The New Robin Hoods (1) / Angel Santiesteban

In a visit to France I was told I was a terrible Cuban because I was abstinent, didn’t smoke, didn’t dance at all, I didn’t even drink coffee, and I only eat fruits. Since then I have assumed it would be more difficult for me to understand others.

A few months ago I wrote a post in which it could be understood that I justified those who are taken as prisoners, because I explained that, according to them, the life of liberty was extremely difficult, and well, in their homes they had to confront the stark reality, and in some commentaries, or perhaps in only one, I commented, with every right, that no crime has a justification, which I reaffirm, of course. This would entail a sanction against Robin Hood, who committed misdeeds, stole from the rich to give to the poor.

Incidentally, none of the prisoners who are in prison with me have robbed particular houses, perhaps because of the poor socioeconomic status in the society, because the majority live with them daily, and the new rich live in protected areas. Neither have they robbed specific businesses, in Cuba there are none, or the few snack bars that exist are of very low income, and those prosperous businesses were also located in zones with major surveillance. Continue reading “The New Robin Hoods (1) / Angel Santiesteban”

The majority of the inmates who have robbed, like to assert that they have stolen nothing from the people, only the state, because they simply feel scammed because in return for their intelligence or physical strength they receive nothing, the wages are barely enough to eat.

And don’t be deceived, here there are those with a low level of education, but the majority have degrees in economics and they even have PhDs. There are also engineers, doctors, and other diverse professionals, decent people, Catholics and Christians, who have also committed a crime.

When you investigate for what reason, they tell you they studied a minimum of five years in the university and are not even able to afford sneakers for their kids to go to school. It is humiliating, one tells me, “I have to wait for my wife’s brother to remember his nephews and send them some consignments.” My eyes opened upon realizing the personal shame. “My father in law,” he continued, “when he was in Cuba, would make fun of me for studying late at night until dawn, while he engaged in illegal negotiations, assuring me that I was wasting my time. What is worse? He was right.”

Here they meet severe penalties for transgressing and selling some concrete mixture for construction. Or the economist who accepts twelve dollars as a Christmas present for his good work throughout the year, or the purchaser, who once in a foreign country, without affecting the company for which he worked, he received a secret commission that is not read on paper, and fulfilled his task, perhaps even buying the product in question at the best price ever. Or the food grocers who took products from the black bag like everyone else.

Manuel Garcia

The King of the Fields

There is an official commercial network in Cuba that sells only what is not found in the parallel commercial market of resellers. When they are offered a job position, before asking about the salary, Cubans determine what is being produced and if it is easy to evade work. That is how most Cubans live.

The professors and doctors sell their friendliness, nurses sell how to “resolve” things, that is get them done, or private tutoring that cost 1 CUC a class. No father earns that amount, 25 pesos is all the money for one day, but if they don’t pay it, it is possible that their kids will pass the grade level with very poor school grades.

One would have to ask if stealing for food is a crime. If it is more decorous for families in the island to live off of the sweat of family members abroad. And if stealing from the state is not similar to stealing from the king of the fields.

Angel Santiesteban – Prats.

Prison settlement of Lawton. May 2014.

Please sign the petition so that Amnesty International will declare Angel Santiesteban a political prisoner.

Translated by: Bianca Martinez

12 July 2014

Historical Remnants: Julio Sanguily, the Great Traitor / Angel Santiesteban

Men and women make history, later, it is collected by historians, based on documents that serve as evidence of those events.

For which Cuban is it not a point of pride, the rescue carried out by General Ignacio Agramonte he snatched the imprisoned official Julio Sanguily from the Spanish troops, which came to be one of the epic battles — – comparable to those of Ulysses and recorded in The Odyssey — for the waste of courage, noble sentiments, and generosity that could only cause that possible suicide, given the superiority in numbers of the enemy troops?

Nonetheless, it has been approximately 10 years since payments by the Spanish government to their spy, Julio Sanguily have been discovered. It is certain that he was also a spy for the American government and received his price in gold. It is a fact that in various occasions, Julio Sanguily received money and used it for his own personal purposes.

The most hurtful — to my understanding, because I am no historian, only one constant consumer of the investigations of those who are authorized in this subject — was that the money sent by José Martí for the start of the war in 1895, strategized and arranged by the Apostle (as Cubans call Martí), and which Sanguily received, was poorly wasted without helping the revolt. His brother Manuel maintained himself in an upright and consistent position with the fight for the good Cubans.

