The Summer when God Slept: “Novels From the Drawer” Prize Winner reprinted for International Distribution

(Photo courtesy of Neo Club Press)

I have the pleasure to announce that my work, which won the 2013 International Franz Kafka Novels From the Drawer Prize 2013, “The Summer when God Slept,” will be reprinted in coming weeks by Neo Club Editions, an independent publisher located in Miami and directed by the Cuban writer Armando Añel.

Owing to the fact that the original edition, printed in the Czech Republic, according to the rules established for the award, is destined for the Cuban reader on the island, I agreed with Neo Club Editions to make this second edition, which will consist of a greater number of copies, with the idea of reaching what I consider, in addition to Cuba, natural markets for my work: Miami and Spain. The book, furthermore, will be available in ebook format and paperback through Amazon’s channels of international distribution.

Idabell Rosales – president of Neo Club Editions – together with Armando Añel, heads this project so that those of us who are censored and excluded for political reasons from cultural promotion in Cuba can publish our works in freedom and let them be known outside our country.

Thanks to this important and necessary idea, for example, a door has been opened wider to international promotion of the poetry of the writer Rafael Vilches Proenza, a friend enraged by the repression, which already on two occasions threw out works that he had in cultural institutions in Holguín and Santa Clara. The publication of the beautiful poem, “Café Amargo” (“Bitter Coffee”), besides rescuing the work of a writer censured for not bowing to official impositions, is an act of literary justice for one of the most outstanding poets of my generation.

When there’s another reunion on the island to celebrate another Congress of UNEAC in which, same as in the previous ones, no substantial change will happen that hasn’t already been predetermined, because now it’s known that the guild of creators responds only to the interests of the State and thus is converted into a useless and deceptive organization,

I will celebrate – thanks to the project and the generosity of Armando and Idabell – that my novel will be able to be read in the rest of the world, the same as the valuable Cuban literary production of Cuban writers in exile that Neo Club Editions includes in its catalogue.

Angel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison Settlement, April 2014

Have Amnesty International declare the dissident Cuban Angel Santiesteban a prisoner of conscience.

Translated by Regina Anavy
11 April 2014

Angel Santiesteban’s Work Again Recognized in France

The dictator Raul Castro continues stubbornly to make the world believe that he’s bringing to Cuba an opening that in reality doesn’t exist. He continues being the same dictator as always, violating the rights of all Cubans, submitting them to misery, censoring the press, harassing, beating and imprisoning peaceful opponents.

Angel Santiesteban, unjustly imprisoned, has completed one year after a rigged trial for some crimes that his ex-wife and mother of his son invented together with the political police. They sought to silence his critical voice against the dictatorship, but they have not succeeded. No punishment, beatings or prison itself has made a dent in him.

And by keeping him locked up, the dictator hasn’t prevented his literature from continuing to be recognized in the world, which condemns the injustice against him.

Again in France, this time in Marseille, his book of stories, “Laura in Havana”, published in 2012 by L’Atinoir, will be presented before the public.

Raul Castro continues violating his own law, taking away Angel’s passes that he is supposed to get every sixty days. It doesn’t matter to Angel, because when his companions go to visit their families, he takes even more advantage of the time and the calm to continue writing.

The Editor

A meeting

We invite you to a convivial meeting with Jacques Aubergy and Rasky Beldjoudi, Saturday, April 12, at 5:00 p.m. at the Maison Pour Tous de la Belle de Mai (House For All of the Belle of May).

 

Jacques Aubergy is a translator, bookseller and publisher. His publishing house, L’Atinoir, publishes authors of noir fiction and Latin American writers.

He will speak to us of his trade, how he chooses his books, and will make us know intimately and with passion some marvels of Latin American literature chosen by him.

He will also present the book, “Laura in Havana,” a collection of ten short stories by Angel Santiesteban-Prats, published by Atinoir.

