The Ghost of a Preventable Death / Rebeca Monzo

It is painful and embarrassing to travel along the Avenue of the Presidents, more commonly known as G Street and, on reaching the huge monument erected to  President José Miguel Gómez, which fortunately is solid and erect, to glance to the right and observe with amazement this enormous skeletal ghost of what was the Pedro Borras Hospital, the largest example of the Art Deco style in America, dedicated to health, a work of the architects Govantes and Cobarroca, whose work was similar in style and use, but not as big, as that found in Chicago, USA, in perfect condition and providing medical services, while ours is a victim of abandonment and government neglect, which has left it in its current sad state. Continue reading

The Other Side Of The Coin / Rebeca Monzo

She is a beautiful woman, petite, friendly, very intelligent, with a great sense of humor and even a certain naivete that makes her appear still younger than she is.  Also, bachelors and masters in science, with many accumulated scientific achievements in her long career.

She lives in the heart of El Vedado, in a building from which in another epoch was observed a beautiful view of what was once one of the most architecturally important and lovely sports parks of our city, with a blue, almost always calm sea as a backdrop.

This park, like all the city, including, it is clear, the building where she resides, has been deteriorating with the passage of time and government apathy, to the point of becoming ghosts from a shining era now passed.  In any case, the same was remodeled and completed in 1960 to form five zones:  park, stadium, gymnasium, pool, children’s playground and volleyball and basketball court, with stands for 1,020 spectators, where the architect Octavio Buigas was showcased with the solution of the spectacular tiers that seated 3,150 people, covered by a light structure of concrete “domed shells” 125 meters long “kindred” to the famous Zarzuela Hippodrome in Madrid. Continue reading

The True Liberation of the Cuban Woman / Rebeca Monzo

University students of the ’30’s.

Much is said and published through the media in our country about the “achievements” obtained for the Cuban woman after the Revolution. But never is a word said about the social, political, and economic advantages achieved by our feminine population before the year 1959 in the last century.

For that we are going to refer to some very revealing information from the “1953 Population and Electoral Census,” the last one carried out during the Republic, published and edited by P. Fernández y Cía.  These censuses were carried out approximately every ten years. Continue reading

Marrying to Emigrate / Rebeca Monzo

A friend told me the following story about having to serve as a witness in the respective marriages of two of her friends, a Cuban brother and sister, to two unknown foreigners “recommended” to them by others who have already gone down this tortuous path:

The first wedding was between the sister and a foreigner; the second between her brother and an even older foreigner. Out of a sense of solidarity my friend, who was a witness and participant in both instances, also became involved in “set design” for both events. This included arranging for more than fifty photos portraying the wedding festivities, which meant having to assemble a tremendous array of “scenery and props.” Continue reading

The Enchanted Island / Rebeca Monzo

Meeting someone through the social networks can bring us very agreeable surprise or, on occasions, the complete opposite. I’ve had the good fortune of establishing very good relationships and contracts through my blog, Twitter and Facebook, despite my restricted Internet access.

One of the most faithful followers during these almost five years since I opened “Through the eye of the needle” is a marvelous Cuban woman who has lived in Puerto Rico since the early seventies, who not only brings me support, but who has also also confided in me, and on sending me an invitation to meet in person, hosted me in her house.

During the years of contact through the social networks, we have identified — greatly coinciding in our opinions — an issue that brings us strongly together.

My brief stay on the beautiful “Enchanted Island” — in addition to my stay with her and her lovely family in Palmas del Mar, where they live — put me in touch with many personalities in the areas of arts and literature, in this paradise, and I participated as a guest artist in a bit “Meet the Chefs” Forest Fundraising Auction, haled every year to promote and finance the care of the native forest of this blessed place. At this event I was honored to donate one of my patchworks, coincidentally titled “Forest.”

Time, the “cruel enemy,” went too fast, as usually happens when we are enjoying something so much. I had to leave my new friends of this marvelous island and head home full of lovely images, much love, appreciation and great desires to return, still hearing in my ears the lovely song of their “coquís.”

18 May 2014

Reconnecting with Carlos III / Rebeca Monzo

In spite of its title, the subject of this post is not historical but rather “hysterical.”

They once tried unsuccessfully to change the name of Carlos III Avenue to Salvador Allende Avenue, going so far as to remove the statue of the Spanish king who lent his name to this important Havana artery, which begins at Belascoaín Street and ends at Independence Avenue (also known as Rancho Boyeros Avenue). An important market named after the famous avenue is located here. Built in the 1950s, it later became a shopping mall made up of a collection of small stores.

Upon returning to “my planet,” I went looking for some items that are becoming difficult to find in the hard currency stores, figuring I could probably find them here. While going about my task, I suddenly noticed a married couple talking loudly with the obvious intention of being overheard. They were debating the subject of food shortages. A group of people quickly began forming around them, made up of those who happened to be there at the time. The wife, a woman of advanced years, began directing her comments to the youngest of those present.

“Do you have a dentures?” she asked them, to which those being queried answered affirmatively. Then, turning once again to the larger group, she said, “Well, considering how old you all seem to be, I imagine they stopped giving you milk when you were six and quite possibly none of you has ever chomped down on a good steak.”

