Laughing at the Castros, a Mortal Sin / Cubanet, Victor Manuel Dominguez

Eleuterio, character in the play “Crematorium” (archive photo)

For the Cuban government, when satire is against the “enemy,” it is useful and refreshing. Otherwise it is subversive

cubanet square, Victor Manuel Dominguez, Havana, 15 October 2015 – In a country where joking, sarcasm, satire, mockery, in sum, any kind of humor, are more daily than our stunted, acidic, furry and greenish daily bread, the authorities become tense and wage war on any joke large or small that unleashes laughter.

Apparently, political and economic control, leftovers for citizens and other deeds by a Revolution in power, prevent them from chuckling, laughing or even cracking a smile that allows them to resemble a human being and not the miserable lout who fears a raspberry more than the Devil on the cross. Continue reading “Laughing at the Castros, a Mortal Sin / Cubanet, Victor Manuel Dominguez”

Politicians by Decree and Illiterate by Submission / Cubanet, Victor Manuel Dominguez

20080405035345-raulcubanet square, Victor Manuel Dominguez, Havana, 24 June 2015 – Abel Prieto rides again. Not as the author of two little novels whose names I cannot remember. Nor as the ex-president of a union of writers and authors more sold to the powers-that-be than self-help books at the Havana book fair, or reproductions of “Still Life with the Leader” at an art exposition committed to who knows what.

Never ever as that ex-minister of culture, with long hair and little sense, who declared that poets like Raul Rivera could be jailed, but they would not show up shot in the head at the edge of some ditch. Now, such a sad political figure, he rides as the cultural adviser to the Cuban president.

Other “Kultural Pajes”

As the Spanish writer Arturo Perez Reverte said in his article “Kultural Pajes” from the book With Intent to Offend, “The more illiterate the politicians are – in Spain those two words almost always are synonymous – the more they like to appear in the cultural pages of the newspapers.” Continue reading “Politicians by Decree and Illiterate by Submission / Cubanet, Victor Manuel Dominguez”

The Lying Cuban Press / Cubanet, Victor Manuel Dominguez

Archive photo An elderly man selling Granma. Headline: “Raul will speak tomorrow”
Archive photo An elderly man selling Granma. Headline: “Raul will speak tomorrow”

Montonous, grey, controlled, censored, demagogic, jingoistic, for more than half a century as spokesperson for phantom successes

cubanet square, Victor Manuel Dominguez, Havana, 31 March 2015 (Cuba Sindical) – The “Revolutionary” Cuban press, characterized as demagogic, monotonous, manipulative, with a grey design, poor quality paper, without stylistic and conceptual diversity, born of the mortal remains of a free press that was censored and later banned from the inception of the Revolution.

Always under state control, the role of spokesperson of governmental policy and ideology, the lack of objectivity is required, and the omission or disguising of what really is happening in the country. Faced with its pathetic role, several Cubans talked about censorship, rumors and secrecy in the national press.

The Tagline

“Still, we are lucky that we are not sentenced to jail for wiping our backsides with the image of Marx, Mao, Stalin, or the victorious face of a leader of the country on a first page, like the followers of Kim Il Sung used to be in Pyongyang,” Ernesto Penalver said ironically. Continue reading “The Lying Cuban Press / Cubanet, Victor Manuel Dominguez”

You Don’t Remember the Parametracion*? / Victor Manuel Dominguez

Heberto Padilla

Havana, Cuba – If April was the cruelest month for the Anglo-American poet T.S. Eliot, for Cuban writers and artists it has always been a nightmare. Disqualifications, censorship, marginalization and prison for ideological, sexual and religious “deviations” turn the freedom of creation into a nightmare.

While the so-called “Words to the intellectuals” — Within the Revolution everything; against the Revolution, nothing — spoken by Fidel Castro signified a political corral for artistic and literary work in Cuba, the April diatribes transformed Cuban authors into docile sheep. Continue reading “You Don’t Remember the Parametracion*? / Victor Manuel Dominguez”

Santa Claus in Old Havana / Victor Manuel Dominguez

HAVANA, Cuba, December 24, – After all Christmas festivities, including Christmas Eve, New Year’s and Three Kings Day were, with the greatest silliness, ended by decree, the image of workers in the tourist industry decked out as Santa Claus, sweating away in hats, beards and boots (with no air conditioning to save electricity at their workplace), could not be more ridiculous.

To make this domestic comedy even more extreme, they strut around in their exotic hats bought with their own money, hoping to present an image of well-being that is belied by the poorly stocked shelves, and above all by a family atmosphere fragmented by the machinery of a revolutionary horde that never believed in God.

The elderly Otilia, who according to her own words is poorer than a rat, lived decently before 1959, with decency and the ability to enjoy real Christmas celebration in Cuba, gives short shrift to the unusual scene where there are little trees, Santa Clauses playing the saxophone, or garlands whose bulbs flash on and off depressingly, trying to look happy.

