THE LATEST FROM OMNI ZONA FRANCA / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

http://omnifestivalpoesiasinfin.blogspot.com/2010/09/protesto-todos-unidos-26-flow-de-los.html

Exclusively in the most recent issue of PROTEST of Omni Zona Franca and 26 underground Cuban rappers ALL UNITED against censorship and official lies.

Since last Thursday, September 3, the audio is distributed free inside the island and will be collected in several albums of Cuban alternative groups, to say loud and clear to the Ministry of Culture Omni Zona Franca Cuban culture is that all resolutions and subsidies together.

Since last Thursday, September 3, the audio has been distributed free within the island and will be collected in several albums of Cuban alternative groups, to say loud and clear to the Ministry of Culture that Omni Zona Franca is more culturally Cuban than all their resolutions and subsidies put together.

September 4, 2010

The New National Joke / Ernesto Morales Licea

Big Guy: I was a shoemaker and the Revolution made me an engineer.
Big Guy again: Now I’m a shoemaker again.
1st Little Guy: The retraining model is working!
2nd Little Guy: Long Live the Re-Use-Olution!

For the forward-looking among us, who lost their jobs before the Government announced its layoffs, the social chess game on this Island of the Absurd has a different connotation. Recent events don’t surprise us too much.

I, who was a pioneer in this expendability, will one day claim my diploma and prize.

So I opened the double pages of the newspaper Granma last Friday with a different mood from most people; less biased, perhaps. More “light.” When you’re already unemployed, little that is printed in the official newspaper frightens you.

Howling with laughter cleared my head. Getting to start the morning roaring gave me another lens through which to write the truth.

I’ve gone over and over the list of 178 new occupations that my Government benefactor has created for the support of its citizens, and every time the scene repeats itself: I start with a suppressed smile, and end up laughing my head off.

Someone told me not long ago: “This is a crazy country.” That is, it is not a country of crazy people, but a nation that has lost its sanity. This time even our leaders have contributed to the joke

I look at the list, ordered alphabetically, and I ask myself if any of these great careers would be suited to my talents as an idled scribe. After discarding “Tutor,” thinking myself lacking in pedagogic talent, I start to sort through them.

As a teenager I never got the chance, during my stay at high school, to climb a coconut palm and tear off its fruit. And not because it might have cost my life; my hunger was so fierce I would have climbed Everest. OK, maybe not this one.

I cross off “Palm Tree Harvester.” I imagine the fortune within my reach, but reason helps me to see my way to refusing it. If starving to death and adolescent hunger weren’t enough to get me to the top of a coconut palm…

2. In my house there’s a talking parrot and a dwarf turtle which, although nearly 20 years old, fits in the palm of a hand. With the profession of “renter of animals” now approved, I searched my brain trying to figure out how I could exploit the pets in my home, and in this way reactivate my non-existent economy.

The parrot is such an egomaniac that 99 percent of its entire repertoire starts with it mumbling its own name. It is also surly and phlegmatic, and I’m sure that the instant someone rents her from me to amuse their family, she will shut her beak entirely until the day of her return.

The turtle has the most boring existence any animal could experience. Except for filling the house with luck with its mystical ways, I see no other utility to it through which I might be able to raise some capital.

3. As the list is explicit, although I was trained in the art of weaving I could not exercise the profession. I would not be safe from doubts and malicious eyes. To acquire a license for an activity that says, with no margin for doubt, “Embroiderer-Weaver,” does not make me feel comfortable.

4. One of the options, which they’ve even marked with asterisks, is “Collector-Payer.” I like the idea of responding, when someone asks me my profession, “Well, I work at collecting and paying.” I could pass for an investor or a businessman, even if my pockets haven’t heard about it. Either way, a certain social recognition would attach to me.

5. Quite the opposite of those who announce their official status as, “Hairdresser for domestic animals.” True, it is an honorable profession where it is practiced, frequently in developed nations. But I automatically distrust the home environment of a girl I just met, for example, who confessed to me that her father earned a living cutting the bangs of poodles in his city.

6. There are some professions recently recognized that need a little public clarification in order to address popular misconceptions. Item number 156 says, “Dandy,” and no one has any idea what could be going on in the minds of our leaders. That said, some of my best friends have started to shave their chests, hone their muscles, and even buy themselves hats and canes. Who knows.

