Gerardo Machado: Was He Really an Ass with Claws? / David Canela Pina

MIAMI, Florida. — In the North Cemetery of Woodlawn Park, in Miami, lie the remains of the former Cuban president Gerardo Machado y Morales (1871-1939), who was the politician who constructed the most works during the Republic, and also was the first who opposed the international influence of communism.

To Machado, the new writing of history is simplified by a caricature: the ass with claws, and as all that is not convenient to them, they leave his image, alone and deformed, surrounded by a sea of silence, in which the only thing heard is the murmurings of the communists.

Was he a dictator? Yes. One that induced a reform in the Constitution in 1901, to govern for ten years? Yes, but he was highly adored, in an epoch quite convulsive. Did he close the University of La Habana (Havana), in 1930? Yes, but he had constructed  its staircase, and the then new buildings of the Colina — including the School of Engineers and Architects,which today is in ruins.

Did he suspend constitutional guarantees? Yes, but terrorism had seized control of the streets, and there did not exist negotiations with opposing groups. Did he engage in political assassinations and torture? Yes, but not so much as since 1959. Continue reading “Gerardo Machado: Was He Really an Ass with Claws? / David Canela Pina”

“Notebooks for the transition,” A Magazine for Discussion / David Canela Pina

tiroHAVANA, Cuba, November This Saturday morning the civic project Estado de SATS (State of SATS) presented a new magazine titled Notebooks for the Transition, which aims to “offer a forum for analysis and plural participation,” for all Cubans interested in “thinking and visualizing that other Cuba which is already urgent” according to an editorial note. It says that the first issue is “dedicated to the issue of transnationality.”

Notebooks for the Transition is a magazine produced and coordinated by the State of SATS civic project, which has had as one of its main strategies to become an ideological “bank,” where ideas and trust in this “human capital” that has been invested in other parts of the world due to the exodus of Cuban society can return. In this issue, for example, collaborators include intellectuals and artists who don’t live on the Island: Juan Antonio Blanco Gil, Emilio Morales, Alexis Jardines, Carmelo Mesa Lago, Garrincha, among others. Their presence is distant for now, but as the transition to democrat becomes more visible and effective, the process of return of many of these social actors will no longer be an event, but become a flow, that newly enriches the naitonal sap.

Presentation of Notebooks

Despite the police operation, that prevented some people from coming to the meeting site, leaving their homes, and even their provinces, as was the case of Jose Gabriel Barrenechea. More than forty people attended the launch of the first issue.

From L to R - Antonio Rodiles, Ailer Gonzalez Olivera and Walfrido Camilo Lopez
From L to R – Antonio Rodiles, Ailer Gonzalez Olivera and Walfrido Camilo Lopez

The panel that presented the details of the magazine was made up of Antonio Rodiles, overall project coordinator Estado de SATS, Ailer González, its artistic director, Camilo Ernesto Olivera, freelance journalist, and Walfrido Lopez, a computer specialist. The first three are part of the Editorial Board, along with José Gabriel Barrenechea and Alexis Jardines, who is the only member currently located outside of Cuba.

During the exhibition they addressed issues such as the integration of Cuban society, the economic and “knowledge” remittances, the leadership structures, civic maturity as a prerequisite for the conscious transition, the role of Cubans inside and outside Cuba in the new political system, etc.

Not just for regime opponents

Rodiles commented that “Cuban society is badly damaged and fragmented, so we need to bring together Cubans around a frank discussion.” And he said that in the transition to democracy “it must be not only activists and opponents, but also ordinary citizens.”

With regards to the role of the internet in building a democratic society Walfrido Lopez said that it is not enough for some Cubans to move freely on the internet, with their thousands of Twitter followers and hundreds of Facebook friends, but unable to create a network of internal communication with the Cubans on the Island.

In the current economic context, Rodiles said the “economic flow between Cuba and Miami is the centerpiece of a change in Cuba,” which is already funding private businesses, buying houses, etc.  And he added that emigrant remittances provide the largest source of revenue to the national economy and today reach 62% of Cuban homes.

“The transition begins with us”

Camilo Ernesto Olivera raised the old problem of how to achieve this national unity of interest, at least within the opposition. Then he said that we must first move ourselves toward a civic consciousness and a maturity based on respect. “The transition begins with us,” he said. Rodiles, meanwhile, said that national unity should not revolve around a leader, a new Fidel Castro  and called for a “polycentric opposition.” He said that “the relationship between individuals is what generates human and social capital,” and therefore “our magazine is aimed at creating those links among all Cubans.”.

With great wit, Ailer Gonzalez enunciated that “differences of opinion between the opposition do not strengthen the regime, rather they strengthen the opposition,” as they increase its capacity for public debate.

Rodiles stressed that “the influence of Cubans abroad is extremely important,” while Gonzalez addressed Cubans who live and struggle in their own country: “What is your role in the new Cuba? Being an opponent is not an occupation. Everyone should begin imagining the place they will occupy in the new Cuba.”

