Reporting from San Diego / Ivan Garcia

The Institute of the Americas is located on the campus of San Diego State University

There are Cuban dissidents and independent journalists who, since the emigration and travel reform was enacted by Raul Castro in 2013, have already accumulated some trips abroad. This has not been the case with Ivan, who agreed to travel to the United States because it was for a workshop about investigative journalism, organized by the Institute of the Americas in La Jolla, San Diego, California. And he accepted because it was a short stay of one week. We offer the first of three reports sent from San Diego. (Tania Quintera [Ivan’s mother]). 

Monday, November 10

I made the trip from Havana to Miami without problems. The Miami is airport is a city, I had to walk nearly a kilometer from the gate to passport control. At both customs I was treated well. At the Miami airport I met a former neighbor from La Vibora who worked there.

I took advantage of having to wait three hours for the flight to San Diego to buy a laptop at one of the airport stores (I left mine in Cuba because it is defective). It cost me $200, has Windows 8 and an English keyboard.

The flight to San Diego was long. The plane, a little uncomfortable. The seats were too close together. This is the best way I’ve found for airlines to make money: put people in a tube as if they were cattle. Although the service and food were good. Continue reading

A New Anniversary / Fernando Damaso

It’s 495 years since the founding of Havana. Celebration after celebration is being held, however, the serious problem of lack of housing grows every day, without any real chances of a solution. The causes of it are many and the results extremely well-known.

According to official data there are 33,889 nuclear families in Havana who need housing, a total of 132,699 people. To these they should add that many of those families have spent 10, 15, 20 and more years living in shelters with and without minimal conditions, where children and even grandchildren have been born.

Lately there’s been a plan to resolve the situation with the construction of urban settlements in different parts of the city, consisting of groups of affordable apartment buildings.

In 2013, 746 of these apartments were built, and in 2014, 817 have been completed, and in the rest of the year 566 are expected for a total of 1,383. In 2015 it’s estimated that 1,480 will be built in that and following years, in line with the economic possibilities and the availability of materials and labor.

As the figures, are sometimes confusing, it is necessary to apply mathematics to understand them: 33,889 nuclear families between 1,500 annual apartments means it will take at least 22 years to resolve the problem.

If to this we add that, according to official data, every day in the city three buildings collapse, for a total of 1,095 annually, so in reality it would leave 405 of the estimated 1,500 buildings, because the other 1,095 would simply compensate for those that disappeared.

With this new data, it would then take 83 years. So this alone is not the solution.

So if you add to these affordable apartments come with a cement floor and the kitchen and bath aren’t completely tiled, leaving in the hands of the tenants, according to their personal means and interests, to improve the level of finishing, adding to that the construction defects that they present (cracks in the floors, damp walls, leaks, etc), the problem increases.

While domestic and foreign private investment in real estate is not authorized, and citizens, because of their low salaries and the high cost of building materials, lack the opportunities of building their own homes, it will be more of the same, and next year Havana will celebrate the anniversary of its founding in worse conditions than today.

17 November 2014

Dissident Cuesta Morua Now Can Travel Abroad / 14ymedio

Manuel Cuesta Morua, spokesman for Progressive Arc (CC)

Manuel Cuesta Morua, spokesman for Progressive Arc (CC)

14ymedio, Havana, 15 November 2014 — Activist Manuel Cuesta Morua, spokesman for Progressive Arc, has been informed that his legal case was dismissed, and he can now travel abroad whenever he desires. The information was made known to him by a lawyer from the Law Collective of Central Havana, who noted that the measure has “no conditions,” according to the dissident’s statement to this daily.

The government opponent had been precluded from travelling outside the country through an interim measure that was imposed on him at the end of last January.

Cuesta Morua, 51 years of age, tried to organize a forum parallel to the Second Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) then being held in Havana.

The police arrested him to prevent his participation in the meeting, and after that point he had to sign in every Tuesday at the police station where he was arraigned, which prevented him from leaving the country.

