The 50th Season of Cuban Ball Starts / Iván García

Millions of Cubans are beside themselves with delight. The biggest sporting competition in Cuba starts on Sunday, November 28th in the old Cerro Stadium, today called the Latinamerican Stadium. And they’re celebrating the 50th season of baseball, the King of Sports on the island.

January 14, 1962, in his inseparable olive green uniform and a pair of cheap sunglasses, Fidel Castro inaugurated the first national series with amateur players. On that day, he said “it is a triumph of free ball over slave ball”, referring to professional baseball which before 1959 was played in the country.

A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then. The Latinamerican, the biggest stadium in the country, the home stadium of the Industriales, Havana’s home team and current champion, has no artificial lights and presents a lamentably deteriorated state.

The national series is surrounded by debate. Like the case of Frederic Cepeda, one of the best ballplayers who mysteriously wasn’t a member of the national team which took part in the 17th World Cup celebrated in Taipei, and afterwards, stayed off his team, the Roosters of Sancti Spiritus.

Such was the resulting hullabaloo, that some days before the inauguration of the new season the sporting hierarchy decided that Cepeda would be a member of the team from Sancti Spíritus. One interview with the ballplayer was published in the local newspaper, Escambray.

One would hope that in the press conference called for Tuesday the 25th, they’d give more details and clear up the situation of other players excluded from the national series. The lack of information usually makes of all classes of rumors and speculations explode among fans.

It is then when people try to find out what is said or published in Miami. From the Miami press some recent declarations of Antonio Castro, son of el Comandante, an orthopedic doctor by profession and vice president of the Cuban Baseball Federation were extracted.

According to his comment, during the celebration of the World Cup in Taipei, Castro made a proposal to permit that Cuban ballplayers could play in the professional leagues of other countries.

In the other ear also arrived the name of the latest “deserter”: Yasiel Balaguer, 17 years old, who excelled as a first caliber batter.

“Ball”, as the Cubans call baseball, is the only spectacle capable of filling a place made for 55,000 people not called together by the government. But owing to official censure, its millions of fans cannot follow the best leagues in the world, like those of the United Stats, Japan, South Korea, the Dominican, Mexico, or Venezuela.

Ball, besides, is a question of State. The teams for the national series correspond to the seats of the provincial communist parties. Among the tasks of the First Secretary of the Party in any province is that of attending to the material needs of his territory’s team.

Although more than 350 ballplayers have deserted in the last twenty years, the governmental press maintains its usual silence. The people find out from foreign newspapers; e-mails from friends who live abroad, or on Radio Martí — United States government broadcaster — which since 1985 transmits to the island and whose signal is strongly jammed by Cuban military engineers.

To try to stop the incessant flow of desertions, they’ve made living conditions better for the players during the national campaign. They travel in air-conditioned buses, sleep in comfortable hotels, and eat their fill. Even so, they earn laborers’ salaries. And because of that, at the first sign of change, they abandon their Fatherland to play as professionals, and in not few cases, earn salaries with six zeros*.

Secrecy and mystery surround matters related to baseball in Cuba. Nobody questions the professionalism of the official journalists, but their lack of cojones is criminal when it’s time to communicate and debate the red-hot themes, with the exception of some radio announcers.

In the middle of this grey outlook, at last comes the best time of the year — baseball season. And with it, the enthusiasm and noise in the stadiums. Good news for the ordinary Cuban.

Iván García

Photo: Getty Images, 2009. Fans seated around the statue raised in the bleachers of the Latinamerican Stadium, in homage to the late Armando Luis Torres. Better known as Armandito “El Tintorero”, for years he was the leading cheerleader or fan of Cuban baseball.

*Translator’s note: a salary with “six zeros” is, in English, a “seven-figure” salary.

Translated by: JT

November 28 2010

Cubacel, In Bed With The Censorship / Yoani Sánchez

Dark night, a blackout in the vicinity of the Buena Vista neighborhood in Playa. The dilapidated shared taxi I’m taking stalls, and with an exhausted snort refuses to start again. A passenger and the driver are trying to fix it, while on both sides of the street we see people are sitting outside their houses, resigned to the power outage. I look in my wallet for my mobile, wanting to tell my family I’m delayed so they won’t worry about me. It’s an ugly picture: we are surrounded by darkness, in an area where crime isn’t child’s play, and to top it off my cellphone doesn’t work. Every time I try to dial a number I get the message, “Call Failed.” Finally, the car is purring again and we manage to advance, but the telephone service is not restored to the useless gadget and I feel like throwing it out the window. When I get home I discover that Reinaldo can’t call from his, either, and that my blogger friends can’t even receive text messages.

