Luis Felipe Rojas, 1 February 2016 — This list is not intended to be a “Top Ten,” as is so common on internet publications. The list of names that follows carries the history of the men and women who believe in words and images as a tool of liberation.
The independent journalists that appear below do their work in Cuba under the microscope of the apparatus of repression that we know as State Security.
Most of them suffer arbitrary arrests, they have spent long years in prison, they are violently detained, vilified and — paradoxically — are non-persons in government media. In the case of Jorge Olivera Castillo, he was sentenced to 18 years in prison in the “2003 Black Spring,” but he continues, unrepentant, to do alternative journalism. Continue reading →
Luis Felipe Rojas, 11 January 2016 — Her friends call her Elisa, it’s that simple. She is an Argentinian writer, editor, ceramics artist who got so involved in the case of the Cuban writer Angel Santiesteban that she ended up redesigning his blog, The Children Nobody Wanted, and wrote to Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders, to help them to visualize the irregularities in process repeatedly divorced from reason, but that sent Santiesteban to prison at the beginning of 2013.
Between that date and his release in 2015, while she posted the letters and articles of the Cuban novelist in “The Children…”, Elisa Tabakman was cooking animals and rare and beautiful creatures over a slow fire, with pieces of glass and wire. When the oven temperature drops out of the oven come cats and fish now celebrating life. Continue reading →
#TodosMarchamos [“We all march”]. Activists in Miami. Photo: LuisFelipe Rojas
Luis Felipe Rojas, Miami, 8 November 2015 — This past Sunday, I went to the mythical and cloyingly Cuban Versailles Restaurant. There were a handful of Cubans there who believe that solidarity doesn’t have borders, and can’t be imposed from any corner.
On this day, November 8th, I went to join Bárbara Travieso, Jorge Ross, and others who firmly believe in supporting those who are suffering. While in La Habana, tens of Ladies in White and human rights activists were being arrested, in the heart of Cuban food in Miami, about ten Cubans stood on the sidewalk, telling everyone how much could be done for those who are still behind bars. Continue reading →
Cuban prison. Photo from http://www.telemundo51.com
Luis Felipe Rojas, 12 September 2015 — Joy came to 3,522 Cuban homes, this being the the number of prisoners serving sentences for (technically) common crimes who set to be released. Indeed, this calls for celebration, as jails certainly do no reeducate anybody, much less in the island’s repressive atmosphere.
Thus, the Cuban government has just offered another gesture to Pope Francis in advance of his visit to Cuba, which will begin on September 19. The Cuban Conference of Catholic Bishops expressed its gratitude, as no doubt many Cubans have done, but with no questions asked. As the saying goes, you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. And the meager crumbs scattered in recent months by the Castro’s tight-fisted military regime has left many people dazed and confused. Continue reading →
The three journalists from the Qatari network Al Jazeera.
AFP/ Khaled Desouki. The journalists from the Qatari network Al Jazeera, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, seated in the prisoners’ cell during their trial in Cairo on 29th of August 2015
This Saturday, an Egyptian tribunal sentenced the three journalists from the Qatari network Al Jazeera to three years in jail,despite the international campaign for their acquittal.
The Australian Peter Greste, the Canadian Mohamed Fahmy and the Egyptian Baher Mohamed were found guilty of having “spread false information” and of having worked in Cairo without the necessary permission. Continue reading →
Screen shot of the Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights(CIDH) reacted with “profound concern” to thelawsuitfiled by the President ofthe National Assembly,deputy DiosdadoCabello,against thenewspapers El Nacional andTal Cual, and the website LaPatilla.com. It urgednational authorities to“ceasethese acts ofharassmentthat deepenthe deteriorationof the rightto freedom ofexpression in the countryandthreatenthemedia andcritical journalistsinVenezuela,” particularly inan election year.
The casethat Cabello filedagainstthemedia, andthe judicial decisionsthatseveral judgeshave renderedin it—like the one prohibiting 22executives ofthe defendant companiesfrom leaving the country, or the one last weekseizingthe headquartersofEl Nacional—worry theCIDH, a body that is aware ofthesupportthat the SupremeCourt(TSJ) gave thelegislator last Maywhen it described as “lacking foundation” the accusationsthat he was linkedto drug trafficking,as had been reported in Spanish and U.S. media, in stories that wererepublishedin the countryby the defendants.Continue reading →
Danilo Maldonado is a Cuban political prisoner who just embarked on the terrible path of committing to a hunger strike.This was confirmed by his family members from Havana late on August 25th.