7. On the other hand, the newspaper Granma should have provided some kind of key to go with this compilation of legendary trades of the most mysterious and indecipherable; they need an explanation. I have to confess I couldn’t sleep thinking of the devils who devote themselves to the position of “Button coverer,” or “Book possessor.”* I think my optimism will be confirmed if I find that I am able to support my current and future family through the latter line of work. If they are going to pay me for having books… Hallelujah!

8. Not even the astral world has been passed over by our Government in its effort to provide every Cuban with a living and personal well-being. Now the “Fortuneteller” can read in peace, (license in hand), the future of her client in a deck of cards. Even guessing the fate of the inspectors who ask to see the license for their illuminating work.

Also the “Tropical fruit peeler,” could remove the skins of bananas and mangoes without worrying about being caught out; for a small tax the State will authorize him to devote himself to this juicy business.

The only thing not clear to me is when our sardonic newspaper will publish the tag-line that clarifies everything. The text that finishes off this incredibly original joke with which the highest echelons of power wanted to favor us. For a Creole joke it’s not bad, but we have all laughed heartily already, let them start taking us seriously… Deal?

*Translator’s note: The idea of “Book possessor” is funny in two languages/cultures: English/Spanish; Capitalist/Communist. The term is actually the equivalent to the English “bookkeeper”… But what Cuban keeps books? In the socialist paradise where the State owns all…

September 28, 2010

Is Now The Time To Eliminate the Travel Permit? / Ernesto Morales Licea

The question has been going around and around in my mind, with a subtle persistence, since I found our recently that for the eighth time in three years the Cuban government has denied Yoani Sanchez an exit permit.

For those unaware of the Cuban reality, let me clarify: This country of ours demonstrates, today, one of the most backward and arbitrary travel permit systems that can be found anywhere in the world. A system expressly designed, without failures or slip ups, to endlessly impede any personal effort to come to know another country, and, at will and without any effort at all, to impede the travel of an “uncomfortable” citizen.

This is one of those points where my socialist Cuba does not admit moderation, pros or cons, or lukewarm analysis: it is an official aberration, that we deliberately crush point 2 of Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

“Every person has the right to leave any country, including their own, and to return to their country.”

There are two possibilities: either we Cubans cannot count ourselves as human beings, and if so this prerogative does not apply to us; or, I don’t know how else to say — what other words to use — to stand in any forum, before any international competition, and categorically deny that Cuba violates any human rights.

In the endless arsenal of terminology and “bureaucratese” to leave Cuba, I think there is not other evidence more flagrant in the authoritarian will of the system, than the so-called “white card,” which is popular parlance for the Permission to Leave granted by the Department of Immigration and Foreigners.

A White Card because, apparently, that is a complete description of it: a sheet of paper where the Government concedes the questions and with immense grace allows you to leave the country. Temporarily or permanently — “definitively” as the latter is called.

So great are the obstacles to be overcome, so important the privilege of that card, that more than a few people, after obtaining one, make an offering to the Virgin of Charity of Cobre in Santiago de Cuba, a devout promise for a favor granted. The Patron Saint knows what that fragile sheet represents.

This Permit to Leave is the exclusive patrimony of the Department of Immigration. They grant it, they deny it. There are no ways to access the oracular voice that pronounces the Yes or the No. Although it is an open secret that the institution which, in these matters, gives the last word is: State Security.

The citizen exhausts himself in the hundreds of suffocating procedures, collects such a large number of letters and certificates that, with so much paper, it is an attack on the permanence of the forests; and in the end… he never knows if all his effort and hours of waiting for officials makes any sense, because the white card is never discussed. When it is denied, there is no explanation.

Now, looking at this through the lens of the new reality that, it seems, is starting to spread across the Island, I think my question takes on a different meaning. Is this the precise moment to put out to pasture this monstrosity, this Cuban immigration system?

And I clarify that with this approach, I only pretend to assume for a second the logic of those who erected the white letter as a compulsory procedure. Otherwise, my question would be disingenuous: there should never have existed such a violation of our individualities.

But looking through the lens of power, we can analyze what this prerogative, this faculty that the Government claims for itself to decide who leaves this country, as if it were a private plantation. Why, then? Because, in the nation as we have it today, I don’t believe there is anything they were trying to show the world, by establishing this Exit Permit.

