The Next Day / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 2 May 2016 — The owner of the media owns the country as well: This phrase is corroborated daily here in our “captive island.” We must make an extraordinary effort to follow radio and television newscasts, and to try to interpret the other side of the news. It is really an insult to the intelligence, the repetitive crass way of manipulating information they exercise.

Of course, a large part of the population stay away from it “not to complicate their life” but the saddest thing is that, when faced with cameras and microphones of reporters on the streets, fear paralyzes them and unscrupulously, they lie to “caress the official ears” and stay out of trouble. Unfortunately this is a comfortable attitude, lacking of civility and within their inner circles, usually express themselves critically against the regime. Continue reading “The Next Day / Rebeca Monzo”

May First North Korean Style / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 28 April 2016 — The First of May is supposed to be a day for the workers to demand better working conditions, and in our country, after the first of January 1959 it was converted into a “spontaneous” gathering of the masses to support the regime and not to make labor demands, all very much in the style of the extinct socialist countries.

This year, triggered by the huge welcome the Cuban people gave the visit of United States President Barack Obama, the Castro regime propaganda has reached extremes never before seen. The reappearance, on the public stage, of the now nearly forgotten leader of the Cuban Revolution, has intensified the veneration in the media of a person who already seems on the path to extinction. Continue reading “May First North Korean Style / Rebeca Monzo”

Price Reductions? / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 24 April 2016 — I have a friend who, as soon as she heard about the announced price cuts, ran out the day before to the hard currency stores to buy things, thinking she might store some of the items about to go on sale before the stores run out of them. A big mistake, a repeat of the sixties, that never worked.

On the other hand, someone being interviewed on State television (the only TV that exists in our country), told the cameras that he felt as if he had gotten a wage increase. Does this man, perhaps, receive his wages in hard currency, Cuban convertible pesos (CUC)? Continue reading “Price Reductions? / Rebeca Monzo”

Confrontation Between Cubans / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 16 April 2016 — The government of Cuba classifies the Bay of Pigs as “the first defeat of imperialism in America”; this is a fallacy. The Bay of Pigs (or Playa Girón as it is called in Cuba), was merely a confrontation between Cubans that never should have happened.

A friend, who was married to one of the pilots who fought at the Bay of Pigs, told me that the father of her children, after a few years, disenchanted and irritated by the political situation that our country was being subjected to, decided to resign his post and leave for the United States, establishing himself in Miami. There he was reunited with former compañeros who had also deserted, and they begin meeting with and Continue reading “Confrontation Between Cubans / Rebeca Monzo”

Who Should Be Apologizing? / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 24 March 2016 — No sooner had Air Force One taken off for Buenos Aires from Jose Marti International Airport in Havana with President Barack Obama, his family and entourage onboard than Cuban media began broadcasting distorted commentary by a twisted and pretentious Roundtable, which tried to undermine the excellent speech Obama had given at the Alicia Alonso Gran Teatro.

Terrified by the impact of the president’s words, which even in a specially chosen auditorium generated unauthorized applause, the local press began calling into question the spot-on and convincing arguments Obama put forth, especially those dealing with civil society. Among other trivialities, they claimed the president of the United States should have apologized to the people of Cuba for the victims of Barbados.*

Perhaps it is the Cuban government which should be apologizing to its own people for the religious and ideological persecutions we have suffered for decades. Or for the concentration camps run by the Military Units to Aid Production. Or for the victims of the sinking of the “March 13” tugboat in which three adolescents were shot and killed for trying to commandeer a launchboat without hurting anyone. Or for the thousands and thousands of people who have perished trying to cross the Florida Straits in rickety rafts, fleeing a regime responsible for unjust arrrests following the 2003 Black Spring and for weekly Sunday assaults on members of the Ladies in White.

Please, let’s turn the page, as President Obama asked Raul to do, and look towards the present and the future, not to the past. That is the only way to break out of the economic, political and social morass in which we have been stuck for more than half a century.

* Translator’s note: In 1976 a Cuban exile and former CIA agent planted a bomb aboard a civilian Cuban airliner, which blew up over Barbados, killing all seventy-three persons onboard.

