GUSANO (Worm) – A Video from Estado de SATS


If you don’t see the subtitles — start the video and then, on the bottom right, there will be a little “CC” box. Click there and ENGLISH will appear and the subtitles will show up. If an ad appears on the screen, close it and the subtitles will move to the bottom of the screen.

Site manager’s note: This video was translated and subtitled by the most amazing group of young people in the world… their names are on the final credits… our thanks to them are IMMEASURABLE and UNPAYABLE… but some day… in a free Cuba… sitting on the wall of the Malecon… we’ll celebrate together what you helped to bring about.

Additional note: Apologies for the early problems with the video… This one works and works in full screen.

Taguayabon: Village Pastor Abducted / Yoaxis Marcheco Suárez

The Marcheco-Lleonart family

Taguayabon, Cuba – I could have written a simple informative note about one of the many arrests carried out by Cuban State Security agencies during the days leading up to the CELAC Summit in Havana. But in this case I was both eyewitness and victim, and had to deal with the fact that my daughters saw it all.

On Saturday January 25, my husband, the Baptist pastor Mario Felix Lleonart, and I, together with our daughters, Rocío, 13, and Rachel, 5, left our home in Taguayabón, intending to travel to the neighboring city of Remedios to spend a relaxing family afternoon.  We were stopped by two State Security agents, dressed in civilian clothes, riding a small Suzuki motorcycle, who approached my husband and told him he was under arrest.

The situation became very tense a few minutes later when a National Revolutionary Police patrol car appeared, with a uniformed police officer and another civilian agent who joined the first two and pounced on Mario Félix as if he were a common criminal, handcuffing him and speeding him off toward Remedios, without telling me where they were going. Continue reading

Mass Protest in Holguin [VIDEO] / CID


Site manager’s note: We have been receiving news of a large protest in Holguin since yesterday but this video from CID (Independent and Democratic Cuba) is the first direct visual evidence we have seen.

Following is a translation of the notations as they appear on the video.

0:00 Self-employed workers in Holguin march from their businesses to the government offices.
0:21 – “… we want to work… we want to work.” The protest was organized by the workers themselves.
0:31 – Finally they gathered in front of the local government where they were repressed.
0:43 – In the early hours the independent workers were already gathered in front of the government offices.
0:57 – The police started to beat the leaders of the protest who defended themselves.
1:13 – Minutes later the strongest nucleus of the protest continued defending the Cuban flag they were carrying.
1:29 – They included the members of the CID who were recording the protests.
1:35 – With more than 500 self-employed people members of G2 (State Security) in plainclothes asked for reinforcements.
2:00 – Plainclothes police tried to grab the camera from members of CID who were recording the events…
2:14 – “… the people want justice, that is what you get… you’re defending this for 3 pesos… and a little bag [a sack of "goodies"such as shampoo, soap, etc.]…”
2:32 – Osmel Cespedez Artigas. CID member who recorded the videos.
2:44 – MININT (Ministry of the Interior) official approaches to grab the camera but is overcome, tries to back off.
2:59 – “Look, the people here are watching, you’re going to beat me? Who are you?”

22 January 2014

A Moment of Zen in the Midst of Chaos / Ailer Gonzalez [Video]

Please click on the image to watch the video

Please click on the image to watch the video


After the violent arrest of her husband, Antonio Rodiles, at the Human Rights Conference sponsored by Estado de Sats, Ailer Gonzalez chose a moment of non-violence in the midst of the madness. As children, still in their uniforms and taken out of school to spend the day harassing human rights advocates swirled around her, Ailer sat quietly under the Havana sun…

Note: At the beginning of the video in the bottom left Antonio’s mother (green dress and cane) can be seen walking back to the house after the arrest with one of the conference participants who then turns back to talk to Ailer. The other adults in video are primarily plainclothes State Security agents working for the Ministry of the Interior. The flag the children are waving (other than Cuba’s) is Venezuela’s.

Repression at Estado de SATS (Video)

This video was taken in the street outside the home of Antonio Rodiles, which is also the headquarters of Estado de SATS, where a Conference on Human Rights was being held in honor or World Human Rights Day.

