Translating Cuba http://translatingcuba.com English Translations of Cubans Writing From the Island Sat, 25 Jun 2016 08:00:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Everything Focused on Fidel’s Ninetieth! / Rebeca Monzo http://translatingcuba.com/everything-focused-on-fidels-ninetieth-rebeca-monzo/ Sat, 25 Jun 2016 08:00:31 +0000 http://translatingcuba.com/everything-focused-on-fidels-ninetieth-rebeca-monzo/ Continue reading "Everything Focused on Fidel’s Ninetieth! / Rebeca Monzo"]]> Rebeca Monzo, 24 June 2016 — This is not about the lottery or a charade. On the contrary, it’s about an absurd and unfortunate violent and viral “cult of personality” attack.

I remember in the early sixties when some government kiss-up had the idea of coming out with a postage stamp with the face of Fidel the guerrilla on it, and almost immediately, in a gesture I now consider meant to play well in the media, he was ordered to withdraw it.

But with the passing of time photos of the “maximum leader” appeared in public offices, workplaces, factories and schools. The media wrapped everything around his figure and the leader was turning a blind eye because apparently he was pleased by it. His ego was growing and growing.

Since January of this year, not a single day of the calendar has passed in which the printed press, radio and TV have failed to refer to the 90th birthday of the “eternal leader.”

Just to cite a few examples. At the National Council of the Workers’ Central Union of Cuba (CTC), in a country where there are so many and diverse labor problems that affect workers, the CTC considered one of the most important tasks of the labor union movement to to pay homage of the indisputable leader of the Revolution on his 90th birthday.

In another example, forestry workers celebrated the day set aside for them by planting ninety cedars as a sign of respect for Fidel’s “ideas and legacy.”

Even the “renewed” La Rampa Fair, in its 17th edition, will be dedicated to the leader’s 90th birthday.

This is happening in all the cultural, political and labor spheres in our country, because the top leadership demands and prioritizing all this “North Korean Style” tribute, to this 90th birthday that will be celebrated this August 13th.

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Total Addiction to Power / Fernando Dámaso http://translatingcuba.com/total-addiction-to-power-fernando-dmaso/ Fri, 24 Jun 2016 11:06:23 +0000 http://translatingcuba.com/total-addiction-to-power-fernando-dmaso/ Continue reading "Total Addiction to Power / Fernando Dámaso"]]>

Fernando Damaso, 22 June 2016 — Some years ago the Latin American left abandoned the guerrilla struggle as the main way to gain power, choosing to use, instead, the existing democratic institutions and mechanisms in their respective countries.

The problem presents itself when, through these same institutions and mechanisms, they must leave power. Then we see the machinations begin, the changing of constitutions, the setting aside of democratic institutions, abuses of power and other aberrations of a totalitarian character. The examples are endless.

In Argentina, since the opposition with Macri at the helm won the elections, former president Cristina Fernandez and her adepts have tried every possible way to make it difficult for them to exercise power.

In Venezuela, when the Chavistas lost their majority in the National Assembly, they started and still continue a process of disavowing the work of the Assembly, even going to the extreme of creating an unconstitutional monstrosity they call “the Congress of the Country,” which includes ignoring the call for a mid-term referendum.

The Chavistas are violating all democratic laws, documents and regulations, and continue to protest and even receive support from their external minions when they make a call to order.

In Bolivia, the self-styled “first indigenous president” tries to hold another referendum, ignoring the results of the previous one, so that he can be re-elected in perpetuity.

In Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega is again nominated for president for the November elections.

In Brazil, the offensive against the government that replaced Dilma Rousseff has not ceased and now, as it that weren’t enough, former president Lula de Silva reappears, wanting to present himself as a candidate for president in 2018.

The left, when it gets a taste of “the honey of power,” becomes totally addicted. They must be urged to find an effective treatment to avoid this.

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Remittances To Cuba A Record $3.3+ Billion in 2015 / EFE, 14ymedio http://translatingcuba.com/remittances-to-cuba-a-record-3-3-billion-in-2015-efe-14ymedio/ Fri, 24 Jun 2016 00:20:57 +0000 http://translatingcuba.com/?p=48196 Continue reading "Remittances To Cuba A Record $3.3+ Billion in 2015 / EFE, 14ymedio"]]> As of this spring, Western Union is sending remittances from the US to Cuba (Business Wire)
As of this spring, Western Union is sending remittances from the US to Cuba (Business Wire)

EFE (via 14ymedio), 23 June 2016 – The sending of remittances – money primarily from family and friends to Cubans on the island – has experienced the “most dynamic growth” in Latin America, with a record 3.354 billion dollars sent in 2015, according to the Havana Consulting Group.

Between 2008 and 2015, remittances to Cuba grew by 1.907 billion dollars, an annual average increase of 238 million dollars, “an event without precedent in the Cuban market where remittances to the island officially began in 1993,” according to Emilio Morales, the president of the group based in Miami.

Morales attributed much of the growth to the easing of “restrictions and limitations” on the sending of remittances, especially that stemming from the “rapprochement” between Cuba and the United States, under the leadership of US President Barack Obama.

Another factor in the change has been the “huge increase” in travel between the US and Cuba; in 2015 a total of 538,433 Cubans and Cuban-Americans made round trips between the United States and Island, or vice versa, an increase of 328% over 2007.

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Venezuela and the Years of Fidel Castro’s Hysteria / Iván García http://translatingcuba.com/venezuela-and-the-years-of-fidel-castros-hysteria-ivn-garca/ Thu, 23 Jun 2016 10:06:56 +0000 http://translatingcuba.com/venezuela-and-the-years-of-fidel-castros-hysteria-ivn-garca/ Continue reading "Venezuela and the Years of Fidel Castro’s Hysteria / Iván García"]]> Caricature from the Mexican caricaturist Fernando Llera, taken from his blog.
Caricature from the Mexican caricaturist Fernando Llera, taken from his blog.

Ivan Garcia, 16 June 2016 — It was a winter morning in 1978. The director of Antonio Maceo secondary school — housed in the old Teachers’ Normal School in the Havana burough of Cerro — announced in melodramatic tones that students at the campus must prepare for an imminent attack by the United States.

His harangue went, more or less, something like this: “The imperialist enemy never ceases in its efforts to prevent us from building socialism and practicing proletarian internationalism with our brothers in Africa. Therefore, we must be prepared to defend the victories of the Revolution. Everyone, from the young to the old, must know how to fire a gun.”

I was twelve years old and in the seventh grade. The first time that I practiced tactical military strategy with an AKM assault rifle was in the park adjacent to the school.

Two years earlier, on October 6, 1976, the principal of my school — named for Romualdo de la Cuesta and also in Cerro — openly wept as she decried the “criminal attack on an airliner en route from Barbados in which seventy-three innocent passengers, among them fifty-seven Cubans, perished due to fascist Cuban criminals based in the United States.”

