Brigadier Alejandro Castro Espin / Juan Juan Almeida

Brigadier Alejandro Castro Espín (Raul Castro’s son)

Last Monday, in a diligent and articulate article in Martinoticias.com I wrote, and I quote: “The question is, ’Where are we going?’ The answer: this coming December 2, when the military promotions are made known, and with whether or not Colonel Alejandro Castro Espin will rise to General or not. A promotion that, on one hand, could create discontent and division in the military hierarchy; and, on the other, reveal to us if the so-called “measures for updating of the model” is the road towards the aftermath of the so-called Castro era, if there are openings that lead towards a (militarized) social democracy where they go on imposing little by little on the liberties of each individual or if there have only been subtle maneuvers directed at the reshuffling of the State structure which only guarantees a succession in which Cuban power passes from hand to hand, from Castro to Castro.”

That was written, and I repeat: to understand that I continue to hold onto the hypothesis of the ascent of Castro Espín to brigadier as “the key” to the future of Cuba, or the next island president, misinterprets what I write.

If things continue as they are, in order to know who the next tenant of the Cuban presidential chair will be, it’s not necessary to be subtle, not to have a lot of information, nor to manage the art of divination with precision. It’s enough to take a look at Article 94 of the Constitution that, for good or ill, is in force and although the leader himself frequently dismisses it, it’s well established that in the case of absence, illness or death of the President of the Council of State, he will be replaced by the First Vice President. That is, yesterday José Ramón Machado Ventura, today Miguel Díaz-Canel, and tomorrow it could be Joe Blow anybody. The State superstructure is well cemented (or one might say, handcuffed) so that no one can compete with the ghost of Fidel.

Real power is something else. It is not the visibly frayed tapestry of the throne, but the shining scepter, which is already fixed so that after Raul there will be no substantial changes nor unexpected surprises, falling into the hands of Alejandro. To deny it would be something like ignoring the Cubanness of the royal palm or the Majesty of a Cuban sunrise. Cuba is not only a society ruled by a single party, but also by a family dictatorship. Is it necessary to recall the relationship between Fidel, Raul, Vilma, Mariela, …..?

The Council of Ministers is the highest executive and administrative organ and, by law, it constitutes the Government of the Republic of Cuba. Why then does Alejandro, without being a member, participate and have a critical voice in the meetings of the Executive Committee and the boards of the National Defense Council?

The ascent, or not, to General of Colonel Castro Espín, only allow us to see clearly enough what the Cuban government has doled out to us and designed as a future, it’s what is called “reforms or measures to update the Cuban model.” He already has the power and it does not depend on a simple promotion.

Many in the military hate him, others criticize him, and others mock him; the rest simply tolerate him. But all obey him and he knows it, because it it’s true that in an accident in Angola he lost the vision in one eye, it’s also very true that the visual acuity of his healthy eye is 20/20.

Translator: RST

11 November 2013

Prison Diary LXIII: It’s Not Feeding Revenge, It’s Saving Embarrassment / Angel Santiesteban

UMAP: Useful Citizen Force

Dictatorships, according to the analysts, mutate to make threats disappear when their totalitarian power is threatened; to manage it, they are capable of acting against themselves. Nothing is worth more than the Government and its remaining in power as omnipotent beings.

Hitler, for all his ravings, lacked foresight into the future, which was overshadowed by his unbridled ambition; given the historic circumstances he didn’t have the opportunity to manipulate his environment. I always wonder if in order to save his position as Chancellor of the Third Reich he would have been capable of giving space in the media to the Jews themselves, whom he persecuted with intentions of exterminating them.

Instead, this is what we have seen in over half a century of Cuban dictatorship. To those who persecuted as the worst example of a sick society: homosexuals were expelled from their workplaces, universities, locked in concentration camps: Military Units to Aid Production (UMAP), removed from their jobs in theaters, publishing, television, university — at that famous stage of the “parameterization*” — and they then relocated them as punishment for their sexual orientation in places where they were not visible.

The story of the writer Antón Arrufat is famous, today a winner of the National Literature Prize, they put him to sorting books in the Enrique José Varona library in Marianao, directed by Silvia Gil, the wife of Ambrosio Fornet, another National Literature Prize winner, which belongs to the headquarters of the Casa de las Americas.

