Alfredo Guevara In His Own Words / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

A recent interview published in the magazine Letras Libres, reveals Alfredo Guevara’s mood months before his death. The meeting, that came to be thanks to filmmaker Arturo Sotto, brings us closer to a man conscious of being on the last stretch of his life. His words try to find, or give sense to his existence, to justify some horrors and exalt some achievements.

Caustic but careful, Guevara ventures in topics of the past such as the divisions within the 26 of July Movement and its clashes with the forces of the Popular Socialist Party . Between one anecdote and the next, he reveals—perhaps without intention—details of a power taking shape among betrayals and rivalries. The scene of Celia Sánchez who lived with Fidel Castro in a house in El Vedado and would ask Guevara to expel the old communists from the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC) “by kicking them in the ass,” slips through his words, he lets it go just like any other story. Continue reading

dreaming in gUSAno* / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

The dreams begin, comrades.

Noises in hotel rooms.  I begin to hear noises in the hotel rooms where I stay from coast to coast in the United States.

In Cuba, I was never a victim of the homeland paranoia; I only had the certainty of being spied on with criminal cruelty. Millimetric, butcher. I am sorry for Castroism: it failed to sow in me the syndrome of suspicion.

But, in Philadelphia, for example, or in Washington DC, in LA, in Miami, in La Crosse, in Madison, in Chicago, in Boston and who knows in what other city of the union, it is very different.  There are hotels, those labyrinths that in Cuba are a rarity in terms of civility.  And in the hotels things are heard late at nights.  Sounds, whispers.  And a cosmic cold that penetrates the soul and only then do you understand that you do not exist here.

Halfway through the late hours of the night, frantic knocks on my room door wake me up.  Or not.  Perhaps they are at the room across, who knows.  The fact is that I wait and wait, but the assault does not repeat itself. Until the next day, during the wee hours of the night, at any time after the silent midnight.

They drag cleaning carts at random times. They scratch the parquet or the cardboard walls that make every building Made in USA.” They walk loudly.  They speak a language of unknown accent that in Havana I would have perceived as English.  There are little permanent lights that come in through the curtains or fall from the ceiling tiles in the form of a sea of alarms that never cease.  And then begin my dreams. My North American dreams.  North American dreams about Cuba, it is understood.

At this point in history, to dream of Cuba is purely a preservation instinct.  I dream that I am back there, of course. And I laugh, I laugh like a madman.

I laugh at the assassins paid by the powers-that-be who did not arrest me or search my things with the twisted pleasure of rapists at the airport customs. I see things as if they were very small, dilapidated, but with an insane shine, like a drug addict.  I see the houses of my city, the ones that I can recognize with my eyes closed.  I see the small house of wooden planks, the only one in my life, the one in which I was born and died several times in Lawton; and I see my sacred objects, the ones I barely said goodbye to; and then someone tells me (usually someone I loved a lot, but not anymore): “When are you returning to the United States?”

“Never,” I reply, and suddenly I cannot breathe in the dream, and at that point I invariably wake up crying.  With pouting.  A baby’s cry, a cry of mental patient.

To return.

Cuba.

Never.

The United States.

The agony of the fighting fish.  Their branchiae wide open, like swords. The oxygen of an atmosphere  that will never be my atmosphere. Not having ground under my dreams.  To be without existing.  Orlando, Orlando…why have you forsaken us…?

I open my eyes. It is not dawning yet. I want to forget. My temples hurt. There are weird noises in the rooms around me. I am alone.  Desolate.

If one day I go out on a walk, if it snows, and I get lost erasing my footsteps, who and when is going to ask about me?  Who takes care of me?  Who misses me?  Who will feel sorry for my loved ones if one bad day my country’s military death reaches me by edict so that I do not live my life after Fidel?

I turn to the other side of the bed. I sleep naked. I curl up under the blankets and sheets which the American hotels provide me from coast to coast in the nation.  The beds are cold here. More than exciting, they are pure erection. I cannot resist myself.