Before I had learned how to add, understood the value of the family or fully appreciated the martyrs of the war for independence, I was given the task of reading aloud in class a paragraph which, among other things, emphasized Fidel’s importance in the lives of Cuban children.

Political drama was ever-present in my student years. On October 26, 1983, a day after “the invasion of Granada by Yankee troops,” loudspeakers at the René O’Reiné university preparatory school — the former Vibora Secondary School — blared a news bulletin from an emotional radio announcer notifying us that “the last Cubans who remained alive had wrapped themselves in the flag and continued fighting against the Yankee invaders.”

It all turned out to be a blatant lie. When I was in the military, we were regularly confined to barracks in anticipation of “inevitable imperialist American aggression against Cuba.”

From the early hours of the morning, hundreds of recruits built bomb shelters in preparation for war. I have a hard time remembering any point in my life which did not involve Yankee imperialism and its threats of war, the achievements of the Revolution or the wise leadership of Fidel Castro.

Everything was embellished with the literature of Soviet realism such as No One Is Born a Soldier, August 1944 and Men of Panfilov, along with slogans, loyalty to the revolution and its leader, daily shortages, the ration book and repeated power outages.

An autocratic Raul Castro has abandoned the trenches and toned down the hysteria, though every once in awhile nostalgic fanatics give indications of a return to the past.

Every time I hear a speech by the boorish Nicolas Maduro, I remember that period of my youth when the military government manipulated us like puppets.

A feeling of déjà vu (as the French would say) is unavoidable. Today, Venezuela is the mother of all crises — social, economic and political — and Caracas has become a dangerous slaughterhouse.

Murders, kidnappings and widespread violence have transformed the South American country into a time bomb. As though that were not enough, the scarcity of medicine, food and electricity, in a nation with more oil reserves than any country on earth, as well as the polarization of society and the toxic rhetoric of the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) threatens to destroy social cohesion.

Maduro is a reckless guy driving the country off a cliff. Inflation is out of control, hard currency reserves are depleted, everything is in short supply and the presence of armed militias which function like Praetorian guards could be the genesis of a civil war.

Maduro’s governmental mismanagement now threatens to destroy Chavezism as a political movement. The only option is for him to resign. He has no other choice. But as his mentors in Havana have decreed, “a revolutionary does not lay down arms.”

The silent colonization of Venezuela is the crowning achievement of Fidel Castro’s political strategy. By dint of ideology and without firing a shot, he conquered a country with a population, natural resources and a GDP three times the size of those of the island of Cuba.

It involved using tools that ranged from voter rolls, ID cards and passports to Santeria rituals and intelligence gathering methods.

The bigwigs in the Palace of the Revolution have asked their cohorts in the PSUV to hold on as they negotiate a way out of their systemic crisis with the “Yankee enemy” across the street.

During a recent visit to Caracas, Cuban chancellor Bruno Rodriguez said that the “Bolivarian Revolution,” founded by Venezuela’s late president Hugo Chavez, “can always and in under any circumstances count on the loyalty and presence of Cuba in its battles.”

The only enemy these authoritarian systems have is their own inability to generate prosperity. The rest is a story for suckers. Poor Venezuela.

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Cubans And Foreigners Competing For Hotel Rooms / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata http://translatingcuba.com/cubans-and-foreigners-competing-for-hotel-rooms-14ymedio-zunilda-mata/ Thu, 23 Jun 2016 08:00:47 +0000 http://translatingcuba.com/?p=48187 Continue reading "Cubans And Foreigners Competing For Hotel Rooms / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata"]]> It is estimated that domestic tourism will grow by 13.8% this year compared to 2015. (14ymedio)
It is estimated that domestic tourism will grow by 13.8% this year compared to 2015. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 20 June 2016 — With the arrival of summer on Monday, Cubans are obsessed with getting an “all-inclusive” package tour to enjoy the school holidays. However, domestic demand is affected by the simultaneous growth of foreign tourism — up 11.9% since January — and the insufficient number of hotel rooms.

Since 2008, when Cubans were granted the previously denied permission to book rooms in hotels, domestic tourism has seen a sharp increase and is estimated to grow by 13.8% this year compared to 2015. The island currently has about 61,200 rooms in about 300 hotels. The Ministry of Tourism plans to add some 3,790 new rooms and repair 5,677 others, by December.

The tension between the capacity dedicated to international tourism and those marketed to Cubans is considered the main cause of rising prices in options for Cubans living on the island, especially the all-inclusive packages.

“We have been saving for a year and in the end had to borrow money because the prices have gone up,” complained one customer in the Cubatur offices at the Habana Libre hotel. “They’ve told us that all the facilities on the northern keys are reserved and there is no room,” said the buyer.

A tour of several agencies in Havana confirmed that the prices of many tourist packages have risen between 8% and 15% in one year. The Islazul agency, one of the busiest among nationals due to its economic rates, also increased some prices, especially those of multi-room houses on the beach.

“It’s nothing new, every summer prices go up as demand increases,” an employee of the chain justified by phone from her office in Cienfuegos. She said that there has not been a significant increases in prices, but that now there is less availability and the cheaper deals sell out early.

The employee said that “the most sought after options by domestic clients are accommodations along the coasts and keys, although there is also high demand for those that include a nature trail or historic points of interest.”

Sources in the tourism sector warned this newspaper that as of the 1st of July package deals in Cuba will be even more expensive, with costs increasing up to 50% in some cases.

The deficit in rooms, which has become more acute since the beginning of this year, benefits private facilities in tourist areas, as is the case with the Yeli Boom guesthouse at Guanabo beach to the east of Havana. With a swimming pool and two minutes from the sea, the place initially focused on foreign tourists, but has gradually included domestic clients.

“I reserved a place for 70 Cuban convertible pesos [about the same in dollars] a night, because my son is coming from Barcelona to spend some days with the family and I couldn’t’ find another place that is that close to the sea and decent,” commented Maria Josefa, a retired teacher. She ruled out houses at Playas del Este that are state-managed because “they have very bad conditions, when the sink isn’t broken the mattress is bad.”

“My only regret is that in these private homes it’s not all-inclusive, because it’s really convenient not to have deal with the food,” added the lady. “It’s a matter of time before these places that already have such good conditions get a handle on this, when they allow you an open bar.”

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Assassins, Accomplices and Victims / Ángel Santiesteban http://translatingcuba.com/assassins-accomplices-and-victims-angel-santiesteban/ Thu, 23 Jun 2016 00:06:59 +0000 http://translatingcuba.com/assassins-accomplices-and-victims-angel-santiesteban/ Continue reading "Assassins, Accomplices and Victims / Ángel Santiesteban"]]>

14 May 2016 — We are now looking at another anniversary of the execution of the young men who, in 2003, tried to hijack the Regla ferryboat and were shot by the dictatorship. As is well known, it was one of the most vile assassinations of the so-called “Cuban Revolution, on an extensive list that has grown in their five decades of totalitarianism. It claimed the lives of a group of defenseless young men who only longed to reach a horizon that would offer them lives of dignity.