What other purpose can they have to deny a human being the right to travel freely, except to prevent the mass exodus that would lead the world to suspect the truth behind the social paradise?

Or to put it more simply, at some point the white card must have fulfilled an ideological objective: preventing the testimony of those who abandoned the Island from destroying the Revolutionary myth of a united and happy Cuba. It was the same principle of those who strafed the Berliners who chose to tackle the wall and cross into West Germany. But let’s be clear: do we have, today, a mentally challenged world, incapable of reasoning?

After seeing that in 1980 ten thousand people took refuge in the Peruvian embassy; after the Rafter Crisis when young people chose the sea and the jaws of the sharks rather than the reality they suffered at home; after hundreds of thousands of Cubans chose international visa lotteries, Spanish citizenship, and the legal loopholes that let them escape this Caribbean island… In truth, what is the use of the iron Exit Permit? What hidden truth and illusion does it sustain?

None, save to prove clearly the militaristic character of the State that decides who will escape the fence, and how, and who will grow old within it.

However, now our leaders have added and subtracted points, now they have placed in the balance of a benefit-cost ratio, for example, repressing peaceful opponents with prison. Now that they have also launched a cry for help for the rusty national economy, would now not be the perfect time to rid themselves of the political cost involved, nationally and internationally, of not letting Cubans travel freely throughout the world?

I believe letting the white card evaporate, eliminating the steel barriers, and allowing Cubans to have the same opportunities to travel as the rest of the free citizens of the world, would begin to solve a specific problem: permanent — “definitive” — emigration.

Why do Cubans leave their country forever? Why do they “desert” (another aberration of terminology)? Those athletes, doctors, artists, who leave to settle permanently in other countries. Elementary: Because it is so difficult to leave the country, they must seize the opportunity. Now or never.

But the Jurassic apparatus aside, I am convinced that the vast majority of Cubans would choose to travel, to work for a time outside of Cuba, raise capital and, then what? Take advantage of the opportunity to spend that money in their own country, among their family and friends.

Like so many Mexicans do, who cross the border to earn a living however they can; as the South Americans do to find work in Europe, while leaving their family in their birthplace: returning to invest or spending their earnings elsewhere.

We all know that a serious percentage of the national economy is supported by… Whom? The exiles. The emigrants. The just under two million Cubans who have scattered across the world. So what would be the impact if those with capital could enter and leave the country, like other citizens with money, they could get on a plane?

Finally, I believe that there could be no stronger evidence of real change, verifiable, in the way the country is run, no better way to improve national opinion, than to remove these travel barriers. Cubans would start to feel respected by their government. They would start to believe in a will to find solutions beyond permits to run a barber shop, or depriving them of their jobs. And they would start to plan their lives not according to whether or not they will leave the island forever, but how they will come to know other countries, make a living with hard work and honesty, and then return home like the prodigal son.

Putting an end to the virtual prison in which we are forced to survive, would also avoid the rigmarole of the indefensible, the desperate explanations, when an uninhibited Cuban asks them why they can’t travel like so many workers and middle class and lower class people in other countries.

Ricardo Alarcon, the President of our Parliament, would have been saved, for example, from that demeaning argument that still today surprises us, when a Computer Institute student wanted to know why he could not go to Bolivia, to see where his admired Che Guevara died.  (“Imagine if 3 billion people in the world could travel, the congestion there would be on the airlines…”)

But above all, our leaders would stop using the sacred right to travel freely as a means of repression against those who choose to meet their arbitrariness with words and peace.

It is not about Yoani Sanchez, or many artists “who can’t be trusted,” or the peaceful opposition, or the children of “deserters” from a sport or a medical mission. It is about the fact that this is the right time to show, not the world, but Cubans, that our rights are part of the review that a more sensible and humane government wants to undertake in the country today.

If the arrogance didn’t cloud their reason, I think the logic of this thinking would ultimately prevail. By cruel misfortune, our recent history is marked by the disregard of logic.

October 12, 2010

The Writer / Fernando Dámaso

The novel had gotten out of hand. Although he’d been trying for day, he couldn’t finish it: he couldn’t find a fitting end. It had all started with a simple anecdote that seemed like it would make a good story. From the first lines, however, the characters were coming to life and demanding to act on their own. He let them at it and, when he wanted to call them back to order, it was already impossible. They’d outrun the limits of the story and had gotten embroiled in a long history, where they were influencing each other.

