Just One Account / Josue, Rojas Marin, Cuban Law Association

I live in a community with more than sixty buildings. Behind them, as is the case with my home, many residents—at the request of the government itself—began planting fruit trees and banana plants. When the marathon of demolishing everything began, I decided to make an estimate of the economic losses that were indiscriminately carried out by people who came from other cities to destroy what had been so passionately harvested for more than a decade.

Josué Rojas Marín

To give you an idea, there were about 300 banana plants when demolition started, some 50 new bunches were uprooted and another 130 were cut and thrown in a corner of the building, their remnants remaining there since July 2012. In that same time frame, 50 or 60 bunches had been collected monthly, which means about 660 per year, or about 16,500 pounds that were contributed to urban consumption and that represent about 9,900 pesos taken from the pockets of those citizens to whom no one came to meet their needs.What is more aggravating is that when the Director of Physical Planning visited the town and I gave him that assessment, he told me that it didn’t matter, that many residents reported that they now had more open space. I responded that people can’t live on open space, but they can live on food. He shut up and couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

Translated by Tomás A.

4 April 2014

Fidel is a talented, egotistical guy who hates the Cuban people / Augusto Cesar San Martin

Huber Matos, photo by Augusto César San Martín
Huber Matos, photo by Augusto César San Martín

Havana, Cuba — Hubert Matos is a symbol of the struggle against the tyranny that has dominated Cuba since 1959.

As an admirer of his rebelliousness and perseverance — something that characterized him until he drew his last breath — I resolved during my visit to the United States in January of last year not to go home without interviewing him.

We quickly settled on a date for the interview, arranged by Cuba Independent and Democratic (CID), an organization that he founded to bring freedom to his homeland.

With the help of a 17-year-old student, Christopher Campa, to capture the images of the meeting — he filmed unedited images — we’ll see three generations in his house in Miami. The same home which welcomed him on October 2, 1979, coming from Costa Rica, to where he was exiled by Fidel Castro, and in which country he asked for his body to be temporarily interred, before being placed to rest in Cuba some day.

Huber Matos gave us four hours of his precious time to explore his indefatiguable life, which he committed fully to Cuba.

Before his physical loss, we forwarded Cubanet fragments of the interview, taking notes of the transcription of the video.

Cubanet: I understand that your name has something to do with the life you have lived.

Huber Matos: “The first thing you should know, or the most important in my life, is that they gave me a name the kids said was unique — “Where did they get that name Huber from?”

“Before I was born, my father read a book by a Swiss-German researcher, biologist and naturalist named Francisco Huber. I used to say, “What does that have to do with me?” The man was blind by the time he began studying the lives of honeybees. He spent twenty years studying the subject with the help of two assistants and wrote the most definitive book of its era on the subject.

“That persistence, that strong will of that man… that means you have to be strong inside,” said my father. And that’s how me raised me.

Christopher Campa, Huber Matos and Augusto Cesar in Huber’s garden.

“One cannot soften oneself, one cannot allow oneself to be defeated by adverse circumstances … The life of a human being has one principal function that goes beyond saving one’s skin.

“So I owe a lot to my parents and teachers. It is not happenstance that I could withstand 20 years in prison. Of course, there’s the luck factor. If, in those beatings they give … once they almost split me. They made deep scars on my neck area.

Cubanet: But you also trained values as a part of the Cuban magisterium.

HM: “I spent years training teachers in the normal school in Manzanillo. We were some 20 professors training teachers, from the first year though the fourth. Trying, not only to give them knowledge, but also to train conscience in my case.

“I told them: The Republic is an entity that must be built day by day. Each of you has a role to play, not only to teach reading and writing, and teaching arithmetic … helping to train the citizen in the field which corresponds to him. Help form a conscience.

“As a youth I was afraid of prison. Once they condemned a relative to one year, 8 months and 21 days because he’d taken a girl and didn’t want to marry her. He asked me to visit him in prison. “Cousin, get me out of here”, I told him, “this is insufferable”. Afterwards I had to tolerate 20 years in prison.

Cubanet: You were incarcerated due to a sinister and vengeful trial during the beginning of the Revolution. Linked to events like the death of Camilo Cienfuegos, one of the dark chapters of the revolution. Do you feel hatred towards the Castros, declared enemies of yours since then?

HM: “With all certainty, I tell you in a very sincere way, the question of hatred no, it’s a rejection and some unsettled scores. But I subordinate that of the unsettled scores to the harm I’ve done to them and they are doing to Cuba. In my personal order of things, I’ve overcome all they’ve done to me.

“When I left a free man, I could have accepted recognition at the international level. Afterwards, when I wrote my book, I noted that in my story.

“Right now they’ve called me to Mexico to recognize me as a Hero of Freedom in America”, I told myself “Boy, I didn’t expect this … I think this is beyond my rights, what I deserve.”

“Anyway, I think that in some form it’s a recognition of the demand of the Cuban people for respect of their rights. I try to cover the unsettled account (with the government) with the Cuban people.

“The Castros killed Camilo. I have no proof, but I know that Fidel had tremendous jealousy of Camilo, for his popularity. He wasted no opportunity in the months I was in office, from 1 January (1959) until 21 October, which was when I resigned, to impress me with Camilo.

“Fidel traveled all the provinces twice. I was the boss in Camaguey. No two weeks passed without Fidel calling to tell me something … the two (Fidel and Raul Castro) were determined he’d form some part of the government, or perhaps the Minister of Foreign Relations, or Minister of Agriculture, at the beginning, when they were talking of agrarian reform. In all their conversations with me they were always trying to impress me with Camilo.

“Camilo was a guy the people applauded, but he was disorganized, drunken … I was Camilo’s friend, and I’d tell him: “Take care, you know that Fidel eulogizes you in public, but in private he says nasty things about you.” Camilo didn’t put much stock in that.

“They took advantage under cover of my resignation to see if my people were trying to kill Camilo. Afterward, they took advantage of my situation to eliminate him.