Despite the great wounds received in combat for Julio, the money was his weakness, or, seeing his body so sacrificed, he decided to exchange sacrifice for pleasure, something that was repeatedly done by a certain type of Cuban throughout history. This reality has also been dealt with with secrecy, although it has already been recorded by some historian, precisely the one who found the documents of the payments in the archives of the peninsula.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Prison settlement of Lawton. June, 2014.

Please follow the link so Amnesty International may declare Angel Santiesteban, a Cuban political prisoner

Translated by: Bianca Martinez

11 July 2014

The Massacre in Canimar River: 34th Anniversary / By Enrisco in the Blog of Luis Felipe Rojas

By Enrisco

Today, July 6th, is the 34th anniversary of what is regarded as (only by a few certainly) as “The Massacre in Canimar River” because 14 years before the sinking of the “March 13th” tugboat there was an almost identical event in which the Cuban regime was left further unscathed than in the crime of 1994. In the same days as the exodus from Mariel three youths attempted to seize a tourism boat in the area near the Matanzas bay carrying 60-100 people.

While they attempted to escape they were persecuted and machine-gunned by the authorities and later drowned. The exact number of victims is still unknown although they were approximately 50 people of whom some where women and children. (“The precise number of victims remains a secret, but it is at least 56, including children of the ages 3, 9, 11, and 17 years old” according to the Cuba Archive). Only 10 people survived and 11 bodies were retrieved.

Its “historical” importance is to serve as a reminder that the sinking of the tug boat “March 13th” tugboat was not an isolated incident, but one of the most salient characteristics of the political system whose aim was to repress through all venues — including assassination — people who attempted to escape the island.

The other point is to better explain the sinking of the tugboat as a sort of general rehearsal: whomever made the decision to sink the tugboat (and given the transcendence of the decision the most logical answer is, Fidel Castro) had to remember the scarce international repercussions from the massacre that occurred 14 years earlier and reflect that, effectively, it would serve as an intimidating gesture in the domestic sphere without the price to pay in public relations being too costly.

If there remain doubts on the level of involvement of the country’s higher authorities in the crime, it should be known that Julian Rizo Alvarez, who was secretary of the Communist Party of Matanzas gave the order to machine-gun, was promoted 5 months later to Secretary of the Communist Party at a national level in the 2nd Congress of the PCC.

The original post appears in “el blog de Enrisco,” on Sunday, July 6, 2014.

Translated by: Bianca Martinez

7 July 2014

Fury and Delirium / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

The Books on the Cuban Death by Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

There is a literary genre more popular than the rest of Cuban literature, which, by the way, has become a dying phenomenon since a few decades ago.

That genre is the “books on death,” the books written by the serial killers in the island (who spread to Latin America), as if they were perverse characters from an ideological thriller called the Revolution.

Today, 15 years late, I felt the spontaneous urge to read one of the vital and monumental works on Cuban deaths: “The Fury and the Delirium” (Tusquets, 1999), by the killer son of killers and earning wages from killers Jorge Masetti, whose destiny to become a depressing or best-selling star I ignore, but whose prose I will always admire for its morbid monstrosity. Continue reading “Fury and Delirium / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo”

This grotesque genre has no limits, which is why it is superior to all those who can publish the self-censured Cuban writers. It combines an odd Oedipus with the Macho-Chief (or the Mafia in Chief) with a frigidity that, so as not to be recognized as suicidal, becomes criminal.

On the one hand, the horror (more than fury) of failing the totalitarian state. On the other hand, the disaster (more than delirium) in which the narrator’s life is summed up, turning in circles like a shark thirsty for blood, in exchange for some kind of feeling for his sterile and devalued life. Without worth or meaning. Death as a moral.

In this line of reasoning, whoever is capable of killing, is good and beautiful and was right. Those who let themselves be killed are fragile and ugly and out of place and because of that they left the world.

These serial killers act out of a solipsistic atrocity, but not for a moment do they cease having contact with the rest of the world. And this is where the vulgar genre shines for its sinister sincerity: there are no politics, or art, or sport, or disease, or accident, or fame, or frontiers, or nations, or history, or memory, or identity, or anything that isn’t agreed upon a priori by the heroes of pure action, by the pre-political slaughters in this case the international Castroism (whatever the sign is: Castroism is the pluribus unum of our time).

