A Bit More of “Not For Your Tender Ears” / Regina Coyula

Photo EFE

With some stoicism, I followed through the TV the happenings of the Party Congress. In addition to the economic guidelines, not much has been seen. Like the presentation of the Central Committee and Political Bureau.

- So many years in power and they have not learned that the appointments must obey ability, not the fact of being young, female or black. Contributions to seek a representation that does not correspond to reality. Women and blacks still are at disadvantage, although the laws are still punishing discrimination. Because of that we have to go to the social causes, a theme (another one) that is not being solved. And certainly won’t be related to statistics.

- They approved the exit of officials after two terms. It seems that experience convinced them of the danger of a prolonged stay in public office. The previous leaders do not count.

- Even for a party’s process the closed nomination is a questionable method of transparency, even when you vote and there is a secret ballot.

I cannot understand this congress which faded the most memorable impression in the population which is that he can’t elect himself again, it can only be done for two terms, and above all, that housing may be sold legally. If I were serious, I would have focused on the lack of members to take over, evidence of failure of the management of the party’s leadership in the country. I don’t feel that decisions made with raised hands like in a deja vu will substantially change my life. I had no expectations, so I have none of the bewilderment of those who expected major changes. It is, as I was told when I was a kid: This is for grown ups, it’s not for your tender ears.

Translated by: L. Rodriguez

April 22 2011

The Jealous Fridge / Regina Coyula

Near the house there is a store in CUC where after closing it seems they turn off the refrigerators and then turn them back on in the morning when they open again, such that when they open the frozen food is thawed with an unpleasant look and a horrible smell. Just in case, I never buy at the store, but the other day I went for a bottle of oil and I heard this surreal dialogue:

- Compañera! Why are the hot dogs always soft? (An older gentleman with a baseball cap that has left a bag with groceries in the door.)

- Compañero, it’s that the fridge is defective.

- What do you mean by defective!!!

- Defective, it doesn’t freeze well.

- Are you sure?

- What do you mean am I sure, Compañero?

- Yes, young lady, because it seems the refrigerator is neurotic, or Mr. Fridge is giving her a bad time, because if I come in the morning the products are thawed, but in the afternoon they have solved their problems and everything here is frozen.

- Ay Compañero, you talk so weird…

Translated by: L. Rodriguez

April 29 2011

The Plural Legacy of Martí / Regina Coyula

Oil Canvas by Raúl Martínez

Last Friday, the 8th, the newspaper Granma, published an extensive anonymous two-page work taken from Olive-Green Editions*, about the plural legacy of Marti, titled: “The idea of ​​a single party is a legacy of José Martí.”

It is not a new complaint. The argument is that Marti created a party and only one party for the independence of Cuba. Marti put all his energy into organizing the ideal of independence, in taming the will of the patriots of the great war, drawing lessons from that defeat, facing reformism and annexation, which he considered inadequate and damaging to Cuba.

Once the objectives of the struggle were obtained, and the new republic achieved, it would open a space for the formation of parties that could channel the political leanings of the Cuban people. These quotes make clear the Marti’s concept of a republic with all and for the good of all:

“… Or the Republic is based on the whole character of each one of its children, the habit of working with their hands and thinking for themselves, the full exercise of and respect for family honor, the full exercise of the others: the passion, finally, for the decency of man…

“…Or the Republic is not worth one of our women’s tears, not a single drop of blood of our brave. A people is composed of many wills. The republic … will not be the unfair dominance of one class of Cubans over the other, but open and honest balancing of all the real forces in the country and of the free thoughts and desires of all Cubans. Every public party must fit with its people.

“The Revolutionary Party, whose transient mission will cease the day Cuba achieves its part in the war and there is an accord on the island, will have no leaders that rise up, nor old or new bosses that put themselves over the country, nor pretensions that would overtake the prior rights of the first republic and the new and supreme law of the land.”

These last two quotes are important for a man whose command of language is recognized, because they demolish the thesis that Martí supported a society with a single party. If there are politicians who have created more than one party, it would have to be a curiosity.

The will that leads to the creation of a new political force obeys the lack of the same, or a rupture within an existing organization. Marti created a pro-independence party, because no party existed that matched his objectives. To legitimize the current one-party rule through Marti’s ideology is nothing but a manipulation of history.

