YOANI SANCHEZ IN VOICES 2 / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo / Yoani Sánchez

THE SACK OF THE DISSIDENTS

Yoani Sánchez

A sugar-coated image shows Cuba as a country where social justice triumphed, despite having North American imperialism as an enemy. For more than half a century, the country has fed the illusion of a people united in support of an ideal, working hard to develop a Utopia under the wise direction of its leaders. The political and tourist propaganda, distorting our reality, have put out the word that those who oppose the revolutionary cause are mercenaries without ideology, in the service of foreign masters.

One has to wonder how it happened, a process that led millions on this planet to believe that unanimity was installed, naturally and voluntarily, on an island of 111,000 square kilometers. What made them believe the story of a nation ideologically monochromatic and of a Party that represented and was supported by every single one of its inhabitants.

In 1959, when the insurrection against the dictator Fulgencio Batista triumphed, the bearded ones came to power, throwing their enemies into a sack labeled, “thugs and torturers of the tyranny.”

Throughout the decade of the sixties, and as a consequence of the revolutionary laws that ultimately confiscated all productive and lucrative property, that initial definition had to be expanded, adding the labels “the landowners and exploiters of the humble,” and “those who are trying to return to the shameless capitalist past,” and other similar class epitaphs.

Coming into the decade of the eighties, others who fell into the bin of those opposing the system, including “those who are not willing to sacrifice for a bright future,” and “the scum,” this linguistic discovery that tried to define a subproduct of the crucible that forged not only the socialist society but also the new man, who would have the duty to build, and one day to enjoy, the Utopia.

The labelers of opinion recognize no difference between those who opposed the early promises of social transformation, and those believers who ended up frustrated before its failure to come to pass. Because every promise has a deadline, especially if it is a political promise, and when the extensions proclaimed in the speeches expire, patience runs out and difficult-to-label positions appear in those eternally classified as citizens. So over several decades there have appeared in Cuba those who argue that things must be done another way, those who come to the conclusion that an entire nation was dragged into the realization of a mission impossible, many of whom would like to introduce some reforms, including those who would lie to change everything.

But there’s the sack with its insatiable open mouth, and the same hand throwing into it everyone who dares to confront the one possible “truth” monopolized by the powers-that-be. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Social Democrat or a Liberal, a Christian Democrat or an Environmentalist, a simply an independent non-conformist; if they don’t agree with the dictates of the only permitted party — the Communist Party — they are taken as opponents, mercenaries, traitors, in short, they are classified as agents in the pay of the imperialists.

Obstinately, many continue to look at the rosy little picture that shows a social justice process that tries to justify the intolerance that goes along with its achievements — already badly deteriorated — in health and education. They are those who cannot understand that the models used to delineate the triumphalist portrait of the Cuban system turn out very differently when they come down from the pedestal where they pose. Hospital patient and school student are not synonymous with the citizens of a republic. When a man and a woman, of flesh and blood, with their own aspirations and dreams, find themselves outside “the zone of benefits of the Revolution,” they discover they have no private space to build a family, nor wages commensurate with their work, nor any way to achieve a legal and decent prosperity.

When they also reflect on the paths within their power to change their situation, they fine only two: emigration or crime. If they come to meditate on how to change the situation of the country, they are overcome by panic at the threatening finger of the omnipresent State, the insults, the revolutionary intolerance that allows no criticism, no suggestions. Then they realize they’ve been thrown into the sack with the dissidents, where all that awaits them are stigmatization, exile, or the prison cell.

September 25, 2010

Nowhere, But Everywhere / Yoani Sánchez

It’s two in the afternoon at the Department of Immigration and Aliens (DIE) on 17th Street between J and K. Dozens of people are waiting for permission to leave the country, that authorization to travel that has been given the name “white card,” although it might better be called “the safe conduct,” “the freedom card,” or “the get out of prison order.” The walls are peeling and a notice to “be careful, danger of collapse” is posted next to a huge mansion in Vedado. Several women — who have forgotten how to smile and be pleasant — wear their military uniforms and warn the public that they must wait in an orderly fashion. Now and then they shout a name and the person called returns some minutes later with a jubilant face or a strained pout.