Nor am I sleepy now, but I surrender very quickly.  I yawn, I must be exhausted. I nod. I myself make the noises and whispers that are going to reach, incognito, the other room.  Strange. I do not stop myself. It is warm and tender like the deep light of the northern skies.  Like the smile of teenagers who dispense insipid dishes at a cafeteria while they complete their PhD. I swallow air. I retain it. I am choking. I am not here.

I think about collecting all the Cuban dreams of exile.  They are not here.

I am asleep, we are asleep.  Soon it is about to be dawn.

*Translator’s note: The word “Dreaming” appears in English in the original. “Gusano” (worm) here refers to the insult hurled by the Cuban regime and its vassals at every person who has opposed the regime in any way, or who has left the country to escape it.

Translated by Ernesto Ariel Suarez

29 September 2013

Oscar in Memoriam / Rosa Maria Rodriguez

Photo from paraclito.net

I met Oscar Espinosa Chepe† at the home of another opposition activist around the year 1997.  Later, I had the opportunity to interact more with him when he would go to the headquarters of CubaPress, then situated in the residence of Ricardo González Alfonso, in Havana’s Miramar neighborhood, so that the editor of that press agency could edit his next article to be published.  So careful was he when stating his opinion responsibly and in the best way possible, that after a while, Germán Díaz Castro told me that the articles that Chepe would bring him did not need editing.  In his effort to “say and to write well” he had acquired the necessary dexterity to provide with discernible journalistic skill his economic observations of the Cuban situation.

Years of opposition activities led us to running into each other several times, and in him I always found a decent, cordial, solicitous and supportive fellow citizen, a comrade in peaceful fights so polite that he never “threw the chalk piece”* of bad behavior against his comrades in the struggle.  His path of economist, civic and opposition activist, plus the intolerant and dictatorial nature of Cuban authorities, led him unjustly to prison in March of 2003.  He was sentenced to twenty years, and released on parole the next year, for health reasons.  He came out with the same humility and simplicity, without the rancor that corrodes and weakens moral and character, and which are the trademark of the dictatorial men in charge that ordered his confinement.  From prison he came out marked by the ailment that closed his eyes to life a few days ago, and opened them to immortality.

This past Sunday, September 22nd, he absented himself physically.  I prefer to remember that part of Chepe’s biography that I knew: educated like a diplomat, and as humble and as much of a dreamer as any patriot opposed to the totalitarian regime.  The man who worked so much for Cuba that for many years we will have the light shone by his analyses and his wisdom guiding our democratizing economic paths.  Those that inevitably will come to create and encourage laws that stimulate trade and production so that our country can definitely prosper without this failed planning socialism –centralism- in which the government has been the flogging and destructive gendarme of our economy and the archipelago in general.

I send my sincere condolences to his widow and other relatives for the death of Oscar, as well as to all who like me, are afflicted by this grievous loss.  R.I.P.

*Translator’s note: Cuban expression that means to misbehave in a furtive way.

Translated by Ernesto Ariel Suarez

26 September 2013

Eugenio Yanez Remembers Oscar Espinosa Chepe

Miriam Leiva and Oscar Espinosa Chepe

Miriam Leiva and Oscar Espinosa Chepe

Oscar Espinosa Chepe was a person convinced of what he did in life, without any extremist opportunisms or false remorse about his “revolutionary” phase from his earliest youth. A person of integrity, when speaking or writing he did not care about what his bosses (when he had them) would like to hear; or, after breaking up with the regime, what opposition activists and exiles [would like to hear or read], but [about] the analyses needed to understand the Cuban reality. His didactic virtuosity made any topic that he took on look easy and simple, but the rigor of his analysis and the depth of his conclusions showed a professional committed to the pursuit of the truth. As an economist, independent journalist and opposition activist, he is an example to all Cubans on both shores of the Florida Strait.

Eugenio Yáñez. Writer and Columnist. He edits Cubanálisis-El Think-Tank

Translated by Ernesto Ariel Suarez

From Cubaencuentro

24 September 2013

The Anti-Gospel According to Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

1 I, that had no motherland, have lost my motherland.

2 The motherland is, of course, the place where your neighbor will mourn over your dead body.  3 And, I never wanted this. 4 I resisted from the time I opened my eyes and saw.  5 Everything was so ugly, so false, so Cuban around me. 6 That I never wanted to give them the only thing that made me good and real. 7 My body.

