Capitol or Bat House

I managed to sneak into the stairway when the workers went to the dining room to scarf down their lunch. It was the summer of 1992 and the temptation to climb to the cupola of the Capitol was stronger than the “keep out” warning written in red letters. Up above, the cobwebs the structural shoring, and the openings in the molding, alternated with objects covered in dust. From the height I looked down, where a shiny dome marks kilometer zero of the national highway.

Havana’s Capitol has been humiliated by its past, punished for seeming too much like Washington’s and embarrassed for having sheltered — once — the congress. Like a symbol of that republic demonized by the official propaganda, the imposing building has suffered the fate of the castigated. The Academy of Sciences established itself there, filling its spacious interior with partitions, and an ancient museum of stuffed animals located just below the chamber. Several bat colonies camped inside, spraying the walls with their feces and making holes is the decorative embellishments. The nooks and crannies of the facade became the most popular urinal in a several bloc radius.

A few years ago word got around that an Italian millionaire had donated a set of lights for this architectural gem. But by bit the light bulbs burned out and the colossus of stone and marble once again went dark. To the surprise of those who already took for a condemned site, billboards have recently been erected around it announcing the restoration of the majestic building. Hopefully the repairs won’t take longer than the brief years of its construction, and the Capitol will become — one day — the site of the Cuban parliament: a magnificent building that houses real debates.


Complaint Against the Justice Minister Advances

On July 7, The People’s Provincial Tribunal of Havana responded to the group of independent lawyers who filed suit against the Justice Minister, Maria Esther Reus González.

In the response (which was delayed because of a backlog in the chamber) the judge, Alfaro Guillén, Esq., and the lay judges, Núñez Valdés and Figueredo Ramos, required the members of the Cuban Law Association (AJC), to modify the terms of the judicial petition, within 10 days.

The court found it “improper” for Wilfredo Vallin, Esq., president of the organization, to act in the name and on behalf of a legal entity that is not currently constituted. The notice requires the lawyer bringing the action to proceed in his own name.

The Cuban legal system will not recognize an association that does not appear on the rolls of the Register of Associations. The law provides penalties of incarceration for up to three months against a person enrolled in a non-registered association. The punishment is tripled for the promoters or directors of an illegal association.

For its part, the Law of Associations (Law 54 of December 27, 1985) and its regulations, does not impose any legal formality for creating an association. It is sufficient that interested people form a group to achieve a goal. Then they can ask to be recognized by the state as a legal entity.

The highest court of justice in the capital also ordered that the facts of the complaint be reformulated. It does not accept the term “denial of authorization for Constitution of Association”, considering it inconsistent. It asserts that the Justice Ministry (MINJUS) did not respond to a request for certification.

On April 7, 2009, the AJC asked the Register of Associations of MINJUS to certify that no non-governmental association (NGO) existed in the country with the same name and purpose as the association of attorneys. The document is essential to continue the legal process for setting up the guild.

The state institution did not issue the certification. In March 2010 the group renewed its request and received no response. The lawyers appealed to the Minister, Reus González, raising a complaint for breach of the required legal formalities, which also was ignored.

On June 24, the lawyers filed a complaint with the Second Chamber of the Civil and Provincial Administrative Court in the capital, against the Minister of Justice, for denial of the authorization (by administrative silence) for the legal constitution of the guild.

The legal petition was filed in the Court on June 29, under case number 338 of 2010. It seeks to challenge the decision of the Department of Associations of MINJUS. It is the first time that a dissident organization has brought suit against a government representative.

Laritza Diversent

Translated by: Tomás A.


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Lartiza’s Blog: Laritza’s Laws and Legal Advisor.

“My husband is worth it,” Telephone Interview with Suyoani Tapia Mayola (I)

It was by chance that I heard the story of this twenty-nine-year-old doctor and her husband, Horacio Piña Borrego, 42, a freelance journalist imprisoned for the cause of 75.  As she told me the odyssey of her fate, it was as if she was reading from a chapter of Wuthering Heights. These things don’t happen in real life, I thought, but if they do I have to talk to this woman, I have to report this.

