A Silhouette of Light in the Midst of Shadows / Regis Iglesias

Regis Iglesias and Oswaldo Paya, prior to the 2003 Black Spring

At 9 am I called tía Beba’s house. I was waiting to hear Efrén answer the phone as usual and update me on the early news of that March 19th day, as we did every day. The day before I had called in the morning and asked him to ask Oswaldo if my presence was necessary in the neighborhood of el Cerro. I wanted to dedicate the afternoon to getting together with the Citizen Committee of the 10 de Octubre district, and check on the march for the signature collection campaign in support for the Varela Project demand. After checking in with Oswaldo, he gave me the green light.

I spent March 18th along with fellow activists until late in the afternoon. Later on, as usual, I visited my friends in the neighborhood and ended the night well after midnight with my dearest friends Luis Torres and Alejandro Rivero. Back home my worried mother waited for me, as news went around of the arrest of a group of activists and independent journalists who were gathered in James Cason’s home, the Principal Officer to the U.S Interest Section in Havana.

So that she wouldn’t worry, I didn’t give it much importance. I told her that as usual, they would let them go after a couple of hours, and that in any case, some of Cason’s guests were notorious informants for the regime’s political police. What was happening had nothing to do with us.

I hadn’t had the chance to look at the official reports because I had been busy at work as manager of the Citizen Committees. Besides, the circles I was frequenting weren’t too fond of listening to the “round tables” or the regime’s news. Therefore, that March 18th I had been unaware of the storm that battered against the peaceful Cuban opposition. In any case, the disinformation of the official television did not give bigger clues as to what was really happening.

I went to sleep and my mother felt more tranquil.

The next day, on March 19th, it wasn’t Efrén who answered the phone. I was surprised as I heard Ernesto Martini, “Freddy”, pick up the phone and say: “Come here immediately, last night they detained Efrén, several managers for the Varela Project al over the country, and other members of the opposition”. I couldn’t yet understand what was happening when I hung up the phone and left immediately on my bike on my way to el Cerro.

Oswaldo was already with Tony Díaz in the streets, visiting the families of those who had been detained; the list grew longer every hour. They also went to visit members of the diplomatic body in Havana that was responsible for denouncing what was happening, without a doubt a repressive wave whose outcome was still unknown.

I started answering phone calls from members of the press who were interested in knowing what was occurring. At the same time, new information was constantly reaching us about arrests throughout the country. The numbers reached dozens by that second day of the repressive surge.

That night Oswaldo came back along with Tony; they were exhausted. Tony went back home to Marianao to clean up and eat something. To distract the kids a bit, we had promised to take them to the Cerro stadium to watch a baseball game starring the Industriales team. However, as we were eating dinner before going out with Oswaldito and Rei, Rosa María picked up a call that seemed urgent. “Hold on, I’ll put Regis on the phone,” said Rosa Maria to the speaker while she gave me a worried look. It was Yeni, Tony’s older daughter. Crying, she was telling me that they were arresting her father. I cheered her up and tried not to worry her even more.

We didn’t go to the baseball game. Oswaldo and I went to tía Beba’s house, a block away from his, and took over Freddy’s post as we answered calls from family members and journalists. Already the political police’s siege had reached our neighborhood. We could see dozens of people on foot and in automobiles going around our block and passing in front of Beba’s house. Then came a Spanish correspondent to interview Oswaldo, and he was with us for a long while waiting for our own arrests. Years later this journalist proved to be an agitator who for some reason only he can clarify, has been determined to openly attack peaceful Cuban dissidents and to defend the hangmen and hit men of the regime.

Freddy had already left and only Oswaldo and I remained to face the imminent assault on his aunt’s house, where our office functioned. Late in the night, when everything seemed more calm, we agreed that I would stay the night at Beba’s house, since thousands of new signatures in support of the Valera Project were still there.

The next morning, on March 20th, Freddy arrived. Oswaldo and I went to Ricardo Montes’s house, another leader of our Movement. The persecution we faced was fierce; we had wanted to move around in Ricardo’s old motorcycle, but seeing how aggressive our persecutors were, we decided not to take the risk and to continue onto Tony’s house on a bus.

The State Security cars were ostentatiously visible. One of them, which we had been following with our eyes since we took the bus on 51st Ave, moved ahead, and when we reached the next stop an agent came down from the car and got on the public vehicle in which we were traveling. He came as close as three feet from us inside the bus.

When we stepped down, he got off with us, and continued to walk a couple of yards behind us until he disappeared into a car. At that moment, we were being followed by a white van, an ambulance, two Ladas and even a Mercedes Benz. Only the helicopter was missing, perhaps for lack of fuel, in an effort to corner two simple and peaceful mortals like us.

We arrived at Díaz’ house, and found his whole family there, worried: his wife Gisela, his daughter Yeni, his mother-in-law and his brother. They told us about the violent unfolding of the intimidation efforts against his wife and his younger daughters the night of Tony’s arrest.

