The Risks of Journalism / Yoani Sanchez

Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 21 May 2015 – If you has asked me a year ago what would be the three greatest challenges of the digital newspaper 14ymedio, I would have said repression, lack of connection to the Internet, and media professionals being afraid to work on our team. I did not imagine that the another obstacle would become the principal headache of this informative little paper: the lack of transparency in Cuban institutions, which has found us many times before a closed door and no matter how hard we knock, no one opens or provides answers.

In a country where State institutions refuse to provide the citizen with certain information that should be public, the situation becomes much more complicated for the reporter. Dealing with the secrecy turns out to be as difficult as evading the political police, tweeting “blind,” or becoming used to the opportunism and silence of so many colleagues. Information is militarized and guarded in Cuba as if there is a war of technology, which is why those who try to find out are taken, at the very least, as spies. Continue reading

From “White Udder” to the seven-legged bull / Yoani Sanchez

Illustration of a cow. (14ymedio)

Illustration of a cow. (14ymedio)

Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 5 May 2015 – For a long time the extraordinary, the unusual, was our hope. On this Island which must have been Atlantis, the reincarnation of Alexander the Great was born and there lived a cow who gave the most quarts of milk in the history of humanity. Like all childish people we needed to feel that nobody surpassed us and that the ordinary rested far from our borders. White Udder, the cow that still owns the Guinness World Record, was a sacrificial victim on the altar of this national and political vanity. Gone are the times of those exaggerated ranching achievements, now we can only crow about our anomalies.

Muñeco is a bull with seven legs. The local press just narrated his story, a wild yearling born from two commercial zebu breed cattle, and ultimately adopted by the cattle rancher Diego Vera Hernandez in the Trinidad area. What distinguishes this exemplar from so many others that die of hunger and thirst in the Cuban countryside is that springing from its back, near the shoulder hump, are three additional legs and one testicle. Its anatomy includes everything the official rhetoric needs: on the one hand the inconceivable, on the other, this piece of virility that should not be lacking in anyone or anything that wants to brag about being made in Cuba.

Gone are the times of those exaggerated ranching achievements, now we can only crow about our anomalies.

Muñeco’s three legs have saved him from the illegal slaughter to which so many of his peers succumb due to the needs and poor livestock management displayed by the current system. That piece of another bull hanging from his back has freed him from the middle-of-the-night butcher’s knife because a clever farmer realizes that he has before his eyes a fair animal, a circus creature, to show off to journalists at the agricultural fairs. But there is not much difference from this pet with mischievous genes and that cow that represented all our hopes of seeing milk run in the streets and factories drowning in cheese and yogurt.

White Udder died from the excesses of a leader who needed results, but Muñeco has lived for the pride of this nation burdened by its own malformations.

In defense of our doctors / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila

Cuban doctors before leaving on a mission. (EFE)

Cuban doctors before leaving on a mission. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, 23 April 2015 — Last night while watching the images of the homecoming of the doctors who participated in the fight against Ebola in Africa I was very excited. I believe that every man or woman in the world who decides to run these risks to save the lives of unknown human beings thousands of miles away deserves total respect and admiration. In my own family there are examples of this.

They are completely mistaken, however, those who think that, because of having different ideas, wanting Internet for everyone, along with real wages and basic freedoms, the opposition is against this solidarity or doesn’t recognize the courage and heroism of our physicians. Nothing is further from the truth. Continue reading

Cuban Government supporters prevent the meeting of Cuban activists in Panama / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Panama, 10 April 2015 — On Friday morning, several Cuban activists found themselves trapped, unable to leave the Panama Hotel, due to the presence of a large number of supporters of the Havana Government, who with shouts, shoves and slogans prevented them from leaving the site and attending their meeting.

The events occurred during the morning, when the conclusions of the Civil Society Forum should have been being drafted, but whose implementation has been put at risk by the continuous interruptions.
Several Cuban activists took refuge in the hotel’s Salon Topacio, in the face of the threats and attacks by protesters.

Among the insults shouted by the protesters were “Get out, down with the worms,” “CELAC* yes, OAS no,” “Murderers” and “Mercenaries.”

*Community of Latin American and Caribbean States

A United Message to the Seventh Summit of the Americas / Cuban Opposition, Civil Society and Democratic Social Actors

Cuban Pro-democracy Organizations on the Island and in Exile bring:


Cuban Opposition, Civil Society and Democratic Social Actors 

The Summits of the Americas must be the place for participation and representation of all the democracies in the Americas. Of their States and of their free citizens. All this passes through the increasing incorporation of civil society and social actors in the process of the Summits, such that the topics of discussion acquire real significance and it is required of governments that they represent their people.