13 May 2014

Exploring the Design District in Miami / Rebeca Monzo

Ignoring the anti U.S. propaganda on my planet, I come to Miami with an open mind, thanks to my sporadic contacts with social networks and myself. Yesterday I had a wonderful meeting with someone I’d met a few times in Cuba as teenagers, and who I hadn’t seen since 1959, but with whom I have maintained communication through my blog and FaceBook. It was as if our mutual feelings had invisibly mended a rip made in our sentimental fabric.

We spent a marvellous day visiting places new to me, and thanks to the skill of her husband as impromptu helmsman, we were able to discover some corners of Miami together.

The Design District made an impression, now just for the beauty of its graffiti, but for the genius of converting a rundown area into marvelous art galleries, stores, studies, all decorated with beautiful examples of such popular art.

I could not but evoke with sadness a comparison of those places of once dazzling architecture and functions, converted now into ruins, “by work and disgrace” of the mis-governance of my country.

The truth about the “Cuban economic miracle” that they hid from us for so many years, due to the lack of information and the impossibility of traveling outside our borders, thanks to the Internet has emerged from the totalitarian darkness imposed on it.

And so, like meeting my friend again, I have borrowed this technology, but I’m still looking (on the unfamiliar keyboard) for the accents. Excuse me.

13 March 2014

Another Dream Come True / Rebeca Monzo

We left very early from Miami, a name which in the Tequesta language of its original inhabitants means “Place of Many Waters.” My friend, her daughter and I were headed to Key West. The trip was surprisingly fast thanks to the wonderfully maintained freeways.

We made our first stop at Islamorada to have lunch at Wahoo’s, a typical wood-framed restaurant anchored on the coast, where dozens of pelicans were having a quiet nap on the yachts moored there.

After enjoying a tasty and reasonably priced seafood lunch of oysters and fish, we continued on toward our destination.

The landscape of blue waters on either side of the bridges, interspersed with tiny emerald green islands, brought back memories of those famous paintings by the Cuban artist Tomás Sánchez in which water plays a key role.

We shed some tears in the car while choruses and clapping to the music of Rapture and the song “Bridges” by Ricardo Arjona (see above). We arrived at the impressive Seven Mile Bridge, along whose sides old structures built of iron and wood miraculously still stood. Through them the old railroad connecting southern Florida with Key West had once passed.

So, intoxicated by our own joy we finally arrived, charged with lots of energy, at Key West.

After enjoying the air, its old buildings, today almost all its museums, parks and beautiful and luxurious hotels, we headed down Duval Street, the main artery of the city.

We made a quick tour of the main tourist sites and cultural attractions: the Club San Carlos, in whose premises still breathe imprint Marti, Ernest Hemingway’s house where the descendants of his six-toed cats still live. In Margaritaville, where we tasted their famous cocktail listening to Jimmy Buffet music, art galleries, souvenir shops, until we stopped to drink a delicious coffee at Croissants de France, a family pastry shop from 18…

Afterward we took the typical photo at the place that marks 90 miles to Cuba, while we fantasized about future bridges that could shorten once and for all this distance that cruelly separates our two shores.

We returned to retrieve our car, parked in front of the beautiful and eclectic mansion of the López Ramos family, the “southernmost house” (the house furthest south in the USA), as it is known, to say goodbye to this wonderful place.

23 February 2014

Bridges of Love / Rebeca Monzo

Since my arrival two weeks ago on this other piece of Cuba called Miami, I have barely had a free moment as I try to fill up the void left by the two decades since my last visit with happy reunions and long conversations.

I have had the honor and the pleasure of being the guest on prestigious radio and TV programs as well as being able to put faces to all those very familiar voices I have heard only through radio from a gracious “voluntary insile*” in my apartment in Nuevo Vedado. But above all there has been the pleasure of once again seeing those dearly beloved people who suddenly vanished from our daily landscape.

Reconnecting with a part of our culture, transported by our compatriots to this other shore, has renewed my spirit. It is true that, to my great regret, I have neglected my blog a bit, but “travelling lightly” has made me dependent on foreign technology (everything from a virus to a lack of punctuation marks). This has limited me greatly, for which I ask forgiveness of my readers. I feel very welcome wherever I go and in my “romantic fantasies” I imagine an archipelago knitted together with bridges of tolerance and reconciliation, forever linking our two shores. Bridges of love, something all Cubans need.

*Translator’s note: “Insile” here is a play on words, the opposite of “exile.”

14 February 2014

Disconnection / Rebeca Monzo

The last days of last year and the first of this year, I’ve been in a state of limbo without news from outside, except now and then when, putting my ear to the radio speaker and trying to ignore the screech of the interference, I’ve managed to hear fragments of programs from Radio Marti, plus some news that comes by mail from abroad, like the one that brought me the crazy list of cars and prices that the Cuban government is trying to sell to us, a population with an enormous difficulty in buying a quart of olive oil because the price is so high.

Why don’t they devote resources to solving the great problem of housing instead of bringing cars which, given their brands and prices, make us suspect they’re the result of shady deals, given the craziness of trying to sell them in our country? Where are the auto repair shops and the parts, as well as the personal capacity to maintain them, in case some crazy person decides to buy a car instead of an apartment for the same price?

I’m desperate for our friends — who, in solidarity, give us a few hours of Internet each week — to end their much-deserved vacation so that we can return to connecting to the real world.

8 January 2014