We immediately moved to the Dutch embassy. The ambassador guaranteed that her country would denounce the oppressive wave, and would ask the Cuban regime to explain itself. The same occurred in the Spanish embassy, where Oswaldo was able to speak to President Aznar and with Pat Cox, then president of the European Parliament.

We moved on and passed by a Church where many friends were assembled. We were able to see images on CNN in which they interviewed independent journalist Omar Rodríguez Saludes. From the balcony of his apartment, the cameras focused on the deployment of agents waiting for orders to detain him. We read an interview that I had given Miami’s New Herald the day before, denouncing the cowardly provocations from the regime. At the same time, we crafted an emergency plan for such a dramatic moment.

We were exhausted but could not stop; our pursuers could stop if they wanted. As we stopped briefly to drink something, Oswaldo tells me: “We’ll gather every member of the movement in front of Villa Marista until they release every single detainee.”

I replied, “Don’t you realize this is purposely directed against us? The great majority of those arrested are managers of the Valera Project. They have detained our leaders in the entire country, and only you and I remain. No; whoever remains must organize our people again and continue. Those of us who fall must wait for better times, now there’s nothing we can do. We have a minimal base but it’s not enough to challenge the government on this terrain. If we act with a hot head we’ll destroy everything we have accomplished. It already feels strange that I haven’t been arrested yet.”

He looked at me; I noticed his anguish. Oswaldo was suffering for every single one of our detained brothers, and for their families. He wanted to be there himself, behind the walled-in doors of Villa Marista, the general headquarters of the Cuban political police. I felt his suffering; I was able to see that man’s greatness through the pain in his eyes, while at the same time they shined with the same determination as always to continue, despite everything, fighting for the rights of all Cubans.

We went on until reaching the parish church Cristo Rey. We stepped inside the temple. A priest who was our friend came to us worried with what was happening according to the news; he offered to take me home in his car. I thanked him but declined his kind gesture; I had to continue along with Oswaldo. We knelt down for a couple of minutes and prayed for our detained brothers, for their families, for the leaders and activists of the MCL and the Cuban opposition, for the thousands of citizen signatories of the Valera Project and for all Cubans. The sinister cloud that has reigned over our dear homeland for so many decades is today even more dangerous and menacing.

We went back to Beba’s house, with the hope that everything had stopped and that we would hear back from the first freed dissidents in a few hours. Freddy presented the hard reality, more people had been arrested, and there was no sign that what was happening was something, as in other times, temporary.

We then put ourselves to the task of contacting those who were still in liberty, communicating to them that the work for the rights of Cubans would continue under any circumstance.

Around 8 pm I told Oswaldo I would go to my parents’ house for a few hours and that I would come back as soon as I was done cleaning up and eating something. He insisted that I should stay. “Don’t go, these people are being very aggressive and they could arrest you too. Ofe (his wife, Ofelia) can make you something to eat and you can shower here.”

“No”, I said, “if they’re going to arrest me they should do it already. I have the feeling they haven’t done it because we have been together all day, but we can’t avoid it forever. Besides, I don’t want them to arrest me while I’m with you. I know you and you’re going to try to stop it, putting yourself at risk. I won’t allow it! You save the Movement, save the Valera Project, and take care of my daughters….Go home with the kids and Freddy and I will go to Lawton for a while and come back.”

He looked at me like a father who could no longer avoid the decisions of a grown son. If he could, he would have tied me down to a chair so I wouldn’t leave. If he could he would have hugged me and wouldn’t have let me go alone to meet our persecutors. All of this he said without speaking, only with his eyes.

“I’ll see you later Bapu”, I said to him, and turned around to speak to Freddy about some trivial topic, waiting for Oswaldo to walk away. I felt him as he left, and it was then that I turned around to look at him as he walked into the darkness of the night towards his house, where Ofelita and the kids waited, worried, for him to come back.

He walked with a firm pace and in his characteristic style. His fists were closed, as with the fury of not being able to stop the unstoppable, as if everything depended on him to bring liberty to Cubans, as if he wanted for himself everything that would befall on us. As if he knew that the road did not end there, and that it would fall on him and on the youngest of his disciples to confront together, alone and years later, the cross of martyrdom.

That was the last time we saw each other, and I’ll never be able to forget his silhouette of light disappearing among the shadows.

Minutes later from my mobile phone I would send him a call, but I wasn’t speaking. As soon as I was able to perceive the maneuver of our detention, I was able to make the call and to throw the phone under the taxicab in which we traveled, amid the struggle with my captors, to stop them from getting it and to give Oswaldo’s family time to find out we had been arrested.

Ofelita, I found out later, was the person who answered the phone and desperately gave it to Oswaldo, as he heard how we were kidnapped right in public. I know that he, our dear Bapu, while admonishing the hit-men who finally picked up the phone with a bit of effort under the car, let run through his tense cheek, a limpid crystal of good-bye.

See you soon, Oswaldo, I know we’ll find each other again, Bapu.