Continue reading “Santa Claus in Old Havana / Victor Manuel Dominguez”

The Literary Mafia in Cuba / Víctor Manuel Dominguez

HAVANA, Cuba, October, -The overall control the authorities have established over the publishing system, promotional spaces, travel agendas, and whatever takes place on the country’s artistic-literary plans, brings many writers together in a kind of mafic that some prefer to call a “clan,” a “pineapple” and other words that mean the same: “Interest groups.”

Joined by friendship and affinities of aesthetics, politics, generations, race, sexual orientation, or simply for advantaged access to publishing opportunities, spaces of influence or prevalence in the rarefied Cuban literary market, those involved in this war of interests defend, by any means, the groups chosen for their personal realization.

In a country where everything is measured by the common denominator of the unconditionality of the regime, these groups, driven to certain tricks that allow them to expel or disqualify others, living together without public displays of animosity, but alone tripping each other up, setting dirty traps, and making use of their space gained at any price for their works, styles, shapes and themes: these are the literary reference points of the nation.

That’s why the Cuban literary mafia, beyond their ambitions for or vision of the national literature, share control, participate in book presentations, and even serve on contest juries that know ahead of time who will win, or organize a story or poetry anthology where members of each group appear in equal parts, like a pact of honor among mediocre authors who represent the interests of the clan.

For many years, and in the corridors of clerks, careerists, believed, and other members of the various literary trends, walking the gardens of UNEAC (Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba) — mojito in hand — among other places of cultural interest, four denominations have arisen to “characterize” each group in the national literary watering hole.

Cafe Literario Attendees -- Photo from VMD
Cafe Literario Attendees — Photo from VMD

The first, baptized The School of ’Socialist’ Realism (also know by its rivals as The Penis Club), brings together the macho egocentrics who call themselves realists, “filling key posts in magazines, publishers, and the country’s promotional institutions, despising other current modalities. Their totem is Mario Varga Llosa.”

For natural opposition, the second group is called The Pink Mafia, with the principle characteristic of its coreligionists being homosexualities. The defend fantasy and absurdist literature, and their works revolve around the issue of gays looking for a place in society. They are belligerent, to the point of scandal, toward their counterparts in the Penis Club. Their idol is Virgilio Piñera.

The third is called The Black Colony, because it “brings together individuals of this race united in asserting their neglected rights in a mass mixed-race yearning, at all costs, to pass through Aryan, Nordic, Slavic or Latin, according to its spokespeople.” Their literature is a provocation, conceptual, deconstructivist. Your guardian angel is Severo Sarduy .

In last place, The School for Wives, whom The Penis Club call Clitoris Hall, or Hell, due to the fickleness of their demands, and a fierce feminism which advocates a generic discourse to gain areas of sociocultural emphasis, and is uses to achieve their purposes. Their idol is Simone de Beauvoir.

These and other qualifications heard at gatherings, exhibitions, bars; or read in publicized controversies in literary magazines (Yoss), and books such as Questions of Water and Earth (Jesus David Curbelo), show us the interior panorama of an exclusive literature, divided and censored, that lost its influence on the cultural heritage of the nation.

Víctor Manuel Domínguez,

Cubanet, 18 October 2013

No Respect for the Teacher / Victor Manuel Dominguez (Posted on Dora Leonor Mesa’s Blog)

By Víctor Manuel Domínguez

Havana, Cuba, 2.7.2013

Another academic year with more pain than glory comes to its end (2012/2013). Another mess-up. Never mind that the information media go on about the advances in the pedagogical methodology, the implementation of the plan, the improvement in the basics of study, the improvement in the learning of the student body, and exemplary discipline.

The parents, teachers, education sector managers and the students know it isn’t so.

The promises of better courses for the students are erased like words written in chalk. The fraud, corruption and the lack of interest in teaching or learning are common in the schools.

The reasons why, course after course, things go from bad to worse, are there. The frustration of many professional parents who hardly have enough to live on, the low salary of the educators who can’t survive to the end of the month, the corruption of many directors, and the lack of prospects on the part of the pupils, are more than enough to ensure things don’t get any better.

Obdulia Camacho (not her real name), librarian, ethnologist and professor of literature and Spanish for more than six decades, says that the education sector is one of the worst and most complex in the country, because of its influence on the formation of the people from infancy.

“Before, without learning, you couldn’t advance,” she said.

At the age of 80, she still works in the sector on a contract basis. Although, as she points out, because of her low pay (about 350 pesos in national money, $16 USD) she has had to work as an attendant in a hospital and receptionist in a primary school, as well as washing and ironing for anybody who wants it, looking after people who are ill, among other work she does to make up her salary, because she has a daughter and a grandchild to support.

