Where to Have Sex in Havana? / Camilo Ernesto Olivera Peidro

He who waits, feels desperate. Internet photo

Havana, Cuba. It happened in the Motel on 11th and 24th streets, near the iron bridge connecting Vedado and Miramar. In a room rented for two hours, the unpleasant whisper was heard: “Mami, you have a wonderful stench!” It was the 1980’s, Cuba was still receiving 5 billion in subsidy from the Soviet Union, the shortages of the Special Period were still far away, but vulgarities were emerging.

More than two decades ago those hotels where people go for sex* (or to make love) — Cubans call them posadas — were abolished in Havana. A cyclone was guilty. The wind and heavy rain left thousands of people in Havana without a roof, and the government, due to the lack of housing, sheltered them in these posadas.

It was a difficult solution for the sheltered ones: “We had to put up a sign at the entrance: ’This is not a posada anymore, families are living here, do not disturb,’” said a person housed there, in the old Venus posada, near the train station, and he added. “Couples would arrive, drunk, screaming, ’Desk clerk, give me a room we are dying to …!’ Imagine those vociferous vulgarities, where small children and old people were living. What a shame!’

The destiny of the posadas in Havana definitely changed after the so-called Storm of the Century, in March 1993. During that time the majority of them were under the control of the Popular Power. Some of them were in a state of disrepair, with leaks in the roofs and mold in the walls.

There are cities in the interior of the country, such as Holguin in the east, where posadas still exist. In that provincial capital, the government managed to set aside years ago a budget for basic repairs of old hotels in the urban area; the Majestic and El Turquino. These maintained payment for services in Cuban pesos (CUP).

In another inland city of Cuba, in Santa Clara, the two hotels, Modelo and América, received investments for repairs and were reopened with a grand pomp. The inhabitants of Santa Clara fixed them in order to have a room where to make love for two hours, which the desk clerks don’t report. Sweet deal.

These advertisements (rooms for rent by the hour, night and day) are often seen in the Malecon area. Photo by CEO.

In the capital, the price for one room — in private houses — corresponds with the facilities that offer, and the location. They charge more in Vedado, close to the zone of the Oncologic and the Calixto García hospitals. In Playa, the tenants, situated close to the Casa de la Música de Miramar, have regular customers. The prices range from 5 CUC per hour.  Depending on the quality of the room and the day of the week, the amount may be higher.

Near Havana’s Malecon — basically an area of prostitution — a lot of families rent their daughter’s room, or that of any family member, by the hour to prostitutes and pimps. One tourist said that, accompanied by a mulatto girl, he came to a house in the Laguna Street in Havana, where the family was watching the soap opera on TV and the father of the family said to one of his daughters: “Go wake up your grandmother, a couple is here.”

In the meantime, in the popular memory the remembrance of the posadas of  eastern Havana or of the Circunvalación, immaculate hotel rooms with air-conditioning, bathrooms with cold and hot water, clean sheets and bar service 24 hours, to which any couple could come by car, without being seen by prying eyes.

In today’s Havana you will find it difficult to find a safe, comfortable and clean room to have sex, if you can’t pay in hard currency or a pile of money; you can risk going down to the reefs, venture into the darkness of a park, although this is not recommended: bad guys are roaming there.

*Translator’s note: Because of the crowded housing conditions in Cuba and the fact that young people can’t afford to live on their own, nor do they own cars, privacy is hard to come by.

Cubanet, 20 March, 2014 | Camilo Ernesto Olivera Peidro

Translated by: AnonyGY, Michaela Klicnikova

Artists on the General’s Farm / Camilo Ernesto Olivera

HAVANA, CUBA.  Each day we awaken, and the dinosaur is still here.  The delegates of the National Union of Cuban Writers and Artists (UNEAC) will meet with the master generals of the island-farm on the 11th, 12th and 13th of this month.