Here we present: In the roles of the Cuban opposition, civil society and the democratic social actors that we have assumed, after a long struggle of establishment and strengthening, principles of agreement expressed from a rich diversity, in the Agreement for Democracy, in the Points of Cuban Consensus, in the proposals of the Forum for Rights and Freedoms, and the Open Space Four Points of Consensus.

Our shared mission is the defense and promotion of all democratic principles, fundamental freedoms and human rights, that comprise the cultural, historical and political base in this hemisphere, thanks to this rich diversity. Continue reading

In Cuba Drought Wreaks Havoc on World Water Day / 14ymedio, Rosa Lopez

Artesian well (14ymedio)

Artesian well (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Rosa Lopez, Havana, 22 March 2015 — Spring has officially arrived, but without the rain. Every day the drama worsens in the Cuban countryside, especially in the East. Throughout the length and breadth of the country, the private agricultural sector is experiencing a very difficult situation, because of the precariousness of resources and the lack of methods to transport water.

While the world celebrates International Water Day many farmers look to the sky to try to predict when the rains will come. The year has begun with negative omens. Between November 2014 and the end of January an accumulated shortage of rain has affected 52% of the country. Among the provinces most affected are Pinar del Río, Artemisa, Cienfuegos, Villa Clara, Camagüey, Las Tunas, Granma, Santiago de Cuba and Guantánamo.

Camagüey, which provides a quarter of the country’s production of milk and meat, is in a state of emergency because of the rainfall deficit and the low level of its reservoirs. Keeping the livestock fed and the crops irrigated has become an almost impossible task. The problems do not stop there. Continue reading

On the 5th Anniversary of the Death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo

The video above was published on the first anniversary of the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo.

Testimony from Abel Lopez Perez can be read here. A few days before the 3rd of December, Abel was transferred from the Provincial Prison of Guantanamo (in his native city and where he served a political prison sentence) to the horrid dungeons of a prison in Camaguey, where Orlando Zapata was also taken.

The post linked to here talks about the removal of his body from Cuba. “Not content with deporting the recently released political prisoners, the Cuban government is now expelling from his land the exhumed remains of Orlando Zapata Tamayo.”

23 February 2015

Note to readers

Translating Cuba has been “under repair” the last few days. Now that it IS repaired we have discovered a few older posts hiding under the floorboards… and we are dragging them into the light today. Hence the “old” posts that will show up from prior months.

Our apologies most of all to the HARD-WORKING VOLUNTEER TRANSLATORS, whose work never got posted!

Several activists arrested outside Vivac Prison on outskirts of Havana / 14ymedio

Police arresting activist Eliezer Ávila on Tuesday, since released. (14ymedio)

Police arresting activist Eliezer Ávila on Tuesday, since released. (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Havana, 1 January 2015 (Developing news) — Speaking to 14ymedio , blogger Agustín López Canino confirmed his arrest and that of some fifteen activists at 3:52 PM outside Vivac Prison in Calabazar, on the outskirts of Havana. On the list of those arrested is Tania Bruguera, who had solicited an interview with the detention center authorities to ask for explanations regarding those arrested on 30 December.

The activists Ada María López, Antonio González Rodiles, Margarita Rodríguez Díaz, Adnaloy Rodríguez and Ailer González are also among those arrested, according to what some family members told this newspaper. Meanwhile, Eva Baquero, seized just outside Vivac Prison was taken to the Cotorro Police Station and later released. Continue reading

“I’m a demon who writes what she feels” / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Wendy Guerra at a conference at the Casa de America, Madrid

Wendy Guerra at a conference at the Casa de America, Madrid

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 8 December 2014 — Wendy Guerra is a rare bird in a country where everyone is seeking conclusive adjectives and extreme descriptions. Actress, writer, blogger and a Havanan down to her core, she always stands out. We remember her on the TV screen; in the pages of a book her writing will always touch us.

Today we talked about her literary work and the thematic and vital obsession that Cuba has been for her.

Question: The book Posar desnuda en La Habana (Posing Nude in Havana) surprises the reader with its perfect symbiosis of Anaïs Nin’s voice and your own voice. What is your creative process to achieve that effect?

Answer: First, I thank you for starting this exchange with a question of a literary nature.

Everything is in the language. Each fragrance that is in this book is powerfully driven by her voice and it is the use of her own turns of phrase, the discursive character of the author that distills and strengthens it. I spent twelve long years researching the Cuban fibers of Anaïs Nin. I earned several scholarships in France and the United States to find clues about the Cuban footprint of the author. It was the UCLA Department of Special Collections that gave me the opportunity read her unexpurgated diaries to research Anaïs’s island origins.

Accents lost and recovered, endemic pains, her marriage at La Finca La Generala, her relationship with the Cuban “sugarocracy,” her deep uprooting and the uncontrollable way of riding with her father, the Cuban pianist Joaquín Nin Castellanos. Her relationship with her brother, the composer and singer Joaquín Nin Cumell. Her mother, the Cuban opera singer Rosa Culmell, the hard exile that took her from luxury to poverty, from pain to euphoria… all this was the perfect climate to approach the writing of Posing Nude in Havana. What came to the fore was a deep respect for completing her words with mine.