Our only mobile phone company cut the service for all of Friday night and part of Saturday, canceling for more than 24 hours a service for which we paid in convertible currency. With its announcements of “instant communication,” Cubacel comports itself as if it is an accomplice to the ideologically motivated censorship; supporting the reprimand from the political police, it puts an error message on our screens. It uses its monopoly power to punish those clients who deviate from the official line of thought. Part of its business capital, provided by foreign investors, is used to support the infrastructure of a momentary or prolonged boycott of certain cell phone numbers. A contradictory role for a company that should connect us to the world, not leave us hanging when we need it most.

It is not the first time this has happened. Every so often someone flips a switch and leaves us in silence. Curiously, it happens when there is important news to report and urgent information to bring to light. The forced cancellation of the concert by the group Porno Para Ricardo may have been the trigger for the phone company to violate his own maxim of keeping us, “in touch with the world.” The possible cremation of the body of Orlando Zapata Tamayo and everything that is happening around that event could be another reason to turn off our voices. What is certain is that on Friday night — in the midst of the darkness and worry — Cubacel failed me again, showing me the military uniform that hides beneath its false image as a corporate entity.

Orlando Zapata’s Inconvenient Corpse / Reinaldo Escobar

Not content with deporting the recently released political prisoners, the Cuban government is now expelling from his land the exhumed remains of Orlando Zapata Tamayo. The procedure has been the same: make life impossible for the family and offer them the tantalizing solution of exile. They repeat, in this way, the well-known recipe of launching the pack against defenseless people in order to appear themselves, at the perfect moment, to save them from the irate claws of their front line troops disguised as “angry people.”

The foreign press accredited in Cuba, eager for their reports to lead the news, will enjoy the privilege of interviewing the martyr’s mother at the airport to confirm the falsehood that, ultimately, all the fuss was just for this. With the intention of organizing this scene, unauthorized people have assured Reina Tamayo that everything is already arranged for her to travel to the United States, when in fact the Interest Section of this country hasn’t even received a formal request for the visa.

Representatives of the Cuban Catholic Church collaborated in the task of persuading Orlando’s mother that everything was ready to end the ordeal that the political police had condemned her to: facing the organized pickets — Sunday after Sunday — who prevent her from going to the cemetery and the temple of Banes. They absolved her of continuing her sacrifice, pardoned her sins, and showed her that the path to her cross led in the opposite direction. The day of the exhumation will be the one year anniversary of the beatification of Padre Olallo, and also one year since, in a punishment cell in Kilo 7 Prison in Camaguey, Zapata Tamayo chose immolation over submission.

Time will pass, and one day we will receive, as if we earned it, what remains by then of the inconvenient corpse of this man, who left not a single memorable phrase in writing, nor was he the leader of anyone, but he made us ashamed of our daily cowardice.

November 29, 2010

This Tuesday, At 8:30 PM Sharp / Antunez


The Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Civic Resistance and Disobedience Front, in the framework of the “The System Doesn’t Work” Day and in coordination with the Frank País 30th of November Democratic Party*, members of this front, invite the rest of the opposition and dissident organizations in the country to meet this November 30th at 8:30 at night coincident with the national pot-and-pan protest.

The Front, which gathers together the leading regional coalitions and promoter organizations of civil disobedience will present the Castro regime with this anti-establishment demand.

1. Demand the dictatorship that if, as Fidel Castro recognized, the system doesn’t work, that it be immediately changed.

2. The freedom of the more than 11 million Cubans, prisoners on this captive Island.

3. The return of the girl Yirisleidi to her father, incarcerated for writing anti-government slogans on the front of his house.

4. The urgent and unconditional freedom of the 10 Cuban patriots, who by their refusal to leave Cuba are retained in prison, as well as the freedom of each and every one of the political prisoners in Cuba.

