Clandestine in Miami, with 100 Cuban Sounds

Just a few hours ago, on Friday evening, the 30th, one of the most versatile of Cuban artists exhibited material in the United States that could make history. I am speaking of Edesio Alejandro, who although a musician of great importance, has also been known for a long time as a documentary film maker.

The present material is titled 100 Cuban Sounds, and according to critics and viewers, the return of his inquisitive eye to our rhythm marks a milestone of investigation and artistry.

The beauty, and the irony, is that it is Edesio, a rarity in Cuban culture, who has been carrying on his back this precious company so dear to our nation. He is the Cuban author with the greatest number of movie soundtracks in this country, which puts him, musically, in the same category as classics of our filmography such as Clandestinos, and the aching Suite Habana, both by Fernando Pérez.

Why? Well, because if any of Cuba’s Culture authorities in the ‘70s and ‘80s had been told that this youngster with the controversial image, who had to be very careful, would be one of the archaeologists of our musical identity, he’d probably have replied with a withering smirk.

I think of this, ironically, after rereading the report of a meeting that, fortunately, a journalist had with his some time ago. In my city of Bayamo, 496 years after its founding, Edesio revealed to me some of the keys of his professional history on the Island.

I reproduce a small fragment of this dialog, which I think quite compelling in two respects: First, to understand the origin of those 100 Cuban Sounds in the artistic perspective of this great man; and second, to “Hear his voice,”  whose risk-taking could be the path of an authentic artist in our Cuban of parameters:

– Edesio, you started out as a pure rocker. Then you started to make electronic music, but you had already begun composing, including concert music. Today you are entering the audiovisual world with great strength. Does it worry you that this variety could be interpreted as an artist that hasn’t really found his specific line of work?

– Well, look, no. Not in the least. I’m not worried because I think that the day I remain static is when I will have lost all the evolution that I have managed in my career. I think the evolution is something that is in constant searching, constant experimentation.

When I find a formula, I try to flee from it, as absurd as that might seem, because with this formula I would establish standards and rules which I will then repeat, and the day when I begin to repeat myself I will no longer feel I am creating.

My personality is that of a rather restless guy. In this I think I am a typical Cuban. I like to be constantly changing, and that’s the reason why my works are all so different.

– One of the standard references of electroacoustic music in Cuba is undoubtedly Edesio Alejandro. The majority of experts agree that you have an enormous talent for this type of work. But in the end you didn’t dedicate yourself to this, when it seemed it would be your path. To what do you attribute this?

– As it turned out, in the ‘80s, when I was working the most on this, I decided to participate in a contest that at that time was the most important in the world for electroacoustic music. It took place in Bourges, France. Let’s be clear, this was seen by many as madness.

And then I won First Prize with a work I did with Juan Piñera, a composer with whom I had worked on concert music. You can imagine, this was an incredible thing.

What did it mean for me? Reaching a ceiling, achieving a status that until this time no Cuban musician had achieved within this kind of artistic work, because it was the first time that a Cuban (before or after the Revolution) had won the First Prize in a global music contest.

Then came the disappointed. The prize was greeted with almost total silence in Cuba, its achievement, which was no small thing, was ignored by the media and by the cultural authorities, to the extreme that we were not allowed to go to France to receive the prize. Their excuse was that I was “one of those guys with long hair who walks around in a T-shirt trying to pass for a foreigner,” and that I was of “questionable political reliability.”

I don’t have to tell you… it was a tremendous frustration. Think about it: on the one hand being so young and having won a prize like this made me feel like I’d touched the sky, and on the other to have cold water poured on me, to begin to be marginalized in part because of it, and in Cuba, to be treated like shit.

I said then, “This isn’t for me.” I started to do many more things and I will continue to.

– Your 1987 work Violent, is considered the first Latin American rock opera. And yet it is a complete unknown in Cuba. Why is it that most of your work can be enjoyed only in very narrow circles when so many are interested in it?

– Look, they never wanted me to record in Cuba. This is a truth that I can say without further ado. Like so many other things, Violent ended up in the ether. The music needed to be recorded to be preserved, but on the contrary, it was vaporized. But the Cuban industry never wanted me to record.

For example, this same Violent you are asking me about premiered at the National Theater of Cuba; but at EGREM, which then was the only recording company in the country, I asked them again and again to record it but they weren’t interested.

