The Blessing and Not the Miracle / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez


Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez, Havana, 19 September 2015 – Out of respect for His Holiness, so as not to bring up an unpleasant topic, or whatever — I would prefer not to have to say that — contrary to reports by certain foreign media, I have not sensed hope nor much enthusiasm among my compatriots regarding the visit by Pope Francis. Rather, what I’ve heard are jokes, some quite irreverent, about the potatoes that are not in the markets [jokes based on the fact that in Spanish “papa” means both “pope” and “potato”], and many comments ranging from skeptical to cynical.

And do not speak to me of multitudinous masses; we had them, too, when John Paul II and Benedict XVI came. There is no talk of how we Cubans are mainly Catholics (after our own fashion, but we are). Even, and above all, practitioners of Santería, almost all of whom were baptized and who pray the Our Father and the Hail Mary, and at least three or four times per year—on the feast days of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, St. Barbara, St. Lazarus, and the Virgin of Las Mercedes—go to church, despite the displeasure of some priests at what they consider to be “pagan superstitions.” Continue reading

Women Before Their Time / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez


On May 17, on the Sunday television program Passage to the Unknown, the journalist and host Reinaldo Taladrid, and guest psychologist Patricia Ares, addressed the issue of gender training received unconsciously by many girls. Training them, from very early days, to be future frivolous objects of erotic pleasure.

The phenomenon of the eroticism of childhood, although it happens worldwide for various reasons, has reached alarming proportions in Cuba.

For some years, it has become common for many parents to dress their daughters as if they were harlots in miniature. To demonstrate how precocious they are, in whatever party there may be, they are encouraged to wiggle, and to shake their rear ends – which still haven’t developed – more than all the rest. The more lasciviously the better, shaking to the most obscene reggaton. Continue reading

When I got to Varadero* / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez

cubanet square logoCubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez, Havana, 30 March 2015 — Despite the fact that on the three occasions I ever visited Varadero my experiences were not particularly pleasant, that beach – which today for the majority of Cubans is almost as inaccessible as Waikiki – occupies a special place in my nostalgia.

The first time I was at Varadero was in November, 1970, during the Festival of the Song. I was 14 years old. I went with two friends who were more or less my age, fleeing our homes and playing hooky from school, chasing after the Spanish pop groups Los Bravos (without Mike Kennedy), Los Angeles and Los Mustangs. They weren’t really our top favorites (at the time when we had still not resigned ourselves to the break-up of The Beatles, we were crazy for Led Zeppelin, Chicago, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Santana) but in the ideologically pure Cuba of the period, one could not aspire to something greater. Plus, we wanted the performances by those Spanish groups – despite how abysmally bad they sounded – to be our own version of Woodstock.

But the police rained on our parade. We ended up in a police station that stank of shit and where from a poster on the wall the Commander in Chief [Fidel] stared at us, scowling. I don’t know if his angry expression was due to our insolent ideological diversionism, or because the 10 Million Ton Harvest failed, and he had to devote himself to turning the setback into a victory at the expense of Nixon, whose name at that time was invariably spelled with a swastika in the newspaper, Granma. Continue reading

Grandfather’s Recipes / Cubanet, Luis Cino Álvarez


“The cuisine of the Chinese in Cuba: a Family Recipe Book” goes well beyond what its title indicates, becoming an homage to all families of Chinese descent.

cubanet square logoCubanet, Luis Cino Álvarez, Havana, 13 March 2015 — During the recent Havana International Book Fair, although copies were available for sale, no public presentation was allowed of “The Cuisine of the Chinese in Cuba: A Family Recipe Book” (Editorial Arte y Literatura, Havana, 2014), by Ernesto Pérez Chang. Evidently, this was the punishment for his collaboration with Cubanet that the censors imposed on the writer, who has won various important national literary prizes, including, in 2002, the Julio Cortázar Iberoamerican Short Story Prize.

But it is not of the censors’ mischief that I wish to speak, but of the book.

“The Cuisine of the Chinese in Cuba: A Family Recipe Book” goes well beyond what its title indicates, becoming an homage – not only to Hoeng Chang and Doña Lola, the author’s grandparents – but to all families of Chinese descent who, despite material scarcities, difficulties and prejudice endured, have kept Continue reading

The official press: “Made to conceal, not to publicize” / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez

A joke making the rounds: Napoleon said, “With Granma, nobody would have found out about my defeat at Waterloo:” (Photos: Internet)

A joke making the rounds: Napoleon said, “With Granma, nobody would have found out about my defeat at Waterloo:” (Photos: Internet)

cubanet square logoCubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez, Havana, 26 January 2015 – “Cubans are seeking a new conception of the press within socialism. All that can be predicted, without a doubt, is that it will be a democratic press, lively and original,” wrote Gabriel García Márquez in 1975.