Dominated by them, he continued writing: simply relating, as a chronicler, what they did. It was all developing normally until one of the characters started to quarrel with the others about his importance in the work. They all wanted to be the main character. One night when he managed to get them together, he explained the need to have one be the major character while the others would be secondary. Although they gave in, before his threat to stop writing, they weren’t convinced and, from that moment the gossip, tripping each other up, all the other vices of human vanity, flourished in his pages.

He tried to mask them with baroque prose, but one or another line lifted their ears. With perseverance, page by page, he was putting together his stores and he felt equally pleased with all the characters. So he came to the end and here came the catastrophe: all the characters wanted a happy ending and they wanted to be a part of it. He asked for help, retraining, but they were unable to shed their miseries. He was still unable to finish the novel. How can there be a happy ending when there are thirteen characters involved?

October 13, 2010

Varadero Hotel International / Regina Coyula

The Varadero Hotel International is one of the symbols of my adolescence. I stayed there twice, and if you spent a vacation week in Varadero you had to go to the cabaret at night, there were no discotheques then, your spent your beach nights there or at the Kawama cabaret. The International is linked in my memory with daring attitudes that were only summer kisses. I loved coming into the spacious lobby and finding familiar faces, even an ugly photo next to a vase of artificial flowers that they had in the vestibule.

For those like me, who have treasured the image of Varadero for more than twenty years, the familiar and beloved silhouette of the Hotel International will be no more. It is going to be demolished to reaffirm the loss of identity of Varadero in pursuit of the new, more Benidorm, more Cancun. Rounding out my feeling of loss, is that I haven’t even been able to find the ugly photo.

October 14, 2010

Neoliberalism / Yoani Sánchez

With the start of mass layoffs, our authorities own official propaganda apparatus has announced their worst nightmare, the day the system collapsed. The drastic measure has been justified as a part of perfecting, or actualizing, the Cuban economic model, euphemisms with which they try to mask the growing use of market rules in the functioning of the economy.

What the current government is doing is a relief to the politicians of the future; it will be they who will get to announce the beautiful part of the transition, when civil liberties and economic rights will take center stage. Contrary to how it was presented by the regime’s propagandists, the rocks against which the ship of the Revolution is crashing, with all its conquests on board, are not along the far shore where the sirens of capitalism sing, but here, in the illusion of Utopia, on this shore.

October 14, 2010

Another Cuban Evil: School Violence / Iván García

The Cuban Ministry of Education prohibits teachers’ use of any punishment, whether verbal or physical, on students of all levels of education.

However, although the official media do not report it, through word of mouth from independent journalists, alarming cases of school violence have come to light. In almost all cases they appear to involve teachers with little experience as educators.

A decade ago, Fidel Castro himself made a crusade to produce teachers for the country. Urgently, and with accelerated courses, in one year they trained thousands of “emergent teachers” as they are officially called.

The aim was to overcome the deep crisis in which the national education system was, and is, mired. The low salaries of teachers in primary and secondary means they often spend little time in the classroom, quickly moving on to other jobs.

They desert their profession to work where they can earn foreign exchange, as porters at a hotel or cleaning bathrooms in a restaurant. Into one of these vacant positions 19-year-old Fernanda moved, as a teacher at October 10th Elementary School.

Fernanda lives with her family in an uncomfortable two room house, with three generations under one roof. Breakfast is almost nothing, when she even has it; her salary of 325 pesos (13 dollars a month), does not cover her expenses. She enrolled for a little excitement and to earn some money and become independent. But she doesn’t really have a vocation for teaching and the poor pedagogical skills she acquired don’t help her in her battle with some twenty children between six and eight-years-old.

In her case, as in others’, they often make up for their deficiencies with insults and profanity. And when they run out of patience, they try a smack of ruler or a stick on student’s head or shoulders to make them be quiet and pay attention.

A parent who requested anonymity said her daughter refuses to have anything to do with the teacher Fernanda and she had to take her to a psychologist. And that’s not an isolated case. Norge, 36, a father of two who are in the 3rd and 5th grades in another school in the city, said the verbal and physical violence is alarming.

On top of all this, there is the poor quality of the education. Parents pay between 10 and 20 convertible pesos (12 to 25 dollars) a month to retired teachers who give their children “refresher courses” so that they can learn something.