The man in the blue shirt with glasses is Antonio Rodiles, director of Estado de SATS. The woman appearing next to him in a black dress early in the video, and sitting on the street later in the video, is Ailer Gonzalez, Antonio’s wife and also one of the active coordinators of Estado de SATS. The older woman in the long green dress holding a cane is Antonio’s mother.

The children (in and out of school uniform) were taken out of school to spend the day “repudiating” the Estado de Sats Human Rights Conference (a government spokesperson claimed they were having a “sports day” on this residential street and that Antonio was abusing the children when he was arrested).

Arturo Sandoval: I Have Fulfilled My Dreams / Ivan Garcia

Arturo-SandovalTo speak about music in Cuba is an analogy. Cuba is the music. There are nice people, splendid weather, the smell of salty residue, and there’s always a reason to party. Other things, like the shrimp, tropical fruits, or beef are a luxury after 54 years of misrule. Cuba lacks essential liberties, but the music goes on.

Fidel Castro tried to scrap the Sunday calls to retreat and replace them with arrhythmic marches calling for combat. The olive-green regime planned to transform music. To bury guaguancó, toque de santo, and jazz.

But he couldn’t. In addition to inventing parameters to measure the quality of a music, in the medias sent to censure the greats like Mario Bauzá, Celia Cruz, or such a Lupe, only because they chose to observe from the distance the ideological folly established in the island.

And the music, like poetry, doesn’t let you break. The trumpeter, pianist, and composer Arturo Sandoval (Artemeisa, 1949), knows this very well. In the flesh has lived the holy war that political and cultural commissioners, scribes and historians, unleashed in 1990 when he decided to move away from the Communist madhouse. According to official decree, Sandoval was to die.

It’s rained a lot since then. The times are different. It’s been 24 years, indignant Berliners in the night demolished the wall that divided a same nation. Castro had to change politically. He spoke of socialism or death on a Havana platform, but from the sewers of power, sent especially trying to make negotiations with magnates of capitalism. He had to make accords. With the Catholic Church, the Afro-Cuban religion and with the selfsame devil. He cracked the social discipline and the fear was lost.

And in full view you could find blacks on a Cayo Hueso lot, in downtown Havana, between rounds of rum and dominos, daring to listen, at full volume, to Celia Cruz, Willy Chirino, Paquito D’Rivera. or A Time for Love, disco from 2010 by Arturo Sandoval. I was a witness.

On November 6th the Cuban trumpeter turned 64. On the 21st of this month his name may be announced in Las Vegas as the winner of a Grammy, the tenth in his career, to go along with 6 Billboard Awards and an Emmy. Although the most moving of all will be the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which will be presented to him in December by Barack Obama, along with fifteen other figures, including former President Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, and Mexican scientist and Nobel Prize winner in chemistry Mario Molina. Despite his busy schedule, Arturo Sandoval graciously answered a questionnaire from Diario de Cuba.

Arturo, I was a boy when your name rang out with force on the island. I remember you taking complete notes on the trumpet while Irakere was making Bacalao with bread. Would you be able to summarize your artistic trajectory?

“I have to give thanks to God every day because in my career I’ve been able to accomplish my dreams. Look, coming from a dirt-poor family, where nobody was linked to art, and me having been able to be in the best situations and share with the musical greats. I think that sums up my trajectory: a dream come true.”

He doesn’t say it out of modesty, but another dream come true is the Arturo Sandoval Institute, proud institution of Cuban music on two shores.

Looking back, Arturo, what did Irakere mean to you?

“Before belonging to Irakere I was a member of the famous Cuban Orchestra of Modern Music. When I joined the orchestra, I was 16. I started at the bottom, being the sixth trumpet, until I made first. Without a doubt, the Cuban Orchestra of Modern Music has been one of or the best ever formed in Cuba, with musicians of great magnitude, like Luis Escalante, El Guajiro Mirabal, Paquito D’Rivera, Chucho Valdés, Guillermo Barreto and Juan Pablo Torres, among others. I and some of these latter would form the group Irakere. To me, Irakere was a source of inspiration. The combination of rhythms that we could make gave new sounds to Cuban music. Through Irakere we had the chance to make ourselves known throughout the entire world, including winning a Grammy.”

