Iván García, 24 June 2016 — “Twenty minutes. Neither more nor less,” says Emilio, a civil engineer. This was the time he took at work to “analyze” a document replete with jargon, approved by the Seventh Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, celebrated this past April in Havana.
“Imagine: The boss had authorized us to carry out a ’motivation’ for Father’s Day. We took up a collection and bought three bottles of rum and two cartons of beer. But at noon, a guy from the union showed up for a meeting with ’the agents of the municipality,’ to discuss the economic model and the future of Cuba,” comments the engineer. Continue reading “The Future of Cuba, According to the Regime / Iván García”
Iván García, 18 July 2016 — Two retirees, a strolling detergent vendor and a vacationing doctor, kill time in a park in south Havana, debating the surprising Portuguese victory of Cristiano Ronaldo in the European Cup. They also comment on the Regime’s new austerity measures, which presage another season of “skinny cows” [shortages].
Neither the shade of a carob tree nor a soft breeze relieves the sleep-inducing heat of July. When it seems that the topics of conversation are exhausted, a grey-haired man, a now-retired civil engineer, asks: “Does anyone know where the money in Cuba is going? And what the Government does with the millions of dollars it receives from family remittances?” Continue reading “Cuba: Where is the Money? / Iván García”
Regina Anavy, Reykjavic, June 27, 2016 — Crossing paths with Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo in Reykjavic, Iceland, on June 27, 2016, I had the opportunity to have a conversation with him.
Iceland And Future Plans
Regina Anavy: I understand you are here on a special two-year grant from ICORN [International Cities of Refuge Network].
Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo: Yes. ICORN is an NGO based in Norway. They make contact with city governments. They believe that working with cities is better than working with countries. Maybe there is a conflictive immigration policy, but the cities are happy to have you. So in Europe they have dozens of cities, and I think in America now Pittsburgh is becoming an ICORN city and maybe Las Vegas. But after a year [in Iceland], I will be going back to the U.S., to enter a Ph.D. program in comparative literature at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.
RA: Are you going to be teaching or doing research?
Ivan Garcia, 30 June 2016 — “Beyoncé” — that’s what she likes to be called — prostitutes herself for less than two dollars on the outskirts of the old bus stop of Víbora, 30 minutes by car from the center of Havana.
By day she’s an “emerging teacher” in a secondary school, that is one of a class of teachers created due to the shortage of experienced teachers who begin training in the 11th grade at age 16 and take over a classroom while they’re still teenagers themselves. By night she goes out to hunt clients on the Diez de Octubre [Tenth of October] roadway, dressed as a woman. She wears a blond wig, a clinging dress, high-heeled shoes, too much makeup and a cheap, penetrating perfume that she combines with an imitation-Gucci handbag and some false eyelashes imported from Miami. Continue reading “Cuban Homosexuals: Excluded From The Army And Taboo In The Dissidence / Iván García”
Luis Felipe Rojas, 9 July 2016 — José Abreu Felippe has become a goldsmith. He’s a guy who’s creating a city that will be lost, and he wants to change it into a jewel that we all will carry with us. Poesía exiliada y pateada (Alexandria Library, 2016) collects poems of seven Cuban writers who already have left for other worlds. They are beings with lives twisted by existence itself, and even so, they wrote in verse and kept their fingers on the trigger for generations of readers and writers to come.
They are Eddy Campa, Esteban L. Cárdenas, Roberto Valero, Reinaldo Arenas, David Lago, Jorge Oliva and René Ariza. Felippe read a poem from each one in the West Dade Regional Library of Miami. There are two routes these bards took: insanity and oblivion, but in both meanings, their transfiguration of reality preserved them for us. The power that they imprinted on their verses has left them a little more beyond the popular imagery. Continue reading “Cuban Poets: Exile, Prison and Oblivion / Luis Felipe Rojas”
Regina Coyula, 30 June 2016 — For Cubans who update their home entertainment weekly with the now famous, private and anonymous Paquete (Weekly Packet), they are familiar with a subtitle in bright, greenish-yellow letters at the beginning of the movies. This inevitable “http://www.gnula.nu” which comes up so much, piqued my curiosity. It was impossible for me to recognize the country that corresponded to that extension, so I resorted to the always-useful Wikipedia.
Surprise. The country of the pirated movie site that we see at home is Niue, an atoll with airs of a small island, assigned to New Zealand. In 1996, a North American (who doesn’t live in Niue, of course) claimed rights to “.nu” and, in 2003, founded the Internet Society of Niue, which allowed the local authorities to convert the quasi-island into the first wi-fi nation of the world. They supplemented the offer with a free computer for every child. Nothing spectacular; we’re talking about a population of barely 1,300 inhabitants. Continue reading “Domain Names and an Internet Debate / Regina Coyula”
City of Havana – One of the New7Wonder Cities of the World.
Ivan Garcia, 6 June 2016 — From Miraflores, south of Havana, Sergio comes twice a week with his wheelbarrow to the dump on Calle 100 in Marianao to pick up old junk that he later sells for a few pesos in a traveling fair in the slums of La Víbora.
