1, 2, 3, 4… The Census! / Rosa Maria Rodriguez Torrado

Logo downloaded from “radiorebelde.cu”

The Antillean archipelago’s authorities say that “In Cuba, we all count”, and that’s why from the 15th to the 24th of September all of the homes of the country will be visited to gather census information. I understand that the census is a statistical operation that should be carried out every 10 years and that it is important for determining, among other things, the number of people who make up a group or state. Also,it is a primary source for obtaining other basic social, economic, and demographic data about a society. But I ask myself, who accounts for the Cuban emigrants dispersed throughout the world that are part of our nation?

In recent days, an “information supplement” on the Population and Housing Census, published by the National Office for Statistics and Information, appeared under my door. It explains to citizens what the “mission” of the census is and shows the questionnaires that the data collectors, called enumerators, will fill out. Among the notable items is question 16, which asks how many land lines and mobile phones there are in a residence. As the only telephone company that provides service to all Cubans living on the archipelago, doesn’t ETECSA, which also happens to be state-owned,have these figures?

In this census task, like in the two previous ones carried out by the government,there will be inquiries regarding the condition of the houses and their construction and general characteristics.I hope this will result in some benefits for society! Because there is no use knowing, for example, the serious problems existing in the houses and in their maintenance(that is already well-known and we have been putting up with them for years, because the necessary resources have not been assigned to them), if a sustained constructive assistance is not designated and assigned to the renovation and rehabilitation of the impoverished housing inventory in Cuba.

I remember the first time the government carried out that statistical task.It was in the 70s, when they had more than a decade in power.It’s been ten years since the last census and the results were not made known to the population, let alone did they produce any benefits or improvements in the average Cuban’s life. Development and efficiency are not achieved with state inquiries, but with the political will of governments, with real motivations for the citizens and incentives in all spheres of society. That should be a natural and systematic practice, attentive to the law and always directed to the benefit of everyone, not just a group. Modernity is not reached just with information or by decree.

It is good to keep control of our inputs and outputs, whether they be material or intangible, individual or collective. Every demographic investigation relating to the totality of people by province, municipality, city or different urban and rural areas — by sex and age, average educational level, marital status, active working population, etc. — is important for the development of government policies. On this occasion, they mix the population census with “the short-term and medium-term economic and social plans especially for the appropriate guidelines for the Party’s and the Revolution’s economic and social policies“. This opportunistic mixture conjures up in my mind, like an animated cartoon, a leader who without planning lies down on the bottom of his political boat to try to patch or plug the holes in the bottom with his body. Because he is being left without extremities…

For a militarized society, deformed by this government in the degrading tradition of having to have even one’s underwear counted when one is going to emigrate, to have “regulations” about what one should eat or wear, to have someone decide what one should read, to “be transported” generally according to the needs and interests of the state, to be watched by those in charge of one’s block or by the police, to have someone predetermine what radio stations one should listen to and what TV channel one should watch, whom one should disregard and whom one should believe, in the end produces a population sunk in a sustainable defenselessness and indolence, unaware of its rights, and as a result, easier to subdue and direct.

So let’s count: 1, 2, 3 at the dictatorship’s “conga-line pace”*, for whose manipulations and campaigns to stay in power indefinitely, but not for the exercise of our fundamental freedoms, “in Cuba, we all count”.

*Translator’s note: The original Spanish is a quote from an old Cuban song.

Translated by: BW, Espirituana

11 September 2012

Our People’s Lawyers / Cuban Law Association, Wilfrido Vallin Almeida

Wilfrido Vallin Almeida

The news hits me because it’s so inconceivable: as he was trying to find out the situation of a person detained in Santiago de las Vegas, the young lawyer Veizant Boloy, of the Cuban Law Association, was arrested.

This arrest took place inside a police station. Veizant was handcuffed and locked in a cell as well. There are no charges; there is no Arrest Record; there is nothing. Now in Cuba not only are the lawyers who are not pro-government not allowed to inquire about an imprisoned person, but those who question and demand compliance with the law must be punished.