A mutual friend connected us and I decided to call her to hear her testimony. Suyoani’s words pierced my heart and although they say everything is more distant on the phone, when she cried I  cried too on the other side of the handset. I didn’t think I would publish an interview but rather that I would tell her story; but after recording it, to convert the life of this girl into my own words seemed a sacrilege.

Part One: Canaleta Prison, Ciego de Avila

Q: How did you meet Horacio in Canaleta prison?

We met for the first time in a punishment cell. It was shocking to me because I wasn’t a doctor in the isolation zone, I was on duty and they sent me to look at Horacio who was feeling ill.

When I entered the corridor there was an incandescent bulb, no sunlight enters there because the windows are blocked with a piece of zinc. It was a huge space, I can’t tell you how big it was — it’s incomparable — there were many small cells, extremely small. And there were five there from the Cause of the 75, [from the Black Spring of 2003]: Raúl Rivero, Ariel Sigler Amaya, Luis Milán Fernández, Pedro Pablo Alvarez and my husband, Horacio Piña.

I remember that Horacio had a headache and high blood pressure. When I saw him through the bars it was extraordinary, from that instant the two of us realized something was going to happen. At that time I never thought we would end up getting married, and we would even have a daughter. But it was magical, I have great faith in these conditions, to get to know a person, fall in love there, and to get married and have a family, it really has to be the work of God.

Q: Why were the five of them in punishment cells?

There was no reason for this, it was where the authorities had put them. These were the punishment cells for common criminals, but also the isolation zone. When they were imprisoned they were put there with those condemned to death and life in prison. Horacio was there for a year and four months.

Q: When did you realize you were falling in love?

At first we were just friends, although from the beginning we identified with each other. On May 13, 2004, we had our first kiss — almost a year after we met — because as he was in the isolation zone we rarely saw each other, only once or twice a month.

In the prison the relationship between the prisoners and the guards and doctors is very difficult, they spoke very badly of him to me. My husband told me many times he wanted to start a conversation but he was afraid of disappointing me, or saying it in the wrong way, or other things given his situation. I also wanted to talk to him, but also was afraid.

It took a long time before we could talk, only when they transferred him to the regular population with the rest of the prisoners could we see each other almost daily and we started our relationship. I took care of the chronically ill and he had various diseases.

Our union was, despite so many adversities, very strong; we never talked about something temporary, on the contrary, we always made plans for the future. We had a lot of problems because there are things you cannot hide: State Security realized that something was wrong, that I was helping not only him but the others as well. They started to watch us, and although they never obtained clear evidence of our relationship, they suspected it. After Raúl Rivero wrote a poem about our story, State Security confiscated it.

Horacio is wonderful, the person I chose to model myself on, I rely on him, he gives me great strength to live and to carry on. There are people who say to me, “How is this possible? You’re a young woman, you have your whole life ahead of you. What are you doing joined to a man sentenced to twenty years?” I simply answer: My husband is worth it.

Q: What were the consequences when they discovered everything? In your personal and professional life, what happened?

They came to look for me in the consulting room — I was just attending to Horacio — five State Security officers came and took me to an office, it all happened in front of him. It was a terrible moment, he knew that something was wrong and said to the officers, “Interrogate me! Leave her alone!”

They pressured me so I would confess. I am a doctor, a civilian employee of MINIT (Ministry of the Interior) and I was finishing my social service, we were nothing more than a man and a woman, they couldn’t accuse me of anything. The tried to intimidate me through my family, they threatened me; they told me they were going to tell my parents.

An officer asked in an interview how it was possible that a doctor, a graduate of the Revolution, could be in love with a terrorist. On that occasion I answered, “It seems that you and I don’t have the same concept of what a terrorist is, Horacio Piña is not a terrorist.”

They transferred me to another MINIT unit, and he was then sent to Pinar del Rio. The last interview in Canaleta was July 18. Horacio was transferred on the morning of August 11 to Combinado del Este and then to Pinar el Rio. That is, he only spent a few days in Ciego de Avila after I was sent to a unit made up of offices with nothing to do with prisoners. They said they didn’t want to lose a doctor, so they made a job swap: a doctor in a school was interested in changing jobs, so she went to MINIT and I went to the school.