Was Dizzy Gillespie the musician that influenced you most?

“Definitely. Dizzy has influenced me the most, and not just as a musician, also as a person and friend. We struck up a great friendship, we got to be like father and child. His teachings have been and continue being standards to follow in my life. I’ve had other musicians who’ve influenced my professional life such as Duke Ellington, Clark Terry and Clifford Brown, among others. The list would be unending, for I’ve also had classical influences like Rachmaninov, Ravel and many more.”

Your records arrive on the island on flash memory or pirated CDs. I know a DJ in Carraguao who, for 10 CUC, will copy your discography. How do you feel, knowing that despite censorship, Arturo Sandoval stays alive in the memories of many compatriots?

“It’s very sad to think that somebody has to sneak around to buy a record by an artist from his own country, that my music is forbidden and that in the land where I was born and continue to love, nobody can hear it. I feel proud that my compatriots want to hear my music, but at the same time I’m saddened that they have to hide out to do so. It’s sad that the music of a lady like Celia Cruz or a Willy Chirino and many more have to be listened to in the shadows, as if it were a crime. This shows not only political ineptitude, but also social and cultural incapacities of this regime.”

In Cuba, some criticized your opposition at the performance of Juanes in the Plaza of the Revolution in 2009. Do you still maintain that while democracy does not exist in Cuba, all cultural interchange is propaganda for the communist autocracy?

“I continue to hold the same opinion. I believe that cultural exchange cannot be one-sided. If Juanes could play in the Plaza of the Revolution and was received with fanfare, why can’t Gloria Estefan, Willy Chirino, Andy García and others — including myself — do the same? Stopping off in the Plaza of the Revolution and freely expressing our feelings through music. The obsolete regime of the Castros is afraid, and by that I don’t mean of cultural exchange. They’re afraid we’ll speak before the people and might say that which Juanes and others did not say when they had that opportunity: the truth of what this communist regime represents and has represented for 54 years.”

Would you support an authentic cultural exchange, political or sporting where the Cubans from both shores might be able to offer concerts, games, or debates in their country without permission from the regime? With the Castros in power, do you see yourself giving a concert in the Karl Marx theater or in a plaza in your native Artemisa, now a province?

“Without the Castros and with a democratic government, I suppose so. With the Castros and without democracy, NO.”

Do you believe the shipwreck of the national economy has reduced the quality of Cuban music?

“There is a lot of talent in Cuba. Cuba has always been an inexhaustible source of musical talent, with and without communism. But look, since the triumph of the Revolution there aren’t specialized houses where a musician might go to buy an instrument or a music book. Nothing. Luckily, in Cuba music grows wild, but it’s sad that a person who wants to study music should have these kinds of limitations, not a single place to go and buy a book with staves.”

When you lived in Cuba, the people spoke against Fidel Castro, muttering in their living rooms. Now no. In many places they carry on about the malfunctioning of the government. There are those who continue seeing the game from the bleachers, but cases like Robertico Carcassés’ happen. What kind of value do you place on the controversies and public criticisms against the regime that take place today among the intellectuals and also the everyday Cubans?

“I am proud of all of them and believe that it’s going to be the only form the world will come to know; that Cuba does not assent to continue being dominated by a group of inept opportunists and crazy people.”

Your opinion about the intention of Chucho Valdés to regroup the musicians of Irakere and offer a nostalgic concert.

“Chucho supports the communist regime in Cuba. I am a US citizen and I defend the liberty and democracy. Irakere is not just him, to be the authentic Irakere, he’d have to count on all the musicians who are alive. Speaking for myself, they won’t count on me.”

How do you see this post-mortem homage that they want to give to Bebo Valdés in the next Havana Jazz Festival?