Original post in Spanish is here.

Translator’s note: Regis Iglesia was sentenced along with the other political prisoners of the 2003 Black Spring, in his case to 18 years.  He was released in 2010 in a deal brokered by the Catholic Church and sent into exile in Spain.

Translated by: Claudia D. 

23 March 2013

As I Write Dying / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

1362159962_72643_434419779971453_324617027_nThe Revolution has maybe two or three weekends left. Then, before or after that bad metaphor which is the arrival of spring, we’ll be living in a full holocaust. The State will probably have to kill liberally in order to survive two or three more weekends. The exiles, it will be fairly easy to trap them in labyrinths of death that will superficially appear to be ordinary. The world is so violent. But in the island, there will be a certain political price to be paid, something that at this point in history, to the executioners (and to some extent even to their victims) does not matter a single bit.

Yesterday in Cuba a red drizzle fell, and an exiled poet who was to die a natural death, did not die. The sky descended upon us, the clouds took material form, and the chimney of the Regla refinery reflected red to the greatest possible extent, like a lustful campfire of meat, which in turn was reflected upside-down on the oily waters of the bay. From my staircase I can see it.

Many times I get naked at night. Otherwise, the oppression on my chest won’t let me sleep. I touch myself. I listen closely to myself. I hoist myself. I make myself. Apocubalyptic visions come to me. I see cars passing at full speed. I see my best friends dead (which has already happened in real life), laying in transparent ambulances, which for some unknown reason always come howling down Reforma street, in Luyanó, where I have never lived or made love. Although I almost did. On the corner of Enna and Fábrica, at the foot of a very, very red Royal Poinciana.

Other times I crash early into sleep, without messing up my bed, warm ears and a colossal numbness in my head. More asleep than alive. Narcolepsy. My veins bursting with pressure. I wonder why I never die during the night. And then I jump up like a spring and I can not sleep anymore until a little after sunrise. I start reviewing books and pdf’s; the eternal Chapter 1 of my cult novel (every night I discard it and write another one, that’s the cult). This last season has a unique title plagiarized from José Martí’s only love. Because he was too shrewd a guy to dare to open up and finally tell something about his life, without shrilling sounds or subordinate disciplinaries: with a bit of luck, my novel will be simply called “Your Girl.”

Even though this Chapter 1 is really about my girl.

Trains. The helpless bleating of the trains arrive all the way to my corner of Lawton. The church looks like a dinosaur fossil. A church where last year I photographed the Cuban Cardinal surrounded by State Security, almost shivering from it. Meanwhile, a filthy mob, ignorant to the point of fanaticism, carried a wooden doll with bright rags, and literally beat each other up in an effort to touch it, for the inert icon to heal them or to finally get them out of the damned country. To get them out as soon as possible, before Day F, for example; preferably to get them out right now, before the war with the Eskimos breaks out. Because American literature never lies: there will be a war to the death with the Eskimos. In fact, we all live in our igloo (cold in the mind, cold in the soul, cold in the heart: we are serial murderers).

It will be as easy as crushing skulls with tools made out of ice, the only ones that don’t leave expert fingerprints. This is how they’re already killing the Cubans, as political experimentation and as an adjustment of environmental parameters. But, since this an extermination under Cuban institutions, sloppy because of small salaries, there are always traces of its criminality (if no one cares, it’s obvious, because without corpses Cuba would be a chaos).

The ships stranded in the bay can also be heard thundering from my room. The moon is absolute, and the mango tree looks alive (it isn’t, no form of life is). I wish this instant never fled from my window. The sun would be, in this moment, as insulting as a glob of spit.

The future threatens. We don’t realize it because we have worked hard and honestly to humiliate ourselves. We have each given our very best to make sure that at least our kids have the comfort of being slaves. Such are the genes in this island: docile, like the poet Dulce María Loynaz chirping in her almost confiscated garden (who, by the way, is still alive, and the persistence of words is today her inferno).

There isn’t a single leader who is not dying. There isn’t a single book that can be finished before first bidding farewell to the mourning of its author. The hope is that no one resurrects. That this slice of planet be at last emptied. To renovate the race. To run, run without legs in a marathon of those crippled by cancer. To dance on a thin plaster board, made out of male saints sacrificed in exchange for what.

Democracy is a hot pistol. The Tropic of Cancer line reeks of bodily decay. We rotted. Time is a hereditary flaw that we have carried because we have been unable to jump from our own balcony (the staircase in Lawton may be very high, like a planetary observatory so that no shower of cosmic objects can surprise us). I nod. I start falling asleep with the deepest rays of socialist sun in the horizon, which burn like an acid with a pH of zero.

I’m leaving. My dreams of Cuba can go perch on any another criminal Cuban. I don’t want to participate in one more single death in this orgy. Every orgy is morbidly childish, a dismal theater. And I wanted to grow. To want.

