Unofficial Pastors, Half Free / Luis Felipe Rojas

Pastor Carlos Montoya

The U.S. State Department’s annual report on religious freedom in the world noted a slight improvement in Cuba, but placed the country as one of those who remain on the black list, along with China, Iran and North Korea.

Cuba improved in practice, says the document, but it also presents the complaints of groups and independent pastors who claim to be monitored by the government and suffer occasional arrests.

Pastor Manuel Alberto Morejon Soler, general supervisor of the Christian Alliance and a resident of Havana, has a different view. To Morejon, the Office of Religious Affairs and the Cuban Council of Churches (CIC) come together and help each other with censorship and surveillance.

The pastor, who is defines himself as an independent, says that “only the official churches are benefiting from the support of the Office of Religious Affairs [of the Cuban Communist Party] and CIC, as the Bibles and other resources entering the country and are distributed by these entities.”

A year ago, this pastor, with the ’apostle’ Carlos Montoya Palomino, of the same denomination, asked to attend some meetings of the ICC in the interest of evaluating whether or not to join it. It has been over twelve months and they have not yet been sent the official invitation.

“Several years ago the Cuban government froze an account of $ 26,000 belonging to the Seminary of the West Baptist Church in Villa Clara, and that nothing is said about this,” the pastor reported.

Morejon Soler does not see the improvements highlighted in the State Department report and he believes that the 2012 reporting period, “was very repressive.” While there is a refusal to allow independent churches on the island to have their own media, churches and other denominations covered under the umbrella of CIC may buy cars, rent phone lines and enjoy other benefits.

The Christian Alliance received an offer to transfer the donations they received in the United States, but finding themselves in a legal limbo, they are unable to issue paychecks, according to pastor Morejon. He concludes, “They are not just bureaucratic procedures, rather they are very sophisticated and have us tied hand and foot.”

Having Faith is a heroic act

Carlos Montoya Palomino believes that faith in Cuba is a luxury. He says it as someone who has gone through numerous vicissitudes.

It is precisely the “Lack of an Act of Worship and Religious Association that gives human beings the right to wear their faith freely clearly that makes it more difficult to live full freedom in Cuba,” Montoya adds.

27 May 2013

The Havana of Trades / Luis Felipe Rojas

309459-1369494950-0-lThe still man. A vendor of images, a being who poses for entertainment of others. The image of the type petrified against the walls of this city that we lose and win daily in the image, in the memory, in the myth of a Havana that is no more because every day it is regenerated again and again.

309459-1369494950-1-lThe harlequin approaches and doesn’t ask, doesn’t beg. He is a man who like the light comes out to meet us so that we know life goes by and doesn’t, that life is a party that some just totally believe in. 309459-1369494950-2-lThe guard snoozes amidst the Havana torpor. Under the soft foliage of O ‘Reylli Street, the model cars, books and cookies under his custody were free at least once a day.

309459-1369494950-3-lWontons, delicious wontons to sweeten the taste buds. A few pass by and resist, very few at the delight of the taste, color, smell and sound of the rich cry, “Wooontoooons, yummy wooooontoooons!!!!”

309459-1369494950-4-lDepending on the region of Cuba, there are different names for the rich treat of ice sweetened with strawberry syrup, cola or even mint. When chopped ice and sweet wyrup is known as: “raya’o” slushie or frappe.

28 May 2013

Being a Dissident and a Practitioner of Santeria, a Difficult Path / Luis Felipe Rojas

The first Cuban vice-president, Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez visited the headquarters of the Cultural Yoruba Association of Cuba this past Monday, days after the Department of State published a document in regards to religious freedom, which alleges that there have been some advances as far as Cuba’s approach in these matters.

While the second-in-line of the Cuban government was saying goodbye to the babalaos –– the Santeria priests — of the official association, throughout the streets of Cuba other Santeria leaders are looked down upon for not joining the organization run by the Office of Religious Affairs, for abiding by other rules, for carrying weapons to carry out animal sacrifices and even for being dissidents, a charge which turns out to be quite heavy to bear.

The babalao Gesse Castelnau Ruiz considers that the meeting of Diaz-Canel with the Yoruba Cultural Association of Cuba is manipulative in its essence, as this religious group accepts only Communist party members or citizens who are committed to the government. continue reading

In the Havana municipality of October 10 there is another Yoruba Association of Cuba, named “Lazaro Cuesta,” which also issues a “Letter of the Year,” parallel to that located in Old Havana. In this regard, the priest of Ifa, Castelnau states that just recently they went to that organization to apply for a license to carry the weapons intended for animal sacrifices and were denied for being active regime opponents.

