The case of the arbitrary arrest of Sonia Garro and her husband Ramon Alejandro is confusing for several reasons. That she belongs to the well-known group the Ladies in White and he to an independent Afro-Cuban organization, highlights lack of tactics or support (or both) by our internal dissent.
Recognized international institutions have raised the alarm at such injustice, but what has happened inside Cuba? The recent case of a protest against the police for the arrest of well-known figures like Yoani Sánchez, Antonio Rodiles and Angel Santiesteban (respectively: a receiver of many awards, a new rising star and prize-winning writer) among others, demonstrated what a nonviolent force can achieve pushing back against a repressive government.
In the case of Garro and her husband there has been a lack of actions to pressure the government from the dissident circles where they were recently active before being imprisoned, that is specific actions, specific public planned demands with the idea of exposing their situation to international public opinion.
Just because they are two almost unknowns they should not be neglected, left to their fate; a demand organized in stages, starting with the issuing of letters to the authorities, appearing before every police station, and a call by a considerable part of the internal opposition could pressure the authorities with a different urgency. Continue reading
I witnessed this during the past Provincial Baseball Series in Holguin province. The teams San German and Calixto Garcia (Buenaventura) were playing against each other. I was trying to get a shot of some of the players when I came across this situation and snapped these shots instead, a blow with the ball, one of the most common in baseball, a straight pitch right to the head.
**All photos by Luis Felipe Rojas
With music by Erik Sánchez
If the video “disappears” it can be seen here. Our apologies for the “instability” of some videos on this site.
A long time ago, when we were happy and believed that we could fix the world by debating about baseball, poetry and politics (much time has passed since then), we found the Sancti Spiritus-Santiago de Cuba based poet, Reinaldo Garcia Blanco, who reminded us of the time when Christmas was rationed, with his poem “Very long eulogy” which conjured images of those ‘Bulgarian onions and some Rene Barbier Rosada wine’. Years later, they gave me this same wine as a welcome present to this poetic site known as Miami. The wine, the books, and friendship are a tribute to Reinaldo, Marta Maria Montejo, Rafael Vilches, Carlos Esquivel and many others who believe in the strength of words when some believe in the strength of physical blows and stonings at night. 2013 could be the year of uniting poetry and life, of finally getting fed up with so much silence and so much screaming. I leave you with a fragment of the poem which moved us that one time:
“From Left to Right”
‘With the stare of an angel, there is a woman with a mustache. It’s Frida Khalo, and her hand lies over the shoulder of Trotsky (who brings an apple towards his face), and then there is a Doric column (now it’s in sepia but during the photo it was red). Then there is a man with a firefly on his hand and a tobacco on his mouth (he makes circles of light so we can see in this darkness) and it seems as if he’s giving his back to a girl called Greta Garbo (she is playing with a kite and the hand which comes out of nowhere to snatch the toy from her belongs to Salvador Dali). Towards the back, there is a sign which reads “Proletariats of the world, Unite”. Towards the far right one man adds with a paintbrush: “Last warning”. My memory fails me, but I would bet it was Pablo Picasso. Others follow him, and it seems that they are Russian, Chechnyans, or Quakers…God knows. On the table, there are Bulgarian onions and some “Rene Barbiera Rosado” wines. The girl and the old man are Maria Kodama and Jorge Luis Borges. The one getting down from the cross is Jesus. The one with the Second World War nurse outfit is Isadora Duncan and the one with the faint stair holding a Beatles CD in his hand is Mao Zedong.’
Luis Felipe Rojas
Translated by Raul G.
1 January 2013
The city of Miami surprised me. Many of its buses pay tribute to someone who is a symbol of defending civil rights in this country. On my daily comings and goings through its neighborhoods, I found that detail. Right behind the bus driver’s seat, there is a small plaque with the details. Miami does it, and so have other cities in the United States, as one day will be done in Cuba with some similar actions.
The fact that Rosa Parks decided, on that afternoon of 1955, not to give up her seat to a white person, ignited the spark among her fellow citizens, leading to known events like the public transport strike in Montgomery. It was a gesture, a pro-active action, an act of non-cooperation, doing. Just like a few women decided to take to the streets of Cuba in 2003, dressed in white and with a flower in hand, or how a group of men have said: “I do not cooperate with the dictatorship”. It is these citizen gestures which turn on the motor of grand human actions.
