The Trembling of the Shepherds / Claudia Cadelo (redux)

Photo; Claudio Leal

Photo; Leandro Feal

I have discovered that the trembling of the shepherds is greater than that of the sheep.


Claudia Cadelo, Havana, 25 February 2011 — There are two Cubas, one in which nothing ever happens, and another in revolt, boiling over, which never stops sending me signals of change. My life moves from one to the other and I can never be sure which of the two is real. In any case, the dome over our heads is shaking. And to know it, you don’t need any proof other than the fear that permeates Cuban Television, the Nation Television News, the streets full of State Security agents, the strange blackout in the Chaplin movie theater — site of the Young Filmmakers Exhibition — on February 23, the first anniversary of the hunger strike death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, the numerous arrests of short duration, the absolute paranoia of those trying to hang on to the ownership of the island where I was born.

They look with bewildered eyes on the Middle East, the teetering — once again — of the world’s dictators, and here the fright of those on high reaches even us. I watch the TV in horror as they don’t condemn the assassination of civilians, accuse the protesters of being “young people manipulated by the west,” justify the murders committed by the army, and end by supporting the world’s dictatorships in their killings to maintain control.

You don’t have to be overly suspicious to catch the rhythm of fear: they have called together young people from the Communist Youth League and read them the riot act, and at night the vans of State Security troll the streets of Vedado and ask to see the ID of every suspicious boy, which turns out to be every boy, because for the elderly who wield control in Cuba anyone under thirty is considered dangerous.

I always thought fear was our sword of Damocles and that the government looked upon us like trembling and defenseless lambs. I have discovered that the trembling of the shepherds is greater than that of the sheep. That in the Central Committee the paranoia and fear have become State policy. Although they try to appear comfortable in the chairs of totalitarianism, they know the wood is rotten and is going to disappear. The Dinosaurs are going to disappear.

From Paranoia to a Scream (Freeing Gorki “Last Time”) / Claudia Cadelo


By Claudia Cadelo De Nevi

On Friday night, after the release of Gorki and when we had already been to his house, he asked Lía if she had been to the beach. Well, it is simply impossible to narrate the last four days in two hours. He didn’t know yet that we had been at the court from eight in the morning, that we had been burned by the sun the whole day and that later two storms had rained on us… and that we were all there – the diplomats, the press and us (I say “us” because some of us didn’t know each other from before, so it was simply us, those who had been there).

I write this note because I want to share my experience in this act of solidarity that artists and non-artists (like me) have had with him and with ourselves, clarifying that I refer to physical artists, painters and writers, because I didn’t see a single musician, not even the most “underground” of the underground.

My friends call me a paranoiac; I am the one who lives in fear, who never opens the windows, who never speaks of politics, I am afraid of the dark, I don’t go out after ten at night, not even to the corner. But nothing had made me as afraid as I was for the last four days starting on Monday (and it still hasn’t left me). Continue reading

Fun (or not!) with Fridges, Part 5: Rendering of Accounts (and refrigerator gaskets) / Claudia Cadelo

Photo: Claudio Fuentes

Photo: Claudio Fuentes

As Yoani called it in one of her posts. Yesterday was the Rendering of Accounts meeting in my CDR, but in an impulsive act I didn’t go. The truth is that I’m already repentant, I’m sure I could have written a humorous post.

The last time I participated in one of these meetings, a man who really took it to heart gave a most aggressive speech against the Ten Cent vendors at 23rd and 12th, who are no longer called that, but nobody knows what they’re called because nothing is worth 10 centavos, because they outdo themselves stealing pesos from the customers. They decided, those involved in the discussion, that they’d call down the police on the Ten Cent sellers, but they achieved nothing, either with the police or with the denunciations.

The next topic was the point about the refrigerator gaskets: the majority of my CDR, including me, didn’t receive our refrigerator gaskets for some “strange reason,” they just brought them.

Later they talked about bread, something relating to milk and yogurt for the children, the diversion of construction materials, among other problems without solutions. One woman said it was going on 20 years that we’d been discussing the same issues in these meetings… we must be persistent or completely mad.

Then they talked about increasing the surveillance and political ideological work, no one knows to what end, if all the real problems can’t be solved with that.

They want early release of the 5PE (five prisoners of the empire); said that the party was immoral, excuse me, immortal; badmouthed the United States, sang the anthem and everyone left, reluctantly, to go home and watch the soap opera.

Claudia Cadelo, 29 December 2008

Note: In conjunction with Miriam Leiva’s post about bank loans to buy saucepans, Translating Cuba has decided to re-post an old series of posts Claudia Cadelo about refrigerators, to give our readers a fuller understanding of how things work in Cuba. This is Part 5.

