Period of National Mourning, or Curfew? / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 27 November 2016 — On Saturday 26 November of this year, my telephone rang at almost 2 in the morning. I picked it up with trepidation because normally at that hour one expects to hear bad news. The reality, however, was different: a friend was calling to inform me of Fidel’s death. I was relieved because, what with my family being out of Cuba, I had expected the worst.

The news did not stir any kind of feelings in me, neither pity nor joy. It was something that had been expected and that many of us wished would just be over.

What did surprise me was that Raúl so quickly made the event public knowledge. We had always thought that this would be something that would be kept hidden from us for a while and that we would find it out from relatives and friends outside the country. But the social networks and the immediate impact they cause made the current president react this way.
Continue reading “Period of National Mourning, or Curfew? / Rebeca Monzo”

They have decreed a national mourning period of nine days, which in my opinion is rather exaggerated. They say it is so that everyone can say goodbye and pay their respects before his ashes. I am convinced that the majority of those who will go to do so will not go spontaneously, but rather will be transported by the Young Communists Union, the University, the Cuban Workers Center, the Federation of Cuban Women, the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution and all the rest of the governmental mass organizations of which the country boasts (and which are under the direction of the government, even though it publicly declares that they are not, which is totally false).

The state-run television has all the channels lined up with programs broadcasting only images of the deceased, extolling the personality of a leader who died in full decline. Only his “successful” episodes are shown. There is not a single children’s program on the air, being that children, too, are obliged to observe an enforced mourning period.

They have prohibited all public and cultural spectacles. The greatly advertised and one-time-only concert by the Spanish tenor Plácido Domingo, who traveled to our country with 500 guests, has been suspended–which for him must have been “disconcerting.” Also, the sale of alcoholic beverages has been prohibited in state-run and private restaurants, as well as in all the stores throughout the country.

I have learned that they are visiting establishments that rent out private rooms, to investigate whether any journalists are among the guests.

The city is practically deserted at night. Is this, really, a period of mourning, or a curfew? You decide.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Don’t Worry About Trump / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 6 November 2016 — Anxiety on “my planet” over elections in the United States is out of control.

Many people approach me — they know I use “the good internet” two times a week, something extraordinary here — to ask very anxiously about the presidential poll numbers on Clinton and Trump. They do this because no one with any common sense pays attention to the Cuban media, or to the Venezuelan TV network Telesur, which is more of the same.

I could be wrong but my response is always the same: Neither Trump nor Clinton will change anything in Cuba. Nor should there be any worry if Donald becomes president. No one who occupies that office can do or undo anything on a whim, as is the case here, where there is a “command and control” mindset and the legislative branch is simply a rubber stamp that approves anything the authorities propose. There is respect over there for the House and Senate, which acts as a check on those in power. Continue reading “Don’t Worry About Trump / Rebeca Monzo”

Change in Cuba will depend on actions by the Cuban government and its citizens. As long as the authorities here refuse to consider democracy as an option and continue to hide behind lies such as the economic blockade and demands for reparations or the return of the naval base at Guantanamo — aspects of a broader “fig leaf” they use to camouflage their failures — nothing will change. As long as citizens are not active participants in demands for change, nothing will happen.

Instead of spending so much time speculating about American elections, something that should only be of concern to American citizens, we should spend our time telling our friends and neighbors about facts we discovered on the internet, the better to remove the bandages that have been covering our eyes for fifty-eight years. As my grandmother Maria used to say, charity begins at home.

What we should be worrying about is how to hold our leaders accountable, not lower our heads and applaud them out of fear. Otherwise, we will go on dealing with and suffering through these all too familiar problems for which, in one way or another, all Cubans — both those here as well as those in the diaspora — are responsible.

Don’t worry about Donald Trump. Or Donald Duck. They’re the same.

Poking the Hornet’s Nest / Rebeca Monzo

Waiting for the bus in Cuba

Rebeca Monzo, 31 October 2016 — Here on my planet, the government used the term “hornet’s nest” to name student groups at all levels, whose classes were suspended because they were forced to participate in organized protests against the so-called blockade, enlivened with musical and theater groups, putting on the whole circus to show the cameras with cheerful smiling faces, supporting the regime and rejecting the United States, the country we all dreamed of.