Angel Santiesteban Prats is one of the greatest Cuban authors, presently in prison after having openly criticized his country’s system. His imprisonment has generated strong support from Reporters Without Borders and the world-wide community of bloggers.

An enthralling book

“The Eleventh Commandment” is a book by Rasky Beldjoudi, a resident of the Belle de Mai.

The name Rasky Beldjoudi will surely mean nothing in particlar to you. You have never noticed him, although it’s very probable that you have already seen him on Caffo Square or perhaps, one day, sitting next to you on bus 32.

However, Rasky is impressive, muscular, and his Belgian accent with a Kabyle (Berber) accent leaves no one indifferent. Since his infancy, Rasky has accumulated difficulties. From scholastic failures to precarious employment, he knew years of struggle and the hell of drugs.

In spite of an uneven road and a life story that is sometimes not very glorious, he succeeded in rising above the circumstances of his life and has just published “The Eleventh Commandment”: an enthralling autobiography, written in a remarkable style, full of humanity, and unbelievably touching.

Nicolás ROMAN BORRE

Saturday, April 12 at 5:00 p.m.

Maison Pour Tous de la Belle de Mai

6 Blvd. Boyer, 13003 Marseille

Free admission

Event organized by Brouettes & Compagnie, the association CIN-CO and the Maison Pour Tous de la Belle de Mai.

Translated by Regina Anavy
4 April 2014

Guille, The Macho Guajiro / Angel Santiesteban

Angel Santiesteban Prats dedicates this article to Guillermo Vidal, to remember the tenth anniversary of his death. He wrote it from the Lawton Prison Settlement for the column “Some Write” from the digital magazine “OtroLunes” (“Another Monday”).

By Angel Santiesteban Prats

It’s always a pleasure to remember Guillermo Vidal.

Sharing with him the adventure of writing has been one of the great rewards that life has offered me. His sympathy, modesty and talent seasoned his conversations. He was a man called to make friends, easy to like, and always persecuted by injustice, since they never could make him bow down. He maintained his literature at a high price, because he didn’t yield even one iota of his level of social criticism.

When they expelled him as a professor from the university, they didn’t even ask how he was going to live or maintain his family. Being despised and marginalized by the government of his territory in Las Tunas, by the demand of the political police, he became himself.

He was part of an intellectual existence that he accepted with stoicism, without complaint, which he endured in solitude and repaid with brilliant writing. That was his revenge.

After treating him like the plague for many years, the government offered a tribute to an official writer, and we agreed to attend if Guille would be among those invited. Once there, in the seat of the Provincial Party, in the same lair as the dictatorship, one of us said publicly that our presence had no other end but to lionize Guillermo Vidal, the most important living writer of Las Tunas, and one of the most important in the country; that it was a way of supporting him and demonstrating our friendship.

The government functionaries and those in charge of culture opened their eyes, surprised by the audacity. Those were the times when we still had not gained some rights that we have now, and where for much less than what is done today, there were immediate reprisals.

What is certain is that on that night and in the following days, we felt like better people and better intellectuals for showing our solidarity with him. Later he let us know that, from that moment, things got better for him. He stopped being banned and persecuted, because the authorities feared his contacts in the country, especially in Havana.

Now that we are on the eve of another congress of UNEAC (National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba), I remember what happened during the decade of the ’90s. After the vote to name the officers, Professor Ana Cairo, the officer of the Roger Avila Association of Writers, and I counted the votes, and there were a surprising number of artists who voted for Guillermo Vidal.

No one else had as many votes; no one even came close. However, later, when I saw who they elected, I understood that the votes were only a game, because Abel Prieto determined the election. They didn’t give any commission to Guillermo Vidal, not even in his own province. He was cursed, on the list of the marginalized.

When he died, it caused an infinite sadness, impossible to describe. I called the Institute of the Book (ICL), since I knew that they would have transport to take writers who wanted to participate in his burial.

