Barcelona-Real Madrid: Also Mourning in Cuba / Iván García

Benzemá, Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, before starting the classic Real Madrid-Barcelona, at the stadium of the latter, Camp Nou of Barcelona, on Saturday 3 December 2016.
Benzemá, Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, before starting the classic Real Madrid-Barcelona, at the stadium of the latter, Camp Nou of Barcelona, on Saturday 3 December 2016.

Iván García, 4 December 2016 — There are three things in the spirituality of the island. Rumba, Santeria, and baseball, which for a decade has been replaced by the passion for football (soccer) among Cubans, especially the youngest generation.

But Fidel Castro is overwhelming. When the cedar casket reposed in Santa Ifigenia Cemetery in Santiago de Cuba, about 600 miles east of Havana, and the funeral is over with complete coverage by the media, perfect amanuensis of the Communist Part, is when people can find out what is happening in the world. Continue reading “Barcelona-Real Madrid: Also Mourning in Cuba / Iván García”

For nine days — something unprecedented in the cuntry — we Cubans have been disconnected from the events and sports overseas. A real media blackout.

Mourning, hymns and slogans rining in the ether. Also the mourners and exalted eulogy. In these nine days, Cuba smelled a little bit like North Korea, its ideological partner.

At this point, after 60 years of autocracy, the public applauds, fakes loyalty to the regime and signs whatever the government proposes [during the mourning period Cubans are being asked to sign a loyalty oath]. hallucinatory as it seems. But under the table Cubans continue to live in this stronghold of the real Cuba ignored by state media.

In that Cuba, people speak with fractured words, reinvent themselves every twenty-four hours, and clandestinely buy everything from cocaine to a yacht.

In the terrestrial island, not in the virtual or the delirious one that the Castro regime authorities sells us, after eliciting some tears on Via Blanca with the passing of the caravan with Fidel Castro’s remains, Oneida, on arriving at the shabby filthy room where he resides in the Luyano neighborhood, went to see the list-keeper who collects the money from the illegal lottery known as la bolita, and bet 200 pesos, around ten dollars US, on number 64, which stands for “big death,” according to the list that assigns a meaning to each number.

The funeral rites of the “big death” recalled that stage of the not so distant Soviet Cuba, full of prohibitions and a press worthy of Charlie Chaplin. It seems like a backward Middle East nation.

Now, from 26 November to 4 December, by state decree, there is zero alcohol. Zero films, zero soap operas, not even the news. The olve green mourning prevents Cubans from learning about Stefan Curry or LeBron Hames, paralyzes the insipid national baseball series and the fans missed the game of the year, between Real Madrid and CR7 and the Barcelona team of the flea Messi.

Spanish journalists who covered the funeral figured out where they could watch the game. “I hope in a hotel in Santiago de Cuba I can see the match,” commented a reporter from a Catalan newspaper.

In hotels and bars in Havana, where the fans usually gather with their scarves in the team colors — very hot in this climate — and wearing T-shirts with Leo Messi, Neymar, Luis Suárez, Cristiano Ronaldo or Sergio Ramos, were closed, complying with the official ukase of maximum mourning for the death of Castro I at the age of 90.

But in Cuba, there is always a Plan B. Those who have powerful shortwave radios try to get the signal from Spain’s Radio Exterior. Others, paid for an hour of internet connection, 50 pesos, the equivalent of two-and-a-half days pay, to follow the crucial game on line in the pages of El Pais or El Mundo.

At the end of the game, tied at one, Julian, who had connected in Cordoba Park, located on the border between the Sevillano and La Vibora neighborhoods, some crestfallen Barça were leaving: “33 games without losing, now we’re at eight points, goodbye league for you.” A friend asked him to speak softly: “Pal, keep it down with all this going on, the police are waiting to pounce.”

With the disappearance of Fidel Castro, the last guerrilla of the Third World, has deployed an dense ideological paraphernalia in Cuba, asphyxiating, that has brought back the animal fear among many Cubans.

Those who daily put their elbows on the bar do it in secret, so that the snitches and the intransigent followers of the regime don’t think they celebrating the death of the “great world leader.”

