A Mutilated Civil Society / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Regina Coyula, Havana, 23 March 2015 — Just try it. On the street, randomly ask: What is civil society? You’ll be lucky if you find any satisfactory answer and will have better luck if, unlike for me, more than one person even deigns to answer you. To speak of civil society in Cuba is like teaching new material in school.

First the concepts, then, explain which is considered more successful according to the teacher’s vision. A meticulous educator looks for good examples. It is essential to mention the thesis of Alexis de Tocqueville of civil society as an intermediary between the individual and the State. Also interesting is Habermas’s approximation about individual rights that guarantee and foster free association. Continue reading

Style or Substance / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 16 March 2015 — Gender equality is a long road in a chauvinist society like ours. So much so that a law allowing persons of the same sex to marry has gotten nowhere in spite of the fact that its chief proponent is none other than the daughter of our general-president.

This weekend I was listening to a panel of experts on television speaking about gender-specific language. They criticized the sexism prevalent in both language and law, and urged the eradication of the problem by, among other things, replacing the use of male-only articles and nouns with specific female and male forms when speaking in the plural.*

I must be somewhat old-fashioned because, though I believe in equality, this strikes me as being completely superficial. It treats the problem as one of semantics rather than as Continue reading

A Simple Proposal for Elections / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Regina Coyula, Havana, 16 March 2015 – I always heard Ricardo Alarcon repeat, during his time as President of the National Assembly of People’s Power, that the Cuban electoral system was the most democratic in the world. The truth is that the weighted advantages of this system not only have never been demonstrated, but it finds itself under challenge with the announcement of a new electoral law.

Democracy is not only the government of the people and the enormous role of the citizenry in moving forward, to later discover that a Nominating Committee chosen by the Party or the Government has included a series of names which, not by coincidence, are Continue reading

Naty / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, standing, with Natalia Revuelta, seated.

Regina Coyula, Havana, 2 March 2015 — The passing of Naty Revuelta* on Saturday has left us with a deep sense of loss. If there is anything that stands in stark contrast to her intensely social life stands it is the somewhat clandestine nature of her death. It was a death that had been expected; months earlier she had suffered a stroke. Though she seemed to have recovered fairly well, her care — medical, familial or both — left her deeply isolated.

Inviting her to lunch was out of the question; visiting her became a complicated matter. For more than twenty years I entered her house with the same lack of formality with which she came into mine.

Yet I suddenly felt the need to schedule a meeting after various attempts to see her failed, including one when I was at her door. When we did manage to talk, she complained about being forced into an involuntary seclusion Continue reading

Naty Revuelta, Some Notes for an Incomplete Biography / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula

Natalia Revuelta Crews

Natalia Revuelta Crews

14ymedio bigger

14ymedio, Regina Coyula, 2 March 2015 — Beautiful, intelligent, affluent – as Félix de Cossío portrayed her, dressed for a party – Natalia Revuelta Clews was collaborating with the Orthodox Party when, on 10 March 1952, hearing of Batista’s coup d’etat on the way to her job as an executive at Esso Standard Oil, she ordered two sets of copies of the keys to her home in Vedado: one for Milla Ochoa, leader of the Orthodox Party, and the other for another Orthodox Party member, Fidel Castro. Giving them the keys was offering them a safe place in case of danger. Fidel and Naty didn’t know each other personally, but that action would mark the rest of her life.

A university degree, fluency in three languages, and a strong culture would have allowed her to engage in any activity; but she was relegated to the mid-level bureaucracy, always under the burden of her adulterous relationship with Fidel – a petty-bourgeois prejudice of the Marxist Revolution. She went on trying to be useful.

I met her through my husband, with whom she shared half a century of friendship, and we were friends despite the huge differences we had on matters of politics. Our conversations were peppered with disagreements, but we never allowed such differences to tarnish our good relationship.