In the tedious lines that the UNEAC members stand in for the Internet, in the navigation room “LaJungla.com,” the commentary is acid.  The lack of respect for them and the dismissal of their opinions on the part of the institution’s leadership is evident.  The creators are losing their fear of saying what they feel and think:

“I am shocked to hear (Miguel) Barnet speaking of UNEAC as the spiritual vanguard of the country,” a young playwright said to this reporter, “in reality this is no more than a playpen where an aging, conformist and reactionary intellectual majority is huddled.  They are more afraid of losing perks than contributing to the Battle of Ideas in the last decade.”

“After seeing the way that the pre-Congress meetings were held, what I hope for is another act of revolutionary reaffirmation,” added the playwright, “the only agreement that is going to be reached here is summed up in this sentence:  ’Tell Raul Castro what he wants to hear, and maybe he will listen.’  On the general’s farm, intellectuals are like toilet paper, always disposable although politically correct.”

The younger members are refusing to accept the closed atmosphere that is breathed.  The taking of certain positions of power within the institution on the part of people with a prefabricated curriculum is also a striking fact.  Their labor is focusing on dividing and disrupting thought that is critical of the system.  They are the cultural police watching the members and reporting to their superiors:

“They are infiltrating their acolytes into disaffected groups in order to learn what is said and rewarding them under the table for the confidential information,” said a poet who requested anonymity.  “It is a watered down version, subtle, of the atmosphere that was breathed here in the ’70’s, which does not stop being worrying.”  They are playing old and gray cards, applying the Zhadanoviano method of the so-called black lists.  Manipulating the membership with floodgate mechanisms for access to or refusal of the rewards, incentives or other perks.”

The calamitous state in which the majority of cultural institutions find themselves, a situation that is worse in towns in the interior of the island, is a fact:  Theaters and culture centers falling down.  Influence peddling, money embezzled by programmers hiring Reagetton artists who, in their turn, pay a percentage “under the table.”  Radio and television censorship.  Salaries that do not go far…

UNEAC-PEÑA-DE-POESIA-Copy1“You cannot promote culture on an empty stomach,” said a promoter from Bayamo.  “In my city they closed the visual arts school, and the art instructors’ buildings are full of leaks.”  I mentioned to her the promotional poster for the congress and the sentence by Fidel Castro that appears on it:  Culture is the first thing we must save, and she responded:  “The country’s culture is not saved with a putrid ideology, it is saved with a strong and well run economy.  And for there to be an economy, there must be free enterprise, opportunities to invest and prosper for those within and outside of the country.”

The future of UNEAC as a historic dam or fence to control the artistic herd is in doubt.  Another intellectuality is being born from the wreckage of fear, and it is approaching the vilified borders of political dissidence.  Although in this 8th Congress of UNEAC, the intellectuals are like toilet paper, always disposable.

Cubanet, April 3, 2014, Camilo Ernesto Olivera Peidro

Translated by mlk.

18th Century Mansion – Forgotten but Not Gone / Camilo Ernesto Olivera Peidro

The Casa de las Cadenas, in Guanabacoa, could collapse on several families. It has withstood hurricanes, but now needs help.

HAVANA, Cuba. – The walls have stood for nearly 270 years. But the degree of deterioration in the old house is worrying. Wood and tile ceilings on the second floor have been collapsing, not only because of the climate, but also from neglect. Roots from shrubbery and prickly pears crisscross those interior walls that are exposed to the outside. The exterior walls are cracked. Several families still live on the ground floor of the building.

The Casa de las Cadenas also gives its name to one of the oldest streets in Guanabacoa. Some time ago the local historian, Pedro Guerra, said that it is one of the most important historical buildings in the western part of the island. Built in the early eighteenth century, it was the first two-story house in town.

It is located in the heart of the designated Historic Center of Guanabacoa. It has been recognized by the government’s National Monuments Commission. According to oral tradition, documented by Elpidio de la Guardia, in his History of Guanabacoa:

Religious images were sheltered there by the Parish Mayor following a severe storm that destroyed the town in 1730. Masses were officiated there during that time. In return, the owner of the house was accredited by King Philip V of Spain to grant asylum to fugitives from justice. Only two other buildings throughout the Spanish Empire had this prerogative.

