To the Government supporters: “You showed your trashy ways” / Rebeca Monzo

Image of the pro-government supporters taken from the Internet

Rebeca Monzo, 15 April 2105 — The 7th (of April) arrived.  The Summit of the Americas in Panama and, with it, the invited and participating delegations started to arrive in the Central American country.  The official Cuban delegation, one of the largest, had a good time organizing and preparing, under the optics of the totalitarian regime, making up a series of NGO officials, with the objective of making themselves look like the only Cuban civil society.

The inconceivable and unacceptable thing was to send characters well-known as loyal to the regime, pretending to make them pass as members of this civil society. Among them, just to mention the most known, was Dr. Eusebio Leal, the historian of Havana, Miguel Barnet, President of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC) and Abel Prieto, Adviser to President Raul Castro who, along with many others chosen, lended themselves to serve as bullies in the famous meetings of repudiation against the Cuban opponents, real members of nascent civil society, insulting them and even sometimes, hitting them and preventing them from leaving through the front door of where they were staying, having to remove them safely from the hotel by the kitchen and the backyard of the property.

These acts, absolutely unacceptable, have set a terrible precedent in front of governments of other countries, the international press, who have remained amazed before similar acts of marginality, vulgarity, and lack of respect to the host country.  As my friend Mary would say: “They showed their trashy ways,” confirming with their deplorable attitude what the opposition from within the island has been condemning for years.

As  if these abuses of power were not sufficient, they have tried to monopolize Jose Marti, as if he doesn’t belong equally to all of those born on this battered island.

Translated by: BW

Cultural Crime / Rebeca Monzo

Celia Cruz

Rebeca Monzo, 27 March 2015 — For the last few years I have been tuning-in to a program broadcast on Sundays, from 6 to 9am, on the Cuban Radio station Radio Rebelde, ironically titled, “Memories.”

Because I love good Cuban music of all eras, I am a faithful listener of this program, and I also take the opportunity to dance a little, as a means of morning exercise. I must, I confess, bite the bullet to ignore the tedious sermons (“….had to travel thousands of kilometers to buy the molds….when the island was blockaded….”) and which year after year they play on the air lest, as they say, we forget.

What this program keeps quiet about is that it has been the Revolutionary government itself which has subjected its people to a criminal cultural blockade, depriving more than three generations of our best musicians and singers, for the sole fact of their having emigrated after 1959 Continue reading

The English Patient (remake) / Rebeca Monzo

atrio-donde-se-encuentra-la-lucernaria

After seeing “The English Patient,” a magnificent film directed by Anthony Minghella and played brilliantly by actor Ralph Fiennes in the principal role, I felt as though I had been to its locations on those days when I have had to visit and remain for hours around América Arias hospital — so-called in honor of she who was once First Lady and a great patroness of the arts, the wife of President José Miguel Gómez of the Republican era.

Anyone with a relative or friend who is a patient at this hospital, better known as “Maternidad de Línea” (“Línea Street Maternity”), if he has seen the same film, will do as I did: mentally recreating the movie’s locations as he moves among the trash and Continue reading

Great Achievements of the Cuban Woman / Rebeca Monzo

Patchwork by Rebeca

Rebeca Monzo, 8 March 2015 — The year 1931 was the first time that the International Day of the Woman was celebrated.

By 1942, all women teachers in our country were certified, not counting the growing number of women professionals, increasing every year, occupying positions in universities and diverse organizations. By then, also, many women were prominent in the arts, sciences and letters.

But it is not until 1959 that we see Cuban women maximizing their creativity. Forthwith, some of the great achievements of the Cuban woman in these past five decades:

Manage to convert that old dress into a cute blouse; cover her grey hair with the powder from old radio batteries; cover her one pair of shoes multiple times to match her outfits; obtain, after three days of waiting in line and sleeping on a porch, a Soviet-made record player; wearing down her index finger dialing the phone to obtain a reservation at a restaurant; suffer along with her child on Three Kings Day at the toy store where she is assigned, and try to console him, because the toy he wanted was already sold out; figure out how to look “put together,” using shoe polish for mascara; manage, after an hour of waiting at the bus stop, to climb on and get down from the bus in one piece; find a way for her child to grow and flourish without ever having tasted fruit, compote or cereal; create some kind of meal every day for the family table; manage to have survived through all the difficulties, and still give to others with a smile.