“How they killed him, I don’t know. That which I do know is that they killed the pilot and bodyguard. I can’t affirm how they killed him because I don’t have the evidence. Camilo got in the way of Fidel’s popularity.”

Cubanet: Have you been afraid?

HM: “I’ve been lucky to be a man who doesn’t scare easily. In more difficult situations, I haven’t backed down.

“At my sentencing, I was convinced they were going to shoot me, they were going to shoot me for proclaiming my truth. If they didn’t shoot me, it was because they made a mistake. They brought a lot of people to encourage my execution, so they would shout “To the wall!”, and it happened that when I stopped speaking, they applauded me. And they applauded me because I said: “Okay, if with my death the true Cuban Revolution is saved and the republic is saved, then blessed be my death.”

Cubanet: You know intimately the how attached the Castros are to power. Do you think Raul has the will to change?

HM: “A change to survive them. One always has to expect the chance of deceit, of the trap. Because they’re two individuals who, although they differ much in their personalities, they team up to scam the rest. To deceive the rest and leave with what’s theirs.

“Fidel is a talented guy, an egomaniac who with all certainty harbors a tremendous hatred of the Cuban people, which no one can explain. He hates and detests everything that is not in his self-interest. His taste for dominion and power traps all mankind.

“Raul is very careful to make sure of this and that, he’s organized. Fidel is chaos.

“They’re being flexible in matters of maneuvering here and there, but if they find a seriously adverse situation, they will ensure it’s invented on the way. That is Raul Castro, in my manner of seeing, the man I know and have known through his pronouncements.”

Cubanet: If I told you to send a message to the new generations of Cubans, what would you say?

HM: “That it’s worth it to make the maximum effort to implement the ideals of the founders of the Cuban nation. In a true republic, as Marti said, “with everyone and for the good of everyone”.

“What exist and what the Castros have imposed on us is something, but not a republic. The opposite of the ideals that inspired the mambises, the founders of the Cuban nation. This one (Castro) has a fiefdom, a whorehouse, a colony, a farm — something — but not a republic.

“The compromise with the founders of the Cuban nation and the compromise with the values that inspired them is permanent. Service to collectivity.

“I trust in that. I don’t know if it will take us 20, 15, or 100 years more to achieve a real republic. It’s worth the trouble to make the maximum effort for that achievement.”

Cubanet: Does Huber Matos still have things to do?

HM: Before I die, although one never knows if death will come tomorrow or the day after, I have to write a few more things. I’m taking it from there. I can’t afford to fool myself, 94 years isn’t a very short time.

“I wrote the book How the Night Came; now I have to write how we want the dawn to come out.

“I still have a little understanding, but doubtlessly the almanacs are respectable.”

Cubanet, 28 February 2014. 

Translated by: JT

World Human Rights Day in Cuba / Lilianne Ruiz

Camilo Ernesto Olivera, a member of the team of Estado de SATS, was stopped as he left his home on Dec. 7. Most alarming is how these things are happening in Cuba: going from one moment to another in a state of total helplessness before the forces of repression. I always remember Orlando Luis Pardo when he said that you don’t talk to kidnappers because if the higher order were to take you into the forest outside of Havana to shoot you in the neck, no words would persuade them otherwise.

The fact is that after they searched Camilo, throwing him against the police car, they put him in the pursuing car without further explanation. They drove around La Lisa, until a subject on a Suzuki motorcycle approached them. Without taking off his helmet he looked at Camilo and told police: “Take this one to Melena del Sur.” And what Camilo could do to help himself? These people represent the law, illegitimate though it may be. Resisting, trying to escape, all that will get you is to complicate things further. So absolutely passive in his own “legal” kidnapping he saw himself being driven on an interprovincial journey without knowing how it would end. Nor was he allowed to call his family, though it is written in Cuban law among the rights of detainees.

They left him in a jail cell all day; around 7 PM they took him out of there to free him. At that time Camilo, who originally had gone to see Ailer Mena to bring her up to date on the events of 10 and 11 December on SATS, had to look for a car-for-hire to take him to Havana. He told me himself that luckily they hadn’t “confiscated” his money, because everyone knows people who’ve been robbed of everything, all that they had in their pockets.

To ensure he’d be there on the 10th, he had to hide out in Rodiles’ house from the 8th on. We have already seen the videos of the enormous act of repudiation disguised as a “cultural activity” that the political police staged outside Estado de SATS on the 10th and 11th of December. They took elementary school children, junior high school and high school students to make street paintings with the traditional communist insults against Civil Society like “worms”, “imperialists”, and things of that style.

1386954247_ailer-en-protesta-en-medio-de-la-calle1Here we see Ailer Mena in the middle of the street, seated in the lotus position, opposing with beauty the arbitrary detention of her husband, Rodiles, who’d gone out to protect her.

They also took Rodiles by carrying his weight as ants carry a leaf. They hurt Walfrido in the neck because they grabbed him in that area to carry him away. This bothers me a lot; the impunity with which the political police act in Cuba.

We are not going to stop doing what we do because it’s a question of identity. All those I know who oppose with their work, their opinion, or their protest, all do the same thing: exist.

To exist, and that by itself is a demonstration against whichever form of oppression, call it political, religious, ideological, or against the powers that be. But I think that this is of the worst kind because it assumes control of our humanity, and makes people spit on it while placing some sophisticated shackle on their necks, yes, on the neck. For that, to protect mine, I can only be what I am, be who I am.

Everything shows up on the video of Estado de SATS so that to repeat it is foolishness because a picture is worth more than a thousand words. For that they threw Kissie’s camera (Kissie is from Omni Zone Franca) as if to a pack of dogs. But they couldn’t take the camera. All this was carried out in front of the children they’d gathered there to put on the act of repudiation in a fair-like atmosphere for the Day of Human Rights.

We have to endure hatred when you think that the singer known as Arnaldo and his Lucky Charm donated their singing and yelling of revolutionary, fundamentalist slogans; surrounded all the while by the political police. The strangest fair in the world. It’s said that next week this same act will be in Miami to sing there. They’re pigs.

