Fury and Delirium / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

The Books on the Cuban Death by Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

There is a literary genre more popular than the rest of Cuban literature, which, by the way, has become a dying phenomenon since a few decades ago.

That genre is the “books on death,” the books written by the serial killers in the island (who spread to Latin America), as if they were perverse characters from an ideological thriller called the Revolution.

Today, 15 years late, I felt the spontaneous urge to read one of the vital and monumental works on Cuban deaths: “The Fury and the Delirium” (Tusquets, 1999), by the killer son of killers and earning wages from killers Jorge Masetti, whose destiny to become a depressing or best-selling star I ignore, but whose prose I will always admire for its morbid monstrosity. Continue reading

Street Sense / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

COWBOY POET Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

It’s called  Street Sense,  which is sort of like El Sentido de la Calle in Spanish, which is a much better title than any Cuban magazine or newspaper has got; and that obviously includes the ones published abroad.

It comes out fortnightly in Washington D.C., which isn’t just the capital of the empire, but it’s also North America’s Homelessness Central. I have never seen so many homeless as I have here. Mostly, they are in the subway stations, where they take up residence according to some kind of timetable, and where, according to Wikipedia,  they have the world’s longest escalators. But I also see them out in the open, exposed to the dreadfully cold springtime rain. And, before that, out in the worst of this city’s infinite winter.

You never come across the same homeless people, not even if you pass by the same place two thousand times. They have either moved, or they have died. No other possibility.

Many of these humble homeless guys get published in Street Sense. Those of them who have not been eaten up by hate, crime or illness. Those who have retained enough mental clarity and nobility of spirit. Those who are trying, as best they can, to get back into the machine that once vomited them out, or who were crushed by it, possibly because they tried to resist the hypocritical mediocrity which comes with any kind of success. Continue reading

My Father, Jennifer and Me / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

We both fell in love at the same time with the same girl, who wasn’t my mother, in front of an Elektron-216 black-and-white TV, on an afternoon in the seventies in Lawton, another of those lost words that no one in the world would think are Cuba, except Cubans.

She died on screen, Jennifer. But before, she ran with him, Oliver, through the unknown streets of a miracle called The United States. And they both were beautiful and free like love, and so tender and irascible, immortals.  And they ate snow and threw snowballs at each other’s heads. And neither of them had ever heard of Fidel or the Revolution.

My father had just retired. He’s been a gray bureaucrat in a nationalized industry dealing with the importing of polymers. Of the Lili Dolls of Havana Plastics. His successive offices, like his checked shirts, smelled of nicotine and that salvific smile that didn’t belong for a single minute to his environment. Continue reading

Who Said All Is Not Lost? Anyway, I Come to Offer My Heart / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Screen Shot 2014-05-18 at 10.40.26 AMMy people are exhausted. My people are skeptical. My people are free and happy. Over half a century of forced one-party rule in Cuba, call it a dictatorship or a Revolution, has left us in n a redemptive, irreversible, irrepressible loneliness.

Cubans escape from Cuba. That is now our victory, our permanent plebiscite. We are leaving. Goodbye, intimate and intimidating little island of my love. Goodbye, homeland lost and unforgettable forever. Goodbye, finally, Fidel.

We did the best we could while we could. For decades and decades trying to place a magic bullet in the heart of Castro. To kill death. Or busting his head in his convertible Mercedes Benz, like Dallas. Very diabolical, perhaps also very vaudeville.

But we lost that first marathon of who killed whom. We didn’t even dare to poison him. To put him in a wetsuit with skin toxins. To give him an exploding cigar, to make him fly into a thousand splinters in the worst half of our country. A foreign woman, Evita excited that she sat on Fidel and squeezed from him a couple of olive green orgasms, cost the CIA thousands and thousands and all for what. The Commander amply demonstrated his criminal ability was second to none. Whoever kills first, can not be killed later. That’s how it is. Continue reading

OLPL Speaks at Johns Hopkins / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Bnxj5_DIcAASRLXSpeech by OLPL in Kenney Auditorium, Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, Washington DC, 16 May 2014.

Dear friends:

As a Cuban from the Island —and all Cubans are, no matter how far and how much time has passed since we left or were expelled from the Island—, as a critical intellectual —that is, a writer and photographer who believes in the beauty of truth, even when nobody listened— and also as a Cuban from the exile, of course —because all Cubans are as well, no matter if we still live inside the Island, where we are “inxiles”—, it’s a privilege and a great honor to be invited here to share my experiences and my vision with you today.