All the music has been shut off, and quinceñeras, weddings and anniversaries are postponed until  further notice. Also cancelled were dances and religious festivals, like the night of 3 December, the eve of the day of Saint Barbara, who is also Changó in the Yoruba religion, one of the most venerated deities for Cubans.

“Fidel Castro owned the farm and the horses. There must be calm until his ashes are deposted in Santiago de Cuba,” said the peanut seller who was once a political prisoner.

The dissidents are also quiet. The Ladies in White didn’t go out into the street to protest on the last two Sundays, as a sign of respect and not to provoke the repressors.

On his way to paradise or hell, according to your viewpoint, Fidel Castro pounded the table with authority to demonstrate that even as dust, he generates absolute respect in the population.

Meanwhile, on the outskirts of Havana, in a big mansion about to fall down, but with an illegal satellite connection, the owner spent the whole game keeping a dozen young people quiet so they could see the match, each one paying 2 Cuban convertible pesos, a little more than two dollars.

“Gentlemen, don’t shout so much, we don’t want to go to jail,” he told the boys. But the joy could barely be controlled when Sergio Ramos, scored in the last minute of the game. Result: one to one.

And when it’s about Fidel Castro, even a football game can be an offense.

Translated by Jim

Public Services in Havana: Real Chaos / Iván García

Source: Misceláneas de Cuba.
Source: Misceláneas de Cuba.

Ivan Garcia, 27 October 2016 — The state aqueduct brigade came to La Vitoria neighborhood on Friday morning and using sledgehammers destroyed the sidewalks to install water meters on every home.

The October rains transformed the open ditches into quagmires. Many of the connections were gushing water. Six days later, after the complaints and phone calls from the residents, another brigade arrived from the capital city’s Water and Sewer Company in a rickety truck from the Soviet era, to repair the leaks and fill in the ditches.

The work was bungled. The cement patches on the sidewalks caved in and some of the water meters continued to leak. Leaks of sewage water and drinking water are nothing new in Cuba. Continue reading “Public Services in Havana: Real Chaos / Iván García”

According to reports from the official press, half the drinking water in Havana is lost through leaks in the pipes. Some 50% of the water and sanitation networks in the city are in fair or poor condition.

State media broadcasts commercials targeting the population, urging people to repair the own leaks. But a simple faucet costs a third of a worker’s monthly salary.

Fermín, an official from the Housing Institute, recognizes that between 40 and 60 percent of the multifamily buildings in Havana have problems in their water and sewer lines.

“From leaks to poor installation in the waste networks. For lack of maintenance, the majority of pipes have leaks. Many of the pumps [which pump the water up to tanks on the roofs] are old and are big users of electricity. The tanks of almost all the buildings in Havana haven’t been cleaned for years, which can cause outbreaks of illnesses. The repairs are on the residents. The state, for lack of money, doesn’t repair the city’s buildings,” says Fermín.

The infrastructure of the Cuban capital is lamentable. The trash collection services are insufficient and people throw out their garbage and even broken toilets on any corner. In the streets where tourists don’t generally walk cleaning is conspicuous by its absence.

Only the electricity networks have been repaired, so there is less loss of electricity and the voltage has improved. The same can’t be said about the telephone lines.

“When ETECSA [the state phone company] was a joint venture business with Italian capital repairs were routinely programmed. But now that the Army owns it, it’s painful to observe the working conditions of our technicians. They have to work tying together old wires and many of them are screaming for repairs to be done,” says Delia, an ETECSA engineer.

On a scale of one to ten, the assessment of public transport is a zero. Getting from one place in the city to another can take two or three hours.

In Havana there is a network of articulated buses designated with the letter P. There are 16 routes that, in theory, run every five to ten minutes during rush hour. But most of the time they don’t run any more often than every fifteen minutes and often it’s every hour. The six existing terminals should have a fleet of 540 buses.

“The ideal is that every one of the 16 routes would have 30 buses. But the terminals are outdated or incomplete. There are terminals like Calvario or Alamar, with three routes each and only 35 buses,” says a drive on the P-6 route.