Not only there; they took the Ladies in White, too. Better said, not only did they let them arrive at 23rd and L, where they’d announced they’d start their march for Human Rights Day, protesting for freedom for Cuban political prisoners. But they might have had an idea: María Cristina Labrada and her husband Egberto Escobedo — who was a political prisoner for 15 years — were detained at the same corner as their house and taken to the Granabo police station.

The Sunday before, they’d suffered a similar kidnapping coming out of Santa Rita Church like they had every Sunday, to join with the Ladies and walk down 5th Avenue. They left Cristina in a jail cell filled with mosquitoes and she recalled Martha Beatriz who almost a month ago was under house arrest — some days are harder than others — and it all began for refusing — completely within her rights — to be fumigated with oil, which is forced upon our homes while the city has turned into a garbage dump.

But totalitarians have always regulated our privacy. Cristina was quite uncomfortable all day and at about 7 PM she was also freed along with her husband. But as she told me, the patrol car in which they were put left Guanabo for the municipality of October 10th without headlights or taillights and it was already night time. She doesn’t know if it was to trigger an accident or to intimidate them. Something similar happened to all the Ladies, supposedly including their leader Berta Soler, who was detained with her husband, Angel Moya, in similar circumstances.

Also in the area of 23rd and L, they gathered some children for a fair that very day. But notice how they operate as one body that keeps society held hostage. I don’t know if mothers who gave permission for their kids to be there knew what all this was about. I think that to speak of emotional blackmail, by the fact of using kids as a smokescreen to hide their acts of repression falls short. It is a hell. Cuba is living the fall of the Castros, and everything indicates that he doesn’t want to die without lashing out with calculated but irrational violence (which is self-satisfying, blind) in his pride. They did not succeed in grafting their damned roots into our humanity.

Freedom and change are stronger.

Translated by: JT

13 December 2013

Chile and Death and Cuba and Love / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Ipatria, Alamar, a Vulture, the Night, and Me

1. There are exiles who bite and others like a consuming fire

We met in the Martyrs of Alamar mortuary. Her father had died that afternoon, I’d come in to drink no less than ten coffees on the cheap. I needed them to ease my anxiety, ease my anxiety, ease my anxiety. My nights were long, too long to endure. Blind tunnels until little after dawn, when I managed at last to find myself in a park; only so a swarm of uniformed children could jostle me next, blowing to smithereens my only winks of the day — the week, the month, or perhaps the millennium. Of course, on that first Friday she didn’t call herself Ipatria yet. I saw her sitting like a mortal, alone in the ’Ch’ chapel, scarcely a few feet from the cafeteria where my nerves overloaded. Not even her dead father accompanied her between the candles and the blackout. Afterwards I learned that she herself had ordered a second and a third and a fifth and a tenth autopsy: Ipatria distrusted or “no, now I don’t distrust“, she would confess to me afterward: “now I’m very sure of what’s happening …” The absence of a casket was the first thing that caught my attention. Then her foreign black hair, falling into neglect on her bird-like shoulders: her immobile ebony hair, or of araucaria or cypress. And then it was her chapped voice, prickly, when she called me without looking at me, bluntly: “Come here” (like to a dog). And I went toward her (like a dog), thus ruining forever my somnambulatory routine, for the first time obedient in the anarchic midnight of a worker’s cemetery called Alamar. “Sit“, she ordered, and put me in front of her face. She had extremely black eyes, even more so than her hair: from a nightless night, starry and tattered, and I adored that tiny little bit of shadow in her pupils between terror and blackout. “Do you come from abroad?”, she asked me. “From where, outside?”, I asked her. “From the Cuban night“, she said to me. “I suppose so“, I told her. “And have you seen it? Did you hear it?“, she shook me. “Seen and heard what?”, I withdrew from her attack. “You freak!“, she pushed me until I nearly fell to the ground: “The wingbeat of the vulture, what else could it be?” Then she made a grimace and hid her face: she was horrified to have spoken more. She pretended to cry but neither did she manage to do so. She looked at me with hatred, as if I’d betrayed her secret. I managed nothing. I liked to imagine her crazy from the beginning. “Please“, I calmed her: “there have never been vultures in Alamar“, and I grabbed her by the belt. “Or they went extinct at the beginning of the Revolution“, and I gave her a hug. Blindly. She trembled. Her vibrations transmitted themselves to me. I trembled too. We looked like a pair of epileptics waiting for the casket in which one of the two of us was going to lay down. Then she took her hands from her face and separated me from her body. Her voice returned to being prickly, sliced up, and she dismissed me without looking at me, bluntly: “Split” (like to a dog). So I turned, for the second time obedient (like a dog) and began walking down the hall, returning to the mortuary’s cafeteria where, in spite of the triumphal lack of electricity, the custodians still insisted on straining their coffee. Black smoke inside a bigger cloud of smoke. To be sure, that first Friday Ipatria never called herself by that name. That December 3rd I left her without knowing her name, a terrible key to penetrating her head, to sneak inside her brain, lightly scratched by the sandpaper of Chilean history and its tyrannies: wet waiting room to her now dried up sex through so many tears repatriated in Cuba.