Keep in mind that her Cuban Diary has very few pages and my delirium was always to write an apocryphal novel; literary conjecture about what might have happened.

Father-Cuba-Diary, for both of us, were, are and will be subjects as intimate as they are universal.

Q. What new literary project are you working on now?

A. I’m writing a novel about fear. The feeling of persecution many of us Cubans have, the panic that they are recording our conversations, of being watched, searched, harassed. This psychosis travels with us. La espía del Arte (The Art Spy) (the working title) will have approximately 100 pages. A brief piece full of neurosis and a sense of humor, the human-Cuban spectacle uncovered, what’s left of us after the long observation, the obligatory exhibition.

Some of my friends in exile think I am the spy of Cuban art who returns to Cuba with their secrets, which I pass on as reports or accusations. In Cuba, on the other hand, they think I’m hiding something, that I have some plan; they are suspicious of these long visits among the exile and think I’m the head of something, the spearhead of something. Who am I? A demon who writes what she feels, confident in her impressions, who manages to translate them, and therein lies the danger. I write or say what people think is not fashionable.

Another ongoing project is research into Ana Mendieta. Ana has been my literary and personal inspiration, now I’m beginning to find my way into her mystery. It will be long, I will spend all my savings in finding it, but… perhaps it isn’t literature, to open every one of the tightly sealed doors to find yourself?

Q. Many of us remember you for your performances in several TV series and programs. Should we resign ourselves to not seeing that side of you any more?

R. Vicente Revuelta was the person who made visible all my skills. Without him I’d never have seen my ability to act which, even so, I consider limited. Everything I did on television came from a path that he had already traced like a tattoo on my intellect. This cycle was very important because, for me, to write is to incarnate and thanks to this effort I respect the character and sense of interpretation… but no, no I didn’t feel happy as an actress, it is in literature where studying and growing makes me better, frees and defines me.

Vincent knew that Andrea Sarti (Gallileo Galilei) could repeat the lines and expand them. I was that actress that was arguing within each one of the speeches and with the director’s determinations. I was the actress who managed to write and dictate her own character.

Not all Cubans have found it possible to be a person, most of us have changed into characters to win this long race of resistance.

Q. From the publishing point of view you’ve experienced the extremes. From accolades like the Editorial Bruguera prize and the 2009 Carbet des Lycéens prize, to the scant attention your work has received from Cuban publishers. What do you think you’ve missed experiencing?

A. I want to publish in Cuba everything that’s been translated or published outside of it. I want to bring the best literature of my generation and my country, Cubans are excellent readers and deserve the power to update and feed their hunger for reading. I want to keep flowing with all my publishers and I want Cuba to accompany me in this process. I want what happens with Leonardo Padura to happen to me. Whenever his book comes out in France or Spain, Cuban readers have the opportunity to read it in their own land. The prizes are the vehicle to make yourself known in the world, to be published in your homeland is the way to confront the nature of what you do and are.

Q. You suffered an incident of censorship in the Santa Cruz Festival of Literature of Bolivia. Was it a surprise or were you able to foresee something?

A. It seemed like a distant situation but all this is so recognizable for us that we can even hum it like a Russian song that talks about snow in the middle of a Cuban beach. I imagine that this time those who blocked my presentation have reasons to agree and accept censorship, or to remain silent and bow their heads. The strange thing is to think that something a woman like me says in public can disrupt or affect a system like this… is it that fragile?

Q. The title of one of your novels is very revealing of the Cuban situation. Everyone Leaves, says the cover, and many of us wonder why Wendy Guerra is not leaving this country?

A. When I saw the filmed version of this novel, directed by Colombian director Sergio Cabrera, I knew this was not my own story. It’s a fictional story that left my hands and belongs entirely to those people who, like me, suffered the State as an executioner-intrusion installed in the center of the most sacred relationship: the family. The novel talks of the desertions of the soul, not only does it touch on the heartbreaking geographical exodus, we are talking about the flight of family and close friends in the name of a slogan or political responsibility.

I don’t want to go to restore a foreign space that I don’t feel a part of. In my particular case, I want to feel that each one of my ideas, tantrums and battles goes to nurture the emotional and human restoration of girls like me, who have come to maturity without the ability to explain to ourselves why they abandoned us in exchange for a castrating and false collective happiness. This place where being human ceases to matter, to become ciphers.

If I haven’t left it’s because I think that the wounds, before being healed, have to be named, starting from the scene of the pain. Some day, when everyone returns, I will go to a town on the other side of the world to learn how to write diaries from afar.