A drum circle for the health of the deceased former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a rite of sacrifice and worship of the five Cuban intelligence spies imprisoned in the U.S., or for the recovery of former President Fidel Castro, have been three of the last three demonstrations of the Yoruba Cultural Association of Cuba to the government adhering to the government’s designs.

Carrying weapons without official authorization, issuing the Letter of the Year parallel to that of the official association, showing their openly rebellious activism or attempting to provide religious services to foreign visitors, are all part of the causes of harassment experienced in the capital or provinces such as Villa Clara and Holguin.

“I have taken very well to being a babalao and dissident, me and my family, where there are four more babalaos. They did not let us participate in activities organized by that association, nor did we want to. They have confiscated my batá drums for Zanja Street police station because they say they have things inside and have to search them. There is no freedom of religion and expression,” the Yoruba priest concluded.

A religion divided

Iyalocha (priestess of Ifa) and Lady in White, Jessica is a young woman who believes in the powers of Orula and that all men and women are born free and have equal rights. Because of this she wears a fardo that has cost her arrests, police repression and the refusal to allow her to be in the Yoruba Association, based on the Prado in Havana.

Jessica thinks that the practice of the cult of the Orishas in Cuba is divided, and says that “This happened since they opened the Prado Street headquarters, which is governed entirely by the Cuban government.”

Several babalaos and practitioners agree that the Cuban Santeria guru, Lazaro Cuesta, would feel betrayed because he created the first Yoruba Association of Cuba in the municipality of October 10, and it was from there that the “only true Letter of the Year” is issued Jessica said, somewhat affected.

“Many Santeria followers don’t go to Meadow Street headquarters, for the simple reason that there can’t be two letters. I dare say that 90% of the Cuban people who believe in Ifa are governed by the letter issued in the municipality October 10 which was the first that came out.”

Cuba currently has Letters of the Year and for those Santeria followers who originally went to the house of October 10, this duality is a sacrilege.

Declarations of the Iyalocha and Lady in White Jessica C.

Jessica recalls that the official association came to offer a Tambor (a religious ceremony) for the health of President Hugo Chavez and on this occasion the Cuban Santeria followers had to use drums at the Prado headquarters site because most Cuban babalaos will not lend themselves to such a propaganda show. In the images the musician Papo Angarica  could be seen cheering the Venezuelan leader, as on other occasions he had done for the cause of the five spies or any other partisan mandate.

“Christians say we are evil and Chavez was a Christian, then how did they set the Santeria to pray for a Christian? All the world realized it was a media circus,” says the iyalochaa Jessica Castelnau.

24 May 2013

Cuba is a Running Tap / Luis Felipe Rojas

A running tap, a manhole with the cover in the middle of the street, a medical clinic bordered by sewage, make up a picture of the Cuba that does not come out in the official press nor on the agenda of the tour operators who work on Cuba in the area of international tourism.

In Cerro or Centro Habana, on many occasions, the waters running down the avenue are often confused with the sewer water that escapes through the pipes ruined by time.

22 May 2013

Eastern Democratic Alliance (ADO) joins “The Path of the People” / Luis Felipe Rojas

Rolando Rodríquez Lobaina (Coordinator of ADO) with Rosa María Payá, of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL)

In a cordial encounter sustained in the capital of the nation, dissident leader Rosa Maria Paya signed an agreement with the General Coordinator of the Eastern Democratic Alliance (ADO), Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina, to work together in the promotion of the project, “The Path of the People.”

The idea of working in unity ratifies the intention of various civil organizations in the island to work in favor of democracy and for changes for the people.

“It’s the perfect moment to take important steps that will help the Cuban people to chose new instruments to demand the rights they deserve,” affirmed Lobaina.

The Eastern activist also added in his discourse: “The Path of the People should be taken to everyone, and all other organizations in and out of Cuba that stand up against totalitarianism should support this initiative, an initiative open to everyone.”

Finally, ADO’s coordinator concluded by saying: “The first step which we Cubans should take is to dismantle the law system which restrains the freedoms of all citizens.  Taking this as a starting point, we can then sit to debate about the destiny of the nation, with respect and tolerance”.

 Report by Isael Poveda Silva, Director of independent news agency ADOPRESS.

13 May 2013

“For Another Cuba” In Miami / Luis Felipe Rojas

Presentation of Estado de Sats in Miami. Photo from Alexis Jardines.