8In the silent night of childhood. 9 In the fading light of adolescence.  10 In the early mornings being nude on stairwells and neighborhood alleys. 11 In the youth devastated by the nightmare of the 1990s. 12 In the two thousand-nothings when all who were to die had died and love still had not shown up. 13 Now. 14 When I want the least to be mourned in my country or to have a street named after me in democracy.

15 I do not want to be mourned. 16 Seriously. 17 But I want a country. 18 Please.

19 Life is too much of life for it to be humiliated by death. 20 If life ends in a wake, then it was not worth living it. 21 Life opens to life or it will never be life at all. 22 I wish to live.

23 I am going to repeat it slowly because these are two verbs that we Cubans did not know how to execute from that arrogance of beings living in freedom: to wish, to live. 24 We Cubans, who massacre each other in that mystic rapture called Motherland to achieve our most heroic state of slavery.

25 Neither wish. 26 Nor live.

27 Cuban politics is the organ (what a creepy word: organ) in charge of diplomatically avoiding these two vital verbs, to have them forgotten through pure patriotism and terror, to manipulate them in its image and convenience to cheat us out of our time and humanity. 28 That is why the people does not exist. 29 Because it has no body, just mass.  30 Because we fuse as a whole, as a something, as a living organism. 31 Because we are that: scattered organs. 32 Decrepit 33 Lifeless viscera.

34 That is why the Revolution and Castroism will have no day after. 35 It is impossible to resuscitate what has not even died, but continues to live in perpetuity.  36 An unlivable life.

37 The lyrics of the National Anthem are foreboding in that sense. 38 A macabre song, of incarnation of Evil in men and women who were already departing and in those who were yet to come. 39 Demoniacal march, just like the sight of its author on a horse in the outskirts of a city that should have been capital and ended up being holocaust. 40 Mortuary music composed precisely on a Horse*, apocalyptic beast that in less than a century will implement that same anthem to its last poetic consequences.

41 Poetry, and not Cuban politics, has been the main genocidal compulsion in what was on the verge of being my country. 42 Cuba, scaffold.

43 The word “motherland” is not better than the word “impiety.” 44 Someone had to state it for you, Cubans. 45 The word “hope” is not sterile, but breeds sterility exclusively.

46 On the claustrophobic line of the horizon 47 In the planetary twilight of the one thousand nine hundred and fifty-nine exiles. 48 In the bodies abandoned in the stampede. 49 In the love promptly betrayed.  50 In the invisible beauty. 51 In the family that vanished.  52 In the weightless home. 53 In the Cuban body constantly constrained to the cadaver that is going to inhabit it.

54 Men and women of my country, I have loved you from the distance of the most intimidating inner space. 55 From these trachea and intestines I have seen things that you, Cubans, would never believe.

56 Mercy is not enough. 57 You, that never had a motherland, will never lose the motherland. 58 And that pain is unspeakable.

59 May you remain, then, in the posthumous peace of my words.

*Translator’s note: From Spanish “El Caballo,” “the Horse,” one of Fidel Castro’s many nicknames among Cubans.  It denotes masculinity and vigor, and it is deeply rooted in that Cuban tragicomic “machismo.”

Translated by Ernesto Ariel Suarez

19 August 2013

Alejandro Armengol Remembers Oscar Espinosa Chepe

mail4-300x168Two qualities, among others, were always prominent in the articles by Chepe that appeared regularly both in Cubaencuentro as well as other publications like El Nuevo Herald.

One of them is that he could achieve the delicate balance that allowed him to present a balanced article or analysis while making clear his point of view.  To this end he would always base his writing on data and reflections free of bombastic criteria, the usual demagoguery and opportunism.

