In the Streets of Bogota, Thousands of Venezuelans Barely Survive

Many Venezuelans walk hundreds and thousands of kilometers, carrying their children, to get to Bogotá in search of work and economic relief. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Bogota, 15 February 2020 – There are three of them and they are sitting on a wall in front of a restaurant in the Chapinero neighborhood. The girl is restless and the mother tries to keep her from walking into the busy avenue. Meanwhile, the father asks for money. He is about 20 years old and all the bones of his face are visible. “We come from Caracas, we arrived here last week,” says the young Venezuelan, who identifies himself as Andrés.

I start a conversation and just listening to my accent he pulls back, on guard. The few syllables I pronounce act as a threat to his ears. “Relax, I’m Cuban, I’m not a Castro supporter,” I say, to calm him, but the fear is in his eyes, opened wider than a second ago, in his nervous stutter, and in his grabbing of his belongings.

I sit down next to him to allay his suspicion and tell him it’s my fault, a heavy weight that I carry on my shoulders. “I understand what you are living through, we are responsible in some way,” I say. I keep talking and it eases the tension and he talks. “We left with what we had on, madre, our feet are still destroyed by the journey,” and he shows me his shoes with holes big enough to put his little finger through. continue reading

It’s noon and the Bogota street is a swarm of people leaving their offices for lunch. For most of those who pass by, these three Venezuelans are virtually invisible. The city is full of them, at every corner, at every traffic light and in every neighborhood. According to figures published by Migration Colombia last August, at that time there were 1,408,055 of these migrants in the country, an increase of 11% compared to the first quarter of 2019.

However, the numbers may be far from the reality because many migrants are in the country irregularly, or are in the process of legalizing their status. It is enough to travel the streets of the Colombian capital, approach the border towns or spend a few hours in some office where the paperwork is prepared to get an identity card, to realize the impressive scale of this exodus.

Scrubbing windshields, performing as “living statues” or asking for alms, Bogotá is overflowing with displaced Venezuelans. (14ymedio)

Outside a Carulla supermarket, Elmer, 16, sells empanadas and arepas. For two thousand Colombian pesos (about 60¢ US), he offers his merchandise warm and wrapped in napkins. “I came with my grandmother, my mother and my two sisters, but I am the only one in the family who can work now,” he says. “In Venezuela we left my other two brothers and my grandfather, so we have to send them money.”

Elmer dropped out of school more than three years ago, when the economic situation in his nation hit bottom. “All my friends left and in the end it was my turn,” he explains. He has the look of an old man who has seen the ups and downs of life, he speaks without hope and, every so often, checks the coins he has earned, polishes them and collects them in a small pile.

“On a bad day I make 50,000 Colombian pesos in this corner,” he says. That’s less than 15 dollars, a small fortune in his country, where shortages and inflation have turned money into a balloon that goes up and up to the stratosphere. But in Bogotá, Elmer and his family can barely survive with that, after the remittances they have to send home and the rent of a tiny apartment.

The family entered the country through the border city of Cúcuta. Elmer does not like to talk about his time in that border region, but only says “there, my older sister and my mother took charge.” It is not necessary to add anything else, the prostitution of Venezuelan women in that area has skyrocketed in recent years and in the brothels doctors, nurses, engineers and teachers take turns, due to the economic despair that has led them to sell their bodies.

A customer heading into the Carulla approaches Elmer to buy some empanadas. “Two meat and one cheese,” he specifies, and the young man’s hands, wrapped in plastic gloves, dip into a small pot. He is also wearing a facemask, which in these times of the coronavirus implies another meaning. “No, it’s that customers don’t like us to breathe on the merchandise,” he says.

Elmer’s younger sister is called Cinthia; she is a girl of about eight who appears past noon bringing more empanadas. She was born in March 2013, shortly before Hugo Chavez died, and of her country all she has left are some of her brother’s photos, some of the flavors still served in her family’s kitchen, and nostalgia. She already has some Colombian friends she met in public school.

When Elmer was born, Cuba was living high on the hog, supported by the Venezuelan subsidy. Those were the years when the Battle of Ideas, the Energy Revolution and all the ideological excesses that Havana could afford were at their peak expression. Home appliances were distributed at preferential prices, public acts of revolutionary vindication were organized every week and ideological propaganda reached amazing levels.

So Elmer’s drama is partly a consequence of our waste and folly. On an island that has always had continental aspirations, this propensity to suck the resources of great powers became an official practice in the last half century. Some even point to Cuba as among the causes of the Soviet Union’s implosion, but what does seems certain is that we are one of the great reasons for the Venezuelan debacle.

The year that Elmer’s younger sister Cinthia arrived in this world, the bubble had begun to burst. Chávez was ill, his popularity in a tailspin, the Plaza of the Revolution increasingly mentioned as the cause of a good part of Venezuela’s problems and life in Caracas was very uncertain, dangerous and difficult. In Cuba, most of us did not even realize the drama we had caused in one of the richest nations in Latin America.

Some Venezuelans can only survive thanks to public charity. (14ymedio)

It is tremendously hot in Bogotá. I look at both siblings, buy an empanada and eat it near the steaming pot, along with a low-sugar lemonade Elmer, who is almost ten years younger than my son, has prepared for me himself.

Uber was kicked out of Colombia on January 31, so when I can’t wait for public transportation I must appeal to Beat, a mobile application that has partly replaced the American giant. I enter the address, request a car and Joaquín arrives, a Colombian with a good-natured smile who splashes the conversation throughout the trip with jargon like huevón (“bro” and also “dickhead”), marica (faggot) ​​and gonorrea. I do not flinch, I know that in Bogotá these are phrases almost of love.

Joaquin works more than twelve hours every day. I get into the vehicle by the door next to the driver, because they prefer it for safety reasons, and then he starts complaining about the extremes of the weather, ranging from 1 degree Celsius in the morning to more than 25 at noon. “You have to be like an onion and take off your clothes as the day progresses,” he explains. The vehicle moves with a desperate slowness, about 10 or 15 kilometers per hour because of the trancones (traffic jams). The red light catches us and a young man throws himself on the windshield and announces, with a Venezuelan accent, his services before starting to spray a liquid on the glass.

