Poetry Saves Me / Luis Felipe Rojas

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

An Abandoned Doll…at the gates of Miami / Luis Felipe Rojas

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

There is a Cuban graffiti artist, in jail because of two pigs named “Fidel” and “Raul” / Luis Felipe Rojas

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.

Graffiti from El Sexto, near a police station.

Translated by AnonyGY

Seven Steps to Kill Orlando Zapata Tamayo / Luis Felipe Rojas

Orlando Zapata Tamayo

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

Ángel Santiesteban: “I am a social reflection of my times” / Luis Felipe Rojas

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The writer Ángel Santiesteban Prats

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

“United States or Die” Demand Cubans in Veracruz / Luis Felipe Rojas

Photo taken by Universo Increible (Incredible Universe)

Rafael Alejandro Hernández Real, who says he was an agent of State Security in Cuba — infiltrated into the Eastern Democratic Alliance — in September 2014 chained himself in the Plaza Bolivar of Bogota, Colombia, and now is on a hunger strike, demanding that he be allowed to go to the United States, according to a report from Universo Increible.

“Ten young Cuban emigrants have declared a hunger and drink strike in the immigration station at Acayucán, in the state of Veracruz, in order to avoid being deported to Cuba. Right now there are seven men and three women. The group of strikers has been increasing before the official denials and threats of being returned to the island,” reports the news source.

Hernández Real made himself known in 2008 when, together with Eliecer Ávila and other students at the University of Information Sciences in Havana, they questioned the then-president of the Peoples’ Power National Assembly. Ricardo Alarcón. On that occasion Ávila and Hernández Real called for the freedom to leave the country, to visit historic sites of the world like “Che Guevara’s tomb in Bolivia,” and they questioned the supposed unanimity of the general voting that takes place in Cuba.

Translated by Regina Anavy

6 February 2015

Angelito Santiesteban Does Not Believe Himself the Center of the World / Luis Felipe Rojas

Graphic: Sonia Garro Alfonso, recently freed Lady in White. Collage over a piece by Rolando Pulido.

The writer and blogger Ángel Santiesteban Prats, from the prison where he is serving an unjust sentence, just published–thanks to the help of a friend on Facebook–a brief post expressing his thoughts about the recent releases of political prisoners. As always, Angelito is filled with Light and strength. May my embrace reach him though the faithful reproduction of his text.

Ángel’s post:

I have received the expressions of pain from many friends, my publisher, and my relatives–some stupefied, others offended–over my exclusion from the list of prisoners recently released by the Cuban government.

Upon completing almost two years of unjust imprisonment, I can assure everyone that never have I asked the correctional authories or, even less, the officials from State Security who have visited me, when I will be released. I will never give them that satisfaction, just as I have never inquired whether I will be given the pass* which is granted to all “minimum severity” prisoners like me, who am sentenced to five years. Continue reading

The Sword of Raul Castro / Luis Felipe Rojas

Lady in White Aideé Gallardo, recently released from prison. Photo taken from the page about Cuban matters, Martinoticias.com

All said and done, more than half of a list of 53 political prisoners that nobody knows are already free, completely secret and that nobody we ask clarifies for us. Of the fifty who were out, I have the list of 36 prisoners who were surprised to be free again, without formal charges and under different conditions for their release: immediate release, probation, and extra-penal freedom (the latter is awarded regularly after inmates suffering from illness that prevents them from staying in the difficult prison conditions on the island).

Continue reading

Five Years of “Crossing the Barbed Wire”: How Long Should I Continue? / Luis Felipe Rojas

Photo of the author: @alambradas

Photo of the author: @alambradas

My baby, my third child, this blog, is five years old and at times I ask myself this question. How long should I continue? I started writing against the grain of what a blog was, doing it like a daily without wi-fi, nor nearby cybercages, but with the recklessness with which one distributes a samizdat.

I remember, it was December 2009. My brother Orlando Zapata Tamayo #0ZT began a hunger strike, impelled by the Castro regime to take off the mask: the arrests and beatings of activists for supporting #0ZT happened in Holguin and several other cities, one after the other. I wanted my neighbors to know, the neighborhood snitches, the police, those who were afraid and those who supported me then and have supported me since, that it is you, the cyberactivists, the fine people who have accompanied me in sixty months of words and actions.