What Are You Complaining About? / Rebeca Monzo

Trash piles up next to a destroyed street tree in Havana’s El Vedado neighborhood

Rebeca Monzo, 7 March 2016 — Many citizens complain about events such as these: President Obama’s visit, the Rolling Stones concert, the Chanel fashion show on the Paseo del Prado, international sporting events and others. They often take them as a show of support for the regime, and not as an opening that, despite the government’s intransigence, forces them to “open themselves to the world,” as Pope John Paul said, although against the opinions of many leaders, including Raul himself, who fear these openings because they know very well that they are cracks, which will widen more and more, and which will cause the absolute control they are accustomed to exercising over the population to slip from their hands. Continue reading “What Are You Complaining About? / Rebeca Monzo”

It is Hospital Joaquin Albarran’s Turn / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 4 March 2016 — About a month ago, in order to change the direction of the Joaquin Albarran Clinical Surgical Hospital, located on 26th Avenue at Avenue of Independence (Boyeros), a Commission of the Ministry of Public Health, composed of 35 specialists in different areas of public health, undertook a thorough inspection of this institution.

The results, of course, were as expected, for years, by the patients coming to this hospital: rooms with ceilings and woodwork in a total state of disrepair, filthy floors, walls and toilets, leaks in the bathrooms and an absence of hardware, buckets and containers with stored water and other disgraces. Continue reading “It is Hospital Joaquin Albarran’s Turn / Rebeca Monzo”

Making a Piece of Patchwork Art / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo working on a piece of patchwork.

Rebeca Monzo, 23 February 2016 — The first steps to creating a piece of patchwork:

Choose the work to be done and draw it on a piece of paper of the desired size.

With a raw canvas as background and assemble the different pieces of fabric.

Choose and have at hand the different kinds of fabric and thread, according to the work you are going to make. Continue reading “Making a Piece of Patchwork Art / Rebeca Monzo”

Dying is Nothing, the Worst Comes After / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 20 February 2016 — At the beginning of 1959 there were fewer than a million inhabitants of Havana and around 11 funeral homes. Today, in the same area, where the population has doubled, there are only 7 funeral homes.

Right now, we have an aging population, there are many deaths every day, and the limited number of funeral homes still open, most of them shabby and without proper maintenance and equipment, are in a state of collapse.

The National Funeral Home, on Calzada de Infanta, has been closed for six months; the San Jose, at Infanta and Carlos III, was converted into an art gallery some years ago; the Caballero, at 23rd and M in El Vedado, was first turned into a ridiculous Tea House and then was handed over to Continue reading “Dying is Nothing, the Worst Comes After / Rebeca Monzo”

Also Problems Post Mortem / Rebeca Monzo

Comandante Manuel Fajardo Hospital in Havana
Comandante Manuel Fajardo Hospital in Havana

Rebeca Monzo, 1 February 2016 — As if there weren’t enough problems surviving in this country, even after death you continue to confront problems, only they fall on the friends and family members of the deceased. Hence, that old and well-known phrase, “The dead to the hole and the living to the chicken [i.e. dinner table]” no longer applies.

This is a country with an aging population, and as a consequence, deaths are frequent. Recently there have been several deaths in the area when I live, some of which I can comment on as a witness. The saddest of all was a great friend from my childhood who, given her personal characteristics and physical condition, her death was unthinkable.

This friend appeared to be having a stroke so she was immediately admitted to the hospital closest to her home, El Fajardo. She was put in intensive care where she spent several days on an artificial respirator. When she died on January 26th, complicating the original diagnosis was a bacterial infection she acquired after she was admitted. Continue reading “Also Problems Post Mortem / Rebeca Monzo”

El Nino and the Old Man / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, Havana, 23 January 2016 — Here on my planet Cuba, the lack of products in the food markets, the shortages in the stores selling in the badly named “national currency,” as well as in the stores called “Hard Currency Collection Stores, the collapse of the buildings in poor conditions and without maintenance for so many years, the clogging of sewers and drains, the piles of trash not collected on time and its being washed away by the downpours, with the resulting flooding, the salaries and pensions that barely stretch to cover the most precarious needs of the individual, are all disasters blamed on imperialism and now, more recently, the El Niño phenomenon.