5. Our opposition to the evictions and layoffs of those who are being objects thereof – the Cubans of the Island.

Likewise, the Front claims the support of all our countrymen — be they inside or outside Cuba — and of all the friends and sympathizers of the cause of freedom of our Motherland across which we summon to this important call.

The Front, in coordination with the Partido Democrático 30 de noviembre Frank País, believes that this important and peaceful protest will create a serious precedent in the anti-Castro struggle and will be the beginning of an escalation of actions and initiatives that will contribute powerfully to the strengthening and unity of each and every one of the factors struggling for democratic change of our Motherland.

“Freedom, compatriots”, said the apostle**, “costs very dearly and it is necessary to resign oneself to live without it or conquer it at its price.” And the price is this, the struggle and frontal assault against the dictatorship.

Brothers, Sisters: This is the moment to move from thought to action, from dissidence to resistance, from planning to activism. And here is the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Civic Resistance and Disobedience Front; an entity arisen as a necessity of the moment in which our country lives. Here is the Front, uniting, for the first time, those in Cuba who promote civil disobedience and public protests as strategies of the struggle. Here is the Front, upright in the face of terror, demanding the freedom of the more than 11 million Cubans, the reuniting of the Cuban family and the cessation of repression against the population in general. The Front needs solid support, from as many Cubans who want and need to be free.

We are counting on your support.

From Placetas, in the center of Cuba. Jorge Luis García Pérez “Antunez”, candidate for democratic election to the (position of) Secretary General of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Civic Resistance and Disobedience Front.

* Translator’s Note: This party is named for an anti-Batista rebel named Frank País. This party’s name commemorates his leadership of a 4-day uprising in Santiago de Cuba which began on 30 November 1956. Future references to this party’s name will remain in its original Spanish.

**Translator’s note: the “apostle” credited with this quote is José Martí.

Translated by: JT

November 24, 2010

Between Y and Y… / Regina Coyula

Alejandro is a boy I’ve known for more than five years; he finished his Social Service after university and is looking for work as a teacher that will give him time to finish his master’s. The other day we ran into each other, and as he knows that I have a blog, he began to talk with me about some information that had come to his attention. He told me about a Google service that posts information in real time — he had seen some Yohandy using his time on the internet to talk about Yoani Sanchez, as if he were a paparazzi — and he was curious about the appearance of this modality in our society and was looking for information about that person. Yohandy seems ubiquitous and sleepless, he has an enviable internet connection and is interested in the details. He keeps track of the money Yoani spends on text messages and Twitter, and has even published a photo allegedly showing Yoani’s husband kissing another woman. Alejandrito looked for gossip about others, but Yohandry focused his inquiries only on Yoani.

Almost nothing I heard surprised me. I told Alejandrito that Yoani could spend that money and more, from the prizes she has received. Which demonstrates her seriousness, because given the conditions in Cuba, anyone else would have earmarked that money to fix their house or trade for another one, buy a car, take a great vacation, eat well.

Some time ago I said in a post that in the absence of anything in your life, they will design a campaign to discredit you. Is this Yohandry’s interpretation of what a Battle of Ideas should be?

November 26, 2010

The Country of Long Shadows / Yoani Sánchez


There are two men on the corner. One of them wears a headset attached to one ear while the other looks toward the door of the building. All the neighbors know exactly why they are there. A dissident lives on one of the floors and two political police watch who enters and leaves the building, giving the word if the “target” crosses the threshold of the huge concrete block; they have a car nearby to follow him wherever he goes. They don’t try to hide, they want people to see that this person with critical opinions is being monitored, so that his friends and acquaintances will be afraid to approach him, not wanting to fall into the network of control, the web of surveillance.

The Crushing Machine
This is not an isolated case, in Cuba every non-conformist has his own shadow or group of them who pursue him. The so-called “securities” also use sophisticated monitoring techniques, which range from tapping the telephone line and putting microphones in people’s houses, to tracking the person through the location of his mobile phone signal. For some time now, Havana has been filled with cameras on many corners; not only do they monitor ordinary crimes, but also follow the work of opposition groups, independent journalists, and civic and citizen associations with opinions that differ from those of the ruling party.