When a teenager finishes high school and doesn’t make it into the university, he has the choice of studying Teaching or Medicine, the least demanding of the courses of higher education. They’ve been devalued so much that they call them “junk careers” or garbage.

Violence on the part of teachers has led to tragic events. On February 1, 2008, 21-year-old Joaquin Torres, “emergent teacher” at Domingo Sarmiento secondary school, in the Lawton neighborhood of Havana, threw an iron chair at a 12-year-old student, Daniel Castaneda, killing him.

That same year at Antonio Aucar Secondary School in Santa Clara, the “emergent teacher” Yaniel Basail, punched the student Daniel Castellanos and kicked him in the face for refusing to eat the bread with mortadella and a glass of soy yogurt offered through the government’s “Battle of Ideas” program.

Not a few parents who have lost patience have taken justice into their own hands, and have gone to the schools to beat the young teachers.

On November 13, 2009, Leafer Perez reported on Cubanet, “School violence that shook up several secondary schools in the 10th of October Municipaility, has reached new levels, which worries the students’ parents.

“In the first days of November, a fight involved dozens of students at Cesar Escalante and Jose Maria Heredia schools. In the dispute, a teacher was wounded in the arm with a knife, and several students received grave injuries. It all started as a challenge between the two schools, which grew into an exchange of gestures and verbal insults, culminating in a huge brawl.

The school principals met with the parents to ask them to check their children’s backpacks, to make sure they weren’t carrying knives, awls and other aggressive weapons to school. Students who repeatedly resort to violence will be dealt with by officials from the Department for the Care of Children in the Ministry of the Interior.

“The addresses for these centers met with parents to ask them to check their backpacks, to prevent their children to carry knives, punches or other articles used for aggression. Students in violent repeat offenders will be treated by members of the Child Care Department of the Ministry of Interior.

“On the other hand, the boys say they have sex in the bathrooms, and the kids who are a part of the subculture known as “emos” get together during recess to cut themselves. They don’t cut their veins, rather they cut into their legs because they can cover the wounds with stockings.”

The Education Minister, Ena Elsa Velázquez Cobiella, has not spoken publicly about the increased violence in Cuban schools. The official silence does nothing to curb the situation. On the contrary, it aggravates it. The government should take action on the matter. As soon as possible.

October 13, 2010

An Odd Anniversary / Fernando Dámaso

  1. Yesterday, October 10, was the 142nd anniversary of the Cry of Yara. The Cuban flags, so plentiful in government buildings, and also in the facades of some slogan followers’ houses, during days of celebration of the Socialist Calendar, were conspicuous by their absence. It seems this date, just like February 24, fundamental in defining our national identity, has lost its relevance, ceding its place to more important ones.
  2. It was a day like any other, only highlighted on the official media with a few news-flashes and some images, while most time and space was dedicated to other matters.
  3. It is true that, in the face of predicted ecological and political cataclysms, historical reenactments, necrophilic remakes, announcements of massive layoffs, increases in the price of products and services, and other misfortunes, there’s not much to celebrate.
  4. I remember my mother, on a day like this, trying to coordinate the colours of the flag in her clothes, and pinning a flag-coloured badge to the collar of her blouse. Those were different times, when civic pride was a fundamental part of life, without the need for decrees, instructions or slogans to honor the nation, its founders and its acts.
  5. Maybe a few years from now, when the 150th anniversary of the Cry of Yara comes and some things might have changed, we’ll adorn our houses with the national flag again, feel proud to be Cubans and celebrate this holiday, the most important, along with February 24, for the Cuban Nation.

Translator’s note: This date marks the beginning of the Ten Year’s War.

Translated by: Xavier Noguer

October 11, 2010

Repressive Machine Without a Counterpart / Luis Felipe Rojas

Photo:  Luis Felipe Rojas

On Saturday, I was finishing telling my friends over the phone to upload this post onto my blog, and on Sunday, the 10th, two political police officers show up to my house once again to take me to San German police station.  Like always, the reasons for this detention are unknown to me, and the accusations and threats will swell the “invisible archives” of this “very transparent” region.

Amid detentions, threats, and other coercions from those who wish to oppress me, I did not have enough time to take my complaints to the Provincial Office of Holguin.

On the 22nd of June, as stated on the document I’ve attached to this post, I decided to sue the officials who detained my family and myself by surrounding us with various soldiers and political police officers for 6 days during the month of May.