The Taliban Iroel Sanchez, at that time the President of this institution, assured me that the microbus already had seats assigned. Of course, he was lying to me, and I intuited that in his words. Later, those who made the trip in that transport told me that not all the seats were taken.

I regretted very much not being able to say goodbye to him in that last moment. They feared that the truth would come out: that they had condemned him in life by closing all the doors to him that he knew his literature, a stroke of talent, would win. Surely I would have said that.

You can’t talk about Cuban literature at the end of the 20th century without mentioning the genres of the short story and the novel. However, in spite of the human misery that surrounded him, and the material poverty they obliged him to suffer, his genius at being a good Cuban jokester is the first thing that comes to mind when we think about him. That’s how I want to remember him now.

The book fairs in Havana take place in February and almost always coincide with his birthday, the 10th, that all his friends celebrated in harmony. We also celebrated February 14. I have one of his books, presented to me during those days, and I remember the dedication to me that “in spite of it being the day of love (Valentine’s Day), don’t get me wrong, I was a macho, macho guajiro.”

He had a spectacular snore. It almost loosened the nails from the beams and raised the roof. When you approached his room, the first sensation was that there was a roaring lion inside. The result? No one wanted to share a room with him.

Once, late in the night in Ciego de Avila, I met another writer from Las Tunas, Carlos Esquivel, literally crying in the lobby of the hotel because he couldn’t manage to sleep with those snorts.

When I described this scene the next day to Guillermo, he laughed like a naughty child. He asked me to repeat the story so he could continue to amuse himself, and he called for the others to listen to what suffering he was capable of inflicting, unconsciously.

In one of the prizes he won, and there were several, he had the luck to receive dollars. Then we got a telephone call saying that he was a relative of Rockefeller, and that he was ready to share his fortune; thus, he was generous. Certainly, in those few months I didn’t have a cent, and he continued in his material poverty. No one except his friends and spouse could believe him.

At one book fair in Guadalajara he told me that sometimes he had the impression that the government permitted him to leave to see if he stayed and they would get rid of him, and he laughed imagining the faces of the functionaries when they saw him return.

In one of his visits to Havana, he confessed to me how surprised he was because another writer told him that he envied him, and he couldn’t conceive of being anyone to envy, and he laughed. “When I go home from the university, at high noon, the cars pass me and no one gives me a ride, and they leave me wrapped in dust to the point that I stop breathing so I don’t swallow the dust,” he said, and he began to laugh.

Then I told him that I would exchange all that poverty for his books, that I also envied him, and he got serious, and in a respectful tone asked me if I was serious.

Thus he always comes into my memory, ironic as the priest’s pardon after confessing sins, and as sweet as the tamarind that they give the leaders to taste.

This year is the tenth anniversary of his physical disappearance. And every year, in spite of some mediocre political and cultural figures who agree to forget him, the imprint of Guillermo Vidal on Cuban culture overrides frontiers and political regimes. And this is elaborated with the passage of time, which was the only thing he didn’t laugh about. To struggle against time through writing was an exercise on which he bet his life.

Published in OtroLunes.

Please follow the link and sign the petition to have Amnesty International declare the Cuban dissident Angel Santiesteban a prisoner of conscience.

Translated by Regina Anavy

9 April 2014

Angel Santiesteban’s Work Again Recognized in France

The dictator Raul Castro continues stubbornly to make the world believe that he’s bringing to Cuba an opening that in reality doesn’t exist. He continues being the same dictator as always, violating the rights of all Cubans, submitting them to misery, censoring the press, harassing, beating and imprisoning peaceful opponents.

Angel Santiesteban, unjustly imprisoned, has completed one year after a rigged trial for some crimes that his ex-wife and mother of his son invented together with the political police. They sought to silence his critical voice against the dictatorship, but they have not succeeded. No punishment, beatings or prison itself has made a dent in him.

And by keeping him locked up, the dictator hasn’t prevented his literature from continuing to be recognized in the world, which condemns the injustice against him.