George Orwell’s futuristic novel has come to life here in a complex technological network supported by a huge number of plain-clothes police. Eyes that scrutinize are everywhere, and the results of these observations are added to individuals’ files, waiting for the day when the surveillance will result in a trial before a court. The devastating effects on the personal and social lives of those who suffer one of these operations are reflected in the terrible names Cubans use to refer to State Security: The Apparatus, Armageddon, The Crushing Machine. For anyone who has ever been their victim, their flamboyant methods can become a recurring nightmare. They are also the reason that others maintain their masks of make-believe, for fear of being entered into their dark archives.

Growing Vigilance
In a country in economic collapse, where cuts of up to 25% of the active labor force have been announced, it is curious that the number of employees in the Ministry of the Interior will not be reduced. On the contrary, the state budget allocated to the military and security sphere has increased every year between 2004 and today. If anything has characterized the leadership of Raul Castro, it is the emphasis on the presence of police, military and security guards everywhere. The latter abound in the cultural centers where there is an event, keeping an eye on the lines whether its to enter a film festival or a hip-hop concert.

Sometimes one almost feels like laughing to see an unarmed and peaceful man, accompanied only by his words and arguments, pursued by several cars, by cops with walkie-talkies, and a technical apparatus that seems more appropriate for action movies than reality. It is rather ridiculous to see these muscular men, trained to fight, waiting for hours in front of the house of a government opponent so they can harass him whenever he takes his dog out to relieve itself or goes to buy a pack of cigarettes. If it weren’t too sad to be funny.

The Privileged Elite
Although they’ve been trained in the methods of the former Soviet KGB, each one of these intimidators thinks himself a bit like Rambo, ready to flaunt his knowledge of karate any time someone turns around, or when a detainee doesn’t want to be forced into a car with private plates without an official arrest order. They specialize in beating people where it won’t show, in dislocating things that later, no doctor, will want to record, and threatening the victim with whatever he fears most. In short, they are specialists in terror and harassment. They enjoy the privileges that come to them as the arms of power: a weekend at the beach, a car imported from China, a higher-than-average salary, a little extra food each month. Crumbs that turn them into faithful members of a repressive machine.

People, however, don’t like them, though they present themselves as heroes, self-appointed defenders of national security. People talk about the disproportionate number of securities who surround each non-conformist. Under their breath, and while looking over their shoulders, many comment ironically, “There’s such a lack of bodies in agriculture, and look at these guys, standing around all day watching people who think differently.” If instead of casting their long shadows over the system’s critics, they decided instead, say, to cast them over some of the country’s empty furrows, perhaps they could plant a few tomatoes or some lettuce, and actually make a difference.

This article originally appeared in El Comercio.

The Rolling Confessional / Miriam Celaya

Photograph by Orlando Luís

If, as the result of some wonderful spell, lots of Cubans on the island were able to (and wished to) participate with us in this blog, they would agree with me in that there is a phenomenon, as curious as it is widespread, that has been ordained as usual, at least in Havana: taxicabs are a kind of rolling confessional. Anyone wishing to be convinced of this need only have 20 pesos in national currency, that is, the most national; choose any of the longer routes covered by the “boteros” or “almendrones” (shared-ride taxis), and listen to the verbal unloading of almost every traveler who climbs aboard the car. We really could do a study in Cuban society, its needs, aspirations, disappointments, frustrations and despair by only boarding an “almendrón”. But I am slipping: the phenomenon is not confined to almendrones on route.

Any car for hire, licensed or not, becomes an adequate venue and forum –- with no previous agreement — for an analysis of “things” to start flowing between travelers and driver. It is amazing how the simple act of boarding an automobile, getting seated, and shutting the door of such a minuscule space that it even forces physical contact with people who, up to that moment, are absolutely unknown and strangers to us, triggers a kind of magical communicative effect, and people unload a whole universe of complaints, tribulations and disagreements that, as a general rule, are not even heard in labor meetings or Popular Party assemblies.

