The Prejudices We Provoke / Reinaldo Escobar

Demonstrators protest in Burundi. (VOA)

Demonstrators protest in Burundi. (VOA)

14ymedio biggerReinaldo Escobar, Havana, 1 August 2015 — Under the slogan of “Tanganyika breaks heads with big force” a Cuban radio serial from the 50s, my generation was inculcated with the idea that Africans are rude and violent. I vaguely remember that the character of this resonant name was a kind of stupid but unbeatable giant.

I didn’t know then that Tanganyika was a lake and that its northwestern shore touched Bujumbura, the largest population center in Burundi, which became the capital after independence in 1962. The prejudices of my childhood were reinforced years later when tribal struggles arose between Hutus and Tutsis and the dead filled the streets of the city in an absurd fratricidal war.

But for weeks the news confused me. Continue reading

Writing about the Cowards / Reinaldo Escobar

Moncada Barracks

Moncada Barracks

Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 24 July 2015 — I do not know if I’ll be the first to do it, but at a time like this I want to congratulate the cowards.

Those who 62 years ago were summoned to a Revolutionary action in Santiago de Cuba, and who, when they heard the details describing the madness that involved storming the Moncada barracks, declined to participate.

I do not know the exact number of those who backed out at the last moment, much less their names. I have heard that their identities have never been disclosed, because among them there were some who later joined the fight and even fell in combat. The official story goes that of 135 implicated only four did not “step up.” Other versions raise to 165 the number of the conspirators and about 30 who thought better of it. Continue reading

Another Way to be a Greek Hero / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Prime Minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras. (tsipras_eu)

Prime Minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras. (tsipras_eu)

14ymedio biggerReinaldo Escobar, Havana, 15 July 2015 — Homer would have narrated it differently, opting to die dismembered before giving in, but in these times the heroes are faced with the inexorable fatality of their tragedy, putting at risk their prestige, not their lives. Alexis Tsipras chose to stop right at the edge of the abyss because he believed more in the future of his nation than in his political career. Historians will tell us if he did well or badly, maintaining a pulse facing the Troika, even to extremes. Economists will draw pragmatic lessons watching whether Greece grows or sinks, while the militants of his party will reassemble their agendas with different promises.

Those from other latitudes who applauded the inflexible will now have to swallow their praise and, in passing, learn their lesson. The populists of Spain’s Podemos party will know they will not have a second chance at the polls, and those obsessed with an eternal Baraguá in these parts of the Caribbean will have to recognize that it is time to move on, saying “we do not understand.”

As someone whose name I can’t remember said, “Greece is very familiar to Cubans. She taught us the philosophy, arts and sciences of antiquity when we studied in school, and, along with them, the most complex of human activities: the art and the science of politics.

The story is not over, it never really ends. In the coming hours Tsipras will have to confront his personal Thermopylae in front of Parliament and face his constituents, who will not want to accept the reforms that will come over them. It will be Ulysses facing the pretenders, or Achilles with his wounded heel, but this time the gods will not intervene and it will be the chorus who decides.

Juan Carlos Cremata: A Real Man / Reinaldo Escobar

Juan Carlos Cremata. (Cubadebate)

Juan Carlos Cremata. (Cubadebate)

Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 11 July 2015 — It is very likely that the youngest among us don’t know the reference to the 1951 novel “The Story of a Real Man” by the Soviet writer Boris Polevoy, which tells the story of Alexey Petrovich Maresyev, a fighter pilot who lost both his legs and through a heroic effort continued to pilot a plane and engage in new battles.

Juan Carlos Cremata (born 1961) is the least likely hero of Real Socialism. He is an artist from head to foot, irreverent and lucid, who has left his mark both in the theater and the cinema. He has received numerous national and foreign prizes and a great part of his oeuvre has been dedicated to works for children and teens. Among his most well-known films are Nada (Nothing) and Chamaco (The Kid: Chamaco) as well as works that have circulated via alternative means, as is the case with Crematorio (Crematorium). Continue reading

Delusions of Sovereignty / Reinaldo Escobar

My planet Cuba (Childlike drawing)

My planet Cuba (Childlike drawing)

Reinaldo Escobar, 28 June 2015 – Despite nationalist excesses that have reached the official Cuban discourse, to some it seems that the Government should be even more intransigent in defense of the sovereignty of the country. Stigmatizers of everything foreign, these individuals end up boasting of a chauvinism that is more ridiculous than patriotic.