On July 2nd I went before officer Captain Juan Carlos Laborde to give more details about my accusation.  He told me that I should wait until the investigation was concluded.  On August 2nd I was once again cited and had to wait until 6 pm under the scorching sun since that office is closed off by a grating of bars. There, they checked me before going in, searching for some sort of recording device.  I had to listen to a military officer — who is supposed to serve as the counterpart of the repressive G2 apparatus — tell me that the soldiers had only acted on orders; in other words, they could handle my case without counting on any orders and interrogate me without any official citations.

The argument of this young soldier was based in the fact that “mine” is a national security case, so they have that prerogative.  Basically, this means that if they have to question an assassin, a rapist, or a corrupt functionary, then they would abide by the norms established by the Diligence of Citations and Detentions. The way in which they interpret the law according to ideological or political conditions keeps the Military Office from acting against officials, if the case deals with a dissident or social nonconformist.

The worst part is that this official admitted that yes, it was an irregularity, but that it is the common procedure in regards to a case of hostility against the Cuban social model.  This was all a prelude to what happened next: on Tuesday, August 3rd, one of the largest waves of repression against activists in the Eastern region of the country got underway.

That is their method.  They gave me no written records of these experiences, so for now I will have to continue denouncing this before international organizations — with luck they will believe my words, and believe that I did everything legally in my country, the same country in which, if you are considered “ideological filth,” you don’t have any rights to denounce the crimes committed by those in power.

The oppressive activities targeted and detained 28 people, some of whom already had previous detentions during that same week.

Here is the document:

San German, Holguin, June 22nd 2010
To: Military Office of Holguin
Subject: Denunciation

Through this letter, I, Luis Felipe Rojas Rosabal, adult Cuban citizen, inhabitant of 20th Street No. 1303 between 13 and 15, San German, Holguin, and with ID No. 71022122865, with all my mental abilities intact, go before you to expose the following:

ACTS COMMITTED

– On numerous occasions I have been cited by the police authorities, especially by the instructor Luis Quesada and Majors Charles (who claims to be chief of the operational group DSE in the municipalities of Cueto, San German, and Cacocum) and Rodolfo Cepena Hernandez (who claims to be the head of DSE in San German).

– These men completely ignore the formalities that, for citations, are established by current Law of Penal Procedures which clearly states that any violation of these legal requirements goes directly against the rights provided by the document.

– On various occasions we have been impeded from attending weekly religious services which my wife, my two kids, and I are accustomed to attending. Among the impositions and restrictions of movement which are imposed on us, exists one on going out publicly accompanied by some of my family.

– My 6-year-old son has noticed and resents the strict police vigilance of our family. Other kids ask him why the police watch our house and on multiple occasions he has come home from school in tears.

– On December 25 and 27 of 2009 I was arrested at my house and in no instance did the police officers or the Majors Alberteris or Cepena ever hand me an official citation or arrest warrant, claiming that in such instances none of those documents were necessary.

– On February 21st of this year (2010) I was interrogated by Major Alberto Alberteris who did not show me a single arrest warrant or citation. Similar acts have been repeating themselves for 5 years now without the presence of any legal documents.

– On May 11th, I was arrested in my house once again by Major Charles, who refused to give me a citation document, and when my family demanded one he then alleged that I was not cited but instead that I was ARRESTED. He continued by saying that for an arrest, no document was necessary. In this case, my house was subjected to a public and humiliating surveillance carried out by police officers, state security officials (Cepena, Charles, Captain Otamendi, and members of the Quick Response Brigade (Gimon, Maikel Rodriguez Alfajarrin, the social worker Pedro Capote, and others).

BASIS OF RIGHTS

– Penal Procedure Law in articles 86 and 90.
Everything that I sign and mention here.

Attentively,
Luis Felipe Rojas Rosabal

Photo: Luis Felipe Rojas

October 10, 2010

In Praise of Vargas Llosa / Regina Coyula

A laconic note in the newspaper Granma on Friday brought me the news of the Nobel Prize for Literature 2010.