However, “hornet’s nest” was what we could also the horrible lines that form at the bus stops, where we have to wait almost an house, trying to get on board, if the driver even decides to stop and not pass on by without even saying goodbye.

It is certainly not the fault of the drivers because the buses are filled at three times over their design capacity, plus there are all the potholes, the broken sewer holes and enormous piles of broken up asphalt, that make the streets and avenues into little roller coasters.

We could also call the huge lines outside state bakeries “hornet’s nests,” in search of the precious and only bread of 80 grams per person under the decadent ration book. Or those that form at the rusty and abandoned shacks that were once recognized as the points of sale for seafood, where what it sold and most regularly available are the badly named “island croquettes,” popularly known as “what… whatever they are,” the most consumed food product of ordinary citizens who have nothing more than their miserable salaries to live on.

Finally, the same so-called “hornet’s nest” of students protesting against the US embargo imposed on our government, would end up being a real hornet’s next in from of the doors of the embassies of the United States, Canada, Spain, Italy, Ecuador, with the intention of getting visas to “take off,” although their vocal chords are still sore from shouting in the organized rallies against capitalism, which they dream of “clashing with” as soon as possible.

Lashing Out Again Against Private Restaurants / Rebeca Monzo

Menus from private restaurants — paladares — in Havana

Rebeca Monzo, 24 October 2016 — The Peoples’ Powers and the Ministry of Internal Trade are mobilizing again against successful paladares — privately owned restaurants — using the excuse of corruption and drug sales.

To clarify, it is true that some of these establishments, sadly, are bars and discos and these crimes have occurred. Above all, because there are no licenses for these kinds of businesses, so they get licensed as paladares, and as a “cover” offer some culinary specialities. Continue reading “Lashing Out Again Against Private Restaurants / Rebeca Monzo”

Among the things that really annoy the Cuban state, is that these private establishments have proved very successful, exposing the ineptitude and inability of the administration of the regime to face competition. One of the main reasons for this state failure are the low wages and high political demands they make on their employees.

One of the regime’s pretexts to attack these restaurants is prostitution and drugs, but this has nothing to do with them, but rather with the bars and discos, which can only survive under a restaurant license. And it is here that inspectors and corrupt police “get fat.”

What is not said publicly, it is that many of these trouble spots belong to children of senior leaders of the country, while the attacks, unfortunately, are lodged against the most politically vulnerable.

However, the regime has a hard time officially acknowledging that the main dens of prostitution and drugs, have been and are those belonging to the state, the sites of the the biggest scandals of this kind, as happened a few years ago in the Old Havana Brewery and in the Commodore and Copacabana nightclubs, just to mention a few examples.

They Married Us to a Lie… / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 26 September 2016 —  It is a sign of lack of civility and decorum on the part of the Cuban regime to blame to the so-called US blockade for the shortages and difficulties, whose real cause is the inability and mismanagement of the economy, wealth and and riches of our country, by the leadership of the island. It is extremely well-known that they have “thrown everyone overboard,” dedicating their efforts and money to propaganda and proselytizing abroad, to present a completely untrue image of the internal situation. Continue reading “They Married Us to a Lie… / Rebeca Monzo”

When the Soviet “pipelines” were open to Cuba, in the media here, especially on television, there was an abundance of caricatures and ads where a popular character mocked the blockade, throwing all kinds of taunts at it.

Why now this exhausting campaign against the blockade, that exceeds all limits of popular assimilation and acceptance? Why not have the civility and honesty to recognize the inability to lead and the squandering of the income obtained from the government’s share of the family remittances from the United States and the huge business established by the government to “rent out” doctors and professionals to other countries, which bring juicy dividends to the regime and from which our doctors and specialists receive only a pittance?

In the face of this so-called “solidarity” it is the people who suffer the consequences of the lack of medically qualified professionals and specialists remaining in Cuba, in schools and hospitals. “Candle in the street, darkness in the house,” as the popular saying goes. That is, we put on a big show for the outside, while we lack everything at home.