Fun (or not!) with Fridges, Part 4: They finally arrived / Claudia Cadelo

Screen Shot 2014-01-16 at 11.02.14 AMMonday, November 24, 2008, 11:00 am:
I came running from work to meet the social workers who take the old refrigerators. Atmosphere of madness, all the old refrigerators rolling down the stairs, they say a neighbor was on the edge of tears. I too was a little sad, it hurts to see them rolled away after nearly a half century of working without fail. My Mom’s fridge, for example, they gave it to my grandmother like a wedding present, she was born in 1919 and got married when she was 16. It’s impossible to be indifferent to its death. I understand OLPL and other friends who aren’t changing theirs, but truly for me, although I’m sad, I prefer the change. In addition, it’s expensive to get rid of them, because I’ve been told there are people out there who think it is only exchanged, but no, it’s exchanged and charged: value 260 CUC. Luckily you can pay in installments. After 50 years they realize if they don’t sell them on the installment plan they’re not going to sell them, because with what are we going to pay.

There were two guys, I don’t know where they went, who loaded the refrigerators and took them down for you for 20 pesos.

6:30 pm:
The truck with the new ones arrives, as Claudio calls them, the “Comandantes Haier.” The odyssey of bringing them up and more, and thankfully with Yoani’s camera I was able to capture all of it, most of all Claudio and Ciro, posing before starting up.

For the social workers, who didn’t get lunch, I made them coffee. They told me they hadn’t even given them a snack the whole day.

Translator’s note
The “Haier Group” is a Chinese appliance manufacturer with a contract to supply energy efficient refrigerators to Cuba.

Claudia Cadelo, 26 November 2008

Note: In conjunction with Miriam Leiva’s post about bank loans to buy saucepans, Translating Cuba has decided to re-post an old series of posts Claudia Cadelo about refrigerators, to give our readers a fuller understanding of how things work in Cuba. This is Part 4.

Fun (or not!) with Fridges, Part 3: The coming of the refrigerator (II) / Claudia Cadelo

juan suarez

Photo: The piece by Juan Suarez for the exhibition “Monstrous energy eaters.”

Sunday November 23, 11:00 am:

I leave for work (yes, I also work on Sunday) and the Surveillance guy asks me where I’m going because they’re already picking up the refrigerators on the sidewalk out in front. Ciro’s at a student’s house giving a lesson, so he’s not home either.

We’ve spent this week waiting for the refrigerator, I haven’t missed any more work but many people have. Since that disastrous Friday of last week there have been people without a refrigerator until the following Friday; there weren’t any trucks so they couldn’t bring the new refrigerators. By chance we saved ourselves, because the list of those of us who were exchanging fridges was wrong and the president of the CDR wouldn’t let us get rid of them until it was fixed, and those who were fixing it stopped working, and so we were left with our old refrigerators.

I’m running to leave things at work under control and then head back home, which I make in the record time of one hour, including the ten peso cost of a car between there and here to get here faster.

When I get home a neighbor is shouting at me: Go back! Go back! They’re not going to pick them up from us today! He gave me a small attack of hysterics which fortunately passed quickly when I saw the face of the president of the CDR who has spent the last week taking meprobamate and who was on the verge of strangling somebody. She’s more exasperated than I am. In her work they give encouragement in foreign currency and if she fails she won’t get it.

They say it’s coming tomorrow.

(to be continued)

Claudia Cadelo, 26 November 2008

Note: In conjunction with Miriam Leiva’s post about bank loans to buy saucepans, Translating Cuba has decided to re-post an old series of posts Claudia Cadelo about refrigerators, to give our readers a fuller understanding of how things work in Cuba. This is Part 3.

Fun (or not!) with Fridges, Part 2: The arrival of the refrigerator / Claudia Cadelo

refrigerador22Chronicle of an absurd day (incomplete but will be continued)

Thursday, 9 pm

The president of my CDR, whom I’ve already said is the best, shouts at me that the fridges will come tomorrow. What time? Who knows.

I go down to try to find out what she knows, I have work in the morning and then I have another job in the evening until ten at night that I don’t like to miss.

The owner of the house must be present, if they’re not there another person can buy it but then that person will be the debtor.

According to the Cuban government I’m the housewife, so I can’t go to work because the debtor is my mother and she can’t come either because she’s waiting for her refrigerator too, at least the owner of the house must be there. Besides, what mysterious reason would keep a housewife from not being there to receive her refrigerator, particularly when the one she has hasn’t kept things cold in the summer for years?

My neighbors advise me to go to work in the morning, because the refrigerators always arrive late, I decide to sacrifice my night job, call the boss, etc. etc. etc.

Claudio’s digital camera is broken, a call to Orlando to see if he will lend me his, it’s complicated; Lía’s incommunicado; Yoani will lend me hers but Ciro isn’t here to go get it.

