Granada, 1983, the Hidden Cuban Martyrology / Somos+, Pedro Acosta

US soldiers taking Cubans to a prison camp

Somos+, Pedro Acosta, 19 January 2017 — Thirty-three years later, I talked to more than 60 people under age 40 and with more than a 9th grade education; none of them knew exactly what I was talking about.

I asked them: Do you know what happened on the island of Granada in 1983? Most of them looked at me like I was asking them to solve a riddle. Some, the oldest, without being sure what I was talking about, said they thought there had been a military intervention there. Only one explained it to me, with middling clarity, because he had heard about it from his family. continue reading

A little history lesson, well hidden! In October of 1983, the Chief of the Armed Forces of that country, at the request of the party in power, “The New Jewel,” staged a coup d’etat and assassinated Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and his entire family. The United States threatened, and days later invaded the island.

A group of Cuban construction workers were there building an airport along with a small group of Colonels sent by Fidel in its presidential plane, AN-24 (el patico), had to confront the elite troops of the US 82nd Airborne Division.  You, who went to build, without the slightest right, without the simplest analysis and for the absurd chimera of someone looking for a military victory over his eternal enemies, is there weapons in hand and in mortal danger.

They did not have the right, nor the reason, nor the recurrent and often false, Internationalism!

I wonder, in a spectacular maneuver of my fantasy, and if, in the face of an uncontainable push of the builders, the elite American troops would have withdrawn: Who were we going to hand over power to? How long would we have remained in that territory? What role would we play there in the meantime?

We, like the ancestral custom of the regime, learned what happened through foreign radio stations and, first of all, those of the “enemy.” Despite there having been Cuban builders there, and Maurice Bishop was a great friend of Fidel, it was not until three days did we offficially here what happened there, when the entire Cuban people had a different version of the events.

Maurice Bishop and Fidel Castro

The officers were meant to block the US troops from taking control of the airport under construction, with the help of the builders. But the undesirable things happened. When confronted with the American troops, the immense majority of those who fought back were the construction workers, while the military experts and “warriors” sent by the Commander, Fidel Castro, including the chief of the troops, turned tail and left the field to the civilians. Those Colonels, some of whom were stations at the USSR embassy on this island, and others, wandering the mountains and the city, were detained by US forces.

The Cuban military were cowards for not confronting the big boss and telling him that they weren’t willing to commit suicide as they were being asked to do, and much less demand that others do it. And they were traitors for allowing those inexpert builders to do it. They should never have asked someone to fight. This was not their battle, and what’s more, incredibly unequal. They were asked to immolate themselves, and in whose name? By whom and for what?

While our soldiers were fleeing the news was alienating. The disgrace that was happening was also oversized, huge and fallacious. The last thing they put in the mouth of a brilliant figure on Cuban radio and television was that Cubans, defending their last redoubt, had offered their lives, embracing the Cuban flag.

What really happened in Granada is know only to the Cubans who returned with their lives from there, and they are the only ones who know the US military committed with the Cuban officials. Speaking correctly, they are not the only ones who know what happened, the international press played up the Cuban disgrace.

Because in Cuba it is taboo to talk about Granada, it has not been possible to get figures or data of any kind, I have only written what I remember. I don’t want to resort to foreign data.

There is no mention of Granada because, more than what is said, it was the greatest blunder, among all the orders, of the now deceased comrade Fidel, then Commander-in-Chief.

Also, the position and honor of a man, the head of the Cuban “troops,” has come to be talked of and he is compared with the Bronze Titan: “Emulator of Maceo.” What a crime and how embarrassing!

In Granada, Fidel suffered his hardest, saddest and most sobering defeat. But those who really suffered and felt it were the people of Cuba, and particularly the families of those who uselessly gave their lives and shed their blood in the land of others.

When will anyone ask forgiveness, publicly, to the mothers, wives and children of the martyrs of Granada? When will the people of Cuba get an explanation for such decisions. For the martyrs of Granada, there has been no minute of silence, only suspicion and slyness, that has lasted for more than thirty years.

Legacy and End Point / Somos+, Pedro Acosta

Somos+, Pedro Acosta, 6 December 2016 — After your departure the Cuban people should be eternally grateful for:

The fall of the dictatorship. Fulfilling your political promises, especially the respect for the 1940 Constitution, the quick holding of free elections, and not placing yourself permanently in power.