They married us to a lie… and forced us to live with it all these years.

 Translated by Jim

The Country of Mari­a la O / Rebeca Monzo

The country of María la O (Spanish musical comedy dating back to 1930)

Rebeca Monzo, 29 August 2016 — In this city, incorrectly named Maravilla (Wonder), because in reality it is a nightmare, any ordinary person’s life is like that of María la O. You get dressed, eat, sell your car, tidy the house, wait an hour for a bus, or walk … and so on and so on.

I have some friends who, having got to a certain age, and having realised they don’t have enough money to improve their quality of life, have found themselves obliged to sell the family car, which they could hardly afford to run and used only for urgent trips, due to the high cost of gas in convertible currency (CUC), and the cost of parts and tyres.

Many retired professionals who were in senior positions in companies and organisations, and who sacrificed a lot to buy a Russian-made Lada car, have also found it necessary to sell it in order to be able to afford to do up a room in their house, rent it out to strangers, and so be able to live on this modest income, because their miserable pensions in Cuban pesos (CUP) hardly allow them to buy food. Now they worship María la O — you either walk, or you don’t go anywhere.

Translated by GH

Treating the Symptoms, Not the Cause / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 4 August 2016 — Private transport has been making a comeback in our country. With an enormous stable of almendrones (old American cars), it has been steadily growing over the last thirty years due in essence to the deteriorating and ever diminishing state-run public transport system.

During all these years of totalitarian dictatorship, the number of buses in every province of the country has been decreasing due to poor maintenance and a shortage of spare parts, not to mention bad roads. Continue reading “Treating the Symptoms, Not the Cause / Rebeca Monzo”

Additionally, given their extremely low wages, many transport workers and public-sector employees have turned to fixing and restoring American automobiles from the 1940s and 1950s, as they previously did with Soviet-built Ladas, as a means of providing economic support their families. Even many medical professionals ferry passengers around in their old cars in their spare time because the salaries they receive barely cover the costs of their most basic needs.

So why this new persecution of self-employed taxi drivers if they are the ones who are finally alleviating the critical transportation problem, one the state has not been able to resolve in fifty-seven years? After all, no one is putting a gun to their customer’s heads and forcing them to pay the going rate.

If the government — instead of spending so much money on political propagandizing and overseas proselytizing — had invested those resources on improving public transport, bringing down fuel and gasoline costs and lowering the exorbitant prices for spare parts, these taxi drivers would have been able to reduce their fares. It all comes down to supply and demand. So why not put an end to all this harassment by addressing the cause and not the symptoms of this social disaster?

No Air Conditioning and Intrusive Music / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 26 July 2016 — As random comments from ordinary citizens on the streets suggest, we are going through a new Special Period, though the government repeatedly denies it in media statements, calling it “a difficult situation from which we will recover.”

For confirmation, one need only observe the bus stops crowded with people anxiously waiting for the next vehicle to take them to their jobs, the hospital or the beach. The lack of fuel and spare parts are the main causes of these “bottlenecks.” For this reason, many people feel forced to turn to boteros, or private taxis. Though expensive, they are a solution to the problems of urban mass transit, for which the government is responsible. Continue reading “No Air Conditioning and Intrusive Music / Rebeca Monzo”

Another situation impacting us — apart from the unbearable heat and famous Sahara dust storms — is the shortage of consumer goods and lack of air conditioning in so-called hard currency stores.

In some of thee facilities, especially the smaller ones, the lack of air conditioning is leading to longer lines and greater dissatisfaction in the population.

The employees of these businesses, who work for eight hours a day in sweltering conditions, have to limit access to two people at a time in order to be able to wait on them. Once inside, customers run into another big hurdle: no shopping bags. This drags out the shopping process, causing discomfort and protests from those waiting their turns.

Given these circumstances, one would think that there ought to be some compensation in the form of reduced prices due to the lack of customary amenities such as air conditioning and bags in which to carry purchases home, factors which would logically affect the value of an item. Then there are the difficulties associated with the sometimes raucous reggaeton background music, a telephone customer being left on hold or, in the case of city buses, the drivers’ choice of music in vehicles overflowing with a disgruntled and sweaty public.

