Cell Phones in Cuba, on the Crest of the Wave / Iván García

Anabel, 23, unemployed, with the roof of her house full of holes through which water pours on days of heavy rain, eats hot food once a day, and ‘the future’ is a bad word.

She is short of many things. But she has a brand new phone. Cell phones are fashionable on the island. Especially among young people. Take note: The country recently surpassed one million active cell phone users.

There are even more cell phones in Cuba than fixed phones. The official newspaper Juventud Rebelde announced the news. According to Max La Fuente, vice president of mobile services, there are currently 1,007,000 cellphone users, while fixed phone customers have reached 1,004,000.

However, the manager said that 67% of call traffic comes from the landlines.

Of course, it’s much cheaper to talk on a landline. On average, people who have landlines in their households pay between 30 and 50 pesos (not more than $2.50) per month.

A cell phone is a luxury in Cuba. It is true that costs have come down. Prior to 2008, to own a mobile phone bordered on illegality and people only had them thanks to a relative or friend abroad.

So Cubans had no right to own a mobile phone line. When allowed, in March 2008, prices were exorbitant. A phone line cost 120 convertible pesos ($140).

The per minute cost was 0.60 cents in convertible pesos. However, the queues at the business offices of ETECSA, the only telecommunications company in Cuba, were gigantic.

Right now, the costs have fallen by 70%. Mobile lines cost 40 convertible pesos ($50) and there are numerous offers for 20 convertible pesos.

Calls cost 0.45 cents per minute and after 11 pm the price drops to 0.10 cents. Calls are still charged on receipt of the call and the services offered through mobile telephony are far from the quality and variety of their counterparts in Third World countries.

To have an iPhone or a Black Berry is more ostentation than anything else: half of the services that are touted by their manufacturers do not work on the island. Mobile phone users still cannot connect to the internet or to GPS. Nor access Google.

ETECSA executives have hinted that this could happen in the near future. What is announced for the second half of 2010 is the availability of prepaid cards for 5 convertible pesos and the gradual reduction of call costs, according to the available technology.

Two years after the Castro II regime allowed any Cuban to have a mobile if so desired, the cell is on the crest of the wave.

They are least used to make calls. Young people use them as MP3 players and send videos and photos via Bluetooth. Those most hungry for information use a clandestine service based in Madrid that sends free news updates about the worlds of sports, politics and entertainment.

Opponents, independent journalists and bloggers get information through the mobile phone chip. Most of the news, such as the release of 52 political prisoners or a momentous event, is spread by SMS at unheard of speeds.

And there are not a few who access social networks like Twitter or Facebook through their mobile. Although most people on the island, like Anabel, use the mobile more as a garment than as a necessity.

She always carries her modern phone stuck to her tight skirt with her headphones on, listening to hip-hop. Occasionally she sends messages. The call cost is still prohibitive for her. And though the house is in ruins, there is little food and not much money, young people like Anabel feel that the mobile is a new toy.

Iván García

Translated by: CIMF

August 3 2010

A Day in Santa Clara / Claudia Cadelo

Photo: Claudio Fuentes Madan

There is another Cuba glued to the asphalt, anonymous, dynamic, talkative and entrepreneurial. Three hours in a botero — an informal private car for hire — on the highway from Havana to Santa Clara can transmit more information than a whole year of watching the national news on TV: prices in the black market, the private opinions of former party members who turned in their cards, Cuban-American tourists sharing their anecdotes, and traveling vendors. I could stay on that other island which is hotter but more real, harder but more sincere than Cuban television.

Santa Clara, however, seems like a city under siege, not a city of carnivals. Like a diabolical colorless Christmas, in every door, wall and window there is the same sign with the same inscription: We are in 26. The city was drowning in a number, in the same number, to the ends of the province. One has the sensation of having arrived in a country of figures, the domain of “King 26.” With less sun and more air it could be the lead-in for a great horror film.

Coco would be an Alice in the country of the Red Queen, his door the only one free from the curse of two plus six, our conversation constantly interrupted because someone looks into the room to wish him good luck, health and all the best. Alicia, his mom, is desperate to stem the rush of solidarity that interrupts the rest and discipline her child should be subjected to. Fariñas, however, is an exceptional human being: his body is field of marks and scars, bruises and holes, his neck is marked by the blood clot, and his swollen feet retain too much fluid. He doesn’t walk but when he talks from his wheel chair it’s like he’s flying. I felt pain for this body, helpless to follow the steps of such a great soul.