2. Timid herds galloped, devouring the streets, dressed in terror and shadow

The second night was in a tan M -1: pink tin can metrobuses rolling even in a full blackout. She was seated on the steps to the rearmost door, her knees contained by the circle of her hands and the tangle of her hair, in which that night a flower was sunk like an explosion of white. It looked like a fistful of petals with a pistil: a marpacifico, I thought. Although I realized right away it was not: “it’s not alive, moron“, she ridiculed me, “it’s just a piece of plastic, Made in Chile, wholesale.” I kept staring at her for the next couple of stops of the M-1, during three or perhaps thirteen kilometers of the Via Blanca, remembering her again in the funeral home, meeting her again for the second Friday in a month. When the Metrobus started to pant up Cojimar Hill, I dropped next to her on the seats: among bags, lit cigarettes, farm animals, calves, or on barbs. “I’m Sagis“, I ventured. She looked at me, perhaps remembering me from another time in the funeral home, or recognizing me for the second Friday in the millennium. Then she smiled. “Sagis is a name for a mutt, not for people,” and she aimed at me with her left index finger, a long gun complete with bayonet of a fingernail painted white, a petal no less artificial than her imported flower. “My real name is Salvador,” I admitted. But she was unsatisfied: “Salvador is much worse.” And she turned serious: “Surely you were born after ’73.” Her guess left me gob-smacked. “Almost,” I confessed, “December 10th, 1973: I suppose today is my birthday,” and I felt ridiculous in my pathos. Luckily, she looked at me compassionately. With patience. And she returned to smiling for me. Between the kicks from the crowd shone something even more beautiful than the nonexistent box at the chapel. Night was falling. I’d now gone through seven dawns without sleeping since that one in which I bumped into her. Back then I thought I would not see her again — perhaps due to my stupid habit of continually circling the Martyrs of Alamar mortuary, as if her father could die twice in a week and through a paranoid cascade of autopsies. There was an infernal noise under our feet, including white smoke from the motor. I couldn’t stop looking at her while she lectured me: “In December of ’73 I too had had your name, but I was born a few months before“, she shrugged her shoulders, as if they were wings. “Our parents were obsessed with the presence or the presidency of some Salvador,” she said for fright effect and public entertainment in the shadows of the Metrobus. And I loved her vocabulary of political evangelism so much that … I don’t know … the vehemence of her brilliant oratory cast a spell on me. I managed to tell her how much I’d been intrigued by our purely random encounters, and that I didn’t want to lose her again. Because, from that point on, I slept less and as a consequence, my anxiety was worse, my anxiety was worse, my anxiety was worse. “Happy birthday and goodbye, old man“, she gave me a kiss on each cheek. And next she told me no, that it was not possible for me to see her and that she deeply regretted it, but she repudiated coincidence and fate, and I exactly embodied coincidence and fate: which was too suspicious for her intuition. “A power with memory could use anyone to detect you“, she said. She distrusted. Or not, no longer mistrusted: “now I’m not sure what happened,” she said in a whisper.  And my ignorance did not guarantee my innocence: that someone from the military junta, for example, might be handling me like a civilian puppet. With me she could never be safe: “I’m very sorry, whether you be Sagis or Salvador, you are too innocent to be not guilty” was her conclusion. “But safe from what?“, I became impatient. And now she almost looked at me with compassion. “Please, safe from a motherland: from Alamar, from a vulture, from the night, and from you“, she told me, and jumped with the door half-open, still stopping our M-1. She escaped from crevices, among the echos of her own enumeration. Like one of the vermin of the night, angelic and frightening creatures, without giving me time to act: to hunt her and really threaten her with death, to see if the she really reacted to me. I looked outside for an instant. I saw her running. I saw her back about to take off, silhouetted against a lunar landscape in permanent revolution. We were in the old Chilean neighborhood: a wasteland even more deserted than the rest of Alamar and perhaps the rest of the country. Chile, Cuba, Santiago de la Habana: how can you tell the difference under the dead gaze of unlove? Besides, no one ever got on or off at that bus stop, out of fear of the legends that, for more than ten years, laid waste to those buildings through sudden repatriation: clandestine mass flight without apparent cause, that made Cuban Chileans invisible in just a few days at the end of the 80s. In Chile democracy finally returned and no one wanted to continue living in Revolutionary Cuba. Continue reading “Chile and Death and Cuba and Love / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo”

Red Sea, Blue Sea / Regina Coyula

In the beginning there was the word, before discovering his vocation behind the camera, still being a boy, Miguel wrote really well. Now, with this novel he should prove it, although he excuses himself by saying that it’s early. It doesn’t matter — in Red Sea, Blue Sea, the obsessions are there that would (will) become movies. Congratulations on your presentation.

Saturday, 19 October at 1 PM EDT (at) The Place of Miami in Miami. Go and cooperate with the artist!!

And… you can buy it here!

Translated by: JT

18 October 2013

Orange Juice Runs Through My Veins / Mario Lleonart

Not even I understand how much those nearly eight months — from 30 November 1993 to 28 July 1994 — affected the rest of my life. I was used as cheap and reliable labor, exposed to hard labor in the citrus harvest, to the substantial economic benefit of the Cuban regime and the Grupo B.M. y Waknine & Berezovsky Co. Ltd. Over the years now I hve come to understand that it was a chapter God had for me. The experiences I went through had to do with things far beyond what I imagine, given all that I have been and done since then.

My friend Omar Lopez Montenegro whom I met last June on my trip to Poland excitedly tells his experience at the famous Pre-University of de la Víbora, a site which has also been immortalized thanks to another of its graduates, the writer Leonardo Padura Fuentes, who turned this mythical place into the origin of the backstory of his character detective Mario Conde.

The joint non-violent resistence of Omar and other friends prevented some gatekeepers from cutting their long hair during a period of mobilization in the field. I lived something similar in Boom 400 of the EJT (Ejercito de Trabajo Juvenil, or the Youth Labor Army) and above all the vivid outrages will stay with me forever.

After walking for three months among the concentration camps adjacent to the towns of San Jose Torriente and San José de Marcos, they made us return to that of Socorro en Pedro Betancourt. Supposedly from this Boom 400, which was our original camp, the suppliies assigned to us should have arrived, but we received nothing during those three months during which we wandered on some supposed mission whose high work goals were never met.

During those three months we didn’t even get a pass to go to our homes. We felt sorry for ourselves. Our clothes were dirty and ragged as could be. Most of us were walking barefoot, a few with broken boots. One of the generals named Acebedos came by for inspections and called us “the shirtless”, and a relaxed captain in the camp next to Torrientes, seemingly moved by compassion, told us — pointing at his massive gut: “Don’t be discouraged boys, I lost this belly in the army”.

On returning to our original camp, we held out the hope that things might change, but on arrival, a new unit chief met us: a Navy captain whose punishment was being sent to the EJT. And I became aware of another characterisic of this invincible army: it was the punishment site for MININT, Armed Forces, and even Navy officers.