Lastly, I want to warn you, that among my books there are several rulebooks for guevarist guerrillas. They are written with the feet, but they are sharp and definitive. Solemn, forgettable, and again childish (as every death is). Materialism for butchers with a metaphysical life. And that osmosis is always good for those who float dispersed in the bubble of the days. Of God.

Why do I feel so happy? If I cannot forget you.

Enough, voice.

Translation by JT (thank you Orlando, for writing simply), by Mariposa Soñadora, and by Claudia D.

1 March 2013

Scar Case / Rosa María Rodríguez Torrado

Taken from http://uncu.edu.ar

Dictatorships leave indelible scars that neither a psychiatrist nor the best plastic surgeon can repair. We Cubans, forced to ignore the definition or concept of a personal computer, organize ourselves within our families to work in an orderly way on the computer. Disciplined by lines and trained in the art of waiting, we bite our nails waiting for our turn to use the machine that allows us to reveal that scholarly and cybercompatible vein that hides in our DNA. As if they were prehistoric tools, we no longer take paper and pencil to color our opinions; our fingers travel more rapidly on a keyboard than tied to a pen, and it is easier to “cut and paste” changes in our writing, than to use the old eraser from our childhood, with which we began to smudge our written language.

I have taken to dreaming nonsense to the fullest. I dream I can say what I want without being labeled by the political police; that I can travel to any country, that I can claim my rights without being told I am subversive or going against the usual traffic. I dream I can receive any foreign books without the censorship of an authority, start a newspaper, see unions and syndicates arising, associate myself according to my opinions, see my country’s workers exercise their right to strike, and the disproportionate desire, almost unattainable, of having internet at home.

The postures of liberty we have been planted for years, have become trees, and their branches threaten to spread too far for official taste. Maybe the answer is for the electric company to cut them a bit, producing a lasting black out for our dreams. Sometimes, the mere olive green presence of its employees with light interrupting guns, paralyze the act of dreaming. But it’s a recipe that doesn’t always work, and every time a right is violated, a scar is left, like a new scar left in the face of this sad period of more than half a century of our nation.

Translated by: Claudia D.

September 8 2011

(No Title) / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

LOVE AT FIRST STAGE

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

The homeland’s Sunday devastates you, ravages you, tears you to shreds of a Cuban without illusions. Then you take your Canon and rush into a theater. In the Trianón theater, for example, where Carlos Díaz has been dazzlingly undressing his crew of actors for decades.

You never know what kind of insanity or absurdity it will be about this time. Reminds me of Shakespeare, with its Twelfth Night, but it could just as well be a traditional drag of Fernando de Rojas, or one of those pamphlets of Sartrean denunciation. It’s all the same. The Audience Theater does not leave a stone unturned on stage. From a European ambassador to our novelist monsignor: all of the proletariat bourgeoisie leaves insulted from their seats in the middle of the show (so old and they still don’t know how to read!).

It’s not Postmodernism. It’s teasing. Provocation. Cheapening of the high and pedantic codes. Enjoyment. Desire. Crime (about which the Minister of Culture does not dare to make a sound). The audience of The Audience enters to consume what they cannot find anywhere else in the prudish, official Cuba. We go to the Trianón to decriminalize dicks and pussies (in that order), as bodies and as concepts, as skins and as words (with the behind the scenes complicity of a thorny poet dressed as Norge).

Cubanness is corporeality. Of course, we can’t do without metaphors behind masks. Parliaments cross dressed against the modus operandi of the ongoing pedestrian politics. Deconstructions of historical landmarks. Echoes of the Royal Palace or of the Royalvolution. Taboos treated with nerve. Cross the line, damn it. Lean into the new set of the Shanghai thanatos, but with a certain, let’s say cultural, look.

The critics have to swallow this hot potato. Even in the most unimportant little spot, the play is advertised on national television. But the summer Sundays are very shitty, dear friends: a silent, sinister comedy, where Havana asserts its heloquent H, and devastates you, ravages you, tears you to shreds of illusion now without cubanness. And then you take your Canon and you rush into the first row, there, where the spittle of the actors rebound in the middle of your face. There, where the homeland foreskins hang above your wide angle lens. There, where you could leave pregnant from the proscenium or from the row behind. There, where the obscene word is joyful liberty and the body is unlimited property. There, where everything is a trap set among characters who at the first opportunity butcher Shakespeare and start partying (did Umberto Detect echoes of his Ur-Fascism in this vocation of collage?). There, where the lights and music revolve in your forgetfulness and eat you alive out of happiness and sadness (from Strawberries and Chocolate to Nemesia, carbon flower). There, where for ten Cuban pesos, the mild mediocrity of your infra-national life is freely exposed. There, where you, like one of those censors, would also stand up in the middle of the show to run away from yourself. But there, where you fell inconsolably in love with the face of a girl dressed like a boy (who knows if the other way around?) and you could no longer photograph anyone else on stage, or run from the torture, or stay drooling over her, (over him?), or stay quiet, or speak, or think of any other face, or stop thinking.