The other quality was the use of data supplied by the Cuban government itself, supported by other from international organizations, to support his analyses. That way he never conceded to the convenient argument that all information from the island is false; an argument that may have some truth to it, but that also brings an easy and complacent negativism among certain groups of exiles. It is not that Chepe believed all that the regime said, on the contrary, he knew what to question and how.  In that sense, he and professor Mesa Lago have set the precedent, and have valuable information where others refused to look.

Personally, and during the time in which I had the pleasure of editing his works for Cubaencuentro, aside from an honor, it was always a pleasure to have such a precise intellectual, both in the numbers he offered as well as his composition and spelling, all of this done with absolute humility.  He was what be said easily, but that is almost impossible to find: an example.

Alejandro Armengol. Journalist.  Editor in Chief for Cubaencuentro.

Translated by Ernesto Ariel Suarez

From Cubaencuentro

24 September 2013

Haroldo Dilla Remembers Oscar Espinosa Chepe

indexDespite living for so long on an island so small, I never met Oscar Espinosa Chepe in person. It would have been an honor and an opportunity for me, mostly after discovering him in one of his incisive articles for the late magazine Encuentro during a night of insomnia on a plane in route to Madrid.

Since then, I have read him faithfully. And every time, the acumen of the analyst and the consistency of the democrat, but most of all the integrity of the intellectual, have gratified me. Despite spending several years in prison for doing nothing other than thinking well and differently, Chepe never allowed his emotions to overcome his professionalism.  And, this makes him one of those intellectual figures called to be enduring.  And for that, we will continue reading him for a long time for the good of the prosperous, equitable and democratic that he advocated.

Dr. Haroldo Dilla Alfonso, Sociologist and Historian

Translated by Ernesto Ariel Suarez

From Cubaencuentro

Carmelo Mesa-Lago Remembers Oscar Espinosa Chepe

oscar-espinosa-chepe_menuOscar Espinosa Chepe was one of the best informed and courageous Cuban economists. Despite the difficulties to access the internet, he was always up to date on the regional and local [Economics] organizations’ publications; and his works were always well documented and objective.

His criticism was based on publications and official figures, but he also criticized the US embargo as an instrument that had failed to end the [political] system while being used as a scapegoat for all its economic failures.

To me, Chepe was always a source of inspiration, his articles are abundantly quoted in my own publications, and I had the honor of writing the foreword for two of his books.

When he came out of prison in Cuba, due to the bad state of his health’s, I was able to get two dozen prestigious economists from around the world to sign a letter to the Head of Government of Spain requesting his exit [from Cuba], but in the end  he decided to continue writing in Cuba.  He offered his life and his health for Cuba.

We met in person in Havana in 2010, and the tiny and modest apartment that he and Miriam inhabited surprised me; filled with books, magazines and papers, almost leaving no space for daily living.

He was a humble man, frugal and amiable, who loved his fatherland very much. I was able to see him in Madrid this past June and he was staying with Miriam in a tiny room of a hostel. Although already very sick, he attended the presentation of my book at Casa de América and I publicly paid him my last homage. We are going to miss him very much.

Carmelo Mesa-Lago, Professor Emeritus of Economics and Latin American Studies, University of Pittsburgh.

Translated by Ernesto Ariel Suarez

From Cubaencuentro

24 September 2013

The Great News / Enrique del Risco

madagascar—Did you hear?

—What? About the robbery of the giraffe from Havana’s zoo?

—Yeah, a giraffe, four monkeys and a pony, but I’m not talking about that…

—Those guys must have been ninjas.  A Cuban version of “Madagascar,” “Calabazar[1]: The Story of How a Group of Zoo Animals Trying to Prevent their Friends from Becoming Giraffe Sandwich”

—No, I am talking about Robertico Carcasses, who was banned from playing music the other day.

—Why?

—For singing…

—The truth is that he’s never been very good, but a ban seems excessive to me…

—Well, it was more for demanding direct elections, freedom of information and equal rights. You know, and it happened at a concert for the release of The Five[2].

—Listen, can’t you count?  A giraffe, four monkeys and a pony are six, no five.  Well, I guess what’s important is the solidarity with the poor little animals.

—No, dude, I’m talking about the five spies jailed in the Yuma[3].