“Some come here to work but others do not,” Joaquin tells me while pointing to the young man. Then start he starts enumerating the issues against migrants that could be heard anywhere in the world. That “they work for less and displace local workers”; that “they are not like the people here and do not know how to behave”; that “they are everywhere and this is already unbearable”; that “we are not prepared for the arrival of so many people”… I listen in silence and when he pauses, I take advantage of it and say:” Nobody leaves their country with a smile.”

Joaquin looks at me as if he had just discovered me. He inspects my face and takes the opportunity to add: “All emigration is full of pain.” The young man finishes drying the windshield, the traffic light turns green and Joaquin leaves him some coins before stepping on the accelerator and heading down 70th Street. “And where are you from, who knows so much about this?” he asks me. “I’m from the place where part of the problem began,” I say and shut up.

“Take care, little lady,” says Joaquin, as I get out of the car. “Not everyone is good in this city, watch out for the venocos, he says, in an allusion to Venezuelans, and in that last sentence I notice – underneath it – a certain Argentine accent.  Joaquin who seemed more Colombian than the poet José Asunción Silva – whose face is on the 5,000-peso bill – turns out not to be from here either and has come from another place, like me, like Elmer and Cinthia… like Andrés.

I’m at the Colombian Migration office on 100th Street. The line starts early. There is everything: Europeans, Americans, South Americans, but especially many Venezuelans. A guard at the entrance listens to each case and indicates which line to follow once inside the place. In front of a machine with a touch screen, several migrants gather.

Some will be redirected to the top floor, to a ticket office on the right hand side, or rejected because they still do not have all the requirements to request an identity card. The Venezuelan Marcia and her two children manage to move to the upper floor where they take fingerprints, take some photos and tell them that, in about a week their identification card will be ready. Outside, some friends who are waiting for them hug them as if they have been born again.

Nostalgia, memories of how they lived in their country and a dream of returning in the future, are feelings shared by these Venezuelan migrants. (14ymedio)

“In silence I have suffered so many sorrows / because my soul is so good and I cannot control it,” sings Vanessa on the corner; another Venezuelan, 22. She comes from the state of Zulia. Every morning she goes out to raise some money with her cousin Juan Carlos. They carry a huge wireless speaker and stand on a corner of Bogotá’s Carrera 11*. “If I have never given motives / I don’t know selfishness / and I do no one any wrong,” the speaker roars.

The vehicles stop with the red light, Vanessa steps up her singing, which mimics the interpretation of Reynaldo de Armas, also known by the nickname Cardinal Sabanero. The heat tops 80 degrees and the young woman wears leather pants and wields a microphone with the mastery of someone who is on a glamorous stage. Some coins fall into the hat under her feet.

“If this is the life / the one that marks our way / the way we must travel / for bad or for good / I must take this route / and we are going to follow it / even if we lose, she sings, and after her emotional performance she pauses. I approach her and introduce myself, but I try to imitate the local accent because I don’t want to scare her. “Cuban, right?” she snaps as soon as she hears me. I just shake my head, what else can I do.

What could I say to her? That she is on that corner repeating the same song hundreds of times, to a large extent because my country swallowed up the resources of hers, because we exported a failed model to them, one that has condemned our Island to begging and Venezuela, practically, to dismemberment. But Vanessa is not interested in my apologies. “I’m still not resigned / let me keep fighting / my desire is to win,” she begins to sing as soon as she sees the traffic light change color.

*Translator’s note: In Bogota’s street system calles run east-west and carreras run north-south.

_________________

COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Is the Cuban Government Losing the Battle of the Social Networks?

Screen capture of a message, now deleted, published by the Ministry of Education on Monday. “When the sequins and their deceptive brightness are removed, it is worth asking the cyber justices, is Andy Vázquez a misunderstood civic-minded type? Don’t fuck with me, try it on someone else.”

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 11 February 2020 — Ministries, institutions or public figures, no matter where you look, the Cuban government is losing the battle on social networks and the hardest blows come from their own ranks. Vulgarities, threats, challenges to physical fights and tons of typos are some of the most repeated stupidities on the Twitter and Facebook accounts that give voice to the authorities of the Island.

The most recent stumble is the responsibility of the Ministry of Education (Mined), which reproduced in a tweet, now deleted, without mentioning that it was a quote or putting it in quote marks, a text against the actor who plays the popular character Facundo on TV. “Is Andy Vázquez a misunderstood civic-minded type? Don’t fuck with me, try it on someone else,” says the message that has caused an avalanche of criticism for the foul language used by this educational institution.

However, it’s not the Ministry’s tweet that is the greatest vulgarity that has been published in the account of a Cuban institution nor is it something unusual in the official discourse, accustomed to revolutionary bravado and using an arboreal language believing it thus places itself closer to the people. Actually, it has been a very old practice in the propaganda of Castroism, which stands out for everything from its sexual metaphors, to direct allusions to male gonads as symbols of patriotism and courage. continue reading

The difference is that while everything remained in the field of the articulated word, of the shout launched in the middle of an act of repudiation against a dissident or reduced to a motto written on a fence on the street, the diffusion was minor. But now, with thousands or millions of eyes on the official accounts of social networks, every little slip, every rough word and every aggressive phrase multiplies the reactions and reaches an incalculable number of Internet users on and off the Island.

The mixture of secrecy, rudeness, insults and worn out slogans of the past that make up the communication policy of partisan institutions, ministries and leaders in the networks, are also born of their prejudices towards new technologies. It is worth remembering that they launched themselves on them almost forced by the reality that the independent speech of bloggers and tweeters had gained a lot of terrain on those grounds.

Also, their attitudes show the sluggishness in addressing certain issues, spreading news or issuing a judgment that characterizes the information channels controlled by the Communist Party. Until the Plaza of the Revolution has spoken, its followers cannot do it and by the time it does it dictates from the focus on hashtags, which ones should be used. Hence the boring blather or the uniform repetition of hashtags that defines their accounts.

Creativity, the proper opinion and the phrase with a mixture of humor and freshness can be costly, something that some enthusiastic tweeters have learned that, having distanced themselves just a few millimeters from the government discourse, have had to erase their publications, amend the plan and even close their accounts on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to avoid upsetting their superiors.

Network administrators are often tied hands. They can master technology, know the best way to reach the audience and have the desire to undertake new paths in political communication, but they run into a strong informational discipline based on polarization, the exclusion of differences, arrogance, control excessive information and an absolute inability to dialogue.