Finally they call me to tell me of the eighth denial of permission to travel in barely three years. Specialists in stripping us of what we could live, experiment, and know beyond our borders, the officials of the DIE tell me that I am not authorized to travel “for the time being.” With this brief “no” — delivered almost with delight — I lose the opportunity to be at the 60th anniversary of the International Press Institute, and at the presentation of the Internet for the Nobel Peace Prize in New York. A stamp on my file and I was obliged to speak by telephone in the activities of Torino European Youth Capital, and to communicate with the publisher Brûlé to launch Cuba Libre in Montreal without my presence. The absurd immigration has inserted itself between my eyes and the full shelves of the Frankfurt Book Fair, between my hands and the compilation of my texts which will see the light at the Nonfiction Literature Festival in Poland. I will not go to the Ferrara Journalism Fair nor to the presentation of the documentary in Jequié, Brazil, much less be able to participate in the Congress of Women Leading the Millennium based in Valencia, nor in Cuneo, during the City Writers event. My voice will not be hear at LASA, which sent me an official invitation, and I will have to enjoy from a distance the appearance of my book Management and Development of Contents With WordPress.

All this and more they have taken. However, they have left me — as if it were a punishment — along with the basic raw material from which my writings come, in contact with that reality which would not forgive me were I absent.

September 26, 2010

Interference / Yoani Sánchez

The radio I got for my last birthday rests on a bookshelf, covered in dust. Because if I turn it on I can barely hear a thing. Not even the national broadcasts can be heard well in this area full of government ministries and the antennas they use to block the shortwave broadcasts that come into the country. I had the illusion I would be able to listen to Deutsche Welle to keep my German language alive, but instead of the hoped-for “Guten Tag” all that comes out of the speaker is a buzzing noise.

We live in the midst of a real war of radio frequencies on this Island. On one side we have the broadcasts of the station called Radio Martí — banned, but very popular among my compatriots, they are transmitted from the United States — and on the other side the buzzing they use to silence it. The radio receivers sold in the official stores have had the module that allows you to hear these transmissions removed, and the police are in the habit of searching the roofs for the devices that help to better capture these signals.

Meanwhile, inside their houses, people look for the place — it could be a corner, near a window, or stuck to the ceiling — where the radio manages to ignore the annoying beeping of the interference. It is common to see someone lying on the floor while they locate the exact point where local programming is overshadowed by what comes from abroad. It doesn’t matter what they’re sending from the other shore, whether it’s a boring musical program, the news in English, or a weather report from somewhere else in the world. What matters is that it is a balm for the ears, that it sounds different, that it is something other than that mix of slogans and prose without freedom that is transmitted daily on Cuban radio.

September 24, 2010

Evidence of the Shipwreck / Yoani Sánchez

Exclusive to the Huffington Post.

Two weeks ago, on a Monday, the State newspaper Granma published a note from the Cuban Workers Center (CTC), the only union allowed in the country. Some thought it would be one of those calls to “work with sacrifice,” or to support the path chosen by the leaders of the Revolution. But no. It was the dreaded news of massive layoffs that would soon throw the first half a million workers into the street; layoffs that are expected, within three years, to see one and a half million workers leave their State jobs. Overnight, the guarantee of full employment – one of the most publicized benefits of the Island’s socialism – has come to an end. And so, their own official propaganda apparatus announced our authorities’ worst nightmare: the day the system collapsed.

The drastic measure was justified as a part of what has been called “the perfection of the Cuban economic development model,” a euphemism intended to mask the growing application of market forces to the workings of the economy.

The panic extends to all sectors, except those traditionally short of labor: agriculture, construction and education. The government’s solution is to move laid off workers to options defined by “new forms of non-state labor relations”; translated, this means launching them into the competition of private or cooperative ventures.

As a palliative for the massive layoffs, Raul Castro’s cabinet plans to create room for private initiatives, expand the number of self-employed, and eliminate several of the absurd prohibitions which function as a straitjacket over the creativity of Cubans. Among the options that will be offered as an incentive to “be your own boss,” is one that will allow the unemployed to earn a living by renting rooms in their homes. It is easy to see, however, given the country’s excruciating housing shortage – where it’s common for three generations to share a tiny apartment – it is highly unlikely that many of these laid off workers will have spare rooms to rent. On the other hand, taxes for the permitted self-employment occupations will be extremely high, possibly reaching 45 percent of earnings.

It is also worth nothing that the herald of this bad news for the working class has been the workers’ own union, the CTC. Not only did it take on the role of justifying the layoffs, this organization wasted not a single word about the fate of the half a million union members it will lose: thousands of Cubans who will not have anyone to represent them before the State boss, which will now impose high taxes on the production of goods or services which they are expected to be engaged in going forward.