—What do the five spies have to do with the giraffe?

—Nothing, you made that up. The deal is that Robertico Carcasses said all those things at the Anti-Imperialist Stage[4] and on live television.

—Ah, I see.  When did they shoot him?

—That’s the interesting part: they only thing they dared to do was to ban him from any state-owned stage in Cuba, indefinitely.

—In my time, for less than that Robertico would end up worse than the zoo’s giraffe.

—What? They already know what happened to the giraffe?

—That’s exactly what used to happen, you’d never hear of them.  Now, they only beat you up, and if you resist, they’ll throw you in jail for five years charged with contempt. Times change.

—Well, this time there was a commotion and even a member of Calle 13[5] protested the ban.

—Which one?  The one that looks retarded?

—No, the other one, the one that doesn’t sing.  The deal is that even they didn’t know how solve the imbroglio when Silvio Rodriguez[6] himself stepped in.

—Jeez! I thought it was the blue unicorn[7]. I was afraid that on top of the giraffe we would now have to deal with Silvio’s little animal.

—So, Silvio showed up saying that what Robertico had done was a great faux pas, but that the punishment should be something else.

—I see, like King Solomon…

—Wise?

—Nah, just spreading the blame equally.

—Or like Cardinal Ortega, who intervened when the government had run out of things to do against the Ladies in White.

—Well, the Cardinal Ortega of UNEAC[8] got the penalty lifted.  He had to announce it himself because for the official media Robertico has never sung.

—See, we agree on something. The Comandante[9]’s words to the intellectuals[10]have been transformed into “With Silvio, everything, without Silvio, nothing.”

—Bueno, ya eso es un cambio importante. Ahora todo radica en que Robertico no deje que lo confundan con la jirafa.

—Why? Because they are going to eat him?

—No, it’s just that he’s not good at taking care of animals.  Look at what happened to the unicorn.

Translated by Ernesto Ariel Suarez

18 September 2013


[1] Calabazar is a town south of Havana.

[2] Also known as the Cuban Five.  These are five convicted Cuban spies serving sentences in the United States since 2001.  They were part of a large group called The Wasp Network (Red Avispa).  Twelve were arrested, only 5 pleaded non-guilty.  These are the only ones that the Cuban regime defends.  One of them was released in 2012 after serving his sentence. He renounced his US citizenship, and moved to Cuba. So, The Five are really The Four now, but the Cuban regime has never been good at Math.

[3] The Yuma (el Yuma or la Yuma) is a Cuban slang term for the United States. The origin is murky, but some trace it, unlikely, to the 1957 movie 3:10 to Yuma.

[4] Tribuna Antiimperialista in Spanish.  It is a large stage set up in front of the United States Interest Section in Havana to show state-sanctioned protests against a number of actions by the US.

[5] Puerto Rican hip-hop group and a darling of the dictatorships in Cuba and Venezuela.  They have performed at the Anti-Imperialist Stage.

[6] Silvio Rodriguez is a famous Cuban singer-songwriter who after a brief period of rebellion in the 1960s, became one of the regime’s official troubadours and later on even a delegate to the National Assembly.  He wrote among many songs, one titled “My Blue Unicorn” dedicated, according to many, to a lost trophy in the shape of a blue unicorn.  It has become his avatar.

[7] See previous.

[8] UNEAC is the official Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba.

[9] Fidel Castro.

[10]“…within the Revolution, everything goes; against the Revolution, nothing.”http://lanic.utexas.edu/project/castro/db/1961/19610630.html

The Prosecution Requests Long Sentences for Sonia Garro, her husband Ramon Alejandro Munoz, and Eugenio Hernández / Diario de Cuba

soniaindexCuban prosecutors have requested long prison sentences for Lady in White Sonia Garro Alfonso, her husband the activist Ramón Alejandro Muñoz González and the also dissident Eugenio Hernández Hernández, according to the independent Center for Information Hablemos Press.

 According to statements by Muñoz González from Havana’s prison Combinado del Este where he is being held, the regime has asked for 12 in prison for him, 10 for Garro and 11 for Hernández on charges of “assault, disorderly conduct and attempted murder.”