The truth is that when this intellectual, vilified and humiliated for his sexual orientation and his rebellious play “Seven Against Thebes,” poked his head in simply for having recognized the voice of some friend or writer, this woman, in the best fascist style, corrected it with a breath of air and an intolerant gesture, to make him once again look inward. Under the punishment regime, the writer waited for years in total silence.

Lezama, Piñera and Reinaldo Arenas also suffered. And the vast majority of young people who now have gray hair, raised up by the dictatorship, accept jobs other than cultural and political, and become complicit in many injustices. Meanwhile, in the everyday reality of power, they are treated contemptuously as “faggots,” and make fun of their cowardice and gestures as if they were buffoons.

Everyone who wasn’t married, who didn’t wear boots, smoke cigars, was suspected of being weak, especially if he was an artist. So the 2007 “Little Email War” is understandable, when Papito Serguera and Luis Pavón, puppets of the repressive era of the ’60s and ’70s, who only followed orders, tucked in their tails in the media: they were generally rejected by the Cuban arts world, very-well managed by the then Minister of Culture Abel Prieto, a manipulation that over time won him the job of Presidential Advisor that he enjoys today. In those days, whoever managed those threads silenced the worried intellectuals.

You have to wonder if the Jews had accepted being manipulated by Hitler to salvage his stay in power, as the vast majority of those “parameterized*” and censored the “Five Gray Years*” have done, pretending to be happy and then later being allowed to launch their timid rants behind closed doors, first in the Casa de las Americas, then the Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA), where they bled out their anger.

Today they buy their silence. They shouldn’t ignore that they will continue to be despised.  I know that many know they are despised, considered expendable pieces in a game that only those who brought it are allowed to move. They know that the State’s elite are still the same chauvinists whom the creators see as “the soft part of society, and a dangerous enemy of power.” They’re right about the second part.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison Settlement, October 2013

*Translator’s note: At that time, a process known as “parametración” imposed strict guidelines on cultural workers and educators and subjected their sexual preferences, religious beliefs, connections with people abroad and other aspects of their personal life to intrusive scrutiny.

Translated by RST

1 November 2013

The Literary Mafia in Cuba / Víctor Manuel Dominguez

HAVANA, Cuba, October, www.cubanet.org -The overall control the authorities have established over the publishing system, promotional spaces, travel agendas, and whatever takes place on the country’s artistic-literary plans, brings many writers together in a kind of mafic that some prefer to call a “clan,” a “pineapple” and other words that mean the same: “Interest groups.”

Joined by friendship and affinities of aesthetics, politics, generations, race, sexual orientation, or simply for advantaged access to publishing opportunities, spaces of influence or prevalence in the rarefied Cuban literary market, those involved in this war of interests defend, by any means, the groups chosen for their personal realization.

In a country where everything is measured by the common denominator of the unconditionality of the regime, these groups, driven to certain tricks that allow them to expel or disqualify others, living together without public displays of animosity, but alone tripping each other up, setting dirty traps, and making use of their space gained at any price for their works, styles, shapes and themes: these are the literary reference points of the nation.

That’s why the Cuban literary mafia, beyond their ambitions for or vision of the national literature, share control, participate in book presentations, and even serve on contest juries that know ahead of time who will win, or organize a story or poetry anthology where members of each group appear in equal parts, like a pact of honor among mediocre authors who represent the interests of the clan.

For many years, and in the corridors of clerks, careerists, believed, and other members of the various literary trends, walking the gardens of UNEAC (Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba) — mojito in hand — among other places of cultural interest, four denominations have arisen to “characterize” each group in the national literary watering hole.

Cafe Literario Attendees -- Photo from VMD

Cafe Literario Attendees — Photo from VMD

The first, baptized The School of ’Socialist’ Realism (also know by its rivals as The Penis Club), brings together the macho egocentrics who call themselves realists, “filling key posts in magazines, publishers, and the country’s promotional institutions, despising other current modalities. Their totem is Mario Varga Llosa.”

For natural opposition, the second group is called The Pink Mafia, with the principle characteristic of its coreligionists being homosexualities. The defend fantasy and absurdist literature, and their works revolve around the issue of gays looking for a place in society. They are belligerent, to the point of scandal, toward their counterparts in the Penis Club. Their idol is Virgilio Piñera.

The third is called The Black Colony, because it “brings together individuals of this race united in asserting their neglected rights in a mass mixed-race yearning, at all costs, to pass through Aryan, Nordic, Slavic or Latin, according to its spokespeople.” Their literature is a provocation, conceptual, deconstructivist. Your guardian angel is Severo Sarduy .