They were executed, despite the deception in the negotiations with the responsible authorities, who assured them that if they surrendered absolute nothing would happen to them, especially because they had done nothing to harm any of the passengers on the ferry. After a summary trial they were shot. This is story in its briefest version.

I remember, among the first posts on this blog, I express that it would be a shame for anyone — especially if it was a renowned intellectual, in this case a good poet — to stain their hands with innocent blood. I said when, the person who writes this posts, wasn’t persecuted by the political police, or at least not in a way as obvious as they would later later.

The writer in question was Roberto Fernandez Retamar, who was then a member of the Council of State, and who had to confirm the sentence of death, making his name an embodiment of that execution because this is what the laws of the regime required.

I said at that time — and I still hold to it — that he needn’t have dirtied his hands with blood, when he did his duty with ink. I argued them that Retamar had also been sacrificed by the dictatorship; that it was a way of forcing him to become a part of the crime, so that later he would keep his mouth shut.

I did not want to consort with assassins

We know intellectuals who have sold their souls to the devil. This is the case with Retamar. And perhaps those who read that first post didn’t know that I was expressing my criticisms with pain, because he once told me that, years ago, he inherited the friendships of his daughters, and that he considered me his friend. But, once I published in my blog what I thought about it, I was crossed off the list of those “welcomed” to his family parties, which I accepted with pride because I did not want to consort with murderers.

In turn, when the Cuban Writers and Artists Union (UNEAC) began to collect signatures in support of the executions as often happens with these so-called “officialistas,” many, almost the majority, stamped their names on that cowardly document, although later, in my living room, they said they didn’t want to sign, but that fear of “the lessons of those instruments” (the way that “intellectuals” refer in silence to official repression), induced them to betray their thinking, their true beliefs.

Refusing to put your signature in support of such a sadistic crimes was, for them, similar to suicide. For my part, it’s obvious, when I got the respective call from the Writers Association soliciting my signature, I said I refuse and I remember that the functionary listened in total silence to my contempt of the dictatorship, certain to inform on it later; or, at least, not to get involved in my diatribe in case it should be overheard.

We all know Laidi Fernandez de Juan, we know she idolizes her father, as good children do, of course, and in this case, starting from the post I published criticizing her father, she started from her officialista pinnacle an implacable persecution against me. She forgot about the surprise birthday party she held for me, about her love letters via Cubarte email — before they closed my account — her dedications in the books in which she extolled me as “one of the few gentlemen I know,” among other boasts that, “I don’t want to say, as a man, the things she told me. The light of understanding make me very restrained,” when she wanted me to take her to the river.

The truth is that, like the vulgar lady she embodies today — and those who know me will agree because they know she smokes, drinks and swears like a mule driver — as she has always climbed the rungs of power and take advantage, she started her work of satrapy against me, in collusion with State Security, Abel Prieto and Retamar, who were on the hunt for me and waiting for the perfect moment.

They wanted more blood, mine — I read somewhere that, once they taste it they suffer from vampire syndrome, and I imagine Retamar reveling in mine. But far beyond anything in my imagination, this absurd process always calls to me the accusations and persecutions against Hannah Arendt, when she questioned the role of the “Jewish Councils” in the holocaust. And, as I said, Laidi Fernandez began scheming against me. And, along with her, even friends and acquaintances, fearful, because in order to save their own backs they had to court the regime and were capable of denouncing their own mothers.

 A cynical act of the “Ladies of UNEAC”

A few days after the dictatorship sent me to prison, they had already planned “A Meeting Against Gender Violence,” which located at the best place in the script: once the Havana International Book Fair and the foreigners left, they cited me to go to prison, and at that very moment, when the international protest against my imprisonment, these “Ladies of UNEAC,” as they called themselves, were collecting signatures to support this injustice perpetrated by the regime.

The Retamar clan, as I denounced on previous occasions, was the great promulgator of that collection of signatures against me. The old man, instigated it on the grounds of the Casa de las Americas, where he serves as director-for-life — which he has to pay for by getting his hands dirty, as well as by emulating the Castros, as if it were a bet on who is going to last longer in power. It is also know that this cultural institution was used to convince some foreign intellectuals, who indeed were fooled and joined them on that unjust campaign, despite a complete proof of my innocence was on the internet (posted on my blog and on hundreds of web and social media sites).

And there was also, sad to say, people who signed without knowing anything about the matter, and following blindly officialdom’s rumor, which in reality had to silence my voice at any political cost after the two Open Letters I wrote to the dictator Raul Castro, and my public actions in defense of human rights and freedoms that we should have as established in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

These “Ladies” were women who had never condemned the savage beatings the repressive organs of the dictatorship inflict on the Ladies in White, but the worst is that neither did they defend Ana Luisa Rubio, when she was savagely beaten and the photos of her disfigured face were shown on all of the world’s web, including in Cuba; they were not even moved by her being a member of the guild, being a popular and well-known actress. They maintained their silence in a shameful act of cynicism, becuase for them the abuses of the government ar not violations. They only work when the dictatorship gives them the green light, like animals trained to pounce on receiving the order to attack.

Papa Retamar’s deceptions

The fears of the old wolf are publicly known when Fidel Castro sends for him to come to the palace. They say that Retamar got a stomach ache. It was not for nothing, surely fearful that the tyrant had decided to inflict some punishment. I am sure that life and history will give an account of the poet, above all of his cowardice, which is a great sickness; the same sickness of those who ally themselves with power to save their backsides.

Someone told me a few days ago that they had scene Laidi Fernandez in the street and that a certain evil is already reflected in her face, to the point of looking like a witch. That, I am sure, is the devastating result of the weight of her conscience, if she has one, for all the dirty plans that are cooked up in her house.

It could also be a consequence of being known as an inflated writer, invented, because she has won literary prizes that just show the pressure of her father on the judges. It is publicly well-known by the writers’ guild. And all those who have participated with her in these contests, put up with it, although they prefer to shut up because it would be confronting the full power of that last name and officialdom that represent and exercise it. In addition to the pressure of her father so that his Laidi was accepted in the Cuban cultural media, to officialdom the cowardice carried in the blood is convenient, because it would infer it would be one more ally for his dastardly acts, as effectively she has been. But if she has any talent it is to get herself extra perks, jumping from one functionary’s bed to another’s, standing with any person in power if this power is interested in her self-promotion.

Retamarismos, but this time not of blood, but excreta.

I know a compelling anecdote, told in the first person. Someone who still works in the Casa de las Americas did an anthology of women who wrote stories. And, when the news broke, he was called into Retamar’s office. The critic, without knowing what the summons was about, rushed over anyway because he was his boss and he was received by the secretary. Just seconds later, intrigued, she faced the Director.

“I’ve been told,” said Retamar, “that you are preparing an anthology of women writers.”

The man nodded his head, in confirmation, still surprised, because he didn’t have the least idea of the interest of his boss.