Antonio Rodiles, coordinator of the independent Estado de Sats project, presented the citizens’ Campaign For Another Cuba to Miami. On Saturday evening, May 4, Cuba Ocho on the city’s principal arterial was filled with several generations of Cubans, interested in knowing about the civilian initiative.

The Citizen Demand seeks to demand that the government apparatus ratify the United Nations Covenants on Civil, Economic and Cultural Rights that it signed in 2008, and it tramples on them with repressio and meaningless prohibitions, said several of those present.

5 May 2013

Poetry That Disobeys and Sings / Luis Felipe Rojas

The Poet Jorge Valls read his verses with Janisset Rivero. Photo: W. Cruz.

Six Cuban poets in Miami gathered under the banner of Disobedient Poetry to read their poems on the night of April 25.

Jorge Valls was once again the child who retraced the plains of his country and remembered his mother, along with poetry to return to the fact of being a man who lives his life through his writing. Angel Cuadra took himself to the fateful day in the ’80s in Cuba, when the Acts of Repudiation initiated an era of pain and hatred.

Also there were Manuel Vázquez Portal, Regis Iglesias, Janissete Rivero and Luis Felipe Rojas. Poets who have used their words to point to the misfortune of their country, but who also walk the paths of love, friendship and the human touch with the lyric as a flag to describe their lives and those of others. A poetry that is committed to human pain and the joy of life after having gone through the bars of a cell, the final separation from family and friends, and the temporary loss of one’s native earth. A poem that travels from pain to the will to live.

The evening event had as its central focus poets who have gone through prison, persecution and public scorn and have not stopped writing poetry for themselves  and for current generations. Valls and Cuadra passed through long and difficult years of imprisonment,and the unjust sentences they were subjected to and have not dampened the spirit of the lyrics of Vázquez Portal and Regis Iglesias and their public reading showed how much effort it takes to overcome the false ordinances.

The Ivan Galindo Workshop-Gallery opened Friday night to show another side of literature in Miami, with the strength of cultural environment we breathe today.

The expectant crowd cheered the “Disobedient Poetry” written by the former long-standing political prisoners and social activists who have survived those who persecute and try to kill them, through the force of totalitarian decrees.

Angel Cuadra shares his creations with the public. Photo: W. Cruz

Luis Felipe Rojas reads poems from his book “To Feed the Pit-bull.” Photo: W. Cruz

26 April 2013

Ulloa and Mulet are Transfered to Valle Grande Prison / Luis Felipe Rojas

Reinier Mulet Levis

Havana, April 19. The regime opponents Miguel Alberto Ulloa Ginar, 23, and Reinier Mulet Levis, 26, detained since April 10 in Havana, were transferred to Valle Grande Prison.

Ulloa informed his wife, Tailadis Rosales Perez, that they transferred them Wednesday morning from the National Revolutionary Police’s investigation center, on Calle Acosta and 10 de Octubre Streets, to Valle Grande, in the municipality of La Lisa. This Thursday their families were able to visit them for half an hour and bring them personal hygiene items.

Both young men, members of the Republican Party of Cuba, swell the list of political prisoners.

Miguel Alberto Ulloa

18 April 2013

Announcing the Results of the “Home Through the Window” Contest in the Genre of Poetry / Luis Felipe Rojas

Arts Cuba announced this Wednesday the results of the “Home Through the Window” contest in the genre of Poetry, held in 2012 for authors living in Cuba. First place went to “The Fire of the Meek,” by Daykel Angula Aguilera from Holguin, a poet, storyteller, and audiovisual artist.

Second place went to “There is a Place Called Solitude” from the writer
Isbel González González, living in Sancti Spiritus. Third place went to “Levels of Euphoria” by Ricardo Lopez Lorente, resident in Havana.

The “Home Through the Window” Poetry contest was organized by Arts Cuba “for the purpose of opening a window to the national, international and online distribution of literature and art created by individuals on the Island.” About 70 authors submitted around 300 works, a considerable participation considering the existing difficulties of Internet connection in Cuba.

The criteria for choosing the winners were: originality, relevant theme, creativity, style, and quality of writing.

Arts Cuba released an eBook (a book in digital format) with poems of the winners and several finalists (15 authors in total), which, with a foreword by poet Joaquín Gálvez, may be read free of charge, and/or downloaded, by clicking on this link:

29 March 2013

To Redress a Wrong / Luis Felipe Rojas

Rafael Alcides

A couple of weeks ago my friend, the poet Rafael Alcides, published a text… as a way to air the case of Ángel Santiesteban Prats. I responded to him immediately, “You are wrong, Master…”  Alcides sent me this text that I want to share with you about the opportunistic response of eight Cuban writers, affiliated with UNEAC (Writers and Artists Union of Cuba), on the occasion of International Women’s Day.