Again in France, this time in Marseille, his book of stories, “Laura in Havana”, published in 2012 by L’Atinoir, will be presented before the public.

Raul Castro continues violating his own law, taking away Angel’s passes that he is supposed to get every sixty days. It doesn’t matter to Angel, because when his companions go to visit their families, he takes even more advantage of the time and the calm to continue writing.

The Editor

A meeting

We invite you to a convivial meeting with Jacques Aubergy and Rasky Beldjoudi, Saturday, April 12, at 5:00 p.m. at the Maison Pour Tous de la Belle de Mai (House For All of the Belle of May).

Jacques Aubergy is a translator, bookseller and publisher. His publishing house, L’Atinoir, publishes authors of noir fiction and Latin American writers.

He will speak to us of his trade, how he chooses his books, and will make us know intimately and with passion some marvels of Latin American literature chosen by him.

He will also present the book, “Laura in Havana,” a collection of ten short stories by Angel Santiesteban-Prats, published by Atinoir.

Angel Santiesteban Prats is one of the greatest Cuban authors, presently in prison after having openly criticized his country’s system. His imprisonment has generated strong support from Reporters Without Borders and the world-wide community of bloggers.

An enthralling book

“The Eleventh Commandment” is a book by Rasky Beldjoudi, a resident of the Belle de Mai.

The name Rasky Beldjoudi will surely mean nothing in particlar to you. You have never noticed him, although it’s very probable that you have already seen him on Caffo Square or perhaps, one day, sitting next to you on bus 32.

However, Rasky is impressive, muscular, and his Belgian accent with a Kabyle (Berber) accent leaves no one indifferent. Since his infancy, Rasky has accumulated difficulties. From scholastic failures to precarious employment, he knew years of struggle and the hell of drugs.

In spite of an uneven road and a life story that is sometimes not very glorious, he succeeded in rising above the circumstances of his life and has just published “The Eleventh Commandment”: an enthralling autobiography, written in a remarkable style, full of humanity, and unbelievably touching.

Nicolás ROMAN BORRE

Saturday, April 12 at 5:00 p.m., Maison Pour Tous de la Belle de Mai, 6 Blvd. Boyer, 13003 Marseille

Free admission

Event organized by Brouettes & Compagnie, the association CIN-CO and the Maison Pour Tous de la Belle de Mai.

To sign the petition for Amnesty International to declare Cuban dissident Angel Santiesteban a prisoner of conscience follow the link.

 

Translated by Regina Anavy

Photophobia / Regina Coyula

According to the still very useful UTEHA dictionary, photophobia is a medical term which means discomfort or pain to the eyes due to light. But the photophobia of my story has nothing to do with medical apprehension, but rather with social apprehension.

More and more I am hearing about people who want to take photos in public places and are told that it’s prohibited. It’s not a matter of taking photos of military units or the movement of troops, no. On a public street, in a pharmacy, in the agro-market, in a maternity hospital, in a night club, a stern employ arrives who threatens the photographer, who, generally, abides by the absurd order.

This paranoia can’t be spontaneous, it has to obey “training passed down”, where behind every camera lens could be hiding, horror!, an independent journalist, which is to say, a CIA agent.

The citizens, of course, say that in order to have legal force, the said prohibition has to be clear and very visible, and be endorsed by a resolution and not by the caprice of an administrator, director or the police.

If there is nothing to hide, why the fear?

 Translated by Regina Anavy

2 April 2014

S.O.S. The Soldiers Are Suffocating Us / Angel Santiesteban

A daring prisoner has revealed to me the intention of high-ranking soldiers to become my enemies. To accomplish this they took away a pass, the most sacred thing for them; then they reduced even more the precarious nutrition. The ration of chicken, which is provided two times a month, has been reduced to one sole occurrence, and what before could be divided by two persons now is shared among three. The acid picadillo has been substituted for the main dish.