What did I do then? I worked in radio, in music for TV, in film, I “stole” a few hours at the end of each movie or each serial to devote to something that particularly interested me. I say stole because that’s literally what I did; I used some of the production to record my songs, which, by the way, were very badly recorded because in four or five hours you can’t record three songs.

On several occasions I proposed to EGREM that they make records, and they always gave the answer: we’re not interested. All this is long ago.

Currently, it’s true that EGREM has made proposals to me several times, but now it’s me who doesn’t want to do it. Thank God I have other options with other labels, so fortunately not all of my music has suffered the same fate as that you asked me about.

Car Museum

There is a detail of our reality that fascinates tourists and surprises collectors around the world: the number of old cars still running on the streets of the country. Right now, on some Havana street, a 1952 Chevrolet purrs along, and a Cadillac, older than the Minister of Transportation himself, is in use as a shared taxi. They pass by us, rusting out or newly painted, on the point of collapse or winning a contest for their excellent state of repair. These rolling miracles make up a part of our country, just like the long lines, the crowded buses, and the political billboards.

At first, visitors show surprise and pleasure on seeing the theme park created by these vehicles. They take pictures and pay up to three times as much to sit in their roomy interiors. After asking the driver, the astonished foreigners discover that the body of that Ford from the early 20th century hides an engine that’s just a decade old, and tires adapted from a Russian Lada. As they earn the trust of the owner, he tells them that the brake system was a gift from a European friend, and that the headlights are originally from an ambulance.

Summer people marvel at the taste of Cubans in conserving such relics from the past, but few know that this is more by necessity than choice. You can’t go to a dealership and buy a new car, even if you have the money to pay for it, so we are forced to maintain the old. Without these artifacts of the last century, our city would be less picturesque and more immobile every day.

The Queen of Bolero/Miguel Iturria Savon

Amidst Cuban flags, famous boleros, and white flowers, thousands of exiles and hundreds of Latin Americans bid farewell to Olga Guillot on Monday, July 12th. On Friday Guillot checked in to the Mount Sinai Hospital in Miami, that city where she lived in and occasionally performed ever since the 60’s, although Venezuela and Mexico were her first sanctuaries after leaving Cuba in 1961, while her voice still filled all the radios of the country.

Olga Guillot was dubbed the Queen of the Bolero, the Actress who sang, and the Latin-American Diva, among other titles awarded in her 60 year career, half a century of CDs – 14 of which went gold and 10 platinum- roles in dozens of movies, numerous tours around the world, and her nostalgic declarations about the freedom of her native island, where she achieved success at only 16 after performing on the show called The Supreme Court of Art. She also was part of such vocal groups like the Siboney Quartet, until she debuted as a solo artist in 1945. She achieved her first international hit when she recorded “Mienteme” (‘Lie to Me’), a song by the Mexican Chamaco Dominguez.

Olga Guillot, who was born on Trocha street in Santiago de Cuba on October 9, 1922, took the bolero all over the world and to new levels with her brilliant interpretations of such classics like “Mienteme”, “Tu Me Acostumbraste”, “La Gloria Eres Tu”, “Lagrimas Negras”, “Soy Tuya”, “La Noche de Anoche”, “Palabras Calladas”, and “Eso y Mas“. During her artistic career she shared stages with such names as Rita Montaner, Beny More, Nat King Cole, Sara Montiel, Edith Piaf, Armando Manzanero, and Jose Jose (who always referred to her as his artistic Godmother).

Like Celia Cruz, Cachao, and other legends of popular Cuban music, Guillot did not get to return to the island, a subject which always came up in her success and in her frustrations. Nostalgia marked her human and creative existence, but such artists like Malena Burke, Annia Linares, Vicky Roig, Emilio Estefan, Tito Puente Jr., Meme Solis, and Roberto Lozano, continue evoking her charisma and solidarity through their art.

Despite all the international fame and success achieved by this great artist, her name and her music were both erased from the Cuban music scene. The state censorship was so deep that for three generations of Cubans, the recordings of the Queen of Bolero is limited to nostalgic references made by parents and grandparents.