“Bebo deserves all kinds of recognition, but in this case it’s a flagrant act of demagoguery and hypocrisy. Bebo was a bitter enemy of this system and never came back to Cuba because he did not agree with the regime. They had to have recognized this while he was alive, for this they’ve had enough time.”

What have you got new for the next few months?

“I just finished the score for three movies, in one of them with Andy García and Vera Farmiga in the protagonist’s role, and in another the actor Beau Bridges is appearing. I finished producing the last record of the great Peruvian singer and composer Gianmarco, it’s a jewel and it’s nominated for the 2013 Grammy as Best Album of the Year. I finalized another record, “A Century of Passion”, that I dedicated to the Fuente family, famous Cuban-American tobacconists, nominated at the Latin Grammys as the Best Tropical Album. I recently concluded a tribute to Armando Manzanero and now I’m starting two more projects for film scores, but I still can’t say their names while we’re in the midst of contract negotiations.”

Arturo, with your hand over your heart, are you coming back to a democratic Cuba one day, or do you believe it will continue being a utopia to whomever it’s worth the trouble of continuing to struggle?

“Hope is never lost, our country deserves something better. I believe it is not a utopia. It’s worth the trouble to keep struggling, I know that Cuba will shake off the dead weight of the Castros and their henchmen.”

Iván García

Video: Havana, 1985. Dizzy Gillespie and Arturo Sandoval in Night in Tunisia, composed by Gillespie en 1942.

Translated by Boston College Cuban American Student Association – Carlos Fernandez

16 November 2013

The Best Art School in the World / Yusimi Rodriguez Lopez

Escuela Nacional de Arte / National Art School

Six months ago I took an American photographer to meet to the former model and ex-ballerina Luz Maria Collazo. She had served as an interpreter with two other important Cuban ex-models and that would be our last evening of work. She was the main target of his lens and his interest, but when he saw that chance had led him also to the house of the architect Roberto Gottardi, he was surprised and pleased by the opportunity to meet and take a photo with him.

I had met Gottardi in 2020, when I interviewed Luz Maria Collazo. Until that time, her name and history at the National Art School was completely unknown to me. I suppose the same is true for many of my compatriots. She promised me an interview, but time passed and I was postponing that decision until I forgot about.

The reaction of the American photographer surprised me: Gottardo was an internationally well-known and respected architect. The school designed by him, along with Ricardo Porro and Vittrio Garatti, is considered one of the most representative works of Cuban architecture from the sixties.

The photographer knew about him from the documentary Unfinished Spaces by Alysa Nahmias and Benjamin Murray, which tells the story of the emergence of the idea of creating the National Art School, its design, construction and… its non-completion. That was how I learned of the existence of this film and a few days ago a friend made me a copy on a flash drive.

Unfinished Spaces shows us the National School of Art in the first half of the sixties, showing, almost from the beginning, images of the first moments after the victory of 1959: the real joy of the Cuban people in being liberated from the tyrant Fulgencio Batista; hope of the announced glorious future; the revolutionary ferment.

It was during this period that Fidel Castro and Ernesto Guevara appeared at the very exclusive Country Club, where they were not members, and while playing a round of golf, the leader had the idea of creating a school of art in that space. “We are going to build the best school of art in the world,” says the architect Selma Diaz, who was charged with leading the project.

The task of designing five faculties of art was assumed with overwhelming enthusiasm by architects Ricardo Porro, Vittrio Garatti and Roberto Gottardi; and not only by them, but also by the builders and the students who took classes within the site under construction and later participated voluntarily in the work to finish it, at the rhythm of small orchestras also composed of students. The actress Mirta Ibarra, a student at the school at the time, described the atmosphere as one of total freedom and creativity.

Very often, looking at those images of those early years of the Revolution, I wondered if, had I been a young woman at the time, would I have managed, or wanted to, hold myself apart from the effervescence. The music of Giancarlo Vulcano accompanying the images of Unfinished Spaces awakens a nostalgia for a past I didn’t experience and that in my eyes is like a legend, a fantastic epic, something unreal.

But amid the nostalgia an alarm sounds in my head: the leader of a country has the power to go to a private club, without invitation, and to decide to transform the space into something else?