Now with the new refrain of “intimate enemies” I paused, passing several weeks without publishing, listening to my friends, reliving the same party with such naivety. My parents told me that in 1959 people were stunned by so many firecrackers and so much sabotage, on January 1st coming out to salute the rebels, and on the second loudly crying out “To the wall!” (demanding executions), and on the third beginning to fall silent, three days after the Cuban Revolution.

Now the road is long because in Palma Soriano, Manzanillo and Cumanayagua there are still hungry people who know nothing of diplomatic relations. In Camagüey, my friend Millet continues to have the Rapid Response Brigades after him every day to prevent him from putting up a poster against the government or buying kerosene on the black market. Last weekend they defaced Mirna Buenaventura’s house with tar, in Buenaventura, where people now call the Yankees “the fraternal and supportive American people.”

Now that the Furies have changed their spots there are friends who stayed inside the fence and are not going to shut their mouths because they never have. Yannier P. wrote from Guantanamo to tell me, “You don’t have to write for us, we know the horror. Write so that the world will know the horror to come.” I want to send a bouquet of flowers to my friend Nancy Alfaya, a Christian woman with a bulletproof resistance: her husband, the writer Jorge Olivera Castillo received 18 years in prison, but Nancy refuses to stop laughing. In Havana she leads a workshop against violence against women, is the first to read Olivera’s poems, and goes to church every day in the poor neighborhood where she lives. I want to send flowers to Nancy but I would not want them to arrive wilted.

I would like to write an article and travel to shake hands with Manuel Martinez Leon, in La Jejira in Holguin, with Emiliano Gonzalez in El Horno, in Bayamo, or Barbaro Tejeda in Mayari. The three are dissidents, open opponents of the Castro brothers’ tropical dictatorship and work the land from sunrise.

Emiliano has given me interviews seated on a mountain of peanut bags, and wrote to tell me of the tortured rules of the State cooperatives and that he dreams of fields of peanuts while they hold him prisoner in stinking dungeons.

Barbaro has talked with me on a trail where he goes to fish illegally, to be able to eat and to feed his family. For years the “Watching the Sea” Detachment — a kind of rapid response brigade with the pretext of being anti-drug troops— monitors and represses its neighbors in Puerto Padre, Levisa and Macabi, throughut Cuba. They cannot sell fish, catch fish or eat fish. They don’t know which law prohibits it, but the people there who talked to me are afraid of breaking the rules. Sometimes Barbaro Tejeda fries plantains or beans and dreams of a modern fishing rod.

With friends like this my blog will have ten more years of life. Still, I have to explain to the world why Cuban mothers live without their children and what the Law of Pre-Criminal Social Dangerousness is; first I have to learn to write a legal monstrosity of such a package. Ileana, my Venezuelan friend living in New York doesn’t know what Showing Contempt for the Figure of the Commander-in-Chief is, and I have to explain with examples.

Many more years of life, of survival, remain to this blog. A house organized from within and not for elegies without knowing its neighbors, living in the turbulent and brutal south or north that now appreciates us.

27 December 2014

Miami in a graffito / Luis Felipe Rojas

We went to Miami’s Wynwood District today, a zone of street art, of abundant graffiti. Miami is also redeemed by these beauties and daubings, by this joy that is the festival of color mediated by no other rule than the imagination.

We walked today from one point to another in the district accopanied by the benevolence of a sun that heralds good times. I avoided taking pictures of the compositions and the depths already discussed in books — to gaze upon these lovely things and then press the shutter is to try one’s luck at Russian roulette.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

The Cultural Trick: “I’ll trade you a center fielder for an exiled essayist” / Luis Felipe Rojas

Photo:  Luis Felipe Rojas

About the awarding of the Critic’s Prize (in Cuba) to the Cuban essayist Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria.  The scholar won it with a book published by Capiro Editions, from Santa Clara.