These measures, which represent a true shock therapy, are absolutely critical; if the current government leaders didn’t take them they would probably be among the first items on the agenda of those who will come to power after them. Contrary to how it was presented by the regime’s propagandists, the rocks against which the ship of the Revolution is crashing, with all its conquests on board, are not along the far shore where the sirens of capitalism sing, but here, in the illusion of Utopia, on this shore.

September 23, 2010

Mobile-Activism 2 / Yoani Sánchez


How do I connect a mobile phone to Cuban Twitter?

1. First you must connect to the Internet and and get an account at http://www.twitter.com

2. Keep the user name and password you are given in a secure place.

3. Add to your mobile phone address book a new contact named Twitter with the number 119447624801423.

4. Send four messages to that number. Each message will include a command and it is important that you send them in the order listed below, without spaces in front of or after the words, and without putting accents and “ñ”. If you make a mistake you must start again, from the beginning:

start
username
password
ok

5. Of course, where it says “username” put your Twitter username.

6. The four messages must be sent one after another. Before you begin you must verify that you have enough credit on your phone to send all four message.

7. As soon as you are done, you may send text messages (SMS) of no more than 140 characters to the number 119,447,624,801,423 which is already added to your cell phone address book.

8. Every text message sent to that number, once you have completed the procedure above, will be published on the Internet automatically.

9. Each text message sent to Twitter will cost 1 convertible peso, so prepare your wallet.

Source of text: http://twitpic.com/2pqj3q

September 22, 2010

The Claria, From the Rivers to the Sewers / Yoani Sánchez

Excerpt from documentary by Fabian Archondo and the
Foundation for New Latin American Cinema.

My son is at that age where he could eat the columns of the house if we didn’t keep an eye on him. He opens and closes the refrigerator door, as if he believes that this appliance could produce — just for him — food. His appetite is so insatiable and so difficult to satisfy, in the midst of shortages and high prices, that we’ve nicknamed Teo after that voracious fish, “La Claria.” His ravenousness reminds us of this species which some bright person brought to our country to promote fish farming, and which is now a pest in our rivers and lakes. Of course this is just a family joke, because even our fretful adolescent is incapable of wolfing down the things that enter the mouth of this walking fish.

Blue-gray, with a pronounced mustache and the ability to survive up to three days out of water, this African Catfish has already become a part of our country, both rural and urban. One of the few animals that can survive in the polluted Almendares river, it has managed to displace other, tastier, specimens in the fishmongers’ freezers. Not even its ability to adapt, nor its ugliness, however, have aroused as much alarm as its extreme predatory nature. Clarias eat everything from rodents and chickens, to puppies and every kind of fish, frog or bird.

As a solution to the food problems of the so-called Special Period, after the collapse of the Soviet block, our authorities imported this foreign species and so precipitated colossal damage to the ecosystem. Similar irresponsibility had already occurred with the introduction of tilapia and tench fish, but the results were incalculably more dramatic with this dark and elusive creature which today reigns in our waters. Whether nestling in the mud, emerging from a manhole in the middle of the city, or crawling along the side of the road, its spread demonstrates the fragility of nature when faced with ministerial directives. I have no doubt that this fish will be with us for a long time to come, long after those who introduced it into the country are only a memory, as fleeting as crumb in the mouth of a claria.

September 20, 2010

Cuban Teachers Desert An Increasingly Despised Profession / Yoani Sánchez

Exclusive to the Huffington Post

For a long time when I heard the word teacher, it brought to mind the word respect; it was one of those unconscious associations from which the psychoanalysts draw surprising conclusions. I associated the noun that indicated this profession with the names and faces of all those who taught me from elementary school through the university, men and women endowed with patience and wisdom.

Now in Cuba, the word teacher calls forth other associations. I read in the newspaper Granma, the official organ of the Communist Party, that an official from the Ministry of Education said, “As parents we want the best teachers for our children, but we don’t like the idea of their deciding to be teachers themselves.” The fact is that the shortage of teachers has become a real crisis at almost all levels of education, due to the growing desertion of those who hold these positions and the reduction of those who enroll in schools of education. The problem has become so bad that the State has now created a class of what is called “emerging teachers,” who train to be the teachers of other children starting in the 11th grade, at age 16.

There are many causes that have led to this crisis and so far the solutions applied have only served to exacerbate the loss of prestige of this noble profession. The secret is that almost no one in Cuba lives on the salary they earn, but must rely on what they can find to steal, what we call “the diversion of resources,” from their workplace, be it time, materials or equipment. Teacher have no chance to earn some extra money this way and their salaries do not differ from others who do.