While in Miami they are saying goodbye with flowers and flags to the first Hispanic artist to perform in New York’s Carnegie Hall, in Cuba some of us music lovers are starting to search through our old acetates of Guillot and we ask our relatives in exile to please send us some recording of that one and only Diva, similar to Rita Montaner, Beny More, and Celia Cruz.

The death of the female voice behind the bolero could serve as an excuse to retrieve the musical and human legacy of Olguita Guillot and pay tribute to her on the other shore of this island divided by foreign passions of national art and culture.

Translated by Raul G.

Media Deployment

We’ve all seen him. With something of the vitality of former days, with a few more pounds, although with an exaggerated girth under the tartan shirt, or with the olive green shirt of a thousand battles. The intense media deployment of TV cameras since last week makes one think that he still decides; that he’s never stopped deciding. He’s returned to being El Comandante and not The Comrade.

His themes: war and the environment. Not even a word about the internal economic situation for which he is wholly responsible. Not even on the subject of the ecology of which he has become a champion, has he thought about environmental nonsense such as that of the Che Guevara Invasion Brigade, knocking down valuable fruit-bearing species in his way between Camaguey and Oriente to sow sugar cane and today taken over by grassland of the invasive marabu weed; the coastal roads, the Hanabanilla Falls converted into a hydroelectric plant that already nobody remembers, but which deprived us of the most beautiful waterfall in Cuba. And fortunately there weren’t resources for the megaproject of draining the Cienega de Zapata, the most important wetlands in the Caribbean.

Time and a succession of illnesses and medical procedures have been cruel to his appearance. I can’t recognize that confident and imposing man of days gone by. I look at him and his sunken eyes leave an impression on me, as do his facial tics and his mouth, where the lower teeth seem to dance; his faint and extinguished voice shocks me; I am stunned to see him digressing and miscalculating.

But what impresses me the most is that he doesn’t even realize what anyone is saying to him.

Translated by: JT

YOU TOO, YOUTUBE…?

Cuba is excluded from YouTube’s digital world map. What happens behind the closed doors of this paleopolitical Internet Island is of no concern to YouTube and, in consequence, nor to the audiovisual eyes of the world. The clever papal slogan from the past century and millennium resonates now like a coarse cathedral comedy script: “Let Cuba open itself to the world and let the world open itself to Cuba…” Pope John Paul II declared in Havana.

So there seems to be nothing subliminal in the censorship of the current Life in a Day contest, organized by YouTube to document one day of life: specifically, this July 24. The countless scenes shot last Saturday of the planet Earth, in any language, with a high definition professional camera or a cellphone, can be sent by their authors until today, July 31, to the YouTube channel created especially for the marathon.

Although there is no financial remuneration involved, after their work is selected the finalists will be edited into a feature-length documentary directed by Kevin McDonald and produced by Ridley Scott, who plan to premiere it at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2011.

The theme is open, but the suggestions of the YouTube chef are quite chic: What do you love? What do you fear? What makes you laugh? What’s in your pocket? Is there a story behind any of the objects? There is room for the “ordinary” (a sunrise, a neighborhood soccer game) as well as the “extraordinary” (a baby’s first steps, a wedding, the reaction to the loss of a loved one).

So, a young woman in Havana thought there would also be room for Cuba. Elena Victoria Molina, 21, a graduate of Onelio Jorge Cardoso’s Narrative Techniques Workshop, a student of Audiovisual Communication at the Superior Art Institute, co-editor of the independent literary magazine 33 and 1/3, and participant in many freelance projects, took YouTube’s propaganda at face value.

Molina has watched YouTube for three years and, in her own words, she thought, “If I did well I could be among those selected, and it would be a magnificent opportunity to talk about daily life in Cuba from a personal point of view.” So she prepared to compete, “To express my opinions about my country, my society, my life, in a framework that would ensure that more people would see our reality and what life looks like from a Cuban perspective.”

Her raw material (they specified unedited video), recorded on July 24, 2010, in an apartment in the vicinity of the Plaza of the Revolution, showed her a bit oblivious, with her boyfriend, “lying around in bed, reading Virginia Woolf, writing in my diary, while on TV the country was enmeshed in the preparations for the July 26 celebration, and some neighbors had hung July 26 flags from their houses. I thought it showed something very common in Cuba: the contrast between the private and the public worlds, that we have a different sensibility, because we live a dual image, what we are collectively, and what we are individually. And it’s difficult to maintain the intimate space of the home when the outside is constantly invading, particularly around national anniversaries of the Revolution.”