For making us economically independent (??!), developing our industry and raising it to levels never before seen, diversifying production and eliminating our dependence on our dangerous neighbor to the north and transferring it first to the Socialist camp and then to the first ones who came along. Maintaining the boom and constantly growing our powerful sugar industry. continue reading

Also for giving us a dignified wage that allows us to live at ease. Because our children can savor a tasty breakfast, lunch and dinner. And the Cuban family has the possibility to enjoy some deserved vacations in the respectable hotels that adorn the national territory, including the keys.

For granting us a Social Security System that covers the basic needs of the human being and allows us to retire without having to depend on our families to maintain us or having to take up any task we can find to be able to subsist and not live by begging.

For giving us decent housing that resists hurricanes, with only 52% of the housing stock in the country in fair or poor condition. Because the stores have fair prices according to the generous income the government pays us. In addition to having at our disposal all kinds of new generation appliances.

Giving us free choice and having telephones, TV channels and internet and so having an excellent level of information and not being subject to the opinions of any individual or of the communication media.

For giving us free (??!) education and health care. And in the schools and hospitals having facilities and technologies sustained by country’s powerful economic development.

For giving us the chance to feel proud of the behavior and formal education of the population, especially the youth. For eradicating: gambling, prostitution, racism, marginalization, corruption and other evils of the past.

Establishing diligent public services and eliminating absurd bureaucratic and cumbersome procedures, with officials who feel proud of serving the people, for fulfilling an honorable duty.

Infinite thanks:

For not interfering in warring conflicts of any kind. And not squandering the country’s abundant resources. For respecting our free will and possessing an unsurpassed freedom of expression, given through the media.

For never having lied to the people and for expressing from the first day your intentions to implant socialism in Cuba.

Because with your example we learned to respect and never denigrate our compatriots with political opinions different from those proclaimed by the Communist Party, and the Organs of State Security never having repressed in any way the regime’s opponents, much less tried and condemned them under false accusations. With your actions jealously respecting the Constitution of the Republic.

For maintaining a clear separation between legislative, executive and judicial powers.

For giving us the best Electoral System in the world where others think and argue for us and for having the ability to know, through their biographies, the Deputies of the National Assembly, people who don’t need to be from the area where they are elected from and whom we have never seen in real life. For giving us the ability to elect the president of the county.

Also, for giving us, at 50 years, hopes that in the next 50 years it will be possible to find the right road.

For this and a thousand other things:

THANKS!

Looking at Society Through the ‘Cuban Lens’ / 14ymedio, Pedro Acosta

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Acosta, Havana, 12 November 2016 — Iliana Hernandez and Yusmila Reyna circulated among sculptures and art installations at the Cuban Art Factory this week. The two women recorded some scenes for the program Lente Cubano (Cuban Lens), a program that approaches the reality of the island through culture, complaints, and the stories of success or hopelessness that populate the streets.

Camera in hand, Hernández and Reyna organized on this occasion an interview with the model Katy Gil. To reach Vedado in time, the two artists had to cross much of the city: from Cojimar and Bauta, respectively. They did it without hesitation, because the project arouses a passion in them along with a good dose of enthusiasm. continue reading

“Transportation is a serious difficulty, because we do not have our own,” Hernandez told this newspaper, saying that she sustains the program economically with her personal resources. Renting a car is a luxury they cannot afford during these first steps of their audiovisual creation.

The aim is ambitious: a weekly, half-hour show, with five sections in which they talk about fashion, report on complaints, promote private businesses and disseminate the work of artists. It is “totally free,” the creators clarify when asked about the distribution of the material.

The difficulties that need to be overcome include not only the illegalities the alternative media in Cuba are subjected to. In recent years several independent spaces have emerged and competition becomes fiercer every day. Users are very demanding and it’s not enough to reflect on the issues the government ignores, professionalism matters.

“I know it seems difficult,” explains Reyna, who has also had extensive experience as an activist. “We have edited five programs and aired four,” she says. Uploading each chapter to the great World Wide Web takes a lot of time and money. Sometimes it has taken up to nine hours to send one of their programs through the collapsed Cuban networks.

“The interest in getting ahead and making a quality product is our main motivation,” she says. Even the microphone used during filming is an innovation from other team members: Gabriel Gonzalez in film-editing and presenters Jose R. Galan and Andy Marrero.

However, the major obstacles that must be overcome are not exactly material ones. During their work they often come up against the fear that runs through Cuban society. Getting statements in the street is complicated by respondents’ fear, but they always end up finding someone who decides to speak.