Q: So they wouldn’t allow you to continue working in prisons?

No, they knew that, having a relationship with him, I was going to help him. They don’t want, they can’t even imagine, that someone could make things easier for him. There were times of great pressure, there was the day I was waiting for a bus to go to work and at the stop one lady said to another, “There is a doctor with a terrorist in prison here in Canaleta.”

That little designation of “Doctor with Terrorist,” they were ordered to disclose back in my province. For my family it was also very difficult, they called my parents from their jobs. They were very hard times for everyone, including for him, because he felt helpless while I was going through the whole situation.

Q: And your family, how did they react to such pressure?

I have a fantastic family… I can hardly talk about it. In the case of my dad, because my mom is a little bit more quiet, he told me, “If we don’t help you, who will then? You are my daughter.” Remembering this hurts. The day State Security interrogated me, they also interrogated my father. The next morning when I was leaving for work he asked if I wanted him to go with me.

“Daddy, I can go alone,” I said, and he told me,

“Then hold your head high, you have done nothing to be ashamed of.”

And I will always be grateful for this, really I have so much to be thankful for because both of their jobs are related in one way or another to the government, to the system. Another family may not have taken this position. The officials even asked my father why I was still living under his roof and he said,

“No way will she leave this house, she is my daughter and I will support her in everything.”

And so he always has done. It’s been almost seven years and here I am in Pinar del Rio. Despite being so far away they have helped me a lot.

Q: What about people, what attitude have they taken to the defamation? Your coworkers and your friends?

I’ve received the support of many people. Horacio is very sociable and easy to love. The nurses help us a lot and he even stays in contact with people in Canaleta. I told him at that time, “You have eyes in the back of your head,” and he explained himself, saying, “The friendships warn me of dangers, they let me know when someone who is harmful to us is nearby.” State Security hasn’t been able to destroy people’s solidarity, it’s a thorn stuck in their throats and that’s why they won’t let me live in peace. I have always been persecuted, I haven’t had a moment’s tranquility. Here in Pinar del Rio, for example, when I start work somewhere the same thing always happens, at first no one says anything, but later, when we know each other, they confess, “Doctor, I have to say one thing, before you came State Security was here and told us we had to inform on you, about everything you do, when you come and go.”

They have called my parents and pressured them to ask me to come back, they say they will give me a job, locate me in the provincial capital, that nothing will happen to me… They’ve even gone that far.

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CUBAN CODA

UNDERSTANDING THE CURTAIN AS A TRIUMPH

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Do not talk anymore of Havana. Do not talk any more of Cuba. Do not talk anymore about the Revolution. Do not talk anymore.

As naive intellectuals, especially a Dictionary of grandiloquent words. Some Complete Works with patches of politically perfect paragraphs. An Encyclopedia stuffed with containers of lined paper, fucked.

It’s enough. There has already been enough submissive significance. We will be slightly satisfied with the idea that no more ideas will mediate between lyrical language and sparse reality. We welcome the silence with satisfaction. The lack of grammatical encouragement. We are less. Let us be more. The same period and also, to be consistent with myself, syntactically there should then be a period and full stop.

But Havana persists in plumbing our biographies of soldiers of the pen. But Cuba hardens us daily in a leaderless context. But the Revolution resists at the expense of the poor and fevered imagination of our senile forgetfulness, sociolopsistic to the point of suicide.

We cannot avoid this little formula H-C-R, even as a default. Because, in effect, it was right, as almost always, the most pedestrian political propaganda in the paleohistory of this nation. The experiment was a success.

So that, with so much repetition without giving credit, now we pay the price of supersaturation of such grandiose theater. From so much inhalation of its damp smoke,Havana has turned us into its gifted ventriloquists. From so much insult to or by Cuba, Cuba tracheotomized us. With so much rumination on its rhyming puns, the Revolution recruited us.

So again we type, timid and timorous, without being able to extirpate this tumor of three in our throat: histology more laughable than tired (second century (H-C-R). But, instead of the timeless clack-clack of the keys, what is heard is hypocritical whisper of rotting patriotic bronchi. The discursive madness of a terminal patient. The place of our nationalasthmatic obsessions. The mal-formed and metastatic protest of Havana in Cuba in Revolution.