The insanity. The shock. The Shakespearean death with delicate and obscene gestures of visual venom. Everyone on the verge of taking off their clothes, except for her, except for him. And when they finally do it, she or he turn around suddenly and the beauty is absolute and absolutely frustrating. Violence against the sorrowful heart of the spectator. Crime against theater. Low class fraud. Carlos Díaz to the firing squad (when he comes back from the US), without pardon.

And the theater lights up at the end of the farce, and everyone is so professionally happy and immediately clapping, except for you. The greetings are as cruel as someone else’s happiness. The runway is the road back to the street. At seven in the tedious afternoon of your dull, evil, beginning of the century island, over saturated with institutions and defenseless with love. I’m dying. The Canon is heavy. I can never shoot again. I don’t want to return to this theater. I don’t want to see her, see him, again. I cannot not come back. Or stop seeing her, seeing him.

It is unjust. All art is dreadful and dangerous. An attack against desperation. An assault against solitude. Eat your faces now, scavengers. Unroll her in the emptiness of cyberspace, pixel to pixel for me. Don’t give me anything back. Not even the left overs of your rhetoric of an actress, of an actor. Annihilate what the Canon could not capture, accomplice of my brain destroyed by a September without her, without him.

Translated by: Claudia D.

September 6 2011

Party Prepares Itself for Next Elections / Laritza Diversent

The Communist Party of Cuba works arduously to realize a full identity between its members and those of the government, and to guarantee that its politics are approved unanimously in the National Assembly, the body that represents and expresses the will of more than 11 million Cubans.

The sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba was the beginning of the preparations, of the partisan organization, for the next general elections. The goal is to renew state bodies for the new term of office that begins in 2013.

The Communist Party of Cuba is the only political organization that is recognized as legal within the Cuban system. The Constitution of 1976 recognizes it as “the superior ruling force of Cuban society and of the Government” and even though it does not participate in the elections, its leaders need to also be candidates for national deputies, which will later make up the state bodies.

During the closure of the partisan congress, last April, a National Conference was announced for the next January 28, months before the beginning of preparations for the electoral process.

One of the top subjects the Communists will touch on in their meeting is, “…the policy of party leaders as political leaders as well as in institutions and organizations”. Something very convenient for National Deputies’ candidacy projects, who prepare and present representatives of social and mass organizations*.

In view of the holding of this meeting, between May 20 and July 13, the Assemblies for Balance of the Party* at that level, were carried out in the 15 provinces. These meetings are still in progress in the 169 municipalities of the country.

The debate process is now inverted, from top to bottom and with only one explanation. In 2012 the electoral process must be executed. First will come the elections for delegates who make up the Municipal Assemblies, and once these are established, those for Provincial Delegates and later those for National Deputies who make up the  government bodies.

The deputy candidates are presented for nomination at the Municipal Assemblies by the Candidacy Committees from different levels. Then they are nominated by the recently established Municipal assemblies and elected by citizens.

The candidacy Committees are made up of representatives from the Center for Workers of Cuba (CTC), the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), the National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP), the University Student Federation (FEU) and from the Secondary Education Student Federation (FEEM).

However, several of the maximum leaders of these organizations, aside from being deputies and members of the State Council, are also members of the Communist Party of Cuba. Salvador Valdés Mesa, secretary general of the CTC, is a member of the Political Bureau. Yolanda Ferrer Gómez, secretary general of the FMC, and Orlando Lugo Fonte, President of the ANAP, are both part of the Central Committee.

At this time, 20 of the 31 members of the State Council are on the Central Committee of the Communist Party, and 72% of the party members, are deputies. There is no doubt the level of coincidence will increase with the next Parliamentary mandate, as the highest expression of the one party system, the concentration of power, characteristic of the socialist democracy.

*Translator’s note:
Party Assemblies at the level of each province, whose subject was the debate and evaluation of common practices and policies, with the goal of improving these.

Translated by: Claudia D.

August 15 2011

WWWAITING FOR THE WWWORMS / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

THE DAWN* OF WAITING

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

José Lezama Lima waited for the death of his mother before feeling guilt-free enough to publish the scandalous Paradiso. Virgilio Piñera waited to amass 18 boxes of unedited material before letting himself die of loneliness or of State Security. Dulce María Loynaz sat down, like a character from the TV show Survivors, to wait among the spiderwebs of her garden for a pre-posthumous Cervantes Award. Heberto Padilla trusted that the Cuban Ministry of Culture would forgive him for leaving the game and would give him a visa to die in his homeland (which, since the XIX century, is supposed to be living*). Eliseo Alberto waited for the death of his father to report, in liberty, about himself, about ourselves.

The list is infinite. An island infinitely in line.

Cuban Literature is that oedipal wait, that dirty closeted little secret or that hysterical tantrum before our father in chief (who reads it all, can do it all, can wait for it all, like love). Writing in Cuba has been crouching for decades under a desk in boots in the National José Martí Library.

