The cover of the book “Raul Castro: A Man in Revolution ‘Nikolai Leonov.
Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 15 July 2015 — The cult of personality has a thousand ways of showing itself. From the face that stares out from every schoolroom wall, to the flattery with which the government journalists refer to certain officials. It would seem, however, that the times of greatest excess in the veneration of a figure had been left behind, to the extent that the memory of Fidel Castro has languished since his forced retirement. However, the pernicious practice continues here, with its exaggeration and ridiculousness.
On Tuesday, the entire National Assembly of People’s Power dedicated itself to the presentation of the book Raul Castro: A Man in Revolution, written by the Russian Nikolai Leonov. A special session of the Parliament had as its sole purpose to attend the launch of this volume, published by Capital San Luis, and with more than 80 biographical photos, some of them previously unpublished.
Out of modesty, or because he had to lead the 11th Plenum of the Cuban Communist Party Central Committee, Raul Castro did not attend the presentation, but this does not detract from the gesture’s devotional character. This was compounded by the use of parliamentarians for purposes not included in their functions. How much did it cost for those deputies who had travel to the Palace of Conventions? With so many problems facing the country, which affect millions of people, how could a day of “the official organ of State power” be squandered to sing the praises of a single man?
Situations like yesterday are proof that the pernicious cult of personality remains intact among us, fostered by those who idolize a few and those who swell with vanity at the flattery.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, during an interview with state television. (Alexandros Vlachos / EFE)
14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 14 July 2015 — A week ago he was a hero lauded by the official Cuban media, today he is a political corpse many fear to mention. Alexis Tsipras negotiated and lost. Sanity has been imposed over his his initial bravado, and the pact he is about to accept has turned him into a traitor to his own politics. The critical voices within his party are already being heard about the agreement he has closed with the Eurozone, and Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution is keeping an embarrassed silence.
A third rescue, which will be around 86 billion euros, has been approved to pull Greece out of the quagmire. The money will come accompanied by conditions that force the Greek government to raise taxes, cut pensions and engage in privatizations. Far from that intransigent posture of the man who was congratulated by Fidel Castro, “for his brilliant political victory,” in the recent referendum. Continue reading
A cruise ship from the American company Carnival Cruise Lines (Carnival)
Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 9 July 2015 – There are several ways to react when faced with another person’s affluence. One of them is the one taught to us by the Castro regime from the time we were little, and that is based on anger and stigmatizing the prosperous. A Robin Hood-like intransigence, the point of which is to snatch from the other person the “excess” or whatever he “has too much of.” This animosity toward anyone who makes progress, accumulates property, or enjoys certain material comforts, has ended up becoming an inseparable component of our idiosyncrasy, although the times seem to be changing.
“I am never going to go on a cruise, but the more they come… the more we gain,” a retired man said yesterday, chewing tobacco and wearing a shirt so worn out his skin showed through. The official news just announced that the US company Carnival Cruise Lines received authorization from Washington to travel to Cuba, and the gentleman was expressing his own opinion about the luxuries enjoyed by others. This symbol of a capitalism of pleasures, fun and wastefulness is about to dock in Havana and it is noteworthy that officialdom will receive it not with shouts or slogans, but rather will welcome it. Continue reading
An old man. (Silvia Corbelle)
Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 23 June 2015 – The building where I live is like a diminutive Cuba, where the larger country appears represented with its vicissitudes and hopes. Fourteen stories that at times offer a biopsy of reality or a representative fragment of life outside. For years, the emigration of young people has marked the life of this ugly concrete block, constructed 30 years ago by some optimistic microbrigadistas* in order to put a roof over their children’s heads. The majority of these children, now men and women, do not live on the island today. However, the exodus has also spread to a worrying extent among those of the third age.