Jorge Masetti thus narrates from the dark holes that we Cubans, like a lost nation, never suspect that without works like these. In this book we endlessly hear the idle chatter of power. We spy the parliamentary halls of the evil ministries, who voluntarily administer mass murder. We intuit the insidious intelligence, that traces the puppet show that is our biography of citizens who serve as props, as grim. We realize unspeakable things in “The Fury and the Delirium” and its agonizing analyses. Things that are literally unspeakable.

In this book, finally, is the nation’s inner voice, its unlivable novel, its intimate and intimidating corpse-like groan. And thanks to this genre we understand, much more than the author (who only thinks he created catharsis), that we Cubans who are still alive are always complicit or at fault, because at some dead point in our lives we have been forgiven by State Security.

On more than one level, and of this Jorge Masetti is perfectly aware, he who survives is a traitor. His options are now simple (perhaps he already chose in these 15 years of delay in my re-reading): insanity or holiness.

After the Cuban Revolution, death will again become meaningless. Castroism has, well, a role to endlessly fulfill: dose the evil that men freely do unto other men, and if possible, precipitate the evil hand of God, his fury is brittle for those who are still alive with so many enemies intermixed.

Translated by: Bianca Martinez

7 July 2014

Cuba: Is Varadero for People of Another Social Class? / Ivan Garcia

Under a brightly colored umbrella, a representative of Gaviota, a tourism chain, the property of businessmen in the Cuban military, offers an inclusive leisure package for the summer.

The bureau of reservations is nestled in an old parking lot of a strip mall in 5th Avenue and 42nd, Miramar, to the west of Havana.

It is Saturday. There is a festive atmosphere: Kiosks selling popcorn, sandwiches, and frozen pizzas that are heated in the microwave and taste like plastic. Meanwhile, flat screen televisions are airing the World Cup soccer matches in Brazil.

There has to be music. Randomly situated speakers amplify too loudly the current hit, Bailando, by Enrique Iglesisas, Descemer Bueno, and People of the Zone.

In the tourism bureau everything is a hustle. Over a table, public pamphlets of “all-inclusive” hotels in Varadero, Cayo Coco, or Santa Lucia.

Past nine-thirty in the morning they begin to see clients. The personnel are friendly with Colgate smiles and a commercial diction learned through quick marketing courses. Continue reading “Cuba: Is Varadero for People of Another Social Class? / Ivan Garcia”

The representatives of each chain wear differently colored shirts: Gaviota, green; Cubanacan, red; Havanatur, yellow, and Isla Azul, white. Why speak of the price? Two nights in the hotel Bella Costa de Varadero, 240 CUC. A weekend in the beach Ancon, Sancti Spiritus, 380 cuc. Recall that the average monthly salary in Cuba is 20 convertible pesos.

Like anywhere else in the world, the hotels cost according to their glamour and five-star rating. In a queue to make reservations of nine people  there is only one black woman.

The rest are white. Two foreigners with Cuban “girlfriends” with extremely long nails, tiny shorts, and high heels, probably prostitutes, choose the Pesquero Beach, in the eastern province of Holguin, where they hope to drink mojitos and relax in beach chairs.

A Cuban-American residing in Coconut Grove, Miami-Dade, wishes to rent in a four-star hotel in Varadero for a week. “My family is from a mountainous area in Santiago de Cuba. Everything is going well for me in the United States. There is no one better with whom to share my vacations than with them.”

When it is his turn, the shrewd representative of Gaviota makes an offer: “Almost impossible, this is a hotel that specializes in family services. It is ranked second in preference within Varadero. You will thank me,” signals the vendor with engrossing confidence.

It has been ten years since she has visited Cuba and she debates between the unplanned expenses and her poor parents, who spend their vacations watching TV and relieving themselves from the heat with a chinese fan. She gives in to the commercial coaxing of the type of expert who draws money from clients.

“By the end I wasted two thousand CUC for eight nights and four rooms in El Patriarca, a five-star hotel. It is worth distracting my family. Cuba is not doing well. Whatever one does for the family will be too little,” she says, and stores away her reservation in her bag.

Natacha, from the Cubanacan chain, knows how to handle all types of clients. “We win our commission for every sold package. The cheapest are the Spanish, they always have been, but now with their financial crisis they like to buy cheaply. The Canadians and the Russians pay without joking. The Cuban-Americna or other American we attract once in a while, will even leave tips.”