Leaving his house is almost like leaving paradise, without any transition from hours of levitating on his words to then falling into a puddle of tar in the middle of the provincial bus station: A 15-inch TV on mute invariably presents a close-up of Raul Castro, signs and banners of the damned 26 stretching as far as the eye can see, (there comes a moment when everything becomes abstract and you forget that this number is a date, just a date), and a temperature impossible for human life that forces you to sit on the floor to be able to breathe. Four hours later we managed to catch a transport to Havana.

August 3, 2010

Forbidden, But Possible / Yoani Sanchez

The smoke gets in my hair, my clothes, and overnight I take on the smell of tobacco although I am one of those Cuban adults who has never smoked. The man at the next table has consumed a pack and a half of Hollywoods in the short time he’s been here, using an empty beer bottle as an ashtray. On the wall there is a sign showing a cigarette with a red line through it; the white background of the poster is stained with nicotine. There is no remedy, I’m a passive smoker even though my country adopted a decree in 2005 that should protect my lungs in.

I passed unscathed through that first “drag” — shared while sitting in a circle — that kids try to prove how grown up they are. Thirty-two percent of my compatriots, however, ended up hooked from this youthful prank, and today spend a good part of their personal resources on Criollos, Populares, or H. Upmanns. This is one of the highest smoking rates in the region, perhaps comparable to the high levels of alcoholism, although the latter is not officially declared. Though half the homes on the Island are exposed to smoke, in our house we have an ex-smoker, a teenager who doesn’t seem interested yet, and this humble servant who used to dunk the packets in water to discourage her father from the vice.

The resolution to protect those who don’t smoke is strict and very modern, but in practice it only worked for a couple of weeks. I don’t know anyone who has been fined for violating the rule against smoking in public places or on public transport, and you can still see people selling different brands of cigarettes close to elementary and secondary schools. Notwithstanding my abstinence, a couple months ago I was diagnosed with emphysema and the doctor gave me a wink while saying, “You smoke, right?” I feel like buying myself a dozen of the strongest cigars, taking long drags, and blowing the smoke on the damp paper of a law that is not complied with, or on those who have ensured that these regulations aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. But I don’t know, I suspect that if I did I would received one of the few fines imposed in the last five years.

August 3, 2010

I Told You So! / Reinaldo Escobar

I don’t want to fall into that old people’s habit neatly summarized in the phrase, “I told you so,” when something happens someone already warned you about: Not content with having wasted the opportunity on July 26, Raul Castro again fell short in his speech to the Parliament.

The announcement regarding the broadening of self-employment and the flexibility to contract for workers are steps in the right direction, but still suffer from a lack of depth and are painfully slow. Can we go to the office that deals with these matters to take out a license as an independent journalist? Can joint venture companies recruit staff outside the monopoly imposed by the State? It was indispensable to end the paternalistic practice of having eight people where three is enough and of course suitability must be the first if not the only reason to select those who fill the jobs, but it is also important to stress in more detail that presumed discrimination and favoritism can’t come into play when it’s time for layoffs.

With the greatest respect, I do not believe, as our general-cum-president said, that there is no struggle between the different factions regarding the direction of the Revolution. The proclaimed unity is what allows Raul Castro to invoke a “we” as an imprecise subject determining the pace of the changes, but it is precisely on the issue of speed where differences can become sharpest, as they become a source of conflict when it is suspected that the speed and depth that some are proposing would necessarily end up dismantling of socialism.

If the opinions of a citizen veer from the interpretation of what the Party understands as “the same goals of social justice and national sovereignty,” those opinions will not be seen as honest differences and will be excluded from any possible dialog.

Raul Castro did not address the parliament as president of all citizens, but as the leader of a faction. There is nothing idle about his reiteration that “there will be no impunity for the enemies of the country, for those who attempt to endanger our independence,” and it puts into doubt that the much touted unity “is not the fruit of false unanimity nor of opportunistic simulation,” because, as is clear after a relaxed review of his speech, this unity is rooted in the panic of being marked with the stigma of traitor, which is attached to those who are only asking for deeper and faster changes, including, and why not, the dismantling of a system that has only demonstrated its inviability.

The president of all citizens would have an obligation to guarantee that no Cubans, however they think, are deprived of the right to freely express themselves, in any street, in any plaza. Fortunately, unlike those who are pressed into service to form the mobs for repudiation rallies, those who think differently from the Communist Party do not sit around waiting for a general to tell them they have the right to do so, and even better, they don’t depend on being given an order to go and demonstrate.

The Violators / Luis Felipe Rojas

Photos by:  Luis Felipe Rojas

Since we suffer from a lack of rights, I find myself obliged to publish photos of three well-known oppressors from the Eastern region.  They are especially notorious in the areas of Banes and Antilla in Holguin.