But it turned out YouTube’s invitation included a clause that froze her enthusiastic rush to this kind of amateur Oscar lottery: Who can participate in Life in A Day? Anyone over 18 can send footage, except citizens or residents of Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Myanmar (Burma), Syria and Sudan, and other people and entities limited by the United States’ program of export controls and sanctions.

Commenting to this reporter, the young Molina (who also made comments in protest on several Cuban blogs, on her Facebook account, and even on the censored contest’s YouTube channel) remarked, “To read that was very disappointing, that a law closes one of the few spaces for expression. It’s an unjust ban that severely limits the very purpose of the project, if the idea is to show a truly ‘normal day’ from the most diverse experiences of the globe.

“What we call a typical day is very different from other parts of the world, given that our life has been shaped in a peculiar way under the system we live in. It’s absurd and frustrating that U.S. laws, supposedly established to support freedom, in practice restrict our freedom of expression and block Cuban citizens from communicating with the world. The American embargo affects individuals who have nothing to do with the government. I feel I have been discriminated against.”

Of the millions of visualizations that human beings ritually watch on YouTube, none will clash, in this “historic cinematic experiment” with the view of 21-year-old Elena Victoria Molina.

The “information capsule for the future,” like a postnational Trojan Horse, will lack any Cubans in its gigabyte guts. We Cubans will star in another alien saga of those who still haven’t come out of the communist closet, in this case because the laws of a democracy don’t want us to. In dramatic terms, we are not even the Other.

“It must be personal, that’s what we’re looking for,” commented the director Ridley Scott, in a videoclip about this project to take the aesthetic of crowd-sourcing to the limit. This throws enough literary light on the nature of we non-persons who live in Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Myanmar (Burma), Syria and Sudan. But it doesn’t matter, some proxy will absolve us. For now, the epitaph of that already remote film, Blade Runner, is being rewritten, even before the first showing of this unfortunately despotic documentary: “Like tears in YouTube…”

The thousand and one YouTube Community Standards, so concerned about protecting us from the pornography and realistic violence that daily gnaw at our civilization, have given Cuba a cultural lesson with this abusive Shift-Delete: “Let Cuba close itself to the world and let the world delete Cuba..”

YOU TOO, YOUTUBE…?, originally uploaded by orlandoluispardolazo.

www.diariodecuba.net/cuba/81-cuba/2628-excluidos-de-youtu…

If We Want Everything To Stay the Same, Everything Must Change

By Jesuhadín Pérez.

Things are going badly for Cuba. People lose freedom while trying to get it, and starve to death when asking for justice. Those in power have no ears to listen to the solutions to people’s problems, solutions that would jeopardize historical powers.

This is the contradiction between form and substance. In other words the dead weight of privileges, against the evolution of society and its citizens.

The presidential chairs get stuck to the posteriors of people who have a very peculiar way of understanding democracy. Democracy is a form of government, not a nobility title. In Cuba the time has arrived to turn the page, to respect its people and the natural processes that shape its history.

The history of humankind is filled with men who muzzled their people to try to stop the natural course of events. The fact that all of them eventually fell is no consolation. Our case makes us feel like being buried alive. A pity. We’ve had ten years since the 21st century started. We should be closer to a perfect government.

Here, everyone wants change, you just need to ask to see for yourself. Everyone shouts it if they have the courage, or if they feel safe in the liberties they have been granted by another country. Absolutely everyone wants change, everyone but those in power.

The privileges of those in power are in danger when we talk of change, that is why their main task is to stop and reverse the process using everything at hand… violence or mediation. What a pity that many new-found mediators give higher priority to compromising and flirting than to mediating! What a pity that they go after institutional interests instead of the well-being of the parties involved in the conflict! Even worst, what a lack of historical conscience among those in power. Do they really believe they will be able to hold the system together using banners and slogans, or letting some steam out whenever it seems on the verge of exploding, just so they can close the steam pipe again a moment later?