In a moving vehicle, I have listened to everything, from the deepest analyses to crazy plans for fleeing the Island. Everything exists in the vineyards… of this other guy. No exaggeration. And most relevant is the almost unanimous feeling of discontent and dissatisfaction that prevails among travelers. There is talk of licenses to the self-employed (which most do not intend to apply for) and high taxes, the country’s untenable situation, the countless shortcomings, the market shortages, the horrible state of public transportation services, the poor conditions in hospitals, the overlapping but unstoppable rise in prices of primary (plus secondary and tertiary) goods, talk of “there is no fixing this”, “these people are not going to solve anything “, “how things were before (before the Revolution, before the Special Period, before the dual currency…)”, of the children who have left to live abroad and of those who yearn to leave, of the experiences of 50 years of deceptions expressed by people of diverse ages, backgrounds and professions in a few minutes of fleeting company. The interior of a taxicab is probably the only sincere public space we have left, a microcosm of complicity and consensus that unite us, though, at the end, it might only be an illusion as fleeting as the travelers themselves.

The day this country becomes like any other, in which each person is free and master of her own self and of her destiny — if that idyllic day ever comes at last — we will have to erect a monument to taxicabs. Not just because, overheated, noisy and rattling, they were able to assume the daily and permanent transportation of hundreds of thousands of individuals, or because they are humble substitutes for the psychiatrists’ couches that we see in the movies (our psychiatrists probably don’t have couches), but because they have also been small spaces of spontaneous freedom in which Cubans, when expressing themselves, and almost without realizing it, have played at not being slaves to transform themselves into — though only for a few minutes of their lives — citizens.

Translated by Norma Whiting

November 26, 2010

We Have Received These Messages From Rolando Lobaina’s Twitter / Luis Felipe Rojas

Early this sunday morning, we were expecting to receive an e-mail with an entry for the readers of “Crossing the Barbed Wire”, but instead what we received was this message from Rolando Lobaina’s Twitter (@LobainaCuba) coming from Guantanamo: “The writer, Luis Felipe Rojas, his wife, and 2 children have been detained by the political police at the entrance of Guantanamo. His current whereabouts are still unknown.”
Up to this moment, Luis Felipe Rojas’ cell phone continues to be “turned off”. It cannot receive any messages, and he has therefore not been able to send out any messages either to his friends. Much less a tweet.

Translated by Raul G.

November 28, 2010

Would Communism be Good for Cubans? / Iván García

In theory, to live under communism should be a nice little number for Cubans. As money doesn’t exist, you don’t have to pay bills for rent, electricity, water or the phone. If we had internet connections, they would be free, too.

If you’re hungry, you go to the supermarket and fill a trolley with groceries. No check-outs or security cameras. If you get tired of your old American car, you pop down to the showroom and swap it for a Russian or Chinese model.

In practice, the idyllic communist society that we’ve had to listen to them banging on about for half a century is completely crazy. And unsustainable. An incredible dogma. A trap to catch out the gullible.

Religions involve individuals. But the worst thing about the theories of Karl Marx is that they involve the society as a whole and condemn it co-exist with dictators, tyrants and patriarchs who, with a firm hand, are meant to lead us to a system in which everything is free. Quite a tale!

The reality is very different. To achieve unanimity, laws are made which send those who disagree to prison. Parties with other shades of ideology are forbidden. And those who defend the Western lifestyle are contemptuously called ‘unpatriotic’.

In closed regimes, the clever people insist that socialism, the prelude to communism, is better than capitalism. So far no one has been able to prove this. Look at the case of Cuba. An island with an unstable economy that lives like a beggar, going cap-in-hand around the world.

The worst thing is that after 50 years of deprivation the local ideologues tell us that with the new policies of sackings, private enterprise and the removal of state subsidies, now, really, truly, we are going to start… the construction of socialism!

A bad joke. The US embargo of Cuba is no excuse for the fact that fruit and vegetables have disappeared in this country. That the fields are filled with the invasive marabou weed [Dichrostachys cinerea- a plague in Cuba]. That the cows give little milk and the hens have gone on strike.

The leaders in Cuba survive with the millions sent back home by emigrants and with the dollars and euros spent by the capitalist tourists. With this ‘enemy’ money they want to build their communist utopia.

They’re stubborn. Not even the example of the late USSR — which fell after 74 years of gross stupidity and brought the Berlin Wall down with it — makes them doubt Marxism.

