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

Releases / Regina Coyula

(Published on BBC Mundo 17 December)

It didn’t fail to surprise me although I wasn’t taken unawares. I’d said among friends, who called me crazy, that Gross and the three wouldn’t be exchanged, that without Human Rights there would be no relations.

I respected the point, but I recalled the politics are cooked up with subtle ingredients that don’t appear in the news (much less the news in the newspaper Granma) but there were indications and because of these indications the news of the year didn’t come out of nowhere.

Now, with Gross in the United States and the three in Cuba, the implementation of the conversations that have taken place begin, conversations that open a parenthesis for a calm transition in which the successors of the nomenklatura live with peace of mind and even participate, if they want, in the multiparty politics that will come. Continue reading

Reactions that won’t appear on the news / Regina Coyula

I was in the salon stretching my feet, and although some of the women there had never heard a thing about Alan Gross and acknowledged their inability to recite the names of “The Five,” the news of the re-establishment of relations with the United States was greeted with jubilation by that heterogeneous group, and yes, there was unanimity in that. While one threw kisses to the image of Obama on Telesur, I had to slightly cool the enthusiasim of those who thought (and it was more than a few) that reestablishing relations and lifting the embargo were the same thing.

The best was the only male, a young man who was getting a complicated haircut with designs. The triumphant boy rose from his seat at the risk of ruining the hairdresser’s work and raised his arms as if he’d scored a goal, with the phrase: “This is our Berlin Wall!”

17 December 2014

The Challenges of Young People / Regina Coyula

When vast disagreements exist, dialogue and respectful discussion especially generate questions for the present and future. We were accustomed to the language of the barricade, where anything that didn’t align with the Holy Trinity (motherland, revolution and socialism) was as heretic as in the times of the Inquisition. There were enormous ideological fires that any newcomer or forgetful person should never doubt; he/she must only pay close attention to the embers and sparks that still rise.

The issue becomes complicated with the rise of a trendy lack of social discipline. The youth, whose responsibility to govern will come in a historically short period of time, is educated with videoclasses with no educational supervision and “emerging teachers” who barely have the advantage of three to four years more instruction than those they are teaching. With this deficiency in instruction, whatever one doesn’t learn at home, becomes increasingly difficult to learn at school. Continue reading

The Story Behind the History / Regina Coyula

I share, here, a curious fact related to yesterday’s anniversary of Maceo’s death. Almost everyone believes that Panchito Gomez Toro fell fighting alongside him. Panchito was out of commission from having been wounded in an earlier battle. On learning of the death of his admired mentor, he abandoned the body of the Lieutenant General in the battlefield after all those who were with him were wounded. Panchito decided to go and recover the body, helped by Maximo Zertucha, Maceo’s doctor, who was at his side at the moment the fatal bullet destroyed his face and he was able to confirm the death in barely two minutes.

Between Panchito and Zertucha they tried to put the body on a horse and this is when Panchito received an enemy bullet. Badly wounded, he wrote a goodbye note to his family, where he explained that he preferred to commit suicide rather than fall prisoner. The texts on this point are confused, which is explained because suicide has never been looked on kindly by Christian morality, but even so, it seems Panchito didn’t kill himself; rather a party of Spanish guerrillas, having not the least idea of who the dead man was, approached and killed Panchito with a machete to later strip the corpses of their valuables.

As is well-known, the bodies were recovered the following day by Colonel Aranguren and interred in secret to avoid the Spaniards despoiling the corpses.

For a long time, the weight of the accusation of having murdered Maceo and Panchito as part of a plot fell on Zertucha, including taking the doctor to a council of war to give an account of the events of 7 December in San Pedro; he was exonerated but for his whole life (which he lived with decency and patriotism in his native Melena del Sur) he had to carry the weight of that accusation that took flight, magnified in the foreign press and among the exile right from the start.

I wrote about this curious and little-known passage motivated by hearing on the TV news yesterday talk of the “murder” of Maceo and Gomez Toro, from a journalist named Raiko Escalante. I don’t know what sources he relied on for his work, but it seems superficial and harmful to me to have such a slight knowledge of the history we have suffered.

8 December 2014

Extremes Meet / Regina Coyula

I am not Argentinian nor did I lose someone during that country’s military dictatorship, but I am appalled to learn about the agreement between Jorge Videla and Fidel Castro as well as by the selective memory of the mothers and grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo. What would Stella Caloni, someone always in the Cuban media, say about this? Or the current Argentinian president, Cristina Fernandez, in her crusade for human rights?*

On Telesur last night I saw Juan Carlos Monedero, one of the leaders of the new left-wing Spanish political party Podemos (We Can), demanding to know what Spain’s democratic leaders had done to counter the excesses of Latin American dictatorships while showing a photo of none other than King Juan Carlos together with Videla.

Fidel Castro seems to be in no position to explain anything. Emilio Aragonés, Cuba’s ambassador to Argentina at the time, died incognito years ago. (His death did not merit even a brief obituary on page 2 of Granma.) One of our shrewd journalists should get to the bottom of this.