The officer, obviously irritated, told him:

“We no longer tolerate lawyers in police stations taking an interest in those who are detained.”

And in a different moment:

“For us you guys are not lawyers.”

For some time we have known the defenseless situation existing in Cuba regarding those who are detained and that we lawyers cannot be with them from the moment they are taken prisoners. We can only do it after a certain amount of time, when the police have already done what they deemed appropriate.

But this matter of not allowing us even to inquire about the situation of a person who is detained is the height of arbitrariness… but only to demonstrate to what extents goes the harassment of those for whom the laws were not written.

And that harassment results — I have no doubt — from the fact that many people are willing to inform other Cubans of the Citizens’ Demand that was delivered to the headquarters of the National Assembly of the People’s Power on June 20th of the current year.

That demand urges the government to ratify the UN Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which seems to be the last thing it wants in this world.

In acting in a repressive and violent way against what they themselves signed, those who do it show their true face to the international community… who observe what is happening not only in Syria or Africa.

Finally, whether they want it or not, those Covenants will be ratified and we will continue to work to that end, we who — although some may not like it — are OUR PEOPLE’S LAWYERS.

Translated by: Espirituana

September 24 2012

Nanoshame / Rosa Maria Rodriguez Torrado

Downloaded from: “http://fotos.mexico.lainformacion.com/”

Granma, Granma, Granma… Fidel Castro Díaz Balart, oldest son of the former Cuban president, was the featured subject of the eighth and last page of the national newspaper Granma, which in turn – for those who do not know it – is the official press and propaganda organ of the Communist Party of Cuba, the only political organization allowed in my country. Rather than an interview, it seems to be a promotional piece. It happens that the descendants of the historical Cuban leaders are extraordinarily gifted and it is only natural that some domestic and foreign media workers pursue them like paparazzi of the high-and-mighty political show business, of the national fiefdom.

The journalistic piece, consisting of only three questions and genetically long answers, dealt with the most importanthobby and recent occupational profile of the first-born: nanotechnology. After he and his father put Cuba, our western hemisphere and the world in danger with the grandiose construction of the Juraguá nuclear plant, whose Soviet technology was outdated and was patented with the Chernobyl disaster, daddy’s boy was named scientific advisor to the Council of State. That whole matter was buried in a convenient oblivion, in the intimidating silence of the threatening upright index finger over the lips of freedom of information.

While for decades Cuban families were deniedcement to repair, remodel or enlarge their living quarters, in Jaraguá buildings were constructed that are nowvacant, like monuments to the rule of the caudillo, the disaster in decision-making, and the lack of well-developed and agreed-upon projects and planning. No one demanded an accounting for the dictator’s folly, and theghost town stands there as a tribute to the government’s irresponsibility and indolence.

In Granma’s text, it wasstated that the project of building the Cuban Center for Advanced Studies is already under way. The project, according to Castro Díaz-Balart himself, was conceived taking into account the opinions “and recommendations of a group of leaders belonging to the Scientific Area, the University of Havana, and the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment”. Who will direct it? It seems to me that the old childhood “camps” of the heir, with the passage of time and the adulation lavished by the royal sycophants, turned into an insatiable voracity for a “principality” in which he can playact being his own father, until “a physical absence” and the consent of the royal power take him to the position to which perhaps he feels entitled.

In this country, which has been leeched of the resources it had andput intodebt to the point of systemic osteoporosis, they afford themselves the luxury ofdeveloping constructive projects for Castro Jr. with a rigor that — according to them — competes with that of any developed country.

The descendants have taken to “establishing a rivalry” — among family, among siblings? — of being at center stage, and they appear in the media, without distinction and for different reasons, always justifiable. Of Fidel’s children, Fidelito is the most notable scientist in Cuba; Alex, the best photographer; and Antonio, the best physician. Of Raúl’s children, Mariela, the best psychologist; Alejandro, the most prominent high officer; and the grandson, the best personal security guard.

And if there is no milk for children over seven years old? For that they blame the United States and its embargo, to continue tofree them from blame for their ineptness before their officials and cadres. After all, they don’t have any problems that cannot be solved by being identified by their surname, rank or position, with a telephone call or by showing an ID, which are the permanent credentials allowing them to enjoy incalculable privileges.