Does being president mean being the owner of the country? In those moments I remember Fidel Castro was not then the president of Cuba. I see him playing golf with Ernesto Guevara and the image I see is consistent with the recent victory of his son Tony Castro in a golf tournament, and the courses that they built in this country to play this sport. I think that if gold was ever stigmatized as a “bourgeois sport” it was only in my imagination.

Half built, have destroyed

But Unfinished Spaces is not a documentary focused on criticizing the “Revolution” nor its maximum leader. The film puts its drama and music at the service of showing the history of this architectural masterpiece and its passage from a colossal project — the best art school in the world — to abandonment, neglect, “official marginalization” (the words of the architect Mario Coyula) and stigmatization of its creators.

Unfinished Spaces lets us hear the voices of those who were victims of unjust decisions that destroyed the school and with it an important project in the lives of these three artists; but it also shows the opposite view, that allows us to ask ourselves whether the construction of a school that size, with an unlimited budget, wasn’t a mistake, given the circumstances and resources of the country, although in practice the architects had decided to use the cheapest materials at your fingertips. There is also the testimony of the then students who witnessed the militarization and the expulsion of gay students.

Those who studied there then talk their way through the place that was turned into ruins before it was finished being built; the naturalness of one of them is striking when he says: “I think most students didn’t wondered why the school wasn’t finished, as there are many things in Cuba where the same thing happens.”

Buildings half built or half destroyed come to mind, building that never come to be repaired; the streets that are fixed and broken again in less than a month, the ruins visible from the buses. Are we living in an unfinished country, half built (or half destroyed)?

The National Art School has not only been the victim of wrong internal decisions, scarcities and looting by the homeless. The documentary doesn’t hide the fact that it could have been repaired and completed just a few years ago, but the regulations of the American “blockade” prevented it.

One of the questions I would have wanted to ask Gottardi is why he remained in Cuba, why was he the only one of the three architects who stayed. Now I won’t have to ask. His life, and also the lives of the other two artists abroad, have remained linked to the National Art School.

The shows the moment in which life rewards them, after 45 years, and it is just Fidel Castro, the first person to have a vision of that school, who decided the work should end. His confession of having fallen in love with the project when they showed it to him is surprising, but for a long time he reserved his opinion before the specialists who underestimated the work. His words are surprising because this is a man whose failure to listen to the specialist who warned him that it was impossible to produce ten million tons of sugar still devastates the country, nor did he listen to those who counseled against the planting of Caturra coffee or the closing of small businesses.

Anyway, the important thing is not the past, but rather resuming construction on the project. Porro’s two faculties were finished and only need to be restored. Those of Garatti and Gottardi need to be finished. Gottardo, however, realizes that his faculty is not going to be the same as it was going to be 45 years ago, the circumstances aren’t the same, the country is not the same. Nor could it be now what would have been more than 50 years ago, what was promised to our fathers.

Then, the end comes, not of the construction of the School, but of the documentary: due to the world economic crisis and the two hurricanes that hit the Island, the State stopped funding any unproductive architecture project, including the National Art School. It’s hard to know if we will see it brought to completion, and also whether this documentary will come to theaters in this country. But at least it is circulating from flash memory to flash memory, and to remain in this memory is bigger than our collective memory.

Yusimí Rodríguez López

From Diario de Cuba, 20 November 2013

Documentary by Alysa Nahmias and Benjamín Murray, 2011.

Antonio Castro, or the Diplomacy of Baseball / Ivan Garcia


Antonio Castro, son of the bearded man who governed Cuba for 47 years and nephew of the president hand chosen by his brother, told U.S. channel ESPN, “I don’t think it’s a bad thing that our baseball players leave the country to go play in the best league in the world.”

Tony Castro, of course, isn’t a dissident or dumb. He’s trained to be an orthopedist and is a lover of beautiful women, the good life and baseball. He grew up without a ration book in Zone Zero (the residential complex where his father lives, in the Jaimanitas neighborhood west of Havana), with a cow in the yard where each child of the commander could drink fresh milk. He got first-class medical attention and had the possibility to go see the World Series, while the rest of Cuba’s baseball fans were forbidden to do so.