Translated by: L. Rodriguez

*Note from Translator: Verde Olivo [Olive-Green] Editions is an editorial house that is part of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias (Revolutionary Armed Forces) of Cuba. They publish books related to military topics.

April 13, 2011

Bad Experience / Regina Coyula

Photo: Katerina Bampaletaki

I was recently asked about the time when I used to teach. My teaching experience was with General Integral Professors*, teachers known as Emerging or “Instantaneous.” In addition to help in preparing to teach classes, I visited and assessed them in the classroom. Those guys were very young and came mostly from the eastern provinces.

Teaching as a profession has fallen out of favor, teachers receive no pay in CUCs, they are prohibited from traveling abroad, and the demands of dealing with rowdy students are very high, so nobody wants (or wanted to, I will talk about what I knew) to be a teacher.

These guys were trained to be teachers, worked and studied for a salary only of interest to someone of 17, 18, who came to the capital, and the boys did not have to serve their military service. They arrived timid and simple and not all but most, especially boys, they quickly caught on to the game to the situation.

Because the school system was like a boarding school, some used to buy candy and cigarettes to sell among students. Sexual relations with students (sex does not mean love) were common. I had prepare the exams and there was one time when I was going to give an exam in the afternoon hours and about eleven o’clock those responsible for my course called and told me to give them the test and scoring key with the correct answers.

The exercise was simple, answer true or false, match columns and stuff. By lunchtime the students knew, not answers, hopefully!, but the order of the scoring key. I turned it into a disaster for them by changing the order of questions.

At the end of year party, those boys from the provinces had transformed their image with Adidas or Nike shoes, Emporio Armani boxer shorts coming out over those jeans that are discolored and broken from the factory; bright Dolce Gabbana tee shirts, colorful tattoos and teeth with gold caps showing the capital’s prosperity.

I knew the trick of exchanging grades for material goods, and judging by that look, much bartering had occurred. They felt they were not doing anything immoral, it was what had hit them and were getting profit as best they could or knew. With few exceptions, some are still “educating” the new generations.

*Translator’s Note: General Integral Professors are professors that are educated to teach right after they finish high school in a short period of time. The lack of professors in Cuba has led to this alternative.

Translated by: L. Rodriguez

April 9 2011

The Corner of 23rd and M / Regina Coyula

“23rd and M” is a Saturday program on Cuban television, which takes its name from the downtown corner where the TV studios are located. A massive building that also houses offices, a cinema, food service, a hairdresser and barber, and, until recently, just at the lower corner, a pharmacy.

Cuban pharmacies attract the attention of foreigners because at first they can not specify the function of those half-empty shelf spaces, full only of murals with explanations of natural medicines, posters that warn of the dangers of smoking, the importance of breastfeeding or the need for the use of condoms. The spacious pharmacy at 23rd and M did not escape these features and became an ugly wart just opposite to the Habana Libre (a famous Cuban hotel) and near the Coppelia ice cream stand. A black wall of moisture leaking from the “Mandarin” restaurant in the highest part of the building, I guess, forced the closing.

The pharmacy was dismantled and the site remained dormant for a few months until recently it has been reopened, now as part of the photo center chain “PhotoService.” Bright lights, shiny shelves, nothing suggests the newcomer who passed the corner without seeing anything of interest, that for some time there was a pharmacy that sold medications in domestic currency.

Translated by: L. Rodriguez

April 6 2011

The Filmmaker Cousin and the Journalism Student / Regina Coyula

Cartel de la 10ma. Muestra de Cine Joven

Talking about my cousin the filmmaker may seem excessive, but the Young Filmmaker’s Festival doesn’t have a single bad film. Miguel Coyula’s movie which was not accepted into the competition of the last Latin American Film Festival, is part of the program, so full disclosure is avoided. For those who aren’t aware, it already won the award for best film in the Havana Film Festival in New York, but that didn’t help. The protagonist in general and some scenes in particular made the film a politically incorrect piece. There were even objections to Memorias competing in the 10th Young Filmmaker’s Festival, but Fernando Perez, as president, asserted his own prestige and it was included. Memories of Overdevelopment was unbelievable and emerged as the indisputable winner of this competitive contest.