For us, the officer’s reception was to inform us that we’d just arrived at Boom 400, and we had to earn all we asked for. An additional answer to our worries was the delivery of immense Chinese machetes, and after a miserable lunch, he made us go to some place infested with the invasive marabú weed that we had to pull up and prepare for the planting of citrus.

That was more than a humiliation. Supposedly, in those conditions we didn’t cut even one marabú, our patience having completely dripped away, so even better we organized and so it was like that night in May 1994 when, in protest, the complete squad deserted and we agreed that nobody would return for at least a week. The silent exit from the camp and the trip, one by one, through the orange orchards towards the national highway where in a matter of minutes we undertook a course towards Las Villas, were the most glorious moments of those eight months of abuse.

On our return, at least those who returned — some never did — we were subject to trial in the camp’s ampitheater, seeking an answer: “Who had been the leader?” The end of the trial consisted in the delivery of the supplies they’d deprived us of for the last eight months, our manner of nonviolent protest showed the vulnerability of those who thought they had power and made us discover that power was really in our hands.

The en masse desertion of an EJT squad had made the news all over the island and uncovered corruption in high places. Although I was liberated, that unforgettable July 28, 1994, I can’t deny that since then, orange juice runs through my veins.

Translated by: JT

12 August 2013

The “Revoliquera” Experience (Reloaded) / Regina Coyula

Screen Shot 2013-05-17 at 3.53.53 PM

I put up this post this past Friday, but the WordPress goblins made it disappear. With my scarce connection time and my barely adequate technical knowledge, I wasted a copious amount of time looking for responses in a forum, and along the way, restoring this post. Management having failed, I’ll do this the old way: by repeating it.

The Revoliquera* Experience

If I ask a youth with occasional internet access which page referring to Cuba he visits, almost certainly he’ll respond with Facebook. It doesn’t matter that it’s not Cuban. The social network par excellence keeps him up to date with his artists and favorite athletes and let’s him meet up with his school friends, who today can be the same in Miami as in Madrid or Moscow.

But if I consult a young fan of technology or video games, or who is just growing out of his first childhood, the more sure is that he’ll answer that his favorite page is Revolico, the site of national sales & buying, born from the lack of a physical space inside Cuba to accommodate a classified ad.

It’s impossible to walk down the street and not see bills posted on phone poles announcing electronic musical concerts or house parties. On bus walls appear printed announcements of exchanges, nor does a car attract any attention with a cardboard box behind the windshield with hurried letters that read: “FOR SALE”. The yellow pages of the telephone book increasingly recognize the emerging private services sector, but even there the space is insufficient to insert a perishable or offensive ad. Here is where the online note triumphs.

No matter the real estate market, where the false image of an enormous (and overpriced) residential listing is for sale, poking around on revolico.com reveals that Cubans aren’t too interested in whether or not the government is going to build socialism; but meanwhile, each provides their own management style, and for some it doesn’t seem to be going badly. The productive forces of this country are in the starting blocks waiting for the starter’s gun to go off, and Revolico is becoming pre-competition training.

And if you don’t have access to the internet, that is no longer a problem. Inside a weekly or monthly 500 GB pack you can find an offline version of the popular site that now permits even the opening of links to photos; “It’s exactly the same as seeing it on the Internet,” a neighbor told me who copied her own version from me last week. As it is often forbidden to access Revolico from work and school, or the page won’t open and is redirected to the searcher, disturbed souls have posted alternative addresses and proxies that lead to the revoliquera (messy) experience.

Office services, translations, language classes, wedding dress rental, jobs, loans with interest, clowns, quotes … that amalgam makes up the pages of Revolico, a much better known site within Cuba than Generation Y, and more visited than CubaDebate.

Translator’s note: “Revoliquera” is an adjective roughly meaning “messy” created from the word “revolico” which in Cuban slang means “a mess”; it is the name of the Cuban site that is the equivalent of “Craigslist.”

Translated by: JT

13 May 2013

RIVER H / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo


Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Why does it wail, do you know?

The Hudson River wails at dawn. It makes like a low curve underneath the bridge or against its columns and then its metal waters arrive up to the terrace where I take cover from the cold that comes from the most ancient New York (city of a thousand films in my provincial imagination). And where a little bit of a Havana fled, that tried and tried, but still won’t die in my soul.

It would be cruel if at these heights of the dis-history my city wouldn’t let me forget her. I am a man. I lived in her for 40 years. It’s time to rest now. I’m exhausted. My eyes are so sad from so much seeing and seeing, without you looking at me. Even the colors have changed, like the afternoon that puts itself out from pure tedium. It’s time to rest. Havana, listen to me, please. Stay the fuck back.

If the Hudson River didn’t wail of doomsday at dawn, I would have to pull my head out of a 19th Century brick building. There are such beautiful and free people in this city. They look for you with a certain light of hope. Spring doesn’t manage to distort the jewel grey of Washington Heights and its desperate terracotta facades. This neighborhood all at once reminds me of the Lawton of my childhood. I know I don’t know what I’m saying, but it’s true. I had 40 years built up living secretly in a corner of the planet like this. A slice of insanity. A vision, a mirage. Miracle. Come along now, you.

The little glass-coffin windows filter voices coming from the floor below or the next state of this super-country. At last, after having counted so many stars and adding one more for Cuba (I grew up around these kinds of jokes), I don’t know how many shine in the blue rectangle. The US flag, let’s say it before it gets any later, is one of the most precious in the world. By some miracle, I prefer the Cuban, I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s because of its sensation of geometric imbalance or incompleteness.