In those months, Morua could not attend numerous invitations from international agencies and foundations, like that of this past October for the 25th anniversary of the fall of communism in Poland, which was held by the Lech Walesa Institute.

“Technically they have kept me from travelling with this absurd measure on the part of the authorities; this has been my punishment for my position regarding the Cuban government,” said Morua at the time.

Now in his new situation, the activist is preparing to fulfill several international invitations that include participation in forums, debates and academic meetings, as recounted to 14ymedio.

Translated by MLK

 

Raul Castro’s Migratory Reform Falters / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila

Cuban passport (CC)

Cuban passport (CC)

14ymedio, ELIECER AVILA, Las Tunas/November 15, 2014 — Officials, opposition and public opinion in general have recognized as positive the implementation of the Migratory Reform (covering emigration and travel) promoted by the Cuban government at the beginning of 2013.

In spite of the fact that the trips for many dissidents continue to be marked by abuse, delays and confiscations by Cuban customs authorities, the truth is that until now, only people subject to some kind of legal process, whether invented or not, have been prevented from travelling.

But this may be starting to change. Signs of a sudden regression, in regards to the new rules, come to us from the eastern part of the country.

Two officials, the Major “Oliver” and the Lieutenant Colonel “Vilma,” from State Security Management and Immigration and Alien Status Management (DIE), respectively, have communicated categorically to young Hanner Echavarria Licea that “it has been decided that you are not going to travel.”

To that end, today they retain his certified criminal record document, which the Peruvian embassy demands, so that he cannot participate in the conference “Civic Conscience and Citizen Participation” which will take place in Lima.

The youth, a teaching graduate, self-employed and son of a retired official of the FAR, is a serious and educated young man who enjoys high standing in his community. Precisely the kind of person that State Security cannot bear to see fighting for profound change in Cuba.

Echavarria Licea joined the political movement SOMOS+ and was elected by its members to be its leader in Las Tunas. This seems to be the reason for the current reprisal of not letting him leave the country.

His case could be palpable evidence that even today, someone without prior criminal history or any legal entanglement whatsoever, may be prevented from exercising his right to leave the country. Which would mean the end of the more or less serious application of the Migratory Reform.

Translated by MLK

Audiovisual Education / Regina Coyula

The concerns of cultural and UNEAC officials over the potentially dangerous ideological content of the paquete* (package) is also causing me some concern. I am not an avid consumer of either the paquete or of television in general, but a furtive look, a stolen glance, a scan across the horizon raises serious doubts about the ammunition these Cuban organizations have to counter the barrage of audiovisual material coming from this package.

Are they trying to educate us with soap operas like Avenida Brasil (Brazil Avenue), in which the growing middle class does not make the connection between economic prosperity and good manners or good taste?  Or, alternatively, is Paraíso Tropical (Lost Paradise), which is currently being broadcast, now considered to be the model?

Are they betting on Cuban soap operas, rejected as “ugly” because they portray the current reality or labeled as “sci-fi” because they sugarcoat that same reality?

Do the latest South Korean soap operas (where nothing is ugly and everybody is an idiot) have some deeper meaning that escapes me?

Are they thinking of getting rid of many of their musical programs in which triviality, vulgarity, sexism and bad taste exert a pull over producers as well as musicians?

Is education going to be achieved through interview programs, whether they deal with politics, addiction, entertainment or public services?

Will cinematic education disrupt the profile of their programming, turning the Saturday Movie into a different version of the Sunday Matinee and Midnight Cinema by replaying B movies?

All of this is making me wonder if officials are really as concerned about quality as they are that the paquete continues its expansion unchecked by state supervision. Nah! it doesn’t matter how many operations they carry out. Like the Hydra, for every distributor that is eliminated, two more show up. And if they are trying to counteract its effects with the above-mentioned content or other similar programming, the education of the citizenry will continue to decline. On the other hand, the future success of the paquete, in which everyone chooses what he or she wants, is guaranteed.