Just one thing has saved this country till now, just one thing placates the anger and discontent of the masses: A Change. But not the kind of change that consists in giving away lands overrun with the invasive marabou weed, or turning service industry workers into rent paying employees; no. Cuba needs A Change, a big one. Risky. Compromising. Overarching. Resounding. Something everyone can feel. Something that shakes the whole nation. If this tiny changes are the prelude to something for the good, then they are welcome, but if they are just tactical changes they will perish in less than ninety days, because the expectations of the Cuban people are great, and their needs are even greater.

If the Cuban political class wants to keep things as they are, then it will be necessary that everything, absolutely everything changes.

Jesuhadín Pérez Valdés

Founding member of the editorial board of Convivencia magazine.
He lives in Pinar del Río, Cuba.

Translated by: Xavier Noguer

Dinner Among Strangers

Photo: Claudio Fuentes Madan

The Cuban family is fractured, not only by national separations as a result of emigration, but also by political conflicts between the family members in the country. The other day I was invited to dinner at my friend’s house and by the end of the gathering I was depressed by the clash between two generations, parents and children: one that keeps their mouths shut out of respect for their elders, and the other that offends with their absolutist ideology.

Meanwhile, “The Roundtable” animated my friend’s birthday, her uncle wasn’t sufficiently sensitive to turn off the TV, the mother made terrorist comments about the fate of the United States, and the spouses of both tried like children to change the subject — I don’t know if it was out of solidarity with the youngest among us or simply out of common sense: it was a party. My friend had two choices:

  • Offer her opinions and turn the celebration into a funeral of shouts and intolerance.
  • Keep her mouth shut and focus on her fries.

She chose the second. Her family did not seem to notice the abnormal silence, during the whole evening, of the birthday-girl. Among the exchange of ideas: “Socialism is the only way.” “All those mercenaries should rot in jail.” “I don’t know how Obama can sleep at night.” “The European Union and the Empire are going to pay one day.” “Fidel has always been right.” Meanwhile, forms and documents that were going to be presented to the Spanish Consulate in the morning to apply for citizenship in that European country were passed from hand to hand, and the women commented on the Mexican soap opera which they watch on the illegal cable they have in the house.

The whole time I was overcome by a feeling of profound pity for these militants of the Cuban Communist Party: with a morality so shameless, an ambiguous ideology, and a limitless intransigence. Their blindness prevents them from perceiving the enormous gulf that separates them from the generation they gave life to: they are alone, so alone that not even their children dare to enlighten them.

The Castros, Each One on His Own Side

Those who  expected some clues about the needed economic and political reforms  that the island is crying out for were left disappointed. General Raul Castro sent them a message: you will have to wait.

Castro  II did not even speak at a ceremony held in the province of Villa Clara, 180 miles  from Havana, to mark the 57th anniversary of the assault on a military  barracks in eastern Cuba.

He delegated  the speech to Vice Minister Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, one of the  many elderly men who occupy significant positions in the administration of the country. He said almost nothing.

More of the same. A boring recitation of successes, slogans, clichés, the occasional anti-imperialist  bravado, and a  spirited defense of Venezuela in the ongoing affair with  neighboring Colombia over the issue of the alleged involvement of  Caracas in supporting the FARC.

In one brief line, the vice president said that Cuba would not follow the advice of  the international media, and that changes would be made at the pace and at the time that they decide.

The General saved his speech, short as always, for the close of a Cuba-Venezuela ministerial summit. He  made no reference to topics of interest to ordinary Cubans, who have  many unanswered questions about the economic crisis that has existed in the country for  21 years.

Fidel did not want to be left behind. This July he became a media star. After four years in bed, the Commander in Chief is doing piece work.

He has returned changed into a guru – prophesying nuclear wars and environmental disasters, and reading news dispatches. If anything has changed about the angry Fidel, it is his tone. Now he is moderate and measured. He seems like a political advisor. But he is not.

On  July 26, at a meeting he held with a group of American Protestants, intellectuals, and Cuban journalists, the old fox Castro  sent a message back and forth.

It seemed like another one of his speculations. But it wasn’t. Before finishing his far-fetched theories about the future of the planet, he let drop  the news that perhaps before the end of the year, the five spies  imprisoned in the U.S. since 1998 could return home.

In Cuba, information must be read between the lines. The government is a specialist in speaking about important issues cryptically or remaining silent.