Here is the complete text:

Dear Luis Felipe: Alcides gave me this charge, but there is no visible email address for you to receive the letter, so I leave it here. In my blog today I posted about Angel. Hugs, Regina (Coyula)

Havana, 2 March 2013

From Rafael Alcides / To Luis Felipe Rojas

My Friend Luis Felipe:

Regarding your calling me “teacher” in replying to my opinions about the recently massacred Ángel Santiesteban, I will answer as Nicolás Guillén would with his usual mischievousness: “The teacher, in fact, will be you.” And as for the reply itself, it has left me confused. Either I didn’t know how to express myself or you read me with too much haste. Let’s see.

I said that from the beginning this is not a political case, adding slyly an “I’ve heard” that could not fail to be considered, and continuing on to demonstrate that it is, in fact, a political case, but to prove it without editorializing, in conformance with the method of poets from time immemorial: to leave this I said without saying it explicitly, so that it doesn’t take hold without being read at least once more, what Hemingway used to define with the seriousness of someone who was claiming the rights of discovery, “Iceberg theory.”

But truthfully, I talk about disagreements in the life a couple magnified to the extreme of sentencing our friend and the excellent writer Ángel Santiesteban to five years in prison, in its origin situations typical of that long list of things and cases of the home that nurtured the jokes of our grandparents, and then I stop to consider what the government could do now to back off.

To shoot blanks, by mistake, at the execution or for reasons of state usually happens with later governments, those that come after the fallen government, never from the government that commits the executions. Conscious of this important lesson in history, I mention possible solutions for the government, withdrawals where we both win. We get our Angel back, and the government, whatever it’s going to do, reserves for itself the romantic role of knight in shining armor who comes out to defend the honor of the lady.

You have to play the hand you were dealt, Luis Felipe. Unfortunately, Angel’s case is much more delicate than that of the 75 from the Black Spring early in the century. Then it was all very clear, then the accuser was the government; this time, unfortunately — I insist, unfortunately — the accuser is Angel’s ex-wife, the mother of his son — a son who is now fifteen years old — and this woman, this mother lied, yes, that woman, manipulated from the beginning or not, sought out false witnesses, simulated the marks of a beating on her face with leaves from a guao tree, she spoke of death threats, arson, finally, my friend Luis Felipe, this woman so in love that she would rather see her ex-husband burning at the stake than with another woman,set the table for these people and they, of course, eager, greedy, as is usual in these cases that fall out of the sky when least expected, quickly sat down to eat.

These are the facts. Not even God could change them move.  To move heaven and earth to get Angel our is what we can do now, going to talk to God if necessary (and I believe it is), continuing to insist, of course, each in his own language, that our friend is innocent, that the case was fabricated, but knowing that as long as the ex-wife doesn’t retract, they, the jailers, will be the good guys and Angel will be the bad guy. That’s the situation.

Finally, Luis Felipe, I do not usually discuss with the reader, I respect your turn, but you are not a reader, to come out in defense of Angel with the passion with which you replied to me, makes you a part of me, since I too am Angel, in this moment when we are all trying to get Angel out of prison we are Angel, so I’m explaining to you without admitting that yes, perhaps, I didn’t make myself clear to you.

For your exception and unique character this is first, a private letter, but also first, we are talking about a tribute to your person, so you are authorized to publish it in your blog or wherever you think it would be appropriate, that is, useful to Angel.

I am among those who think that honest men do not have one discourse for coming and another for going. They have one, in my case, it now remains the discourse you replied to yesterday when I only showed the tips of the icy crests in the immensity of the sea.

I embrace you, and thank you again for wanting to do for Angel what you are doing.

Rafael Alcides

16 March 2013

Attention, Cubans! They’re Making USB Flash Drives From Paper! / Luis Felipe Rojas

Through the work of my friend Falco, this wondrous technology comes to us, I reproduce it as I found it, if I dare to comment on it, there is only this to say:

The American technology company IntelliPaper® based in Spokane, Washington, has created and offered for sale USB flash drives made out of paper.

These devices, in addition to being disposable, cheap and ecological, have the advantage of weighing very little and the ability to be sent through regular mail like you would send an ordinary plain paper letter. The technology allows any paper product, for example business cards and fliers, to include a disposable digital flash memory.