Some figures of Cuban culture have refused to appear in Cuban Lens because it is an alternative program. Others have been given long proposals, but never responded. On one occasion, after doing an interview and editing it, the guest asked them not to publish his speech because the show has a “political bent” and he isn’t looking for problems.

In part, to exorcise those demons, in the project’s early episodes they have made it clear that they are “looking at society in all its aspects” and at people “with their successes and their problems.” Cuban Lens “is not political, but with a varied approach and uncensored,” so that it “never misrepresents reality, nor the opinions of its guests.”

Those facing the lens of the two restless creators have ranged from the president of the Yoruba Society of Cuba, José Manuel Pérez, to musicians in the style of Yomil, El Danny, El Noro, Dayana and Adriano Disjay. Activists Eliecer Avila, Manuel Cuesta Morua, Wilfredo Vallin and Martha Adela Tamayo have also been invited to share their views.

Hernandez says that they are in negotiations with an American producer for the program to be broadcast in that country. To the extent that they earn the resources, they will cover other areas of the island outside the capital. In the future, this Cuban who lived for many years in Spain and decided to repatriate, dreams of owning an advertising agency.

While waiting for the much-needed resources, those who are a part of the project do not receive a salary. “You have to juggle until finances appear”, says its director. Instead, warnings from the State Security have not been lacking, and an official has been charged with letting the activist know that she must “be careful” with what she does with her program, especially with the section dedicated to citizen complaints.

The True Support of the Majority of the People for the “Revolution” / Somos+, Pedro Acosta

Somos+, Pedro Acosta, 1 March 2016 — In any forum our highest leaders intervene in, they express the idea that the majority of the people support the regime, however…

When the people, without excluding those who manifest being its followers, nor those militants of the PCC and the UJC, or leaders at all levels of the country, prove in a massive, uncontrollable, and endless manner, an entire category of “attributes,” such as those that:

Steal or receive, buy, sell, or give academic titles and medical continue reading

certificates. When the means of the state are deviated for personal benefit and enjoyment, corruption swarms. When the working day is wasted, and they absent themselves during working hours for different issues outside of these.

When hundreds of thousands abandon their homeland and many more hope to do so. When there is apathy, skepticism, accompanied by a high dose of indifference and  irresponsibility, it’s only for a simple, easy and obvious reason, and if you have not noticed it, or try to ignore it, I will remind you.

Know, gentlemen of the Political Bureau and the Council of State, the Cuban people neither respect  nor follow you, their daily actions prove it.

To be governed, Cuba needs young blood and fresh minds with new life and renewed energy. People who aren’t contaminated by previous vices, who know how to act with sagacity and intelligence, adapting to the reality of the moment. A youth that does not fear the whirlwind and indispensable changes needed to adapt to this 21st century, knowing in turn how to preserve our independence and sovereignty. People who know how to confront the leadership of the country thinking first of all, and understanding in reality, which are the real interests of the public, unlike those who think they know them only because they are consistent with their own opinions. Human beings that don’t protect their personal desires and privileges, under the misleading pretext that these are the interests of the homeland. Cubans that don’t defend with cloak and sword their incompetence, who are able to ask forgiveness from their people when it is necessary, taking responsibility for their errors. Cubans who bravely abandon power when it exemplifies their ineptness.

New vitality must undertake this gigantic task. And above all: people who don’t take advantage of power.

People who are not afraid to lose that which they don’t have!

(Taken from my book, unpublished, Promised Paradise, Acquired Purgatory)

Translated by: Emily Piltzer

Girls For Sale / 14ymedio, Pedro Acosta

The Cuban government continues to deny the existence of child prostitution in Cuba beyond isolated cases.(EFE)
The Cuban government continues to deny the existence of child prostitution in Cuba beyond isolated cases.(EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Acosta, Havana, 9 March 2016 – The teenage girl looks at the display window of CUPET at Santa Catalina and Vento with greedy eyes, a girl hungry for candy. She is tall, thin and fragile. She looks at me and seems to be saying “throw me a rope,” so I buy her a chocolate bar for 1.25 CUC.