“I’ve also been told that that you didn’t choose any story by Laidi,” he said, with a certain suspicion. “Instead you selected a story by the writer Mylene Fernandez,” and he looked at him arrogantly, “they are very good friends, you know?”

The anthologist didn’t understand what was happening. In fact, he didn’t know who “Laidi” was, who Retamar mentioned, because keep in mind at the beginning of her “literary career” she used her real name: Adelaida.

“So that my daughter won’t suffer any inconvenience,” Retamar let him know with great authority, “you should substitute a story by her for Mylene’s… and I assure you, they are very good friends as I already said.”

The anthologist told me that a question immediately came to mind, silently: in what conditions would he continue his interest to keep working at the Casa de las Americas? And he responded that there was only one path left, replace the story or step down from the organization.

Everything ended with a nod and he left. And so it was that the story by Laidi Ferandez appeared in that anthology.

But this is just one of the many maneuvers of Papa Retamar to get his daughter recognized. Nor does anyone forget what happened in the David contest and the disgust among the participants, when in reality the prize, according to the quality of the book, should have been won by Michel Perdomo, who later discovered that his book hadn’t even been read by the panel, friends of the old poet. This time, fortunately, they didn’t give in to the cheating to support Laidi.

The silence of the lambs

The old poet wasn’t able to protest in front of the other members of the Council of State, to which he belonged, and did not refuse to put his signature of the death warrant of those young men who deserved to live, who were the children of other mothers and fathers who then experienced and suffered that unspeakably horrible act. Thus he tarnished his image for posterity. In particular, I don’t believe that some good verses erase the color of blood.

We can’t forget that when some vandals attacked her son in the Vedado neighborhood where they live, Laidi forgot the ties of interest that connect her to the dictatorship and jumped like a wolf, writing a declaration attacking the system the let the public know that her blood is untouchable. As is common, people support totalitarianism as long as it doesn’t injure them directly, not caring if others are hurt. But then, two days later, when she had calmed down and reread it, because the functionaries she knew well had been talking about her bad decision to criticize the state, she rewrote the text to soften it, and it was republished with the new version.

This is the quality of my enemies. These are the tyranny’s bloodhounds who are after me. Base people who don’t love themselves who are pressured to hurt me. Just to express my embarrassment for his sake for Retamar’s poetry, with the guilt on his hands and his soul, of young and innocent blood.

Related post: Signatories Forever, Unredeemed Brownnosers

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Latin America in the Mirror of ‘Brexit’ / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez http://translatingcuba.com/latin-america-in-the-mirror-of-brexit-14ymedio-yoani-sanchez/ Wed, 22 Jun 2016 17:02:17 +0000 http://translatingcuba.com/?p=48175 Continue reading "Latin America in the Mirror of ‘Brexit’ / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez"]]> A demonstration against the costs of the Mercosur Summit in 2014. (Digital Analysis)
A demonstration against the costs of the Mercosur Summit in 2014. (Digital Analysis)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 22 June 2016 — Rupture can only be possible if there was once an agreement, a relationship or love. In the eyes of Latin America, Brexit seems like the story of a mature friend embroiled in the bitter litigation of a divorce, provoking a certain envy in those who have never managed to mate. In this world, while some arrange their departure from an alliance, others yearn for the marriage of an agreement.

When the British vote this Thursday on a referendum to decide whether the United Kingdom will remain in or leave the European Union, the major impact of in Latin America should be a reflection on unitary structures, their reason for being and their fragility. On a continent where, in recent years, there have been innumerable groups, alliances and regional councils, each one more ineffective than the last, comparisons are inevitable.

The dozens of entities and coalitions, whose initials, logos and premises surround us everywhere in Latin America, pompously hold inaugural summits with family photos filled with heads of state, but in practice and in real life they are of very little use. Latin America has not even achieved full freedom of movement for its citizens within its own borders, a theme that takes on a seriousness in the face of the strict requirements Cubans need to meet to visit neighboring countries.

The history of the political community called the European Union, even if one of its parties chooses to leave this week, is that of the hard road of conciliation, the journey of dialog with all its obstacles and its search for points in common. Why haven’t Latin Americans extended an embrace in our area to create a legal framework that facilitates easier migration, investment and exchanges for our inhabitants?

Few areas on this planet show so many linguistic, cultural and historical similarities as that found between the Rio Grande and Patagonia. These similarities make the fragmentation exhibited in so many regulations increasingly incomprehensible, in an area where many governments have chosen to join in their “little groups” based more on ideological affinities than on their responsibilities to their peoples.

The reason for so much disunity – contrary to the common points of our identity that work to bind us together – are a sign of the egotism of the executives and the shortsightedness of the foreign ministries.

The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), created to emulate the Organization of American States (OAS) while leaving out the “uncomfortable” United States and Canada, does not advance beyond symbolic statements. At its last meeting in Ecuador, held in January, its most “concrete” achievement was to express support for the states participating in the Colombia peace process and to congratulate the government of Juan Manuel Santos. After long organization and with the concurrence of the delegates from the 33 member countries, the intergovernmental organization didn’t move beyond paraphernalia to results and was incapable of taking on and proposing solutions to the great challenges of the continent.

Even worse has been the outcome of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), inflated by the temperament of a populist politician who thought he could redesign his country and go on to define the contours of the map of Latin America. With the death of former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, this regional entity, defined by ideological exclusion and political commitment in exchange for oil, is like a pricked balloon: it has deflated.

Even the Central American Integration System (SICA) demonstrated its ineffectiveness during the Cuban migrant crisis which, in late 2015, raised the political temperature on the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Tension over the unilateral decision of Daniel Ortega to close his border to Cubans caused Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis to declare that “Costa Rica can not participate in these conditions in an Integration System that ignores solidarity.”

Mercosur, the alliance the has come closest to achieving the free movement of goods and services between its member states, is also faltering because it became too incestuous and too dependent on Brazil’s Planalto Palace, from which President Dilma Rousseff, one of its principal supporters, has departed as of a few weeks ago, in the midst of process in which she is accused of trying to disguise the country’s budget deficit.

Amid the rubble of so many failed organisms and so many acronyms condemned to the dustbin of history, the Pacific Alliance, comprising Chile, Mexico, Peru and Colombia, has chosen to “make it on their own” in a region where agreements are here today and gone tomorrow and organized groups bear more resemblance to gangs than to functional entities.

This Thursday, when the British decide to leave or remain in the European Union, at least they will have known the taste of coexistence, the bittersweet contrast that defines every marriage. We in Latin America remain chronically single, looking enviously toward the altar.

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Don’t Miss Diario de Cuba’s English Version! http://translatingcuba.com/dont-miss-diario-de-cubas-english-version/ Wed, 22 Jun 2016 00:16:44 +0000 http://translatingcuba.com/?p=48169 Click on image to get to English edition of Diario de Cuba.
Click on image to get to English edition of Diario de Cuba.