Henry Borrero (he appears by himself in the photo) and Freddy Allen Aguero Diaz and Wilson Ramirez Perez (from left to right).

Ramirez Perez savagely beat Caridad Caballero Batista and Mariblanca Avila — inside of a car to prevent anyone  from helping them — like all the people who show up to help Reina Luisa Tamayo Danger in Banes.

Caballero Batista and Avila Exposito were both dragged out of the car they were traveling in and were thrown in another car with a license plate that proved it was property of the G2.

Through this blog, I have helped to denounce such actions, like the ones that occurred on Thursday July 22nd, in the voice of Caballero Batista.

Ramirez Perez himself was also involved in the beating of Cristian Toranzo Fundichelis in 2009.  The others are all members of the operative group of the G2 in the area.  Their sad mission consists of attempting to squash the opposition movement in Holguin.

That is their legacy, a string of violations that will eventually work against them when the long and unfortunate nightmare of socialism is over.

August 3 2010

Translated by Raul G.

Cuba: Two Governments? / Miriam Celaya

In all of the overflowing liturgical calendar of the Cuban Revolution, for half a century the 26th of July has been the quintessential date. More important even than January 1 (the day of the triumph of Castro’s rebels and the establishment of a revolution doomed to failure), the commemoration of the assault on the Moncada barracks, despite the numerous deaths it caused in 1952, became a national holiday that at the stroke of a pen subordinated the importance of any of the Island’s other historical events, one attempted coup d’état within another: violence against violence, the force of arms, the civil war. With the passage of time, the central commemorative event of the date also became a “political prize,” with the site of the largest celebration awarded to the provincial capital deemed to be the “winner” of “socialist emulation” based on what exactly no one knows, or remembers, but nor is anyone interested because — as is well-known — it is a designation that in reality responds to the short-term interests of a government and not the supposed merits or achievements of this ill-fated system.

This July 26, 2010, however, came with a marked difference, because this time it converged with a succession of events that altered the habitual monotony of the ritual. Santa Clara, the host city in which, as in the rest of the country, nothing is produced, was the scene, this time won not by the “sustained work and extraordinary economic and social achievements” of its population (as apathetic and hopeless as any other Cubans the length and breadth of the Island), but rather — paradoxically — by the prolonged hunger and thirst strike sustained by the dissident Guillermos Farina from his provincial hospital bed, to demand the release of the prisoners of the Black Spring. The formidable solidarity aroused by Farinas and the many comments circulating about the amazing accomplishment of this Cuban capable of sacrificing himself and putting his life at risk for the freedom of others, were sufficient grounds to bring an injection of official ideology to the city: The Central Event of the 26th was, therefore, a smokescreen to show that Santa Clara was not practically a kind of moral plaza besieged by the dissidence, but a bastion of faithful revolutionaries in the spirit of Moncada.

This 26th was marked by the beginning of the release of the political prisoners of conscience; by the sensationalist public reappearance of Mr. F., that jealous starlet coming to steal the scene and trying, with exaggerated blush, to make up for a lack of freshness; by the publication of a series of predictions about an imminent nuclear holocaust; by the stubborn silence of General Raul Castro, broken only recently by his brief closing remarks on August 1 to the latest session of the National Assembly; by the replacement of another minister, this time in public health. All this could signify the same incapacity to remain in the position of “throwing in the towel” in the middle of the ring in which he sees himself battling the fighting the major competition of the moment: the top leadership.

To make this anniversary even more different from others, the Cuban president remained enigmatically (or conveniently) silent at the event in Santa Clara: not only did he omit the usual speech in which he commonly makes statements and promises that are never fulfilled — perhaps avoiding having to comment on the release of the “despicable mercenaries in the service of the Empire,” or about the sudden emergence of a character who is officially no longer on the stage, or on a possible governmental contingency plan to deal with the consequences of the “nuclear war” that we’re facing — but he passed the ball to no less than Machado Ventura, celebrated for his attachment to the stagnation of the so-called hard-line communists and for his markedly dogmatic positions bearing the Stalinist stamp. It was, for many, like a bucket of cold water. Everyone was commenting: “That’s it?” “Who’s the winner here?” Or, as they said in the years of my youth, “We’ve been left at the altar.”