Her name is Barbarita, she lives in the Palatino neighborhood and is 14. She opens up after having lied to me when I asked her age when she promised she would “pay me” if I bought her a pair of sandals. No, she’s not 16, let alone 17. She’s been prostituting herself since she was 13 for between two and four CUCs. Her father died when she was three, trying to reach the shores of the United States, and her mother is an alcoholic. She hasn’t studied since she quit elementary school two years ago. From the way she expresses herself it seems unlikely she passed the fourth grade. continue reading

Tonight Barbarita was waiting for Dayana and Lisandra, two friends age 21 and 16 respectively, who soon arrived. The three of them in front of my eyes gave the lie to the official statistics. In a 2013 report, the authorities assured that “cases of prostitution involving minors were minimal” and denied that Cuba is “a destination, transit or source country for human trafficking.”

Dayana and Lisandra are cousins and live in El Cerro where they have been providing sexual services since they were 14. The younger girl is called la Yegua (the mare) and the older Tetris, like the computer game. Dayana has two children to support; their fathers are unknown but she doesn’t give that much importance. “Look, Lisandra knows who the father of hers is, but what good does it do her? She gave birth at 15 and went with him until she was 17 and the wretch hasn’t given her a single CUC.”

La Yegua explained that she couldn’t support her daughter if she didn’t do “this.” “My dad kicked me out of the house and I live with my cousin who charges me even for the water,” she laments.

Dayama maintains a relationship with an 84-year-old Canadian who comes frequently and, according to her friends, since then hasn’t lacked for anything. “Paul has bought me everything,” showing off an iPhone and a Rolex, “but with the money he leaves me I can’t support five people.”

The increase in tourist arrivals has caused a surge in prostitution. Last year the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child called on the Cuban government to establish “an archive to analyze and monitor the possible impact of child trafficking with regards to the sale and trafficking of children for sexual purposes and prostitution.”

The committee showed particular concern about the definition of adulthood as age 16, leaving a group of children very vulnerable to sexual abuse and prostitution without legal protection. Last September, the Cuban Justice Minister, Maria Esther Reus González, said in an interview that the country was considering legislative changes including, among other measures, raising the age of criminal responsibility and freedom to marry to 18.

But below age 16, these are still cases of child prostitution. “La Reina (the queen) also works at this and she is only 12 and is ‘an expert’,” says Lisandra.

Three days earlier in the Monoco wifi zone, I had met Leydis, an exhuberant mixed-race girl from the San Peditro neighborhood in Santiago de Cuba. “At 12 I already had this great body. I wanted my mother to give me a little party for my 14th birthday, I was mad for it. And one day, in the middle of the street, I told myself I would go to bed with some foreigner, and I would be yummy and he would give me a lot of dollars,” she said. A week later, she went to bed with an 18-year-old Cuban, the son of a businessman. She got pregnant and was thrown out of the house and went to live with her grandmother. She had just turned 14. Her son is now five and she lives in Santiago with her great-grandmother.

Leydis is embarrassed, but told me her story after a beer. “In Santiago, between my pimp and the police they barely leave me a cent, and I bring in 10 CUC for Cubans and 15 for foreigners. Also, since they’ve already fingerprinted me, they could put me in prison at any moment for ‘dangerousness’*,” she explains.

Her situation brought her to Havana, where she settled in the home of an uncle without a residence permit.** “I wanted to quit with the bad life and go after my little bucks, although not legally, but without bitching and without stealing. And you see, today they fined me 1,500 pesos and they seized from me soaps and tubes of Colgate toothpaste worth 100 CUC.”

When I ask her if she is thinking of selling her products to pay off her debt she tells me that I’m crazy and reminds me that now she is fingerprinted. “What I’m going to do is what I did in Santiago, hit the streets. Here, in the Monaco neighborhood, there are rentals nearby and a lot of people with money. I already met some girls who do it, even from Santiago, and they tell me that so far the police don’t pick you up for that.”

In 2014, the Interior Ministry said in a report that most crimes of sexual abuse of minors occur “domestically” because in Cuba there are no “criminal networks” engaged in trafficking or child abuse. This was the response to a United Nations report which placed Cuba among the countries with the most cases of sexual exploitation of children in the world – along with Argentina, Brazil, Sri Lanka and Chile – while the authorities continue to close their eyes to the evidence.

Translator’s notes:
*Prostitution is not a crime in Cuba but “pre-criminal dangerousness” is and carries a sentence of 1 to 4 years.
**Cubans non-native to Havana require a residence permit to live in the capital city.