No one knows any more if this shamelessness is an ode inviting the masses to greater apathy or if it is a constant call to emigrate. What everyone does intuit is that with that brood of well-off and — by “their own merits” — well-placed heirs, Cuba’s problems will never be solved.

Translated by: Espirituana

September 26 2012

Zoely’s Insomnia, Chapter 2 / Regina Coyula

Alas! Zoely is now in worse shape, because she went to see the original owner of her Aleko-make car to agree on the terms for the transfer of ownership, but it seems that someone whispered into the retired old man’s ear that the current value of the car is much higher and that he should get some compensation, the kind that is not satisfied with some little old shopping bags of goods. He drove Zoely to the edge of a nervous breakdown because, surrounded by the foul smell of his cigar and with indifference, he cut to the point that has Zoely not just sleeping badly, but not sleeping at all. The owner said that that car… now with the new law… that as she will remember the registration is under his name… that his signature is worth something. Zoely argued that she had bought a corpse and had invested a lot in order to get it to its current condition, to which the old man responded by pointing to the splendid creation parked in front of his porch with the hand holding the cigar and finished off: “Then there is no transfer”.

¿How will it end? It’s like the soap operas on the radio: … and don’t miss the next chapter of… (the announcer pauses and continues in a higher and pompous tone)… Zoely’s Insomnia.

Translated by: Espirituana

November 2 2011

Laura and Courage in White

Photo from Barefoot Rose's files

Laura leaves us. This time she has undertaken the longest of all walks: that of eternity. A lot of walking had to be done by this courageous Cuban woman who at the start, without political leaders in government to offer protection – just the contrary, without an army or firearms to defend her, with only courage as her armor, together with other women, faced the mobs sent by the powerful – as coercive cannons – with no other shield than the love for her husband, for freedom and for peace. The church of Santa Rita was witness for almost eight years to the steps and prayers of this heroic lady who, together with other political prisoners’ families, close relations or sympathizers, decided to dress their courage in white each Sunday as a symbol of protest and without permission from the Cuban government. The price they have paid for “such impudence” is great, but not as great as the strength of character of these women who have remained firm in their demands in spite of the official scorn to which they have been despicably subjected without any possibility of responding. They got the world to cry out with them to end the Cuban political prisoners’ unjust imprisonment. That is how our Ladies from Cuba became great, and Laura with them; that is how they showed themselves on the streets, with their gladioli as symbols and standards of peaceful struggle, resistance and love of justice.

This photo courtesy of Ana Torricella (Primavera Digital)

This October 16th was the first Sunday without Laura’s physical presence at mass and in the traditional march along 5th Avenue of the Miramar neighborhood, and I went with my husband to pay homage in that House of God located on 5th and 26. The parish priest mentioned her in the religious service – in spite of its being an ordinary mass, not a mass for the dead – and made reference to the years that she had been attending that temple, and prayed for peace for her spirit and eternal rest. Once the rite ended, we joined more than one hundred compatriots on a poignant walk along the usual route with the attendance of many independent journalists and members of the press corps.

From wanting to do and live so much her health suffered, already affected by diabetes. She spent her last days away from her modest home, which she generously made the home of all who visited her. Various imprecise medical reports kept her away from her loved ones, keeping her in intensive care for 7 days. Laura was a simple woman who was not in favor of the regime, so she was not eligible to be treated in elite clinics or hospitals that offer comfortable facilities, more competent medical personnel and all the medical advances, where the local chosen few and unconditional supporters are taken, as well as international VIPs. In my country medical care is free and universal, but it is very deteriorated, and the most impoverished hospitals and polyclinics are the ones within reach of the average Cuban.

It has rained a lot in Havana. During the last few days it has almost never stopped raining in the capital. They are Cuba’s tears that are cleansing the sorrow off the streets for her eternal march through history. Rest in peace, indefatigable lady defender of the rights of Cubans.