That Gabo — always so unreal, so optimistic when it came to opining about his friend Fidel Castro’s Revolution. Such a quest does not show signs of obtaining results in any near future. It is easier to imagine the ascension into the heaven above Macondo of Remedios the Beautiful with a band of yellow butterflies*, than to reap, within olive-green socialism, a journalism free of shackles Continue reading

Havana: Castro-McDisney Theme Park / Luis Cino Alvarez

HAVANA, Cuba- Some years ago the American sociologist George Ritzer adopted the perspective of the “McDonaldization of society.” Within this, and thinking of the Disney parks, he coined the term, “McDonaldization of tourism.”

It would be interesting to know Ritzer’s opinion about the great theme park that Cuban has been turned into. Or the several sub-parks that it’s divided into, according to the interests of the visitor.

For ideological tourism, Cuba continues to be the mecca of the world left, now before than yesterday, in the face of the proto-capitalist reforms, they call them “Guidelines,” updating the economic model or as they call it, taking it apart and auctioning off the pieces.

Then, they rush to make the pilgrimage before the Revolutionary story is exhausted, the almendrones (the old American cars) stop rolling, before they tear down the old buildings and the prostitutes and pimps adjust their rates to those of Bangkok or Amsterdam. Continue reading

Puzzling Raul Castro in Santiago / Luis Cino Alvarez

HAVANA, Cuba, January, – General Raul Castro’s speeches are becoming increasingly puzzling. One does not know if he is playing at being Chinese, or playing Russian Roulette.  Before, at least, he used to save us the fright, by letting us know when he was going to make a joke. Now not even that.

It’s not that he was being a ventriloquist, but his speech this past January first in Cespedes Park in Santiago de Cuba, more than his harangues of seven years ago, when he assumed power, seemed like those of Fidel Castro.

The general president assured us that the Revolution continues the same as when it triumphed 55 years ago, with no other commitment than to the people.

And one does not know how to understand this, because if that which some still call “the Revolution” broke its commitment some time ago to anyone, it was precisely to the people, abandoned to their luck in this save yourself if you can… if you are of the elite. Continue reading

The Ideology of Prohibition / Luis Cino Alvarez

Havana, Cuba, November, — With regards to the absurd and prudish limitations imposed on some students by the Communications Faculty, Elaine Diaz recently wrote on her blog:  “. . . the policymakers are scandalized by things from the students as if the Revolution were going to fall apart next week. They should ask themselves what kind of Revolution falls apart for so little.”

The answer is simple: a revolution like that of Fidel Castro, which long ago stopped being one in order to become a racketeering and mean dictatorship, which, if it has managed to continue in power for 54 years, it is precisely because it fears everything different, it is closed tight and does not waver in repressing a fractious student who thinks with his head like the Ladies in White, who, for the henchmen of State Security are all the same: dangerous enemies of a revolution so fragile that it cannot tolerate anything that differs one iota from official decrees.

Besides, in their aberrant paranoia, they fear books, songs, visual arts, blogs, Facebook and the Internet in general.  And also 3D films.  The private mini-theaters whose projections have been prohibited without it mattering that the people lose money that they have invested or that they will be left without work. They alleged that these theaters had never been officially authorized, so they did not even give them time to close.

There the fools who thought that prohibitions had been left behind for ideological reasons!

Some think that behind the prohibition on 3D cinemas, as in the case of clothing imported from Ecuador or Miami and sold by individuals, is the desire of the State to eliminate competition by those individuals.  But let’s not fool ourselves:  the reasons are more ideological than merely commercial.  As ideological as when in the ’60’s they prohibited North American music and by extension British also, The Beatles included, no less.

The prohibition on mini-theaters was seen coming.  Several days ago, a long article (3,260 words) in Rebel Youth, the newspaper of the Communist Youth, showed the official preoccupation with it.  It cited Fernando Rojas, vice minister of Culture, who accused these cinemas of showing video to promote “frivolity, mediocrity, pseudo-culture and banality.” In spite of the vice minister declaring himself in favor of regulation before prohibition, finally the regime decided on the latter.

So, once more, a handful of meek and submissive eggheads, on behalf of their obsolete, uneducated bosses without a drop of class, who have Haitianized and what is worse, barbarized, the country, claim the right to be the arbiters of cultural quality and good taste.