Diario de Cuba has been around for a long time, and now there is a version with translations of many its articles into English. It is a great source for news about the island from the island.

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The Goytisolo Palace, A Jewel Of Cienfuegos About To Disappear / 14ymedio, Caridad Cruz http://translatingcuba.com/the-goytisolo-palace-a-jewel-of-cienfuegos-about-to-disappear-14ymedio-caridad-cruz/ Tue, 21 Jun 2016 23:02:43 +0000 http://translatingcuba.com/?p=48166 Continue reading "The Goytisolo Palace, A Jewel Of Cienfuegos About To Disappear / 14ymedio, Caridad Cruz"]]> The Goytisolo Palace, also known as La Catalana, in Ciefuegos
The Goytisolo Palace, also known as La Catalana, in Ciefuegos

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Caridad Cruz, Cienfuegos, 19 June 2016 — One of the greatest treasures of Cienfuegos, the Goytisolo Palace, lies in ruins amid official apathy to the rescue of this emblematic building in a city declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2005.

Declared a local monument, the Goytisolo Palace, or La Catalana as it is also known, was built by Agustín Goytisolo Lezazarburu, a Biscayan born in 1812 who came to Cuba in search of opportunities in the 1830s.

Known for his reputation as a skilled tradesman, by 1870 he had become a wealthy businessman with hundreds of slaves, the owner of sugar plantations in Hacienda Simpatía as well as the sugar mills of Lequeito and St. Augustine.

By 1847, just 28 years after the founding of Fernandina village of Jagua, now known as Cienfuegos, the Goytisolo family acquired a site on Santa Elena Street at the corner of D’Clouet, for the construction of the building, which it was concluded in 1858.

It was considered an example of the Baroque style and one of the most important house-warehouse buildings of the nineteenth century. At 68 by 123 feet, it had a basement and central courtyard. Among the architectural elements that could be found in the building was an exquisite gate facing Santa Elena Street which appears to have been the coach entrance.

It had stained glass windows on the first floor and in the back, apparently for the warehouse. It also had richly decorated beams, and on the second floor Malaga tiles and Bremen mosaics, bricks and ornate marble intarsia.

Nothing remains of the former splendor. The palace has become an empty shell languishing since it was declared uninhabitable in 2005. The Revolution converted it into multifamily housing. One of these “rooming houses,” in which a house “abandoned” by its owner, fleeing the new economic system, was partitioned into small apartments where dozens of people cohabited.

After the indiscriminate theft of what was an exquisite nineteenth-century building, only ruins remain. Neighbors took the marble floors, and cut and resold the railings. Even the bricks, extracted at the tip of a sacrilegious chisel, were sold. Carpentry was supplied by the beams of the mezzanine.

Local authorities have argued for the demolition of the building, but the Office of the Curator of the City opposed it. In 2012, a part of the wall and the windows of the building collapsed. Since then, the countdown to its total destruction has begun.

Declaring the site a Local Monument is worthless. La Catalana has become a constant concern of scholars of local history who know that not undertaking any restoration sends a dangerous message to the preservation of the heritage of the nation. Nothing can withstand the indiscriminate passage of time and the apathy of the rulers.

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Cooling Off / 14ymedio, Luzbely Escobar http://translatingcuba.com/cooling-off-14ymedio-luzbely-escobar/ Tue, 21 Jun 2016 21:30:13 +0000 http://translatingcuba.com/?p=48163 Continue reading "Cooling Off / 14ymedio, Luzbely Escobar"]]> Boys bathing in the rain in Havana. (14ymedio)
Boys bathing in the rain in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luzbely Escobar, Havana, 21 June 2016 — With the coming of summer the evening downpours are back. Almost daily, in the evening, the sky is loaded with black clouds about to burst. Sometimes we get the “deluge” and sometimes not. When it happens, invariably the boys in the neighborhood come out together to have fun in the rain.

Most of the students in the country are on vacation in these weeks, and don’t miss an opportunity to play soccer or baseball on any corner. When the downpour comes, instead of trying to find shelter under a roof, they walk the streets looking for puddles to splash in and enjoying everything falling from the sky.

The heat of recent weeks has been very intense, a bath in the cool rain in the afternoon fits these young people like a soft glove. However, for those coming from work it becomes a headache to return home after the workday.

This year is competing with 2015, which was classified as the warmest of the last six decades. In different localities, the thermometers have reached figures greater than 99F, as was the case in the village of Velazco, where the temperature reached almost 102F.

This historical average, which was 77.9 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Climate Center of the Meteorology Institute, was surpassed last year at 1.8 degrees. The phenomenon is related to El Niño, along with the process of global warming.

These late afternoon rains do not occur only in the capital. Yesterday’s rainfall record occurred in Manzanillo, a municipality in the east. This area has been affected in recent months by a severe drought, so any rain is very well received, by both residents and reservoirs.

While the more conservative remain indoors, looking to mitigate the effects of the dog days of summer with the air of a fan or a refreshing drink, the more daring take advantage of the downpours to counter the high temperatures.

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Nespresso Will Be The First Company To Export Cuban Coffee To The US / 14ymedio http://translatingcuba.com/nespresso-will-be-the-first-company-to-export-cuban-coffee-to-the-us-14ymedio/ Tue, 21 Jun 2016 21:00:39 +0000 http://translatingcuba.com/?p=48158 Continue reading "Nespresso Will Be The First Company To Export Cuban Coffee To The US / 14ymedio"]]> A farmer selects ripe coffee. (EFE)
A farmer selects ripe coffee. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio (With agency information), Havana, 20 June 2016 — The Cuban coffee will again be exported to the US after more than 50 years. Nespresso, of the Nestlé group, will be the first company to do so, as reported Monday by the Reuters agency.

Cuban coffee is one of the products of the island’s non-state that the US State Department authorized for import this April. Cuba’s National Bureau of the National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP) rejected the measure and charged that it was an attempt to influence Cuban peasants and separate them from the state, saying that it “cannot be permitted, because it would destroy a Revolutionary process that has provided participatory democracy, freedom, sovereignty and independence.”

Nespresso said Monday that the US market launch of Cuban Cafecito will occur in the fall of this year, although initially the product will be available in limited quantities.

The president of Nepresso USA, Guillaume Le Cunff, explained the firm will work with the nonprofit organization TechnoServe to support independent coffee growers on the island.

“We want consumers in the US try this amazing coffee and enjoy it now and in the coming years,” he added.

Starbucks Corp, one of Nespresso’s main competitors in the US market, told Reuters that at present it has no plans to import coffee from Cuba.