Jovellanos, a Cuban Town That Lives on Nostalgia / 14ymedio, Pedro Acosta

The old Gravi toothpaste factory is today Jovel, belonging to the joint venture company Suchel.
The old Gravi toothpaste factory is today Jovel, belonging to the joint venture company Suchel.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Acosta, Jovellanos, Cuba, 19 January 2015 – “People here live in the former Gravi factory that is now called Jovel,” says the driver of a bicitaxi (bike-taxi) during a tour of Jovellanos. The industry that made the town famous for its excellent toothpaste now belongs to the joint venture company Suchel, with products of little personality and worse flavor.

The lost glory days of its flagship factory is only one of the many problems of this village in Matanza province, crossed by the highway and the main rail line. If six decades ago the area had a growing economy, today its inhabitants remember past glories and imagine what could have been.

All the city’s transportation is by horse-drawn carts or bicycles. “To leave the village, there are private trucks, but at night its difficult to catch one,” says the driver of an old jeep that travels the route to Matanzas.

The place is no longer a destination of workers and has become a source of workers for the tourist areas of Varadero. “Here there isn’t much to do, so people leave and the young are the first to go,” says Ramon, born in Jovellanos 56 years ago. On Thursday he was having lunch at a private restaurant in the village with some relatives from Miami. With the suggestive name of Kitsch, decorated with baroque furniture and lamps, the restaurant is one of the few that exists in the small town. Young people complain that there is no disco and they have to settle for a depressing cabaret on the outskirts of town, much frequented by flies and drunks. continue reading

Joachim, 79, says he didn’t leave Jovellanos because he always believed that “things would get better. When I realized, it was too late for me to get out.” He worked in one of the two sugar mills that, during the harvest season, “never stopped grinding,” he says with enthusiasm. Now, “the two are closed and useless, pure junk lying in the field,” he laments.

On the streets of the small town many houses have signs saying “For Sale.” For a little more than 12,000 Cuban convertible pesos (roughly $12,000 US), Alina is offering the house where she was born and that was built by her grandfather. It has five bedrooms and a large terrace. “I don’t want to stay here, because I have to give my children a future,” she says. Her plan is to rent for a few months in the capital and ultimately to emigrate to the United States with the money.

Like anywhere else in Cuba, in this town private timbiriches — tiny “mom-and-pop” kiosks – have beat out the State snack bars. Vendors of costume jewelry and useful odds-and-ends furtively offer their merchandise in the doorways of the main street. “We once had three hardware stores, four general stores, two furniture stores and a printer, but that was a long time ago,” remembers Joaquin.

Renamed Jovellanos in 1870, due to the efforts of a mayor originally from Asturias, the town was initially known as Bemba. In the middle of the last century it had a library, two movie theaters, one of which also served as a live theater. Now there is only one still functioning, while the other is just a building with boarded up doors and a faded façade.

The local Communist Party headquarters is located in a beautiful building, which once housed the Association of Small Settlers of the territory. “They criticized the old landlords so much and look at how they’ve destroyed the earth,” comments Joaquin, who remembers when the region “boasted” of its farms with fruits and important crops of vegetables and grains.

In 1959 they had planned to build a jam factory in vacant lot in front of the rice mill and electric plant, “but the Comandante (Fidel Castro) arrived and ordered it to stop,” people comment satirically.

Just over half a century ago a plant was erected to assemble engines with Bulgarian technology, but it no longer functions. A modern smelter was also installed, but a short time after its launch it had to be disassembled.

A resident of Jovellano who was involved in that work and later emigrated to Havana said, “the investors in the foundry had not taken into account the electricity required for this work and when the foundry started running the whole village was left in the dark.”

The soft drink factory that was the pride of the region doesn’t exist any more, nor does the rope factory, nor the coffee roaster, nor the beef slaughterhouse, nor the cement block factory nor the dairies. All the conversations with residents older than 60 invariably end up in a review of these past glories.

Some of the younger people say they remember the taste of Gravi toothpate, “the queen of toothpaste,” but at their age it’s unlikely. In Jovellanos, those who don’t want to accept the fate of its people take refuge in the past to escape the present.

When The Cement Was For Tunnels / 14ymedio, Pedro Acosta

Tunnel between the Palace of the Revolution and Raul Castro’s office in the Ministry of the Armed Forces (MINFAR). (Llamado32 'Blog)
Tunnel between the Palace of the Revolution and Raul Castro’s office in the Ministry of the Armed Forces (MINFAR). (Llamado32 ‘Blog)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Acosta, Havana, 13 October 2015 — As a part of the so-called “War of All the People” in 1991, the construction of tunneling was resumed with great intensity, with the trite prediction of a possible United States military invasion of Cuba.