More pictures of Sunday’s mournful event, also through Ana Torricella’s generous collaboration. Click on each miniature to enlarge it.

You can sign the book of condolences for Laura Pollán’s death that we will deliver to her widower and daughter. We have and will keep an image with a permanent link on the side of this page to facilitate access to those who wish to express their sorrow by signing. Thank you for your support.

Translated by: Espirituana

October 18 2011

Farsighted Neighbor / Regina Coyula

Yesterday I ran into a neighborhood acquaintance who asked me about my kid. She was very surprised that “the kid” is in the Military Service, and the following dialogue ensued:

“How could you allow him to go into the Service, if you are not even in favor of ‘this’?”

“Well, my son thinks for himself, and it isn’t going to hurt him; I even think it could be good for him; maybe it’ll make him get himself organized.”

“Well, in my case, I’m already starting to build a medical record for mine, so that it won’t look like a last minute thing, just so he won’t go.”

I smiled. My interlocutor was a militant in the Youth until she joined the Communist Party around 2005. I could not refrain from reminding her that for her the defense of the Motherland should be a sacred duty. Disconcerted, she answered:

“Each one knows what’s best for oneself.”

Translated by: EspirituanaOctober 10 2011

Thunder, Radios and Lightning / Rebeca Monzo

On my planet almost everything is difficult to obtain , but one of the most difficult is information – no small thing! It is said that information is power, so you can imagine how weak is our power.

The sale of short-wave radios is prohibited. They are not to be found in any home appliance store. If you ask, they will just say that they have not come, as if talking of an unexpected visit.

I myself own one that a friend kindly gave me a few years ago. With it, I can find radio stations from other countries, but Radio Martí* – impossible!, at least in Havana. I know that some friends outside the capital manage to pick up the signal. Here, when you find it, it comes accompanied by the tac tac of the interference, which can leave you deaf or an idiot. I have tried hard to disregard the noise, but it’s impossible – the headache you get prevents it. I would like to be able to listen at least to the news, which ultimately is the most important thing. But it is precisely about that, about preventing you from hearing them, so that the truth broadcast by our media will prevail, being the only source of information.

But there is a way you can listen to Radio Martí when there is rain, thunder or lightning. Then, as soon as the storm starts I run to turn on my radio. Sure enough, I manage to hear it, but also under a stressful state of panic of being hit by a bolt of lightning that would be attracted by my dear little device’s waves. When its programming started some years ago , I could hear it perfectly on an old radio on which I would tune to Radio Rebelde*, and physically turning it from one side to the other I would finally manage to have its signal prevail, and it would accompany me in my workshop during my long work hours. So much so that I acquired an addiction to its programs, but like all my previous ones – Coca Cola and cherry bonbons – I was forced to give it up, with the inherent consequences and suffering that, for a while, accompany those who quit a bad habit. Now I am afraid that if I am able to overcome my fear, I will become addicted to thunder and lightning.

* Translator’s Note: Radio Martí is a US government-financed radio station broadcasting to Cuba. Radio Rebelde is a Cuban government station.

Translated by: Espirituana

October 6 2011

The Artist Behind the Barricades / Angel Santiesteban

The writer and journalist Amir Valle, in a still unpublished interview, asks me the following question.

And what about the powerful Cuban culture that has been developing for five decades already in exile, in many parts of the world? How do you think it can contribute, from the outside, to the need for a social change on the island?

Without attempting to be an analyst, political strategist or demiurge, just one more artist who humbly offers his point of view, I believe that intellectuals in exile should stay as close as possible to Cuban culture, defend it firstly as an art, and then from the political position that they see fit. That should never be forgotten: first comes culture, then everything else. I am sure that that artistic weight is what raises consciousness and respect for a national dialogue which will result in a political change for the rebirth of democracy and the will of Cubans, although some claims, as usually happens, will be backed by a minority.

I like this phrase so much, and I’m probably not quoting it verbatim, because having repeated it so often, it is so much a part of me that I made it mine: “I may not agree with what you say, but I will fight to the death to defend your right to say it.” Therefore,they must continue making use of their freedom and their technologically advanced media, which cannot be persecuted nor suffer direct reprisals like the confiscation of their computers.