It is not that the cultural commissars are wrong when they say that banal and low quality products prevailed in these cinemas.  But those products are not very different from the films and pirated series that pass for Cuban TV or that are shown in the few and deteriorated State theaters that remain.  Because the high brow cinema (ay, Huxley) that some foreign correspondents say is seen in Havana is quite scarce.  Only arthouse and films of a certain quality are seen on some television programs, in a few film festivals to which very few go and in the Festivals of the New Latin-American Theater, which keeps getting worse and which now, without Alfredo Guevara, it remains to be seen what will happen.

The commissars’ interest in cultivating our taste (always within the moral and ideological coordinates of the system) in order to make us “the most cultured people on the planet,” for lack of organicity and coherence, but above all sincerity, has failed down the whole line. From the punks who slide down the shell of the University for All, the ballet, the symphony and chamber music, jazz and arthouse theater. They prefer reggueton, Manga comics and films about vampires and Jackie Chang.  And if they have the money, “to put on the spectacles” they prefer to see Avatar and Ice Age in 3D.

The prohibitions are not going to manage to tidy up Cubans or cultivate their taste. They will only make their lives more boring and miserable. Particularly those of the young. Maybe the bosses think that they will be easier to control so. To hell with their ideas!

Luis Cino Alvarez,

Cubanet, November 10, 2013

Translated by mlk

The Cuban Adjustment Act: Does it Contribute to Demoralizing and Draining the Opposition? / Miriam Celaya, Jose Hugo Fernandez, Luis Cino,

LEY-bandera-usa-fila-dibujoHAVANA, Cuba, October, – Should the controversial law be annulled or changed? No Cuban who emigrates does so for purely ‘economic’ reasons. Hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens, persecuted or not, live freely in the U.S. thanks to this law.

“It’s hard to argue that Cubans who can come and go as they please need special considerations, normally reserved for victims of political repression,” stated the influential Chicago Tribune, referring to the Cuban Adjustment Act .

The controversial law was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1966, and provides a special procedure for Cuban-born or Cuban citizens and their accompanying spouses and children to obtain permanent residence in the United States. The Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA, its acronym in English) gives the Attorney General discretion to grant permanent residence to Cuban natives or citizens seeking their green card if they:

– have been living in the United States for at least 1 year
– have been admitted or have been granted permission in advance
– are acceptable as immigrants

The Cuban regime’s official newspaper describes the Cuban Adjustment Act as “murderous”. It has stated that the law was passed in order to encourage Cubans to leave the country illegally, thus endangering their lives under the illusion of the American dream.

The Cuban Adjustment Act was not won over by the Cuban-American right; it was created by the Democratic administration of Lyndon Johnson for thousands of Cubans whose admission process was changed to “fleeing from a communist regime” from “refugees under threat of persecution”.

But, with the passing of the migration reform that became effective in Cuba and that – it’s said — allows for more liberal granting of passports, for most Cubans to come and go at will, and for the actions of President Barack Obama in 2009 to facilitate travel to the Island by Cuban-Americans, Cubans arriving in the U.S. benefit from the Cuban Adjustment Act, and, after a year in the U.S. return to the Island, carrying goods and merchandise.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio [R., Florida] is of the opinion that the 47-year old law giving Cubans special status to obtain permanent residence in the United States should be “re-examined”.

Two other Cuban Republicans in Florida, Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Díaz-Balart of Miami, also have called for changes to the law.

“The Cuban community in the United States is divided”, says Jaime Suchlike, director of the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami (UM). Some have family they wish to be in contact with, while others say the law removes any motivation for people to remain in Cuba and confront the government.

Cubanet wanted to know the opinion of three of its writers:

Miriam Celaya’s Opinion

The Adjustment Act is, along with the Embargo, one of the most controversial issues on the subject of US- Cuba relations. Personally, I find it difficult to criticize a measure that has helped and continues to protect hundreds of thousands of my countrymen. However, it makes sense that there are those who believe that the law should benefit individuals who leave Cuba for political reasons and not people who view themselves as economic migrants and continue to regularly visit the Island.

That is, the fundamentals of political protection implicit in this law disappear when the individual is allowed entry and exit to and from a country with a prevailing political system which he allegedly fled. However, this should not mean the repeal of the law but its modification, with the implied compliance on the part of the emigrant with the applicable, fixed parameters of his political refugee status. Failing that, the same standards that apply to groups migrating from any other country should be taken into consideration.