I take this opportunity to congratulate those women who emigrated, risking all and dodging innumerable difficulties, and who attained success in a foreign land, where they did not even speak the language.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Under-Employment Masks Unemployment / Rebeca Monzo

In recent years there have been a number of small properties which have been converted into TRD (hard currency) shops, as well as into small Caracol, Panamericana and CIMEX “container” stores and kiosks, all under the same ownership: the State. Given that there are buildings that remain underutilized, one might ask, What’s behind all this? In those old 1950s supermarkets — now badly deteriorated due to lack of maintenance and repair — there are only four or five products currently available through the antiquated and sadly all-too-famous ration book.

Each of these stores has on its payroll a minimum staff of directors, economists, managers, cashiers and janitors even though the selection of merchandise, which is almost identical all these stores, is very limited. When supplies such as toilet paper, cooking oil or detergent — to name just a few — run out in one of them Continue reading

"A candle in the street…" / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo,11 February 2015 — After nearly three months of going to a clinic to set a date for a surgical intervention (outpatient and minimal), good news! Finally I got a date for a month later. I felt happy, because in all the hospitals here it’s normal to have little availability of operating rooms, for many reasons, such as contamination, leaks, damage to ceilings, walls, etc.

And now with everything planned and in order for the moment, yesterday I went to an appointment with the anesthesiologist which was scheduled for 8:00 in the morning. I went to the information desk to find out where the appointment would be. They sent me to the fourth floor, Room G.

Once there, I realized that the room was empty. I checked out the entire fourth floor, from one end to the other, asking every person in a white coat who crossed my path; no one knew where to send me.

Some suggested I go down to the third floor and ask. It was all useless, I went up and down the stairs a couple of times, because there was a line at the only elevator of six that was working.

Back on the fourth floor, I decided to wait for the surgeon who would operate in the morning, to explain what happened. When I saw him coming, I stepped forward to intercept him, as there were several patients waiting for him. It was then that he explained to me, not to keep looking for the  anesthesiologist, because Continue reading

Blindness Leads the Way / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 8 February 2015 — After reading an article from the January 31, 2015 issue of the newspaper Granma  about Cuba and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) entitled “Cooperation Leads the Way,” a ton of questions came to mind about the subject at hand.

It has been forty years since a UNDP office was established in our country with the objective to collaborate with the island’s government on the promotion of social development and public well-being.

From my meager understanding, the only party to have benefited from this has been the government itself, especially in terms of the favorable publicity it has received. They make up a negligible part Continue reading

The Art of Tolerance / Rebeca Monzo


Rebeca Monzo, 23 February 2015 — In the Plaza de San Francisco in the historic center of Old Havana there is a traveling art installation, United Buddy Bear, made up of huge bears that surround the square. Each of them represents a country in the western hemisphere and they are decorated by an artist from each nation. Representing Cuba is the work of painter Nancy Torres.

The exhibition is like a cry, like a hymn to tolerance, which has captured the attention of both the Cuban public and tourists alike. Sometimes people even line up to be photographed in front of their favorite bears, especially those of Cuba and the United States, perhaps due to the historic moment in which we now find ourselves.

Besides these beautiful multi-colored artworks, a lovely bronze sculpture recently appeared in the square at the entrance to the Lonja del Comercio building. The sculptor, Vittorio Perotta, has given it a very evocative title: The Conversation.

Something that also caught my attention is the restoration work being done in this area and along the waterfront. It is being carried out by the Office of the City Historian and includes large potted plants, outdoor lighting and date palms, all of which give the place a touch of freshness and elegance. Upon seeing this, there was one thought I could not get out of my head: “When this whole of fifty-six-year nightmare of destruction is over, the only government official whose name will not be on the blacklist will be Eusebio Leal (Havana City Historian).”