In last place, The School for Wives, whom The Penis Club call Clitoris Hall, or Hell, due to the fickleness of their demands, and a fierce feminism which advocates a generic discourse to gain areas of sociocultural emphasis, and is uses to achieve their purposes. Their idol is Simone de Beauvoir.

These and other qualifications heard at gatherings, exhibitions, bars; or read in publicized controversies in literary magazines (Yoss), and books such as Questions of Water and Earth (Jesus David Curbelo), show us the interior panorama of an exclusive literature, divided and censored, that lost its influence on the cultural heritage of the nation.

Víctor Manuel Domínguez, vicmadomingues55@gmail.com

Cubanet, 18 October 2013

I am the Woman Who was Raped by an Immigration Officer in the Bahamas / CID

My name is Maireni Saborio Gonzales, I am 23 years old and I live in city of Caibarien, Villa Clara.  I left as a boat person or rafter on September 25, 2012 and I was jailed for 11 months in the Carmicheal Center located in Nassau Bahamas, where later on I was deported back to Cuba on August 21, 2013.

While in Bahamas, I psychologically suffered very much.  I was the woman who was raped by the immigration officer in Bahamas.

I am very afraid to be in this country – Cuba – because I declared myself as dissident on some United States’ radio stations, on the internet and I repudiated wanting to return to Cuba in all instances.

I am under a lot of tension due to all the things that have happened to me; I also had to denounce the Bahamian authorities because of their lack of protection during the time I was imprisoned, due to the sexual assaults that I suffered on several occasions and I am under pressure too because I was returned to a country where I haven’t been able to find a job and I feel that I am under surveillance at all times.

I was one of the women who stitched their mouths shut; I surrendered my beauty and I shaved my head to collaborate with my compatriots, 24 Cubans completely bald.  I did two hunger strikes, one that lasted 18 days and the second one that lasted 16 days, and there were men on strike too.

The Bahamian government detained me because I tried to kill myself due to the psychological stress that I was under.  They detained me and took me to a mental institution in which around March I took a mixture of 20 different medications so I could take my life.  Afterwards, they took me to the Silent Hospital, another medical institution which the Bahamanians have on the island of Nassau to treat the mentally ill.

As I said before, there they gave me medications and wouldn’t tell me anything about what was going to happen with our situation and I was extremely stressed.

We witnessed beatings, we saw our compatriots be beaten, the video that is going around the world is not a lie, this video is real and we lived it and we, the women, decided to go through everything that happened because nothing that you see in those photos and on the internet is a lie and we decided to do it because we were tired of these things and of existing under those horrific conditions in which we found ourselves where we didn’t even have drinking water and we had to sleep on the floor and we couldn’t communicate with our families and we were continually sexually harassed.

In addition to seeing how they mistreated our compatriots, we had no human rights, no one we could count on and we lived in this place in this concentration camp that was horrible and what we wanted was for the whole world to see what was happening and what happens with all these Cubans. We were a little more than forty Cubans who were in the detention center, we aren’t criminals and the only thing we were looking for was a window to freedom and I ask, please, that everyone who sees this video knows what is is real and help us so that one day we can see the freedom we so greatly desire.

Translated by – LYD and RST

13 September 2013

Stigmatized Youth / Amado Calixto Gammalame #Cuba

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Atty. Amado Calixto Gammalame

 

One of the problems that often confronts young people, although not exclusive to this segment of the population, is the social rejection to which men and women who have been sentenced for some crime are subjected.

It becomes evident in different ways, more commonly in the absence of job opportunities, a current problem for young people on a global scale. A requirement of the employment application is a certificate from the Central Registrar of Sentencing, which contains the criminal record of each individual, along with the police profile that Cuba keeps for every individual in the system, regardless of the resolution of a case. If it indicates that the applicant has been tried or sentenced for anything illicit, no matter how minor the crime, he is denied the job and forced to apply for “another job.” The economic crisis and the current social climate make this already critical problem worse.

I am of the opinion that, while the profiles used by authorities are necessary from a legal standpoint — as in criminal profiling, when even honesty forces one to acknowledge the technical and scientific backwardness from which we suffer in this area — “profiling” with respect to employment is an unacceptable practice, an affront and a lifelong label.