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The Crisis Hits Cuban Doctors In Venezuela / 14ymedio, Mario Penton http://translatingcuba.com/the-crisis-hits-cuban-doctors-in-venezuela-14ymedio-mario-penton/ Tue, 21 Jun 2016 20:00:44 +0000 http://translatingcuba.com/?p=48154 Continue reading "The Crisis Hits Cuban Doctors In Venezuela / 14ymedio, Mario Penton"]]> The island earns more than 8.2 billion dollars from the "export of health services." (EFE)
The island earns more than 8.2 billion dollars from the “export of health services.” (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miami, Mario Penton, 21 June 2016 — Tania Tamara Rodríguez never thought of fleeing the Cuban medical mission in Venezuela and become a “defector” who is prohibited from entering her own country for eight years. The plight of the island’s health professionals in Venezuela has led an increasing number to seek refuge in neighboring countries or to take alternative work to meet their needs in the midst of the economic crisis in that “Bolivarian” nation.

“The situation of doctors and aid workers Cubans is terrible. The whole time you are living under the threat that they send you back to Cuba and you lose your mission. You’re afraid they’ll take away all the money – which is in official accounts in Cuba – and if they take some disciplinary measure they will revoke the mission,” says Rodriguez. While working in a clinic lab in the “Barrio Adentro” mission, her salary of 700 Cuban pesos (about $26 US) is deposited in Cuba and she has the right to an account of 280 dollars a month and a card giving her 25% off on purchases at Foreign Exchange Collection Stores (TDRs) in Cuba.

In 2014, recognizing that the island earned more than 8.2 billion dollars from the “export of health services, the Cuban government agreed to increase the wages of workers in the sector (to $61 US per month). However, this increase, which came after the dismissal of 109,000 workers, has not raised the pay of Cuban doctors to the average pay for doctors internationally.

In 2014, recognizing that the island earned more than 8.2 billion dollars from the “export of health services, the Cuban government agreed to increase the wages of workers in the sector

Rodriguez arrived in Venezuela from her hometown of Holguin, where she worked in the Máximo Gómez Báez polyclinic after earning a degree in Clinical Laboratory. The desire to economically improve the lives of her 13-year-old daughter led her to choose to travel outside the country in one of the coveted medical missions abroad.

Cuba maintains a “contingent” in Venezuela composed of 28,811 health collaborators, a priority for the government which, since the late Hugo Chavez came to power in 1999, has invested over 250 billion in the industry, according to statements by President Nicolas Maduro .

The scheme of paying for medical services with oil has been denounced on numerous occasions by analysts critical of the Caracas government, who accuse it of being a cover for subsidies to Havana, which eventually resells some of the oil on the international market.

Rodriguez has no family in the United States, where she has lived since filing for a visa through the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program, offered by the US embassy, and has combined several jobs to raise the money and buy a plane ticket for her daughter. However, when the family took the child to the offices of Cuba’s Interior Ministry to request a passport, she was denied that right, based on the claim that her mother “is serving a mission in Venezuela.”

“I can not understand how in Cuba I can be considered as a doctor on mission, if for more than one year I have been in the United States. Someone has to be collecting the money that the Venezuelan government is paying for me,” says Rodriguez.

According the US Citizenship and Immigration Service, in the last fiscal year it received 2,552 petitions for the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program

According the US Citizenship and Immigration Service, in the last fiscal year it received 2,552 petitions for the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program, an initiative established under Republican president George W. Bush, which allows a “medical professional currently conscripted to study or work in a third country under the direction of the Government of Cuba” to enter the United States with a visa. Since taking effect in 2006, more than 8,000 professionals have benefited from the program.

Solidarity Without Borders, an non-profit located in the United States, told 14ymedio that in recent years there has been an increase in doctors and healthcare workers taking advantage of the US government program, although not all are accepted, as demonstrated by the 367 applications denied in the last year.

Rodriguez said that upon reaching Venezuela she was assigned to the state of Falcon, along with other Cubans. “Everything in Venezuela is a lie. They forced us to throw out the reagent CKMB, a product in short supply in the nation, but we had to throw it out for the record in the statistics used so we can import more. This was the case with alcohol, bandages, medicines… Everything was produced in Cuba and the Venezuelan government paid,” she denounces.

“We made up lists of people treated and they forced us to live with the minimum, while Cuba took all the money,” she explained. In the time Rodriguez worked as a specialist, Havana allocated to each staffer around 3,000 Bolivars (about $300 US), a figure that has escalated substantially since the beginning of the inflationary crisis in Venezuela and the relentless devaluation of the currency. “Sometimes, I had to have my little ‘under the counter’ job to support myself. Thanks to God, many Venezuelans sympathize with the Cubans and help us,” she explains.

“Perhaps what happened with me is when I decided to escape, I went to the mayor and told him about the whole disaster created by the CDI (Integral Diagnostic Center) and now they want revenge because I denounced it,” she says.

Reinaldo is a Cuban doctor who worked in Anzoategui state, but does not want to give his last name for fear of being punished. “We started out earning 3,000 Bolivars and now we’re at 15,000 Bolivars (about 15 dollars on the black market). The odd things is that it doesn’t mean anything to multiply the wages if they aren’t worth anything in real life,” he laments.

“We started out earning 3,000 Bolivars and now we’re at 15,000 Bolivars (about 15 dollars on the black market)… which isn’t worth anything in real life”

“The conditions we work in are the worst, we are the wage slaves of Cuba. They keep us in groups. Since I arrived, I’ve lived with three doctors from different regions of the island, I have to share my room with someone I don’t know and at six in the evening every day I have check in, like I’m at home.”

The authorities of the Cuban medical mission in Venezuela justify the daily check on aid workers and maintain that it is to protect them due to the high levels of violence in the neighborhoods they serve. The doctors, for their part, consider that it is a practice to keep them under surveillance.

“There are a lot of Cuban State Security agents. The role of these people is to ensure we don’t escape from the mission. On arriving in Venezuela they ask us if we have family abroad, especially in the United States. We all say no, even if we do, because otherwise the surveillance is worse,” says the physician.

The economic situation in the country has become so precarious, he says, that in his last vacation on the island he had to buy cleaning and bath soaps and toothpaste to bring the Venezuela. “When we got here, it was a paradise, they had everything we didn’t have in Cuba. Today it’s the exact opposite. We come thinking about helping our families and it turns out that they are the one who are helping us. If it weren’t for my brother who lives in Miami and sends me remittances, I don’t know what I would do.”

“When we got here, it was a paradise, they had everything we didn’t have in Cuba. Today it’s the exact opposite.”

According to several doctors consulted by this newspaper, cases of violence in which Cuban healthcare workers have been involved are kept secret, even if the person dies.

“It is impossible that we wouldn’t be assaulted here, because here everyone is assaulted. A stray bullet, a thug who doesn’t like you, we’re exposed to all this,” says a Cuban doctor who prefers not to give her name. “One day two children assaulted me, they couldn’t have been more than 12. I had to give them all the money I had, because the guns they were playing with were real,” she says.

The relations of the Cuban medical personnel are also regulated. “They warn you that things can go badly for you if you deal with the squalid (a word used in Venezuela for regime opponents similar to the use of “scum” and “worm” in Cuba).” The doctor says that the intimacy between Venezuelans and Cubans is formally forbidden, “although people manage.”

