Intense Rains Give Evidence of the "Wonder" of Havana / Iván García

Beneath the rain, Havana received the title of Wonder City of the Modern World. Photo by Elio Delgado Valdés, taken from Havana Times.
Beneath the rain, Havana received the title of Wonder City of the Modern World. Photo by Elio Delgado Valdés, taken from Havana Times.

Iván García, 9 June 2016 — Ask Luis Carlos Rodríguez, retired, his opinion about the designation of “Wonder City” based on an Internet survey conducted in the winter of 2014 by the Swiss foundation, “New 7 Wonders,” and you will hear a long list of complaints, sprinkled with insults, about the olive-green government that has governed the destiny of Cuba since January 1959.

The old man lives in a quarter where the wastewater runs through the cracked central corridor, a little more than half a kilometer from the area of colonial Havana, which wears makeup for the photos of dazzled tourists. Continue reading “Intense Rains Give Evidence of the "Wonder" of Havana / Iván García”

The Cuban Government Wants to Regulate Prices for Collective Taxis / Iván García

Photo from Cubanet
Photo from Cubanet

Iván García, 19 July 2016 — At the traffic signal on Infanta and Carlos III, in the heart of Havana, Guenady takes advantage of the red light to thirstily take a swig out of a half-liter of ice water that he keeps at one side of his driver’s seat.

Perhaps the cold water helps to appease his fury. He spends 20 minutes protesting what he considers an arbitariness of the Government that is trying to regulate the prices of the routes taken by the collective taxis [taxis that pick up people and travel set routes, often old American cars].

The man turns off the CD and replaces the Reggaeton with a rant sprinkled with curses and criticisms of the olive-greet autocrats. Continue reading “The Cuban Government Wants to Regulate Prices for Collective Taxis / Iván García”

The Future of Cuba, According to the Regime / Iván García

The future of Cuba according to the regime: "Here we have to throw stones without looking ahead."
The future of Cuba according to the regime: “Here we have to pave the way without worrying about what is ahead of us.” Taken from the blog of Carl Montgomery.

Iván García, 24 June 2016 — “Twenty minutes. Neither more nor less,” says Emilio, a civil engineer. This was the time he took at work to “analyze” a document replete with jargon, approved by the Seventh Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, celebrated this past April in Havana.

“Imagine: The boss had authorized us to carry out a ’motivation’ for Father’s Day. We took up a collection and bought three bottles of rum and two cartons of beer. But at noon, a guy from the union showed up for a meeting with ’the agents of the municipality,’ to discuss the economic model and the future of Cuba,” comments the engineer. Continue reading “The Future of Cuba, According to the Regime / Iván García”

Cuba: Where is the Money? / Iván García

“50 years of communist rule have yielded an unlikely product – unspoiled beachfront property and world-class golf.” A quote from a promotional site about the new Carbonera Club project in Varadero which will be dsigned with advice from British golfer Tony Jacklin and British design guru Terence Conran.
“50 years of communist rule have yielded an unlikely product – unspoiled beachfront property and world-class golf.” Quote from a promotional site for the new Carbonera Club project in Varadero which will be designed with help from British golfer Tony Jacklin and British design guru Terence Conran.

Iván García, 18 July 2016 — Two retirees, a strolling detergent vendor and a vacationing doctor, kill time in a park in south Havana, debating the surprising Portuguese victory of Cristiano Ronaldo in the European Cup. They also comment on the Regime’s new austerity measures, which presage another season of “skinny cows” [shortages].

Neither the shade of a carob tree nor a soft breeze relieves the sleep-inducing heat of July. When it seems that the topics of conversation are exhausted, a grey-haired man, a now-retired civil engineer, asks: “Does anyone know where the money in Cuba is going? And what the Government does with the millions of dollars it receives from family remittances?” Continue reading “Cuba: Where is the Money? / Iván García”

A Conversation with Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo / Regina Anavy

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo with his most recent book, Del
Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo with his most recent book

Regina Anavy, Reykjavic, June 27, 2016 — Crossing paths with Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo in Reykjavic, Iceland, on June 27, 2016, I had the opportunity to have a conversation with him.

Iceland And Future Plans

Regina Anavy: I understand you are here on a special two-year grant from ICORN [International Cities of Refuge Network].

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo: Yes. ICORN is an NGO based in Norway. They make contact with city governments. They believe that working with cities is better than working with countries. Maybe there is a conflictive immigration policy, but the cities are happy to have you. So in Europe they have dozens of cities, and I think in America now Pittsburgh is becoming an ICORN city and maybe Las Vegas. But after a year [in Iceland], I will be going back to the U.S., to enter a Ph.D. program in comparative literature at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

RA: Are you going to be teaching or doing research?