A letter sent to AJC by Maria Emilia provides an example. In it she asks for assistance to help her son re-enter society since, as she says in her own words, he has been subject to detentions and citations to explain his conduct in being involved with other delinquent youths, and I quote … “My son is 28 years old and went to prison when he was 17, not knowing other people I turn to young people who went through the long stay in prison with him, which I suppose are seen in the communal services where he worked when he got out of prison, there are no doctors working there or others of that type, if my son at only 17 was given such a severe sentence, it’s impossible that he would know other people without the Cuban state itself enabling him.”

A separate item requires the social recognition or lack of recognition young offenders coming out of prison receive when they arrive in the neighborhood, referring to the stigma they face, a product of the devaluation of the social aspects with which they are not welcomed and recognized with such defects or social attitudes.

These efforts to mitigate the adverse effects of isolation are laudable, but the remedy is always in our hands, mainly in the hands of young people themselves. Nobody will do for them what they do not want or can not do for themselves.

There are young people eager to move forward. Children and young people are the most precious treasure of our society. You have to give them a great deal of credit, whether they have been prosecuted, punished or not. The day the country eliminates this type of injustice, so bravely, creating, proposing and doing, the harmful consequences that this type of iniquity to this important sector of society will be eliminated

 Boston College CASA and RST

September 16 2012

Believe it or Not / Esperanza Rodriguez Bernal #Cuba

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Esperanza Rodríguez Bernal

As mentioned in previous works, the most common cases that come to the Law Association for help relate to the subject of housing.

It is interesting to note that most of the people that come to us for advice have already exhausted all other resources in search of a solution to their problem, and bring in documents with numerous letters addressed to different entities.

Thus, Ramon showed up at our headquarters very distressed because for approximately nine years he has been waiting for people who are living illegally in his house to leave.

To its credit, the resolution of the Municipal Housing Office for the municipality of Playa where in its First Resolve accedes to Roman’s interests and in consequence urges the occupants of said residence to abandon the property in 72 hours after the date of notification, otherwise they will be evicted with the help of the Revolutionary National Police (RNP).

In its own resolution, which notifies both parties, it is made known to them that against what the resolution itself provides, reclamation proceeds before the Chamber of the Civil and Administrative Popular Provincial Tribunal of the City of Havana (TPP).

Here is where the absurdity of absurdities begins for Ramon.  As expected the counterpart appealed to the TPP and as a result, it declared the counterpart’s pretext baseless.

Unhappy with the ruling of the TPP, the counterparty filed an Annulment Resource before the People’s Supreme Court, which upheld the TPP ruling.

Although Ramon has the judgment dated October 31, 2002 the TPP, which grants the right to occupy the property that is the subject of this litigation, the agency responsible for executing the same has ignored the ruling of the court of justice.

It is necessary here to clarify that all cases that come to our office with housing problems of this nature do not always have the same treatment: some, like the present case, can delay indefinitely eviction of the illegal occupants made, others however, at 72 hours, are unceremoniously evicted.

The obvious question then is, why in some cases are the resolutions quickly enforced in other cases with the same resolution it “sleeps the eternal sleeps”?

I tend to think that there is an “unknown” element involving either result in compliance with the judgments of the courts…although we find it hard to believe.

Translated by: Boston College CASA and RST

January 5 2013

Sovereignty and Independence / Fernando Dámaso

To defend the sovereignty and independence of the nation, has been turned into the basis of all the arbitrary and absurd bans that have oppressed the Cuban people for more than half a century. We forget that, for a country to be sovereign and independent, first each of its citizens must be so. José Martí raised this in the nineteenth century, although it was muted and, as with many of his approaches, somewhat uncomfortable for the national reality.

The current stagnation also relies on the same basis and attempts to frighten us with the loss of something that we really haven’t had for a long time. Allied for over thirty years to the former USSR (a fact endorsed in the original Socialist Constitution), bartering our sovereignty and independence for large subsidies, which allowed the survival of an inefficient and unproductive model. Then there was talk of brotherhood and social solidarity. Today, funded by Venezuela, history is repeating itself, now with Bolivarian and Latin American solidarity.

In a world always in transition, at a time when words meant something, and even were the cause of bloody wars, they have lost effect since the second half of the Twentieth Century. Now integration and globalization (despite their problems), generate the drawing together of countries and not their confinement behind old walls. The revolutionary is to get in tune with it and not cling to the outdated and already overcome by humanity.