But if Castro I delivered his message it is because something is cooking behind the scenes. It is almost certain that the operation to free 52 political prisoners is an exchange: 52 in return for 5. Remember that Cardinal Jaime Ortega traveled to Washington.

But  the real message from Castro is to put fear in the gut of the leaders and influential intellectuals in the country who are trying to create a window with the  West on their own.

In such closed societies, fear and suspicion is a constant rule. You can see with your own eyes a Castro who overcame death is always an arm of pressure.

Clearly, each Castro brother goes his own way. It might be a concerted tactic. Or a sign of differences between them. The truth is that Fidel is back. And many will have to retrieve candles.

Iván García

Liberation or Exile? (II)

To speak of liberation — in this case of the release of prisoners — through a third-party also has advantages. Mainly because neither the Catholic Church in Cuba nor the representative of the Spanish state have the power to say anything about the legal means for implementing it.

Analyzing the current situation, the criminal responsibility of prisoners of conscience, according to the criminal law, could be extinguished by amnesty, pardon, or acquittal in review proceedings.

If they really intended to liberate, the Council of State would issue an official note, at the proposal of its President, who is in turn the Head of State and Government of the Republic of Cuba, pardoning all prisoners arrested and prosecuted in 2003.

The National Assembly could also do its part. The supreme organ of the Cuban State could declare at its meeting to be convened on August 1st a general amnesty for all political prisoners. This power is recognized by the Constitution of the Republic.

Both state bodies could do even more. The parliament can declare the 1999 Law No. 88 (“On protection of national independence and the economy,” also known as the “Gag Law”) unconstitutional. This is the legal provision under which the group of 75 dissidents was prosecuted, which violates and restricts the right of expression, opinion and information.

The Council of State also has the power to order the Supreme Court to undertake a special review procedure and acquit those accused in the “Black Spring” of 2003. Constitutionally it has the power to issue instructions to that judicial body.

The analysis leads to one conclusion: the fact that they talk about liberation, but not about the actions through which it must be legally formalized, suggests that the Cuban government intends to cover up the forced exit from the country of the 52 political prisoners – an illegitimate act and a violation of the rights of these people.

No government action has legal sanction to force a citizen to leave the country. Cubans cannot be exiled from their own land.

Laritza Diversent

Translated by: Tomás A.

Sui Generis

I don’t know what lesson to draw from this boring celebration of the 57th anniversary of the attack on the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes military bases, an action which is considered something of a Genesis for neohistorians. Beginning at midnight, in the first moment of July 26, I was very surprised they didn’t stop the regular programming on TV to read the usual congratulatory statement for this date. At seven-thirty in the morning, amid choral singing, the official event started. The showings of local culture continued with a poem declaimed and some troubadours. And then the Party Secretary for the province hosting the event remarked on the achievements and the tirelessness of the locals, and president Raúl Castro handed rewards to the winning provinces; the high point of the event was the speech by Venezuelan minister Rodríguez Areque. Thanks to this speech I found out that the next war will not be in Asia, but in our own backyard, between Venezuela and Colombia. At the end, the speech by Vice-president Machado Ventura, clearly written by himself, demanding more sacrifice and exalting the unshakable friendship between Cuba and the Bolivarian Republic… does it sound familiar ? Yes, it sounds familiar!

At eight-fifty-five, after the July 26 anthem, it was over. It was the first time we’ve seen such a brief and lackluster celebration. As I said before, I don’t know what lesson to draw from this. Should I try to see anything new in the loquacity of Fidel and the terseness of Raúl ?

Translated by: Xavier Noguer

The Teachings of Chibás

adjuntar20chibas1The Cuban government, shackled by a chain of failures after seven long years of inflexibility, decided to begin releasing political prisoners jailed in the spring of 2003, in order to change its image abroad, to seek aid, and to proceed with a reform called “update the model.” This shift underscores the failure of inflexibility and the decision to change certain things. Though it certainly does not mean that the Government is moving toward democracy, the attempt itself entails the introduction of certain measures, such as the release of prisoners, which lead to a more favorable scenario for additional steps.

In the face of this challenge, it is important to consider why, since the emergence of the republic in 1902, Cuba has changed again and again and again, yet has always returned to the starting point. The principal cause of these setbacks is the lack of citizen participation as agents of change, due to the weakness of civil society up to 1959, and its disappearance after that date. That is, we approach possible changes from the past, representing a real threat of repeated setbacks.