Translated by Corriver

*Translator’s note: The paquete, or package, is a selection of foreign entertainment programs distributed informally throughout Cuba. In July, 2014 the national television broadcaster, TVC, admitted it could not compete with its selection of programming. UNEAC is the Spanish abbreviation for the Artist’s and Writer’s Union of Cuba.

17 November 2014

TEDx Lands in Havana / 14ymedio, Rosa Lopez

Herman Portocarrero, ambassador of the European Union Delegation, in Havana during his talk, “Borders Without Borders,” during TEDx Havana (Photo: 14ymedio)

Herman Portocarrero, ambassador of the European Union Delegation, in Havana during his talk, “Borders Without Borders,” during TEDx Havana (Photo: 14ymedio)

For some time, TEDx Havana had been cooking. Those of us who for years have followed the trail of this event, which mixes science, art, design, politics, education, culture and much ingenuity, were counting the days until we could hear on our national stages its stories of entrepreneurship, progress and creativity. Finally, that day arrived, to the gratification of many and the dissatisfaction of many others.

TED is a non-profit organization founded 25 years ago in California, which is an acronym for Technology, Entertainment and Design. Its annual conference has become a feast of ideas and proposals, while the famous “TED Talks” provide a microphone to speakers who inspire their listeners to take on new projects. These talks have, over time, been sneaked into the alternative information networks in Cuba, and they have sparked a desire among the public to see these screen personalities in-person, in the here and now.

For these reasons, there was great anticipation at the news of the imminent landing in our city of that independent – and equally inspiring – part of TED, which is TEDx. The event, named InCUBAndo [“InCUBAting”], took place in the Covarrubias Hall of the National Theatre this past Saturday afternoon. Among the organizers credited in the printed program were the singer Cucú Diamante, the actor Jorge Perugorría, and Andrés Levin, music producer.

We almost did not learn of the arrival of TEDx until 24 hours prior to the curtains being drawn back at the National Theatre.

So, yes, the arrival of this program was literally a landing. The set design in the hall included some little allegorical pink airplanes – the meaning of which many in the audience wondered about – but which turned out to be part of a plastic art installation. Besides which, we almost did not learn of the arrival of TEDx until 24 hours prior to the curtains being drawn back at the National Theatre.

Some flyers distributed at the University of Havana and around the La Rampa cinema last Friday were the first signs to the Havana public that TEDx would arrive in our capital city. Actually, prior to this, the British ambassador to Cuba, Tim Cole, had already announced it on Twitter – but the news only got through to those with Internet access – of which there are very few in this “disconnected city.”

Regardless, as long as we could have TEDx, we were ready to forgive all: the haste of the arrangements, the lack of advertising, and even the “secrecy.” If the event had to occur under these conditions, well, so be it. At any rate, hundreds of Cubans arrived at the scene to hear these exceptional people who were here to tell us their life stories. One of the best presentations was the one titled “Borders Without Borders,” by the diplomat Herman Portocarrero, European Union representative in Cuba.

TEDx Havana participants greet the public at the conclusion of the presentation (Photo: 14ymedio)

TEDx Havana participants greet the public at the conclusion of the presentation (Photo: 14ymedio)

The energy in the X Alfonso Hall could be felt also from Portocarrero’s story of the birth and first steps of the Cuban Art Factory. Meanwhile the founder of the famous La Guarida restaurant tackled the difficult but gratifying path of the entrepreneur. As host, a dynamic and subtly humorous Amaury Pérez was a good link betweeb some parts of the program. Missing, however, were the voices – further away from the worlds of show business and diplomacy – of others whose ingenuity helps them to survive every day, negotiate the commonplace difficulties, and unbuckle themselves from the straightjacket of our reality.

I do not know the process that was employed to select speakers for TEDx Havana, but what I saw on the stage left me a taste of incompleteness and partiality. The dance music seemed intended to fill those voids and distract an audience that mainly had come to hear anecdotes, testimonies and life stories.

Some of the guest speakers politicized the proceedings, favoring, of course, the official line.

