Farewell Letter From El Sexto / Regina Coyula

Valle Grande Prison

From the “cell” (of punishment)

September 16, 2015…

Where I am there is little light and I am in my underwear because I do not want to wear the prison uniform. They give me a mattress for 5 or 6 hours at night. I only drink water and there will be no ability to respond (from you to this letter) because they don’t allow contacts.

Thanks to Lia, Gorki, Antonio and everyone for helping my mother manage things. Thanks to Aylín for the beautiful and encouraging letters. I read them as many times as I could, I would like to write you a thousand letters like you deserve but now I do not think I will have the light, the paper, nor the energy to do it. Continue reading

Clearly The Leaders Don’t Travel By Bus! / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula

Long lines to board a bus in Havana. (Aitor Herrero Larrumbide)

Long lines to board a bus in Havana. (Aitor Herrero Larrumbide)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Regina Coyula, Havana, 8 September 2015 – The September 7 news broadcast included a report about public transportation in the Cuban capital. Apart from the curiosity of observing the incipient or frank obesity of almost all the leaders who appear on television, they and other workers in the sector are concerned about the vandalization the buses are subjected to, the frequent breakdowns because they are so overloaded every day, the seven million dollars destined for the purchase of new equipment and spare parts, and the efforts of the company and the country’s leaders to improve service. Although it wasn’t mentioned, the city’s fleet was renovated in 2007 and has now experienced eight years of overuse.

For longer than I thought they would, the buses maintained their good appearance, unmarked and clean. I expected to see these buses prove the “broken window theory” and, indeed, when signs of deterioration began to appear it was unstoppable. In addition to filth, the accordions on the articulated buses are cracked, many of the windows are jammed, the sealing strips are missing and if not dealt with in time those strips that are loose will follow the path of the missing. Continue reading

Sketch For A Debate On Inequality / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula

Social differences (Photo Reinaldo Escobar / 14ymedio)

Social differences (Photo Reinaldo Escobar / 14ymedio)

Regina Coyula, Havana, 5 September 2015 — The distinguished researcher Pedro Monreal in his interesting work Social Inequality In Cuba, Triumphal March? which I recommend reading, notes that there is no scientific evidence to support that economic decentralization brings inequality. The inequalities are not the result of economic adjustments implemented in recent years. They are older; only now they are more, greater and more visible. While I do not have a scientific formula, observation of the environment allows one to also diagnose with sufficient empirical logic that Cuban society is experiencing rising inequality.

Economic policy has served to widen the gap between different income levels, more evident since the expansion of self-employment. Previous policies, in their intent to reduce this gap, had the dubious achievement of making a clean sweep downwards, that is, impoverishment. Improvisation and voluntarism still have their day and have been a constant which economists and planners have had to deal with. Continue reading

Giving Life to a Park / Regina Coyula

La Rampa in Havana

We are receiving with curiosity and joy teaspoons of internet fro wi-fi points in different cities of the country; here in Havana, the most widespread of these points is located on La Rampa, the heart of the city.

Beyond the adrenaline that many feel on connecting with the world for the first time, and those who come to these zones as if they were true digital natives, all that happens on La Rampa, with a wireless signal from the Malecon to the corner of the Coppelia ice cream stand at 23rd and L, does not have the conditions for comfortable navigation.

It has become part of the landscape to see every kind of person (most of them young), sitting on some stairs, leaning against a doorway, avoiding the sun under a scrawny tree, or defiantely challenging the sun and defying the cars, positioned on the curb with their feet in the street and absorbed in their mobile device. It is a rare sight to see that technological overcrowding in the shadows, which in now way embellishes the landscape.

1441386198_100_4684-1The idea occurs to me of giving them the use of the park built on the corner occupied by the Alaska Building at 23rd and M, demolished for security reasons, but not so much the security of its residents as that of Fidel, from when he went almost daily to the ICRT studios for those interminable Roundtable shows that nobody misses.

This park, unlike the one located at Galiano and San Rafael where another important connection point operates, knows neither the scampering of children nor furtive kisses, now that no one will plot an attack from its heights, it should be offered to the internauts as a comfortable and secure zone, this vindicating its condition, giving it life and meaning.

Taxes and "Glamor" / Regina Coyula

Paris Hilton and Fidel Castro Jr, in Havana

Regina Coyula, 7 August 2015 — The mindless display of opulence bothers me ethically and aesthetically. But I have nothing against enrichment from legal sources and from the effort, talent, or ability of the individual.

The Cuban government takes a hypocritical position. On the one hand it is trying to prevent at all costs the personal enrichment of the emerging private entrepreneur class, subjecting them to restrictions and imposing inordinate taxes. On the other hand—not having ever experienced any of the restrictions suffered by the average citizen—it now aims to attract fresh foreign capital (accumulated in their home countries thanks to the absence of restrictive regulations like those imposed in ours) and also the tourism of the rich and famous, some of whom we have already seen parading through Cuba.

Translated by Tomás A.

The Government We Need / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Regina Coyula, Havana. 2 August 2015 — In light of the government’s refusal to dialog with the nonviolent opposition, the latter should start a discussion within itself, an exercise unfamiliar to Cubans. Instead, we are accustomed to extremes ranging from the consistent unanimity of our parliamentary sessions, to the commotion of a “disqualifying”* act of repudiation.