Iván García

Translated by: Jack Gibbard

November 21, 2010

Haiti: The Two Epidemics / Miriam Celaya

Doctors Without Borders in Haiti. Photograph from the Internet

The media have been reporting the alarming growth of the cholera epidemic that is spreading through Haiti. It began soon after hurricane Thomas hit that very poorest of nations. Each new piece of information tells us of a constant progression in the number of infected and who dead are from the disease, and already cases are being reported in the Dominican Republic –- natural geographic heir of this and other types of Haitian diseases — and they are even talking about one case in Southern Florida, USA.

On another front, the newspaper Juventud Rebelde, in its Sunday, November 21st edition, has just published the total number of Cuban health support personnel found there: 689 in total, including doctors, nurses, health technicians and staff service. This newspaper further adds that 530 of them work full-time on the cholera epidemic, and, so far, have treated 22,123 people, with 253 deaths. Simultaneously, informal rumors by people linked to the Public Health sector in the Island, as well as family and friends of the Cubans who are part of these hundreds of workers, claim that — in addition to the risk of contagion — there is the additional danger that flows from living every minute in the vortex of social cataclysm because, in Haiti, along with the current cholera epidemic, extreme violence coexists, exacerbated by the earthquake last February with its tragic aftermath of destruction, ruin and misery, which worsened after the recent hurricane and the outbreak of the epidemic.

Thus, there are two epidemics involving Haiti these days: cholera and violence. This last one — unleashed since 1791, with its bloody revolution, echo and parody of the French Revolution of 1789 — has been nourished by death, anarchy, despotism and destruction over two centuries, and ended in making the former thriving French colony a lamentable and permanent ruin. Haiti, in its secular poverty, is a paradigm of the work of social revolutions dressed in “liberation.” Not by chance, it is said that we are fraternal nations.

The foreign media gives an account of the numerous groups of Haitian vandals that commit assaults and other criminal acts against groups of UN assistance and other civilians, whom — in their crass ignorance — they consider responsible for the actual epidemic and for the “insufficient aid”, as if the extreme hygienic sanitary conditions were not the result of the brutal lack of culture and backwardness that make this country the poorest and most unhealthy in this hemisphere, or if the whole world had the obligation to assume the consequences of the barbarian state in which these people have subsisted throughout their turbulent history.

The note published in Juventud Rebelde is sparse and inadequate, the kind that abounds in our official press and often leaves us with more questions than answers. We do not know to what extent the Cuban health joint forces are safe in the midst of the epidemic, surrounded by violence, confusion and hatred generated by a people’s hunger, disease and helplessness. Nor do we have any information about plans that the authorities should have regarding their return to Cuba, the security arrangements that might have been taken to preserve their lives or whether necessary conditions of isolation and quarantine have been undertaken to keep under care and observation those who return from Haiti.

Experience has shown us that, when it comes to politics, the government ignores such trivial details as the integrity of our health. We have examples — sadly numerous, by the way — of how the “solidarity” of the revolution has led to the entry of diseases once eradicated or simply unknown to Cubans: AIDS, imported in the 80′s thanks to the military campaign in Angola, as well as dengue and hemorrhagic conjunctivitis, introduced later as a result of hasty programs or health “missions” that brought hundreds of people (vectors) from the most remote parts of Latin America’s geography to Cuban soil in a matter of hours, without any kind of sanitary control. We have also recaptured tuberculosis, currently on the dramatic increase on the Island, just to cite the best known examples of the collateral benefits brought to us by the ill-interpreted and even worse-applied official solidarity that embark on health programs generated by populist politics and interests that have nothing to do with altruism.

Let’s hope that, this time, the alarm is without foundation; that our doctors return as soon as possible from Haiti, safe and sound, and that the terrible cholera epidemic won’t prey on the Cuban population too. Presumably, the Island’s authorities will avoid a new misfortune at all costs that will further complicate the somber panorama that lies before us. It would be best for everyone.