I go to bed.

Friday, 7:15 in the morning

I’m leaving for work; the phone rings, it’s the president of my CDR, saying that I’d better not go to work, they called her and they’re coming at nine.

Call the other boss, Ciro worried. Two colleagues tell me they spent THREE DAYS waiting for their refrigerators. I hang up the phone, not happy with this information. Continue reading

Fun (or not!) with Fridges, Part 1: Cold Water and Eternal Debt / Claudia Cadelo

refrigeradoresPhoto: Truck with old refrigerators in my neighborhood.

Amelia is about 50 and lives alone, her husband died in the war in Angola and since then she’s received a miserable pension through the Veteran’s Association. As she doesn’t work for the State, tough she is still of working age, several times they’ve tried to take from her the pittance of 200 Cuban pesos she receives as “financial aid.”

Since she exchanged her refrigerator for a more energy efficient one, her life has been complicated: she has cold water but owes the state 2,000 pesos in thirty monthly payments, plus late fees, which she hasn’t been able to pay. For some months an “inspector” has visited her house weekly, to tell her of the really bad things that are going to happen in her case. It all started with a fine, which exceeded the unpayable debt itself. As that didn’t work, it moved on to the blackmail of threatening to remove the refrigerator, and finally the threat of a trial.

Amelia knows she can’t raise this sum, and her inspector, gaining confidence as she looked him in the eye, confessed to her that he has not been able to meet his own commitment to pay for his refrigerator, either.

In a bizarre “Year of the Energy Revolution,” an epithet that was written below the date on every official document and on school blackboards during all of 2006, Fidel Castro decided to update our home appliances. The energy itself never came, but our lightbulbs, fans and refrigerators were exchanged for new ones, along with promises that we would pay for them on the installment plan.

Some years later, a rather high percentage of Cubans owe thousands of pesos to the State, Cuban Communist Party meetings demand of their militants that they “ensure compliance with the commitments in their nuclei and their neighborhoods,” and, incidentally, “set an example by settling their own debts.” But after 50 years — Party member or not — the common denominator of the average Cuban is insolvency. This bankruptcy of the family economy is the result of government mismanagement, which now demands that we pay what we have never earned.

Claudia Cadelo, 30 June 2010

Note: In conjunction with Miriam Leiva’s post about bank loans to buy saucepans, Translating Cuba has decided to re-post an old series of posts Claudia Cadelo about refrigerators, to give our readers a fuller understanding of how things work in Cuba. This is Part 1.


Tracey Eaton’s Interview with Claudia Cadelo

Tracey Eaton, a Florida-based journalist, has been traveling to Cuba for a long time, and more recently has been undertaking a series of interviews with Cubans ranging all across the ideological spectrum. He has now begun the work of subtitling these videos in English.

Here are links to Tracey’s blogs/sites: Along the Malecon; Cuba Money Project; Videos on Cuba Money Project; Video Transcripts; Along the Malecon News Updates.

From the denial of the denial to the denial of the obvious / Claudia Cadelo

I was lucky: I finished the ninth grade with one teacher for each subject. A few years later began the debacle of the “emerging teachers” — who were not allowed to specialize. The same teacher would teach the arts and sciences to the whole high school. The old guard of teaching withdrew in fear (the devil knows more because he’s old than because he’s the devil) and most of the teachers changed the level of instruction, asked to move down, or retired from a long and always underpaid career.

Shutting off the voice of experience, the Ministry of Education gave free rein to its imagination of the absurd, and classes without specialization gave way to classes by television. To make matters worse, the salary and poor classroom conditions remained the same. We finished the academic era and entered the ideological era: more politics, less knowledge.

So things continued until the pitcher went to the well one too many times*. The emerging teachers quickly tired of a profession that was more work than earnings, and the government decided to punish them with seven long years of obligatory social service in the classroom. Negligence, corruption and mediocrity established themselves where, previously, wisdom and education had lived. Parents who had the economic wherewithal found private teachers, and the rest resigned themselves to changing their children’s school all the time.

Then it occurred to someone to try the strange idea of a “new” approach: specialized education. Now they’ve gone back to the days when the mathematics teacher only worried about numbers and not syntax or historic dates. Four or five schools in Havana are serving as guinea pigs for the “unprecedented experiment” and the parents — among whom are several friends of mine — move heaven and earth to ensure that their children are among those chosen to “test the new formula.”

* Popular saying: The pitcher that goes to the well too many times is sure to break.

December 4, 2010

The Missteps of the Princess / Claudia Cadelo

Photo: Claudio Fuentes Madan, from the series "With ham, lettuce and peas"

This is not the first time I felt like telling Mariela Castro* that she should have remained silent. It’s a strange reaction in me, because normally I encourage others to express whatever they want to say. With her, however, it is hard for me, and there is something called decency which — for those who, like her, are public and political figures — is essential.