Now, when I hear the word teacher, what I feel is pity for those who are educators, for their students, and for the future of our country.

Mobile-Activism / Yoani Sánchez

Image URL: http://twitpic.com/2pqj3q

Steps to activate Text Messaging service:

  1. Enter the code *#06# and immediately the phone will display your IMEI code which is a 16 digit number.
  2. Send the first 8 digits of the IMEI number by Text Message to 4222.
  3. You will receive a Text Message that will tell you if your phone model accepts the activation of Text Messaging. It does not work on a Blackberry or iPhone; recommended phones are the Motorola K1, Motorola U6, Motorola V3 and Nokia models that are not too modern.
  4. If the phone accepts the Text Messaging service, you will receive a second message that says “Accept” or “Install.” When it gives you one of these two options it will ask for a code, you should enter 1234.
  5. When the application is installed, you may need to shut down and restart your phone.
  6. When you turn it on, you will see, next to the signal coverage icon, if you have a Motorola, a pair of green diamonds; if you have a Nokia you will see the same thing next to the capital “G.”
  7. You can now send images by Text Messaging to another Cuban mobile phone with the Text Messaging service activated, at a cost of 30 centavos a message.
  8. You can also send an image to an email account at a cost of 2.30 convertible pesos (about $2.50 U.S., 1.90 euros), which is very useful for sending images overseas.

Source of the text: http://twitpic.com/2pqktq

September 19, 2010

The Evil Master / Yoani Sánchez

One of the most frequent topics of discussions when talking about Cuba, is whether the reality in which we live can really be called “socialist.” For my generation, which grew up with books on Marxism, manuals on scientific communism, and volumes of the writings of Lenin, it is difficult to find the Cuban model in those works. When someone asks me about it I say that on this island we live under state capitalism, or, as one perhaps could call it, on the Party’s plantation… the family clan’s plantation…

My theory derives from those ancient books I was forced to study, where there was one factor essential for characterizing a society as socialist: the methods of production were in the hands of the workers. But what I see around me is an “omni-proprietary” state, owner of the machines, the industries, the infrastructure of a nation and of all the decisions made about it. A master who pays the lowest possible wages and demands applause and unconditional ideological fealty from his workers.

This miserly owner now warns that he cannot continue to employ more than one million of those working on the public payroll. “To advance the development and actualization of the economic model,” we are told payrolls must be drastically reduced, while opportunities for self-employment will see only the smallest and most controlled expansion. Even the Cuban Workers Center — the only labor union allowed in the country — reports that the layoffs will come soon and we must accept them with discipline. A sad performance for those whose role it is to represent the rights of their members vis-a-vis the powers-that-be and not vice versa.

What will the antiquated owner, who has possessed this Island for five decades, do when his unemployed of today become the dissatisfied of tomorrow? How will he react when the labor and economic autonomy of the self-employed turns into ideological autonomy? Then we will hear cursing and stigmatization of the prosperous, because any surplus — like the presidential chair — can only be his.

September 14, 2010

Will a Half Million Laid Off Cubans Find Work in Private Enterprise? / Yoani Sánchez

The line at a home-based private “pizza parlor” — takeaway only — in Havana.

Exclusive to The Huffington Post.

Under the strict canons of the socialist economy — planned, centralized and subsidized — self-employment has always been seen as an undesirable species of pest that periodically needs to be abated and occasionally even exterminated. One day the specialists will write the history of the correspondence between the performance of the macroeconomy, the pace of foreign trade, and the response from the corridors of power in loosening or tightening the reins of this denigrated, but successful, creature.

Cuba once had a long tradition of small private businesses: bars, restaurants, shops, kiosks, repair shops and others, unimaginable. On the long night of March 13, 1968 they all disappeared at the exact moment in which, from the public square, Fidel Castro proclaimed the Revolutionary Offensive that confiscated everything.

In the mid-seventies there were a few small openings, but it wasn’t until 1994, under the crushing impacts of the fall-out from the collapse of the Soviet block, that self-employment and the establishment of small private businesses was authorized on a major scale. The country filled with places where you could eat a beefsteak or a Neapolitan pizza. The straitjacket that had controlled creativity began to loosen. Surprised, but happy, we Havanans saw how our city filled with little enterprises and houses converted into restaurants. The euphoria was short-lived, however, because faced with high taxes, a law that prevented the hiring of employees, and the long list of forbidden products, many of these entrepreneurs eventually gave up and shut down.