23 January 2015

The Notary at 23rd and J, Havana / Rebeca Monzo

1408719803_image009After spending several days trying to remedy errors committed by various officials in the course of officially registering my apartment, as required by the new housing law, I then had to wander between countless locations and offices, not only because of the fragmentation of the main office (a huge, underutilized old house) but to others as well due to misinformation provided to public who access them.

Finalizing the process requires a visit to the notary office in order to legalize all the documents. I went to the best, most famous, most central location: the office at 23rd Street and J Avenue in Vedado, an office through which nearly all Cubans have passed. It is here that marriages, divorces, wills and testaments, powers-of-attorney — in short, all manner of legal proceedings — are handled. Continue reading

Neighborhood Circus / Rebeca Monzo

December has for decades always been a month of circuses, but, in the economically failed regimens, the circus is always present: “If there’s no bread, give them circuses*,” says an old refrain.

The principal actors at this year-end have been the unstocked farmers markets which, upon closing their doors, have given way to improvised fairs where, in place of food, police have abounded.

Yesterday on Monday, when I went to take a turn using the Internet, I took the P3 Bus, at the 26th and 41st stop, the closest to my house. The bus had barely made it past the next two stops when all of us passengers who were traveling to Playa** had to get off at 26th and 25th. The route was detoured due to an agricultural fair that was taking place on 24th and 17th, next to the farmers market at that location — which, by the way, was empty and closed off.

Three trucks filled with sweet potatoes, plantains and tomatoes made up the fabulous offerings at the fair. A line of naive customers waited their turn among dirty puddles, squalid stray dogs, and more law enforcement officials.

A friend and I, due to the absurd diversion of the only route, were returning in the afternoon, walking from the recently-restored iron bridge, searching for the P3 stop so that we could ride the bus back to our neighborhood. Imagine our surprise when we discovered that the morning’s detour was still in effect. We were forced to continue on foot until we reached our respective homes in Nuevo Vedado.***

Upon nearing the trucks that bore the agricultural products on offer, I overheard the following comment: “Such a fuss over a tomato that’s more expensive than at the farmer’s market!”

Translator’s Notes:
*Literally, in this post, “A lack of bread, circus.”
**Playa is a municipality in the city of Havana.
***Nuevo Vedado is a neighborhood in the Plaza de la Revolucion municipality of Havana.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison, and others.

31 December 2014

Shameful Distortions / Rebeca Monzo

The big news for all Cubans, without a doubt, has been the reestablishment of relations between Cuba and the United States, which has been a dream for three generations on our captive island, although there are opponents among some fellow countrymen both here and abroad. The other story — the one about the release of the three spies from the Wasp Network who, for refusing to the collaborate with American authorities, became by the grace of the Cuban government “anti-terrorist heroes” even though they had acknowledged their role as spies in courts of law — raises a secondary issue, which is the high economic cost for our country in the form of lawyers, propaganda and family visits.

Of course, the vast majority of Cubans without access to the internet or any other means of information other than Cuban television or Venezuela’s TeleSur (more of the same) has dutifully accepted as true what government propaganda has them led to believe, since the priorities of this long-suffering people are food and day-to-day survival. Others who rely on official media accept it out of fear of being challenged politically. Continue reading

The First Intelligent Step / Rebeca Monzo

In these eight years that have passed since Raul Castro was designated by his brother as his successor, to take up the government of the country, this 17th of December, a date of only religious significance for the Cuban people until now, will go down in the history of our island as the most transcendent act of these last 50 years, by the announcement of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with the US.

The previous steps taken by him as president, such as the liberalization of travel, selling and buying homes and automobiles, establishing small private businesses and others, are nothing more than the return of usurped rights to citizens, by the same regime that will soon reach fifty-six years in power. Continue reading