There are conflicting reports regarding the sentences for these opposition activists.  Other sources within the internal dissidence state 12 years for Garro and 14 for her husband.

Muñoz claimed to have in his hands the document produced by the prosecution on Hernández’s case on which the sentence requests for the other accused also appear.

The three dissents have been remanded in custody since March 2012. If the sentences become true, these would be among the longest imposed on dissidents since the imprisonment of the Group of 75 in the spring of 2003.

Garro and Muñoz were arrested during a violent police operation in which the authorities used Special Troops and rubber bullets.  The Lady in White was injured in one leg.

Muñoz said that the Prosecution accuses her of attacking a female police officer and shouting “Down with Fidel and Raul.” He is accused of throwing a television set at a member of the commando that raided his home.

“That is a lie. That is not true. They arrived shooting into the house.  At no moment did we injure anyone.  We were the injured,” replied Muñoz.

“[They did] Not prove that there was (a murder) attempt.  There was an attempt, but from them on us. The only murderers here are the Castro brothers,” he said.

He reckoned that the requests for long sentences show that “they (the rulers) will never forgive the fact that there are men that fight for Cuba’s freedom.”

“The dictatorship has retaliated against peaceful fighters, defenders of human rights […] I think this is one of the greatest injustices against the opposition in the last few years,” said Muñoz.

“We are fighters, and we will continue to be, no matter how long we are in prison,” he assured us.

During the year and a half that they have spent in prison, both Muñoz and Garro have been the victims of beatings and other punishments by the authorities and by common prisoners egged on by the former. Both have passed through punishment cells.

Last month, the Lady in White received a beating by four prison guards that were subsequently suspended.

Activists and relatives have requested in numerous occasions, to no avail, that they be declared prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International.

Translated by Ernesto Ariel Suarez

From Diario de Cuba

17 September 2013

Discrimination Against Women in the Cuba of the Generals / Miriam Celaya

13-generales-okLA HABANA, Cuba, September, Miriam Celaya, www.cubanet.org –The revolutionary movement that took power in 1959, from its inception kept women in a position subordinated to male leadership.  None of the revolutionary programs included female emancipation.  Moreover, no woman took part in the crafting of the program or gave input about the objectives and social aspirations of society’s feminine sector despite the fact that already in the 1950s they were an important labor and student force, even in the universities.

At the end of the insurrection, no woman had reached higher military ranks as opposed to those who participated in the 19th century wars of independence.

The feminine sector committed to the revolutionary movement followed the patterns established by a strongly sexist tradition, and submitted itself to the always male high command’s decisions, thus being relegated to reproduce –during the war and later on the new social stage– the patriarchal model with its rigid separation of gender roles.

Women’s Front at Sierra Maestra

Nevertheless, Fidel Castro recognized the importance of the feminine force as shown during the brief imprisonment of the attackers of the Moncada Army Barracks when many women mobilized themselves into action to collect 20 thousand signatures requesting amnesty for the young revolutionaries and presented them to the Senate. Castro understood the importance of this force, and therefore created a women’s front at Sierra Maestra –Mariana Grajales Female Battalion (1958)– under the command of the 26 of July Movement lead by him.

Once in power, they created the Revolutionary Women’s Union, the predecessor of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), to mobilize women in support of the revolution’s social programs.  All republican women’s organizations, including those that had supported the revolutionary struggle, were dismantled to preclude tendencies different from those dictated by the new political power. At the same time, no woman was considered to occupy a position with the decision making circles; only one occupied  briefly the post of Education minister, and Vilma Espín, Fidel Castro’s sister in-law, led the FMC from its creation to her death.

Feminism for idle bourgeoisie

The main objective of the FMC was, in principle, to promote women’s participation in the country’s political, economic and social life, but always dependent on a complete loyalty to the revolution and the new ideology now in power.  Thus, “the FMC described itself as a feminine organization, but not a feminist one since feminism was considered a social movement that took away efforts and attention from the revolutionary struggle, aside from being the ideology of idle bourgeoisie.”  Most women accepted being part of the organization. Eventually, membership became automatic for women older than 14 years of age, so by 1995 around 3 million Cuban women, 82% of the female population, were “affiliated” to the organization.