In short, this July 26 transpired as if there were two Cubas, or rather two governments in a single Cuba: one, phantasmagorical and hallucinatory, where an ancient specter announces the end of the world while placing offerings to the dead — who died at his own hand — and designating who will be saved from the coming holocaust (as happens, for example, with Pastors for Peace president Lucius Walker and his caravan); meanwhile another government, perhaps more mundane or closer to reality, negotiates secretly with Cuban and foreign institutions to free the prisoners, ignoring the ghostly apparitions of F and his supporting staff. In any event, this duality has only managed up to now to emphasize the impression of chaos. The presence of F interfering in the affairs of State which — if we stick to the letter of the law — should be the sole responsibility of the government and its institutions, is incoherent and harmful, now more than ever; it is, in fact, a complete aberration. Cuba urgently needs realistic definitions, not delusions, to address the most difficult situation in the last 50 years. The future of everyone depends on the intelligence and skill to address today’s issues, because we can clearly see that our real Holocaust is within us.

August 3, 2010

Twitterers in Cuba? / Miguel Iturria Savón


God created the world in six days, on the 7th, he tweeted.

Last month, Yoani Sanchez, the creator of Generation Y, invited some of her friends to contribute to the diffusion of micro-blogging through the group known as “The First Tweet-up on the Island.” In regards to such a meeting, I asked when and where.

Although I have not followed the chronogram of the next meeting, I bet it will be successful and occur soon because Yoani’s summoning power is supported by more than 50 thousand followers on Twitter and millions of readers of her personal blog. If she was able to establish the Blogger Academy in Cuba, she will also be able to set up this web of interchange between those who use that tool of brief and current messages that travel from an individual to the masses.

According to Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter, his invention is not a social network, instead it is a communication platform that has grown, worldwide, from 44.5 million users in December 2009 to 100 million users just this past June.

Some considered Twitter to be a trend used by celebrities – Al Gore, Barack Obama, Ashton Kutcher – and it was abandoned during the first month by 4 out of 10 users, and that is a bet in favor of micro texting, conciseness, and brevity, which adjusts itself to the urgency of the times and to the desire of reading about those lives parallel to ours.

The phrase “What are you doing right now?” is what dominates this technology, but it also serves as a source of social information, civic activism, and also provides a space for denouncing crimes. We must recall that in 2008, a tweet from China reported an earthquake 7 minutes before the media of that country did. One year later, thousands of youths in Iran used Twitter against the electoral fraud that shook up the power of the Ayatollahs. Meanwhile, in Cuba, Yoani Sanchez posted about the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo and the start of the hunger strike of Guillermo Farinas.

The virtual inhabitants of Twitter respond by what they publish, and the velocity of micro-journalism functions as a network which channels the anxieties of the population, which warns and limits power for those in the press and in the government.

Up till now, it is not possible to know exactly how many Cubans have access to the twittering in cyberspace. We know that many alternative bloggers and also state functionaries use this nanotechnology novelty. We have yet to see if rivers of public and private messages will occur, similar to the situation which occurred with drivers in Mexico City which created a Twitter network to alert drivers about blood alcohol level tests.

Perhaps we have other priorities in Cuba, but if Yoani Sanchez already decided to organize “the first tweet up on the island”, such an organization would not lack members who would create profiles, upload web applications to the computer to transfer messages onto their phones, or to create accounts for people who wish to use the website http://twitter.com/ to reach that new communication platform through messages and projects that would ultimately save free expression.

Translated by Raul G.

August 1 2010

Losing a Tooth, Winning a Number / Yoani Sánchez

Months ago I dreamt I lost a tooth. That tiny one on the side that’s been with me for more than thirty years. An incisor that has never moved and that I should care for, knowing it can’t be replaced. If my grandmother were alive she would have interpreted these dream experiences as “an omen that someone is going to die.” Anna associated dreams in which molars, eyeteeth, or front teeth fell out with the loss of a loved one; she had dentures and had buried almost all of her friends from her generation.

I analyzed the superstition coldly and remembered that in our illegal lottery the number eight is also called “death.” It wasn’t hard to find the neighborhood ticket seller; despite a five decade crack down, the well known bolita is present on every block in my country, with the most popular and well-established lottery being the one run by the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution themselves. A clandestine network collects the risky money until the bolitero hears the winning numbers on Venezuelan or Miami radio and delivers to each bettor their respective winnings. So, any daily situation can be reinterpreted as a prediction, and you can bet on the numbers between 1 and 100 in hopes of winning a tidy sum. In colloquial speech, when someone says “butterfly,” “horse” or “buzzard” they are referring 2, 1 and 33 in the clandestine raffle, and “nuns” are a reference to the number five.