The chiefs of the Direction of Prisons, seeing that their pressure has not been effective, have advanced by four hours the schedule for returning from the pass. Before it was at six in the evening; now they stipulated that it be at two. Another gesture of manipulation has been that of the four hours granted for time on the telephone so prisoners can communicate with their families, they have left only one.

The day of access to the pass, they assign work that could be done the following day, with the sole purpose of annoying the prisoners, to increase the ill will against me, since, according to Lieutenant Colonel Eduardo, the head of the penal prosecution, I don’t comply with the schedule and discipline established because the inmates allow me to do it. He asked that they confront me, that they demand I be “re-educated,” so that, once they succeed, they will have privileges returned to them.

Today, payday, their salaries, gained according to contract, have been reduced; that is to say, they can calculate the amount they earned in the month and thus the salary they are owed. However, without explanation, they have been fleeced in the worst style of highway robbery.

I can’t predict how long the prisoners will support this subjugation of their “rights,” in a country where rights don’t exist, especially if people are detained in penitentiaries, where they are persecuted and receive the most inhuman treatment, where the blackmail of the officials is constant, since they control the prisoners’ lives and destinies. Tomorrow, for example, with a single movement of their lips, they can order that those prisoners wake up in Santa Clara, Camaguey or Santiago de Cuba, and thus be removed from their families.

I continue writing my literature in this sabbatical year that the dictatorship has granted me, and I remain standing in the struggle for human rights for all Cubans.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison Settlement. March 2014.

Editor’s Note: The dictatorship continues to systematically violate the rights of Angel Santiesteban, in breach of their own laws. By law he should get a pass for 72 hours every 70 days, in agreement with the prison regimen to which he is submitted. From the second of August 2013 until now, they have “granted” him one single pass at the end of September. That week the rest of the prisoners “enjoyed” a pass of six days, and he was returned to remain alone with the jailers. These punishments that they impose on him don’t scare him. They should realize by now that the more they try to harm him, the more they strengthen him, and they are even collaborating with Cuban literature, which has – for a year – one of the great talents working without pause.

To sign the petition to have Angel Santiesteban declared a prisoner of conscience, please follow the link.

Translated by Regina Anavy

19 March 2014

Signatories Forever, Unredeemed Brownnosers / Angel Santiesteban

The signatures of those artists from the unforgettable book open at UNEAC headquarters match the political calls of the dictatorship to support the execution of minors who tried to emigrate to the United States by hijacking the boat across the bay to the ultramarine village of Regla. Although the passengers declared that they didn’t hurt anyone, they were deceived. They promised them that if they surrendered, nothing would happen. But the next day they were executed after a summary trial.

After that event and the logical international condemnation that it aroused, they looked for accomplices, people who would “give rope,” and just as in the film, “The Man Maisinicu,” they involved more people, besmirching their hands with manure and blood, a recurring combination of a totalitarian regime.

Now these intellectuals are called to sign for a government that assassinates its students. Neither does the fact of protesting violently, if it’s true, justify annihilation. The sad thing is that most of these signatories recognize that it’s an error of the Venezuelan government, in the figure of Nicolas Maduro, ordering repression. Those lives have a cost, of course, and those who continue signing from fear or for personal benefit will be recognized by history as being brownnosers, sycophants of the omnipotent power of the Castro brothers.

Génesis Carmona, estudiante y modelo del estado Carabobo, fue asesinada por un disparo  en la cabeza durante una manifestación opositora

Genesis Carmona, a student and model from Carabobo state, was killed by a shot in the head during an opposition demonstration.

For everyone a little piece of history touches us, and consequently we gain merit or demerit.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison Settlement, March 2014

Please follow the link and sign the petition to have Angel Santiesteban declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.

 Translated by Regina Anavy

RWB: The Castro Regime Has Developed an Original Model of Control / Angel Santiesteban

Reporters without Borders: Cuba prohibits a free Internet

All content considered “antirevolutionary” is automatically blocked. All information that is published in the media is filtered, according to the criteria of the Party.

