Second Calls Are Never Good

In a previous posting, I had commented on the entrance exams for university education, which this year were a disaster, so a second call was made to compete for places that were not occupied by the kids who passed at the first opportunity. For this second call they gave reviews from May until now. The test should have taken place on Thursday July 15, but when the students arrived in the classroom, the test had been suspended. It soon leaked out that the suspension was due to the questions leaking out. I cannot imagine a bunch of kids executing a robbery Mission Impossible-style; rather I see a tempting wad of money passed with discretion under the table. Do you remember a recent post titled “Explode“?

My Personal Hero

The disenchantment with a political process that was mine, might make me look like a cynic. I’ve developed an unconscious suspicion of politicians, and if they are charismatic, it’s even worse. But there is a man who reconciles me with politicians and partially gives me back my trust in this necessary evil. That man is Nelson Mandela.

His fight against apartheid is well known, his years in jail, his freedom and then his election as the first black President of South Africa. If that controversial prize, which is the Nobel, has been so unfair several times, with Mandela it is justified and it does justice to a fighter who moved from violence to understanding and respect.

All that alone would ennoble Mandela. But my personal Mandela is great because he forgave the offenses, and because after becoming President, venerated by his people and the entire world, he didn’t pretend to be the owner of the keys to govern and he retired from politics leaving behind him a healthy democratic precedent for his young country.

Congratulations Mandela, my hero, my friend.

Translated by Al

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Regina’s Blog: Bad Handwriting.

Binomial of Three

Frank Delgado and Buena Fe have made a record together. I like the chemistry of these artists a lot, they have a very good eye for looking and for making music which is catchy and makes you think at the same time. The first song, Extremistas Nobles, from which the record gets its name, is a statement of intentions. The songs of love (and loss) are excellent, Retazos de amor, and especially the bachata song Loco por ti have beautiful lyrics. I have always been a fan of Frank Delgado, a rebellious singer who hasn’t been broadcast as much as he deserves precisely for that- he answers back. The duo of Israel and Joel, who are also among my favorites, have had a successful career starting with Sicología al día, and even though they have been marketed, broadcast and received several awards, some of their songs have been censored; but beware: the young crowds still sing their songs and fill their concerts.

This new record is a mix between both styles, which makes it very unconventional. Lacking any pictures for this post, I post here the lyrics for Cubannolito.

Please visit rockason.wordpress.com. I wanted to post some audio from the song here, but I didn’t know how to do it.

Hey, my brother, how come nobody wants to be Cuban anymore

And everyone is busily searching for their ancestors

Do you remember the black Marcelo, all dark and with long grelos

He got a blue passport*, yes, because he’s got a Basque great-grandfather.

Patriotism comes with many strings attached, I’ve been a Cuban for four generations.

The Spanish are achieving what the Gringos couldn’t

Maybe next year we’ll already be subjects of King Juan Carlos.

Nor was it that the Bourbons managed to be a panacea

But they got into the parade and now they’re the door to the European Union.

Perucho Figueredo** points his arrow up. It so happens the Spanish anthem doesn’t have lyrics.

I say what I think: Little Spaniard, say pal what’s up, or low grade Cuban.

And so I find many acquaintances, practicing this new sport, running with the whole family to make sure nobody ends without a passport.

And since it comes with the right to vote in spanish elections, their candidates will be coming to campaign in Cuba.

The good things and the bad things. Fighting to paint or to fade the flag.

If you’re Cuban they will bust your balls (with a stone). The voice of command has a Spanish accent.

When you finally get to be a Spaniard you’ll feel important, you’ll finally be able to travel and even open an elegant restaurant.

What I would like the most is a trip to Spain, but everyone is going from the slum to luxury, it’s becoming a crowd. To the Nigerian embassy!

Translator’s Notes:
* Spanish passport.
** Composer of the Cuban national anthem

Translated by: Xavier Noguer

Telephone

Since I started this blog I’ve felt like never before the isolation produced by not having a phone line. It’s not that I didn’t want one. If blame needs to be apportioned to anyone or anything besides the boycott and the imperialist menace it should be to my husband who never wanted a phone line when he was still an active member of the Cuban Artists and Writers Union (UNEAC for its initials in Spanish). His reasoning was that the telephone ring, the same as the door ring, would upset the state of grace in which he needed to immerse himself in order to write. By the time he knew about answering machines he was already a “writer on hiatus” as he likes saying, and despite my begging he didn’t want to ask for a letter from UNEAC avowing his condition as a founding member of the institution. For those who are lost at this point of the story, I have to clarify that the telephone company is in charge of deploying new lines, but only after being authorized by the Poder Popular Municipal, which is more or less the equivalent of a city government.