Summer 2016, Reasons Not to Leave the House / Rebeca Monzo

If you come to this neighborhood and see the filth, don’t be surprised, sometimes it’s worse!

Rebeca Monzo, 15 July 2016 — This summer is one of the hottest since 1880, according to commentators on the radio.

In addition to the punishing sun and the invasion of dust from the Sahara, in a country with almost no air conditioning, even the few hard currency stores and government offices don’t have AC and they have orders not to install it in order to save electricity, due to the terrible problems happening in the country with the supply of oil from Venezuela. Continue reading “Summer 2016, Reasons Not to Leave the House / Rebeca Monzo”

The few buses that are circulating on our streets are hugely overcrowded and “fly past” the official stops, where sweaty and disgruntled people accumulate, and where waiting an hour or more has become normal.

It is true that there is an extensive program of government-run summer recreation for kids, young people and adults, in museums and government facilities, and that all of them, indeed, are linked by government mandate to the 90th birthday of the ancient leader.

The streets are filthy, filled with potholes and sewage, the recreation facilities and movie theaters don’t have air conditioning, there is a great shortage in the supply of soft drinks, mineral water, beer, ice cream and other “goodies” in the misnamed national currency (the Cuban pesos or CUP), since most of these products, when you can find them, are sold in hard currency (Cuban convertible peso, or CUC), making them even more difficult for the majority of the population to access.

Staying home in front of the television with a fan at your side, drinking boiled water every now and then, is the other option, as long as you can watch movies and TV shows obtained on the private market [i.e. the “weekly packet“] because at least these are not “contaminated” with the repetitive and constant celebration of the 90th birthday of the “Cimarrón Mayor,” as a cultural leader recently called Fidel Castro on TV, trying perhaps to flatter him, without properly assessing the meaning of the adjective: the cimarrones were escaped slaves who abandoned their plantations and were always fleeing to hide in the mountains.

Everything Focused on Fidel’s Ninetieth! / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 24 June 2016 — This is not about the lottery or a charade. On the contrary, it’s about an absurd and unfortunate violent and viral “cult of personality” attack.

I remember in the early sixties when some government kiss-up had the idea of coming out with a postage stamp with the face of Fidel the guerrilla on it, and almost immediately, in a gesture I now consider meant to play well in the media, he was ordered to withdraw it. Continue reading “Everything Focused on Fidel’s Ninetieth! / Rebeca Monzo”

But with the passing of time photos of the “maximum leader” appeared in public offices, workplaces, factories and schools. The media wrapped everything around his figure and the leader was turning a blind eye because apparently he was pleased by it. His ego was growing and growing.

Since January of this year, not a single day of the calendar has passed in which the printed press, radio and TV have failed to refer to the 90th birthday of the “eternal leader.”

Just to cite a few examples. At the National Council of the Workers’ Central Union of Cuba (CTC), in a country where there are so many and diverse labor problems that affect workers, the CTC considered one of the most important tasks of the labor union movement to to pay homage of the indisputable leader of the Revolution on his 90th birthday.

In another example, forestry workers celebrated the day set aside for them by planting ninety cedars as a sign of respect for Fidel’s “ideas and legacy.”

Even the “renewed” La Rampa Fair, in its 17th edition, will be dedicated to the leader’s 90th birthday.

This is happening in all the cultural, political and labor spheres in our country, because the top leadership demands and prioritizing all this “North Korean Style” tribute, to this 90th birthday that will be celebrated this August 13th.

Campaign Against the Mosquito / Rebeca Monzo

Havana Tribune: Official Organ of the Provincial Committee of the [Communist] Party
Havana Tribune: Organ of the Provincial Committee of the [Communist] Party
Rebeca Monzo, 30 May 2016 — On my planet, Cuba, dengue fever has been brought on by unsanitary conditions, which in turn were brought on by the revolution. Neglect and abandonment have caused the Aedes aegypti mosquito to proliferate from buildings abandoned due to collapse, from leaks in water mains, from uncollected piles of trash, and from plastic bottles and cans accumulating in roofless houses and open spaces in the city.