LEY-cargado-de-paquetes-260x300Actually, no Cuban who emigrates does so for purely ‘economic’ issues, since the Cuban regime, dictatorial by its nature, imposes special conditions both at the economic and the socio-political levels, which are essentially the causes of the population’s constant and growing exodus. At the same time that the living conditions in Cuba impose widespread poverty, they impose political incompetence on the population, and this is the point where Cubans differ from other Latin American migrants, so conditions for Cubans and for other Latin Americans are not the same. But protection for political considerations contained in the Adjustment Act must go through the tacit recognition as beneficiary of political émigré conditions.

As for the supposed changes that have taken place with the January 2013 migration reforms and for the current relaxation of travel restrictions between Cuba and the U.S., the Cuban government remains intact in its ability to approve or not the Cuban passport from inside or outside of Cuba, to prevent the Island’s residents from traveling (depending on considerations of “public interest”), and to turn back the relative liberalization of travel, therefore, politics continue marching at the step of Cuban Emigration, and the Adjustment Act remains valid.

José Hugo Fernández’s Opinion

What action has most influenced the loss of reputation of the Cuban dictatorship and the gratitude and admiration of the ordinary Cuban towards the U.S.? The economic Embargo or the Cuban Adjustment Act, with all their many demons at both ends of the Florida Straits?

Now that some circumstances that gave rise to them have taken place, and since, in effect, they need to be amended (not canceled), let’s not forget that making comparisons at a political level is not only political ineptness, it is also an inhumane act.

Hundreds of thousands of our countrymen live in the U.S. today as civilized citizens, humble but free, thanks to the Cuban Adjustment Act, whether they belong or not within the group persecuted by the regime, another assessment that seems to greatly matter to politicians, but seems not to have much value when it comes to evaluating the population of a country that, as a whole, is victim and hostage of politics.

Doesn’t stripping that law of its eminently humanitarian character, thus reducing it to a mere political instrument turn it into something as wrong as those who allege that it should not benefit Cubans exclusively, forgetting that in Latin-America, and perhaps even worldwide there isn’t another country with a dictatorship as iron-clad, impoverishing, cruel and long as that of Cuba?

Luis Cino’s Opinion

The Cuban Adjustment Act, passed in 1966 to regulate admission to the United States for those fleeing the Castro regime in a sense has been overtaken by the modification of the Cuban emigration laws. Since many Cubans living in the U.S. abuse the law, it would have to be re-evaluated and modified, but not eliminated.

LEY-cola-embajada-usa-habana-300x228The elimination of the law, which the Castro regime has branded as “murderous” would be to treat the regime to a victory. It would serve as its version of “those who leave Cuba do so for economic, not political reasons, just like emigrants from any other third world country.”

As long as the dictatorship exists, there will be Cubans who will try to flee. The elimination of the Cuban Adjustment Act would leave no hope for those who don’t have the means to leave legally, or to qualify for the program of 20,000 annual visas for Cubans that the US has had in existence since 1994.

We should also review the “wet-foot dry-foot” policy and reformulate the policies of the Refugee Department of SINA [U.S. Interest Section] which is used by many as a springboard to leave the country, contributing to demoralizing and draining the opposition.

Translated by Norma Whiting

From Cubanet, 22 October 2013

The Literature Ernesto Guevara Saved Us From / Luis Cino Alvarez

50797_trnsFeaturedHAVANA, Cuba, October, – Che Guevara used to say that the history of the Cuban Revolution shouldn’t be written by others who were not its protagonists. The writers, whom he didn’t consider revolutionary enough, did not inspire confidence in this task.

In fact, he himself, who did not lack a literary vocation and talent, was the first who ventured a narrative. Reminiscences of the Revolutionary War was good effort to start writing the story of the Castro insurrection, from the Sierra Maestra to the taking of Santa Clara.

In any case, although fragmented and incomplete, the result was much better when Guevara wanted to give expression to his military thinking in Guerrilla Warfare, which was  a diffuse manual of insurgency tactic and strategy.

A few years later the Frenchman Regis Debray attempted what Guevara hadn’t achieved: to establish guerrilla theory. But Debray himself, after the publication of Revolution in the Revolution?, acknowledged that failure of his theories. It wasn’t easy to theorize about the fortuitous and almost providential events of the Cuban Revolution. The Castro insurrection, with disasters such as the attack on the Moncada Barracks and the shipwreck at the landing of the yacht Granma, could be dramatic examples of what a guerrilla movement should never do unless it aspires to suicide. Not all guerrillas have the luck of facing barely professional troops,corrupts and demoralized as was the army of the dictator Batista. Che Guevara’s disasters in the Congo and Bolivia tragically demonstrated this.