Now, Raul Castro’s government has announced that half a million State employees will be terminated and that self-employment will be expected to pick up the slack, with a broader authorization of licenses and more flexible contracting mechanisms.

My neighbor Humberto is relieved. In his private restaurant he serves more than a dozen dishes on the sly. Few know that on brilliantly white tablecloths he offers his customers lobster, shrimp and beef. These three products are highly penalized by Cuban law and their possession, “without papers,” can lead to a long prison term. Hence, they are not listed on the menu. But if trustworthy looking clients whisper in his ear, the forbidden delicacies emerge from the kitchen, far from the watchful eyes of the inspectors.

As the law, to date, has prevented Humberto from hiring anyone outside his own family, he tried to convince his daughter to marry — only on paper — an excellent chef who had recently left his job in a tourist hotel. When he discovered that his daughter was making secret plans to elope with her boyfriend, he thought he might have to surrender his license and trade the saucepan for an illegal taxi. Now, the government’s words have offered hope that he might not have to marry off his daughter to gain a chef. Who knows whether the new flexibility could also allow him to openly offer the proscribed menu items which for now he keeps hidden in his kitchen.

September 14, 2010

Olivia / Yoani Sánchez

My friend Miguel left, tired of waiting for a sex change operation, and knowing full well that he was never going to get a better job. He left the red wig to a friend who worked in the same hospital and sold, illegally, the room he had in Luyanó. The day he asked permission to leave he put on a suit and tie, which made him roar when he looked at himself in the mirror. At the immigration office he tried to keep his hands off the fold of his trousers, so that the last gasp of homophobia wouldn’t spoil his departure.

He escaped before they closed the river of Cubans which, for a brief time, flowed to Ecuador. His was one of some 700 marriages contracted between citizens of both countries, many of them with the sole objective of obtaining residency in that South American nation. Miguel paid the equivalent of $6,000 and in return got a wedding in Havana with a woman from Quito he’d known for barely a couple of hours. He faked pictures of the honeymoon, paid an official at the Ministry of Public Health so he would give him his “release”and even handed over a little cash so that his white card — the exit permit — wouldn’t be too delayed. He pretended to be what he was not which was easy for him, because those of us born on this Island are good at putting on a mask.

Now he expects difficult times because the Ecuadorian police have started to investigate the 37,000 Cubans who entered that country in recent years. He doesn’t seem scared, however. He is gay, one of those they loaded into police trucks under a rain of blows, and for years he was also monitored for his critical views. After experiencing both edges of the blade of censorship, nothing frightens him. When called to testify — if he is called — he will go wearing the red dress he always wanted to wear here. Nobody is going to stop him from gesturing while they interrogate him, because already Miguel has escaped that Miguel he once was, to become — happily — Olivia.

September 13, 2010

Broken Promise / Yoani Sánchez

The Revolution Is Working Well. Fight, Work, Advance. Continue Onward! Fidel

I swore never again to speak of that gentleman with the well-trimmed beard and the olive-green uniform who castrated* filled every day of my childhood with his constant presence. I underpin my decision not to refer to Fidel Castro with more than one argument: he represents the past; we need to look forward, to that Cuba where he no longer exists; and in the midst of the challenges of the present, to allude to him seems an unpardonable distraction. But today he once more gatecrashed my life with one of his characteristic outbursts. I feel obliged to focus on him again after his declaration to the journalist Jeffry Goldberg that, “the Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore.”

If my memory doesn’t fail me, they expelled many Communist Party members for lesser or similar phrases, and purged innumerable Cubans who served long sentences. The Maximum Leader systematically pointed his finger at those who tried to explain that the country wasn’t working. And not only were the nonconformists punished, but we were all forced to don the mask of subterfuge to survive on an island he tried to remake in his own image. Pretense, whispers, deceit, all to hide the same opinion that the “resuscitated” commander now flippantly tosses out to foreign journalist.

Perhaps it is a fit of honesty, as assaults the elderly when it comes time to assess their lives. It could even be another desperate try for attention, like his prediction of an imminent nuclear debacle or his late mea culpa for the repression of homosexuals which he came out with a few weeks ago. To see him acknowledge the failure of “his” political model, makes me feel like I’m watching a scene where an actor gesticulates and raises his voice so that the public won’t look away. But as long as Fidel Castro doesn’t take the microphone and announce to us that his obsolete creature will be dismantled, nothing has happened. If he doesn’t repeat the phrase here in Cuba, and, in addition, agree not to interfere in the necessary changes, we’re back to square one.