Two married doctors who worked for two years in South Africa, while drinking Corona beers, are enthralled while listening to a tourism operator who proposes an offer in Cayo Coco, Ciego de Avila, 500 kilometers from Havana.

“After working in such alienated places we deserve a good vacation. With the money we collected we could repair the house and buy appliances for the house. We thought of acquiring a car, but after the government annulled the special right to doctors, it is impossible to buy a car with the current prices. We therefore decided to rent 4 nights in Cayo Coco,” recounts the married couple.

The black woman is an engineer. Since 2010 she tends to stay two or three days in an “all-inclusive” hotel in Varadero. This season she could rent 5 nights in Melia Marina Varadero. This cost here 822 cuc.

“With my salary of 500 Cuban pesos and 27.50 CUC monthly I would never be able to. Thanks to the grandmother of my daughter who resides in Europe and my husband, who is working for himself, we can spend some time in a hotel in Varadero,” she expresses.

If you leave the commercial complex in 5th and 42, Miramar, and arrive at the center of Havana, in corners within dangerous neighborhoods you will see young people chatting about soccer or making plans to make money.

They are hardened by their marginal existence. They know where drugs are sold and often spend nights throwing dice in an illegal gaming house. They are also experts in proposing sex with boys or girls and sell fashionable clothes. When you ask them where they will spend their vacations they look at you as if you were an alien.

“Are you kidding, brother? Vacations for us mean having money in our pockets, drinking beer, talking about nothing or going out with an American. If we can lunch or dine as God wishes we are happy. We entertain ourselves watching sports on the television and when it is hot we go the beaches in the east, we take a shower and down a whole liter of white rum. Neither Varadero or Cayo Coco is in our plans. That is for people of higher social standing.”

Ivan Garcia

Notes by Tania Quintero

The five-star Hotel Melia Marina Varadero was inaugurated in July 2013 and included in its attractions is a harbor with a capacity to dock 1,200 yachts, which will grow to 3,000 boats of small, medium, and large sizes.

Situated in the Hicacos Peninsula, Matanzas, 150 kilometers east of Havana, expect 423 rooms and one condominium with 126 one- and two-bedroom apartments.  This hotel is the 26th establishment by the firm Melia Hotels International, which in May 10 1990 inaugurated in Varadero as its first hotel in Cuba, the Sol Palmeras. Melia is the foreign hotel chain with greatest presence in Cuba. In 2016 it will open a hotel in the colonial city of Trinidad, in the central south of the island.

Currently, 60 hotels are administered by 16 foreign chains, among which is the Portuguese Pestana, which in August 2013 started its operations in Cuba with the opening of Pestana Cayo Coco Beach Resort, a four-star hotel located in the Jardines dle Rey, keys which are north of the province, Ciego de Avila.

The last one to join the list is the Swiss empire, Kempinski Hotels, founded in 1897, and with more than 80 luxury hotels in the world. Kempinski acquired the rights to administer and commercialize the hotel that was constructed in the old Manzana de Gomez, in the heart of Havana, to be inaugurated in October 2016.

The main national operator is the Group of Tourism Gaviota S.A., property of the Ministry of the Armed Services. As of 2008, the Cubans can stay in any hotel or tourism facility…. as long as they pay in Cuban convertible pesos, the Creole hard currency. Three years later, in 2011, BBC World informed that after the Canadians, the main group of tourists in Cuba were the Cuban citizens from the islands and the immigrants who visit.

We recommend the lecture series in 10 posts dedicated to Varadero, that during October 7-28, 2013 was published on “The Blog” by Ivan Garcia and his friends, among these the last two, “Memories” and “Varadero, where Benny found peace.”

Translated by: Bianca Martinez

25 June 2014

School Violence and Social and Legal Indiscipline in Cuba / Dayanara Vega, Cuban Law Association

By Dayanara Vega

School violence is considered an intentional act or omission that is hurtful and practiced among members of the educational community (students, professors, parents, entry-level employees) and that is done within the physical space of school facilities and other spaces directly related to the school (areas surrounding the school or places where extracurricular acitivies are carried out).

An extreme and characteristic form of school violence present among students is school bullying.