The engineers graduating from the University of Computer Science or graduates in the faculties of Journalism that are part of the “communications” teams of must suffer from this situation. Some of them, no matter how much they try to convince their bosses you no longer speak this way in the 21st century and that on public networks public officials must exercise good manners and be receptive to the opinions of citizen, they encounter the wall of discursive practices formed in the verbal guerrilla warfare of more than half a century.

Right now, when a tweet is published in a ministerial account, on the timeline of an official or on the Facebook wall of an institution, there will be those who, within the official structures, cross themselves and think: “To the trenches, ours are coming.” And they will be right. There are no stronger blows to credibility, than those Castroism is causing to itself.

______________

COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

The Cage is Deteriorating

Right now, in this city and in this country, there are thousands of families who put their children to bed without knowing if there will be a tomorrow. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 4 February 2020 — I was born and spent part of my childhood in a tenement in Centro Habana. I remember those nights of going to bed and shaking out of my sheets the dust that fell from the deteriorated ceilings. I also remember the care I took when climbing the stairs because a piece of the wall threatened to break loose, the sticks used to prop up some areas, and the permanent small of dampness and sewage leaking from the pipes in poor condition.

The uncertainty generated by having lived in these circumstances remains for a lifetime. It is a tremor you feel while you sleep; one eye open that never closes because plaster from the wall can end up on your pillow and, also, a gratefulness when the day dawns and you are still breathing. Right now, in this city and in this country, there are thousands of families who put their children to bed without knowing if there will be a tomorrow, because a girder can give way, a ceiling can collapse or a beam can fall down.

To those who like to separate politics from everyday life, as if what happens in a “palace” does not affect every aspect of a society, we must remind you that many of these buildings would have had a very different fate if, decades ago, their inhabitants had been allowed to appeal to more than the official channels to solve the problems they faced every day.

But like a strict father, the Cuban state wanted to possess everything and secure everything. The result: half a century of buildings that were deteriorating and being destroyed without a contractor, a cooperative or a private company being allowed to stop the debacle or build new buildings. By the time they came to open a few cracks in that monopoly, it was already late and — to top it all — the small openings in the private sector are still weighed down by a lack of autonomy, excessive bureaucracy and an official omnipresence that does not yield.
All that, because the “great controlling father” that is the Plaza of the Revolution needed to make us believe that not only did it provide us our birdseed through the rationed market, and other distributions through political privileges and ideological meritocracy, but it also gave us the roof: a rough cage that is falling to pieces.

See also:
Condemned to Live Among the Ruins
Havana is Collapsing – A Photo Essay: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

_____________________

COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

The Cuban Government Updates Its Blacklist

The list of prohibited pages updated this week, also includes some  that have been censored for some time including the daily 14ymedio [Intro Text: For the naive, for the uninformed, for those new to social networks, for those who still believe that the media war against Cuba is a digital story, for those who believe everything they read on Facebook, listed here are the most reactionary sites. It is not surprising that among those are those you have “liked” and “followed,” rectifying this is wise. This is a message from Radio Progress, the station of #FamiliaCubana. If you know of others, send a message.]
14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 20 January 2020 – All models that are authoritarian and closed to change have had their list of prohibited readings, censored authors and banned texts. From the inquisition, through Nazism, to the strict Soviet censorship, these models of citizen control have needed to constrain the limits of human knowledge and, thereby, of the written word. In its six decades Castroism has not lacked its blacklist, its catalog of the stigmatized or its punishment of whomever approaches certain titles banished from the pantheon of the trustworthy.

This has happened with literature, with authors such as Guillermo Cabrera Infante and Reinaldo Arenas; with musicians like Celia Cruz and Paquito de Rivera… and, of course, with independent media. This week, the list of digital sites that annoy the Cuban government has expanded again and now includes El ToqueBarrio PeriodismoLa Joven Cuba and even OnCuba. New additions to the glossary of the forbidden. Some radio stations and blogs are accompanied with a warning: “For the naive, for the uninformed, for those who still believe that the media war against Cuba is a digital story.”

It is an honor to be on that list of forbidden, but also the authorities display an infinite clumsiness by spreading a catalog of the media that should not be read. Nothing is as attractive as the forbidden.

Because to all authoritarians citizens are like naive children who must be told what to do, what to read, what to eat, how to think. A paternalistic and controlling model like Cuba’s cannot accept that individuals choose how they are informed. Accepting that reality would be like recognizing that the system failed, that the ‘New Man’ created in the laboratories of social alchemy, indoctrinated since childhood and forced to behave as a soldier or as a monk, now wants to decide what he reads, what he hears and what he sees. continue reading

The updated list of sites banned this week, also includes the list of what has been censored for some time, among them the daily 14ymedio that we produce as a group of colleagues from within Cuba. It is an honor to be on that list of forbidden, but also the authorities display an infinite clumsiness by spreading a catalog of the media that should not be read. Nothing is as attractive as the forbidden.

Now, readers have a detailed list of where they should look, by what channels they should be informed, what web addresses they should visit and what content they should be sure not to miss. Censorship is terrible and dangerous but also awkward. Forbidding ends up consecrating, harassing ends legitimizing, burning books at the stake or blocking digital pages ends up exalting them and making them more visible and visited. It has happened on many occasions throughout history and it is also happening with Castroism.

____________

COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

The Arrogance of Cuba’s Political Police

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 17 January 2020 — In the last decade there have been several recordings of police interrogations that Cuban activists have managed to make and bring to light. In many of them, State Security officers are heard intimidating, threatening and behaving themselves like the owners and lords of the whole country, above the law, above human life and above citizens’ rights. But the audio achieved by the photographer Javier Caso during an “interview” with the political police is invaluable as a testimony and as an X-ray of an entire era.

The Cuban, who lives in the United States and is the brother of the renowned actress Ana de Armas, recently visited the island and repeatedly contacted actress Lynn Cruz and film director Miguel Coyula. It was enough for him to meet with his friends of a lifetime to receive a summons from the Department of Immigration and Foreigners. Once there, a script was developed that was well known to dissidents, opponents and any independent journalist who has ever been summoned to this type of police trap.