As happened with other structures in the oldest part of the capital during the last century, the Casa de las Cadenas was converted to a rooming house. In 2009, Nilda Maria Peralta, the last tenant on the second floor of the building, who was later evacuated, lamented about the apathy of the authorities regarding the plight of the place:

“There are nights I don’t sleep, worried because there could be another collapse and I’m alone up here. What is sadder is that nobody cares.”

Five years later, the deterioration continues:

“Most of us who live here have neither the expertise nor the financial resources to repair a historic building like this; that’s up to the government,” one of the tenants told this reporter.

A local man, with a mixture of irony and bitterness said:

“Hopefully resources will appear and they will ’grab’ them to restore it soon, because when this house says ’I’m going down,’ there will be deaths . . . What’s holding it up is the same miracle that kept it from being destroyed by that hurricane that came through during the Spanish times.”

Another man, who had been silent, said:

“But what can you expect from a government that doesn’t even maintain its city hall?”

He was referring to the nearby old mayor’s palace, which now belongs to the People’s Power. The property is showing obvious signs of deterioration.

The photos that accompany this text corroborate the sad state of the Casa de las Cadenas, that historic symbol of the once beautiful Guanabacoa, which is about to completely collapse under the weight of time and neglect.

Cubanet, March 5, 2014.

Translated by Tomás A.

Venezuela is not Angola / Camilo Ernesto Olivera Peidro

Cuban special troops

Cuba is not the same as 40 years ago, but its leaders are the same

HAVANA, Cuba, February — Cuba intervened militarily in Angola on the side of the MPLA in August of 1975.  In 1977 Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) supported the government of Agostino Neto in order to suppress by blood and fire an internal rebellion.

After that moment, the Cuban government took in its hands, in a less surreptitious manner, control of Angola. Within the MPLA there were divergent opinions about the role the Cubans were playing in the country’s political situation. On the death of President Neto in 1979, they pulled strings for the appointment of Jose Eduardo DosSantos to the post.

“In 1978, Fidel Castro knew that he could not count on the USSR unconditionally,” says an ex-official connected to the Cuban embassy in Angola at that time, “and his plan B consisted of strengthening political and military control over Angola.  The Russians involved themselves in the matter when they saw the possibility of trafficking arms in exchange for gold and precious stones. This the high Cuban officialdom did from the moment they gained control of the Angolan governmental entities and the main access roads into the country. The political and military caste that came into power in Russia post-1991, did it, too, with the money earned there and in other low intensity military conflicts.”

Now, in the case of Venezuela, the strategy is different but seeking the same objective. “Venezuela is not Angola, and Cuba is not the same as it was 40 years ago,” explains my interlocutor, “but the individuals in control are the same. They have sent civil collaborators like a screen to try to cloak their strong presence within the structures of all levels of that country. Chavez handed the house keys to the Cuban DGI (State Intelligence Directorate), and Maduro is a bad version of Jose Eduardo DosSantos.” Continue reading

“I’m For Sale From the Neck Down” / Camilo Ernesto Olivera Peidro

Habana, Cuba.- The girl rests beside me, as naked as a country without rights. She turns tricks on weekends to keep alive her mother, who became infected with HIV when she herself was a prostitute over a decade ago.

“My mother had to do it to raise me, when things got tough during the nineties.  Now it is my turn.”

She may be called Adriana, Yusimi, Anisley… Prostitution has thousands of faces; many are feminine but many others are masculine or transsexual. I ask her if she knows anything about a regional meeting of heads of state that is to be held here at the end of January. She looks at me in disbelief and answers:

“I saw something about in on Telesur, but I don’t see any benefit in their meeting. Other countries may fare better, but here we are going downhill, every day its worse…”

Soon, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) will meet for the fourth time; this time in an impoverished Havana. Raul Castro and his court of generals will try to combine the art of “Political Prostitution” and “tick  techniques*” on the backs of the economic integration groups. Now that the European Economic Community “seems to be feeling squeamish” toward the repeal of its Common Position on Cuba, CELAC emerges for the Castro leadership as the ideal house pet.

The Chinese, for their part, come to play the role of the developed countries at the Port of Mariel. They won’t be alone, but they want to ensure a convenient springboard for foreign trade in the area from the Caribbean area to Latin America.