In the 13 years that Cuban medical missions have been operating in Venezuela, more than 124,000 specialists have passed through that nation. Thousands have fled to the United States and other countries in search of better living conditions. In 2015, Cuba assured “health professionals who have left the country that under the current immigration policy,” if they returned to the island, they would be guaranteed “a work location similar to what they had previously.” However, they put a limitation on it: the returnees will again be under the obligation to request special permission to travel outside the country.

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A Ridiculous Declaration / Fernando Dámaso http://translatingcuba.com/a-ridiculous-declaration-fernando-dmaso/ Tue, 21 Jun 2016 01:00:17 +0000 http://translatingcuba.com/a-ridiculous-declaration-fernando-dmaso/ Continue reading "A Ridiculous Declaration / Fernando Dámaso"]]>

Fernando Damaso, 17 June 2016 — It is completely ridiculous that the Cuban Writers and Artists Union (UNEAC), a totally government organization that tries to present itself as “non-governmental,” issues a statement about the desecration of the bust of a popular Venezuelan singer, Ali Primera, that occurred in that country, when they’ve never been concerned to protest against similar events that happen in Cuba.

Here, in the face of the complicit silence of UNEAC, statues and monuments of colonial and Republican eras have been systematically destroyed, ones that although they have not been welcomed by the current authorities, form a part of the history and identity of the nation, independent of their political ideologies. The busts of many important figures in cities and towns have disappeared, opening spaces, for example, to convert the Avenue of the Presidents in Vedado — once dedicated to remembering the country’s presidents — to place foreign figures which should have been placed in Fraternity Park, which was constructed with this objective. Also accepted has been the changing of the names of public buildings, streets and avenues, as an act of political opportunism, along with the implementation of many other outrages.

All this has been a negation of the supposed national identity that they say they defend “with the sword and shield.”

If UNEAC, as a governmental organization, had to issue a statement in support of the discredited Venezuelan government, and its even more discredited president, it should not hide between this reprehensible act: it should do it openly.

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No Diploma Certifies Us As Parents / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar http://translatingcuba.com/no-diploma-certifies-us-as-parents-14ymedio-reinaldo-escobar/ Tue, 21 Jun 2016 00:08:02 +0000 http://translatingcuba.com/?p=48145 Continue reading "No Diploma Certifies Us As Parents / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar"]]> The statue of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes in Old Havana, on Father’s Day Sunday without a single flower. (14ymedio)
The statue of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes in Old Havana, on Father’s Day Sunday without a single flower. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 19 June 2016 – Those of us who have had the joy of being parents spend our lives asking ourselves whether we have done well, if in the strict judgment our children will make about our work will we earn a good score, a mediocre grade or, instead, a resounding disapproval.

The Venezuelan singer Franco de Vita says it is “not enough” to feed our offspring, surround them with comforts and conveniences, or guarantee that they receive an education, we must also respond to their questions. But our answers, which we have to improvise in a second, will be the most momentous memories our children have of us.

“Ah! From my father I learned” reads a very popular H. Upmann cigar commercial from the Republican era. Today we are proud to have children who don’t smoke, either because they saw us with a cigarette in our mouth, or because they witnessed our efforts to give up the vice, while they hid our cigarettes from us or dunked our packs in a bucket of water.

However, there are days when being a father is more difficult. Like on one of those afternoons when they come home full of ingenuity and recite a poem dedicated to Ernesto Guevara in which they assert that, “Two droplets of water fell on my feet and the mountains were crying because they killed Che.” The first reaction of any responsible father is to shout “No!” That they should not be like that Argentine with his stereotypical ideas and trigger-happiness, but every word spoken only sinks them into the abyss of ideological problems and social stigma.

Others will be more forgotten, Like Carlos Manuel Cespedes whom we call “the father of the nation” because when the Spanish proposed that he lay down his arms in exchange for the life of his son, whom they had taken prisoner, he made the dramatic decision to continue the struggle and his son was executed. This Sunday, Father’s Day, none of those who usurp the name of the “fatherland” have brought flowers to his statue in the Plaza de Armas in Old Havana.

Being a father in Cuba is very difficult. Because among all the dramatic dilemmas involved in paternity is placing them in a fragile boat to leave the country, or deciding that it is better to try to save the country for them and to involve them in the task. But while something like this is being decided, it happens that they are growing up and becoming parents, to begin to experience first hand how this hazardous and gratifying is the road that is having children.

No university offers a degree to improve parenting, no diploma certifies that we are good at achieving it.

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About False Taínos and Alleged “New Trends” / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya http://translatingcuba.com/about-false-tainos-and-alleged-new-trends-cubanet-miriam-celaya/ Mon, 20 Jun 2016 23:19:24 +0000 http://translatingcuba.com/?p=48142 Continue reading "About False Taínos and Alleged “New Trends” / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya"]]> In the "Taíno" village “Guamá” blowing into a conch shell (photo Martí News)
In the “Taíno” village “Guamá” blowing into a conch shell (photo Martí News)

cubanet square logoCubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 7 June 2016 — I recently read an internet article published by Martí News (Bogus Taíno1 Dance in Cuba Shocks an Intellectual Canadian Native), which — as the title indicates — is about a Canadian tourist’s experience during his stay in Cuba. He witnessed an imaginary Taíno show, choreographed in the Matanzas province by a group of dancers “with bare-breasted women, painted skin and wearing wigs,” who “talked about a dubious native Cuban rite on the force of a river.”

The scene that the tourist describes was a mixture of contemporary dance movements and alleged ritual representations, performed by… artists(??) supposedly dressed in Taíno costumes, including white bullseye circles painted on the women’s bare breasts.

The greatest indignation of the Canadian tourist, who is himself a native North-American, was the amusement of his fellow travelers, who were so pleased with the scam that they even took pictures with the fictitious natives. The Canadian regarded – and with reason — that this ridiculous representation conveyed a false image of “a Caribbean Indian culture.”

On the subject, Martí News comments that this “picturesque” show was previously criticized by the “Castro regime’s organic intellectuals” but that now, “cash is king, and so is the tourist industry, which the authorities want to turn into a locomotive to drive the economy, taking advantage of the murky waters of the thaw with the US.” So the government “does not hesitate to use the pseudo-culture as bait for unwary tourists.”

This, however, is only a half-truth. Ancient culture farces is a universal practice and not exclusively Cuban. In addition, the use of nonexistent native expressions in Cuba as a tourist hook to catch foreign currency is a reality, but far from being a novelty. In fairness, it predates the current avalanche of American tourists and, without a doubt, existed for a long time before President Barack Obama decided to restore relations with the Castro dictatorship. Though some find it hard to understand, not everything that is taking place in Cuba today stems from the new framework of relations between the two governments.