They are the ones who don’t understand that the Island’s boxers no longer use head protectors, to obey the dictates of this sport that the authorities have labeled profitable and where, “The spectacle is more important than the health of the athletes.” In their isolationist delusions, perhaps one day they will propose not accepting that the volleyball net or the basketball hoop be at the height determined by nations where the average stature is a few inches higher than in Cuba. Continue reading

Inventory of Differences / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Talk about the lack of unity within the Cuban opposition has already become commonplace. (Marc Gautier / Flickr / CC)

Talk about the lack of unity within the Cuban opposition has already become commonplace. (Marc Gautier / Flickr / CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 26 June 2015 – To talk about a lack of unity within the Cuban opposition has already become commonplace. Among the causes of these lamentable circumstances are enumerated some peculiarities rooted in the greatest depths of our history, whose paradigmatic example is warlordism.

However, there are also rational reasons because opponents gather in separate airtight rooms. First of all, in political vocations. Liberals, socialists, Christian democrats, anarchists, social democrats and other less profiled denominations assume positions about certain topics that can become irreconcilable.

The mere fact of recognizing these nuances sparks commentary from all sides that the most important thing is to dislodge the tyrants from power and that such minutiae can wait until democracy is achieved. But it is not enough to make the immense sacrifice of overlooking future programmatic differences. The spokes in the wheel, the weights, the headwinds, the points of honor that hinder or prevent reaching agreement usually arise from unexpected places.

Here are the most common obstacles to consensus: Continue reading

Induced Compliance / Reinaldo Escobar

Butchers in Havana (14ymedio)

Butchers in Havana (14ymedio)

Desde Aqui, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 8 June 2015 – What has come out in the magazine Muy Interesante (Very Interesting) generates no surprise, but what is published in the newspaper Granma causes astonishment.

In the “Direct Line” section, on page 4 of the edition of June 6, under the title, “Are there foods that wake us up and foods that relax us?” we learn that research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has demonstrated that “the proteins of eggs, meat or fish bring tyrosine to the brain, an amino acid that increases the production of neurotransmitters that keep the mind alert, focused and productive (dopamine and norepinephrine).”

Continue reading

Warm Washcloths / Reinaldo Escobar

Arresto-Cuba-Ernesto-Mastrascusa-EFE_CYMIMA20150224_0006_17

Arrest of dissidents in Cuba (Ernesto Mastrascusa EFE)

Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 1 June 2015 – Once again the general-president, giving the impression that he invites criticism, steps on the brakes. He recognizes that it is important that everyone bring their opinions, but qualifies that it must be done “in the appropriate place, the opportune moment, and in the correct ways.”

That he has repeated it this Friday at the most recent Council of Ministers does not matter. That idea has been crushed in Parliament, the Party Congress, and at every opportunity that presents itself, while he warns in passing that he speaks of constructive criticism.

Everything indicates that by constructive criticism Raul Castro understands that which points out errors but does not discuss the theoretical basis that underlies his program, or better yet, the criticism that paves the way chosen by the criticized. Continue reading

May 20, That Hole in Our Memory / Reinaldo Escobar

On 20 May 1902, Cuba gained its independence from the United States of America

On 20 May 1902, Cuba gained its independence from the United States of America

Desde Aqui, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 20 May 2015 — Yesterday I invited my granddaughters to get ice cream. To boast of her knowledge, the oldest, who is in the third grade, said to me: “Today marks the 120th anniversary of the death in combat of José Martí, our National Hero.” She said it with the same pride in wisdom with which one day, many years ago, I alerted my parents to the fact that the earth was round.

“And tomorrow, May 20, what will we celebrate?” I asked her, imitating the emphasis of schoolteacher. Almost arrogantly she responded, “On May 20 nothing happened.”

As she was born in the 21st Century I invited her to look for the significance of the date on a phone app containing Wikipedia, which she could consult without an Internet connection. Surprise! The text there reads: “1902: Cuba achieves independence from the United States of America.” Continue reading

Reappearing by Phone / Reinaldo Escobar

Fidel Castro in January 2014.

Fidel Castro in January 2014.

Reinaldo Escobar, 17 April 2015 — Fidel Castro made another public appearance, this time speaking by phone Randy Perdomo Garcia, president of the Federation of University Students (FEU) at the University of Havana. The meeting took place in the meeting hall of the University of Oriente in Santiago de Cuba and was witnessed by young Havanans that make up the so-called Detachment of the 70th anniversary of Fidel’s admission to the University of Havana.