I explained all this to the girl, who looked at me puzzled. After listening intently (I think), she turns over and asks me to scratch her back. When I think she’s not going to say anything, she confides, Continue reading

Happy New Deception / Camilo Ernesto Olivera

55-aniversario-cabezalHAVANA, Cuba, January 6, 2014 / www.cubanet.org – Twelve midnight rang on 31 December, and 2013 ended. Havana said good-bye with its streets half-empty streets in Vedado and the speakers all reggaeton in the indigent heart of Buenavista. Apparently almost no one paid attention to the televised speech, where the government tried to wish Cubans a happy new year.

Nor were cheers for the Revolution heard, nor for Raul, and much less for Fidel. No one responded much to the fireworks on the Malecon, prohibited by law, but traditional, fired into the air.

According to what I was told by friends walking along by the exclusive clubs in the Playa area: “The music stopped, but so that everyone could join the chorus in the last ten seconds of the year. At 12, people burst into applause, hugged, and then went on dancing. Continue reading

The Sats Refugees / Camilo Ernesto Olivera

Havana, Cuba, December, www.cubanet.org — It was after 10 am Saturday, December 7.  The patrol car of the PNR (National Revolutionary Police) braked at my side, a few meters from where I live.  The uniformed officers got out of the car, and one of them asked me for my identity card.  With no further explanation, they pushed me against the patrol car, searched me, and put me in handcuffs.  Then they put me in the vehicle.

For almost an hour, we rolled through various zone of Mariano and La Lisa.  In an area near 100 Street and 51st, a Suzuki motorcycle approached.  The driver, dressed in civilian clothes, face hidden in the helmet, told the uniformed officers:

“Take hiim to Melena del Sur.”

After 5 pm I managed to return home.  It was growing dark when Antonio Rodiles called me by phone, and I told him what had happened.  A little later I was entering his house with a backpack loaded with necessities for surviving as a refugee there in the following days.  Like me, other members of the work team of Estado de Sats were coming together in the next hours. Continue reading

The Contradictory Spirit of Nostalgia / Camilo Ernesto Olivera

HAVANA, Cuba, December, www.cubanet.org — Between 1977 and 1978 Cubans living in the United States were able for the first time to return to the island to visit relatives. When my great uncle and great aunt came to our house, my father, who was an official in the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), could not be present. As a member of the Communist Party and the armed forces he had to obey orders, which were to refuse to greet them.

I remember as a child that my aunt and uncle stayed for lunch. There were tears in my aunt’s eyes when she saw the steaming, aromatic pot of black beans placed on the table. She said that, since she had left Cuba, she had not had beans and rice like the kind they make here. She later asked that we accompany her in a prayer of thanks. Even my uncle, who was not very religious, joined in — something I was only able to full understand years later.

In 1990 a group of students were returning home from Poland on a Cubana de Aviación flight. During a layover in Gander, Newfoundland almost all of them decided to take advantage of Canada’s then-generous asylum laws. More than twenty years later a member of the group was returning to Cuba as a tourist. He was travelling in economy class and his flight had several unscheduled layovers before landing at the Holguín airport.

His friend told us that during the last leg of the trip he managed to fall asleep. When they opened the hatchway door, a burst of steam and the penetrating odor of wet grass and rotting trash told him he had arrived in Cuba. This smell, so familiar during his childhood and adolescence, had been almost forgotten during the two decades he had lived in Canada.

At the moment they opened the hatchway door, all the memories came rushing back. An overwhelming sense of joy and sadness came over him. Later, surrounded by the love of family and friends, he managed to momentarily overcome this feeling. While in Banes he saw traces of the town’s devastation, the result of three hurricanes: one in 2008, another in 2012 and the main one, which has been destroying it since 1959. He also passed the homes of his childhood friends. Many were gone. The facades of others have or had been defaced with signs and placards stigmatizing their owners for opposing the government.

Recently, a young woman who was my first wife and one of my best friends in adolescence was visiting. She said, “Everything is more or less the same as when I left, but the decay of the houses and the people is evident. Now there are hard-currency stores for people with money, but the anguish and resignation have become became endemic.”