Nor did Che Guevara manage to clearly define his social and economic thinking in a book. Man and Socialism in Cuba is frightening in its immoderate and super-human statist idealism. With regards to the economy, for years the economists who are trying to ensure the survival of the Castro regime have unsuccessfully tried to work Che Guevara’s ambiguous and contradictory concepts into a body of practical and coherent ideas applicable to the Cuban situation.

Guevara considered socialist economic planning banal. “Without Communist morality, it doesn’t interest me at all,” he confessed to the French journalist Jean Daniel in 1963.

Today, Guevara’s thesis of creating two, three, many Vietnams… would be counterproductive to the reinvention of socialism, but with a market economy.

Che Guevara saved us the horror by not writing about his time as an executor of the Revolutionary terror in the La Cabaña Fort in the first months of 1959. It’s terrifying to imagine what his narrative may have been. The murdered puppy gives us an idea. The only account he wrote is impeccable, but very cruel. Bringing to mind the call to Revolutionary fighters to become, according to his own words, “cold killing machines.”

By Luis Cino Alvarez

From Cubanet, 7 October 2013

Silvio Rodriguez To The Rescue of Robertico Carcasses / Luis Cino Alvarez

Silvio Rodriguez

LA HAVANA, Cuba, September, – I must confess that after the episode of the North Korean freighter, Gan Chong Chon, it is increasingly difficult for me to imagine what might be behind each of the surprising happenings of the Raul regime. And if, in fact, Silvio Rodríguez is involved, everything becomes more convoluted.

The troubadour-in-chief, has just announced on his blog Segunda Cita, that he has invited Robertico Carcassés and the Interactive group to be his opening act at the concert that will take place on September 20 in Santiago de Las Vegas.

The invitation comes at a time when the hype over Robertico Carcassés’ slip is not yet over: at the Protestdrome concert on September 12th, in which “as a result of an alcoholic outburst” or otherwise, he could not contain himself, in his tongue-twisting improvisation he demanded, “Freedom for all Cubans.”  Boy, was Robertico out of line!

Did Robertico really think that Cuba would change with the Raul regime? That cracklings are pork meat and that mothers-in-law are really family? Was the outburst that big? Or did he just do it with an eye to his upcoming little jaunt to Miami?

Indeed I must confess that with so much yellow ribbon to demand the release of the four*, and so much drunkenness with the pachanga timbera and reggaeton, we didn’t know what was being celebrated: whether it was the dismantling of the Red Wasp Network*, the Day of Oshun, the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, the coup that defeated Allende, or the bombing of Syria.

Rodriguez, who claims to have an appointment with the angels — flying angels and fallen angels — after the little-yellow-ribbon revelry went off-script, should know what he is weaving when he steps up to rescue Robertico Carcassés, just as we got a whiff of the smell of Bobby’s son burning.

And several questions occur to me:

Is Silvio’s intention for us to forget his ridiculous performance with the graying Amaury Perez and a musical accompaniment that could have been first class but was incoherent due to the haste of the recording by Abdala studios, of the little ditty about the yellow ribbons and the old oak tree?

Does the author of The Blue Unicorn want to put a patch on the burst seam Robertico provoked at the concert of “Cubans of all stripes” demanding the return of the four*?

Recently, Silvio invited Isaac Delgado to sing at his concert in Santos Suarez: Is Silvio now into indulging musicians who are in trouble with the regime? Could we expect him to invite Willy Chirino and join him in singing “Our Day is Coming”?  Is he planning to record a CD with the Interactive group, a rather odd CD, opportunistic, to please generación asere** and indulge the dissidence?

It occurs to me to ask Silvio whether, with this lifeline to Robertico Carcassés — taking into account his tour of the prisons, and the water tank that he resolved for the residents of the Lugardita neighborhood — he’s not aspiring to run for president, without having started the campaign for direct elections that Robertico asked for in his improvisations.

With Silvio everything is possible, especially in these times of miracles and reshufflings.  Didn’t he engage in an epistolary controversy with Carlos Alberto Montaner at the risk of losing his mind? Or did they already forget how he got involved in the mess with Obama, Elton John, Pied Piper of Hamelin and The Little Green Men?***

Ultimately, Silvio’s turnaround has been so wide, he’s even talking about taking the R out of the word Revolution***, for those “dead of his happiness,” the dead provided by all of us under circumstances just as bad or worse.

When I watch the father of “Nueva Trova” in his attempt to be on good terms with the angels and the demons of change, I feel sorry for him.