I’ve seen beggars covered with circus tarps in New York and in Washington (I’m going to come to stay and live in Washington when I feel that my heart won’t die: it’s not a city, it’s a stage, and I love spaces that overflow their own extensions). Very few beggars, but I’ve seen them just the same. Many times more swarm in the streets of downtown Havana, and they smell worse. It’s just as cold and the night is long. I sympathize. I think I don’t have money enough to even buy one of those tarps. I’m a mannequin recently departed from the hands of a State that no one stops talking about here. I am in New York somehow only for that: to disown myself of all possessions and stay like the dream of a simple voice. The voice of those who indeed have a voice and are now about to lose it forever in a mock country. My country, a deal between the high powers of crime and the economy and the purple boasting of those who believe in incubating God in the archbishopric. And my voice, you know well that it’s your voice because so it has always been, brother, from Cuba. Your voice from Cuba where you shall want what you might be and shall now never return to listen to it, my love.

Hudson River, howled by Steppenwolf. There is a fury of end of the earth in me tonight that requires me to chew the glass from the windows, rip curtains, and business up out there, and sink myself in the trachea of a subway that reminds me of the dim light of Route 23. In the cafes the neighborhood girls are all left-handed and read A Streetcar Named Desire for hours. I click the arrhythmia of an anti-academic counterrevolution, as intolerable on the island as it is in exile. Inmanipulable, for that matter, intoolerable. Let me go home. And I go.

And my home turns into being my body, housing a frightened mind. It’s obvious that the government is hunting us crassly, tuning their aim as if we were ducks fleeing in the spring. And we are. A night in 1900-something, three days ago, I saw ducks in the frozen water of the monolith in Washington. I also saw a mistake in the Lincoln Memorial. I saw smoke in the sewers. Special pins from the State Department. And a loneliness of staff meetings that held me with pain to my bones until someone said something to me and laughed afterwards, restoring the order of things in the universe. The universe as a billiard ball, rolling as a vile buffalo.

Sometimes it howls. Wail. World Wide wail that makes the Hudson indistinguishable from an ambulance (those ambulances of the soundtracks with saxophone and sex that I used to see when I lived there, on the other side of the bay and the sky with microscopic flakes from the end of winter).

All writing is a farewell to mourning. New York is preparing itself for our slaughter. We are going to annihilate the Cubans. The desert must rule, life is a leftover. I’m announcing it with a gushing pleasure that will not explode on you. In more than one sense, until the last Cuban does not die violently, Fidel Castro will not know how to die.

(This last prayer is the most intimate crystallization of the beauty exposed before the dismay of those who don’t know how to hear. Then hear me, my characters: Ipatria, Olivia, Sally, finally …)

I’m going to stop. I’ve spent many days without being able to add an image to my madness. I’m trying to invent words. Other names for another novel. Rosemary, Samantha, Kate. Always girls without end … of boys I wouldn’t be able to write even a dialog. The boy is me and I’m dissolving more with each period.

Amen, my dears. Let me go.

Translated by: JT

13 March 2013

While You Were Sleeping / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

While you slept

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Ice is dead water.

I smell bad, like a homeless person in a subway car in New York. Although my scent doesn’t please me, it belongs to me. Private property in my absolute state of biologisity.

Exile is so exciting. All of us have been waiting for this occasion so much.

Dying among strangers is a privilege of the virtuous and angels. You know that I have no virtues.

There is no homeland with virtue. All homelands are a virtual shaving.

The transparent May night won’t let me sleep. I dream about North American scenes. Do Cubans dream with electric sheep? This is the way we wash the clothes, wash the clothes, wash the clothes, every Monday morning. Tom is a boy and Mary is a boy, too. One, too, how old are you?

Days of untranslatable drama (I prohibit the English version of this line*), dawns where the Hudson River falls silent, dizziness of a new century and end of the Revolution. I ask myself if somebody is peeking out at Night York in the Cuban mission by the UN.

It will be beautiful to see the new hatreds in the distance. The hour approaches, our time is near. Ideology turns into crime without the complexity of guilt. Idiot discipline. The mediocre efficacy of selective genocide is being committed against the citizens of my country. I ask myself if serial killers are sleeping with loose legs at the pile of Lexington Avenue and I-don’t-know-what street.

In human annals, nothing equals the marvelous despotism of an island left behind by the change of another island without interpretation. Freedom is an act. Manhattabana, mon amour.

My word is immaculate as a real virgin. My word perpetrates, penetrates. My word is an ephemeral fountain of reality. And reality is dirty ice, base material of the comets, water of stone or metal. Continue reading “While You Were Sleeping / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo”

As I Write Dying / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

1362159962_72643_434419779971453_324617027_nThe Revolution has maybe two or three weekends left. Then, before or after that bad metaphor which is the arrival of spring, we’ll be living in a full holocaust. The State will probably have to kill liberally in order to survive two or three more weekends. The exiles, it will be fairly easy to trap them in labyrinths of death that will superficially appear to be ordinary. The world is so violent. But in the island, there will be a certain political price to be paid, something that at this point in history, to the executioners (and to some extent even to their victims) does not matter a single bit.

Yesterday in Cuba a red drizzle fell, and an exiled poet who was to die a natural death, did not die. The sky descended upon us, the clouds took material form, and the chimney of the Regla refinery reflected red to the greatest possible extent, like a lustful campfire of meat, which in turn was reflected upside-down on the oily waters of the bay. From my staircase I can see it.

Many times I get naked at night. Otherwise, the oppression on my chest won’t let me sleep. I touch myself. I listen closely to myself. I hoist myself. I make myself. Apocubalyptic visions come to me. I see cars passing at full speed. I see my best friends dead (which has already happened in real life), laying in transparent ambulances, which for some unknown reason always come howling down Reforma street, in Luyanó, where I have never lived or made love. Although I almost did. On the corner of Enna and Fábrica, at the foot of a very, very red Royal Poinciana.

Other times I crash early into sleep, without messing up my bed, warm ears and a colossal numbness in my head. More asleep than alive. Narcolepsy. My veins bursting with pressure. I wonder why I never die during the night. And then I jump up like a spring and I can not sleep anymore until a little after sunrise. I start reviewing books and pdf’s; the eternal Chapter 1 of my cult novel (every night I discard it and write another one, that’s the cult). This last season has a unique title plagiarized from José Martí’s only love. Because he was too shrewd a guy to dare to open up and finally tell something about his life, without shrilling sounds or subordinate disciplinaries: with a bit of luck, my novel will be simply called “Your Girl.”