The interest in selling an “indigenous” tourism product beyond rum, cigars and the most affectionate prostitutes in the world has numerous precedents, ranging from apocryphal legends -like the love stories of Hatuey and Guarina in the eastern region of Cuba or that of the Indian lovers of Jagua, to chimeras, such as the treasure of Guamá, which, according to the oral folkloric tradition, lies at the bottom of the lake by the same name, in the current Matanzas province, where it was thrown by the Taíno rebel so the Spanish conquistadores could not find it.

In fact, Matanzas1 is one of the provinces with the highest record of aboriginal legends, even though it had low Taíno presence compared to the south-central and eastern regions of Cuba. There is, for example, the legend of the Yumurí — another romantic saga of love between a young Taíno couple — and the massacre of Spaniards by natives (or of natives by Spaniards, depending on who’s telling the story) which took place in the ample bay. Both the province and the bay were named after the incident.

All these sagas, more or less whimsical, come from pre-1959 Cuban traditions, and were compiled from the work of archaeologists, anthropologists and other scholars of pre-Columbian Cuba from the country’s practices. In particular, stories on these topics collected by members of the National Board of Archaeology around 1940 and 1950 stand out.

Such traditions, like so many others considered by the Castro regime as hoaxes and unenlightened thinking, typical of “colonialism and neo-colonialism eras” were almost completely erased from popular memory by the overwhelming thrust of decades of “revolutionary” indoctrination, but quickly unearthed starting in the 90s’, when the boom in tourism from foreign capital investments — mainly Spanish — took place, which saved the Cuban regime from asphyxia in the early post-Soviet crisis.

And it was precisely during that period in the 90s’ when the debauchery in search of dollars made possible the miracle of the existence of nothing less than a whole “Taíno community” in eastern Cuba, specifically in the town of Caridad de los Indios, in Yateras, Guantánamo province, whose population, though predominantly descended from the ancient Taíno people of the same region and with the same visible physical traits of that original ethnicity has not preserved the Arawak language of their native ancestors, nor their customs, arts, traditions, or belief systems.

In fact, residents of Caridad de los Indios, as in other remote villages in the region, have mixed equally with peasants of Spanish and African descent, and do not differ substantially in habits, customs and standard of speech of any other peasant population in the eastern region.

However, this did not prevent the cultural authorities and other astute provincial officials from recreating a semblance of a Taíno village with all the components of the stagehands out of those very poor locals in order to attract foreign exchange earnings for themselves and for the province in the depths of the 90s’.

Thus, they built caneyes2 in the modest village and created spaces. From the dressing rooms, they invented body adornments (necklaces made of shells and stones and polychromatic paintings on the skin), and even the feathers to be worn by locals, imitating the style of the colorful headdresses of certain continental native cultures. The animators staging the scenes probably copied from old Cinemascope western movies that were once shown on Sunday matinees at any neighborhood cinema.

So that nothing is missing and tourists will enjoy the unforgettable experience of an encounter with the true Taínos of Cuba, in the cacique4 village, there were medicine men [behíques], drugs smoked through the nostrils [cohoba], “Taíno princesses,” ceremonial dances and rites [areítos], bows and arrows (just props, of course) and even songs in an unintelligible “Arawak” language that probably made more than one venerable ancestor of the new Taínos of pastiche turn in his grave.

Arawak names also became more frequent — though they retained their Castilian surnames — so “Hatueys” and “Guamás” and even some “Atahualpas” and “Monctezumas” proliferated. At the end of the day, when it comes to profits, chauvinist concerns are non-existent.

Incredibly, the Taíno fraud worked for a while, and there was more than one visitor who, amid the obligatory areíto ritual — in which foreign tourists participated alongside the natives — was possessed by the spirit of some bellicose aboriginal great-great grandfather and fell in a kind of trance, in the style of spiritualism that is practiced in the eastern region of Cuba. Of course, this was very Taíno-like emotional and truthful.

The locals played their new roles with enthusiasm worthy of better causes, and got used to wearing their Taíno costumes before each group of visitors, and embodying the ambiance of what they believed would be a typical Taíno village, plenty of musical gourds, [guayos], feathers, loincloth, stoves for cooking cassava bread, campfires and a battery of artisanal tools created for this purpose. Everyone was happy: the new Taínos felt important for the first time in the history of their community; cultural and tourism dollars flowed into the official coffers — and especially into their thirsty pockets — and collaterally, the “Indians” also benefited financially and materially. They had discovered that it was more lucrative and less fatiguing be a Taíno than a peasant.

But behold, the unwary villagers came to believe they were genuine Taínos. So, when at one of the annual meetings of the Caribbean Festival — hosted in Santiago de Cuba, one of the sources with the most tourism influx to the “Taíno” village of Yateras — a group of similar “Taínos” appeared from Puerto Rico, representatives of a so-called “Taíno Nation” created to vindicate their rights as authentic West Indian natives and to demand compensation and return of land seized from their ancestors from the time of the Conquest, those from Yateras didn’t want to be left behind and decided to join the aforementioned pipe dream.

Numerous forms were filled out, with photographs and personal details of the alleged Taínos, and each were obstinate to “prove” tenaciously their aboriginal pedigree, to have the honor of belonging to the intangible nation and to have access to the appropriate compensation. The foreign press, meanwhile, had unleashed a whole tendentious campaign on the existence of “ethnic minorities” in Cuba, thus triggering the demons of censorship and repression on the Island.

It was, without a doubt, a “political problem” and a counterrevolution crime to encourage these Cuban peasants to acknowledge themselves as members of a particular ethnic group, and especially encourage them to claim ancestral rights. It was a crime to thus divide the Cuban nation and manipulate so perversely the goodwill of the people of Yateras.

As might be expected, there were purges. The official heads of those in charge rolled, provincial political authorities pretended to ignore the “diversionary” phenomenon that had developed in the face of the unsuspecting ideologues of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC); villagers were visited and warned by the censors about the dangers of such temptations of autonomy. As quickly as it had sprouted, the myth of the aboriginal village in remote eastern Cuba vanished.

Or, rather, it was transformed, since, even today, tourist excursions to Caridad de los Indios remain, so that foreign visitors may get to know the descendants of the original inhabitants of Cuba close-up, and see how much the Castro revolution has benefitted them. It is rumored that “areíto” rituals are carried out discretely. That is a peculiar spiritualist ceremony in which – in the afternoons — the spirit of mythical Hatuey comes to dance among the living, of which the locals are very proud, because, since now nobody deceives them, the leaders of the PPC have made it very clear that they descend from him: “the first Cuban revolutionary.”

1-The Taíno were an Arawak people who were indigenous to the Caribbean and Florida. At the time of European contact in the late 15th century, they were the principal inhabitants of most of CubaJamaica, Hispaniola and Puerto Rico in the Greater Antilles, the northern Lesser Antilles, and the Bahamas They spoke the Taíno, one of the Arawak languages.

2-Matanzas in Spanish means massacre

3-Caney (plural, caneyes) Village chief hut

4-Cacique: Tribal chief

 

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