Somewhere around six years ago, and without my husband knowing, I went to UNEAC’s literature section and filed a written application for e-mail service, to be “anchored” to the telephone line from my mother’s house. I was told back then that it would take some time because of upgrades on the CUBARTE server taking place at the moment, and I never got an answer afterwards. It seems that my husband doesn’t meet their criteria on reliability, or they knew beforehand that he wouldn’t accept the signed user agreement included in the contract, which implies that no information criticizing the government may be sent or received.

I’m considering now applying for a mobile phone, but I haven’t decided yet, for as long as there are no fixed tariff plans, which is what I really want, a mobile phone may be a luxury or a necessity depending on circumstances.

Translated by: Xavier Noguer

Sports Chronicle

I

Bishop Ortega as a striker just made the decisive goal after a pass from Moratinos. Key in making this play was the impressive defender Fariñas and the timely intervention of the regulars always dressed in white. Once again the team play and short but effective passes, end in victory.

II

Something unprecedented has happened. On the occasion of the World Cup, young people have flooded several of the capital’s downtown cinemas to watch the games. They have created a stadium atmosphere with flags, t-shirts, posters, wigs, makeup, and even the grating vuvuselas have appeared in Havana to break the monotony of the first evening of this summer vacation.

III

And while my sympathy is with Guardiola and Barca, from the beginning of the World Cup I put my hopes in Spain. And they didn’t  let me down against Germany, it’s not important they didn’t have more goals; the match was so nice, so effective was the famous tiquitaca, that I think yes, on Sunday instead of shouting GOOOAL! the sportscasters are going to cry OLEEEEEE!

Oil

As a child, I remember the great commotion that erupted with the discovery of oil on the beach in Guanabo. The enthusiasm was such that it seemed that our need for crude would be solved with these wells. In the best native chauvinism, it was as if we would to prove to the Americans and Soviets that we didn’t need them. Many years later the Guanabo oil is remembered for the filth and stench of sulfur that it left on the beach. Nobody talked then of analyzing the cost/benefit relationship. That was a time when the term environmental pollution had not appeared.

I wouldn’t be thinking of this anecdote if I hadn’t seen, along the coast between La Habana del Este and Cojimar, a tower and several oil rigs, right on Route 58 (Bus Station = Reparto Bahia); I heard there would be more because the Chinese are investing.

Now that we are indeed familiar with terms such as environment, ecosystem, environmental licensing, and related pollution, I wonder if we analyze the cost/benefit. I am no specialist, but is it worth it to get oil out of the city and run the risk of death damaging its deteriorating but beautiful heritage?

Exploited

The workers of Ali Bar took exploited people by adulterating the products and prices. Those of the consulate of Spain by selling citizenships. Those of Rio Zaza by stealing from the Treasury and other et ceteras. The high school teachers exploited the students of the high school Comandancia de La Plata by selling exams. Housing inspectors of the Plaza municipality by accepting bribes. A cosmetic surgeon in Ameijeiras Hospital by converting a new bathroom in his house into implants in the operating room. The Party secretary of Havana by influence-peddling … And so on.

The denominator of this conglomeration is corruption. A phenomenon that has metastasized in our country, sometimes facilitated by government figures or government structures, sometimes without the government able to avoid it. The truth is that we have become a people of swindlers,receivers of stolen property and related crimes, because the morality of survival is permissive and semantic trickery disguises a guilty conscience.

Those who steal are said to “fight,” to divert resources is to “resolve.” We will have a democracy when the laws of biology take effect, but it will be difficult to return to people the perception of where evil deeds begin. The laws may be violated not only by taking the bills from someone’s pocket or the application of violence. Those born after 1959 have never known it, though perhaps they heard of it, and understanding what the rule of law is and moral learning will take time.

I’ll know things are progressing when one can purchase milk or cement in the same market at an affordable price relative to incomes.

Guillermo Fariñas in the Newspaper Granma

Saturday’s Granma newspaper featured an extensive interview with the doctor treating Guillermo Fariñas at the hospital in Salnta Clara. I was overwhelmed by so many technicalities. Although the interview does not mention figures, I sense that so much attention could cost a considerable sum of money. Money that could be saved.

The unusual presence of such information in the official media tells me that Fariñas is in critical condition and the defensive posture of the government will focus on showing Fariñas died because of refusing to eat, because the doctors did everything to avoid it. And that is certain, but it is not the truth.