“El Sexto” (as in “The Sixth [hero]”, referring to the 5 Castro spies who were imprisoned in the United States, and in open mockery of the 6th Congress of the Communist Party) is a restless youth who for months ran Cuban Intelligence ragged in Havana, painting his graffiti art around as he pleased.
The following is a short and intense note posted by Lia Villares today on her blog. She has accompanied him during the months of travail since his apprehension for painting the names “Fidel” and “Raul” on two pigs that he was going to release in a Havana park, as performance art:
From Lia Villares
In a telephone conversation a few minutes ago with Danilo’s lawyer Mercy, she told me that—because she has only been licensed for two and a half months, and is in the midst of family problems—she has “turned over” Danilo’s case to another lawyer.Continue reading →
Luis Felipe Rojas, 5 July 2105 — For a week I have been steeped in the acidic prose of William S. Burroughs. It is neither a debut novel nor something reissued in the wake of legalization of gay marriage in the United States. The work is an edition released by Anagrama, a Barcelona-based publishing house, and it comes without frills or pretensions. The faded cover shows Burroughs under a blue visor, almost dissolving into a watery background of opaque tones. Reading it took me longer than I would have thought.
Those looking for a world of good manners and polite expressions — or even the insane for that matter — might not want to tread near this literary specimen. In one-hundred thirty tightly packed pages, Burroughs bangs out a chronicle of his alter ego Lee’s travels through the most sordid and filthy corners of Mexico, Panama and Ecuador. This is definitely not everyone’s idea of literature, as Queer attests.
The homoerotic experiences of the intense Lee and his brash companion Allerton — a young man aroused not by other human bodies but by his own flesh and entrails — form a portrait that is somewhat darker than the story of two homosexuals simply trying to live a “normal” life in a Mexico that is more than a little bit macho, which makes it all the more alluring. Their goal is to find what has brought them there: Yage, a natural substance that promises total control over their thoughts. Continue reading →
L to R: Antonio Rodiles, Angel Santiesteban, Ailer Gonzales, Claudio Fuentes, an unidentified human rights activist
Luis Felipe Rojas, 18 July 2015 — In the early evening of this Friday, 17 July, the Cuban writer Angel Santiesteban-Prats was released from prison. The news raced from the editor of his blog, the Argentinian Elisa Tabakman. Elisa sent messages to Santiesteban’s friends immediately.
“I was released on parole, which they had denied me April and June and recently they told me they would grant it in August, but they released me today,” was Angel’s statement to the blog “Crossing the Barbed Wire” from the home of regime opponent Antonio Rodiles in the Playa municipality of Havana.
Santiesteban entered prison on 18 February 2013, charged with “violation of domicile” and accused of beating his ex-wife. His case was plagued by clear legal violations and the process was repeatedly denounced by his family members, his first attorney, Amelia Rodriguez Cala, and dozens of human rights activists.
Santiesteban’s release occurred just hours before the beginning of functions at the embassies of the United States and Cuba, which until now have maintained interest sections in their respective capitals since the end of the ‘70s of the last century.
Writers, human rights activists, and people of good will, have generally received the news of Angel Santiesteban-Prats’ release with pleasure.
I want to thank my friend and excellent writer, Amir Valle, for this interview for his magazine Another Monday, and for publicizing the book that has just been published and will be presented shortly in Miami.
Amir Valle (AV): Machine for Erasing Humanities is, after Feeding the Dog-Fight, your second book since you went into exile. Although some think that poetry books are simply a collection of poems written over the passage of time, those of us who write know that between one book and another there are always secret threads, pathways that unite or split in two in order to differentiate them. What is the difference then between the two books?
Luis Felipe Rojas (LFR): I believe, without any doubt, in time. What there is between one passage and another is time, and the way in which the two poets have been changed by it: one who arrived as a frightened animal, fleeing from horror, exclusion and suffocation; and the other, who put down his head to rest for an instant and saw his children sleeping in the morning, who no longer expects a kick in the rear, and who experienced many upheavals to live in a developed country. Continue reading →
Luis Felipe Rojas, 3 June 2015 — Once again I am publishing, in liberty, a poetry book: “Machine for erasing humanity” (EriginalBooks, 2015). It confirms that poetry removes the restraints on my life.