We have gone back 200 years, the epoch of the barter:

“I’ll trade you a central fielder for an exiled essayist,” said Mandamas.

“Let me think about it,” responded Queentrentodos…  Why don’t you take a salsa doctor? That way you’ll kill two birds with one stone: You send him to combat ebola and complete the artistic Assembly of the Cuban medical Brigade in Africa.

Translated by mlk.

24 September 2014

(Site manager’s note: This post was translated quite a while ago but somehow got stuck here as a ‘draft’ — sorry for the delay!)

Michael H. Miranda: to (not) live in a foreign country / Luis Felipe Rojas

Michael H. Miranda. Photo: Martha María Montejo.

Michael Hernandez Miranda (Holguín, Cueto, 1974) has come from the Far West (College Station, Texas, where he prepared his doctoral thesis) to show us his first collection of poems written halfway between Cuba and the United States. In A Foreign Country (Silueta, 2014) is the forthcoming event for August 7 at the Spanish Cultural Center in “Sun City” (Miami, Florida).

Miranda is an editor of books written on the shores of the province, for years he worked for the publishing house of the Cuban town where he lived, and after some skirmishing to make an alternative promotion (Bifronte Magazine, 2005-2006), came to the United States , where he has collected a bunch of poems he brings wrapped in a country that does not seem very “foreign” to him.

More than a decade after the publication of his first poetry book, Old Lies of Another Class (2000), Silueta (Silhouette) Publisher presents In A Strange Country. It is a wide selection of texts where Michael opens a range of possibilities between the strength of the images raised in his daily readings, the fruits of his best talks and a pedigree of being an outcast, a man who never looks back. This book looks like a farewell book, but it is a book of new “beginnings”, such that one is drawn by a human being when he understands the other dimensions the world offers him.

“there is nothing in the world called man or woman / we have sought to the point of desperation for something beyond / ourselves. we still have silence. we still have loneliness as / a copper sword that multiplies.”

The best way to sink one’s mind into this “foreign country” is to read without thinking about the blogs of the generations to which so much damage has been done in recent years in Cuba. The island was scrapped between critics and strangers who tried to frame a photo that wasn’t. To read “Nothing I say or will say has the taste of water” doesn’t need a group mapping. Michael (Hache) Miranda has understood the distance of five years outside of the fictional wall of his other country. We are in the presence of a poet who puts the word above any perks. And Michael comes from a country where such a simple action costs dearly.

An editorial effort

This collection is among the last dozen books published by Silueta and the commendable work of Cubans who parked their literary work away from the false reflectors, beyond the commitment of applause. The publisher Silueta is marking the footprints of Cuban literature, and it does it going forward, opening a path … or its wings, so that others avoid the censorship of the country they have left. It is something that is appreciated in advance.

Miami has been branded “a literary desert” and place “of cubaneo,” references launched pejoratively. However, since 1959 outstanding Cuban intellectuals who fled the repression and censorship on the island have settled. Economists, essayist sand philologists have occupied important positions in educational institutions of the place such as Florida International University (FIU ) or Miami Dade College (MDC). In recent decades small publishers have been responsible for promoting and marketing the work of Cuban writers, scattered around the world. Along with Silueta there are Neo Club Editions and the Alexandria Library, among others.

In a quick reading it is understood that we are invited to a poetry without linguistic moorings: “naked I’ll be when you come to ask me again / where I come from. // and I will say: I have a word here / a word / one / hard to kill / a word / island / hard to kill / a word / shot in the head.// the island is a cardinal point in this fiesta.// to whom to I owe my two shores.”

Michael Hernandez is also the author of the poetry collections Las invenciones del dolor (2001) (The inventions of pain) and en óleos de james ensor (2003) (in paintings by james ensor). “His poems, narrations and articles appear in several anthologies, selections and publications in Spain, Mexico, Canada, the United States and Cuba, among other countries. He has lived in the United States since 2008,” says the catalog of the publisher who is publishing him today.

The poet lives in College Station, Texas, where he is writing a thesis on Cuban literature in exile. The presentation will be at 7:00 pm and will be led by prominent essayist and professor Joaquín Badajoz.

4 August 2014