So I ventured out and put twenty pesos on the number that signifies a funeral. As I expected, I didn’t win anything. Still, I’m not about to give up, to the point where I still poke through the daily paper, Granma, to look for some figure to improve my luck. The first reward I enjoyed from the lottery was when, being a teenager, I ventured on a striking 90 (the number that corresponds to “old man”), taken from a headline in the official organ of the Cuban Communist Party. Believe me, many Cubans read that paper to hunt for clues to guide them in our most popular sweepstakes, not to find real news. Like a secret code, we analyze announcements, dreams, political billboards, anniversaries… signs of reality that are translated into numbers for the forbidden lottery.

August 1 2010

The Fraud Law

Lately, there is a lot of talk about savings. However, that verb is specifically reserved for the inferior people of my planet, not for the native leaders.

Less than a year and a half ago, an apartment building for the workers of Tecnoazucar was finalized, here on Nuevo Vedado street at 41 and Conill B. Logically, a wall was constructed with a very narrow entrance (the entrances here are very narrow). But anyway, they put colonial roof-tiles on the building (that has nothing to do with alignment, it’s just the trend now).

This morning I heard the loud noise of a large hammer. I looked towards the direction of the sound and I figured that they had been tearing down the old wall for a while. Apparently, the person who is moving in does not like the previous design, and since it surely does not cost them anything, then it doesn’t matter.

This whole situation, which is constantly repeated at such levels, is sharply different from the situation of the ordinary Cuban citizens.

On 2nd street, between Ayestaran and Ayuntamiento, there is a woman who lives with her son, both with serious health problems. A small porch (of a former business) and a small room is what they call home. Through lots of sacrifices they were able to purchase the materials and ultimately were able to build another small room on the roof area. Eventually, someone was bothered by this and they denounced them. As is logical, they didn’t have any papers for the cement nor for any of the other materials. So the authorities decided to demolish everything. The worst part of this, and the most painful part, was that it seemed like there was a Committee of the Revolution party going on. There were so many people clustered over there just watching what was happening, while no one did absolutely anything about it. I arrived at my sister’s house, who lives nearby, at that very moment, and a friend of mine told me what was happening as she ran towards the scene.

The saddest part about all of this is that on that same block, on the opposite sidewalk, a party member who had been given the house of someone who fled the country, was remodeling his property, almost at the same exact time that this was happening, while he used and abused all sorts of important materials. However, nobody denounced this man.

Translated by Raul G.

Homework

I go over to a friend’s house and find her roaring with laughter over her son’s homework. She gave me a sheet of notebook paper and invited me to read it, but not before clarifying, “It’s very honest, you can see he’s only seven.”

My school

My whole school is nice except the bathroom, because it is nicely painted and nothing is broken, but the bathroom is badly painted, there is always poop, and it smells like pee. In my school I have many good and funny friends, also the teacher is very good and quite funny. In the morning the director says many things but sometimes I don’t listen. I almost always want to go to school and even more when I go there to eat, today I ate flour and the teacher made me.

The truth is it didn’t make me laugh that much, I remember when I was that age and what happened later. I didn’t say anything to my friend, but if our country doesn’t change, within three or four years the children’s compositions, far from criticizing the smell or remembering the pleasures of playing with their classmates, will mention the dead heroes from the wars of past centuries and the unknown battles of ideas.

Omar, The Image First, The Words Later

Omar, the lens for the word (Photo: Luis Felipe Rojas)

When I heard of him he was already serving a 27-year sentence in the Cuban prisons. He was “the photographer of dissent” whose images spoke on behalf of that emaciated part of Cuba, which they have tried to sell us like a souvenir.

From Omar Rodríguez Saludes, now exiled to Spain with his family, the Cuban political police snatched cameras, and confiscated posters where he had reflected a true country with people who laugh and cry, but they could not tear from him his desire to capture life.

In an interview granted to Fernando J. Ruiz for the book Another Crack in the Wall, he said, “My goal is to remind the Cuban people and all who see these images, of the time they spent, the times so difficult . . . because the images one does not seek, but which present themselves, are like an inspiration, so the camera should always be with me, and this is the concept I have.”

One day in March, the soldiers who don’t shoot bullets or wear uniforms broke into his home, and deprived us of that wonderful testimonial that Rodríguez Saludes had for when the long night of torture passed.

Today, he is in a country where he can breathe free, secure that his eyes and his memory are relieved of the horror he saw in the cell where they put him.

Tomorrow he will leave with a device on his chest to photograph freedom, he will sit down to describe what he suffered and continue his journey through life. Sooner or later we will see his photographs, his vision of today and tomorrow, and that will be enough.

A man who returns from hell always bring news of life.

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.