Scientific studies mark the following as principal risk factors that give rise to school violence in the lives of members of the educational community: Continue reading “School Violence and Social and Legal Indiscipline in Cuba / Dayanara Vega, Cuban Law Association”

– Social exclusion or the feeling of being excluded

– The absence of boundaries for proper social behavior

– The constant exposure to violence reflected in social media, which in Cuba is observed in TV serials and certain novels that superficially touch on the theme.

– The integration into gangs that use violence as a form of ordinary behavior.

– The justification of violence in society or in the social atmosphere to which that person belongs.

– Family problems such as violence (divorce, domestic violence)

School bullying can become physical.

School assault (also known as school harassment or by the English term, “bullying”) is any form of psychological, verbal, or physical mistreatment repeatedly practiced among members of the school for a certain amount of time.

Statistically, the dominant form of violence is emotional and is mainly in the class and the courtyard of the school. The protagonists tend to be boys and girls on the verge of entering adolescence (12-13 years), with a slightly higher percentage of girls being the victims.

School bullying is a type of torture, methodical and systematic, in which the agressor abuses the victim often with silence, indifference, or with the complicity of other schoolmates.

This kind of violence is characterized by a repetition that aims to intimidate the victim, implicating an abuse of power exercised by a more powerful aggresor (the strength may be real or perceived). The mistreated subject is left physically and emotionally exposed before his aggresor, generating a series of psychological consequences (although these do not form part of the diagnosis); it is common for the victim to be afraid to attend school and to demonstrate nervousness, sadness, or loneliness in his or her daily life. In some cases, the difficulty of the situation can give rise to suicidal thoughts and their materialization, as consequences of harassment.

In our country we customarily blame external sources for social indiscipline and do not look within ourselves to see how we have lost values that are at the core of the family; the fundamental unit of society.

The state does not take responsibility since the Geneva Convention exists to protect youth and adolescents and Cuba forms a part of it yet does not enact real judicial actions whose aim is to put the brakes on this social evil.

Translated by: Bianca Martinez

7 July 2014

Somos+ Launches a Project to Save History / Eliecer Avila

Among the first victims of January ’59 was the history of Cuba, especially the phase of the Republic. A radical rupture caused the immediate divorce of the new generations with a past that was reduced to four lines in scholarly books. (From Somos+)

La Havana, Cuba – “Puppet State, governing mafias, corruption, and poverty” are the only emblems, according to the official version, of the first half of the twentieth century in Cuba

A tour of eight libraries in Havana, while inquiring whether there existed some available texts on the Republic, resulted in only one book in two libraries dedicated to the theme: “The Republic of Cork” by Rolando Rodriguez.

The disconnectedness from the Internet worsens the situation. It is such that the access to documents, testimonials, videos, statistics and serious studies, are reduced to such a small number of people that they do not rely on a platform to discuss the contents.

To this situation we are already working on a series of testimonials, with people who lived, worked, fell in love and started families, and dreamed during the Republic. Men and women who are a living treasure because of their accumulated experiences and unprejudiced vision of the different realities that nuanced a whole era.

We want to investigate, from the household perspective, how that society felt. How was the health, the education, the exercise of democratic participation (when it existed), the press, the architecture, the cost of living, the markets, the music, the recreational activities, the institutions, the problems of the moment . . . finally, everything that can provide understanding about a tumultuous period, but one that was productive in the construction of the Cuban nation.

We also seek to shed light over many deeds and historical circumstances that have been strongly manipulated or distorted. The objective is not to establish truths or impose visions, but to enrich the debate and provoke a flourishing of knowledge and vital analysis for the current age.

The people who wish to participate in this historical series can contact us through email, by phone, or through mail.

Eliecer Avila, Engineer, (Somos+)

Cubanet, 13 June 2014

Translated by: Bianca Martinez

Spanish post
14 June 2014

Miami: Diverse and Pluralistic

somersault1403737414_img_00702Just by strolling through, you can see the diverse medley that everyone has described Miami to be. A girl pirouettes in a public square; exiled Cubans peacefully protest in a major street within the city; a Muslim woman takes a rest away from the incessant heat on a Saturday morning; and the Marlins Park opens to avid baseball fans. This is Miami.muslim1403737415_img_07752

writers happy hour1403737415_img_0232Miami: “Happy hours” on Thursday. Writers. Photo: Luis Felipe Rojas

hunger strike1403737416_1Democratic Movement – Hunger Strike. Photo: Luis Felipe Rojas.

marlins parkmg_0270Marlins Park.

Translated by: Bianca Martinez

8 June 2014