The first time was when she called Yoani Sanchez an “insignificant ‘cocky hen’.” That a politician would insult a journalist over an uncomfortable question is shameful enough, but that the heiress daughter should allow herself to call a Cuban citizen “insignificant” was, without a doubt, the height of cynicism on the part of our nomenklatura. However, it’s worth mentioning that the question posed by the author of Generation Y was not as uncomfortable as it could have been, and that Mariela’s overreaction is evidence of her allergy to freedom of the press. In my opinion, a truly difficult question would have been, for example, to ask why CENESEX (The National Center for Sex Education) doesn’t present the government with a claim on behalf of the homosexuals who suffered repression and abuse in the sixties, seventies and eighties, and who deserve compensation and an official apology. That question, I believe, would have given our princess a heart attack.

Now, CENESEX has this statement on its home page. It reminds me of a popular joke: The Special Period didn’t benefit me nor harm me, but quite the opposite. It turns out that Cuba has the exclusivity of being the only country in the Americas that “adds its vote to the group of countries that include homosexuality as a crime under the law, including the application of capital punishment for that reason, in five of them.” It’s worth mentioning that CENESEX is the only institution recognized by the government that supposedly represents the rights of homosexuals. What impudence, gentlemen, to read such a phrase on the page of the National Center for Sex Education,” and signed by its director!

*Translator’s note: Mariela Castro is the daughter of Raul, and director of CENESEX.

November 30, 2010

Ministerial Scoliosis / Claudia Cadelo

If, instead of having a personal blog, I had decided to post fictional stories, my last visit to the Provincial Prosecutor would be one in which the protagonist ends up in the hospital, a victim of horrible back pains. The doctor would permanently prohibit her from stepping foot in any ministry ever again, because her backbone would break under the weight of the bureaucracy. The protagonist would argue her thousands of needs, but the doctor would be blunt: Not one ministry more, not even by phone may you lighten the load.

But I am not writing fiction, so I will relate — omitting the cervical pain — my latest adventures regarding my complaint about the apartheid during the “Ninth Exhibition of Young Filmmakers.” I have not been to see any doctor to advise me to tell them all to go to hell, but rather the excellent lawyers of the Cuban Law Association who, on the contrary, encouraged and supported me in everything, so I will tell you here of some of my beautiful mornings at the Provincial Prosecutor at 25th and F in Vedado.

Under the law, the prosecutor has a period of sixty days to give me an answer, and this period having long expired, they are in breach of the law. My complaint is already eight months old, so when I arrived Friday morning with my attorney, Dr. Vallin, to ask for an explanation, a rush up the stairs to a receptionist whose face looked like she’d seen the devil, gave me to understand that my case was not even remotely nearing completion.

Logo of Cuban Law Association

However, I do have the honor of truth, and I recognize that appearing with Doctor Vallin before a law collective, a prosecutor, or in court, is the equivalent of walking through Hollywood holding hands with Brad Pitt. Given this, our country’s Minister of Justice has hired two lawyers to defend herself from mine.

So it was that an hour after we sat ourselves down to wait, the prosecutor who had issued this document under the stairs almost at the back — I know it sounds complicated but human limits have not yet been defined — and from the back also announced by telephone to someone, my paper in her hand, that this was certainly her signature but she had not the remotest memory of having signed it. She then said goodbye to the receptionist and left.

On her side, the poor receptionist — in order not to have that hot potato in her hand, that is to say, me — sent me to go inquire at the public waiting room. When she saw that Dr. Vallin rose with me, she sighed in resignation. She said — in a nicer way — that the prosecutor on the case was on vacation, that there was a new girl in the file room who had no idea where the documents were, and that probably those who had undertaken the act of repudiation in front of the Chaplin cinema were military; I’m not sure why she was telling me this last part. Given the irrefutable fact of the expired time, she asked for our patience and would we come back on Tuesday at 8:30 in the morning.

On Tuesday morning she acknowledged us right away, despite the fact that my case has not been answered the whole world is aware of it. This time the wait was about an hour and a half, more or less. When the secretary sent me to the first floor she said, literally,

“Go up alone.”

“I prefer to go with him.”

Everyone knows that without an attorney you won’t even make it to first base. In addition, given the choice of going up without Dr.Vallin, and not going up at all, I prefer the latter. There we were seen by another prosecutor: my prosecutor is still on vacation and, IF there is an answer in my case, the fact is they don’t know because she’s on vacation. Such is life, although the law is not very clear about it.

Before I leave, the secretary draws up a claim report. They called me on the phone to let me know what is happening with my case (the person who called today was not the person charged with my case) and a piece of paper extended the deadline to respond for sixty more days.

November 26, 2010