And I personally believe someone from the government should provide an explanation and issue an apology.

*Translator’s note: The author is referring to recently released secret cables indicating that in 1977 Cuba asked Argentina’s right-wing military government, then led by Jorge Rafael Videla, to support its admission to Executive Council of the UN World Health Organization in exchange for the Cuba’s support of Argentina’s continued membership in the UN Social and Economic Council. 

Stella Caloni is an Argentinian journalist and writer. In an introduction to a recently published biography, Fidel Castro described her as “a recognized expert in communication” who “untangles the objectives in the counterinsurgency’s media war.”
24 November 2014

Audiovisual Education / Regina Coyula

The concerns of cultural and UNEAC officials over the potentially dangerous ideological content of the paquete* (package) is also causing me some concern. I am not an avid consumer of either the paquete or of television in general, but a furtive look, a stolen glance, a scan across the horizon raises serious doubts about the ammunition these Cuban organizations have to counter the barrage of audiovisual material coming from this package.

Are they trying to educate us with soap operas like Avenida Brasil (Brazil Avenue), in which the growing middle class does not make the connection between economic prosperity and good manners or good taste?  Or, alternatively, is Paraíso Tropical (Lost Paradise), which is currently being broadcast, now considered to be the model?

Are they betting on Cuban soap operas, rejected as “ugly” because they portray the current reality or labeled as “sci-fi” because they sugarcoat that same reality?

Do the latest South Korean soap operas (where nothing is ugly and everybody is an idiot) have some deeper meaning that escapes me?

Are they thinking of getting rid of many of their musical programs in which triviality, vulgarity, sexism and bad taste exert a pull over producers as well as musicians?

Is education going to be achieved through interview programs, whether they deal with politics, addiction, entertainment or public services?

Will cinematic education disrupt the profile of their programming, turning the Saturday Movie into a different version of the Sunday Matinee and Midnight Cinema by replaying B movies?

All of this is making me wonder if officials are really as concerned about quality as they are that the paquete continues its expansion unchecked by state supervision. Nah! it doesn’t matter how many operations they carry out. Like the Hydra, for every distributor that is eliminated, two more show up. And if they are trying to counteract its effects with the above-mentioned content or other similar programming, the education of the citizenry will continue to decline. On the other hand, the future success of the paquete, in which everyone chooses what he or she wants, is guaranteed.

Translated by Corriver

*Translator’s note: The paquete, or package, is a selection of foreign entertainment programs distributed informally throughout Cuba. In July, 2014 the national television broadcaster, TVC, admitted it could not compete with its selection of programming. UNEAC is the Spanish abbreviation for the Artist’s and Writer’s Union of Cuba.

17 November 2014

Birthday / Regina Coyula

I can’t forget the first time I saw my blog. I’d gone several weeks making posts through friends, but thanks to a web-connection gift card, finally I could feel the vertigo that comes with peering out from the abyss of the internet. The two hours of that memorable connection were consumed by a virtual onanism; I spent them looking at my own blog, …from the outside.

I couldn’t remember my password in my nervousness. Nervousness joined with the feeling of transgressing a very real internet access restriction which in those days was enforced discretionally and arbitrarily. Nervousness, also and above all, for doing something suspect; that stamp in the Cuban psyche that says that what is not expressly authorized must be prohibited.

It is now five years since those experiences. I’ve become, if not a privileged user, at least an able and avid user of the tools of the web. The blog I began with an urgent feeling is today more sedate, but it has granted me two important things. The first, to take myself on as citizen –which to anyone can be inferred, but we are in Cuba– to learn of projects like the Asociación Jurídica Cubana (Cuban Law Association) or the campaign for the signing of UN covenants on basic human rights. The second, to receive invitations for collaboration with online news sites, particularly with BBC, on the subject of Cuba.

Malaletra (Bad Handwriting) has paid the consequences. I post sporadically and I have lost readers. The comments section, once effervescent, now languishes with one or two notes (which I am grateful for and take into account as I did since the first day).

I also have the impression that after the boom of the Cuban blogosphere, the water level has sunk, but these details I leave to the specialists, because the importance that this virtual space has had for freedom of thought and expression (or quite the opposite) will be part of the history of this strange age in which we’ve been thrown.

Five years later, I continue imagining myself before a screen into the future, always ready to supply opinion.

Now I blow out the little candles.

 Translated by: Ana Diaz

14 November 2014

Equality: Together But Not Intertwined / Regina Coyula

That equality is still a concern in our society is yet another sign of failure in our society, no matter that organizations are created or laws promulgated to promote it. For the 77% of the population — born after 1959 — formal measures have been one thing and practical applications something else.

That which is supposed to function for preventing discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexual preference and religion, should also be valid for avoiding political discrimination.

Equality is not decreed — it occurs. Respect for differences should be inculcated as a value. As part of such an education, when making a promotion to a higher position or job, the important thing is the candidate’s ability and not meeting some quota of supposed equality that results in the selection of the most “correct” candidate, rather than the best one for the job.

Nobody says this is easy to accomplish, but it is imperative.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

29 October 2014