These fossil symphonies speak today the name of our paraplegic intellectual. A ubiquitous and omniscient jargon. More than the sterile specter of an absolute State, these resonances simulate the hollow echo of God. Cynical and sentimental that they are.

Hangar Havana landing with a death rattle.

Cuba without clinical cure, a case already chronic.

Revolution in resurrection at the humiliating hour of say no more about Havana. Speak no more of Cuba. Say nothing more of the Revolution. Do not talk anymore. This full stop, even being an inconsistency with your, syntactically becomes then a full stop.

Legitimate Doubts

Photo: Luis Orlando

On this island where even the news circulates of contraband, we have been witnessing a kind of spiritual mass that has brought back to the public sphere the political specter of the ex-president, Mr. F. It is no coincidence that so many public appearances have taken place following the start of the release of the political prisoners of the Black Spring who are still in the regime’s prisons, and while Guillermo Fariñas was making news in the most prominent of the international media. We know that the arrogant vanity of F. could not bear to be so overwhelmingly displaced and, given that he hasn’t forgotten any of his old tricks, he decided to exploit the sensationalism of his image as a nomadic ghost and the eternal “Head of State” who puts aside his useless little brother to take the reins of power in his own “efficient” hands. But I suspect that there is something more that we don’t know behind these renewed histrionics; something sordid, twisted and definitely dark, so we will have to follow the signals in the same way naturalists detect the creatures of the forest by following their excreta. Particularly now that the classic incoherent babbling of his newspaper column, <em>Reflections</em>, has been turned into a free verse version of The Watchtower announcing to us Armageddon, specific dates included. Elderly patients have a tendency to project themselves.

But do not be alarmed, dear readers, this post is not a psychoanalysis of F., to whom my conscience already read the last rights, long ago. It is now only about some legal worries that go around and around in my head and confuse me… Being that I insist on being a citizen in a country where the Constitution is only damp paper, pissed on by those who created it.

So, then, I ask myself: if Mr. F. is no longer the president of Cuba, if he doesn’t occupy any office in the Council of State and only retains that of the First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party (in clear violation of the statutes of that organization, since it has not been ratified because the Congress at which it would need to be “voted on” is eight years behind schedule); I repeat, if he is not legally and officially anyone or anything in this country, by virtue of what authority does he have the right to order specialists to undertake economic research, specialists who, at least in theory, have their own projects to complete as part of their jobs at the institution that supports and pays them? What Latin American country has asked F. for an economic salvation plan, to be developed in just ten days, when it has been precisely this gentleman who has been the successful architect of the economic ruin of Cuba in the last 50 years? How is it possible that he might provide guidance to Cuban diplomatic officials abroad in the management of a war that has erupted only within his own imagination? Where is the Cuban president, who hasn’t said or done a thing, while the founding caudillo of this disaster wanders around trying unsuccessfully to sow terror in the minds of the nation’s people? (Here people are much more frightened of real hunger than of imaginary nuclear conflagrations.)

In short, if we were to be civilized and respect our own laws, following the discourse they’ve been stuffing us with, they should take legal action against this impostor who usurps the powers of our legitimate President, democratically ratified in that responsibility by the National Assembly of People’s Power in 2008. We must prosecute this saboteur who goes along creating instability in the institutions, alterations in the labor discipline of our workers (the National Aquarium does not work at night), and fostering a climate of panic among the people by announcing the end of the world for this coming August 8, just when working people should be enjoying a well deserved rest.

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First Vice Minister of Justice… Gives Yamil Cause to Hope!

Link to Spanish post with the other pages of the documents.

Translator’s Note:

This post is entirely made up of the images of an 8-page report plus an order for a hearing on Yamil’s case within ten days. It is doubtful we can find someone to translate this, but briefly, it appears to be VERY GOOD NEWS. As a result, Yamil has partially abandoned his hunger strike and is eating yogurt, as reported on his Twitter account here. It is not the nature of our translation project to express our own opinions in other people’s blogs, but in this case… it’s time to break the rules: Hopefully, Yamil will soon be a free man!