To change attitudes, sedimented by years of inertia, is not easy. It takes will and a clear mind and being open to challenges and disappointments and being willing to sacrifice, and even to be misunderstood by many, but it is an inescapable necessity.

Today, at the beginning of the 21st Century, much has changed in the world, both materially and spiritually. I don’t consider it for the worse, as some doomsayers and sacrificers proclaim to the point of exhaustion. In our case, after losing so many years we, once and for all, just joined the countries marching in front, and have proven in practice, the correctness of its truths.

Translated by RST

May 5 2011

Signed in Havana / Iván García

The blog Desde La Habana is an adventure that today, January 28, is two years old. It has not been easy to get here. The idea of creating a blog came to me in the winter of 2006.

From the end of the 90s, I had been collaborating regularly with the online site of the Interamerican Press Society and the digital version of Encuentro de la Cultura Cubana, a project of the deceased Cuban writer Jesús Díaz that was launched in Madrid in 1996. Also with the Revista Hispano Cubana, funded in the spring of 1998 in the Spanish capital.

But there were difficulties for un-official journalism. In the spring of 2003, as is well known, Fidel Castro’s government unleashed a raid that put 75 dissidents in prison, among them 27 alternative communicators.

Between the fear that some late night the guys from State Security would knock on my door and arrest me without words, and the desire to try new paths, I decided to try my luck with other tools.

In an issue of Newsweek in Spanish I had read an incredible report about the blogger phenomenon. Just what I was looking for. An instrument where I would be writer and editor. But to make it a reality cost more than I’d hoped. I didn’t know the techniques to create a blog. Nor, at that time, were there public sites to connect to the Internet in Havana.

I didn’t lose faith. Three people signed on to the idea of my having my own blog. On March 25, 2007, my mother, Tania Quintero, an independent journalist and also a neophyte in the management of technology, Magia, and a Cuban living in Spain, opened a blog. Since November of 2003 Tania has lived in Switzerland as a political refugee. Her computer is old but it has 24/7 DSL.

Yoani Sánchez and Reinaldo Escobar were essential for enabling me to open my blog. Through a Swiss journalist I met the Sánchez-Escobar couple in December of 2004. On certain crisp and starry nights, in their apartment on the 14th floor, drinking Guayabita from Pinar del Rio and eating pizzas made by Yoani, several of us friends would talk about the state of things in Cuba.

And then Escobar, with his degree in journalism, had the idea for the magazine Consensus, he was thinking could be produced by our own effort. He invited me to write about sports, but I wanted something else.

Over the end of the year I continued visiting the couple now and again, and Yoani told me about the blog she had opened in April 2007. But it wasn’t until December of 2008, when Yoani lent me a hand. By this date in Havana one could navigate the Internet, paying a lot and in hard currency.

In my personal project, for the collaboration with me, I involved Luis Cino, in my opinion the best independent journalist on the island at that time, and Laritza Diversent, a recently graduated young lawyer. From Madrid my mother would write and from Madrid would come the stories of Raul Rivero published in El Mundo.

I remember going crazy managing a webmaster who charged $ 60 for designing a page layout and $ 5 extra every time he hung your posts. In a café in central Havana I met with Reinaldo and Yoani and they told me I didn’t have to spend a dime. On 28 January 2009 they were thinking of opening a platform they were thinking of calling Voces Cubanas — Cuban Voices.

I joined the party. To ease my ignorance in the management of a blog, they invited me to participate in an accelerated course that Sánchez offered twice a week in her house. I was in the first of six bloggers inaugurating Voces Cubanas.

For me, it was easy to write the posts. But I needed a person abroad to post them for me, because the rising cost of doing the task was unaffordable. Tania talked with Ernesto Hernandez Busto and he accepted. But the blog wasn’t going as I wished.

Starting on 1 January 2010, an extraordinary Portuguese friend, Carlos Moreira, despite having a lot of work, incredibly took on this function in his free hours. Like my mother, who spends up to eight hours a day in front of the Computer, revising texts, verifying dates, selecting photos and videos for the posts written in Havana that I send.

On 22 October 2009 I started to collaborate with the Spanish digital newspaper El Mundo/América. They pay me for my work and topped off with what my family sends with a million sacrifices, they help me to pa the 60 Cuban Convertible pesos I spend each month in Havana hotels to connect to the Internet.