The worst moment was without a doubt the segment of extemporaneous versifiers Tomasita and Luis Paz – who in the middle of their improvisations sang praises to the five Cuban spies, of which three are still in prison in the United States. Up until that moment, many of us accepted the rules of TEDx Havana. Faced with the evident absences at those microphones, I believe that we had convinced ourselves that “it was all right that spaces not be politicized that way.” However, as it turned out, some of the guest speakers politicized the proceedings – favoring, of course, the official line.

Even with all the shambles, TEDx Havana leaves a good taste in the mouth – at the least a feeling that there are people not only with much to tell, but with expressiveness and composure in telling it before hundreds of attentive eyes. The experiences of this first edition will serve to better the second opportunity this event will have to take place among us.

If the organizers are open to suggestions for future TEDx events, it would be good to emphasize better and greater promotion prior to this feast of creativity and entrepreneurship. In addition, let us have transparency in the process of selecting the speakers, so that they may compete and audition in advance, from those who have created a small cottage industry of homemade preserves, to even those who, with ingenuity, laugh at censorship or dream of a Cuba where success in accomplishment is not something extraordinary, but commonplace.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Who is really blockading us? / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

By Jeovany Jimenez Vega

The brand name of this company selling chicken portions in Havana tells you its origin: these products arrive here from the other side of the iron curtain, from the enemy’s shore. This “Product of USA” reminds us that more than ten years ago the US Congress approved licences for selling food products to the Cuban government, on a cash-only basis, but with the result that also for years the chain stores selling in CUC (Cuban convertible pesos, i.e. hard currency) on the island have insisted in selling these chicken portions at up to 4.50 CUC (about $5). If we bear in mind that historically this has been one of the cheapest meats on the world market, we can easily see that food for the people is not exactly treated as a special case by our government when it comes to turning a profit.

But to this type of profit in CUC we have to add its analog in CUP (Cuban pesos). Also years ago the state-run Food and Business Companies joined in the party: many administrators immediately “saw the light” and proceeded to start selling a pound of raw chicken on the black market for 25 pesos, that’s to say, the price  of the prepared product, like fried chicken, and so they keep hold of the surplus oil, and you can guess where that ends up.

In the end, Liborio, [a cartoon character representing the typical poor Cuban peasant] poor man, caught in the cross-fire, doesn’t receive his monthly bag of chicken, oil — and lots of the other things, speaking of Lindoro, [incompetent Lindoro is an archetypal useless boss of an unproductive Cuban company] –  that the people in headquarters get: poor Lindoro, who, in reality is the only loser. And the main culprit in all this continues to be the Cuban government, because of its obstinate and half-assed economic focuses, and also because of its unscrupulous pricing policy — the same one which fixes the price of a USED Geely auto at $38,000, which doesn’t cost $5,000 new, or which tries to sell us a shitty Suzuki moped for over $12,000 which cost a little more than $300.

Here everything comes down to the same thing; simply and straightforwardly our government is always pursuing one goal: blocking the well-being of the people by every means possible. And so, we should ask, who is it that is really blockading us? Lets see what the “Yankee Blockade” theorists have to say about that.

Translated by GH

9 October 2014

 

The Island of the Long Shadows / Angel Santiesteban

Screen Capture – Moment in which Angel Santiesteban was arrested in front of Section 21, after being violently beat up by agents (8/11/12).

Section 21, as this Department of State Security is known, works to track the political activities of the opposition in the Cuban archipelago.  They are the omnipotent masters of the destinies of those who seek democracy and freedom.

In my case, it was the official Camilo, the same one who on November 8th, 2012, after a beating in plain view of the public, told me that they were putting me in jail for 5 years [before Angel’s trial was concluded].

Three months later, I went to prison, convicted by a rigged jury, where they didn’t show a single bit of evidence against me, except that joke by the lieutenant colonel graphologist, who acted as something like a fortune-teller and said that given “the height and inclination of my handwriting*,” I was guilty. Of no value were the five witnesses I presented who corroborated my statement. Not even justice is an impediment to the designs of the political police.

Since I entered prison, it has been the State Security officials who have manipulated my incarceration. The prison officials have always let me know that “they are there to keep me enclosed,” but that they have no rights over my person.

