of the department of the Central Committee which handles such mattes and even to the Cuban president, all without receiving a reply from any of them. When he tried to take legal action by filing a police complaint, the response from the national police force was that, since this was a personal matter, he should take it up with the police chief in his area. Casanellas knows all too well that it is not personal but work-related. Until the visit by the State Security agent, his interactions with Anasagasti were cordial.
This period of professional limbo has gone on for over eighteen months. They do not want to fire him because there is no evidence of poor workplace performance, so their intention is to make conditions so suffocating that he resigns.
Casanellas himself provides the key: “They don’t know me very well. For years I have been preparing myself and have run a lot of long distance races. If there is anything for which I am well-trained, it is endurance.”
Valle Grande Prison
From the “cell” (of punishment)
September 16, 2015…
Where I am there is little light and I am in my underwear because I do not want to wear the prison uniform. They give me a mattress for 5 or 6 hours at night. I only drink water and there will be no ability to respond (from you to this letter) because they don’t allow contacts.
Thanks to Lia, Gorki, Antonio and everyone for helping my mother manage things. Thanks to Aylín for the beautiful and encouraging letters. I read them as many times as I could, I would like to write you a thousand letters like you deserve but now I do not think I will have the light, the paper, nor the energy to do it.
This may be my last letter from here in the punishment cell and if I survive you will hear more from my lips. So I want to tell everyone that I waited too long for this moment to do a hunger strike, we Cubans have wanted too long to expel these scoundrels.
Now that I have started, I feel my faith, determination and self-esteem go through the roof for having decided. I feel proud of being the artist that I am and of doing the art that I do for the Cuba I represent. So I am willing to give my life a hundred times if necessary.
He who lives without finding out what to die for, has not found the essence of life. A man with ideals of peace, love and one who does not carry a weapon to assert his opinions is the man of the future. Because with his faith, his hope, he builds an Eden here on earth.
Thank you all for trusting me and know that if I die I will die happy to carry with me a tattoo of my time like Laura Pollan, Oswaldo Paya, who left traces of their existence, of their generation, of their responsibility to leave behind then a legacy for their loved ones, one lesson: love what you do and devote your life to it.
I was born in a poor neighborhood, Nuevitas, Camagüey. My family is very humble: I lived in Arroyo Arenas from age 4; in Chafarinas, Guira de Melena; in Covadonga, Las Tunas: a village still without electricity; Guáimaro, Camagüey and Arroyo Arenas, La Lisa. And I was lucky to live in Vedado often, there I have my daughter Renata María, who was born in England.
I am a wanderer and I have gone here and there getting to know my country, my culture, that I love and so I raise my voice to denounce what seems wrong to me. I visited Holland for three months, I lived in The Hague, 45 minutes by train from the fabulous Amsterdam. I studied and lived at Miami Dade College in the United States for three months as well. All these places taught to me relate quickly to my surroundings, that the most important thing is to have friends, to love, to respect and not to do to anyone what we do not want them to do to us. I learned how to stand up to the powerful.
My art is respected today, more than anything because I believe in it. I respected it and gave it—and give it—all my strength, perseverance, affection and love. Although I was misunderstood and perhaps by others I still am, when those around you see so much love and how much you are able to give and how much you respect your art, then they begin to value it. But first we must build an altar of consecration in our chest and others, little by little, will begin to respect you for what you do: this knowledge is my legacy.
Someone said that all of humanity will part when we see a man who knows where he is going. This might be my last work and I have named it “Drawing Attention” or “The Awakening of the Inner Magician.” Each one of us has an inner magician. May my Gothic existence touch your hearts and light your flame and awaken your internal leader, being conscious of this gift of life and standing up against evil. Someone said, “The world is not this way because of those who do evil but because of those who allow it.”
This work is dedicated to my mother, my little daughter Renata María, to all those who support me, all those who added a grain of sand to achieve freedom for Cuba. To all the Ladies in White in the world and especially in Cuba: no more beating of women! To the memory of Laura, Oswaldo, Zapata.
This work is dedicated to my mother, my little daughter Renata María, to all those who support me, all who put in a grain of sand to achieve the freedom of Cuba. To all the Ladies in White of the world especially those in Cuba: no more beating of women! In memory of Laura, Oswaldo, Zapata.
The day I grabbed a spray can in my hand I decided what to do with my life.
So be it.
I am with faith and conviction: Liberty or death, to die for art is to live.
Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto.
Please sign for his freedom at Causes.com. < click there
El Sexto has been on a hunger strike since September 8th. He is demanding his freedom because he has been imprisoned since December 25th (of last year) for thinking to release some pigs with the names of Fidel and Raul, which he never released because he was imprisoned. He is in prison without trial or sentence or justice.
We are receiving with curiosity and joy teaspoons of internet fro wi-fi points in different cities of the country; here in Havana, the most widespread of these points is located on La Rampa, the heart of the city.
Beyond the adrenaline that many feel on connecting with the world for the first time, and those who come to these zones as if they were true digital natives, all that happens on La Rampa, with a wireless signal from the Malecon to the corner of the Coppelia ice cream stand at 23rd and L, does not have the conditions for comfortable navigation.
It has become part of the landscape to see every kind of person (most of them young), sitting on some stairs, leaning against a doorway, avoiding the sun under a scrawny tree, or defiantely challenging the sun and defying the cars, positioned on the curb with their feet in the street and absorbed in their mobile device. It is a rare sight to see that technological overcrowding in the shadows, which in now way embellishes the landscape.
The idea occurs to me of giving them the use of the park built on the corner occupied by the Alaska Building at 23rd and M, demolished for security reasons, but not so much the security of its residents as that of Fidel, from when he went almost daily to the ICRT studios for those interminable Roundtable shows that nobody misses.
This park, unlike the one located at Galiano and San Rafael where another important connection point operates, knows neither the scampering of children nor furtive kisses, now that no one will plot an attack from its heights, it should be offered to the internauts as a comfortable and secure zone, this vindicating its condition, giving it life and meaning.
Regina Coyula, 7 August 2015 — The mindless display of opulence bothers me ethically and aesthetically. But I have nothing against enrichment from legal sources and from the effort, talent, or ability of the individual.
The Cuban government takes a hypocritical position. On the one hand it is trying to prevent at all costs the personal enrichment of the emerging private entrepreneur class, subjecting them to restrictions and imposing inordinate taxes. On the other hand—not having ever experienced any of the restrictions suffered by the average citizen—it now aims to attract fresh foreign capital (accumulated in their home countries thanks to the absence of restrictive regulations like those imposed in ours) and also the tourism of the rich and famous, some of whom we have already seen parading through Cuba.
Translated by Tomás A.
Regina Coyula, 8 July 2015 — A note about this work by Juan Carlos Cremata arrived by mail. The final phrase is not mine:
Regrettably, the National Council of Performing Arts has decided to take down the poster of Eugene Ionesco’s Exit the King by El Ingenio theater group after its first two inaugural performances last weekend.
They will make the announcement public and official.
Once again it is evident that “Censorship does not exist.”