Many knew her as “the mother of Fidel’s daughter” and it’s easy to assume that she enjoyed the privileges of a kept woman. Quite the contrary Continue reading

With a Capital C / Regina Coyula

Many prominent figures who consider themselves democrats enter into alliances — both tactical and strategic — as well as conversations with their political opponents based on dogma. One’s position on the embargo, as well as on renewed diplomatic relations with the United States, is a dividing line.

This aspect of our national experience is a result of our proximity to the United States as well as to a corresponding anti-imperialism in the extreme. It weakens the fight for democracy and serves as a political ploy Continue reading

Salve Regina / Regina Coyula

With the death today of the Queen of Campesina Music, Celina González, the noon news had a long and flattering account of her career. Fortunately, they skipped over the 1964-1980 hiatus when Celina disappeared from public view, briefly noting that “the duo Celina and Reutilio unfortunately disappeared,” or something like that.

The truth is that Celina had also enjoyed a successful solo career but was not considered sufficiently representative of the Revolutionary Continue reading

A Very Economical Economic Conference / Regina Coyula

Talking about the Cuban economy these days is a complex task but, if it can be done without alluding to Marx or Keynes, I am at least grateful. My bus ride on the P3 to Acosta Avenue and Tenth of October proved so entertaining that it actually felt short.

An ordinary-looking man in his forties was explaining the gist of our current economic situation to the person sitting next to him in the same way that those books for dummies explain things like string theory Continue reading

Secrecy / Regina Coyula

The ruling elite accustomed themselves to living in secrecy, with that phrase, “Silence, the enemy is listening,” so convinced that all information about their lives was a matter of state, disrespecting public opinion, including that which sympathizers still have, with silence around the life (or death) of Fidel Castro.

This can only happen in a country that feels no obligation to offer explanations and where the journalists do not dare to do their job. It’s not serious to try to justify that such discretion is essential because it involves a man against whom hundreds of attacks were planned (though they never got close). Today this person is a sick old man, retired from public service, whose image for years now is always deferred and in photos.

Nor do I believe that Raul Castro needs time to prepare anything, because he controls the power and if there are cracks in the corridors of power, military counterintelligence should keep the General-President (HIS ministry) updated about the operative situation.

Fidel Castro occupied so many hours of television and so many headlines; in short, he dominated the media, that it’s logical, given the information vacuum, that his health status should be the object of all sorts of speculations.

9 January 2015

The Way Things Go / Regina Coyula

One of the things that I am going to miss when Cuba is an ordinary country, will be these days when digital piracy is still patriotic and on any corner you can acquire the best of the Discovery Channel, the magnificent series of the History Channel, or the captivating serials of ABC or Fox. With regards to the series, I am greatly enjoying Mad Men, partially broadcast here in the early hours of morning as “The Men of Madison Street.” With these series and movies on demand, I only turn on Cuban TV for the news, a brief moment of Telesur to read the news crawl across the bottom of the image.

If I, who am a great joker and not interested in reality, nor MTV, nor soap operas and all I want is to stay far from national programming; what about my neighbors. The head of the family, my neighbor Tomás, whom I’ve already talked about here, has lost the fight. It seems that as a Party member, they’ve “targeted” him in the fight against the audiovisual packets, but his wife and even his daughter, also a party member and civilian employee of the Ministry of the Interior, adore The Voice, El Gorda y la Flaca, Dancing with the Stars, Belleza Latina, and especially Case Closed. Tomás’s wife made a strong statement of her intentions to Tomás, and given the volume at which she did it, to the rest of the neighborhood:

“So here people can hold their ‘worm’* meetings and nothing happens (that’s us); they can hold their religious meetings and nothing happens (my neighbor Tania, whom you also know), and I can’t watch “Case Closed”? Because to me %$#@!… I get the &$%#!… I watch it and you’re not going to stop me!”

*Translator’s note: Gusanos (worms) is a common insult used by the Castro regime against those who leave Cuba and/or who don’t support the regime.

7 January 2105