If I fall ill, whether they are to approve or not the pass** that is provided every sixty days for those serving less than 5 years, transfers, disciplinary measures, or for any other motive, they are to call Section 21 and there they will be instructed as to what is to be done with me.

Of course, it was those authorities in that very same Section 21 who gave the go-ahead for my transfer from the Valle Grande prison to La Lima camp, in keeping with my sentence (as I am not supposed to be in prison); from there to prison #1580 (in a new violation of my rights); later, to the Lawton settlement; and now, to the Guardafronteras (Border Patrol) unit, where I am currently held.

According to the prison officials, they are supposed to consult with the officials of Section 21 at each step in my process. They have retained the appeal of my case, delivered at the Ministry of Justice on July 4, 2013, for more than a year. This is because if justice were to be applied, they would have to release me immediately, as requested by my attorney, given my proven innocence. Instead, they gather an extensive list of flagrant violations that, as my defense attorney at the time said after the trial, left me “in a state of utter defenselessness.”

I have stated before that murderers, drug traffickers, pederasts, and others who have committed grave crimes, are treated with the utmost mercy compared to the stance the authorities have taken toward my person, for they treat me according to the strictest of their laws.

At this time they have me cloistered inside a Border Patrol Troops unit, in a small apartment with two rooms and a bath. It is completely barred and there is a guard at the door who records in a log the hour at which I rise, if I take exercise, if I write, etc.

In addition, this small apartment made into a prison cell includes a patio that, in my honor, was completely enclosed in bars – even on the roof – just hours before they decided to transfer me to this place.

However, even while bearing every suffering that their impediments cause, I feel proud to be treated thus. Not even the worst of their measures against me will cause me to back down from my struggle for a more just country — a country in which free expression against the politics laid down by the powers-that-be will not be cause for imprisonment.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Border Patrol Unit Prison. Havana. October, 2014.

Translator’s notes:

*A handwriting expert literally testified at Angel’s trial that his “too slanted” handwriting proved he was a guilty person.

**In an earlier post Angel explained the Cuban penal system that allows prisoners with shorter sentences to leave prison every so many days for extended (overnight) home visits. He was granted one of these passes when he was in the Lawton Settlement, a work camp, but future passes were withheld. 

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison, and others.

10 November 2014

Havana, how you hurt me! / Yoani Sanchez

Collapsed building in Havana (Photo: Sylvia Corbelle)

Collapsed building in Havana (Photo: Sylvia Corbelle)

Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 16 November 2004 – To be a Havanan is not having been born in a territory, it’s carrying that territory on your back and not being able to put it down. The first time I realized I belonged to this city I was seven years old. I was in a little town in Villa Clara, trying to reach some guavas on a branch, when a bunch of kids from the place surrounded my sister and me. “They’re from Havana! They’re from Havana!” they shrieked. At that moment we didn’t understand so much uproar, but with time we realized that we had come by a sad privilege. Having been born in this city in decline, in this city whose major attraction is what it could be, not what it is.

I am totally urban, a city girl. I grew up in the Cayo Hueso neighborhood where the nearest trees are more than 500 yards away. I am the child of asphalt, of the smell of kerosene, of clotheslines dripping from the balconies and sewer pipes that overflow from time to time. This has never been an easy city. Not even on the tourist postcards, with their retouched colors, can you see a comfortable and comprehensible Havana.

Sometimes now I don’t want to walk it, because it hurts me. I am heading up Belascoaín, my back the sea that I know so well. I arrive at the corner of Reina Street. There is a Gothic-style church, which as a little girl I perceived to be lost in the clouds. I saw my first Christmas tree there when I was seventeen. I walk though the doors, skipping a little to this side and that. Water trickles down some stairs and a woman tries to sell me some milk caramels that are the same color as the street.