In his hunger strike, Fariñas is not asking anything for himself. Fariñas calls for medical parole of sick prisoners. Prisoners who attacked no barracks, who placed no bombs,  that was bombed, who executed no enemies, who undertook no kidnappings. Inmates who continue to pray to Marti, a man who said: a man who does not dare to say what he thinks is not an honest man.

I have discussed with my family and friends, the impression it makes on me that Fariñas does not want to die but is prepared to die. The cries will come for the  intensification of the media war, and garmets will be rent at such an injustice. But the death of Guillermo Coco Fariñas will be a shadow over the current Cuban president everywhere he goes because he could have avoided it.

Railroad Will

Cuba is a long and narrow island, with discrete mountain ranges along the coasts, ideal conditions for a good railroad. We were pioneers in this invention and being a colony of Spain, we had it before the metropolis. We should have an excellent rail network, it is an economic means of transport, ideal for the conditions of our poor country.

For many years the rail service has been awful. The trains are almost never depart or arrive on time, to the point of adding hours to a trip the farther it goes. Using the parcel service is to risk losing the contents of the package, whether by loss or damage, especially with food.

Once in the dark train cars, the bathrooms stink, the snacks are third class, I recall that you can travel in local currency, if you want a better offer, it’s in in foreign currency. You have to get used to the speed reductions, frequent stops and being shunted to sidings.

The condition of the roads has led to some very powerful and publicized locomotives, acquired from the People’s Republic of China, that can barely run at 30 kilometers per hour.

As already announced, 6,000 kilometers of roads will be rehabbed in the next three years. Elementary arithmetic tells me that fto accomplish that goal 5.5 km must be completed every day per day, a more frenetic pace than the train. The new vice president, Lussón, is the one who is going to resolve this complex issue of recovering the railway. He has experience in the field, as a young man he served as Minister of Transport. I wonder why it hasn’t been maintained all these years?

Fresh Air

The first time I heard of Carmelo Mesa Lago, he was a Cubanologist seconded to a Center of Diversionary Political Ideology as it was called at the university where Mesa Lago was a researcher in the ’80s. A very dangerous man as I recall. Years later I met Mesa Lago again in his collaborations with the magazine Encounter. Reading it, I understood his bad reputation of old. He is a diligent researcher with serious scientific method and data, necessary to reconstruct the map of the Cuban economy and an essential reference for scholars within and outside Cuba.

Just two weeks ago Carmelo Mesa Lago was in Havana. It seems that as part of the visit of Monsignor Mamberti, they authorized his visit Cuba. They didnt’ want to tell the Church no. At the Fernando Ortiz Foundation, Mesa Lago touched on interesting themes, among others, the need for dialogue, and of having partners for this dialogue. Like one who doesn’t want things, he talked about an issue that will occupy us in the future: dialogue among all Cubans. And that dialogue must be use the colloquial language spoken by siblings after they have gone a long time without seeing each other. Thank you very much to Carmelo Mesa Lago. For its part, the proposal is made.

Here Comes the Wolf! / Regina Coyula

My neighbor Tomás is very concerned because he just found out that a new war is coming. The newspaper on Tuesday June 29, confirmed his suspicions of Friday. According to his reading the imperialists will use the World Cup to fall on Iran*. He doesn’t doubt it, as Fidel warns of it in two of his regular columns, which are titled “Reflections.” Tomás does not ask why he wasn’t aware of such serious news until now, despite the fact that the initial incidents did not occur last week but much earlier, but these incidents have passed through our information sources with a very low-profile because they involved leaders friendly to the Cuban government.

Now that tempers have heated up they warn us of imminent war. People better informed than I am are astonished because the war is not in any of the news from other parts of the world (well, I guess in Iran and North Korea they don’t talk of anything else). My neighbor Tomás’s concern is how the war would affect us, for he, God in Heaven and Fidel on Earth, also according to his own words, Fidel has never been wrong about external politics, and he adds sadly, “It’s unfortunate that it hasn’t been the same with regards to internal things affecting us.”

*Translator’s note: More precisely, Fidel has been saying — in his newspaper column — that there will be a global nuclear war before the end of the World Cup in South Africa.

Damages

In a case of total amnesia, my PC remembers nothing of what I had on its hard drive because a virus duplicated all the archives until it broke the machine. In a normal country, this wouldn’t be so serious, but in mine the results are catastrophic. I lost all the texts I’ve written for the blog; I lost all my photographs… my photos!!!, my addresses and letters, but on I go, looking at my reality through bifocals.