What the “Wind” Took Away

Here in my small planet, it hasn’t exactly been the wind which has taken everything–or almost everything–away. It seems to be the work of a crazed tornado. And what remains is in such a poor state that it is nearly unsalvageable.

In 1897 Cuban cinema took its first baby steps. Along with its appearance, the first posters were born, then handmade on small printing presses, and photography was also developing. Then movie theaters quickly started appearing, receiving us on their doorsteps with flashy posters or photographs, which gave us an idea what was going to be projected inside. It was a clear invitation to enter. Cinemania was happily taking hold of most of us.

In 1959, we already had more than one hundred thirty movie houses, many of them very modern and comfortable, like the Warner Theater (later called Radiocentro, now renamed Yara), the America (also a live theater), Acapulco, Riviera, Los Angeles, Payret, Miramar, La Rampa, etc. etc. etc. All this, to the delight of about a million people who lived in the capital at that time. We also had three modern drive-ins. Moviegoers had to run to see the more than four weekly releases that were shown.

Half a century later, with almost two million people, only a dozen theaters are operating, most of them in an advanced state of disrepair. Neglect turned many of them into ruins, others have become shelters for various families. Each year, except for the month of the Film Festival, there are fewer options – the films shown are old and many of them have already been seen on television. The wind can still take away what little remains, if nothing is done to stop it.

Translated by: Joe Malda and Tomás A.

While Waiting for Raúl Castro's Speech . . .


San Rafael Boulevard was swarming with pedestrians on Wednesday, July 7. Braving insufferable heat and humidity, an old newspaper vendor, his face unshaven, his clothes patched, loudly announced the news of the moment.

“Learn about the release of the political prisoners,” the old man shouted, while a line of fifteen or sixteen people bought the official newspapers Granma and Juventud Rebelde.

“That day I set a personal sales record.  I sold 340 newspapers; usually I don’t sell more than 80,” recalled the sidewalk news hawker. Two weeks later, news of the release of the dissidents is still being discussed.

Although the official media reported only a brief note, the ordinary people in those places of regular dialogue between Cubans – neighborhood corners, parks, workplaces, and taxicabs – continue to make comments, guesses and predictions about what might happen after the release of the political prisoners.

The best informed are those who pay 10 convertible pesos for an illegal cable antenna. And as is the norm in Cuba, they then activate “Radio Bemba,” a peculiar way of transmitting news by word of mouth, which usually functions best in closed societies.

In an antiquated jeep with eight seats, converted into a private taxi, a young man who identifies himself as Alberto, confesses to being connected to the cable channels. “Yes, I am informed,” he says, and starts telling about the freed dissidents. The passengers listen attentively. Alberto relates how the 11 political opponents who had arrived in Madrid spent their first few hours of freedom.

“They were going to be spread throughout different cities in Spain, some in Valencia, others in Málaga. One of them, named Normando, is not satisfied with the treatment received from the Spanish authorities, and believes that they are being treated like African immigrants. These Spaniards are for shit. When they emigrated to Cuba at the beginning of the last century, here we treated them like royalty,” said Alberto, unleashing a wave of opinions.

A middle-aged woman thinks that the dissidents went wrong. “I am a state official and I have traveled the world. The life of emigrants is difficult in any country. They’ll have to work hard if they are to thrive, because Spain also is in deep economic crisis. If they were such patriots they should have stayed in their country.”

Some respond in raised voices. Passions run high. On the island, these freed dissidents were completely unknown. The average Cuban, who has only coffee for breakfast and a hot meal once a day, often admires the Damas de Blanco and the value of the dissidents. “They say out loud what we don’t have the courage to say,” says one student.

But so much bad propaganda by the regime has had an impact in a certain sector of the population, which sees dissenters as part of the street-wise who have turned their differences with the regime into a cottage industry.

In a quick survey of 29 people – family members, friends, and neighbors, of both sexes, aged between 19 and 67, and different political affiliations – 26 welcome the release of the political prisoners from incarceration.

“It’s a positive sign, it could be the beginning of a new stage, where finally disagreements are decriminalized,” argues Robert, an engineer.

The news of the releases have had an unexpected competition, with the repeated appearance of Fidel Castro in public life. Since July 31, 2006, when he made his exit and was about to die, Castro I had been forgotten.