Cuba continues preventing the majority of its population from having access to a free (i.e. uncensored) Internet, even though the submarine fiber-optic cable, ALBA-1, coming from Venezuela and the unblocking of some web sites constitute a ray of hope. The Castro regime has developed an original model of control, based on the existence of a local Intranet. Access to the Internet is excessively expensive. The prices are prohibitive. Add to that the omnipresence of the government institutions.

The country’s organ of censorship, the Department of Revolutionary Orientation (DOR), filters all the information that is published in the official communication media, according to the Party’s criteria. They automatically block all content considered “antirevolutionary.” This censorship, that applies not only to the web, it is based on the Penal Code in force that criminalizes “disrespect,” “defamation,” “slander,” “insults,” and “offenses against the authorities, the institutions of the Republic, and the heroes and martyrs of the nation,” among other things.

 The Ministry of Computing and Communications

It was created in the year 2000 with the goal of ensuring respect for the Revolutionary ideology defended by the DOR on the Internet. There is very little information available on the technology that the Cuban authorities employ in terms of censorship. The University of Computer Sciences (UCI), as well as the Telecommunications Company of Cuba (ETECSA) — the national provider of access to the Internet — work with the departments of surveillance and censorship that back up the actions of the Ministry. The blockade of Internet content is carried out by ETECSA.

The year 2011 was marked by certain concessions of the government, like the unblocking of some web sites. This is the case with the sites Desde Cuba and Voces Cubana (From Cuba and Cuban Voices), where numerous opposition blogs are posted, among them Generación Y (Generation Y), whose author is Yoani Sánchez. Continue reading

When Freedom Becomes Agony / Angel Santiesteban

“Thank you Fidel, for all you give us…”

Prisoners curse their freedom

Convicts say that when they get a pass for almost 72 hours every 10 days, their worries increase. They experience a major agony in the sense of feeling useless before the economic situation of their families. The little money they earn as slaves of the Regime that keeps them captive barely lets them satisfy the shortages that exist at home. They find their families without food, the children without shoes to go to school, and the electrical appliances broken, among other calamities.

In the first hours at home, already they have exhausted their savings, seeing themselves obligated to loan or offend, with the goal that at the end of their days on pass, their families remain with the minimum of needs guaranteed.

Once back in their beds in prison, they recognize that it’s preferable to be a prisoner, since they suffer less when they don’t have to confront the everyday reality and the constant pain of not knowing how to find a solution, how to stay on top of the poverty, without the familiar temptation of breaking the law.

“At least while we’re in prison we’re not suffering. We don’t see how poor our kids are,” they assert. “And we avoid crime, because we also know that it’s the only possible way to solve things,” says a convict, with whom the rest agree, and he affirms that “it’s preferable to be a prisoner, eat the acid, dirty rice with picadillo, to be beaten and put in a cell each time you feel like venting, than to see your loved ones looking at you like sparrows with open beaks, waiting for us to do a magic act and get some food to fall into them,” he says, and he keeps silent for a bit.

“Outside things have gotten worse. We feel fear when we leave because surely we’ll commit some misdeed,” someone affirms from the door, “and the hard part is to start another more severe sentence,” adds another. “We will never have the chance to be those ’citizens’ they want us to be, because society and the laws forget that we don’t have the least possible chance of surviving without stealing, and if we don’t, we would die of hunger.”

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison Settlement, March 2014.

Please follow the link and sign the petition to have the Cuban dissident Angel Santiesteban declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.

Translated by Regina Anavy

12 March 2014

Havana: A Guide for Tourists / Ivan Garcia

Useful advice for tourists who visit the last bastion of the Cold War in the Caribbean

Useful advice for tourists who visit the last Communist barricade of the Cold War in the Caribbean

If you speak Spanish, it’s advisable to get to know Havana by taking private taxis. In a rented car, air-conditioned and with a map of the capital, it’s more pleasurable, but also more expensive, and you wouldn’t be able to chat with the habaneros.