Translated by Norma Whiting

November 23, 2010

The Concept of Fatherland / Ángel Santiesteban

THE INDEPENDENCE heroes of America agreed that the continent is one Fatherland. And I felt that my love was much larger than the Island, so much so that I brushed aside other things and thought at some point that I had confused my own borders and felt I belonged everywhere. With this doubt that crushed me, the first thing I tried was to sort things out for myself, that it was really a Fatherland. What we knew as the Fatherland was the ground, the earth where we walked. Thus, the human being born on it was not a part of this Fatherland; nor were the trees, the fruits, the rivers, the animals, the flowers, the country. So I came to the conclusion that we were no more than objects, tools, ornaments, available links for the concept of country, that we were to be used on a whim and at convenience, especially by the politicians who developed this concept in their favor. What seemed unfair to me, that the surface was not at our service, but rather the contrary; the territory had not been created for us to establish ourselves on it, to use it to our advantage, to sustain the life and survival of the most important factor: the race. Instead, we had been conceived to safeguard the borders, to be the guardians of our assigned space. And I felt uncomfortable.

And I began to distrust a certain nationalism that conditions governments, like the concept of Fatherland. Who invented it? What is a country? Who decided for me the boundaries of my mother soil which I should love and where I should die? Perhaps the fact that some men put themselves ahead of others in the conquest is enough? If the Portuguese had reached the Isle of Pines first, would it them not be part of our Fatherland? And yet now we must die for it? Marti wrote a letter from his exile on that island and said that he was far from the Fatherland.

In one of the many wars, now almost inexplicable, that existed at the time, couldn’t half of the island of Cuba have been divided like Haiti and the Dominican Republic, who do not even speak the same language on that same piece of land, knowing moreover, the latter island was part of ours and was separated millions of years earlier by a seismic event, and that Cuba in its was separated from the rest of the continent by a similar phenomenon?

If Jamaica had remained under Spanish dominion would it be a part of the so-called Fatherland, as the Isle of Pines is now? If the islands that are still colonies of the great powers are threatened with a war with the neighboring island, to which would they feel patriotic? Fatherland? What, then, is the Fatherland? What is a country? Does Fatherland have the sense of the material environment in which we grew up? Is it nostalgia? Do those who live in Los Angeles feel that their Fatherland is Mexico, or the United States? The generation of children that nobody wanted, while they were at the Guantanamo Naval Base, which territory did they feel themselves to be in?… Is the mere fact of history and geography enough to govern human feelings? Does a country’s sky matter? Whom do the stars belong to? What is heaven? The earth rotates without cease and this blue cover goes to cover other portions of the earth, of other Fatherlands? Is the sky we see today the same as yesterday or tomorrow? And do the stars move with the dark mantle as if they were attached to a curtain?

Which is our warm water? The water collides with the walls of the Caribbean like a ping-pong ball, or the ball flying into the goal after slipping by Cuba, playing goalkeeper, and the rest of the Islands playing defense. Who manages the water around us, how can we not let them go and join those who cross the ocean to reach another continent and vice versa?

Which is the earth that holds our ancestors and their traditions, if our ancestors were in Europe and Africa for many more centuries than they were in America?

What is the Fatherland?

Which is the Fatherland?

Where is the Fatherland?

I know they are naive questions, silly, pure common place; but many of their answers have served as political slogans and much blood has been shed for them. I knew, or could understand, that the Fatherland is the “Social Being,” a condition of life that is ours at every time, that characterizes us as a people. The way of eating, walking, talking, gesticulating, making love, looking, breathing; but I also came to the conclusion that all of those details were living inside of me, they were similar and part of “me,” then if I could wander from one side to another with all of them, I would be connected to something more solid and eternal: I would belong to the party of the creation, and to a Fatherland without limits or adjacent boundaries, finally, as Jose Marti — the Apostle — said, “Fatherland is Humanity.” In an interview I conducted with Gastón Baquero, the great Cuban poet who lived in exile in Spain for more than thirty years, he said that he had never been away from the island because he had brought it with him, within himself; everything that interested him in the universe was there, within… “I take my country with me, in my inner castle. Wherever in the world you find yourself, you are the same distance from the stars.”

Perhaps it all is nothing more than the identity that surrounds us from birth, the little habits that, coming together, form and define us? Is it nothing more than the codes and symbols in which we were educated and grew up despite our subconscious life?

And so it is not worth so much sacrifice, the true Fatherland is inside us, in the interest we are able to pursue, in our ambitions and dreams: The rest is silence.

Photo: AP

November 24, 2010