It is true that this weather phenomenon has brought grave consequences to many countries, where there are poor people living in precarious housing. But it is no less true that in cities like Havana, where the urban design and architectures are still sources of admiration for much of the developed world, all these consequences we are suffering today, are not only due to the antics of “The Little Boy,” but to the bad administration and indifference of the Old Man.

While the decadent old system continues on without taking the essential measures to better maintain the streets, sewers and housing, there is a National Assembly of People’s Power that can’t do anything and a government on the island that continues on entrenched in its obsolete ideas, without fostering the essential political, economic and social changes. As long as this continues the Cuban people will continue to suffer the ravages and consequences of these two phenomena: climate and governance.

New Year’s Eve Fatalities / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 29 December 2015 — We are now almost at the end 2015 and outside one can detect a distinctive feeling of sadness. People wander the streets, going from poorly stocked farmers markets to stores in their daily search for food. If they cross your path and you wish them a “Merry Christmas,” not only do they not return the greeting, they look at you stunned, as though you were an extra-terrestrial.

Very few hard currency stores are decorated with lights or Christmas trees. The others — the ones that price goods in the misnamed Cuban peso, a currency that is almost worthless but the one in which salaries and pensions are paid — do not even carry normal every-day light bulbs. Their shelves are either unabashedly empty or are filled with the same product. Their display windows are broken and grime covers the floors and glass.

There is no media coverage of traditional celebrations, only stories about the latest anniversary of the triumph of a revolution, which from the beginning was already showing signs of what it would ultimately become: a complete failure.

Never has the Cuban family been so divided and dispersed as it is now. Christmas Eve passed without notice. The streets were as deserted and dark as usual, and there were none of those enticing aromas of yesteryear wafting from neighborhood kitchens that gave hints of a pleasant meal to come.

If this is the socialism the government says it wants to “perfect,” may God help us!

A Year Later and Almost Nothing / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 18 December 2015 — Yesterday, December 17, marked the one-year anniversary of the resumption of diplomatic relations between the United States of America and the Republic of Cuba.

In my earlier post I noted that, when this event occurred, it unleashed many feelings, ranging from joy to apprehension. It quickly became obvious that there were two emotions in particular that Cubans were experiencing quite keenly. On the one hand, there was great hope at the prospect of major changes so long desired by the vast majority of Cubans both inside and outside the country. On the other hand, there was the fear that the Cuban Adjustment Act, presumably now irrelevant, would be repealed. Continue reading “A Year Later and Almost Nothing / Rebeca Monzo”

The First Anniversary of a Truncated Hope / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 26 November 2015 — Some days from now it will be the first anniversary of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the governments of Cuba and the United States, but the great expectations awoken by the desired event seem to have fallen into uncertainty and stagnation.

The vast majority of Cubans believed they saw on this event the potential for great improvements in every sense, but disappointment soon invaded all of us on seeing that the island’s government had not taken a single measure to indicate good faith and the desire to realize the changes so greatly longed for.

The fact that they authorized travel for all Cubans and have streamlined the paperwork is nothing new, nor is the authorization to buy and sell homes and cars. These are not government handouts, but simply a restoring of citizens’ rights usurped 56 years ago by the regime itself. Continue reading “The First Anniversary of a Truncated Hope / Rebeca Monzo”

Is There a Cuban Style? / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 13 November 2015 — As I see it, it would be incorrect to claim there is a Cuban style. During the last fifty years Cuban men and women on the island have been dressing any way they can with whatever was sent to them by overseas relatives, by repurposing old clothes or, in recent years, with contributions by those who had the opportunity to travel and brought back clothing of low-quality for resale. Until now, the only major points of reference on which Cubans could rely for their so-called fashion sense have been popular video clips and TV soap operas, most of them Brazilian. Continue reading “Is There a Cuban Style? / Rebeca Monzo”