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

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

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

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

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.

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

Here wages, like pensions, are paid out in Cuban pesos (CUP) and are barely enough to survive. This poor man seems to have the idea that the majority of the products lowered their prices by some 50 or 40 centavos in CUCs, along with some few products sold in CUPs, which are insignificant because they sell them to the population at inflated prices and, in addition, it takes 24 Cuban pesos (CUP) to equal one Cuban convertible peso (CUC).

In my view this has been nothing more than a distraction to try to overshadow the disenchantment people are feeling after the 7th Party Congress, where the few naive who still had hope lost it when the “phantom of the opera” (Fidel Castro) reappeared, and said “Here, I am the boss.” This insignificant reduction in prices could also be a little trap, to cheer up the “sheep” who are going to march in the big parade on May Day.

Gentlemen, everything remains the same or worse, and the clearest evidence of this is the continuous and uninterrupted exodus of Cubans to other countries, hoping to use them as a bridge to get to the destination that is everyone’s ultimate dream: The United States.

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

sharing friendly exchanges with some of those other pilots against whom they had fought years earlier, but above all Cubans, feeling their hearts beating for the same homeland, forgetting the differences that had separated them.

One night, at one of the now common dinners where they exchanged experiences, they were all seated at the same table, sharing rich Island food, the pilot of my tory excused himself to go to the bathroom. Moments later, a loud noise was heard, which made the host run to the bathroom and he found his friend there, lying on the floor. Solicitously, he held him in his arms, just moments before he died.

Many years of confrontations, disagreements, misunderstandings and smear campaigns orchestrated by the regime on the island had to pass, so that finally two Cubans who never should have been converted into enemies, were forever united in an embrace.

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

The positive side of all this is, to my way of thinking, that they are forced to undertake restoration and maintenance work that has been ignored for five decades in favor of prioritizing political proselytizing and the export of ideology. All this will ultimately bring benefits to the people, and the increasing arrival of foreigners, despite the lack of infrastructure and sanitary problems of every kind that face the city in trying to receive them.

Ultimately, they have no alternative but to undertake public works to improve transport, hygiene and the sanitation of the whole city, which benefits not only the foreign visitors but the entire citizenry in one way or another, because they are alarmed by the “importation” of Zika to our island the fall of tourism and the chance for foreign investment. Thinking of the positive side of these events and not that they are not being realized in the way we as an incipient civil society aspire to, unrecognized by the regime.

This is something like the fight against dengue fever. If we try to liquidate the mosquito only by burning oil, as they have done until now, over almost forty years, we are only going to ensure that it becomes endemic.

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

Of the six elevators in the hospital, usually only one is working, and it takes the sick and surgical patients up and the dead and garbage down, carrying food, patients and visitors.

The balustrades and handrails on the stairs can be scraped with a knife and a centimeter of grime can be dug out, incrusted by time and lack of hygiene. One more piece of evidence that doctors and staff called attention to was, on asking them to wash their hands as was common, they then applied a spray that was found to be full of bacteria.

I was told all this by a surgeon who worked for years in this institution, whose name I withhold so as not to cause him problems. He also told me that the hospital lacks pulmonologists and has barely enough anesthesiologists.

As a result of this exhaustive inspection, the departments of nephrology and psychiatry were closed due to their great state of unhealthiness and deterioration.

A friend, who recently had to use this hospital for emergency surgery, told me she had to climb the stairs, with great effort given her severe pain, because the only elevator usually working was broken that day. She added that, when she came out of surgery a doctor seeing her exclaimed, “Wow! The patients are now using the stairs!”

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

Cut the different pieces of fabric (like a puzzle) and lay them on the canvas.

Once all the pieces are placed, baste them with short stitches to keep them in place.

Cut all the well-aligned edges of the work and wax them to avoid them fraying as your work the piece.

Unite all the different little pieces with your chosen stitch.

When you have finished decorate it with ribbons and beads according to the chosen work.

With this technique you can also make tapestries, belts, necklaces, pillows, quilts and many other articles.

Any work done by hand has great value today.

If you want to ask me any questions about this you can communicate with me through rebecaparche@gmail.com.

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

the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television; and the Alfredo Fernandez, another property owned by the Chibas family, also in El Vedado, is now a tenement where many families life in precarious conditions.

It is lamentable that family members, after having to deal with the hardships that come with having a loved one admitted to our hospital facilities, many of which lack hygiene and even medications, have to confront the disagreeable and endless procedures involved in holding a funeral, burial or cremation, with a minimum of respect for the deceased.

Lately there have been terrible cases where, for lack of capacity in the funeral homes, the funerals have to be held in homes, a custom that disappeared more than half a century ago in our capital. In addition some families have found it necessary to place an urgent order for a privately made coffin, because the state workshops do not produce enough of them.

The same thing is happening with the now so fashionable cremation; you have to wait two or three days after the death for your turn, unless some money changes hands (under the table) to get the funeral home to speed it up.

Also, due to lack of vehicles to transport the dead to Guanabacoa, the city’s closest crematorium, no one knows exactly what time or when the body will be sent there.

This breakdown in funeral services, which is a part of the breakdown of all services in our country, makes families doubt that the ashes they receive are really those of their deceased family member, as they are delivered by way of the funeral home two or three days later, while the crematorium is only running three turns a day.

This absurd reality, typical of most black himor, reminds us of Tomás Gutiérrez Alea’s great vision of the future in his films “The Death of a Bureaucrat” (1966), and “Guantanamera” (1994). Without a shadow of a doubt, dying in Cuba isn’t the problem, it is what happens after.

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

The hospital made the necessary arrangements for the wake, but there were no funeral homes available in the Plaza district, where she lived. Some were closed because they were undergoing repairs, and others, like the National, for being in very poor condition.

Finally, with a little greasing of palms, they managed to find one at Zapata and Paseo Streets, where the family could hold the wake while waiting her turn to be cremated, which they were warned could take two or three days. So, using the same “persuasive methods,” they managed to schedule it for that night. Everything now depended on whether they could get the only vehicle available to move the coffin to Guanabacoa, where the crematorium is.

Her family members were told that in two days, maximum, they would get a call from the funeral home to collect the ashes. One of the granddaughters, now desperate, commented to me, “Seeing how badly things work here, who can assure me that when they are delivered they will really be the ashes of my grandmother.”

“May God rest her soul,” I told her. I was the only consolation I could give her.

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!