In some measure they should create a space for the nation’s denunciations, be the voice of those inside the island. Soften esthetic disagreements, self-serving attitudes, in the interest of achieving greater unity. The strength of the diaspora offers security to those of us still inside, those of us who demand the rights of all to live together in a future free and democratic Motherland, that will open her arms for the long-awaited reunion of her children scattered throughout the world.

What I have no doubt about is that the Cuban intellectual class, inside and outside, is called to contribute profoundly to the future political transition of the country.

October 7 2011

Disproportion / Rebeca Monzo

Once more a phrase comes to mind, that famous one of Generalissimo Máximo Gómez, the Dominican who fought in our wars of independence, when he said in reference to us Cubans that we either didn’t get there or went too far.

The authorities on our planet seem to have gone overboard in the media regarding the honors paid to the recently deceased Julio Casas Regueiro*. I am not going to speak of his numerous military merits, as I am ignorant in that matter, and I do not question them.  I am only saying that, as I see it, there has been some exaggeration.

The death occurred last Friday, September 3rd, and today, Wednesday the 7th, the media are still covering the topic in depth. Even the newspaper Granma, which I don’t usually buy but today I did, as I was startled to see it all in black. The first thought that came to my mind was: Good heavens, it seems like my planet has also run out of red ink! The truth is that if our emotions keep rising, we may soon have an issue totally in black, like a by now obsolete sheet of carbon paper.

*Translator’s note: Julio Casas Regueiro was previously Deputy Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces in charge of Economic Activity. When Raul Castro succeeded Fidel Castro as head of state, he replaced Raul as Minister of Defense, the post he held at the time of his death, along with that of Vice-President of the Council of State.

Translated by: Espirituana

September 7 2011

Zoely’s Insomnia / Regina Coyula

The law regarding vehicle sales finally came out. In its wait, my friend Zoely for more than two years has been taking tranquilizers and making offerings to Elegguá [one of the deities in Afrocuban mythology]. It happens that Zoely, a prosperous manager of a store that sells in foreign currency, bought an Aleko car from a friend who had bought it from a cousin who had bought it from the son-in-law of the original owner. Zoely took care of it and pampered it: body work, a change from a gasoline motor to a diesel motor, seat upholstering, “funny” tires, halogen lights, air conditioning, metallic burgundy paint. The veteran Aleko is “smoking”, but the owner continued to be – although only nominally – for all legal effects the same owner who bought it new in the late eighties.

When Zoely acquired that car, a “tareco” [old thing] more than an Aleko, she went to visit the owner, whom she didn’t know, as if it were a mission for the Three Wise Men. Instead of incense and myrrh, she took detergent, soap, oil, tomato sauce and a succulent platter with red sparkles of beef. Farsighted, during that visit she agreed to draw up a proxy to act in matters regarding the automobile and made the owner swear, on his mother, his honor, and all the saints, that he was not thinking of leaving the country.

With the publication in the Official Gazette of the “Car Law”, Zoely uncorked a bottle of Freixenet sparkling wine, assured that she would sleep soundly that night without pills. When she told me the good news, it seemed unfair to make her come down from her cloud, but it was my duty to alert her, in case that in the process of transferring the car a commotion would be stirred in which she would lose her Aleko and, even worse, her job, because, Zoely, how are you going to justify the money that car has cost you? She looked at me without blinking and poured herself some more of the sparkling wine (cordon bleu, delicious). Last night she came over to my home and reproached me saying that it’s my fault that she continues not sleeping well.

Translated by: Espirituana

October 3 2011

Almost Coffee / Rosa María Rodríguez Torrado

Since Raul Castro announced that they would go back to blending chicory into the coffee they sell us through our ration cards and in local currency, I took up this topic; but the repulsiveness of the product they shipped from warehouses which results in a brew that is neither coffee nor porridge, motivated me to consider it one more time.