For now, the main application is in the greeting card industry, but as soon as the capacity is increased (currently from 18-32 megabytes) and they become more common, they could become one of the most useful, cheap and creative ways to share information.

The nightmare of totalitarian dictators.

USB flash memories have become a nightmare for totalitarian dictators who depend on total control to survive. Distributing information impossible to censor through these drives will be easy for the masses do to their small size and their prices affordable even in the poorest countries. Through them, for example, Web Packages can be distributed very effectively, safely and cheaply, so that we can make available to our readers, weekly, books, manuals and audiovisual materials.

This new technology fills a cup that is about to overflow. The Uniqueness of Totalitarianism is closer every day!

4 April 2013

Confessions of a Novelist for His Defenseless Angels / Luis Felipe Rojas

IMG_1978 - CopyThe writer Rafael Vilches from Bayamo-Holguin supports his colleague Angel Santiesteban, now that they want to imprison him.

By Rafael Vilches Proenza

Angel as you were that morning at the presentation of my Defenseless Angels, and have been all these years of friendship with my martyrdoms and happy times, the last time we saw each other was not at Maria Antonia’s house, but in the house of some friends and we talked a lot. Now I raise my hand for justice and I know what I’m exposed to.

I thank everyone who read my novel and gave me their valid and sincere opinions; Edgardo Higinio Fonseca who in his time wanted me to rewrite; Hector Garcia Quintana who when he was editing for the Spanish publisher El Barco Ebrio (The Drunken Boat) and he made me reread the novel calmly because he felt that it lacked complete fragments; Yoenia Gallardo who read the first printing; Yulia Carrazana who in copying the novel ate some piece and was guilty of this rewrite; Eliezer Almaguer who forced me to rewrite it entirely sitting beside me as a fussy editor and as the friend and brother he is. And again the El Barco Ebrio Publisher for trusting in me and publishing it. Thanks friends.

I am one voice joined with other voices for the cause of the writer and friend Angel Santiesteban, knowing the consequences. Freedom for Angel Santiesteban. Where are those who said they were his friends? Where are those who told me that he was the best narrator of Cuba?

We are all afraid. But there is something worse than fear. Human misery.

PS: Juventina Soler let me know that the person who presented by book in Havana was Guillermo Vidal

February 21 2013

Bad — Very Bad — News / Luis Felipe Rojas

poster-rolando-pulidoAmong the somewhat reasonable excitement over the traveling out of Cuba of some of the most glamorous of the dissidents like Yoani Sanchez, Rosa Maria Paya, and Eliecer Avila, extremely alarming things are happening. Two independent reporters arrested (they released Cedeño but Calixto Roman continues to be locked up). Angel Santiesteban gets of every morning in Havana with the shock that they could send a patrol car to pick him up to serve his five-year sentence. The number of arbitrary arrests, the beatings and the hours of harassment of human rights activists and opponents in general is increasing, and as events go, it could become a fateful record. continue reading

The Cuban Democratic Directorate reported that the Central Opposition Coalition (CCO), the internal resistance in the center of the island, reported on the afternoon of February 16, 2013 the death of inmate Roberto Antonio Rivalta Junco, who began a hunger strike demanding his innocence, according to Damaris Moya Portieles, president of the CCO.

Major Luis Alcantara, director of Jails and Prisons of Villa Clara, who knew of the case, is ultimately responsible for the death of Rivalta Junco, say these sources. Another life added to the list of people who prefer to immolate themselves rather than admit to a crime they did not commit or endure harassment by their military in charge of their custody.

The Christian Liberation Movement activist Antonio Rodriguez, died on February 19, just a few hours ago, “during a car accident that also injured the Jesuit priests Ramon Rivas and Ignacio Cruz Magariño, who were treated at the Gustavo Lima Aldereguía Provincial Hospital in Cienfuegos, according to several sources, including former prisoner of conscience Iván Hernández Carrillo.

The news came originally from the Twitter account of the writer and former political prisoner Bernardo Arévalo Padrón, winner of a prize from the International PEN Club, and a resident of the town of Aguada de Pasajeros, where the tragic accident occurred; this was reported on the Facebook account of the Radio Martí journalist Idolidia Darias.

Dozens of peaceful fighters are fenced in like animals in the east of the country so that they cannot travel freely throughout the country, while some deluded celebrate with full honors the imaginary immigration and travel reform, undertaken by General President Raul Castro to silence dissenting voices; entertained in the auditorium and continuing with the Roman circus, although lacking the usual bread needed by the masses.

February 20 2013