“He’s a good guy,” his party-going friends assure. He likes to play golf, a sport that his father and the Argentinian Ernesto Guevara banned, ostensibly because it was bourgeois and racist: they said that the caddies were always black.

The talk of Cuban autocrats is a complex exercise of deciphering messages. To those who look at the Revolution with nostalgia, the only things that remain are the sporadic Reflections (as Fidel’s articles in the newspaper are titled), where the leader announces atomic disasters, the end of capitalism or that the moringa tree would be the food of the future.

If you aren’t an ideological fanatic and interpret daily life in Cuba in a reasonable way, we reach the conclusion that each step in the timid reforms of Raúl Castro or pronouncements of his relatives, the real mandarins, have buried Fidel Castro’s wilfulness a hundred meters under the ground.

Maintaining the bored phraseology and ideological symbols has been a masterpiece of political witchcraft by Castro II. Without celebrating a Stalinist opinion, he has shifted all of the ruses enacted by his brother.

The furniture changed drastically. Fidel’s confidantes are either prisoners or have easy jobs. Or, like Felipe Pérez Roque and Carlos Lage, they’re working in a factory, the biggest punishment for any ex-minister.

For some time now, homosexuals are revolutionaries. The boarding schools in the countryside were suppressed, because they intended to supplant the family. The security guards at the borders opened the gate and allow us to travel abroad.

We also stay in hotels, buy American cars from the ’50s or old Russian Ladas. We sell the house and legally engage all of those businesses that previously we engaged in on the side, yes we have money, of course.

They have told us why all of this was forbidden for so many years. It’s nobody’s fault. But the specialists in dissecting the magic realism inside the power in Cuba know that the mud continues flooding Fidel Castro, the promoter of this political jargon.

Even his son jumps at his precepts. And he announces that the old “traitors, deserters, and stateless people of the Cuban exodus” are now welcome. Surely they could be enlisted in future national teams and begin businesses, while they pay the tax collector, of course.

The olive branch, in any light, is a capitalism of the family. A technocracy. Now the problems of government can be spoken about in a taxi or bar in the neighborhood. But you go to jail if you evade taxes.

Tony doesn’t want to get left behind when the cake gets divided up. The ex son-in-law of Raul Castro and his generals control 80% of the actual economy, not the one of bread and croquettes, that never will ruin the country, but rather the one of oil and of the port of Mariel, tourism, exporting of medical services, and other tax collecting and hard money businesses.

Behind Tony Castro’s words there is no light or rebuff. The leaders are sending a message: we want to negotiate with the United States. Taking as a model Nixon’s ping pong diplomacy of the 70s with China, Tony intends to seduce the market of the Big Leagues. He has the cards in his favor.

In 2013, the Cuban baseball players have left as a group. They have had their best season. If we add up their salaries, we see that it adds up to about $600 million. And the smart ones back in Havana send in their bills.

If one day the embargo disappears, around 300 Cuban baseball players, who learned in academies patronized by the MLB, can nurture baseball organizations. For all of them, the economic blade will tax them with high fees. And the zeros in the banks of relatives and friends will grow.

Of course, to reach that dance of the millions and sell the loot of a nation, you need the obstinate gringos to lift the embargo. Therefore, it’s time to pull levers.

Diplomats wear out the soles of their shoes in Florida to convince Cuban-American business owners of the favorability of a new investment law. For the fifteenth time, the chancellor of the ONU has said that the bad guys of this movie are the Yankees, who don’t want to get rid of the “criminal blockade” and refuse to sit down and civilly chat about business like a good capitalist.

In this piñata that Cuba has turned into, Antonio Castro pretends to be the boss of professional baseball’s future on the island. Well, that’s the way it is now.

Iván Garciá

Video: Interview from October 27, 2013 with journalist Paula Lavigne and Antonio Castro in Havana for the show Outside the Lines of ESPN.

Translated by: Boston College Cuban American Student Association 

11 November 2013