I cannot help but admire his songs, but in all honesty, not as much as I did then, say 30 years ago.  I have convinced myself that even if I’m condemned to listen to the music of the ’60s with nostalgia, I would never be a good dancer at his party.

I can not longer stand him and his songs, they lack freshness, clear accounts: How can I figure out what Silvio is up to now?

Translator’s notes:
*”The four” refers to the Cuban spies of the Red Wasp Network serving sentences in the United States; originally known is “The Cuban Five” and “The Five Heroes” in Cuba, one of the original five has been paroled and allowed to return to Cuba.
** “Generación asere” is a cultural reference to those — generally of the younger generation — who like the kind of music the regime calls vulgar, thuggish, cheesy and overly-sexed. “Asere” is a casual form of address that means roughly “bro.”
***In a response to Carlos Alberto Montaner, Silvio Rodriguez asked a number of rhetorical questions relating to the pied piper leaving with all of Cuba’s children, Elton John saying that Christ was gay, people of all colors including green, and so on. And in a new song, Silvio suggests “transcending” the “R” in “Revolution” in favor of “Evolution.”

By Luis Cino

From Cubanet

Translated by LYD 

17 September 2013

I Like That They Call Me “Papi” / Luis Cino Alvarez

Havana, Cuba, September, – Lately, with guys over the age of 40, in addition to “Tío,” “Puro” and very rarely “Señor, the younger generation calls us “Papi.”

As sexists as we still are — sorry, Mariela Castro —  it is still a bit startling.

They call the taxi driver “Papi,” a guy with a criminal face who can barely hide that he’s up to no good; a young man who looks like a metrosexual, all very ambivalent: gelled hair, waxed eyebrows, piercing in his left eyebrow, tight top which shows his well sculpted arms, and chest hairs showing signs of prior shaving and even the top of his underwear showing the name of Versace that sticks out two inches above his pants, which also, by the way, are hanging almost to his crotch.

And how about if the one calling you “Papi” is a good-looking girl made up like a porn star?  First, make sure that is not a man. If it really is a girl, then perhaps there no need for a sweet little compliment.  Within the next hour she can ask you to light her cigarette and then turn her back on you, shaking her assets without even thanking you. As if everyone in the universe deserved it.

She might also be a hooker looking for clients.  Chances are that nothing will happen, because the money you have is not enough to pay her fee; perhaps you don’t have a place to take her; or you are afraid of the place where she could take you and where two or three of her followers could be waiting to fleece you; fear of AIDS might stop you; or you’re turned off by her warnings that you have to pay her in advance, use a condom, not take too long, and not kiss her (the prostitutes in Cuba do not kiss on the mouth).

In many instances, when you really look at her, you have to be a championship pervert to overcome the weight of your conscience and do it with a girl who could easily be your daughter and who you can tell from a mile away is hungry.

Now it doesn’t bother me when they call me “Papi.”  Perhaps I would feel uncomfortable if they called me “Señor. Especially if it is a young girl. I feel that if they don’t address me in familiar terms it is because I look as old as a Polynesian turtle.  Too old for them to call me “Papi.” And that is much worse.

From Cubanet, September 6, 2013

Luis Cino Alvarrez —

Translated by – LYD


Selective Ignorance: The Women Writers of UNEAC / Luis Cino Alvarez, Angel Santiesteban

To the wall! To the wall!*

HAVANA, Cuba, March,  – Luis Cino Alvarez –   A worthy poet who has known how to confront decades of ostracism, Rafael Alcides, wrote, “Regrets and hopes for a new jailed writer.”  After the letter by Alcides, email notes of support signed by various writers in favor of Santiesteban began to circulate.

It was then when the official counterattack was launched.  It was a ploy wrapped in political correctness: eight female writers and journalists signed an appeal against gender violence, in which the case of Santiesteban seems to be the epitome of masculine abuse against women, and the Cuban justice system is pristine, free of suspicion except in falling short by only giving five years of jail time.

It even appears to hear the screams from the women of the Cuban Writers and Artists Union (UNEAC) against the writer-machista**-abuser: To the wall! To the wall!

The document signed by Sandra Álvarez, Marilyn Bobes, Zaida Capote, Luisa Campuzano, Danae Diéguez, Lirian Gordillo, Helen Hernández and Laidi Fernández de Juan demonstrates solidarity with Santiesteban’s ex-wife; whose name — Kenia Rodriguez — curiously, is never been mentioned; and it calls “for the Cuban institutions and organizations to speak up about this case in particular and about the violence against women in our society.”