OLPL: Mainly I will be a teaching assistant in the second year. Continue reading “A Conversation with Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo / Regina Anavy”

Cuban Homosexuals: Excluded From The Army And Taboo In The Dissidence / Iván García

Cuban homosexuals parade with their flags on the Paseo del Prado in Havana. Taken from the Independent.
Cuban homosexuals parade with their flags on the Paseo del Prado in Havana.
Taken from the Independent.

Ivan Garcia, 30 June 2016 — “Beyoncé” — that’s what she likes to be called — prostitutes herself for less than two dollars on the outskirts of the old bus stop of Víbora, 30 minutes by car from the center of Havana.

By day she’s an “emerging teacher” in a secondary school, that is one of a class of teachers created due to the shortage of experienced teachers who begin training in the 11th grade at age 16 and take over a classroom while they’re still teenagers themselves. By night she goes out to hunt clients on the Diez de Octubre [Tenth of October] roadway, dressed as a woman. She wears a blond wig, a clinging dress, high-heeled shoes, too much makeup and a cheap, penetrating perfume that she combines with an imitation-Gucci handbag and some false eyelashes imported from Miami. Continue reading “Cuban Homosexuals: Excluded From The Army And Taboo In The Dissidence / Iván García”

Cuban Poets: Exile, Prison and Oblivion / Luis Felipe Rojas

At the front, a panel composed of Ángel Cuadra, Luis De La Paz y José Abreu Felippe (left to right).

Luis Felipe Rojas, 9 July 2016 — José Abreu Felippe has become a goldsmith. He’s a guy who’s creating a city that will be lost, and he wants to change it into a jewel that we all will carry with us. Poesía exiliada y pateada (Alexandria Library, 2016) collects poems of seven Cuban writers who already have left for other worlds. They are beings with lives twisted by existence itself, and even so, they wrote in verse and kept their fingers on the trigger for generations of readers and writers to come.

They are Eddy CampaEsteban L. CárdenasRoberto ValeroReinaldo ArenasDavid LagoJorge Oliva and René Ariza. Felippe read a poem from each one in the West Dade Regional Library of Miami. There are two routes these bards took: insanity and oblivion, but in both meanings, their transfiguration of reality preserved them for us. The power that they imprinted on their verses has left them a little more beyond the popular imagery. Continue reading “Cuban Poets: Exile, Prison and Oblivion / Luis Felipe Rojas”

Domain Names and an Internet Debate / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 30 June 2016 — For Cubans who update their home entertainment weekly with the now famous, private and anonymous Paquete (Weekly Packet), they are familiar with a subtitle in bright, greenish-yellow letters at the beginning of the movies. This inevitable “http://www.gnula.nu” which comes up so much, piqued my curiosity. It was impossible for me to recognize the country that corresponded to that extension, so I resorted to the always-useful Wikipedia.

Surprise. The country of the pirated movie site that we see at home is Niue, an atoll with airs of a small island, assigned to New Zealand. In 1996, a North American (who doesn’t live in Niue, of course) claimed rights to “.nu” and, in 2003, founded the Internet Society of Niue, which allowed the local authorities to convert the quasi-island into the first wi-fi nation of the world. They supplemented the offer with a free computer for every child. Nothing spectacular; we’re talking about a population of barely 1,300 inhabitants. Continue reading “Domain Names and an Internet Debate / Regina Coyula”

Habaneros Comment on "The Wonder" of Their City / Iván García

“The Wonder” Source: Deviant Art

City of Havana – One of the New7Wonder Cities of the World.

Ivan Garcia, 6 June 2016 — From Miraflores, south of Havana, Sergio comes twice a week with his wheelbarrow to the dump on Calle 100 in Marianao to pick up old junk that he later sells for a few pesos in a traveling fair in the slums of La Víbora.

Among the things he has for sale are a book with a red cover about the external debt signed by Fidel Castro, a crumpled police novel by Daniel Chavarría, three faded blouses, two cut-up pairs of jeans and some carpentry tools. Continue reading “Habaneros Comment on "The Wonder" of Their City / Iván García”

Why Military Service Should Be Abolished in Cuba / Iván García

Servicio-Militar-_ab-620x330Ivan Garcia, 23 April 2016 — They work as a pair. Raciel, a black man almost six feet tall, with long arms and legs and a pock-marked complexion, is in charge of the fumigation equipment, while Yilsander, a light-skinned, pudgy man, carries a black bag and a clipboard, where he writes down the houses that have already been disinfected in the search ordered by Raúl Castro to minimize the presence of the mosquito that transmits dengue, chikungunya and zika.