Note:
Yesterday, on hearing the news, I wrote a brief tweet: “Fidel Castro joins the opposition, telling the journalist Jeffrey Goldberg that the Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore.” Shortly after a dissident friend to whom I’d sent the same message by text called me. His words were ironic, but true: “If He has joined the opposition, I’m moving over now to the official side.”

*Translator’s note: The original text was dictated over the phone and there was an error in the transcription, hence this correction.

September 9, 2010

Celebration / Yoani Sánchez

On days like this I very much regret not having an Internet connection to share so much happiness with the commentators on the blog. Clacking keyboards, drinking toasts screen to screen, and thanking all of you who have supported me with your words of encouragement, your critiques and your suggestions.

Three years ago that shy woman — who I once was — opened this virtual space to narrate her reality, with more fears than certainties. I remember the incredulity of the readers at first, the doubts of some, the State Security or CIA card others assigned me, the slip ups on the arduous journey of opinion. From 2007 until now I feel I have lived six or seven lives at once, full of achievements but also marked by constant coercion from a repressive apparatus that never sleeps.

As I am a chronic optimist, however, I’m only going to focus on the satisfactions: the growing alternative blogosphere, the cracks that have opened in the wall, the Podcast I just inaugurated a few weeks ago, and all the text messages I’ve received to congratulate me on the International Press Institute’s World Press Freedom Hero Award, and today, the great surprise of the 2010 Prince Claus Award.

September 6, 2010

Four Centimeters of Tolerance / Yoani Sánchez

Yesterday I went to enroll my son in high school and instead of a welcome sign I found a blackboard with the following contents:

Regarding the uniform: Females may not wear more than one pair of earrings. Shirts and blouses will be worn tucked in. They will not be altered by clamps, nor cut to fit to the body, nor allowed to be higher than the waistband of the skirt or pants. Do not remove the pockets. The skirts should be 4 centimeters [1.5 inches] above the knee. Skirts worn on the hips are not allowed, nor may they be discolored or have ironing marks. Pants must extend to the height of the shoes. Pants worn on the hips are not allowed. Females may not wear makeup. Bracelets, necklaces, chains and rings are not allowed. Religious objects may not be visible. Shoes must be close-toed and socks white and long. MP3s, MP4s, and cellphones may not be brought to school. Males may not wear earrings, clips or piercings. Belts should be simple and without eccentric, large or stylish buckles and must be black or tan.

Regarding the hair: Haircuts, hairdos and shaves must be correct, eliminating any eccentricity or styles outside the definition of the uniform. Males may not have: long hair, dyed hair, nor any spikes in the hair, nor designs shaved into the hair. Females may not have any dangling jewelry in their hair. Items used to style the hair must be blue, white or black. These shall be of an appropriate size. Males must not have hair longer than 4 centimeters.

Now I wonder if Teo is enrolled in high school, or in a military unit.

September 4, 2010

The Unbearable Roundness of A Golf Ball / Yoani Sánchez

As if cutting a cake before it is even baked, our government has extended to 99 years the right of foreign investors to use our land. Pieces of this nation will pass into the hands of those who hold foreign passports; meanwhile local entrepreneurs are granted the use of agricultural land, in usufruct, for a mere ten years. The Official Gazette speaks of the “real estate business” when we all know that land — our land — is not available to Cubans who would like to acquire a small sliver on which to build.

Another recent surprise has been the announcement of the creation of several golf courses throughout the island. With the objective of promoting classy tourism, they will open the greens and manicured lawns, surrounded by luxurious amenities. When I told a friend about the coming of these expanses for entertainment, the first thing she asked me was with what water are they planning to maintain the green freshness of the grass. She lives in a neighborhood where such provisions only come twice a week, and to her, the thought of water pumps spraying the precious liquid between one hole and another is a painful one. You’ll have to get used to it, my friend, because the abyss between the dispossessed citizens and those who come from abroad with bulging wallets…

I can already imagine the rest of the movie: to work on one of those golf courses will be a privilege for the most trustworthy; men in suits and ties, microphones attached, will be stationed all around to keep watch and ensure that locals cannot enter and… live and learn… the most prominent and faithful servants will also have their turn with the stick to complete a round with the ball. Hence, they are in training for that morning they plan to enjoy, when they will be on the golf course in their bermuda shorts while we look on from the other side of the fence.

September 3, 2010