So, after so much effort to clarify that the judicial process that sent the writer to prison for a fight that occurred almost four years ago had no political motivation nor the intention to punish him for being a dissident, all those who have doubts will be marked as machista and misogynist.  Amen to being identified as prone to being manipulated by “the Counter-Revolution.” And you already know what that means at UNEAC!

Would the signers know of the frequent beatings, outrages and sexist insults that the Ladies in White and other dissidents receive from the hands of State Security and rapid response brigades at the frequent repudiation rallies?

They must know something about those repudiation rallies.  At least one of the signers, Laidi Fernandez de Juan, a few years ago in the Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth) newspaper, called these pogroms “repudiable.”

Would they know that only a few weeks ago, in Santa Clara, the dissident Iris Tamara Aguilera, head of the “Rosa Parks” Feminine Movement received forceful blows to her head when she was thrown to the sidewalk by a henchman and was mistreated at the hospital where they took her for being a “counterrevolutionary”?

Would they know about the case of Sonia Garro, another dissident who was jailed more than year ago, without trial, and who was arrested at her house in Marianao during a loud and violent police operation and was hurt by a rubber bullet in her leg?

Would they have taken all these facts into consideration when they drafted their petition and procured an email address to collect the signatures against gender abuse?

Would they be willing to fight against violence against all women in absolutely all instances?

If that is the case, independently from the Santiesteban situation, surely they will collect many more signatures.

Published by Cubanet

The Always Disconcerting Writers of UNEAC

By Luis Cino Álvarez

The writers of UNEAC can’t but disconcert me with their liberal poses when it comes to believe in the openings of the regime and the hoops they are willing to jump through so that they don’t jeopardize their awards, travels and publications.

With the imprisonment of Angel Santiesteban, under such doubtful circumstances, I was not expecting a protest from the writers at the UNEAC, not even from the more outspoken ones.  That would have been asking too much of them.  However, I did suppose that at least his friends, like Eduardo Heras Leon, who a few years ago boasted with pride that Santiesteban was one of “his boys” from the Onelio Jorge Cardoso Cardoso Narrative Workshop, and Laidi Fernandez de Juan, who considered him one of her most dear friends, even if they didn’t publicly protest, at least would feel sorry for him.

But, oh surprises, miracles and hocus-pocus from the official culture! Here is a letter from the poet Rafael Alcides  — one of the few dignified — and with notes of support in favor of Santiesteban; and then it was precisely Laidi Fernandez de Juan, one of the eight intellectuals who signed the letter against the violence of women in which the case of Santiesteban seems to be the epitome of masculine against women, and the Cuban judicial system is completely exonerated from wrong doing, with exception of falling short in its sentence of five years in jail.

In different time we would have heard chants of ”To the wall! To the wall!”

The document signed by Sandra Álvarez, Marilyn Bobes, Zaida Capote, Luisa Campuzano, Danae Diéguez, Lirian Gordillo, Helen Hernández and Laidi Fernández de Juan idemostrates solidarity with Santiesteban’s ex-wife and calls on “Cuban institutions and organizations to speak up about this case in particular and against the violence against women in our society.”

So, everyone who dares to doubt that this process was free of political motivations, or who thinks it was a vendetta to send this writer-abuser to jail, will be categorized as stubbornly machista and misogynist.

And me, silly me, who thought that at least with her daddy Roberto Fernández Retamar, the poet-commissary-president, with his Bolshevik cap of the Casa de las Americas, and in the privacy of their home, Laidi Fernandez would complain and regret that Santiesteban was in jail to see if daddy would cease to play the Caliban and sympathize, and make use of his influence “up there”!

Does he know Laidi Fernandez de Juan claims to be “as devoted to the Revolution as acid in her critiques” of the frequent beatings that the Ladies in White and other dissidents receive from the hands of State Security and the cheerleaders of the rapid response brigades in those also frequent repudiation rallies that she herself, on occasion, has called “repudiable”?

Do she and the rest of the signers of the petition know that only a week ago in Santa Clara, dissident Iris Tamara Aguilera received strong blows to her head when she was thrown to the sidewalk by a henchman of the Ministry of the Interior (MININT)?

Would they have taken all these facts into consideration when they drafted their petition and established an email address to collect signatures against the abuser?

Years ago, in an interview with Angel Santiesteban himself (in the magazine El Cuentero, No. 6, 2008), Laidi Fernandez de Juan said that she didn’t share the view that no friendship could exist among writers. “What happens is that sometimes we believe someone (being a writer or not) belongs in this circle of friends and then we discover that he is a miserable, repugnant son of a bitch; but this has nothing to do with literature,” she clarified.