While we were having a beer to relieve the noontime heat, my friend used her mobile phone to show me the exact moment that she lost her internet connection. “I was chatting on Facebook and suddenly the whole screen froze. Then someone came up to me and said we were arriving in Cuba.”

She also told me, “I cannot understand how it is possible to feel nostalgia for a country where time has virtually stood still, like the image on my cell phone. It hurts me every minute, every house I knew from childhood that no longer exists, because it has been destroyed, because the rice dish of rice with black beans seems so different to me here. It feels like I am going back into my past, like I’m going to a cemetery to transfer a beloved family member from the crypt to the ossuary. ”

She took my hands and squeezed them hard between hers. It was as if she were trying to cling to nostalgia, drifting between love for what was and homelessness. Then we closed our eyes and let ourselves go.

December 11, 2013, Cubanet

Antonio Rodiles’ House Besieged at Dawn / Augusto Cesar San Martin, Camilo Ernesto Olivera

policias1HAVANA, Cuba  December 10, 2013, Augusto César San Martín / www.cubanet.org.- The home of Antonio Rodiles, leader of the independent group Estado de Sats, which from today through tomorrow is celebrating the First International Conference on Human Rights, was besieged by the police and plainclothes agents as the sun rose this morning. Third Street, from the Copacabana Hotel, is closed.

Around nine o’clock in the morning, this reporter was able to see a strong force deployed with the purposed of blocking political opponents, both from within the island as well as those who have managed to come from abroad, from participating in the day.

The director of Estado de Sats and the For Another Cuba campaign has said that this is the first attempt to organize an event of this kind, in which the topic of ratification of the UN covenants on human rights, signed by the Cuban government, will be addressed.

This reporter, in a taxi, tried in vain to reach the house, located in the Miramar neighborhood. The car was diverted. From 3rd and 42nd Streets the police are directing traffic. There are agents on the corners, with civilian staff. State Security cars and minibuses are located at the intersections.

The front of Rodiles’ house is deserted because 1st Street is closed. Cars coming from the Copacabana Hotel are diverted.

The Social/Labor Circle adjacent to Rodiles’ house has speakers playing the music of regime supporter Silvio Rodriguez very loudly.  The audio can be heard from 3rd Street.

The few participants who were able to reach the house days earlier have not been able to leave to avoid being arrested. Among them is the troubadour Boris Larramendi, from the Cuban group Habana Abierta (Open Havana), based in Spain.

Larramendi traveled specifically for the meeting and will close the event tomorrow, December 11.

The event from within

HAVANA, Cuba, December 10, 2013, Camilo Ernesto Olivera / www.cubanet.org.- Ultimately, and contrary to expectations, there was no direct police action against the organizer, Antonio Rodiles, who yesterday was accused of a traffic violation that he, in fact, had not committed. The initial session of the First International Conference on Human Rights was held without incident.

The turnout from the public has not been as expected, only twenty participants have managed to arrive, almost none from outside the country. But the foreign media and embassies accredited on the island, such as Spanish Television, have been able to report on the event.

The first panel, led by researcher Walfrido Lopez, was on human rights and the new media. Lopez presented a video on media from abroad which follow Cuba with interviews with directors and newspaper editors

Coming up is a panel on human rights in Latin America, and the another on institutional violence against women in Cuba.

There will also be an exhibition of posters of the event and for tomorrow a concert with Boris Larramendi troubadour, who came from Madrid.

As interference, the government, through State Security and its mass organizations, has mounted a kind of Street Plan in front of Rodiles’ house. They have staged a party with music and snacks for neighborhood children, who did not attend classes today, to justify closing the street to traffic.

Also, the social / labor circle known as La Copa (The Cup), located on 1st and 42nd Streets is being used as the command post by the political police.

Since early morning they have been playing the songs of troubadours who support the government, Silvio Rodriguez and the duo Buena Fe.

The operation recalls the era of General Abrantes, the Interior Minister in charge of acts of repudiation against citizens trying to leave the country. The siege techniques are the same except that no one is throwing eggs.