Below a torrid sun, the two go house by house in the Havana neighborhood of Víbora. They wear olive-green pants, caps and shirts, the uniform designed by some sadistic tailor who ignored the tropical temperature of the island. And they have on horrifyingly heavy boots with steel tips on the toes. Continue reading “Why Military Service Should Be Abolished in Cuba / Iván García”

Prague Happily Infects its Visitors / Dora Leonor Mesa

Dora Leonor Mesa, 2 May 2016 — Some years ago I referred to how well Vaclav Havel knew the Cubans. I never imagined that one day I would travel to the capital of the Czech Republic: Prague, the city of 100 towers. My husband always spoke to me with nostalgia for that city which he visited several times during his years as an athlete on the Cuban gymnastics team.

In 2015 I discovered Prague when I went as a delegate to the Forum 2000, an exceptional event dedicated to education and democracy. As scheduled, keeping my promise to the Infant of Prague was among my priorities, and I attended a Mass in his church. Some time ago I wrote a book of poems dedicated to the Infant of Prague that may someday be published. Continue reading “Prague Happily Infects its Visitors / Dora Leonor Mesa”

Cuban Alternative Journalism: Challenges and Commitments / Iván García

In the homage that the Club of Independent Cuban Writers paid the poet, Rafael Alcides, January 26, 2016, among other independent journalists were Luis Cino (shirt with blue and white stripes), Iván García (dark red shirt) and Jorge Olivera (black jacket), who was a political prisoner during the Black Spring of 2003.
In the homage that the Club of Independent Cuban Writers paid the poet, Rafael Alcides, January 26, 2016, among other independent journalists were Luis Cino (shirt with blue and white stripes), Iván García (dark red shirt) and Jorge Olivera (black jacket), who was a political prisoner during the Black Spring of 2003.

Ivan Garcia, 3 May 2016 — One morning in 1996, the poet and journalist, Raúl Rivero, Director of the press agency Independent Cuba Press, called me at home in Víbora, to ask me to cover the trial of a dissident in a municipal court in Cerro.

The reporter, Ariel de Castro Tapia, (presently living in Turkey) and I were to write up a statement after the judicial ruling and read it on the Radio Martí news broadcast at noon. Continue reading “Cuban Alternative Journalism: Challenges and Commitments / Iván García”

MININT Confronts What Could Be Its Worst Challenge: Information Theft / Juan Juan Almeida

Raúl Castro pins the title of Hero of the Cuban Republic on division general Carlos Fernández Gondín.

Juan Juan Almeida, 31 March 2016 — Not so long ago there was a rumor that high officials of MINIT had been arrested by the Ministry. In agreement with those implicated in the event and making a clear allusion comparable to Case No. 1 of 1989 [a highly respected Cuban general was executed for drug trafficking], there was speculation about a new report. But the rumor faded away under a suspicious silence and a potent, air-tight cloak of secrecy.

Theories have flaws, and even the Roman Empire lasted four centuries longer than predicted.

What’s certain is that the Division General, Carlos Fernández Gondín, left his office in the MININT building accompanied by a doctor, after an attack of rage that gave him a stroke and left him hospitalized. Continue reading “MININT Confronts What Could Be Its Worst Challenge: Information Theft / Juan Juan Almeida”

State Security fears a Cuban Snowden / Somos+, Javier Cabrera

Somos+, Javier Cabrera, 1 April 2016 — Yesterday the news came out in various media: Ultra-secret information has been stolen from the Cuban Ministry of the Interior. The poor proclamation “Raúl’s Sovereign Technology” showed itself more focused on censorship of content and limiting communication than on constructing a true plan of security in the service of the nation.

It’s not the first theft of confidential information, although the previous ones were by citizens and not directly by people in the military, like the surveillance videos in Havana or the telephone directory of the state phone company ETECSA. The absurd pledge of reinventing technology has ended up being, as expected, manipulation. Continue reading “State Security fears a Cuban Snowden / Somos+, Javier Cabrera”

Cuban Education through the Keyhole / Somos+

Somos+, Amelia Albernas, 26 February 2016 — In my time, professors were proud of being what they were: a living gospel. We students were instructed by them and, furthermore, educated. The values and principles I have are thanks to my parents — one a psychologist and the other a history teacher — and to those teachers who had a true love for their profession.

Sadly, the new generations of Cubans don’t count and won’t be able to count on this. Material deficiencies and — why not? — spiritual ones, also, have wrecked the education that many of us received in past decades. The social and economic deterioration of the country has destroyed educational teaching. The exodus of teachers to other professions with better salaries is a reality that is striking but perfectly understandable. Our teachers lack great commitment, but it’s hard to ask for that commitment if salaries are low. Continue reading “Cuban Education through the Keyhole / Somos+”