Now the public relations campaign to eradicate the mosquito has almost become a joke. The government blames citizens, attacking the symptoms rather than the causes.

Irresponsibles. Breeding Sites Detected. (See full text below)
Irresponsibles. Infestations Detected. (See full text below)

Irresponsibles

Infestatations Detected

– In the Cimex currency exchange office on Santa Catalina between Parraga and Poey streets in the Tenth of October district, three larvae and two adults (in a plastic water bottle).

– In the Camilo Cienfuegos workplace, an Inder branch, on First between 8th and 10th streets in the Plaza de la Revolucion district, three adults (in bathroom walls and the building entrance) eliminated.

– In the Comunales office in the Santiago-Rincon people’s council at 194th between 407th and 409th in the Boyeros district, one adult captured in flight.

Please carefully read the notice above, published in the weekly Tribuna, and tell me honestly if this is serious or a joke that “got out of hand.”

A Hundred to One / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 16 May 2016 — During the recent meeting of the National Council of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC), archaic terms and concepts were were complacently dusted off in response to the reappearance in public of the Revolution’s aged leader.

In an evocation of old ghosts, the meeting took place in the exact same location where fifty-five years earlier his comments to intellectuals unleashed the great witch hunt that laid the groundwork for our highly ideological political culture. Continue reading “A Hundred to One / Rebeca Monzo”

During this meeting, the members of the Permanent Commission on Culture, Tourism and Public Spaces released a statement declaring, “Cuban writers and artists have reacted with surprise, disbelief and outrage at images of the reception for passengers on the cruiseship Adonia, which docked at the Havana port terminal early this month. Girls dressed in swimsuits that replicated the national emblem, imitating one of our traditional dances with their movements and providing a deplorable spectacle to those visiting Cuba for the first time.”

In light of the possibility of ideological contamination resulting from the reestablishment of relations between our country and the United States, the critic Rolando Perez Betancourt offered an alternative, suggesting that we not “succumb to fear of the vampire but rather avail ourselves of a silver bullet to kill it.”

It seems Betancourt has forgotten that those who first desecrated our national emblem were in fact the country’s leaders. The man at the forefront of the Revolution accepted an invitation to sign a Cuban flag presented to him by the head of the Union of Young Communists at the time on the main staircase of the University of Havana.

For some time now it has also been common to see flags adorned with a portrait of Che printed on them. Or to see groups of them hanging, without rhyme or reason, in shops and offices, or in the oversized windows of some state-owned enterprises, used like curtains to keep the sun out. Others fray and fade on the facades of government buildings without anyone ever thinking to remove and protect them.

Corraling a U.S. flag with a hundred ours, as this critic proposed, ignores our reality. Perhaps he is unaware that our tricolor flag (made in China) can only be purchased at hard-currency stores with CUCs, to which only a very lucky few have access.

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”

Every year on May 1st, meek like frightened lambs, they will act like professional simulators, smiling when facing the cameras, showing off a false joy and support for the regime and its “eternal leader,” an attitude that will change drastically when at the end of the parade, back at home, they meet with an empty refrigerator and begin to rummage through their meager pockets, looking for some coins in CUC (hard currency) to buy a bag of milk powder in the “black market” to ensure a glass of milk for next morning, for their children (if they are still in Cuba) or for their elderly parents , aware that the present is slipping through their hands, in a country WITH NO FUTURE.

Translated by: Rafael

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”

There is now an exaggerated and constant cult of personality, linking to all kinds of cultural, sporting and political events with the upcoming 90th birthday of a character whom, in their heart of hearts, most citizens totally reject. But the fear used in our country as a dominant weapon prevents spontaneous and public demonstrations against him and ensures that, like the tame sheep of a deteriorating herd, acceded to the decision to impose an administrative tax to cover the participation percentage imposed in their respective workplaces, to make up a figure of 6.3 million citizens (out of a population of 11 million), who will show their support in different squares in the country, for a regime in a complete state of decay.

This is nothing more than the North Korean version of a Caribbean parade, appropriate for any witches’ coven.