I see the traffic light at Galiano, but the pace slows because there are so many people. A cop turns the corner and some hide themselves behind the doors or slip into stores as if they were going to buy something. When the officer leaves, they return and offer their merchandise in undertones. Because Havana is a city of cries and whispers. Those immersed in their own blather may never hear the whispers. The most important things are always said with a nod, a gesture or a simple pursing of the lips that warns you, “be careful,” “coming over there,” “follow me.” A language developed during decades of the clandestine and illegal.

Neptune Street is nearby. I hear an old couple in front of a façade saying, “Hey? Wasn’t it here where there was…?” but I didn’t manage to hear the end of the sentence. Better that way, because Havana is a sequence of nostalgia, memories. When you walk, it’s like you’re traversing the path of the lost. Where a building collapses into rubble that remains for days, for weeks. Later, the hole is made into a park, or a metal kiosk is built to sell soap, trinkets and rum. A lot of rum, because this is a city that drowns its sorrows in alcohol.

I reach the Malecon. In less than half an hour I’ve walked the slice of the city that in my childhood seemed to contain the whole metropolis. Because I was a “guajira de Centro Habana,” an urchin of downtown, one of those who thinks that “the green zones” start right after Infanta Street. With time, I understood that this capital is too big to know the whole of. I also learned that those born in the neighborhoods of Diez de Octubre, el Cerro, el Vedado or Marianao, shared the same sensation of pain. In any event, Havana shows its wounds in any neighborhood.

I touch the wall that separates us from the sea. It is rough and warm. Where are those kids who, in my childhood, in a remote little village, looked at me in astonishment because I was a Havanan? Will they want to bear this burden? Have they also ended up in this city, living among its dumpsters and lights? Does it pain them like it pains me? I’m sure it does, because Havana is not just a location inscribed in our identity documents. This city is a cross that is carried everywhere, a territory that once you have lived it, you cannot abandon.

Some Seven Thousand Cows ‘Disappear” in Villa Clara Province / 14ymedio, Orlando Palma

Cows in Cuba (CC)

Cows in Cuba (CC)

14ymedio, Orlando Palma, Villa Clara, 15 November 2014 – Around 7,000 head of beef cattle were presumed disappeared in the space of a year during a count carried out in ten cattle ranches in the province of Villa Clara, according to a report by the newspaper Juventud Rebelde.

The inspection, carried out by the province’s Department of Livestock Registration and revealed by the official newspaper, was carried out in a group of agricultural production cooperatives where 51 animals were found missing, whereas the State sector counted around 6,900 “not found,” which means the loss of practically the total inventory of these ranches.

Among the explanations the ranchers offered their inspectors are: deaths that could not be reported for lack of a veterinarian to issue the relevant certificate; statistical errors; and – not ruling out! – the possibility that the disappeared cows were victims of theft and illegal slaughter.

To add a touch of science fiction to the matter, as if it had to do with some kind of abduction carried out by extra-terrestrials, the possibility was mentioned that some of the vanished cattle might reappear, maybe because it will be less dangerous to get them from their hiding places without much explanation than to face up and confess where the innocent animals were kept.

Most of the missing heads of cattle were from the townships of Manicaragua, Encrucijada and Sagua La Grande.

Translator’s note: Cows in Cuba belong to the State and it is against the law to kill and eat them. This post from Miguel Iturria Medina – Is Killing a Cow Worse Than Murder – discusses the relative penalties for murder of a human being versus slaughter of a cow. This post from Yoani Sanchez — Male Heifers and Cow Suicide — discusses a creative ways to get around the law.

Translated by MLK

My Encounters With Popieluszko / Mario Lleonart

With my brother in Christ Dagoberto Valdes during the homages to Jerzy Popieluszko

In June of 2013 I travelled for the first time to Poland and made an inevitable visit to the tomb of the Polish martyr Jerzy Popieluszko. All the way from distant Cuba, Popieluszko for me embodied the logical challenge of faith in the face of a totalitarian system that is an enemy of God.

If in life Popieluszko more than fulfilled his pastoral duty of defending his fold against the wolf, in death he showed the world the utter impotence of a regime capable of resorting to assassination to silence a prophet, and clearly put in contrast the borders between good and evil in the Poland of 1984.