A few weeks ago in the hallway I stumbled upon a neighbor whose children left some time ago for the country to the north. Between postcards at Christmas, visits every now and then and nostalgia, the family has tried to overcome separation and the pain of absence. The man of the family, now retired and almost 70, commented to me that he was selling his apartment. “I’m leaving,” he said, smiling from ear to ear. Another retiree who overheard, spat out derisively, “You’re nuts! Why are you leaving if all that’s left to you are ‘two shaves,’?” alluding to the possible brevity of the existence ahead of him. Continue reading
The headquarters of the State phone company ETECSA in Havana. (14ymedio)
14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 15 June 2015 – Before the downpour there is a scent that crosses the city. It is the premonition of water, the anticipation of the cloudburst. The birds fly to their nests and the most cautious seek a doorway where they can shelter until the rain passes. This impression of something approaching is being felt lately about a possible opening of Internet connectivity for all Cubans. There is nothing concrete to point to confirm our massive entry into cyberspace, but the gusts of impatience can be felt in the air.
The topic of the web of networks has reached significant prominence in the official discourse of the last half year. Barack Obama’s administration had to “make a move” to wake up the bureaucrats in the Ministry of Information and Communications, who are trained to go on the defensive. With the January 16th implementation of a package of flexibility measures, outstanding among them links to the sector of new technologies and connectivity, the White House has set more than one person scuttling on this island. Continue reading
Installation on the Havana Malecon for the XII Havana Biennial(14ymedio)
The man approaches and pulls a fork from the work Delicatessen that is being exhibited on the Havana Malecon during the XII Havana Biennial. Nearby, two neighbors speculate that, at the end of the event, the sand used in Resaca (Hangover) will be given to the surrounding residents to repair their homes. To art appreciation are added hardships and daring, incorporating the spectators into a show they want to make their own, by taking it home and reusing it. Continue reading
Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 21 May 2015 – If you has asked me a year ago what would be the three greatest challenges of the digital newspaper 14ymedio, I would have said repression, lack of connection to the Internet, and media professionals being afraid to work on our team. I did not imagine that the another obstacle would become the principal headache of this informative little paper: the lack of transparency in Cuban institutions, which has found us many times before a closed door and no matter how hard we knock, no one opens or provides answers.
In a country where State institutions refuse to provide the citizen with certain information that should be public, the situation becomes much more complicated for the reporter. Dealing with the secrecy turns out to be as difficult as evading the political police, tweeting “blind,” or becoming used to the opportunism and silence of so many colleagues. Information is militarized and guarded in Cuba as if there is a war of technology, which is why those who try to find out are taken, at the very least, as spies. Continue reading
Illustration of a cow. (14ymedio)
Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 5 May 2015 – For a long time the extraordinary, the unusual, was our hope. On this Island which must have been Atlantis, the reincarnation of Alexander the Great was born and there lived a cow who gave the most quarts of milk in the history of humanity. Like all childish people we needed to feel that nobody surpassed us and that the ordinary rested far from our borders. White Udder, the cow that still owns the Guinness World Record, was a sacrificial victim on the altar of this national and political vanity. Gone are the times of those exaggerated ranching achievements, now we can only crow about our anomalies.
Muñeco is a bull with seven legs. The local press just narrated his story, a wild yearling born from two commercial zebu breed cattle, and ultimately adopted by the cattle rancher Diego Vera Hernandez in the Trinidad area. What distinguishes this exemplar from so many others that die of hunger and thirst in the Cuban countryside is that springing from its back, near the shoulder hump, are three additional legs and one testicle. Its anatomy includes everything the official rhetoric needs: on the one hand the inconceivable, on the other, this piece of virility that should not be lacking in anyone or anything that wants to brag about being made in Cuba.
Gone are the times of those exaggerated ranching achievements, now we can only crow about our anomalies.
Muñeco’s three legs have saved him from the illegal slaughter to which so many of his peers succumb due to the needs and poor livestock management displayed by the current system. That piece of another bull hanging from his back has freed him from the middle-of-the-night butcher’s knife because a clever farmer realizes that he has before his eyes a fair animal, a circus creature, to show off to journalists at the agricultural fairs. But there is not much difference from this pet with mischievous genes and that cow that represented all our hopes of seeing milk run in the streets and factories drowning in cheese and yogurt.