The audio recorded by Caso, who by the mere fact of recording the voices on a device shows great courage, manages to convey the absurdity of the situation, the arrogance of the interrogators and that atmosphere where the individual is at the mercy of a surveillance device and control capable of ignoring the Constitution, the Criminal Code and whatever legal resolution there is on this Island. The young photographer met two men who personify the true power that controls Cuba, above deputies, ministers and presidents. continue reading

It is a grotesque and cruel face that springs from the impunity of a repressive institution that has been running freely for decades

The officials are ridiculous, they mouth barbarities such as that the Cuban police are the fifth best in the world or dare to decide who can be called an artist or not, although they themselves may not know one iota about creative expressions or contemporary art.

The great triumph of Caso is to take, with apparent naivety but with much intelligence, the conversation to a point where the seguros have to take off their masks and show the true face hidden under bureaucratic formalities and an apparent respect for order. It is a grotesque and cruel face that is born from the impunity of a repressive institution that has been running freely for decades and whose arrogance ends up opening it to ridicule in this conversation.

Since new technologies broke into the Island, there have been many testimonies (photos, audios, videos) that attest to the lack of a framework of rights in which we Cubans live, but this recording has a special merit. In addition to the quality with which one listens and the equanimity of the person being questioned to get the officials to expose themselves, this testimony causes an outrage that is not easily placated. The more we hear of it, the greater is a rage that grows and becomes a decision and a conviction: we cannot allow the political police to continue ruling Cuba.

_________________________

COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

The ‘Puncturing’ of Statistics in Cuba

Like the false villages that Gregorio Potemkin raised along the river to make Catherine the Great believe a fiction of prosperity, Cuban statistics are formed by a daring of lies and exaggeration. (ONEI)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 6 January 2019 — Recently, the official press announced that infant mortality in Cuba during 2019 was 5 children per thousand live births. The Communist Party owned Granma newspaper stressed that this meant that the Island continued to have better indicators than many countries in Latin America and the world, but did not mention that the data represented a significant increase in deaths compared to the previous year. Did more babies die during that time or could the Ministry of Public Health not continue to scale down the data as it has done over the past few years?

The reasons for this sad increase can be varied, from the deterioration suffered by the Cuban healthcare system, to the incidence of teenage pregnancies with their frequent complications, to the problems resulting from nutritional deficits in mothers who have grown up with difficulties in accessing basic foods. But, the worsening in the statistics points more to the fact that it was not possible to continue covering the sun with a finger.

In the last year, in social networks there have been frequent reports of the deaths of children as a result of complications at birth, obstetric errors and other medical negligence. The stories of postpartum deaths in health facilities and reports on the poor conditions of maternal hospitals have found a space to be reported on the internet, while the media controlled by the Communist Party continues to paint a health situation far removed from reality. continue reading

Not even these five deaths per thousand live births reflect the truth, nor will the Gross Domestic Product that will be announced shortly represent the reality of the country’s economy, nor will the index of daily calories consumed on the Island — according to the data that the authorities have sent to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization – have anything to do with what is put on Cubans’ table.

Also inflated have been the statistics of workers with jobs – it is enough to walk the streets on a Monday morning to shatter that triumphalism – as have been the numbers relating to the number of people supplied clean drinking water, nad the volume of internet connections, along with many of the inflated figures attributed to production in the state sector.

That same approach to data thins the numbers of crimes, femicides, emigration and the real incidence of preventable diseases. With their stubborn will to make the national and international audience believe that Cuba has implemented best possible systems, the media and official reports have taken the bubble of unreality to a point where the only thing it can do is implode.

Like the false villages that Gregorio Potemkin raised along the river to make Catherine the Great believe a fiction of prosperity, Cuban statistics are formed by a daring of lies and exaggeration. But unlike imperial Russia, in this case the highest authorities are part of the deception, while the sweetened representation of reality is oriented towards the population, international organizations and public opinion.

A democratic Cuba cannot live with such falsehoods. So the staging will fall and we will face down against the real numbers that show the seriousness of the problems. The press will talk about a deterioration of life and a plummeting of numerous indicators, but it will be necessary to clearly separate the difficulties arising from a change in the model and those that had been hidden in the shadows for decades without being able to be shown.

In the Cuba that is undoubtedly to come there will also be nostalgia for the past, as there is currently for the Soviet Union or communist Germany. But, to be avoided at all costs is that the possible longings of some are built on the falsity of figures adulterated for decades.

This “bite” is practically inevitable in a country where transparency and direct access to public data must prevail. An open government, which maintains direct, permanent and bidirectional communication between the administration and the citizens, will have to shake off its two fundamental defects: secrecy and triumphalism and, along with that, present the numbers as they are, which will lead to the deflation of some unrealistic figures.

_________________

COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

The Private Press in Cuba Gains Spaces Despite Repression

The reporter Roberto de Jesús Quiñones is locked in the Guantánamo Provincial Prison. (Cubanet)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 29 December 2019 — The Cuban independent press has experienced one of its most intense and productive years in 2019. Despite the authorities’ censorship and increased repression against journalists, private media are gaining space in a country where the Constitution gives the state a monopoly over this sector.

The arrest, prosecution and sentence of one year in jail for a contributor to Cubanet, Roberto Quiñones, who is now being held in the Guantanamo Provincial Prison, has been the worst attack on independent journalists in these twelve months.

This case has highlighted the animosity of the Plaza of the Revolution towards the existence of media not controlled by the Communist Party; and it has also shown the repeated use of the strategy of convictions for common crimes as a way to penalize the opposition, activism and journalism. continue reading

Others have suffered different repressive tactics, such as the ban on leaving the country. This has been “the year of the regulated,” as the regime refers to individuals who, without having committed any crime, cannot travel as punishment for their opinions, writing or reporting. According to data from independent organizations, more than 200 Cubans have suffered the violation of their right to leave the island freely and among them there are several journalists, although this punishment is mostly applied to activists.

One journalist affected is the reporter and founder of Tremenda Nota magazine, Maykel González Vivero, whose only “crime” has been to relate reality, to offer a space to the voices of the most persecuted minorities in Cuba. A member of a generation of young graduates in journalism who have now decided to make the leap from the official press to the independent press, Gonzalez has also suffered pressures, threats and warnings from State Security.