I’ve had bitter moments. After cyber attacks against my blog and the disappearance of the archive with all the posts published in 2009, after I was thrown off Voces Cubanas without a convincing explanation.

Even today, the only argument I’ve been given as a cause for my exclusion as been articles critical of Guillermo Fariñas written by my mother (see the final note). I don’t share this argument. Personally I disagree with the form and content of some of the work written by Tania.

But at her 68 years, living in exile with more than thirty years of experience in journalism, first official and then dissident, she is completely within her right to publish what she thinks in my blog.

We talk enough about democracy and freedom of expression. A discourse in vogue. But in practice, we behave like bigots and censors. An basic evil we Cubans don’t manage to pull out at its roots. Neither those on the island nor those abroad.

I still don’t know if Voices Cubana threw me out because of my mother or if the one to blame is me. During the time I was a part of this platform I never had a serious incident with any blogger, to the point of spoiling the deal we kept. If I had enemies in this group, I didn’t know it.

If I’ve addressed this topic it is because many friends, Cubans and foreigners, have asked me and I don’t know what to say. The one who knows is Yoani.

I hope for an honest answer. I appreciate Yoani Sanchez, and more her husband, Reinaldo Escobar. I have nothing against Orlando Luis Pardo and Claudia Cadelo, two of the most active bloggers.

This adventure of creating a blog is marvelous, like raising a child. I have many material limitations and to top it off I can report enmities to you. But I don’t do journalism to please anyone. That’s the point.

Either way, 2011 appears promising to me. I have a ton of ideas to grow the blog in quality and content. For now, my posts from Havana will continue to appear on time.

*I took the title from a poem borrowed from Raul Rivero (Editorial Sibi, Miami 1996)

Photo: Stathis, Panoramio. Central Park in Havana where the principal statue dedicated to José Martí inHavana is found. The colonial style building is the Hotel Inglaterra, founded on 23 December 1875.

Translated by RST

January 27 2011

The Cachita of Central Havana / Iván García

In September, Havanans venerate three virgins: on September 7 the Regla virgin; the following day the Virgin of the Charity of Cobre, and the Merced virgin on the 24th. Regla and Charity are mixed race, and one of them, Our Lady of Charity of Cobre, is the Patron Saint of Cuba.

Rain or shine, Havanans gather on September 8 at the church that bears her name, a construction from the 19th century, painted white and yellow. For some time, a procession passes through the streets outside on this day.

The temple is located in Los Sitios, a neighborhood of poor, black, marginal people in Central Havana. It is a few miles around and from everywhere you can see overflowing trash containers, sewage running in torrents, and a frightening odor of shit that emerges from the cracked and filthy tenements.

The area is one of the most densely populated in the city. In miserable shacks, and high houses propped up on stilts with twisted iron balconies, innumerable families live crowded together, many consisting of “Palestinians,” citizens who come fleeing the extreme calamities of the Eastern provinces.

Almost all are living in Havana illegally. On the day of Cachita, as Cubans call their patron saint, the easterners carry the devotees in their bike-taxis. And they charge double. And they aren’t the only ones making a killing. One woman in dark glasses reads the cards for one convertible peso (less than a dollar). Other neighbors sell roasted peanuts, homemade candy, and bread with thin slices of ham and cheese.

With so many people crowded together the “choros” (pickpockets) take advantage of the least chance to grab a wallet from a pants pocket or a backpack, looking for money or anything of value. A black-haired young woman flies into a rage at an older man who for some time, according to her, had been pressing his penis into her ample buttocks. She threatens to call the police and the guy disappears.

The police, of course, flood the area around the church. The State Security agents keep their distance with their short hair, Motorola cell phones and Suzuki motorcycles.

Tourists usually show up with video cameras. A well-built black boy hugs his Spanish girlfriend. Hookers dressed in the latest styles try to make it inside the church to put a roll of coins on the altar.

The priest announces that the procession is starting. The figure of the virgin is taken out in a class case and mounted on a convertible car.

The crowd starts to move. Some are praying and some are drinking rum and beer. Others eat peanuts and chew gum. They take photos and record videos. Although perhaps only once in their lives, Cubans go to this church to pay tribute to Cachita. It doesn’t matter that her Havana temple is surrounded by poverty.

Fortunately, her real home, in the Cobre Sanctuary, in Santiago de Cuba, is located on a beautiful place surrounded by mountains.

Translated by RST

September 15, 2010