10 December 2013

Estado de Sats Presents “Notebooks for the Transition” in the Midst of a Police Operation

Screen Shot 2013-11-19 at 8.25.26 PMSaturday morning Estado de Sats presented the first issue of their magazine “Handbooks for the Transition” despite a political operation to prevent the audience from arriving; several activists were detained, Antonio Rodiles, director of the independent project, informed Diario de Cuba

According to Rodiles, Gabriel Barrenechea, a member of the magazine’s editorial board, and Andrés Pérez were besieged in their homes. Meanwhile, the artist Luis Trápaga was arrested on his way to the presentation, as was José Díaz Silva, who was beaten and held at least six hours.

Screen Shot 2013-11-19 at 8.27.26 PMHowever, about 60 people managed to attend the event. Rodiles said that some participants were arrested by regime’s agents on leaving, to take copies of the magazine from them.

“Despite arrests, violations, pressures, we presented ‘Handbooks for the Transition.” SATS will continue because the desire for freedom us unstoppable,” insisted the director of the independent project.

The monthly magazine, in print and digital editions, “has as its objective to address different themes about the future transition to democracy on the Island, with authors from within and outside the country,” Rodiles told Diario de Cuba this week.

The first volume includes articles by Walfrido Lopez (The Internet in Cuba-US Relations), Emilio Morales (Remittances have become an engine of the Cuban economy), Juan Antonio Blanco (Civilizational and migration change), and Antonio Rodiles and Alexis Jardines (Notes for the transition), among others.

Future issues will address topics such as economic liberalization and legality.

“We must begin to discuss these issues openly. We need to debate them, without fear,” said Rodiles.

Screen Shot 2013-11-19 at 8.28.08 PM

Diario de Cuba | 2 November 2013

Cuba Rock Agency Director Dismissed / Camilo Ernesto Olivera

Maxim Rock, last Saturday. Photo: Camilo Ernesto Olivera

Maxim Rock, last Saturday. Photo: Camilo Ernesto Olivera

HAVANA, Cuba, November 6, 2013, Camilo Ernesto Olivera / www.cubanet.org.- On Saturday, 2 November, Blanca Record was dismissed as director of the Cuban Rock Agency. This was the surprising and unusual response to a protest expressed through “official channel.”

Blanca Recode took office last June. Her appointment was signed by Orlando Vistel, Vice President of the Cuban Institute of Music (ICM).

For more than a week, a good share of the musicians belonging to the Cuban Rock Agency (ACR) joined together to demand the dismissal of this functionary. They drafted a letter where they explained the situation of the groups, the despotic manifesto of this director, and her threats of shutting them down and firing them.

On Monday, musicians and technicians addressed different levels of the Ministry of Culture and also the Council of State. One group managed to deliver, personally, a copy of their protest letter to the Vice Minister for Music, Orlando Vistel. He scheduled a meeting on the 31st with various of those making the demands.

As a result, the Vice Minister guaranteed a response to the demands of the musicians and the workers of the Agency in a short time. The promise was fulfilled in just under 48 hours.

During the weekend, events seemed to rush toward the firing last Saturday. On Monday, the 4th, they decided not to keep the lawyer and economist at the Agency. Other changes are expected in the coming days. Meanwhile, the Agency and Maxim Theater continue operating and the programmed concerts will go on.

This weekend, two groups from Colombia and Switzerland shared the stage with Cuban groups.

According to reliable sources who asked not to be named, the Deputy Minister Orlando Vistel accepted the rockers’ proposal to name María Gattorno as Agency director.

Between 1988 and 2003, Gattorno managed to sustain, against all odds, the well-remembered “Patio de Maria” in a small house of culture. She is is much loved and respected among musicians and the Cuban rocker and metalhead audience.

During the time the Rock Agency was created in 2007, Gattorno decided not to accept the leadership of this organization for personal reasons. At that time, the appointment of Max Yuri Avila to the office was approved, who at that time already had experience in the work of artistic production and entertainment. Now the challenge is much greater.

The official dismissed arrived last June emphatically stating that “the Agency is going to be closed.”  Reversing this is a challenge that lies ahead for the two generations of rock and heavy metal musicians who survive as a part of this State entity.