Finally, Ailer Gonzalez concluded the meeting with these words: “Thank you to all the Cubans in the world. We are waiting to rebuild Cuba.”

Summary of the first issue

Although Notebooks for the Transition has an essentially academic and research profile related to the present and possible future of Cuba, it has also opened spaces for literature, translation and history (with the section called Documents).

This issue, which corresponds to the month of October, is composed of several sections: Editorial, Survey, Dossier (the main section), Documents, Translation and Literature.

In the Survey, some people in Santa Clara respond on “the issue of Cuban emigration and its role within the nation.” The Dossier meet has five articles: “The Internet in Cuba-US Relations” by Walfrido Lopez; “Remittances have become an engine of the Cuban economy” by Morales; “Civilizing and Emigration Change” by Juan Antonio Blanco Gil; “The Dominican Republic: a transnational nation-state” written by a group of authors; and “Notes for the transition” by Antonio Rodiles and Alexis Jardines.

The Documents section rescues “a forgotten letter from Enrique José Varona” written in 1900; and in Translation is published an excerpt from the book The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism by Michael Novak. Finally, the Literature section reproduces the poem “Bottle” by Otilio Carvajal (included in his unpublished book Born August 13), and also the poem “Fragment” by Angel Santiesteban.

David Canela Piña

Cubanet, 4 November 2013

Exiled Cuban Photographer Presents His Work at Estado de Sats in Havana / David Canela Pina

Alberto Maceo – taken from Facebook

HAVANA, Cuba , September 9, 2012, David Canela Piña / Last Friday the civic project Estado de Sats put on, at its usual site, a photographic exhibition by Cuban artist Alberto Maceo, who currently resides in Flensburg, a small German town on the border with Denmark. The exhibition, entitled From Havana to Here, included thirteen portraits of ordinary people of the streets of Germany, and also to a Cuban woman looking to the horizon from the Malecon. The artist was not present at the exhibition.

Cubans have a cultural similarity with the German population: in both communities the people daydream looking out to the sea, breathing the sea air. Perhaps it was this reminiscence that inspired Maceo to search faces for something Cuban: a distant yearning, an introspective silence. The sharpest eye might discover that they are lower class people, but possessing of a certain dignity.

However, the attributes and attitudes revealed in the composition of these figures are not enough to evoke a defined psychological and social profile. The majority neither seduce nor move one. There is a lack of substance, an infinite projection. Some images look like studies: an expression, lacking temperament, delighting in the vanity of its pose.

 Woman on the Malecon - Alberto Maceo
Woman on the Malecon – Alberto Maceo

Very few manage to be a vehicle that leads to another universe: the Cuban woman, wrapped in a cloud of mystery, as if watching from the tower of a fortress; the young guitarist who seems to imagine or remember the verses of a song; and a man sitting on a bench, watching a fjord in the gloom. In the other images, it is difficult to guess at a story, an atmosphere, a conflict.

The quality of the photos is undeniable, but they lack character, uniqueness, and the prism of suggestion. It is true that not all photos can be iconic, like that of Sharbat Gula, the Afghan girl who was photographed in 1984 for National Geographic, but they should aspire to those reflections of the soul, and life experience.

Estado de Sats, builder of bridges

As Antonio Rodiles once said, the main objective of Estado de SATS is to create a public space within the Island. If voices that are pro-government (at least in appearance) are excluded or reject the invitation, either out of fear, convenience or laziness, it’s a personal matter for each person. But the space is open to all arguments, tendencies and attitudes, as long as they are defended with respect and rationality.

Public during exposition - Photo David Canela
Public during exposition – Photo David Canela

The second objective has been to build bridges of recognition and collaboration within civil society, some of whose members have been marginalized for their ideology, and for not worshiping a state that presents itself as the supreme idol. These, from their experiences and convictions (and I must say also , from poverty and homelessness), have decided to reclaim their dignity, and pay the price for their independence.

Perhaps the objective can be summarized as an opening new horizons, and between them, leading to healing through beauty, and refining the sensitivity of many people who have become accustomed to marginality, marginalization, beatings and jail cells. Estado de Sats is a path through the weeds, leading to democracy and reconciliation.

About the author

David Canela Piña. He was born on April 27, 1981 in Havana. He attended Fabricio Ojeda primary school and Otto Barroso secondary, both in the municipality of Habana del Este. He earned a scholarship to the V. I. Lenin Institute of Exact Sciences High School, graduating in 1999. In 2006 he graduated with a degree in Literature from the University of Havana, with a thesis on the poetic worldview of the Cuban writer Raul Hernandez Novás . He has worked as an editor, professor of grammar, literary scholar , and now as a digital media journalist. For seven years he lived in Diez de Octubre; he now lives in the municipality of Playa.

From Cubanet

9 September 2013