Even though this Chapter 1 is really about my girl.

Trains. The helpless bleating of the trains arrive all the way to my corner of Lawton. The church looks like a dinosaur fossil. A church where last year I photographed the Cuban Cardinal surrounded by State Security, almost shivering from it. Meanwhile, a filthy mob, ignorant to the point of fanaticism, carried a wooden doll with bright rags, and literally beat each other up in an effort to touch it, for the inert icon to heal them or to finally get them out of the damned country. To get them out as soon as possible, before Day F, for example; preferably to get them out right now, before the war with the Eskimos breaks out. Because American literature never lies: there will be a war to the death with the Eskimos. In fact, we all live in our igloo (cold in the mind, cold in the soul, cold in the heart: we are serial murderers).

It will be as easy as crushing skulls with tools made out of ice, the only ones that don’t leave expert fingerprints. This is how they’re already killing the Cubans, as political experimentation and as an adjustment of environmental parameters. But, since this an extermination under Cuban institutions, sloppy because of small salaries, there are always traces of its criminality (if no one cares, it’s obvious, because without corpses Cuba would be a chaos).

The ships stranded in the bay can also be heard thundering from my room. The moon is absolute, and the mango tree looks alive (it isn’t, no form of life is). I wish this instant never fled from my window. The sun would be, in this moment, as insulting as a glob of spit.

The future threatens. We don’t realize it because we have worked hard and honestly to humiliate ourselves. We have each given our very best to make sure that at least our kids have the comfort of being slaves. Such are the genes in this island: docile, like the poet Dulce María Loynaz chirping in her almost confiscated garden (who, by the way, is still alive, and the persistence of words is today her inferno).

There isn’t a single leader who is not dying. There isn’t a single book that can be finished before first bidding farewell to the mourning of its author. The hope is that no one resurrects. That this slice of planet be at last emptied. To renovate the race. To run, run without legs in a marathon of those crippled by cancer. To dance on a thin plaster board, made out of male saints sacrificed in exchange for what.

Democracy is a hot pistol. The Tropic of Cancer line reeks of bodily decay. We rotted. Time is a hereditary flaw that we have carried because we have been unable to jump from our own balcony (the staircase in Lawton may be very high, like a planetary observatory so that no shower of cosmic objects can surprise us). I nod. I start falling asleep with the deepest rays of socialist sun in the horizon, which burn like an acid with a pH of zero.

I’m leaving. My dreams of Cuba can go perch on any another criminal Cuban. I don’t want to participate in one more single death in this orgy. Every orgy is morbidly childish, a dismal theater. And I wanted to grow. To want.

Lastly, I want to warn you, that among my books there are several rulebooks for guevarist guerrillas. They are written with the feet, but they are sharp and definitive. Solemn, forgettable, and again childish (as every death is). Materialism for butchers with a metaphysical life. And that osmosis is always good for those who float dispersed in the bubble of the days. Of God.

Why do I feel so happy? If I cannot forget you.

Enough, voice.

Translation by JT (thank you Orlando, for writing simply), by Mariposa Soñadora, and by Claudia D.

1 March 2013

We Intercede for Angel Santiesteban / Mario Lleonart

It was he who opened the door at Antonio Rodiles’ house for us this past Saturday the 23rd: for Lilian of “Geronimo’s Blog”, to my wife Yoaxis, and for me, when we came to participate in the Estado de Sats special dedicated to “The United Nations Covenants, Five Years Later” in which, as a part of the panel, I denounced violations of Cuban religious freedom.

When we’d thanked God, we got together to pray as thanksgiving to God, for having allowed us to arrive having circumvented so many risks, I was thrilled on discovering his participation with us and his assent to our prayer.

It was then I conveyed the support we’d been giving since we learned of the plot they were inventing against him: the five years of prison to which they were about to submit him. Now as we’ve already known since past Thursday, February 28th, an unjust sentence is to be carried out; I beg all brothers of good will in the world to unite in intercession with us on behalf of Ángel Santiesteban.

We’ll pray to God for him but also will do our part in denouncing this adjustment of accounts on behalf of the regime that doesn’t forgive him for his blog, “The Children Nobody Wanted.”

We won’t permit it! I am Santiesteban!

Translated by: JT

26 March 2013

The Departure of a Mortal / Rosa Maria Rodriguez Torrado

Image found on Wikipedia Kiwix offline

I won’t judge the politician or military man, I’ll identify with the man, the son, the father, the grandfather, the Venezuelan leader of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela and the idol of his supporters: Hugo Chávez died, the 52nd president of Venezuela. On February 2, 1999 he became the elected ruler of his country and this past October 2012 he was reelected one more time for another term. Beginning with his arrival at the throne of government, he tried to goodly prolong his stay in power and to accomplish this he was behind a ’just’ referendum and modified the constitution — a practice repeated in other so-called revolutionary processes — to guarantee the continuity of a small group at the head of the country and to eternalize himself in the job with the “revolutionary” pretext of developing his programs of government.

Fidel Castro took note of him in February 1992 when he headed a “justified and good” coup d’etat against the constitutional president Carlos Andrés Pérez. For that event he spent two years in prison — had he done so in Cuba, they probably would have sentenced him to more than three decades (although it’s speculative there are certain precedents) or condemned to death — and he was invited by the Cuban government to visit our country.

Here they treated him like a head of state and apparently arrived at commitments that marked his journey in politics, which culminated with his arrival at the presidency of Venezuela, his eternal thanks to the Cuban ex-ruler sealed publicly and repeatedly. Nobody has described the genesis of the political marriage between a high-ranking official of the savannah like Chavez with a mountain fighter like Fidel; between a man from humble roots like Chávez and one of bourgeois origin like Castro; between a dictator who killed the liberal structures of Cuba and the commander with the most democratic image recorded in the history of Latin America.

A form of government has to be created in the countries of our America in which the leaders who come to power democratically defend the maintenance of the mechanisms that made it possible for them to get there; no political system that sustains itself on duress, physical or verbal violence, the violation of rights, or on the denial of freedom of expression on the part of the people, and fear can really consider itself free.