In accordance with her authoritative opinion, indiscipline in the sector is general. The study plans leave much to be desired. Most education centers are in bad condition in regard to basic needs, sanitary fittings, but above all education is miserable because of lack of values and corruption.

“Last week,” she said, “the mother of a student in a school located at 20 de Mayo and Ayestarán in El Cerro, turned up very upset in the center’s management office and shouted that her daughter had to pass the physics exam, since she had paid $20 in order that she wouldn’t have any problem with the grade.”

In another school in Central Havana, a student taking an exam stood up in the middle of the class and, in a disrespectful and threatening manner, went up to a female teacher, who had been in the sector for more than 40 years, and shouted at her:” Hey you, cross-eyes, if I don’t come out well in this test, you will see what happens to you.”

The teacher started crying.

According to Obdulia, although such things can happen in any country, the causes are distinctly different in Cuba, whose educational system is permeated by a disproportionate control, coercion and indoctrination of the student body to the detriment of a free and universal education.

“It’s embarrassing”, she said, “that with so many basic problems, like indiscipline, the frustration on choosing a course which offers hardly any benefit, the sale of exams – recently recognised by the official press [1] – the favoritism and a thousand things more that demand radical change in the national educational system, they still talk as if nothing was wrong and they hold up the Cuban educational system as an example which the world should follow.

Another academic year with more pain than glory, comes to its end. The teachers dream that in the following year their pay will go up and their working conditions will improve. The parents pray because the vacations are coming up soon. And the students enjoy themselves away from a classroom which gives them more nightmares than dreams.

[1] Recognised recently in the official press.

Translated by GH

16 September 2013

A Palestinian in Havana: Why am I illegal, isn’t it the capital of all Cubans? / Víctor Manuel Domínguez

A "Palestinian" with his residence permit.
A “Palestinian” with his residence permit.

HAVANA, Cuba , September, – Héctor Pulgar Fernández has a temporary residence permit for Havana, but not the right to sell chiviricos (thin strips of cake batter, fried and dusted with sugar), because he has no license to trade. A native of the town Bartolomé Masó, in Granma province, he decided to return to the capital to make a living at anything.

Today he flees from the police, hides, and sells chiviricos to survive and to ensure that if caught will he will not be sent back to the East.

He earned a teaching credential in the Camilo Cienfuegos School in his area, and he taught mathematics to 7th grades in the municipality for 236 Cuban pesos a month, during the 2001-2002 school year. With expectations of success, he accepted a job here for 425 pesos a month.

Dazzled by the promise of good food, shelter and other possibilities among which he could continue to live in the capital, he taught the same subject and grade level, Nené Traviesa, Hermanas Giral and other schools in Havana from 2003-2008. Disappointed, the teacher returned to Bartolome Maso .

“Nothing was as promised. The food was slop, the housing conditions were a shack, and I didn’t stay because when there were enough capital graduates to fill the jobs, I would have to return home. In addition, 400 pesos here don’t last even half as long as 200 there. And what of the 21st Century Mambises,” it’s just a daily battle.

At 28-years-old, married with a young woman who also graduated as a teacher, although working in his native town, Héctor Pulgar Hernández, according to his expression, “had to invent it in the air to survive.”

Determined to get out of what he considers the medieval backwardness there in the mountains of Bartolome Maso, he thought that as a citizen of the country he had the right to seek better employment in “Havana, the capital of all Cubans,” as the official slogan says.

“Everything was a mess. Having no change of direction they did not give me work, and worse, when I went out and the police stopped me, seeing on my ID card where I lived, they told me I was illegal and had to return to my place of origin, or I would get a fine the first time, and the second, I would end up in a cell until they could deport me,” he said.

Back in Granma province he worked in whatever came up, not returning to teaching because of the low wages, the lack of consideration, and great number of activities and other extracurricular work that, more than a teacher, were the work of a member of the Young Communist Union, or what’s worse, a labor union or Party militant.

In 2012 he returned and started selling whatever came up illegally. He was captured by the police and as he was a repeat offender they gave him an official warning that he couldn’t return to the capital for five years, and he was taken to the police station Zapata and C, and from there to the Blanquita detention center, until they filled the train car and he was deported.

On arriving in Bartolome Maso, he fined 350 pesos for illegal movement, and warned that if he returned to Havana, he could expect to go to prison at El Tipico de Manzanillo or Las Mangas , in Bayamo, both in Granma province.

But through bribes he is here, with a temporary residence permit for six months (May 29 – November 29, 2013 ), and as he can’t get work, he sells chiviricos illegally, fleeing the police, hiding, and ensuring that if they don’t catch him he won’t be sent back.

“I’m like a Palestinian in the Gaza Strip or Israel. Without rights. That’s what some people in Havana pejoratively call us. We can not live in the capital of our own nation.”

By Víctor Manuel Domínguez,

From Cubanet