In our own newsroom, 14ymedio has also experienced tense moments this year. Our journalist Luz Escobar has been “regulated” and has not been able to leave the country. In addition, on the dates that the Government has considered noteworthy, the reporter has not even been able to leave her house because an agent of the political police have warned her she would be arrested if she set foot outside her home.

During the celebrations for the 500th anniversary of Havana the police cordon around the independent press was tightened and several journalists had to stay locked in their homes or were visited by State Security officers to inform them that they were not going to be allowed to cover a story, to approach certain places in the city or to participate in any public activity.

In independent march, organized last May 11 in defense of the rights of the LGBTI community, several reporters were arrested, including Iliana Hernandez and Boris Gonzalez. Others could not even get to the place because the strategy of information censorship has continued to consist of enclosing, erasing, shutting up reporters so that they cannot tell the reality as if, if the chronicler or the photographer didn’t exist it could be said that a certain event never it happened.

But there is also reason for pride in the guild. Last October, journalist Mónica Baró Sanchez won the Gabo 2019 Award in the category of text reporting for The Blood Was Never Yellow, published in Periodismo del Barrio, and demonstrated with that accolade that the private press is doing a professional job, and with standards of ever higher quality.

The Cubacron contest convened by the Institute of Press and Society (Ipys), based in Peru, which rewarded the best reporters of the Island, and which raised an important controversy by nominating even reporters for the official media, was also one of the good moments of this year.

The media independent of the State have registered an increasing growth and recognition on and off the Island. As heirs of those first reporters who were continuously arrested in the 80s and 90s — their work equipment confiscated and their names tainted in the Official press — today’s reporters have new obstacles to overcome.

Now, thanks to new technologies we are going even further. Social networks, digital devices and podcasts have changed the face of communications in Cuba. But the fundamental thing we can count on is readers who want to access other information, different from that offered by state newspapers, which confuse the press with propaganda and criticism with treason.

Cuba has a vigorous independent press and in 2020 everything indicates that it will be felt even more strongly.

______________________

COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

The Island of Impossible Forecasts

The only certainty is that millions of Cubans are still waiting for a group of elders to decide to release control. (Pedro S.)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 31 December 2019 — We Cubans have learned to live surrounded by uncertainty, without the security of knowing where the country is going or what the immediate future holds for us. The inability to make forecasts becomes more evident on dates like this, when December is over and questions about the coming year fill family gatherings and street conversations. What will 2020 be like? Will the economic crisis get worse or will the long-awaited stability come? Will there be any hint of political openness?

Given these questions, we can count on very few certainties to make forecasts. For months the rumors of an imminent monetary unification have caused the convertible peso to lose steam and raised the prices of the dollar in the informal market. In the absence of a public schedule on when the dual monetary system will end on the Island, people are easily prey to speculation and fear. Leveraging in foreign currencies has been the solution chosen by those who fear losing part of their capital should the process occurs overnight and entail a significant devaluation of national money.

Alongside the monetary issue, another constant source of concern is the stagnation of the economy and the slowdown that the ruling party has applied to the reforms that Raúl Castro began to implement after coming to power in 2008. It seems that the Plaza of the Revolution has opted to maintain state control over a good part of the country’s industries, production centers and services and put firm reins on private entrepreneurs to prevent the sector from strengthening and being able to press for changes of political nature. continue reading

Relations with the United States, in decline throughout 2019, are also an unknown that many try to clear up, in a country that depends largely on remittances that arrive from our northern neighbor. If the sanctions of the US Administration continue to increase, the material deterioration will also increase, the official discourse will become more and more “of the barricades” every day and it is likely that the number of Cubans seeking an exit through emigration will also rise. There is very little chance that the path of diplomatic thaw that both countries traveled beginning in 2014 will be resumed in the short term.

One of the few certainties in the midst of so many doubts is that which signals that we are witnessing the decline of the so-called historical generation, a handful of octogenarians that continue to manipulate the threads of the nation’s power. Biology is marking the end of life of some of those faces that still appear in the official photos along with the younger officials who have risen in recent years. The death of one of them could open the door to a different scenario and allow deeper transformations. As in other years, the only certainty is that millions of Cubans are still waiting for a group of elders to decide to let go of control or for implacable time to do its job.

________________________

This text was originally published by the Latin American page of Deustche Welle.

COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

The Master Lesson of ‘The Two Popes’

The film “The Two Popes” addresses the moment of Benedict XVI’s resignation and the surprising rise of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, to the Throne of St. Peter. (Screen Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 27 December 2019 — Through the “Weekly Packet” of audiovisuals that circulates so widely in Cuba, this week an excellent copy of Netflix’s film The Two Popes has reached viewers on the Island. The film addresses, as fiction, the moment of the resignation of Benedict XVI and the surprising rise of an Argentine cardinal, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, to the Throne of Saint Peter.

But beyond the political and ecclesiastical interest that the film is generating, with the starring roles masterfully interpreted by Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce, the most interesting element — in my opinion — is the relationship established between two human beings with different world views and diametrically opposed approaches to many subjects. As the minutes of a finely woven script pass, each character ends up influencing the vision of the other while showing his own limits and faults.

Although many will believe that this film is about dogma, faith and the current situation of the Catholic Church, in reality I think it is a song to understanding, to seeking the common point shared by all people, beyond their religion, their ideology or their life experiences. This fictional story is a temple to words and the exchange of opinions as the most effective way to understand the other.

I hope that The Two Popes will circulate widely in Cuba and that it even reaches the screens of those who, in some protected office and surrounded by the paraphernalia of power, have severed all possibility of expression, conversation and free debate in our society. They are the ones who most need to watch this movie.

___________________

COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Nostalgia, the Inseparable Ingredient of a Cuban Christmas

Nostalgia for those who are missing, nostalgia for what we don’t have on the table, nostalgia for what they took from us. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 25 December 2019 — If I had to select one ingredient inseparable from a Cuban Christmas, it would be nostalgia. Nostalgia for those who have emigrated and are no longer at the family table, nostalgia for a distant and lost time that the elderly remember during this time of year, nostalgia even for those born in a Cuba where extreme atheism reigned and where we lost these celebrations for long years, and now we even have nostalgia for what they took from us as children.

2019 has been a difficult year for Cubans. The economy has been stagnant for a long time and in September it sank even further with an energy crisis that the government categorized as “temporary” but that continues to affect everyday issues such as transportation, the availability and supply of food, and agricultural production. Hence, this Christmas many have not been able to travel to another province to celebrate with their relatives as they traditionally do every Christmas Eve.