I don’t believe that poetry is the “Cinderella” of literary genres. Poetry is the act that leaves the public breathless, the vehicle that sustains the millennial spectacle of lyrics, and it’s outside all logic of the contemporary market. I continue believing in the bard, the troubadour, whom the tribe awaits for news of the shore beyond the river.
Today I feel the joy of sharing with you my sixth book of poetry, my second in the land of liberty, after the generous hands of Armando Añel and Idabel Rosales opened the doors for me in 2013 with “Feeding the dogfight” in Neo Club Editions. On this occasion I am in the hands of the excellent illustrator, Nilo Julián Gonzán Preval, whose magic you may verify throughout the book. Nilo illustrated the first issue of the review Bifronte in 2005: Thanks again, my brother! Continue reading →
Story of an Abandoned Doll, Teatro Pálpito. Photos LFRojas.
Artefactus Teatro has been so kind as to receive Ariel Bouza and his team into its southeast space in Miami. Bouza and company bring a gift from Havana for this April: a loose, free version of Story of an Abandoned Doll by Norge Espinosa, which is from the text by the Spanish playwright Alfonso Sastre.
I traveled far into the southern reaches of Miami to see this play for the second time in my life, having already seen it once in Camagüey. It seems they have taken extra care to conserve the grace with which Paquita and Lolita play with ambition, love, envy, and piety within a theatrical framework that places the performance beyond the fallacies that we so often see in current times.
Ariel Bouza (Teatro Pálpito, Havana) directs the action with equal parts drama, laughter, and reflection to carry the spectators into situations where they must decide who are the heroes and anti-heroes, but there can be no middle ground. This piece that Bouza has been taking to the stage since 1999 has the bonus of ambivalence: it can be viewed and enjoyed equally by children and adults. Sastre’s version is classical, hierarchical, and well placed in the history of modern theater–it is rejuvenated with Bouza’s staging and a good push from Teatro Pálpito. Continue reading →
Graffiti from El Sexto, which simulates a rebel commander well known by Cubans.
Luis Felipe Rojas, 16 April 2015 — His name is Danilo Maldonado, but in Cuba he is known as El Sexto (The Sixth). When the five spies were still in jail in the United States, Maldonado used to say he was the “sixth hero” and started to make graffiti with his spray can on the walls of Havana. This action also took place at the time of the celebration of the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba.
On December 25, 2004, Maldonado was detained and since then has been in jail in the horrible prison of Valle Verde. On that day he wanted to release two pigs in Central Park in Havana: they were painted with the names of “Fidel” and “Raul”, and that was enough to send him to prison. The solidarity with this graffiti artist and freelance artist has not stopped, many voices are being raised for his freedom.
Luis Felipe Rojas — I published this post a few days after that needless death. Now I again denounce the death and express the same ideas about it. It’s my homage to my brother, Orlando Zapata Tamayo.
I am still experiencing the pain caused by that avoidable death, and I feel impotent because I didn’t attend the funeral honoring him due to political impediments, but that hasn’t stopped me from saying that in any case, what I present here seem to be the seven final steps that advanced the repressive machinery used to kill Zapata.
1. Setting up that para-judicial theater that imposed a sentence of 63 years on him for contempt.
2. The continuous beatings accompanied by obscene words and insults about his race and the region where he lived (shitty negro, shitty peasant). Continue reading →
Luis Felipe Rojas, 12 February 2015 — Just days after Ángel Santiesteban Prats sent this interview to Martí Noticias, he was transferred in an untimely manner to Villa Marista, the general barracks of Cuban State Security. However, his replies were already safeguarded, as was he.
This storyteller — who won the UNEAC (Cuban Writers and Artists Union) prize for his collection, Sueño de un día de verano (Dreams of a summer day, 1995), the 1999 César Galeano prize, the Casa de las Américas award of 2006 for his Dichosos los que lloran (Blessed are they who weep) — later started a blog where he set forth his ideas on human rights in Cuba, and he did not cease even unto imprisonment.
In 2013, Ángel won the International Franz Kafka “Novels from the Drawer Prize,” which convened in the Czech Republic, for the novel, The Summer When God Slept. Today he is responding to these questions from his improvised cell Continue reading →