Few people read his routine “Reflections” in the press, where he addressed international political issues, and avoided the difficult economic, political, and social situation in the country.

Cubans have followed his appearances carefully. “He keeps on talking nonsense and prophesying misfortune, but he looks good physically,” says Armando, a cook.

His supporters are where he left them. “With the appearance of the Comandante things will get back to normal. The people follow him more than Raúl. Internationally, Fidel is a meaningful spokesman. With him we’ll put the crisis behind us and take a leap forward,” exults Luis, a retired military veteran.

On the street some doubt his mental capacities. “Yes, he looks in good health, but we don’t give a damn about the war in Iran. I think the old man has lost his marbles,” said César, who is unemployed.

In the middle of African heat, summer vacations, and the typical lack of material, either one of these news stories – the release of the political prisoners or the reappearance of the Comandante – would have aroused interest by itself.

Now, most expect that on July 26 in Santa Clara, in commemoration of the assault on a military barracks in Santiago de Cuba in 1953, General Raul Castro will launch a series of measures anticipated by the public, including repeal of permits to travel abroad, the possibility of buying cars and houses, and expanded self-employment.

Things do not look good in the lives of Cubans. To clean up the inefficient local economy, hundreds of thousands of workers have begun to be fired. Raul Castro could be the messenger of good tidings. Or bad.

Iván García

Translated by: Tomás A.

Small Dreams


I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said that the most persistent recount I have made at my age is of precisely those things I still have left to do.

A friend, psychologist by profession, attributes it to the obsessive features my personality brings but, I tend to disagree a little on the analytic categories so I blame it on the effect of a metaphor I was able to put together myself: At birth, someone (or something) hands us a bag which, in place of coins, carries a finite number of years and when these are over, so is our existence. Before we are thrown into life, that someone or something tells us: “Invest them as best you can. With this same body and this same name, you won’t have a second round.”

Well, there are times when you decide to make check marks next to the achieved. In my case, the panic starts when, during a review, I can’t make check marks next to important points because they’re still pending. Or even worse, because their time expired and it became impossible to make them happen.

Or is it that I’m still in time to spend some money on a Martian gun with red and blue lights and six different ways to shoot? Because, in my catalogue of lost dreams, that’s when I should begin paying debts to myself.

There wasn’t a ritual of requests during which, when I was seven years old, I didn’t think about a toy gun just like the one my playmate kept as his most precious possession. It could be a ritual as simple as a shooting star that plowed across the sky, a detached eyelash, or a chicken bone in the shape of a “Y”. That beauty, brought to my friend from the Democratic Republic of Germany by his father, forced me to desecrate the atheism of the home where I was born to implore the baby Jesus to remember my excellent grades and to pass by a certain store from the Socialist Germany. Maybe, when he finally decided to do it, the Wall had fallen and the country was a different one. He never seemed to have made it to the store.

I also ask myself: does it still make sense, if my economy would ever allow me to (with time my dreams increased in monetary value), to manage to acquire a Nintendo in my Cuba of the XXI Century? I am not referring to one of those modern artifacts, very worthy of Ray Bradbury or George Lucas, the ones that vanish today’s kids from reality. No. I mean a cream-colored, rectangular Nintendo, with only one command and one cassette: Super Mario Bros.

Every day, I would go to the house of the only privileged kid in the neighborhood in the hopes that a sudden urge to go pee, or the obligation to have lunch would take the owner off the seat from a Nintendo that, when the Período Especial (Special Period) hit, became more than a game. Not even the pater middle school professor, nor the mater sales clerk of the grocery store could compete with that Nintendo that became a savior, given to a kid by his Cuban-American uncle: at five pesos an hour, Super Mario fed a whole family for a long period of time.

I swear to my mother that thanks to a grapevine that shadowed the roof of my house, I was able to regularly substitute the lack of those five pesos, and manage for the first time, that mustachioed character, universal today, who jumped over turtles and rescued princesses. The country was dying from hunger; my parents, like so many more, suffered the most ugly and insane misery but, at eleven naive years of age, happiness was contained in a Nintendo that, even with my insistent prayers, never reached my home.

