The Loss of Self Esteem / Rebeca Monzo

Some days ago I read in the international press a story entitled Serving, not servile, by the journalist from Juventude Rebelde (Rebel Youth), Jose Alejandro Rodriguez, where he laments the tendency of Cubans to appear servile to foreigners. In one of his paragraphs he said and I quote:

Neither can it be forgotten, in order not to repeat it, that certain public institutions have well matched this neo-servile tendency when in a political double standard they demand certain attributes and guidelines of a Cuban in order to access not a few sites, in contrast with the permissive submission with which they treats the foreigner.

If the Cuban were to travel more he would be able to see more and value more, by contrast, the good things of his country,” he continues in another paragraph.

If there is a guilty party in all this deformation of the Cuban, it is due principally to the government which, during the last half century, has treated its own people like third class citizens. At first they enclosed us on this little island, without permitting us to have contact with the outside: that lasted several decades.

The only valid references were the Cuban dailies and some Soviet magazines. We who worked were prohibited from writing to our family or friends in capitalist countries, above all in Europe, on pain of losing our jobs. Remember that the State was the only employer. Likewise, particular trips were prohibited or extremely restricted.

All this served to intensify the material misery and therefore morale. A feeling of distress began to grow because of not possessing the most urgent articles, which was transformed little by little into envy towards those who had access to them. The few trips to the outside were for the party militants or the youth with the most proven loyalty to the regime. Here it began to get worse and to develop the double standard.

One had to pretend and pretend well in order to be deserving of the trust and, therefore, of the little trip that would permit us to breathe a little and to be able to bring shoes and clothes to our relatives, and in a plastic bag the little food that the airplane let us ingest, so that the child at home or the old one could enjoy it. Economizing to the max on food, although that would involve hunger, in order to return to the fatherland with a little money, plus the little soaps gathered in the hotels.

With the economic crisis at the beginning of the 1980’s and the lack of tourism, flights from the Comunidad — Cubans abroad — were authorized. Those countrymen of ours who were denounced in meetings when they expressed the desire to leave, these same ones who were insulted and told never come back, now as if by magic would be converted from “worms” (the epithet that had been screamed at them), to butterflies and would come to save the country’s weak economy and to fill a little the empty bellies of the relatives and even some of the neighbors of those who had been insulted.

I have here other manifestations of the double standard: lying to keep a job,lying to earn a little trip,lying to be able to enjoy a reunion with family and friends and lying to try to contain proportionate happiness, at least publicly.

Now, many years have passed, the Special Period that started at the beginning of the 1990’s does not seem to have ended. Because of that, as soon as tourism began to increase, the siege of the visitors increased at the same time. The bid to see who is the most favored has made many men, women and even children seem like street clowns, trying to win over the foreigner, which is likewise a cunning way of begging.

One must not blame only the suffering people; one must consider the circumstances that have surrounded all this moral deterioration. When a society loses its civility, loses the family and all its values, anything can be expected from it.

Cuban pride is very battered. That national feeling that we used to have, that made us walk with our heads held high and treat others correctly, without difference, including the tourists, without having to lower our s ingratiate ourselves, we have been losing it almost without noticing.

The daily urgencies and the lack of good education, have made us underrate ourselves. I remember when I was a girl, for us a tourist was more ordinary. The only thing that sometimes made us turn our faces towards them was the bright attire that they wore.

As far as the flower vendors of Old Havana, I believe that the costume is excessive or unnecessary. It seems when one walks through the restored streets in that part of the city that one is moving on a movie set. This is too much for me, just like the flattery and mollycoddling that they dispense to the tourists provided that they buy the merchandise that they offer. It would seem that in the whole colonial zone, they were the estates of the big movie companies.

Translated by mlk

May 12 2012

Tomb of Mrs. Jeannette Ryder Turns into the Tomb of her Loyal Dog Rinti / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

Tumba de Mrs. Jeannette y su Perro Rinti (1)Tumba de Mrs. Jeannette y su Perro Rinti (2)Tumba de Mrs. Jeannette y su Perro Rinti (3)Mrs. Jeannette Ryder lived between 1866 and 1931.  In life whe was recognized for her noble work and labor in favor of the most needy.  It was Mrs. Jeannette Ryder who founded the Havana Band of Piety group that ceased to exist some years after her demise.