Food prices have also risen despite the official attempt to impose price caps or maximum prices on some products. So the traditional dinner with roast pork, rice, yucca with mojo and salad will be inaccessible for the wallets of many families this December, and they will have to settle for more modest dishes. Meanwhile, another sizable share of the Cuban population will be able to dine in a special way on Christmas Eve and also on December 31, thanks to an emigrated relative who has paid the bill for the celebrations. continue reading

Those who have access to the convertible currency, receive remittances, have a private business or frequently travel abroad may complete their Christmas celebrations with the traditional Christmas nougat, a bottle of wine and even some grapes, traditional for New Year’s Eve. In the homes of the high officials and the leaders of the Communist Party there are most likely banquets, replete with rum and beer, the uncorking of some champagne and Vivas! for over 60 years in power.

But also, in many Cuban homes, nothing special will happen on the night of December 24 because after decades of interrupted Christmas celebrations, families will concentrate their celebrations on the night of December 31, Saint Sylvester Day. When a tradition is curtailed, interrupted, severed, it takes a long time to restore it and reincorporate it into the life of a people. Unfortunately, in the case of Christmas, it is only since December 1997 (a few days before the historic visit of Pope John Paul II to this Island) that Cubans were able to recover December 25 as a holiday. Only 22 years have passed and that is not enough time for a tradition to take root again.

However, some end-of-year rituals are maintained, such as throwing water from balconies, windows, doors and terraces at midnight on December 31 as a way to clean up all the bad things of the year that is ending and start the new year that is beginning cleaned of problems. For this 2020 we will need a lot of water, because the economic forecast for the country is not flattering and the stubbornness of those who govern us continues to aim to maintain state control over many productive sectors, despite the demonstrated inefficiency of that model. Political repression will continue because a Party that has been imposed by force and that has tried to quench the plurality of trends and voices that exist on this Island can keep its hold on power only in this way.

Other Cubans, on December 31, will burn a doll made of old clothes and straw as a symbol of the destruction of the negative and the old before the new January begins. But in recent years another custom has taken hold: leaving the house with a suitcase and walking around the block or making a tour of the street where we live, the neighborhood we inhabit. A ritual that seeks to attract a trip, a visa, an invitation to leave the country and probably to not return. On an island on the run we see more and more people carrying their luggage on the night of the last day of the year.

Also added to this December is the countdown to a monetary unification – the elimination of Cuba’s system of two official currencies – along with salary reform and the end of some subsidies that will undoubtedly be a blow to the poorest families with the least resources. Thus, “uncertainty” is the word that defines the year that is about to begin and that feeling of having too many doubts and very few answers will weigh heavily on family tables this Christmas. But, I repeat, nostalgia will be the main ingredient of the celebrations, the unwanted guest, the protagonist of these celebrations.

Nostalgia for those who are missing, nostalgia for what we don’t have on the table, nostalgia for what they took from us. Nostalgia for what we could be.

__________________

COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

The Year of Women in Latin America

The feminist anthem ‘The Rapist Is You’ has spread to several countries in Latin America and has also crossed the Atlantic. (Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 22 December 2019 – Analysts will give other names to the year 2019, now about to end. Perhaps they will label it as a time of great social outbursts in Latin America or as the 12 months of an economic stagnation that has affected many of the nations that make up the continent. But, in reality, this has been the year of women in this region, a moment of demands to end the macho violence that both affects us and limits us as societies.

Shortly before the year began, the winds of the MeToo movement began to blow over this part of the world. By April, the Mexican intellectual and artistic world was shaken by allegations of sexual abuse and assault that many women made public against musicians, writers, journalists and academics. In the nation where seven out of ten women have suffered some kind of sexist violence, their voices are demanding respect.

The most recent statement by the writer Elena Poniatowska, who states that she was sexually abused more than six decades ago by her literary mentor Juan José Arreola, will contribute – without a doubt – to make visible and raise awareness about a phenomenon that continues to affect a good share of Mexican women. Something similar to what is happening in Chile, where the feminist anthem was born, The Rapist is You, which has spread to several countries in the region and has crossed the Atlantic to be repeated by Spanish, French and Turkish women, among others. continue reading

Even in Cuba, controlled by a regime for which feminism has always been an uncomfortable and censurable movement, this year the first scandals broke out that pointed to men with public profiles as perpetrators of abuses against women. Last June, singer Dianelys Alfonso Cartaya, known as La Diosa, related on social networks that she had been the victim of abuse and sexist violence by one of the Island’s flagship musicians, José Luis Cortés, known as El Tosco. As in other cases, the victim received support but also insults and questions about the veracity of her story. The #DiosaYoSíTeCreo (Diosa Yes I Do Believe You) hashtag was shared by thousands of Internet users on Twitter and Facebook.

Although it seems much has been achieved, this is only the beginning of a movement that has contributed to shedding light on the harassment and aggressions suffered by women in this part of the world. We are barely experiencing the beginning of something that promises to extend for a long time, help shake consciences and bring the occasional abuser in his uniform, robe, cassock or tie into court.

The initiatives, complaints and demands that have begun to be heard publicly can become, in the coming months, a true political, social and legal earthquake. A phenomenon that will force us to rethink what needs to be done to end sexist impunity in Latin American streets, homes, institutions and governments. If this 2019 had a woman’s face, 2020 will be like the womb in which a new order is brewing.

________________________

Editor’s note: This text was initially published on the Deutsche Welle page for Latin America.

COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

When the Medical Staff are the Aggressors

How many stories of disrespect, abuse and neglect do we not hear every day about women who are treated in Cuban gynecological and obstetric hospitals? (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 19 December 2019 — Recently and after people read an article published by the journalist Elaine Díaz, director of the digital site Periodismo de Barrio, the issue of obstetric violence has once again generated debate on social networks and is forcing many to rethink everything that happens in labor and delivery rooms throughout Cuba.

Obstetric violence is any practice, whether by action or omission, that is carried out by health personnel that affects the reproductive process of women, including dehumanized treatment, unjustified medication and pathologization of processes that are natural. To that general definition, I add the violation of ethical principles in the treatment of pregnant women, mockery or derision, the violation of their privacy and even preventing them from surrounding themselves with their loved ones during the time of delivery.