If baby Jesus wasn’t able to satisfy some of my requests, he substituted values and in return he sent me adolescence. Luckily, for an adolescent that distilled hormones, a fixed up basketball and any girl with accentuated hips who was willing to insinuate the art of making love, was enough. And that, in my Cuba of the year 2000, was very easy to find. The provider even had a name. His name was High School.

But since happiness is never whole, in high school, aside from bulky girls from Manzanillo, I met, up to this day, what has been my most persistent hobby, and with this one I renewed my dreams with a chronic intensity. It was called Literature. Even though since childhood I had felt the love for books, my adolescence threw me head first into a literary passion which makes me wonder what has offered me more: vocabulary or unredeemed dreams.

Because when I remember that Julio Cortazar died without my having been able to meet him (he died just the year in which I was born), that is when I calm myself faced with the impossible. But when I notice that the American Salinger and the Portuguese Saramago just stopped breathing; when I think about the irreparable mountain of books that in this, my fenced country, I don’t have access to; and when I realize that my paradigm writer, Mario Vargas Llosa, is already in his threatening seventy-fourth year of age without me even having one of his autographed books, the least I can do is become desperate and feel that many of the years carried in my bag are languishing without being able to invest them as I wish.

I must be honest: That I speak in abandonment about these things doesn’t mean it corresponds to what they really mean to me. I think we never speak with a more inconsequential tone as we do about the things that really affect us. For my part, I haven’t been able to give in to the idea of having so many broken dreams pending. They weigh on my shoulders like souls without peace. And more than anything: I haven’t resigned myself to the idea of thinking it impossible what, as for many in half of the globe, are routine or things extremely easy to reach.

In four days I will be turning twenty-six. I still haven’t put a check mark next to small dreams like attending a Metallica concert, getting to know New York’s skyscrapers, crossing at least two (hopefully more than two) words with the Peruvian Vargas Llosa, or enjoying a soccer match with Leo Messi while eating popcorn at Camp Nou. I still haven’t traveled the world, the sole necessity that has sparked in my mind thanks to my books. Small, superficial dreams. I, like troubadour Carlos Varela, know well that those are not big things. But they are some of my dreams. Those dreams that also help me live.

I want to promise the readers of this text that, when I am able to really be the master of my dreams some day, I will not hesitate to start paying off accounts to myself as I righteously pay for the things that (hard to admit) for twenty-six years my Caribbean island has kept me from reaching. Maybe I will start by buying a Martian pistol with six different ways to shoot. Even if its sole purpose is to make a son or a nephew laugh who, astonished will reply to my dare with his super polyphonic laser shotgun, or God know what else.

Translated by: Angelica Betancourt


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Ernesto’s Blog: The Little Brother.

My Personal Hero

The disenchantment with a political process that was mine, might make me look like a cynic. I’ve developed an unconscious suspicion of politicians, and if they are charismatic, it’s even worse. But there is a man who reconciles me with politicians and partially gives me back my trust in this necessary evil. That man is Nelson Mandela.

His fight against apartheid is well known, his years in jail, his freedom and then his election as the first black President of South Africa. If that controversial prize, which is the Nobel, has been so unfair several times, with Mandela it is justified and it does justice to a fighter who moved from violence to understanding and respect.

All that alone would ennoble Mandela. But my personal Mandela is great because he forgave the offenses, and because after becoming President, venerated by his people and the entire world, he didn’t pretend to be the owner of the keys to govern and he retired from politics leaving behind him a healthy democratic precedent for his young country.

Congratulations Mandela, my hero, my friend.

Translated by Al

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Regina’s Blog: Bad Handwriting.

Heralds of the End

Jumping out of bed, there’s a loudspeaker roaring outside. I don’t understand what it’s saying, but I wash my face as if it were the last time. Maybe it’s the start of the war so often announced in recent days. My son sleeps late and I have the desire to wake him up and warn him, but I don’t understand the words coming from the loudspeaker and the truck has already moved away toward the avenue.