Ivan Garcia, 23 April 2016 — They work as a pair. Raciel, a black man almost six feet tall, with long arms and legs and a pock-marked complexion, is in charge of the fumigation equipment, while Yilsander, a light-skinned, pudgy man, carries a black bag and a clipboard, where he writes down the houses that have already been disinfected in the search ordered by Raúl Castro to minimize the presence of the mosquito that transmits dengue, chikungunya and zika.
Dora Leonor Mesa, 2 May 2016 — Some years ago I referred to how well Vaclav Havel knew the Cubans. I never imagined that one day I would travel to the capital of the Czech Republic: Prague, the city of 100 towers. My husband always spoke to me with nostalgia for that city which he visited several times during his years as an athlete on the Cuban gymnastics team.
In 2015 I discovered Prague when I went as a delegate to the Forum 2000, an exceptional event dedicated to education and democracy. As scheduled, keeping my promise to the Infant of Prague was among my priorities, and I attended a Mass in his church. Some time ago I wrote a book of poems dedicated to the Infant of Prague that may someday be published. Continue reading “Prague Happily Infects its Visitors / Dora Leonor Mesa”
Ivan Garcia, 3 May 2016 — One morning in 1996, the poet and journalist, Raúl Rivero, Director of the press agency Independent Cuba Press, called me at home in Víbora, to ask me to cover the trial of a dissident in a municipal court in Cerro.
Juan Juan Almeida, 31 March 2016 — Not so long ago there was a rumor that high officials of MINIT had been arrested by the Ministry. In agreement with those implicated in the event and making a clear allusion comparable to Case No. 1 of 1989 [a highly respected Cuban general was executed for drug trafficking], there was speculation about a new report. But the rumor faded away under a suspicious silence and a potent, air-tight cloak of secrecy.
Theories have flaws, and even the Roman Empire lasted four centuries longer than predicted.
Somos+, Javier Cabrera, 1 April 2016 — Yesterday the news came out in various media: Ultra-secret information has been stolen from the Cuban Ministry of the Interior. The poor proclamation “Raúl’s Sovereign Technology” showed itself more focused on censorship of content and limiting communication than on constructing a true plan of security in the service of the nation.
It’s not the first theft of confidential information, although the previous ones were by citizens and not directly by people in the military, like the surveillance videos in Havana or the telephone directory of the state phone company ETECSA. The absurd pledge of reinventing technology has ended up being, as expected, manipulation. Continue reading “State Security fears a Cuban Snowden / Somos+, Javier Cabrera”
Somos+, Amelia Albernas, 26 February 2016 — In my time, professors were proud of being what they were: a living gospel. We students were instructed by them and, furthermore, educated. The values and principles I have are thanks to my parents — one a psychologist and the other a history teacher — and to those teachers who had a true love for their profession.
Sadly, the new generations of Cubans don’t count and won’t be able to count on this. Material deficiencies and — why not? — spiritual ones, also, have wrecked the education that many of us received in past decades. The social and economic deterioration of the country has destroyed educational teaching. The exodus of teachers to other professions with better salaries is a reality that is striking but perfectly understandable. Our teachers lack great commitment, but it’s hard to ask for that commitment if salaries are low. Continue reading “Cuban Education through the Keyhole / Somos+”
Once the Cuban Government arrived in power, imbued by an exacerbated voluntarism, it ignored the laws that govern the economy and subordinated them to ideology. From this moment on, the loss of the autonomy that is required by economic processes was converted into a factor of poverty.
In 1959, with the first agrarian reform law, the Government handed over property titles to 100,000 farmers but concentrated in its own hands some 40.2 percent of cultivable land. In 1963, with the second agrarian reform law, the 1,000 farms that had more than five horses swelled the fund of State lands, which grew to almost 70 percent.
In 1976, with the objective of decreasing the numbers of small owners, the Government initiated a project of “cooperativization,” through which it created the Cooperatives of Agricultural Production (CPA), thereby raising the share of land that was State property to 75 percent. The result was inefficiency, scarcity of products and high prices, which obliged the Government in 1993 to convert Continue reading “Crisis in Agriculture: Land for Those Who Work It / Dimas Castellanos”
Free Internet, Mayor’s Office of Guayaquil (Ecuador). Image courtesy of photographer Julio R.B. for Jeovany Jimenez Vega.
Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 26 January 2016 — A ghost is haunting Cuba: the phantom of the Internet. All the forces of the old guard have joined in a holy crusade against that spectre: the Castros and Ramiro Valdes*, the censor, before ‘Furry’ Colomé Ibarra and now Fernández Gondín**, the radical communists and all the opportunistic cops … Thus begins the Manifesto of the Internet for the Cuban people, placed at a horizon so far away that it’s as elusive as everything else concerning connection to the outside world.
Walking through any park in Guayaquil, Ecuador, at every Metro stop, in many cafes and shops, in every mall, and at every corner, I find at each step an announcement of a free Wi-fi signal, and my thoughts fly to my closed little island.
Internet censorship in Cuba is a subject that has been brought up so many times it now stinks. The amply demonstrated reluctance of the Cuban Government to cede a bit of ground in its information monopoly has ended up putting our country at the bottom of the index of connectivity on the whole American continent, and in the select group of those who are behind globally. Continue reading “Cuba and the Phantom of the Internet / Jeovany Jimenez Vega”