If you know the city only through the guided visits to museums or cigar factories, organized by tourist agencies, you will have good photos when you return to your country, but you will only have seen a postcard of Havana.

You can decide to drink mojitos, stroll on the Malecon, flirt with prostitutes in a cafe where you need hard currency to listen to a duo singing Compay Segundo’s Chan Chan at your table. Or you can discover the other face of Havana, ignored by the official press. Then, first hand, you will know the priorities of ordinary Cubans.

The capital of Cuba has in its favor the fact that it still is not as dangerous as Caracas, Medellin or Michoacan. You can walk through rough and poor neighborhoods without fear of being assaulted (I advise you to go during the day).

Better than reserving a hotel is renting a room in some private home. For your trips around the city, the ideal thing is to move around in the old U.S. cars known as almendrones.

And talk to the passengers. There is no platform more authentic and liberal in Cuba than the private taxis. As in any capital of the world, the Havana taxi drivers possess a culture of speech and an acceptable level of information.

You will find out that many of the Cuban taxi drivers are doctors, engineers, retired military men or professionals who, after their work day, sit at the steering wheel, trying to earn some extra pesos that will permit them to complement their poor salaries.

The Havana taxi drivers seem to be dissidents when they speak, but they’re not. They, like numerous people you find in the lines or in the streets, openly criticize the government.

The list of complaints about the state of things on the island is extensive. Traveling in a 1954 Ford, with a South Korean motor and a Japanese gear box, you will know first-hand that people aren’t applauding Raul Castro’s reforms with much enthusiasm now.

Be prepared to listen to a dissertation on the daily hardships. One suggestion: before your trip around the city, in your backpack carry deodorants, tubes of toothpaste or soap to offer to the people you talk to. Right now, these articles are scarce in Cuba (see the Note at the end).

Havana taxis are a microphone open to different political opinions. And in their interior there is more democracy than in the monotone national parliament. In the almendrones there are usually people who think differently. Each reveals his opinion. Loudly and gesticulating with his hands, typical of Cubans.

Upon arriving at his destination, the passenger who supports the Regime says goodbye amicably to the one who wants profound changes in his country. Two details: the old Havana taxis don’t have air conditioning and the drivers listen to reggaeton or salsa music at exaggerated volume.

If you get into a jeep, which can fit up to 10 people, the trip is uncomfortable. But there is no better way to make people-to-people contact than to travel in private taxis. And they are very cheap. For 50 cents or a dollar on longer journeys, you can get to know the other face of Havana. It’s not recommended to take the urban omnibus: owing to the bad service and overcrowding, what should be an exploration of the city and a motive to make contact with its people can become a torture.

Iván García

Photo: Taken from Panoramix.

Note. In Cuba something is always lacking. Sometimes the scarcity is most visible in the capital, but usually where you find a lack of most products, food or hygiene, is in the interior of the country. After writing this piece, independent journalists were reporting that “eggs were missing.” I don’t know if eggs have reappeared, but now salt is missing.

On March 5, Ernesto García Díaz wrote in Cubanet that salt was hard to find in the grocery stores, markets and hard currency markets (TRD), where a kilo nylon bag of Cuban salt with the stamp “Caribeña” cost 45 cents (10.80 Cuban pesos). In the Ultra TRD [the government-run "Hard Currency Collection Store"], an employee told the journalist that “it’s been some time since we’ve had Caribeña salt. We are selling a fine Andalusian salt of the brand “Aucha” at the price of 1.65 CUC ($US 1.58) a kilo.”

In Cuba there are five saltworks that supposedly should guarantee the distribution of salt for the ration book, at the rate of one kilo for a nuclear family of up to 3 people, every three months. But because they haven’t managed to extract more than 400 million tons annually, the government has had to import salt, as occurred in 2008, when they bought 30 million tons of salt at a cost of 9 million dollars (Tania Quintero).

Translated by Regina Anavy

8 March 2014