After so much blood has been shed on the island, years of unjust imprisonment, arbitrary detentions, beatings and harassment against political activists and their families, will the definitive spark be ignited? Everything seems to indicate that it will, although sometimes we may lose hope or think that the dictatorship which has governed us for 54 years is eternal. When Laura Pollan screamed in front of the guards: “We are not afraid of you”, when Marta Diaz Rondon and Caridad Caballero shouted at the top of their lungs: “My house is not a prison”, or when Iris Perez Aguilera protested in a small town of Cuba’s interior in front of a radio station because it was only reporting part of the truth, they too were also paying tribute to Rosa Parks. They are also like her. And although they did not have the immediate protection and coverage which the humble lady from Alabama had, there is still the hope that one day they will be acknowledged for their gestures of reasonable rebellion. Against brute force, reason stands firm, Rosa said it: “Freedom is not free”.
Luis Felipe Rojas
Translated by Raul G.
3 January 2013
To finish, Garrincha sends out this final present, which makes you want to stay and celebrate. Thanks to everyone who did the nearly impossible to allow us to be here. Happy New Year and best vibes for 2013.
Luis Felipe Rojas
Translated by Raul G.
I owe this interview to Armando Añel, who conceived it as a photograph, like a portrait drawn from the words that I say. It’s like returning to the times of the African Griots [West African historians, storytellers, singers, poets and/or musicians], when only the actions and words of those who spoke from the heart flowed from them.
Definitions 2012: Luis Felipe Rojas
NEO CLUB PRESS:The definition is, in itself, a portrait of the person doing the defining. In its primordial essence, it reveals the personality of the one who issues it with an almost photographic fidelity. So in this new series of interviews that we propose to our readers, we will try to define our interviewees — all of them creators or animators of culture living in Miami, the city that grows, diversifies, with ever more bifurcations culturally speaking — through their definitions.
On this occasion Luis Felipe Rojas, writer, blogger and dissident Cuban newcomer to Miami, kindly responds.
NCP. Define for me please, what Miami is for you.
LFR. Is the yard where my kids play freely. It’s where I read poetry in public and walk without looking over my shoulder for the shadows that haunted me just two months ago. Miami is the Universal Bookstore where I no longer have to look at a copy of the paper from a distance, without touching it, touching the books and magazines. Miami is a sidewalk cafe, standing, and seeing Cuba walk by going to work every day. I may sound a bit nostalgic or rose-colored, but my life, as you may have noticed, is closely linked to these sensations.
LFR. What, that predestined for me? Where the gods guided me or where I was putting it together piece by piece, blow by blow, behind every kiss, every handshake? I couldn’t sum up life in a long career but rather in segments broken up by hate and love, by bravery and fear of getting up everyday and doing something for me and mine. I am a peasant anchored in two or three hobbies that make up my routine: looking, listening and hoping; I think hoping has been one of my most effective resources, because I believe there is a third will that we always have something prepared.
LFR. Pfffff! I do not believe in that concept, I believe in the alignments of the times, in which everything is subject to a blow at the precipice. From an unknown place ’someone’ pushed a book of Borges and we discover ourselves. ’Something’ made a being like Tarantino slink between that happening you spoke of earlier. In this universal chaos, these stones of history will always surprise you. Anyone who works thinking about transcendence is fried … literally.
LFR. A diabolical tool to get into the lives of others. To make things bad for their own sake.
NCP. That which never says no.
LFR. A friendship, whatever its source. Many will claim this is to be gullible, I assume that weight. Love, substantial or childish, I like to love and that has taken me more than once to the pillory, but I don’t have any remedy but to accept that I am bound to love and to my friends.
NCP. A scandal
LFR. When I wrote my first newspaper articles under my own name. When I got arrested by the police the first time in my house. When I said No publicly and others were saying Yes hanging their heads. When my daughter Brenda was born and everyone said contradictorily that she was cute… And she looked it to me, ha ha ha!
NCP. A trap
LFR. To believe I could change the world putting together a literary magazine in the early years of my youth. Surrendering myself completely to a woman who crumpled up my work and threw it in the sea and crossed the ocean.
NCP. A dog
LFR. Sulti, the first. Marshmallow, who accompanied my sleepless nights waiting for the worst to come and he was still there, faithful.
NCP. A cultural jinetero [hustler].
LFR. A mediocre person who can’t be creative or a promoter of anything, an abject being who neither does nor stops doing.
NCP. The year 2012
LFR. The year of the rabbit, not in the Chinese calendar, but by the pole jump that got me and my family from a remote village on the maps of God, like St. Germain, to this crazy Miami and space for everyone.
December 19 2012
Late last night I learned of the death of Arnaldo Mesa, a former boxer from Holguín province who shone back in the 1980s. The digital Diario de Cuba (Cuba Daily) carried the report and it hit me in the face like a rock. Along with Ángel Espinosa, Manuel Martinez and Ricardo Diaz they formed a fearsome foursome in places where the Cuban amateur boxing showed off their best.