Cuban writers continue to wait for a domestic, historic death before having their hands free to write (that is why they allegorize all the time instead of just saying). Such complicity silences them and subsidizes them in terms of an intellectual nation, in terms of a dead class without a ticket to the future, in terms of sterile spectators of a fiction that is never capable of protagonizing reality, that prosaic term (that is why they poetrize all the time instead of simply narrating). Such is the typical trauma of the familial or political totalitarianisms, that in the Island they have already become indistinguishable because of the comfortable and criminal habit of waiting.

Deep down, we have to understand them, it’s about a bourgeois tic. No cowardice: it is elite lucidity, aesthetic instinct. They know the most important thing in the universe is to write their own little complete pieces. No hypocrisy or opportunism: it’s a sense of the transcendental. They know they are a caste chosen to create the Cuban beauty that will transcend them. Ars longa, Revolutium brevis. So they wait, if it’s possible with an insular career splashed of little races to capitalism.

In each new book Cuban literature dreams, in its collective unconscience, with strictly obeying the slogan that isn’t as fierce as it is faithful: within literature, everything; against literature, nothing.*** The Cuban author is too intelligent to be an author. Postpones, rather than proposes. A speech, rather than a delirium. Constructs, before deconstructing. Isn’t desperate (there’s more time than there are maximum leaders). That is why Cuban literature is so exasperating.

Translator’s notes:
*The original word in Spanish, “orto,” means the appearance of the sun or another star in the horizon.
**Reference to Cuban national hymn: “don’t fear a glorious death, for dying for the homeland is living”.
***A play on the renowned slogan of the revolution: “Within the Revolution, everything; against the Revolution, nothing.”

Translated by: Claudia D.

August 8 2011

Response of Laritza Diversent to Two Readers / Laritza Diversent

In Cuba, my unknown homeland, published on January 3rd, 2010, a reader who signed under the name of Philipp, and who, because of the flag shown, must live in Germany, left the following comment on August 3rd, 2011.

“A question remains: this I don’t understand…How is it possible that you have a blog (meaning you have access to the internet) and that you don’t have the possibility of making a trip with Astro, staying at a private house for national tourists, or any of the other camping sites of the many that exist in your beautiful country?

“I imagine that keeping this blog is at least as expensive as a trip similar to the one I described.

“Traveling around Cuba I met a bunch of Cubans traveling through their own country, in fact I found more Cuban tourists than foreigners. Can you explain this please?

“Thank you very much, warm regards.”

Since my internet time ran out, preventing me from commenting on the blog, I e-mailed the comment to the independent journalist Tania Quintero. Tania lives in Switzerland as a political refugee and along with the Portuguese friend Carlos Moreira, does Iván and me the favor of administering the blog From Havana, in their free time and without charging us a cent. Thus, the explanation that follows does not refer to this blog, but to Laritza’s Laws, blog that I manage all by myself and that I cannot keep as updated as I would want.

Mr. Philipp: I don’t doubt that you have seen many Cubans touring their country, entering the classification of “national tourism”, but they have to pay with hard currency, meaning, in convertible pesos. Keeping a blog from Cuba is not as expensive as making a trip throughout the entire island, especially if one knows the technological possibilities that the web provides, in order to program in advance all of the works that have to be uploaded.

I can’t always connect to the internet once a week, from a hotel, at a price of 15 convertible pesos (cuc), a price that in national currency would be enough to do a round trip with Astro, paying for the service in Cuban pesos, the way you suggest, in order to support the economy, and ignoring the time that I have to waste standing in lines, which I hope you have seen in Cuba.

Back to the topic of internet. With 15 cuc I can acquire a card for two hours of internet access in a Havana hotel.

My work begins at home, when I write the text in Word 2007. Then I use a template that allows me to publish it, once connected to the internet, along with images, directly to my blog or as a draft. Then I open the blog (Laritza’s Laws) and I only have to program it so that it comes out at the chosen date.

Internet cards are one of the best gifts a friend from abroad or a traveler to Havana can make to a blogger. In that sense, I am very lucky: thanks to that help, those 15 cuc that a card costs, I can use to buy food for my family or a pair of shoes for my son.

I hope my explanation can help you understand that traveling through Cuba is much more expensive than keeping a blog.

With a long delay on this case, I take this opportunity to respond to Anteco, a Spanish reader, whom I invite to coffee in my house, if he ever travels to Havana one day. These are his words:

“I have just discovered this blog, and from the few entries I have read, without a doubt this one is very moving and gives an idea of the sad reality of Cuba. I am a Spaniard in love with your country (which I have never been to) and with a great curiosity to get to know one day the Cuban people. However, I would have never imagined that the restrictions of the Castro regime reached that point. It seems that the wonders of your island are limited to the enjoyment of the rich foreign tourists, a contradiction-come-true in a communist regime. I hope there is soon freedom in Cuba.”

Read also: Daughter of the revolution and Why did you make me a dissident?