The group of students used their vacation week in April to take a tour of different places, especially those related to Fidel Castro personally. They visited his birthplace in Biran, the Moncada Barracks, the balcony where he proclaimed the triumph of the Revolution, Pico Turquino and other historic sites, as defined in the official chronicle as, “Where the commander left a mark of gratitude to patriots who preceded him.”

With the slogan “Fidel In My Heart” on their sweatshirts, every time they finished visiting a museum, monument or plaza, they ended it by shouting “Viva Fidel!” over and over. The great surprise – perhaps as a prize for their loyalty – was receiving a phone call from the historic leader. From his end of the phone Randy Perdomo Garcia told him what they had been doing, while the former president asked if they had eaten well on the tour. National television used subtitles so that the audience could understand what the old man was saying.

A Tragedy in Several Acts / Reinaldo Escobar

Figure dedicated to Fe del Valle in the park of the same name in Havana. (14ymedio)

Figure dedicated to Fe del Valle in the park of the same name in Havana. (14ymedio)

Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 14 April 2015 — Like every April 13, last Monday a group of Trade Union workers met with the task of carrying a bouquet of flowers to a marble statue. It is a figure dedicated to Fe del Valle in the Havana park of the same name and located at the central corner of Galiano and San Rafael. The site usually supplies the absence of public toilets in the area and the sculpture has both hands mutilated.

In this space was one of the most exclusive Havana stores, El Encanto, with branches in Varadero, Havana and Santiago de Cuba. Founded in the early twentieth century by Solis, Entrialgo and Company, S.A. was one of the first properties nationalized after the revolutionary process. Continue reading

It’s not my fault either / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Raul Castro during his speech at the Summit of the Americas (EFE Señal Instucional)

Raul Castro during his speech at the Summit of the Americas (EFE Señal Instucional)

14ymedio bigger

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Panama, 12 April 2015 — During the Summit of the Americas, when Raul Castro said Barack Obama was not at fault for the decisions taken by the ten presidents that preceded him, confusion overcame me and it’s no wonder.

Upon hearing that speech, delivered in front of more than thirty leaders meeting in Panama, it became even harder for me to understand why the gallant members of the pro Cuban government “civil society” who came to this city continued to label as assassins the activists, dissidents and independent representations who came to participate in forums parallel to the historic event.

If Obama is not guilty of what happened at the Bay of Pigs, nor the logistics support to the anti-Revolution rebels of the Escambray; if he is not responsible for the creation of Radio Martí, nor the Cuban Adjustment Act… nor even for the implementation of the embargo, then, what guilt is it that they want to foist on the activists defending human rights?

Now, that the general-president has already absolved the dignitary of the country that official propaganda sees as “the enemy,” it is worth asking why his supporters accuse of events that happened decades ago those, who organize opposition parties, or engage in library projects or independent journalism with the sole purpose of proposing a country different from that outlined in the guidelines of the Sixth Communist Party Summit.

When the horrendous sabotage occurred to the Cuban plane coming from the Barbados, Guillermo Fariñas was engaged in or preparing for an international mission in Africa. At the moment when they shot the prisoner Ernesto “Che” Guevara in Bolivia, neither Eliécer Ávila nor Henry Constantin had been born. It would be like blaming Abel Prieto for the firing squads, the forced relocation of the farmers from the center of the country to captive villages, the atrocities of the Revolutionary Offensive, the disaster of the 1970 sugar harvest, the “Five Gray Years” and so many other things.

When I mention Abel Prieto I could include the names of almost the entire delegation whose tickets and lodging were paid for by the Cuban government. Are they aware that when you accuse others of a past in which they didn’t exist nor make decisions, you will also be evaluated in the same light? Are they prepared to take on all the atrocities committed by their predecessors?

The Panamanians, however, gave us a clear example of this positive attitude during the summit, an attitude that is summed up by looking more to the future than the past. I would like to believe that Raul Castro is not responsible for anything… although the evidence points in the other direction.

Perhaps the time has come when we should concern ourselves more with solutions than with blame.

I know many compatriots, who totally within their rights, will not agree with me, especially since there are wounds impossible to heal and grievances difficult to forget. If I had to vote on it, I would raise my hand in favor of their retiring in peace. Their penance, their worst punishment, will be to watch us construct a nation without hatred nor rancor. Once again Cubans, everyone, at the same fiesta.