Although I never sympathized with the ideas and plans of Chávez’s so-called Boliviarian revolution — so similar to those that have impoverished Cuba for over 54 years — I lament his death and identify with the pain of his family, and with that of the millions of followers who still mourn his physical loss.

Translated by: JT

14 March 2013

The World Baseball Classic / Rosa Maria Rodriguez

Image downloaded from http://puentelibre.mx

The third World Baseball Classic ended early for the Cuban team and left many of us with wishes to see them win over their neighboring ball club and Cuban sports narrators with wishes to travel to the Californian city of San Francisco in the United States.

If the Classics have brought us anything positive, these have been the possibility of seeing good stadiums on television, quality officiating — despite the fact that it’s not perfect — and the possibility of comparing averages and the conditions of our stars with the records and the caliber of the ballplayers of other latitudes. Nobody understands why only they permit ours to contract with leagues from other countries like Venezuela, Mexico,  Dominican Republic etc.; or why, when they retire, that they pay much less than to active ballplayers. To what or to whom do we owe this bad idea?

This Classic has been exceptional in that the games were broadcast of our teams and our commentators refer to them with respect . Could this be the preamble to a change of mentality or of flexibility of sports politics followed until now? A very little while ago we learned that the authorities respected their right to visit their country and the province of Pinar del Río, for pitcher José Ariel Contreras, who stayed abroad* on one of the trips with the Cuban baseball team and was contacted by the big leagues.

The “balls and strikes” athletes in my country play for love of the sport and in deplorable conditions in comparison with many other teams of the world. They train like professionals, but they are treated almost like slaves. All to defend an amateurism that played its propaganda role during the so-called revolutionary era, but in reality is erratic and oppressive.

Fields aren’t in optimal conditions, balls are counted and used too many time in each game, the officiating is horrible, and those chosen to make up the team that represents us internationally are victims of different pressures: seen off in political acts of our country’s leaders, “commitment to the Motherland”, speeches, display of the flag — as if they were going to war — and now, at last, also subject to the despotic attitudes of their manager.

I’ll continue defending my thesis that to be a manager you don’t have to have tyrannical characteristics or roots. In a frank summary of stress, personal needs are also present; the pressure of finding the time to go to the store to buy a team to replace Cuba’s broken one and other compromises. And to do it watched over by maybe it’s that the “guardian angels” that always accompany sports delegations which guarantee their safety suspect that it’s a pretext to stay abroad and act “in consequence”, as usual.

I can only imagine how our ballplayers feel interacting with those of  the other countries in hotels and stadiums: like orphan children whose wealth is the “dignity” of playing according to the managers and the whim of a small political group and its political model in decadence. Beyond who ends up the winner of the Classic, there will also be the Cuban fan who will have won, who has expanded his culture of baseball, enjoyed other styles of play, of management, batting and pitching coaches, and above all, better conditions in which to develop, play, and enjoy our national pastime.

*Translator’s note: These ’defections’ of Cuban sports figures have been seen as treasonable acts by the Cuban Government in the past. The fact that a defector would be allowed to visit his family home is remarkable.

Translated by: JT

16 March 2013

The Violence that Touches Us / Regina Coyula

I believe I have successfully crossed the threshold of the 21st Century, a century that I prefer to believe more inclusive, comprehensive, and cohesive. After having been educated in certain social and ideological intolerance, I’ve gotten past them. My lesbian friends — they aren’t my friends so I can be “tuned in” — rather because their friendships enrich my life. I have other friendships whose political or religious posture could make us enemies, but for a long time my values of good and evil are established according to my beliefs; no more will I leave in other hands the thinking I should be doing for myself.

Gender-based violence just hasn’t not disappeared, but it remains buried, and sometimes so much so in our machista society, where the publicity campaigns look very pretty on the posters and audiovisuals; but looking at it closely, or listening to reggae music, you see it like a persistent bad weed.

The quantity of women with whom I’ve discussed this subject who have confessed to being victims is alarming; victims of the passions of a boss and of the consequences of rejection, and the higher the position of the boss, the worse it is for the woman; some end up giving up and almost all remained silent about it in shame because they (we) were educated in blame.

It might seem contradictory from the above that I should defend Ángel Santiesteban. As I have known him for many years, and I’ve taken interest in this case from the beginning, I allow myself to doubt the transparency of the trial and the objectivity of the witnesses, and I allow myself to think that the accuser has been manipulated, “another subtle form of the exercise of violence.”

I see a group of intellectual women passing judgment on this case of which they do not possess sufficient evidence, despite adding that … nobody can judge these facts without knowing the depth of the damage …. I want to point out a quote from a letter these intellectuals circulated on International Womens’ Day … whoever uses these theories is reproducing aggression; like those who blame the victim of a rape of having provoked her aggressor.

It’s inevitable for anyone who knows even minimally the hostage state to which the Ladies in White have been subjected to keep that in mind. On the margins of political beliefs, to ignore the copious testimony of the violence exercised against them, is to blame them for having provoked their aggressor.

It’s not enough to bring focus on the phenomenon through a particular mention of an alleged act of violence and a general mention of the rest of the violence against women in our society.  Anything one might do with this approach isn’t enough, given the environment tainted by the stereotypes in which we’ve lived. It won’t be with a bland and superficial reading of a text filled with ironies that the poet Rafael Alcides might write that the struggle for equality and respect. will be won. Equality and respect for women and for any other form of discrimination.

Translated by: JT

15 March 2013

In Baseball / Regina Coyula

My worst fears came to pass. Holland has us sized up. Like the majority of readers pontificated, we aren’t going to the next round. I’ll leave it to those who know the analysis of factors of the defeat of a team into which so many resources were invested. Marginally, my personal impression is that the charisma of Victor Mesa was adverse to the team and applied additional pressure to that it already carried. Differently than those who are happy about it, I so lament not being able to see them play in San Francisco.

Translated by: JT

11 March 2013