Also planned was a network of buses circulating through the neighborhoods and secondary streets of the city. But there is also a deficit there. That’s the case with the routes 15 and 67, and now people don’t even wait for them, as it’s usually three or more hours between buses.

Taxi service in Cuban pesos is a calamity. In the ’80s Havana had a fleet of almost 3,000 taxies. Today there are fewer than 200. They have to serve the taxi stands at the hospitals, funeral homes and train terminals. Then, when they meet their quota, they run illegally and are more expensive than the private taxis.

There is a fleet of taxis in hard currency, but they are too expensive for most people on the island. They run modern air-conditioned cars. And the prices are at the discretion of the driver.

For three years the hard currency cars were rented to the drivers by the state. According to Manuel, “even though now I can earn 200 Cuban convertible pesos (roughly $200) a month, we have to work like slaves for fourteen hours a day to pay the fee imposed by the government, 55 convertible pesos a day. That’s why you don’t see any of the taxis using the meter. The people are greatly affected. If, before, the ride from Vedado to La Vibora was 5 CUC, now it’s 10 or 15 CUC.”

The regime turned its heavy guns on the private taxi drivers, capping prices and threatening them with big fines or the confiscation of their licenses for any who violate the state decrees.

But the official media keeps its mouth shut when it’s time to criticize the prohibitive prices of the hard currency taxis. If getting around the city is a nightmare, having to deal with the bureaucratic red tape is worse.

In Cuba, for anything you want to do there is always the bureaucratic red tape. Since a change in direction, getting a passport or paying a phone bill. The lines are hours-long and the officials, with their crabbed faces, treat us like we’re criminals.

Despite a fourth-world infrastructure, some absent-minded Swiss named Havana a “2016 Wonder City.” Of course its promoter lives in Switzerland.

Translated by Jim

They Married Us to a Lie… / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 26 September 2016 —  It is a sign of lack of civility and decorum on the part of the Cuban regime to blame to the so-called US blockade for the shortages and difficulties, whose real cause is the inability and mismanagement of the economy, wealth and and riches of our country, by the leadership of the island. It is extremely well-known that they have “thrown everyone overboard,” dedicating their efforts and money to propaganda and proselytizing abroad, to present a completely untrue image of the internal situation. Continue reading “They Married Us to a Lie… / Rebeca Monzo”

When the Soviet “pipelines” were open to Cuba, in the media here, especially on television, there was an abundance of caricatures and ads where a popular character mocked the blockade, throwing all kinds of taunts at it.

Why now this exhausting campaign against the blockade, that exceeds all limits of popular assimilation and acceptance? Why not have the civility and honesty to recognize the inability to lead and the squandering of the income obtained from the government’s share of the family remittances from the United States and the huge business established by the government to “rent out” doctors and professionals to other countries, which bring juicy dividends to the regime and from which our doctors and specialists receive only a pittance?

In the face of this so-called “solidarity” it is the people who suffer the consequences of the lack of medically qualified professionals and specialists remaining in Cuba, in schools and hospitals. “Candle in the street, darkness in the house,” as the popular saying goes. That is, we put on a big show for the outside, while we lack everything at home.

They married us to a lie… and forced us to live with it all these years.

 Translated by Jim

Ay, Momma Ines! / Regina Coyula

foto: OLPLI adore coffee, I stopped smoking years ago, but my early morning small coffee can’t fail me, if I don’t have it I pass the day lying down with a headache. A few years ago a package of four ounces of mixed coffee, acquired through the ration book cost ten cents. I can’t be exact, but it was not any more than three or four years ago that they announced that the coffee would stop being mixed with other ingredients and the same package of four ounces came to be worth five pesos. It was so-so coffee, Vietnamese they said, but still it was coffee. Now, in February we brought back mixed coffee again. However, there was no change in the price and for five pesos I am drinking an ambiguous brew, and it is what I offer to whoever visits me. At least it does not give me a headache.

Translated by Jim

February 18 2011