I hope that my words can give voice to the countless alternative voices that exist and resist in my country. These are real men and women who cannot live normal lives in their birthplace, since their whole existence is disrupted day by day —and decade after decade— by the perverse nature of a regime never elected by my people, by the propaganda machinery and the impunity of the political police, in a despotic version of socialism that, as in any totalitarian State, starts by abolishing private property, only to end up destroying private life as such, harassing citizens whether or not they become aware of the power of the powerless and decide to bear witness to their own reality. Continue reading

Leaving / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

At 7 past 7 in the morning of 5 March 2013, yesterday, I left my wooden house where I had lived all my life, to go to José Martí airport. I spent the whole night copying things on a few flashdrives. And deleting evidence of my ever-more-obvious work as a dissident and counter-revolutionary.

Of course I copied texts, which don’t take up much space, of which I had thousands, mine and other peoples’. I copied photos, which do take up a lot of space and aren’t worth the trouble. I copied what I could in those pendrives which would constitute all my work from that Tuesday onwards. Those gigabytes will be my oblivion and my eternity. My portable homeland, my body, my lack of spirit. My illusion that the journey was not true.  I did not want the journey to become true with the passage of time. But it did. Better that way.

I left everything I loved on top of my bedsheets. My mother still hasn’t changed the bed clothes, she tells me every so often on the phone: a white and yellow bedcover, knitted in 1934 by my paternal grandmother, the Andalucian lady who was born at the end of the 19th century. Continue reading

Does D.C. Stand for “Donate to Castro?” / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

#Cubanow advertisement

Snoozing on the Washington, D.C. subway early one morning with my dreams still flitting between Franz Kafka and Stephen King after a evening filled with nightmares of State Security bursting into the apartment I’m staying in—which is near to where they shot The Exorcist—I finally wake up when I see the CubaNow banners through the train’s windows.

CubaNow is a media campaign run by a group of young Cuban-Americans who prefer not to disclose the source of their funding. Their secrecy echoes the recent scandal of USAID’s not “undercover” but “discrete” operations with the ZunZuneo project, an SMS network designed to work in Cuba. Their secrecy is also a reminder of the opacity with which the Havana government operates, in its domestic matters that ought to be in public view, as well as its smuggling of weapons on civilian ships, and its spies in the United States disguised as scholars, entrepreneurs, and even Pentagon analysts.

It’s curious how similar the political propaganda is starting to look in the capital cities of those two once irreconcilable enemies. Continue reading

GABO RELOADED / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Of García Márquez and other Demons
By Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Prolific, brilliant, celebrity, provocateur, agent, incisive, insidious, one of the last intellectual icons of the Latin American left has died: Gabriel García Márquez, el Gabo.

His claim on immortality is supported by a Nobel Prize, which owed a lot to the Latin American literary “Boom” of the 1960’-1970s which in turn owes a lot to that totalitarian regime still called “the Cuban Revolution.”

In the early 1980’s Cuban adolescents read and loved García Márquez. In Castro’s Cuba, García Márquez’s books held a mirror up to  Cuba’s “official culture,” dictated by Fidel Castro, that also reflected  the Soviet Union and its Socialist Realism. Castro was obsessed with his control of the island’s cultural affairs, and even the best Cuban writers of the time were forced to imitate the worse of Soviet propaganda, stopped writing, such as poet Dulce María Loynaz, playwright René Ariza, and the novelist Reinaldo Arenas, jailed or fled in exile such as Heberto Padilla, Lydia Cabrera, and Guillermo Cabrera Infante. There were many others. Continue reading

The Guantanamo Way of Life or The United States of Americastro / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

47271972-monument-colonAt the beginning of the Revolution, when he realized that his “Soviet brothers” would not launch a nuclear war against “Yankee imperialism,” and after blatantly collaborating in the anti-Castro plot that killed President JFK, Fidel Castro had his hands free to make the United States whatever he pleased according to the historical period.

Now that technically he is no longer among the living, we Cubans can finally confess to ourselves: in many ways, Fidel Castro was the equine caudillo not only of those who endured the barbaric boot of island socialism, but also of those who believed they had escaped the Stable-State when they crossed themselves before the Statue of Liberty or Miami’s Freedom Tower. Continue reading