How many stories of disrespect, abuse and neglect do we not hear every day about women who are treated in Cuban gynecological and obstetric hospitals? Starting because a woman must go through this difficult moment of giving birth alone without the company of her husband or her family, because in the hospitals of this Island having others present during childbirth is still not allowed. The managers blame the lack of resources and privacy in the delivery rooms (where multiple women may be giving birth at the same time), but this robs the parents of the magical moment of birth, where the ties are established that are indestructible for the rest of one’s life. continue reading

The poor conditions of the hospitals, and the lack of hygiene and adequate infrastructure that contribute to this, means that the hours of waiting for the birth take place in rooms lacking the minimum conditions. Many times times a pregnant woman even has no water to drink, if she hasn’t brought her own from home. To this is added the little information she receives about the whole process she is going through. Medical care in Cuba frequently includes a lack of transparency towards the person being treated.

It is also obstetric violence not to ask the pregnant woman for permission to invade her privacy with a group of students who arrive to observe the process of dilation and childbirth. Although it is very good that young people who will be future doctors learn, this must be subject to the woman’s consent and must be announced in advance and the woman notified. Other harmful practices that are repeated throughout this country are physical touching by more than one person, the episiotomy or external cut as a routine procedure and even the systemic use of forceps.

Many will be surprised to learn that these procedures, so common on this Island, are considered by numerous international organizations as obstetric violence. But I add also that a part of this type of violence are the jokes, the phrases we hear so often from the mouths of nurses and medical staff in the style of “from pleasure comes pain” or “if you enjoyed it then now you have to suffer” which we hear too lightly in our obstetric centers. They are all forms of humiliation.

If we add that pregnant women often have to offer gifts and even payments to receive better care, to get a bed in a room more quickly, and that their family members must bring all or almost everything they will need during their stay in the hospital, starting with sheets, a fan and even a bucket to carry water to flush the toilet, all of which makes the natural process of childbirth a true ordeal for many Cuban women.

To respect the woman at that important moment of her life, to give her a beautiful and non-traumatic experience, to inform her at every step, abide by her decisions, take her privacy into account and respect her body are practices that must be inextricably linked to the medical process of helping to bear a child. Without that, childbirth becomes dehumanized and the woman is left with an open wound for life: in her sensitivity, in her self-esteem and in her femininity.

________________________

COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

‘It Is Opportune To Speak About Opportunism’ and Other Daily Masks

In a society where many fear to speak and behave freely, opportunism has become a conservation technique. (Thinkstok)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, 18 December 2019 — Masks, disguises, deceitfulness… in a society where many fear to speak and behave freely, opportunism has become a technique of self-preservation, in a real strategy for social, professional and political survival. Thirty-two years ago, the journalist Reinaldo Escobar, then a columnist for the newspaper Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth), wrote a piece that is still painfully current. His article, under the title It Is Opportune To Talk About Opportunism, detailed the harmfulness of this practice and how widespread it is in Cuban society.

Escobar defined three stages through which the opportunist passes. A first of gestation, in which they must gain the confidence of their superiors and, to achieve this, will have to perform numerous acts that show themselves to be individuals faithful to the cause, a disciplined militant and docile defender of the official line. These, we know them well. They are in our neighborhoods betraying a neighbor because he bought a sack of cement on the black market, watching what others carry inside their bags after going to the market and applauding with enthusiasm at meetings and official events; or screaming until it seems that the veins in their neck are bursting at a repudiation rally against a dissident

The second stage of the opportunist occurs when they begin to reap the fruits of their servile behavior, when they are given a position or a responsibility from which they will show an absolute flattery to their bosses. Now they will become that which Cuban popular speech knows, pure and simple, as a “guatacón”* or a “chicharrón”* of their superiors. At that moment, the opportunist becomes more dangerous, because in order to gain points and obtain recognition from a hierarchy they will be able to show the greatest displays of intolerance, the most elevated excesses of gagging critics and the lowest actions of blows, denunciations and betrayals. continue reading

Once that step has been passed, the opportunist begins to reap the results and the prizes of so many genuflections, of saying “yes” and of so much applause. When they are appointed to a post with power, in which they have subordinates to command and prerogatives to enjoy, they arrive at a position they will try to preserve at all costs. It does not matter how much their words betray double standards or nonsense, they will laud sacrifice on the one hand, while living in abundant comfort. They are easily recognized because they call their employees to austerity while their house is full of imported goods and appliances from their numerous trips.

The image, by the cartoonist ‘Carlucho’, which illustrated an article by the journalist Reinaldo Escobar in the newspaper ‘Juventud Rebelde’ (Rebel Youth). (Archive)

The problem is that after so many years pretending, shutting up and making others shut up, the opportunist’s mask ends up replacing their own face. If there was ever any reformist, critic or questioner within it, too many decades of simulations will have quenched that spirit. But is opportunism an evil that is only found among officials, administrators, ministers, partisan leaders or senior officials in Cuba? Not at all, it is a scourge that extends far beyond that.

Many of us, in one way or another, have been at some point in our lives opportunists, because we have used the mask or silence to avoid social stigmatization, labor penalization, professional punishment and even prison time. Understand that we are all responsible for the occasional simulation and the occasional gag that can help us unmask these attitudes. Let us not look down from above or throw the first stone, because from that position it will be very difficult to disarm this social evil.

Opportunism is also the young person who says “I do not talk about politics,” while locked in the house devoting their time to video games and consuming the contents of the weekly packet’s audiovisuals, while the Cuba on the other side of the door falls apart and they enjoy some crumbs of subsidies. The opportunist is the self-employed person who is going to march to the Plaza of the Revolution on May 1 with a sign that says “Viva!” to the regime to avoid having problems with the inspectors who control and supervise their pizza or ice cream business.

Opportunists are the patients and their families who remain silent about and accept the bad conditions in a hospital and prefer to pay under the table for a service or better care rather than loudly demand what they deserve in a Public Health service that we all pay for from our pockets. The opportunist is the retiree who is still a member of the Communist Party and who in the meetings of this organization does not complain that their pension has condemned them to begging.