In the Havana district of Cerro, drilling was carried out under the well-known Finca de Los Monos, the Mexico Cinema, the People’s Power, and the Havana Institute of the Economy. They also tunneled under the rocky promontories between the Zoonosis Institute and the Havana Pediatric Hospital. The ultimate goal was to interconnect all these places.

In January 1992 I entered the Pediatric Hospital tunnel. The things I saw showed me another face of what was happening in the country. There, as in every workplace, there were Communist Party and union nuclei. The day after I joined I ran into an individual who didn’t belong to the contingent. He collected bets for “la bolita” — the lottery. continue reading

Unconcerned, he announced the previous day’s numbers, paying the winners and collecting new bets. The flood of the workers who did the tunneling and built the tunnel entrances shocked me. Members of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) and the Young Communist League (UJC), union leaders, administrative directors, almost everyone played the lottery or was interested in the resulted. A worker with debts was even shot through the throat with a .22 caliber revolver and it was covered up.

The high-density cement was put into an immense hopper with a capacity of six cubic yards. I never saw an invoice or voucher covering the output. I don’t know if its use was justified or not. Any kind of control was impossible with regards to the veracity of it. The blasts made deep holes in the hard rock and the volume was not always the same. They then placed the prefabricated structure, and the free space between this and the rock was filled with pieces of stone and cement. This space varied in width between a foot and a yard and a half. They worked in different “drawers” (tunnel cubicles) at the same time, so the workers wouldn’t realize how much as consumed.

They swapped blocks, bricks and iron rods for the cement. In the Special Period more than 15 of the tunnelers built, enlarged and repaired their homes. On two or three Sundays when no work was done, I was curious enough to examine the hopper before I left, and then again when I got to work on Monday morning; the contents had diminished considerably.

You could take off work there for sickness, personal problems or whatever, because your wages were never affected. On one occasion I abused this prerogative and in the two months that I didn’t go to work, they didn’t dock my wages.

The tunnel was completed in December 1992. In the two years of its construction, there were some 40 permanent men with a monthly salary of 250 Cuban pesos. So in wages alone it was around 240,000 pesos. Add to that some 600,000 pesos in food rations from the Cerro Pelado High Performance Sports Center. To give you an idea, the worst thing I ate as a main course was scrambled eggs with chorizo, with more chorizo than eggs.*

But the real main course was what was spent on construction materials. For that tunnel, the smallest in Havana, the tunnel was about 4,000 feet long (counting the cubicles), 8 feet wide and 13 feet high. The floor was about 8 inches thick, the walls about 14 inches, and the ceiling more than 24 inches. Plus the lighting system.

This tunnel I worked on was located under the People’s Power of the district. There were more than 3,200 feet of tunnel constructed in various directions even under the 10 de Octubre Surgical Hospital, some 500 feet from the mouth of the tunnel. To give you an idea of the size once it was finished: it passed under the hospital and the street of the same name to join the one that passed under Cristina Street. Another went under the Mexico Cinema to Via Blanca. Another went under Calzado del Cerro, with a mouth under the little park in front of the Latin American Stadium, and continuing below the stadium to the Havana School of Economics on Ayestaran Street.

The fifteen of us on this tunnel spent all of 1993 using a powerful pump to pump out the water that seeped in from the water table and flooded the underground system. I don’t know how long this chatting, eating and earning a salary went on, as I left my usual workplace in December of that year, but in May of 1994 the situation remained the same.

This was my third season in the “middle ground.” In 1963, when I started junior high school, they had built a shelter for future aggressions at the elementary school across the street. In the eighties – the Reagan era – all the workplaces in the country were required to have an air-raid shelter.

Millions of Cubans live in dwellings declared uninhabitable, in shelters, in huts with dirt floors, in badly built houses incapable of withstanding hurricanes, with no means to enlarge or repair them. In a country in ruins the government spent millions of pesos on tunnels. Were these constructions a necessity, a presidential whim, or a political strategy?

No Cuban ever had to enter a shelter or tunnel to protect themselves from an enemy attack!

*Translator’s note: This would have been luxury food, at this time of great national hardship after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of its subsidies to Cuba.