Picture: It is from 2009, in the Saratoga Hotel, when Laritza was managing the blog Laritza’s Laws which she later decided to call Cuban Legal Advisor.

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Translated by: Claudia D.

August 6 2011

MONEY IS A HIT.. (AND A HASHTAG!) / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

The dictatorship of the market. I have heard the phrase on countless occasions, in boring meetings of this, that or the other state institution. The market mutilates and kills the best. The market is one of many modern masks of mediocrity. The market is shit, my love.

Invariably I felt guilty in those official premises. A hypocritical insect in midst of an applause in unison. An opportunist who, in his heart of hearts, only desires to succeed and succeed. A social climber with no talent (in the two senses: the spiritual and the numismatic). Someone who should renounce the identification card of his trade (the UNEAC: Cuban Union of Writers and Artists) before being expelled from the sacred amateur temple of national culture. A fucking merchant, my love.

Later I grew up, and I became a mental (metal?) adult. I saw how my colleagues tore their worker’s clothes to leave on the tour of any symposium or book fair abroad, events corrupt with capital in little checks empty of solidarity, only to the order of the author. I saw how they lost sleep over housing (to the last degree of humiliation) visitors with dollars brought to our homeland from that “absurd First World”. I saw how they sweetened the retrovolucionary tale of our bare reality, with their little moronic smiles in the role of tourist guides. I saw that money existed beyond art and beyond the paternalist speeches of the ministries of art. And I saw that money was good, my love. And a right of the people.

That’s how I became a radical of copyright law in the field of letters. I theorized lucid nonsense on the matter, like this very column. I concluded that there are no authors without copyright. That the dictatorship of the market is nonexistent or essential to resist another much worse dictatorship: that of the bureaucratic volunteering. That’s why there are no best sellers in Cuba. No good readers. No credible critics. That’s why the opinion or the thinking prestige of writers does not count (the political police considers them, not without a reason, fickle and irresponsible: a pioneer intelligentsia). That is why no part of the government budget is spent on promotional campaigns that legitimize names or shape the trend of each season. That is why the insular literary field is as insipid as it is insulting, literarid. Thus the zoocialist lack of solidarity. Thus also, the fear of finding ourselves suddenly in a bleak plateau of sincerity, among the applauses in unison of our expelling of a grotesque but gratifying trade: contests, positions, conspirator juries, little invitation letters, basically, The Forces of Evil… Thus the flight and never the theft of brains towards the “real world”. Cuba, so sad an island, my love. Whoever offends her loves her the most.

I don’t think the new generations come with values or courage to dynamize and much less dynamite such an absolute apathy. From being a radical I now become a residual. I made my nihilist niche, I dug my creative catacomb, I amassed 30 or 300 or 3000 hard currencies and I then bought a very expensive helmet of virtual unreality. I am happy, I am free, I am untouchable, I am immortal (immoral, my love?).

The state of things, tells. The state of the soul, tells. Ha. The dictatorship of the market, tells. The dictatorship of the proletariat, says. He-he. The civil society, tells. The civil war, tells. Hee! Responsibility, rhetoric. Ho. Generation, degeneration. Huh.

But sometimes, my love, only sometimes, in my gloomy nights of silent steps in Lawton, when the limiting moon isn’t crazy but loquacious, a steppe wolf jumps his way out of my throat with his claws. A pure beast of barbarity. Without concealment or taboos or fear of those who kill and lie only for the treat. A brown wolf, free, lucid, and ludic. Without style or aesthetics, without age. An animal that accelerates ideas and images (the beauty of poetry isn’t more than that: the truth of velocity). A mammal that howls, but now no longer flees. The last of the mohicubans. The pain made flesh tonight, my love. The flesh made text before dawn, my love. Face to face and body to body and Cuba to Cuba daily, my love. And then, only then, hope and disease cease to be synonyms in our future that never was. And then, only then, I feel good and real in midst of what’s not so much. And then, only then, do I forgive myself with a materialist prayer that always leaves an empty desk, of state property, just in case one of these deadly nights God wants to seat beside me.

Translated by: Claudia D. 

June 19 2011

BOOKONEANDO… / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

THE NIGHT OF THE BOOKS

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

That propagandist title has always seemed a little terrifying to me: The Night of the Books…

It sounds as if the sun had set for books, as if brightness and clarity had disappeared, as if we had come across literary darkness and the letters had to wait sleepless for the light to hit them again. Merd Licht…

The first of July there will be another one of those parties through the course and bore of 23rd Street, in El Vedado of Havana. Anything else that happens on that Friday the 1st (although right now I can’t think of anything important), will be left on the shadows of the already shady Night of the Books.