The opportunist is one who, with a passport already approved to leave the country, decides “not to look for trouble,” or even complain about the poor state of the streets and roads, so that their trip is not cut off and they are allowed to leave without mishaps. But opportunism is also the emigrant who returns and, while spending a few days with their family, “behaves well.” is silent and accepts everything… so that they will not be stopped from returning to the country where they have established their new residence.

The opportunist is the mother who tells her son not to comment at school that forbidden television from Miami is watched at their house through an illegal satellite dish, and at the same time paints the political mural at her workplace; and it is, also, the nephew of the commander, the general or the minister who travels the world on cruise ships or yachts while wearing an Ernesto Guevara beret on his head. As you can see, opportunism is more widespread than we want to recognize and touches almost everyone.

As long as there is fear of reprisal or prison for exercising freedom of expression, there will be opportunists. As long as the system rewards those who pretend and penalizes those who criticize, Cuba will continue to be a huge farm where thousands, millions of opportunists are incubated every day.

*Translator’s note: Equivalent to insults such as “lackey,” “flunky,” “suck up,” “tool,” etc.

_______________

COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Lazarus, of the Dogs

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 17 December 2019 — He stops, takes a breath and continues to drag his stone. The pilgrim is one of the hundreds who, on Monday, started their slow walk from Havana to the Sanctuary of Rincon. They are moved by devotion to Saint Lazarus, the patron saint of the sick and the helpless. Along the way they will encounter dozens of abandoned and mistreated animals, just a few of those that inhabit the entire territory. How many of the faithful will share their bread or water with those dogs, so similar to the ones that accompany the venerated image of the old leper?

On the eve of December 17, Cuban official media announced that a bill for the protection of animals is ready. The new regulations include the criminalization of abuse, in addition to the establishment of a record of supervision and identification of pets and control over their commercialization. News long-awaited that activists have received with a bittersweet feeling.

On the one hand, after so many years of requests and demands, amplified in recent months thanks to social networks, the creation of a legal body that protects animals in Cuba is undoubtedly a victory for a group that has not only applied pressure without rest, but has also organized to alleviate the suffering of the many dogs and cats that are abandoned, ill or run over and whose lives are saved and a home found for them. continue reading

In spite of carrying out their work without legal recognition, these groups have managed to create small shelters, manage sterilizations and offer for responsible adoption countless pets that would otherwise have ended up under the wheels of a vehicle, dying slowly in the streets before the laziness of passers-by or cruelly slaughtered in the state program of ‘Zoonosis’. Now, there are hopes that independent organizations such as Cubans in Defense of Animals (CEDA) and Protection of City Animals (PAC) can take advantage of this future legal framework to carry out their work with greater effectiveness and breadth.

However, there is a reality that sours such optimism: the mechanism to prepare and pass legislation is slow, distressing and loaded with bureaucratic obstacles, while right now there are thousands of animals suffering in this country for which the new regulations will arrive too late. To this we must add that among a large part of the population there is a deep contempt for the life of horses, mules, pigs, dogs, cats and other animals that inhabit nature. Neither in many families nor in schools is there a culture that fosters respect for these living beings.

It is common to see children who, from the time they are small, are dedicated to destroying the branches of a tree without anyone calling them out on it; as well as stoning cats in the streets, mistreating homeless dogs, crushing lizards, breaking bird nests and boasting of having exterminated several frogs at once.

The violence and mistreatment against animals seen in Cuba is evidence of the dehumanization and loss of ethical values ​​that has deepened in recent decades with social experiments to create a ‘New Man’, who has ended up being, in most cases, disrespectful of nature and incapable of sympathy when a dog or cat asks “with flooded eyes for the caress of a word,” as writer Jorge Zalamea would say.

We have lost part of our humanity along the way. It shows in those who are able to leave an animal on the streets because they are going on a trip and can no longer care for it, as if a dog were a pair of shoes that when they no longer serve are thrown in a trash bin. These are the same people who leave a cat that has been with them its entire life in the middle of a field because it is old, and they do this in front of their children who, when they themselves grow up and their parents age, will want to look for a place to leave and ignore them.

A good part of the pilgrims who make their way this Tuesday, the day of the pious Saint Lazurus, who is also Babalú Ayé, will light candles, spend great resources to fulfill a promise or drag a heavy stone for miles, without noticing that feeding or picking up an abandoned dog may be the best tribute to the old man with the crutches and the mutts that licked his sores.

_____________________

COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Christmas Holidays, a Victory for Cuban Students

A couple of decades ago, it would have been unthinkable in Cuba for students to take a two-week break for the Christmas holidays. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, 14 December 2019 — There are triumphs that are celebrated loudly, with gestures of pride for the victory achieved and expressions of popular jubilation. Others, however, are experienced more discreetly to prevent them from being revoked or taken away. To this last group belongs the recovery, without fanfare or celebrations, of the Christmas holidays which Cuban students have achieved in recent years.

This coming Friday will be a special day in the classrooms of this Island because in very few of them will classes be taught. The Teacher’s Day will be celebrated in advance, scheduled for December 22 but this year the date falls on a Sunday. Along with gifts for the teachers and organized parties with resources donated by the parents, students will also be saying goodbye to their colleagues until the new year.

A couple of decades ago, it would have been unthinkable in Cuba for students to take a two-week break for the Christmas holidays. Those of us who went to school in the 70s, 80s and much of the 90s, could never enjoy a real rest period on these dates. If anything, we managed not to avoid the classroom after presenting a medical “note” for some sickness (often fictitious) or after showing an unpostponable ticket to travel to another province. continue reading

Only in December 1997, a few days before Pope John Paul II visited the Island, did Fidel Castro declare December 25 a holiday for the first time in decades. After that, little by little, as conquerors who quietly take over a territory, running a few centimeters from the fence every night, Cubans were pushing the narrow boundaries of rest. To the point that in schools a tacit agreement has already been reached that the students do not go to classes from the penultimate Friday of December until the first Monday of January, should that day not be a holiday.

What particular group starred in the recovery of this Christmas break? None. Was it announced in any official media that a two week teaching break had been decreed for all school levels in the country? No. Has anyone gone out to celebrate in the streets that now they will not have to go to classes and can they enjoy this time of taking stock and celebrations with their family? No.

Like those victories that nobody is awarded and that are enjoyed quietly, Christmas holidays have returned to Cuban schools. And in this way, there are other triumphs that we have also accumulated without uproar but irreversibly.

_______________________

COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.