The story is told that Mrs. Jeannette in life had a dog named Rinti whose lineage was unknown.  But who, after his owner’s death, distinguished himself by his loyalty to her.  Those who worked in the cemetery at that time said that the dog lay down on the tomb where the remains of Mrs. Jeannette reposed and that in spite of the effort of several caretakers to throw the pup out of the graveyard he always found a way to return to the tomb of his deceased owner.

At the dog’s great insistence, the administrative authorities of the cemetery permitted the entry of the animal which in time died next to his owner’s grave because he did not want to drink water or ingest food.

The story moved the ex-colleagues of the Band of Piety, who undertook an original work of art that exhibits a reclining sculpture of the famed Mrs. Jeannette Ryder with a dog at her feet as a symbol of the loyalty of he who accompanied his owner even after death until his own death.

Today Havana also has its Rinti and reveres him with the following words:  Loyal Even After Death.  An expression which is placed in bronze letters on the back part of the mutt.

Translated by mlk

May 7 2012

The Tomb of the Domino Tile / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

Tumba del Domino (1)Tumba del Domino (2)Who in Cuba has not played a good game of dominoes?  Who does not recognize that dominoes is the excellent table game for the whole Cuban family wherever it may be?  Did you know that in the Colon Cemetery there exists a tomb that is distinguished by having a domino tile on its top?

The tomb was the property of Juana Martin de Martin, who was the owner of the Havana garden Fenix.  The unit is distinguished by the domino tile known as the double three carved in white marble, and the date with the sequence of the play in the fatal moment of her demise.  They say that to the amazement of those present at the game she still even after death held in her hands the tile that characterizes the Tomb.

It is really an honor for such a noble table game to be venerated or handled by Cubans in any of the artistic expressions.  The double three is the last tile this woman could have in her hands and today she leaves it as a legacy to those who stop to contemplate what was her last game.

Translated by mlk

May 7 2012

Rescuing Treasures From the Darkness / Yoaxis Marcheco Suarez

 By:  Yoaxis Marcheco Suarez

As roof the cloudless sky and an almost scorching sun, as walls the walls the Havana Malecon, the old buildings of old Havana, the Morro and the cloudy waters of the Bahia, a landscape that although worn, still looks beautiful. All this forms the temple of the Alcance Victoria (Victory Reach) Church which, more than a name, is an invitation of accept Christ who redeems us, who frees us from all burden of sin and anguish.

Organized some 10 years earlier and with a membership of more than 100 people, Victory Reach directs its evangelical work towards the young people of Havana, getting from the social waste many treasures that the currently corrupt Cuban society has covered in mud.  Many transform their lives thanks to the determination of these brothers who carry the light of the Word of God to the darkest places of the sad and gloomy capital of the Cubans.

Some years ago the city authorities made an urgent call to the churches, seeking collaboration in the fight against delinquency, corruption and vice, evils that forcefully hit the younger population.  Although this church responds to this call by its focus it so far has not received the support of the local or national government.  They have incessantly sought from them a space to erect a church; the answer to their petitions has been a constant negative.

The very loving endeavor of pastor Abel Perez Hernandez, member of the Ministerial Department of the Baptist Convention of Western Cuba and of those already reached who form the body of this growing church is going to go forward.  They have decided to occupy the space that the governing humans want to deny them.  If there are no walls, the city and its walls will continue serving as such, the sky will continue being its roof, whether it is clear or rainy, and the Morro will be witness to the beautiful glorification of the son of God.

I suggest that the Office of Attention to Religious Matters not further delay this simple step of designating a place for the construction of this temple; there are many sites in Havana on the edge of collapse; these brothers have the resources, material as well as human, to construct and so in passing improve the so deplorable urban aesthetic in so much of the city and which the government cannot undertake.  By chance is there no freedom of worship and belief in Cuba?

Finally, I suggest to the governing body of our Convention to participate and support this church that works to win souls for the Kingdom of God, this church tirelessly petitions the authorities for their demands, nothing more just or right.  It moved me to see so many little children under the sun and in the suffocating heat.  Like their brothers, believers in the same God, we must show our solidarity.  Victory Reach needs and deserves to have its temple, although this is not and is not going to be an impediment to them continuing to rescue treasures from the darkness.

Translated by mlk

March 30 2012