Change – gradual or drastic – is the possibility of change in the roles of power and the government is not interested. But society needs all its actors, whether they are dissidents or government supporters. One must be blind not to realize that Cuba is on the road to change. So for starters, our government should uphold its own laws that it disobeys time and time again when they are not in keeping with its interests. This would be just a beginning. However, as we already know, the authorities are not interested in what would follow. The experiences of Eastern Europe are still fresh in their minds. Continue reading

Debut and Dismissal / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 8 July 2015 — A note about this work by Juan Carlos Cremata arrived by mail. The final phrase is not mine:

Regrettably, the National Council of Performing Arts has decided to take down the poster of Eugene Ionesco’s Exit the King by El Ingenio theater group after its first two inaugural performances last weekend.

They will make the announcement public and official.

Once again it is evident that “Censorship does not exist.”

Don’t Look Away / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula

Antonio Rodiles After his Arrest

Antonio Rodiles After his Arrest

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Regina Coyula, Havana, 6 July 2015 — Ailer González, artistic director of the Estado de SATS project, called me on Sunday afternoon. Knowing it was her, I opened the communication with the festive and very pertinent question of whether she was a grandmother. Sounding crushed and full of indignation she let me know that Antonio Rodiles, her partner and director general of Estado de Sats had just arrived home. He had been savagely beaten in the morning by several individuals dressed in plainclothes while trying to get to the Sunday March of the Ladies in White; he was then arrested, and because of his injuries, taken to the hospital. Continue reading

The Secret To Good Frijoles Negros / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 19 June 2015 — Indispensable to any feast, everyone adds his or her own secret ingredient to the basic recipe for tomato-less sofrito*: the proportion of cumin, the cooking time over a low flame to congeal the bean, the sprinkle of dry wine, the pinch of sugar–in short, there are as many secrets as there are recipes.

I love black beans but, when in Barcelona I was invited to lunch at the Frijoles Negros Restaurant, I was alarmed: It didn’t seem proper to travel so far to eat what is routine fare here. However, Jorge, my nice host, managed set my mind at ease.

A semi-hidden location at No. 146 Carrer de Bruc street, almost at the corner with the busy Avenue Diagonal, houses this exquisitely designed spot that in no way recalls the accompanying themes of Cuban cuisine. White is the predominant color, with black/gray and red touches here and there, reproductions of Xavier Cugat posters, and that’s it. Continue reading

Skepticism / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 22 June 2015 — Today on the morning TV news I saw the live broadcast of the flag-waving ceremony by the delegation attending the Pan American Games in Canada. I am suspicious of those athletes who compete for the Fatherland, Socialism, the Five Heroes, Honor, etc., but not for something as normal and natural as winning a medal. The event was like carbon copy of the speeches and events of thirty years ago.

Cuba, with a smaller-than-normal delegation, aspires to finish second among the countries. While the camera panned the athletes in a formation more military ceremony than sports, I wondered skeptically which faces would not return, victims of the siren song of professional sports or the Cuban Adjustment Act.

Why Cuba could not build the new man promised by Che Guevara / Regina Coyula

All photos from the BBC

All photos from the BBC

Regina Coyula, from BBC Mundo, 4 June 2015 — One of the most attractive promises of the 1959 Cuban Revolution for a Third World thirsty for paradigms, was, undoubtedly, the prospect of a generous, industrious, learned and well-mannered human being.

This New Man would be the result of the new schools that as the cradles of a new race, together with the Marxist and Martist[1] combination of work and study, would forge a personality without the burdens of a bourgeois education.

Mass produced, the new man would put the collective interests above his own, and would take the future by assault to build a superior society. Continue reading

Privatized? / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 6 May 2015 — I have noticed that the old-time “conductor” has recently made a comeback on city buses (though the person driving them is still called the driver). Rather than using the fare box, passengers must now pay the conductor instead. Being the curious type, I got into a conversation with one of them and found out a few things that our informative newspaper Granma has not mentioned.

According to the conductor — the driver also joined in on the conversation — the buses are in essence leased to the workers, who are responsible for maintenance and repairs. However, the Chinese manufacturer will not ship spare parts because the state has not paid its bills. If anything breaks, fare receipts drop, so the bus company deals with it by unofficially passing the problem on to the drivers. Since the driver has his hands full, a co-worker — a driver himself — is there to make sure every passenger pays the requisite fare. Continue reading

The Summit from my TV / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula

Meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Americas during the Summit. (Summit of the Americas)

Meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Americas during the Summit. (Summit of the Americas)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Regina Coyula, Havana, 10 April 2105 – A clever strategy on the part of the Cuban government, with regards to the participation of the official civil society at the meeting associated with the Summit of the Americas, has been to present a delegation full of projects and good results from which they can look down on the newcomers from alternative civil society.

Cuban Television’s coverage – where the word ‘coverage’ is more akin to ‘cover up’ – identifies the official delegation, however, with objectives anchored in the era of the Cold War. They arrived in Panama with a fierce spirit and clear directions to not recognize independent civil society and to silence as much as possible its participation in the forum.

I don’t know if, after so much reading of the newspaper Granma, my granmar is so sharp that where others read patriotic indignation, I see lack of arguments; where they see maneuvers against Cuba, I interpret an intention to boycott the event. Continue reading

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