Feminist ideology was diluted within a “collective revolutionary way of thinking.”  As the civic tools developed during the Republic disappeared, women were definitely left at the mercy of the government’s will.

Paradoxically, paired to the loss of female autonomy in politics, more than 60 percent of professionals and highly specialized technicians are women.  In contrast, most of the leadership positions are occupied by men, and this illustrates the prevalence of male patterns that maintains discrimination vis-à-vis the supposed “conquests” granted from the circles of power.  Despite their alleged emancipation, Cuban women continue to be subjected to discrimination masked by a false egalitarian discourse.

More male business owners

Currently, government reforms that legalize investments in the private sector also show the wide prevalence of men as business owners and entrepreneurs.  Women come to the new economic stage, where male protagonism prevails, at a disadvantage.  There is no political program to equalize the opportunities between the genders for the future of the island, and in the absence of a really autonomous feminine movement, women are left in the most abject civic helplessness.

But full emancipation also requires full civic responsibility.  The strong presence of women within the dissidence and the independent civil society points to an opportunity for the resurgence of women’s struggles in times to come.  Only in a democratic scenario will it be proven whether the necessary foundations for a gender conscience exist in Cuba.

Translated by Ernesto Ariel Suarez

From Cubanet

12 September 2013

The Donkeys of the Sand Pit / Lilianne Ruiz

Not one lonely statement from the Cuban intelligence services’ spy recently released from US prison after serving out his sentence regarding political prisoners in Cuba. Nothing regarding Kilo 8, Kilo 9, Boniato…[1]

A guy that calls for a campaign to create the illusion that an entire people expects and demands freedom for his 4 colleagues, could well be a man of peace, with empathy with all who are in prison for political reasons. But, it was not like that.

This is the government’s man. He looks like a carnival puppet, but he’s responsible for his actions for he articulates a message, and that message is always on the government’s side, a government that intends to be there always, without really consulting us.

That is why no one should believe that our people have come out to demand the release of 4 spies who tomorrow will ignore their suffering, their hunger, their fear of losing whatever little they have or the nothingness they possess; as does this already released spy, seen in public demonstrations carrying little children. He wants to make believe that this idea of the yellow ribbon was born from civil society, and not the government, as if this human tidal wave that refuses to acknowledge its right to deny itself could also be called a civil society. In slavery there is no power structure.

But, he is there, in that intermediate space. Between the powerless[2] and the State there is the political police, armed to prevent each group from assuming the powers that belong to them.

In school, during the morning assembly of children, a teacher admonished “Tell your parents to put a yellow ribbon in you tomorrow.  They are available for two regular[3] pesos at the neighborhood trinket store.”  I saw people in my building who are waiting for a US visa to leave this misery behind (and they think that they are leaving behind the only misery….but, there are miseries that cannot be left behind)…dressed in yellow.

Lastly, looking at the people dressed in yellow or wearing a yellow bow – people who did not have that air of the functionary trying to get ahead, simple people who do not want to know what they are doing – I remembered what I had been reading the previous night to my six-year-old daughter before bed, Platero y Yo (Platero and I).[4] I had taken in this entire quote of Juan Ramon Jimenez’s magnum opus:

“Look, Platero, at the donkeys of Quemado: slow, bent, with their pointed red load of wet sand in which they carry nailed, as if to their hearts, the green rod of the wild olive tree with which they are beaten…”


[1] These are the names of some of the most notorious Cuban prisons where political prisoners are kept in inhumane conditions.

[2] In English in the original text.

[3] As opposed to CUC or “convertible” peso, the other official currency of Cuba, artificially paired to the US dollar.

[4] Children’s book written by Spanish poet, professor and Nobel Prize laureate Juan Ramón Jiménez in 1917.  It narrates the relationship of a boy and his little donkey named Platero. It has remained extremely popular in Latin America and Spain to these days.

 

Translated by Ernesto Ariel Suarez

13 September 2013