Would this be what happened to Angel Santiesteban?  Nothing’s worse than the fear of having a connection with a dissident.

Santiesteban’s case is confusing and contradictory, to say the least.  Many consider that State Security used the four year old incident with his ex-wife — whose name is Kenia Rodriguez, in case that the authors of the manifest supporting her without mentioning her name didn’t know — as an excuse to punish Santiesteban for his affiliation with Estado de Sats.

If that’s the case, one can’t help but wonder: Why him? Is he one the biggest critics of all the bloggers? Are they trying to send a message to UNEAC? Was it really worth it for the regime, precisely now that they are trying to fake a certain opening, to pay the costly price of sending to jail a writer who, a few years ago, won the distinguished Casa de las Americas prize for the book entitled “Blessed are those who mourn”?

I have heard some intellectuals who wonder if State Security might not be creating a legend, with Angel Santiesteban as a “super dissident,” with this jail sentence?  “Here you don’t know who’s who,” they murmur.  And so, aside from being wise-asses, they justify their fears of getting into this mess and end up like machistas. And maybe they are right. You never know…

Published in  Primavera Digital |Email

Translated by: LYD

Translator’s notes:
*”Paredón” literally means “wall” and is shorthand for “to the wall” as in: “put him up against the wall and shoot him.”  Immediately after the Revolution it was the word shouted by the mobs at the show trials.
** Machista is related to the words macho and misogynist and is similar to the term “male chauvenist”

30 March 2013

Generals Sharpening The Teeth Over the Burial of Castro-ism / Luis Cino

HAVANA, Cuba, September, Luis Cino, — Those who restored capitalism in Russia rose from the ranks of the Communist nomenklatura. High-level bureaucrats, officials and generals made immense fortunes appropriating the assets of the state during the process of economic privatization that led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The cases of Roman Abramovich and Mikhail Khodorkovsky, former comrades turned multi-millionaires, are two such examples.

It is possible that something similar could happen if Castro-ism has a soft landing, as seems likely to happen, and is transformed into something else which, by virtue of being different, will be less bad in terms of public well-being and political freedoms.

But what could also happen is that, as apparatchiks and generals start filing their teeth over the prospect of burying Castro-ism, the Helms-Burton Act could prevent them from diggings its grave.

According to Title III of the law, which deals with protection of property rights of American nationals, the assets expropriated after Fidel Castro’s revolution — including those of Cuban exiles who have acquired American citizenship — would have to be returned by any government that succeeds the current regime as a condition for American diplomatic recognition and a lifting of the embargo.

After property is returned and people are compensated, it is quite possible that very little of the loot will be left over for “the corrupt bureaucrats, whose jobs were secured through calculation and opportunism, who use their positions to accumulate fortunes, betting on an eventual demise of the revolution,” as General Raúl Castro put it in an address to the National Assembly of People’s Power in December, 2011.

This is the idea the government would like to plant among its supporters who are hoping for the grand prize and Putinism in the tropics. It wants to convince them that burying Castro-ism is not in their interests, that they would be better off digging in, remaining loyal, being satisfied with what they already have and what they can steal. It wants to convince them that they should never exaggerate, that they should play dumb lest the General Accounting Office nab them.

But the chiefs do not have to go along. The players who want to break open the capitalist piñata at the expense of the state know all too well the risks they face. And the possibilities as well. They even know where to stretch their feet and put their hands. Accustomed to shady deals and a shopkeeper’s economy, they are patient, astute and make do with what they can steal… for now. They have begun accumulating capital, knowledge and relationships. After dealing with them for so long, many foreign entrepreneurs prefer to deal with them over the good guys, even if they completely lack the know-how. These players have neither class nor moral scruples but they do have a strong hand, which allows them to maintain order and get Cubans to work like slaves without complaint.

The Helms Burton Act placates the most hard-line exile factions and serves the Castro regime by allowing it to portray itself as the victim. It is not, however, of much concern to today’s players, who hope to be tomorrow’s oligarchs. In a post-Castro scenario this law will be almost pointless. Events, once they are set in motion, will make it irrelevant.  And then the players will be the mafiosi of the piñata, ready to parachute into any given situation with anyone who presents himself. But they will not exactly be working as doormen, security screeners or bodyguards. They know, of course, they will not be able to afford multi-million dollar yachts, real estate in La Luna or mansions in Silicon Valley. They are not fools. Their aspirations are more modest. They better than anyone know in what state they have left the country.

By Luis Cino —

From Cubanet

9 September 2013