It is true that many have referred to this product, with its comic luggage from the fiasco – as happens in almost all categories – that was the significance of the announcement. Along came the “black nectar” with its powdered ammunition to reinforce what we already knew from experience: that they improved the brewing experience, but also reduced it, and hence now we have to serve it in a “tiny container”. But nobody swallows the pill that comes as with a perfume; on the contrary. We no longer offer visitors the luxury of a cup of that aromatic grain we used to have, but instead we save it for people who are not always welcome.

With the new despicable potable, they changed even the act of drinking this elixir and introduced an inelegant rite in the form of using both hands to drink it: one to hold the cup and the other to pinch our nose so the sip is less disagreeable. If you are feeling in need of a pickup and consider you need a stimulant such as caffeine, I advise you to try an alternative or some other kind of coffee, because that which we obtain with our ration coupons can cause stomach influences that will confine you to the restroom, and maybe chicoryflour is not the invigorator you need. Recently I advised a friend who wanted to annoy an adversary that constantly threw barbs against him in front of the group, that he make him a present of a package of ration coffee in front of all. It was in this way – and this is not a tall tale – that the problem was ended.

Something quite different happens when you have the money to pay for a package of the good stuff – if its available – in those establishments that sell in exchange for convertible currency. It’s been more than a week since the ground fruit-seed is absent from what should be honestly called the “hard currency collection centers” and other such establishments. There is a rumor in Havana that, as a result of the audits being conducted by the government to the younger of the Castros, 6 tons of the product was found missing at Cuban roasters, and that because of the investigative process, coffee has become absent from the store windows of those places that deal in hard currency.

If you visit these days the home of somebody with economic solvency it is possible that, against their wishes, they cannot share with you a sip of the infusion because of the current deficit. In my case, if I visit the home of humble persons and they offer me a cup, I will hurriedly drink it, even if the developing nausea brings tears to my eyes, I will pretend I liked it and thank them with alacrity. But since the old and hospitable “grass” has been converted indirectly into a measure of a host’s esteem, once the coffee supply is stabilized and I visit the home of others who have “good money” and they invite me to a cup of this potage or almost coffee, I will know what awaits me.

Translated by: lapizcero

September 20 2011

Dragon’s Breath / Rosa María Rodríguez Torrado

It seems that an anti-kissing and anti-closeness strategy has been in place for some days in Havana: toothpaste went missing. The humble consumer who micromanages the pennies in strong currencies obtained from his meager worker’s incentive or received from relatives who have emigrated – workers exploited by capitalism who plan their vacations, travel and invest around the world without permission, and in spite of that financially help their oppressed loved ones in the Cuban paradise – mostly buys strictly the basic goods in the markets that sell in foreign currencies.

But in Cuba we are vulnerable to the dictatorship of anti-consumerism and prey of the State oligopoly, since when they want to get rid of a Cuban product that no one buys, they stop stocking the foreign alternative so that we will be forced to buy the domestic one, which is almost always of poor quality and with a minimal price difference. That is, they substitute domestic products for the imports, mocking the rights of the buyers, whose ability to choose they arbitrarily limit imposing a lack of options: take it or take it! No alternatives. They choose the shortest and most dishonest route instead of working to ensure the excellence of the domestic products.

The State controls all trade and, in a way that is inefficient and unfair to society, prevents competition from the private sector in those businesses. They do not allow the private citizen to set up a store, nor offer what he produces in one of the many State chain stores. So, whether it’s bad or mediocre, we must be satisfied with whatever the State offers, and furthermore reward them with a smile.

After several days using numerous water-and-salt rinses, this September 22nd the citizens of Havana were pleasantly surprised with a domestic toothpaste of the “Sonríe” (Smile) brand. That state-manufactured concoction with scant menthol is not acquired through workers’ merit, volunteer work, diplomas or passwords, but with strong Cuban pasta [money]: the CUC [Cuban convertible currency]. They charge 90 cents for it, which is equivalent to 22 pesos in national currency. As is natural, there will surely be people who will continue gargling in order to be able to smile without having foul-smelling dragon’s breath. When times are bad, put on a happy face, and if you have bad breath – no options – use Cuban toothpaste.

Translated by: Espirituana

September 28 2011