I remember a scene in the University Student Federation (FEU) House, the usual chaos to buy some culture, chaos that seems so vain to me. I also remember a quarrel among the poets of Café G and 23 and the cooks in the place, who were determined to throw them out because they didn’t spend one dirty penny while they occupied the tables with the feast of their post-reading. I remember kaloied flags and fabric posters. Learned devils and ex-presidents of bookish institutes. Little plastic chairs (the dissidence and the official side share the fragility of legs that break very easily). Snacks. Poses. Everyone wants to be considered an author (Cuban literature is soporific to the point of being unbearable). But, I’m sorry; I better stop talking. It sounds like a resentful paragraph, but it’s not. It’s a post that doesn’t really know where it’s going. So don’t even look for yourself; typing your name here isn’t worth it.

One of those Fridays of the world, 6th day of the 7th month, I walked so sadly that I thought I wouldn’t survive the summer (year 7). The Night of Orlando Luis. A friend passed me by in the street by the AIN (that blue agency with a smell of Coppelia — the ice cream place) and walked past me because he did not recognize me. Then he turned around, and it was he who almost started to cry a river (in the 7 Seas): he told me my features were disfigured by anguish, that I was no longer myself. But then I remembered that exactly that was what José Lezama Lima told Lorenzo García Vega* on another night without a night, though a republican night. And the parody made me feel better despite the impossible weight on my cheekbones and sternum.

Next Friday, 1st of July of 2011, Year of No One in Cuba Cares, at 4 in the afternoon, to give a random example, I will walk again among the packed kiosks, looking without being able to decide what to buy (I haven’t bought a book in months; I haven’t read one in years). I will be whistling, perhaps mimicking the birds, or I will spend my time filming the suspect security agents that always swarm cross-dressed as civilians in those days of massive crowding. I might buy a beer, a Bucanero (every day they taste less like Bucaneros) or I might try to seduce a pretty, young emo girl from the post-presidential parks that reach down to the sea by G Street.

If I fail, I will go to 23 and 12, confusing myself among the anonymous moviegoers in any given erotic cycle presented without much pathos by Frank Padrón (why do I have to mention anyone in my posts?). If I succeed, if she picks the daisy petal that says Yes, I will take her where no one sees us, where the Chinese cameras of national security don’t reach, where the spy coverage of Cubacel cannot betray our desire, where language is free and not ritual, to an arid territory where the Suzukis of the securitycrats run out of their faithful fuel; there, where I can ingeniously invent to her the twenty-some years of difference that I will surely have on her (no one I can love now in Cuba was born in 1971).

I am sure my tale will sound better to a beautiful emo of limp hairstyle and eyes hollowed by black make up. Better than all that Cuban shiterature that each first Friday of July sets down among more and more books.

*Translator’s note:
José Lezama Lima and Lorenzo García Vega are both distinguished Cuban writers.

Translated by: Claudia D.

June 24 2011

REV IN PEACE… / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

FOR WHOM THE IBERIA TOLLS…?

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

History repeats itself. Once as comedy and another time as a black hole, abyss of pre-capitalist post-modernity that is inhabited in Cuba. Its name isn’t even known. Barely Adonis, a word that maybe even he ignored in his ancestral echoes of splendid or ruinous marble.

His body doesn’t count either. His history even less. The pain in the Island has been for a long time diluted among masks and make up, plastic arts of the very political death of this country. From an imaginary death, to a gradual dropper and without social blame. From a weightless death, at a height of ten thousand feet and then as a fetish of the free European press. Corpse in a flying object identified with an Iberia logotype, news or necro cloud that will never rain over Cuba. Statistics apart from the State, that looks the other way and applauds in peace. Biographies without orthography that Cuba will not cry over. To the contrary. At times it ignores them and at times it pokes fun at them. Our humanity as a planetary race ended at some point of the last century and millennium, in the splinters of some corner with no name of that thing cynics call “Cubanity”.

Adonis suffered in accelerated time the torment of Cubans throughout the time and strait of decades. His hunger strike was also an oxygen strike, cryotorture, compressing a minimum of liberty, extreme socialypsism, grotesque wink at Google Earth, scandal suppressed by the local security organs. My name is not as divine as his, but the absurdity surrounding Adonis moved me. His illusion against the law of probability. His terrible performance. His days cut short of the world. His being nobody, because now, suddenly, even his family, if he has one and they already know, left him lying in a capitalist morgue of Spain (ipso facto citizenship by rigor mortis).

What to think. What to utter. Please, a minute of blogger silence for the dead who still have to die. Silent holocaust. Criminal captions. Deafening noise. Jonah of the New Man in the competitive belly of Iberia. Cubansummatum est…!

Translated by: Claudia D.

July 15 2011

Work Table of Madrid Now…! / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Work Table of Madrid now….!,originally uploaded by orlandoluispardolazo.

Saturday July 9th, the second Work Table will be celebrated in Madrid.

On the topic The Emerging Civil Society, we will have a participatory debate with Miguel Angel Garcia, president of the ONGD CENINFEC (Center of Information and Documentation of Cuban Studies), which will contribute interesting facts about the topic. Participate along with us and give us your opinion.

Translated by: Claudia D.

July 9 2011