The absence of the people, not as followers of this or that leader, but as agents of change has resulted in politics being monopolized by elite figures or characterized by personalism, messianism, the use of physical and verbal violence, and the use of public power as a private reserve, a fact that should be taken into account to avoid the upcoming changes once again ending in regression. To that end I will try to highlight some roots of these evils by analyzing facts and figures. This time I’ll spotlight a man who became involved in the fight against political and administrative corruption.

Eduardo René Chibás y Rivas (1907-1951), journalist and politician, exalted character, talkative, bold and eccentric, joined the Student Directory, 1927 and 1930. He was imprisoned and was exiled on several occasions. He was a member of the Partido Revolucionario Cubano (known as the Authentic party) founded in 1934, and was elected in 1939 to the Constituent Assembly, representing the House in 1940 and Senator in 1944. In 1947, as a the result of an internal split in the Authentic Party, he founded, along with other leaders, the Party of the Cuban People (known as the Orthodox party),and was nominated for the presidency of the Republic in the elections of 1948 and 1952.

Chiba proclaimed himself as leader of the Moral Revolution. Bad politicians, he said, “steal from the people to enrich themselves”; all domestic political struggles are rooted in dishonesty, it is essential therefore to put the reins of the Republic in clean hands, however it would be wrong to reduce moral responsibility to regulate human behavior in social relationships with administrative honesty. The simplification of the concept allowed him to use it as a weapon against their enemies in elections, but it was unusable as an instrument of profound changes in the political class and the people. It had a purpose: to draw attention to administrative corruption in a time when that evil was widespread. His slogan, Shame against Money!, was used to achieve power as an immediate objective, but not to build the nation honored with social justice that he himself professed.

Chibas made heavy use of freedom of the press. As early as 1934, the Silver Anniversary edition of the magazine Bohemia, he appeared among his colleagues. In addition to The Crucible and other newspapers he used the CMW radio station CMW The Voice of West Indies, the CMQ and COCO, forming a new style of Cuban policy, based on the use of the media to stay in the limelight of public interest.

A relentless accuser, controversial and contradictory, he constantly turned for defense to verbal aggression. In 1933, with the dissolution of the Pentarchy, he proposed Grau San Martín for president; in 1946 he praised the work of Grau with the following words: “In education we have been effective for the first time in the history of Cuba, which was a dream of Marti and a desire of Estrada Palma: the republic has more teachers than soldiers.” But in June 1948, he called Grau a rival of the Borgias, “the greatest pretender given to the world since the time of Caligula, whose side have sacrificed twenty years of my life, without asking or accept anything.”

He used accusation in a systematic way. In May 1939, he accused Blas Roca of treason; in 1942, the chief of police of overstepping his boundaries; in 1943, he filed two motions in the House against Batista and against Congress; in July 1945, he accused Carlos Miguel de Céspedes of the sale of a piece of Paseo; and in January 1947, in a letter read on radio, he challenged Grau for supposed intentions to be run for reelection; in 1950, he accused President Prio of the assault on a correctional court, for which he stole the documents in a cause for embezzlement; in 1951, he accused Rolando Masferrer of placing a bomb at the home of Roberto Agramonte, and so on. His behavior earned him friends and enemies. Characterized as crazy, he replied,” I’d rather be an honorable crazy man than a shameless thief.” He engaged in duels with sabers, pistols, and fists several times.

The defense of what he considered useful at all times, led him in 1946 to defend something indefensible: terrorism. He established a distinction between revolutionary and simple attack terrorism. He said, “The use of the bomb can be explained when it is used as a cry of rebellion against a regime of terror… but never when used against a government which is the product of national will.”

Death was in his work and in his speech. In November 1939, on the eve of the election of delegates to the Constituent Assembly, he was wounded by a bullet and when asked who had been the aggressors, he said: “Do not worry about finding out, I die for the revolution, vote for Grau San Martín”; but the popularity sparked by his having been shot resulted in his coming in second in the voting. In January 1948, at a meeting of the party, he jumped on the head table and began to shout, “Put your heart into it! Orthodoxy needs a martyr!” In May of that year, on the campaign trail in the East, he said, “The day that Chibas believes he is headed for extinction, or a decline in the love of citizen, he will leave with a shot to the heart, not because of cowardice before his failure, but because his sacrifice will lead to the victory of his disciples.”