What follows has nothing to do with my cousin, but with the news in the press. The awards were presented Sunday night, to coincide with the Oscars, a prize which is often abused in the Cuban media for prioritizing the commercial and media-friendly over quality. And so the television newscast missed the Cuban event in the hour it aired on Monday, but not the Oscars, with visual coverage for major awards (parentheses for Portman, I am her fan since Closer).

It wasn’t until three days later that Granma reviewed the closure of the Exhibition. In a small box signed by a journalism student. Unlike the Oscars, the news is confusing, it would seem that the work that one is another (a work that achieved recognition, no prizes). The student has signed an article in which Miguel Coyula also took the podium on two occasions. “Memories” received the following awards:

Best feature film, best original music, the award of the Cuban Association of Film Critics, the SIGNIS of the church, and the Musical Editor’s Award of Cuba.

After reading the brief note I think:

1.- That the journalism student is friend of the producer of the work that he calls out in his note.

2.-That the journalism student didn’t see the work, and wasn’t even at the awards ceremony.

3.- That the journalism student signed a work written by another person.

4.- That the journalism student will be a really bad journalist.

To not get too familiar and cumbersome, here is the link: http://www.cubacine.cu/muestrajoven/index.html

Translated by: L. Rodriguez

March 7 2011

Onward to a Career / Regina Coyula

My son behind.

My son has been a protagonist in recent postings since it is at a crucial time for his studies and life. Last week he had to fill his “ballot” to request admission to the university, paperwork in which the student can put up to ten options. Rafael, indecisive, and without a strong vocation, opted for a career in economics with its practical utility, and filled the rest as he chose. I had to go to the school because the parent’s signature was required in filling out the ballot. There I was in a line together with students and some parents to deliver the ballot. It was common to hear the male students, especially, say that they would welcome the option of the Ministry of Interior. It filled me with curiosity; months earlier, these same boys had been visited by officers of MININT in a recruitment effort, and none of them was interested.

Their mediocre educational performance keeps them away from the university classrooms, however, to enter the MININT an entrance test is not required, nor do they have to do military service. I noticed, while waiting, the self-assurance with which they believed themselves so ready to skip the test that would allow them to enter university, the laughter with which they called each other chivas (goats), it reminded me, full with excitement and pride for almost forty years, that I was so different from these guys who think now that they can solve something so long, like the future.

Translated by: L. Rodriguez

March 28 2011

LML in LJC / Regina Coyula

For Harold, with regards to his response to El Pais.

I have posted on other occasions and I said I studied history. And as I’ve grown old (55 soon), I have become increasingly interested in World War II and the Cold War. Until 1989 I read one approach, since then I have been able to access another. With both, I have set my conclusions which are not from an expert. The history of the Soviet Union has been very poorly told, so many Cubans have a hard time understanding how it could disappear and how today the communists in Russia did not receive votes after having unanimous support in the past.

Many Cubans who studied there or traveled there know of the profound problems of Soviet society, where fear and repression were always latent. Why something might go like this? Because the power ended up concentrated in a leader whose word was order and who brooked no argument. Why can that happen? Because when you find no opposition to your ideas and you are surrounded by a court of fanatics and opportunists, you end up believing you are infallible … lesson to be learned … precisely because of copying the Soviet defects we have an inefficient economy, a bloated bureaucracy, widespread corruption, and a catatonic immobility that cannot even galvanize itself before the sentence: Either we fix it or we sink.

The press that should act as a watchdog of social interests, became obedient and triumphalist, but the design didn’t also have room for a press capable of criticizing those most responsible nor, in the state of workers and farmers, did workers and farmers have to the levers of power. I agree, Marxism went wrong from the beginning with the contributions of the single party and democratic centralism, as well as Russia which did not have the economic conditions.

If I would have a crystal ball, I would say that the future belongs entirely to socialism, but not to Real Socialism, nor to those who now have names, and it will be a future very much in the future. As Marx said, the economic and social formations must be exhausted before giving way to a new one.

Harold, I will leave out the theme of social classes, the rich in Cuba are not the dissidents, I tell you that I live in one of the best neighborhoods in the capital, and that does not lend itself to jokes, I live here since 1958 so I have seen fly by those who left and those who arrived later, I said my age up above. Greetings to everyone.

Translated by: L. Rodriguez

March 21 2011