Of course I have not read his complete works. If I’m not mistaken, aside from his story, The Puppies, published by the Casa de las Americas in the sixties, the work of Vargas Llosa remains unpublished in Cuba. A few titles of his massive production have come my way, although not in the order they were published, and not all of equal importance, but I always derive satisfaction from his clean prose and a well-told story. One that made a particular impression on me was Captain Pantoja and the Special Service, the first of his novels that fell into my hands, along with The Feast of the Goat, for its dissection of tyranny, but above all Conversation in the Cathedral, a novel that ranks among my top ten, along with The Tin Drum and The Sound and the Fury.

The note in Granma warns us that because of his political position, if the people had a chance to vote he would have won the Anti-Nobel. A nice touch from the scorpions at Granma.

You see, people better informed than I have told me that Vargas Llosa said that he was reading the Cuban Alejo Carpentier’s Explosion in a Cathedral when he got the news of his award, and had even made a commercial for that novel. I very happy for Vargas Llosa. It’s a triumph for my culture.

And changing the subject, here we have China with the Nobel Peace Prize.

October 12, 2010

Cuba Will Have to Put Its Dreams of a Nobel Prize on Hold / Iván García

Communists or dissidents, famous or unknown, Cubans love awards and competitions. Of all kinds, national and foreign. They delight in being chosen and enjoy the glory they feel when they win.

It doesn’t matter if the prize is a diploma or a work of art. The money, yes. In pesos, it’s not bad, but in foreign currency, it’s ideal. If the money is enough, it can resolve a thousand personal and family problems.

Three Cuban writers have won the Cervantes Prize: Alejo Carpentier (1977), Dulce Maria Loynaz (1992) and Guillermo Cabrera Infante (1997). The athlete Javier Sotomayor was awarded the Prince of Sports Award in 1993. The list of musicians and composers, living on the island or abroad, who have earned a Grammy is longer: Celia Cruz, Bebo Valdes, Israel ‘Cachao’ Lopez, Gloria Estefan, Paquito D’Rivera, Arturo Sandoval, Chucho Valdes and Omara Portuondo, among others.

Since its creation in 1901, no Cuban, in any category, has been awarded a Nobel Prize. One of those who deserved it was Dr. Carlos J. Finlay, the discoverer of yellow fever.

That was in the twentieth century. In the twenty-first, with the stagnation of the economy and scientific and social research, due to the perennial economic crisis in the country, where Cuba has a chance is in the Nobel Peace Prize.

It is unknown if ultimately the Ladies in White candidacy when forward, and whether they were one of the 38 organizations nominated in 2010. It is not the first time that Cuban dissidents have dreamed of the prestigious award and its monetary support, amounting to one million euros.

In other years opponents like Oswaldo Payá, Oscar Elias Biscet and Marta Beatriz Roque have been proposed. Both in Norway and Sweden, the two countries that annually award the Nobel, they look kindly on fighters for freedom and democracy. In recent years it has been awarded to four prominent dissidents and human rights activists: the Russian Andrei Sakharov in 1975, the Polish Lech Walesa, in 1983, the Burmese Aung San Suu Kyi, in 1991 and the Iranian Shirin Ebadi, in 2003.

Nor is it known if Fidel Castro appears among the 199 personalities nominated in 2010. Acceptance of course certainly lends itself to self promotion. An interest in winning the Nobel Peace Prize explains his emphasis on speaking and writing about wars and nuclear threats. That’s one way to draw the attention of scholars in charge of evaluating the dossiers submitted.

According to rumors, on more than one occasion the comandante’s name has reached Oslo. And no wonder. Stalin was twice nominated in 1945 and 1948. Earlier, in 1939, Hitler had been proposed. This ‘select’ list was inaugurated by Mussolini in 1935.

Being the good partner of China that Cuba is, the rulers of the court and their spokespeople have been going crazy since the Nobel Peace Prize fell into the hands of Liu Xiaobo, an imprisoned “criminal.” Nor have they applauded the Literature prize being given to the “apostate from the left” Mario Vargas Llosa.

When the bearded ones came to power in 1959, Vargas Llosa was one of Latin American intellectuals who supported Fidel Castro and his revolutionary project. In 1965 he traveled to Havana to serve the jury for the Casa de las Americas Prize. So far so good. But when the Cuban poet Heberto Padilla was arrested in 1971, with wide repercussions in Europe and Latin America, the Peruvian writer decided to break with the Castro and his dictatorship.

Since then, Vargas Llosa swells the blacklist of “enemies of the revolution.” A list that now includes the Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.

October 11, 2010