My return to Poland in October 2014 coincided with the 30th anniversary of the crime agains Popieluszko, and constituted a theological lesson on the implications of the martyrdom of the saints – in particular, the eschatological truth of the Resurrection and the Christian hope that celebrates as ever-living those exceptional beings such as Popieluszko, even though their remains still rest in their tombs.

Here I am in the church with the sister and brother of Popieluszko

This time my pilgrimage was not in solitude in search of a site of mystical quietude, as in 2013. It was more like a grain of sand among compact multitudes who were expressing our admiration and remembrance of the good pastor who did not flee when he saw the wolf approaching. At the same time, we were celebrating the fruit of his sacrifice: democracy and liberty in today’s Poland.

Among the first changes evident after 1989, perhaps imperceptible among many enormous and transcendent transformations, was the inclusion (a happy initiative of Lech Walesa’s) of a chapel in no less than the symbolic Presidential Palace – which would have been inconceivable during the period of totalitarian misrule.

Expression of liberties gained constitutes proof that the physical death of the martyr Popieluszko, rather than rendering him invisible, immortalized him to his people and amplified the values and virtues that he preached and practiced in life.

A radiant sun on Sunday, October 19, provided an extraordinary setting — as if in respite from the harsh, quasi-wintry days of autumn — to thousands of Poles and hundreds of citizens from the world over gathered at the place that guards the remains of the martyr who awaits his resurrection.

It was the natural testimony of the celebration in heaven and on earth honoring the the life that Death did not cut short, an evangelical reaffirmation that there are some who kill physical bodies, but they cannot kill souls. Blessed Poland that has her Popieluszko as a sign that in her, the wolves could not — without pastoral resistance — attack the sheep, who in fact chased away the wolf that attacked their pastor.

Multitudes at the tributes to Popieluszko

Multitudes at the tributes to Popieluszko

Happy Poland for not accepting the lament (in other contexts a fitting one) in “Ring Them Bells” by Bob Dylan: “Oh the shepherd is asleep/ where the willows weep/ and the mountains are filled with lost sheep.” God willing that in any part of the world where, as in Cuba, wild beasts have their lair, there be pastors like Popieluszko capable of facing them down, true to their calling, even — were it necessary — unto the sacred privilege of martyrdom.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

29 October 2014

Birthday / Regina Coyula

I can’t forget the first time I saw my blog. I’d gone several weeks making posts through friends, but thanks to a web-connection gift card, finally I could feel the vertigo that comes with peering out from the abyss of the internet. The two hours of that memorable connection were consumed by a virtual onanism; I spent them looking at my own blog, …from the outside.

I couldn’t remember my password in my nervousness. Nervousness joined with the feeling of transgressing a very real internet access restriction which in those days was enforced discretionally and arbitrarily. Nervousness, also and above all, for doing something suspect; that stamp in the Cuban psyche that says that what is not expressly authorized must be prohibited.

It is now five years since those experiences. I’ve become, if not a privileged user, at least an able and avid user of the tools of the web. The blog I began with an urgent feeling is today more sedate, but it has granted me two important things. The first, to take myself on as citizen –which to anyone can be inferred, but we are in Cuba– to learn of projects like the Asociación Jurídica Cubana (Cuban Law Association) or the campaign for the signing of UN covenants on basic human rights. The second, to receive invitations for collaboration with online news sites, particularly with BBC, on the subject of Cuba.

Malaletra (Bad Handwriting) has paid the consequences. I post sporadically and I have lost readers. The comments section, once effervescent, now languishes with one or two notes (which I am grateful for and take into account as I did since the first day).

I also have the impression that after the boom of the Cuban blogosphere, the water level has sunk, but these details I leave to the specialists, because the importance that this virtual space has had for freedom of thought and expression (or quite the opposite) will be part of the history of this strange age in which we’ve been thrown.

Five years later, I continue imagining myself before a screen into the future, always ready to supply opinion.

Now I blow out the little candles.

 Translated by: Ana Diaz

14 November 2014