White Udder died from the excesses of a leader who needed results, but Muñeco has lived for the pride of this nation burdened by its own malformations.
François Hollande and Raul Castro, at their meeting at the Palace of the Revolution. (EFE)
Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 12 May 2015 — The official reception at the airport, the photo shaking hands with the host, the wreath laid at the statue of José Martí and the expected lecture at the University of Havana. How many foreign politicians have followed this script in recent months? So many that we have lost count.
A true shower of presidents, foreign ministers and deputies has intensified over Cuba without daily life feeling any kind of relief from such illustrious presences. To this parade of world leaders has been added, this week, the French president François Hollande, who assured us that his country wants to “strengthen ties with Cuba” so that both nations, “assume greater international leadership.
During his stay, the politician met with Raul Castro, visited Fidel Castro in his home, and awarded the Legion of Honor to Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino. The agenda did not include, however, any meeting with dissidents and activists. His vision of the Cuban stage could not be completed with a critical eye on the Government’s relationship with its own people. As the presidential plane lifted off, the official version of events barely registered on the retinas and ears of the French. Continue reading
Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 10 May 2015 – There is a memory I often escape into. At times of greatest tension, I travel back to that August morning when I held my son for the first time. If I feel overcome by fear, I visualize the tiny fingernails that had grown inside my womb, soft and bent around the tips of his fingers. I also calm myself evoking the backs of his hands, with the marks of amniotic fluid in which they were submerged for so long. I take refuge in the memory, feeling that no repression nor hatred can reach me, because I am protected by his birth.
Our children give us the gift of will. When our eyelids are heavy and the most powerful alarm clock cannot get us out of bed, it’s enough for them to whimper in their crib for us to wake up. If they come into the world while we ourselves are still students, they give us the confidence to believe that standing up to the test of motherhood means that no diploma can resist us. They, with their gaze and their questions, also force us to be less cowardly. How can we explain to a child the opportunistic silence, the masks, the faking it… without destroying, in these declarations, a part of the paradigm we represent for them?
Our children are always better than we are. So today, while in Cuban homes mothers celebrate their day, some surrounded by their loved ones and others with the sadness of distance, I am going to give my “little boy” a gift. It will be a small present, simply making lunch together, which will allow us to talk while he chops the spices and I start to heat the pan. Perhaps he will tell me about last week, or about some book or a girl that he knows. While we chat, I will sneak a peek at his hands, now larger and stronger than mine. I will compare the sounds of a baby with his current deep voice, and conclude that this man of today also gives me strength to continue, a great strength.
Twenty years have passed and I still don’t need any other present for Mother’s Day… I already have it, standing in front of me.
Key West-Havana Ferry, taken in 1951 (Miami History Archives and Research Center)
Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 7 May 2015 – Toward the other side of the sea, that point on the horizon that so many Cubans dream of, several of the curious were gazing yesterday as they sat along Havana’s Malecon. Hours earlier word begun to spread that the United States has authorized “certain specific licenses for passenger ferry service” to Cuba. The rumor was enough for many to play with the idea of how this country would change if it were connected by boat to the other shore. A thousand and one illusions have been unleashed in recent hours, although the four ferry companies authorized by the U.S. Department of the Treasury have yet to receive approval from the Cuban authorities. Continue reading
The sewers can barely deal with the mud from the storm (14ymedio)
Yoani Sanchez, 1 May 2015 – The El Cerro neighborhood is mud and tears right now. One of Havana’s most populous municipalities is trying to recover from the surprise rains that left three dead in the city, more than 1,400 houses affected and 27 partial or total building collapses. Many families lost their most precious belonging and the whole city has that smell that is left after floods, a mixture of sewage, garbage and pain.
The main scene of the tragedy experienced in the Havana capital is indoors, in the homes where they couldn’t save even a chair, but the official press tries to minimize it because it happened a few hours before the “triumphant” First of May, which is meant to show the world “the Cuban people’s attachment to the socialist system.” Continue reading