Because of his popularity polls showed him as a favorite to win the 1952 elections, but on August 5, 1951, unable to prove the charge that he had made against Aureliano Sánchez Arango, he shot himself, from which he died on August 16.

The concept of immediacy, characteristic of the revolutionary changes, did now allow him to draft a political project that would respond to Cuban conditions and the social psychology; he simply asked people to follow him. On one occasion he said, “Our people are reporting the theft of the rulers with the same calmness that they read the colored comics pages or listen to the radio.” Because of this he called out desperately to the conscience of the indifferent citizen, “People of Cuba, wake up,” without understanding that interior changes in people don’t respond to revolutionary urgencies. So, quite rightly, someone said of his death, “Chibas was a man imbued with messianic ideas about history, morality and politics. He gave no time to thought about the new order, because ultimately, the new order was he himself, a chronic disease from which we still suffer.”

At that time, as in the present, Cuba needed a change capable of breaking both the elitist monopoly of the economy as well as the politics to access to social justice. For this it was necessary to strengthen civil society, without which there can be no progress, personal or social, toward modernity. Chibas devised a perfect paradise to be imposed on a complex reality, built from his own imagination: to expel the thieves of power and put in place an honest man, servant of the nation. That man had to be his own person, who did not want or need the national heritage; the changes he advocated had to be made from the damaging pattern of staff and warlordism, two of the negative cultural phenomena rooted in our political history.

His experience shows us that the current release of political prisoners must be accompanied by the implementation of rights and freedoms, and above all the promotion of civic culture, so that the destiny of the nation does not depend exclusively on messianic leaders, who so often arise in our society.

Hunger Strike

The prisoner Luis Alberto Rodriguez Camejo declared himself on hunger strike this past July 20th in the detachment known as Pending Trial No. 6, in cell 14 of the provincial prison of Canaletas in Ciego de Avila. Rodriguez Camejo is 43 years old and is a resident of 1st street on No. 75 South, between Honorato del Castillo and Paseo (in the central city neighborhood of Ciego de Avila). He finds himself rejecting any foods as a form of protest against his alleged conviction of armed robbery in a plastic arts warehouse. The actual thief, however, confessed to the crime and yet he is out in the street under a fee and owes 6 years of conditional freedom. He also has 9 other armed robberies under his belt that can be confirmed. It seems that the thief was released from accusations because his skin color is white while Rodirguez Camejo’s is black.

According to Luis Alberto Rodriguez Camejo, he only did him the favor of watching over the frames without even knowing that they were robbed. He actually has witnesses that have told stories that benefit him. The wife of Rodriguez Camejo finds herself in City of Havana trying to help with her husband’s situation but they have only sent her from the General Prosecutors of the Republic to the State Council.

This report is by: Pedro Arguelles Moran from the group of the 75 of the Black Spring of 2003 . Provincial Prison Cell in Canaletas, Ciego de Avila.

Summer Vacation

Hundreds of thousands of Cubans are on summer vacation, among them students who enjoy almost two months until September comes around. The summer break happens at the time of the highest temperatures and all analysts believe that the social pot reaches its maximum pressure point at the beginning of August. The combination of heat, scarcity and the school break, especially irritates those adults who dream of keeping their family cool, fed and quiet. Many parents are forced to stop working because they have no one to leave their children with and in most workplaces productivity declines during July and August.

In summer the beach is inviting, especially on a narrow island where the coast — even at the widest point — is less than 60 miles away. But swimming in the sea also involves some difficulties, particularly with regards to transportation and because once we are lying on the sand next to the ocean, we discover that nearly all the food on offer must be paid for in convertible pesos. This goes for the umbrellas, too.

Sooner or later boredom leads us to the corners of the house that need repair. The chair that wobbles, the sink’s half-clogged drain, the outlet that sparks, the old clothesline that no longer supports the weight of the laundry, and the toilet tank that has sprung a leak. In short, the many corners that deteriorate over time and to which we must dedicate hours when we have some days of leisure. Thus, by the end of the vacation, talking among our colleagues we hear more about the difficulties of repairing the kitchen light than of the warm Caribbean waters.