When are those who terrify us going to give an account of themselves? Those who have spent decades dangling the ghost of the cataclysm in front of our faces. It is very easy to forecast and call for war when you have a bunker, soldiers, a bullet-proof vest. To those heralds of the end, let them try being here, amid the buzzing of the loudspeaker and the child who opens his eyes and asks, frightened, “Mommy, what’s happening, why is there so much noise?”

A Victory for the Cuban Resistance


State Security Agents threaten Reina Tamayo in Banes

For the first time in a half-century of totalitarian oppression, the Castro regime in Cuba has given in to pressure from its victims. For the first time a release of political prisoners was achieved by actors from within, the internal resistance, even though the church hierarchy wants to minimize the strength of an opposition which, across the length and breadth of the country, has said and has demonstrated that “Yes we can.”

It is no secret to anyone with average information and power of analysis that the martyrdom of Orlando Zapata was the trigger that caused internal popular anger and the unprecedented international pressure for the Castro dynasty, as well as the important and high-profile protests by Guillermo Fariñas with his heroic hunger strike, and the Ladies in White, which even forced a break in the way official censorship is out. The writings condemning Zapata, Fariñas, and the Ladies in White, although they outraged us, contributed significantly to domestic public opinion being informed by the knowledge that there are political prisoners in Cuba and especially that the resistance is alive.

Despite all this, we believe that this process of releases from prison – read forced exile – is a ploy to get rid of pressure on the regime. Domestic opposition has just won an important battle that encourages us to not cease until the last of our compatriots is released. Yet there is something that many do not understand, which seems absurd or fanciful: while many prisoners leave prison, while ombudsmen of the church, the Spanish Foreign Ministry, and the dictatorship talk about political prisoners and the human rights situation in Cuba, back in Banes, Holguín, Reina Luisa Tamayo Danger is the victim of constant persecution, repression and harassment, including death threats from the repressive Castro regime, to keep her away from family and other activists who visit the grave of her fallen son. And there in the easternmost part of Cuba, members of the Eastern Democratic Alliance are brutally repressed, cruelly and systematically arrested in brutal retaliation for their courageous pro-democracy optimism.

One More Beating?

This is about José Cano Fuentes, one of the most active defenders of human rights in Guantanamo. His membership in the Eastern Democratic Alliance has put him in the middle of the most talked about repression of recent weeks.

On Wednesday, July 7, when he was returning from supporting Idalmis Reinosa Núñez, who was also beaten and humiliated in Santiago de Cuba, he was intercepted at the Fourth Street Intercity Terminal by the Sector Chief of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) who took him to the cells of the 3rd Patrol Station. Once inside there, where no one could see or hear or serve as a witness, he was beaten again; Cano Fuentes says that thanks to the intervention of a captain they didn’t beat him into a pulp on the floor.

Hours later, battered and bruised he was released.

According to Cano, on returning to Guantanamo the police there realized that the dose of Santiago de Cuba belonged to another province and he hadn’t received one from the Guaso. They caught him right in the street. They took him to the police hell that is the Park 24 Station, and general headquarters of the Technical Investigations Department (DTI). Again, there were no witnesses to what his body received once he was inside there. All that was left to tell the story was his voice and his face as a record of complaint. They kept him there until the next day and then released him without charges, but also with no apology from the military. On July 14 they arrested him again while he still had the marks of the previous beatings. This time there were no blows, just warnings not to leave town.

On July 14 there was other bad news. Francisco Luis Manzanet Ortiz was forced to return to his native Baracoa. They refused, without any explanation, to grant him the right to visit Guantanamo. Maiky Martorell Mayans, from Manatí, Las Tunas and Asdrúbal Delgado Pérez, from Chaparra in the same province were taken to jail. They also were warned by the police that they would not travel to Holguin and that if they did they would spend several days in jail.

I understand quite well the concern of the authoritarian authorities in my country. At a time when the government in Havana is putting on its make-up and washing its hands of the political prisoners of the Black Spring of 2003 through exile, the G-2 in eastern Cuba steps up its repression and turns our houses into temporary prisons.

What drives them to constantly violate citizens’ right to travel, meet and express ourselves publicly? What drives others to applaud them all the time? What makes so many people look away from the Human Rights violations committed by the Cuban leaders?

I don’t have a single answer. I have several.