Certainly , the genre has survived in much worse circumstances. But keep in mind that winning a battle is not winning the war. More than five decades of eventful history of rock on the island testify to this.

Camilo Ernesto Olivera

Cubanet, 6 November 2013

The New Man, Fraud and Reggaeton / Camilo Ernesto Olivera Peidro

DANI IS A WHORE / THE DONKEY (illegible)
BILLBOARDS OF DECREPITUDE – Photo by Camilo Ernesto Olivera

HAVANA, Cuba, October, www.cubanet.org - A teenager, a wannabe to the “reggaeton fashion,” succeeds in paying for his Spanish Language exam grades on a regular basis: “In my high school you can do business, provided that you are willing to pay well.”  The young man, whose name I was not permitted to disclose, aims to get through the remainder of his high school years  in the same manner. “My older sister supports me since, “jineteando” [prostituting herself], she met a Yuma [foreigner] loaded with “baro” [money] and “got her claws into him.”

He aspires to attain fame in that musical genre, very popular in Cuba.  Because, in his own words “it is very lucrative, faster than going to school and getting a degree or going to a trade school.”  When I asked him what he’ll do once reggaeton is over, he looks at me incredulous:  “That’s never going to happen”.  Then he slowly looks at my long hair and says:  “And you guys, the “frikis” (rockers in the popular jargon), nobody sees you guys in the radio or TV.  But reggaeton everyone supports it, from the Communist party to Lucas on television”.

Musical Equipment for Sale…

Lucas, for those who don’t know, is a national television program that transmits musical video clips produced locally. In the absence of internet or other means, this program, directed by Orlando Cruzata, is taken like a barometer of the musical popularity in the island. Everyone knows that the burgeoning producer PMM is the Lord and Mistress of this television program. I try to clarify this last detail to the kid, but he doesn’t even flinch: “Of course, dude, the people with the most money are the reggaeton musicians; look at Daddy Yankee’s last musical video, he has a tremendous Lamborghini.”

Then he explains his point of view about what he considers to be a promising future:  “As soon as I finish 12th grade, if I don’t buy a diploma beforehand; my sister is going to give me the money so I can start my own musical group and buy the entry to a musical company… Then, I make a couple of hit songs so they stick (so they are popular) and I film a hot video clip like Chacal & Yakarta.  They’ll censor it, I become famous like Osmani Garcia and then I go to Miami.”

I listen to him, and think about that chant that we repeated singsong-like in elementary school:  “Pioneers for Communism…” or the other one that would add:  “Where a communist is born, difficulties die.”  Right after, the kid feels comfortable enough and improvises what in his view will be his first super hit on the “Lucasnómetro weekly.”

Just because you are in my field of vision doesn’t mean that you are the object of my gaze.

I am in a town on the periphery of the capital, Guanabacoa. It is Sunday, the day is boring and the week depressing.  After this instructive conversation with the “new man of the XXI.century.cubiche.cu”, I conclude that the paleontologists of the future will have a lot to talk about.

I go out to walk the streets.  I observe the overwhelmed faces of the few that challenge the mid-afternoon sun.  I am sweating and the smell of the accumulated garbage piles (“in each block a committee…”) keep me company the rest of the way.  I see a sign that looks like no one has been able to erase it.  It is pretty offensive and I take a picture for you readers.  Then I see others with “spectacular” spelling errors and I do the same.  Then I understand why the “owners of the estate” [the Castro brothers] want to start a battle with the teachers that tutor students privately.

Let’s remember that in medieval times, reading and writing were privileges for the high classes.  As was access to the universities.  The children of the nomenklatura will always have their home tutors. There is and always will be, as is always been, schools for the ordinary Cuban and schools for the children of the generals in charge.

As I am heading back, I stumble upon the “reggeaton superstar”.  I show him the pictures and ask him if he sees anything wrong.  He looks at them for a few minutes, he gives me the camera back and says: “Dude, everything is cool”.

Camilo Ernesto Olivera Peidro,  From Cubanet, 24 October 2013

 Translated by LYD