Mesa was technical, aggressive and quick, and he had the punch that everybody avoided. In an edition of the former World Cup, the three (with Espinosa and Martinez) won gold medals for the country and received in exchange for an apartment or the fixing of their homes, nothing more. That and the lack of discipline, the disincentives and precariousness of life in the provinces led to misery. Years later two others emerged: Mario (Mayito) Kindelan, who dazzled the world with speed and Gerardo Doroncelé, who shone with a lesser brightness in the national pre-selection.
Espinosa could be seen until recently in any “kennel” (beer-on-tap stands)fighting to quench his thirst and frustration. Before leaving Cuba I ran into my former neighbor, Manuel Martinez Crespo, jovial, quiet, almost shy boy, but now surrendered to the struggle for looking for a life and for a chance to be able to visit his daughters, living outside the country.
Mesa could be seen until recently outside the Calixto Garcia baseball stadium, looking for alcohol, women, or for the first business available to start the day.Some time ago, Ricardito Diaz drove a Soviet make car (a Moscovich) that he rented out to tourist to drive to any point of the province, but he keeps smiling, surly, also a bit stuck on alcohol,watching the shadows of hisvictories fade away.
Years ago we saw an excellent documentary, Forgotten Glories, by Manuel Benito del Valle and Darsy Ferrer about several Olympic and world medalists who died or are still living in poverty on the island. Far from the applause, medals and awards given at the hands of Fidel Castro himself, Angel Herrera and Sixto Soria, just to mention two, wear the fate of any athlete retired to the provincial life.
Before this reality stands the counterpart of those who remained outside Cuba, or those still inside who took the road of missions of sports collaboration as coaches, officials and technical staff who prepare athletes on some other continent. Mesa’s case is one among many, it’s enough to look around any city to see this glory who was now reselling sundries, renting their car from twenty years ago or crouched, waiting for the opportunity pick up the first coin of the day.
December 18 2012
Now that the Endless Poetry Festival has passed its first hours without any considerable and visible repression, I want to make my contribution to this urban tribe that has taken the streets for themselves. From Miami I read in front of a camera to insert our voices and faces among their and we were one, yet diverse.
The photo you see with this post was taken in 2006 in the city of Holguin, the boys of Omni-Zona Franca were making an alternative tour of the provinces and one afternoon we went on a spree to see the oldest house in the city, made of adobe and straw, we sat on the ground in a park and counted cars and beautiful girls passing by. We read, we said many things, but the poetry that filled the air that day was an act of tolerance that continues today.
In some ways those of us who are in this photo (from left to right) have taken different directions and postures towards life, however poetry has saved us from the exclusion and hatred, from the lies and the unreasonableness of believing ourselves superior beings, so we have a kind of truth which raises us above others:
David D’Omni continues his music and his art against evil spells, he is in Havana-New-York-Berlin-Alamar, he has his left hand on the poet and essayist Ronel Gonzalez who digs a well every week to drink better water in the Holguin God gave us. Behind them there is a gentleman whose name I never learned and next to him is Hendrix, a film student in that city. Luis Eligio with his energy covers my back, as I looked like I was going to shoot up into nothingness
Michael Hernandez was about to go live in Texas and never write poetry, somehow this is a funeral ceremony. Amaury, not looking at camera, seems to be entertaining some mischief just before being frozen forever in that image that united us for a second.
Poetry saves. Does poetry save? Well, we already know, now: “Love your rhythm, rhyme your actions, Poetry is you!”
December 14 2012
The television news shows the agony of the victims of Hurricane Sandy and the Culture Department of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) is determined to offer its parishioners some entertainment … a force of ridicule.
The children’s theater company ’The Beehive’ even made it to the cities of Holguin and Banes and although they brought their stories, games and songs we still see those affected by the cyclone making miracles cooking on wood stoves, looking for something to eat for the day or stuck in long lines for the paperwork to get materials to repair their shattered homes.
The popular pop duo Buena Fe (Good Faith) arrived in a Santiago de Cuba devastated by the October storm and now the scourge of the cholera epidemic and had no other remedy than escape, offered by a little music and the cheapest alcohol, and the enjoyment of a show that this time wouldn’t cost them a penny. But how much enjoyment is there in crowded conditions, destruction and despair?
November 29 2012
Individual with mental retardation, used as a member of the Rapid Response Brigades in San Germán, Holguín. Responsible: MININT Delegate Grognier Gallardo Parra.
Lt. Yazmanis Suárez Ramírez, “Confrontation” official in San Germán, Holguín.
Victor Zamora, unlicensed self-employed. Member of the Rapid Response Brigades in San Germán, Holguín.
November 12 2012