Fatigue / Claudia Cadelo

Image: The Executioner, Luis Trápaga

Her mornings have been the same for years: buy the flour “on the left” from the State bakeries, get the eggs from sellers who carry them hidden in backpacks, haggle for the guayabas in the produce market to give it her business. With the ups and downs that depend on the degree of repression against the “illegals,” she managed to maintain a decent home selling sweets.

But things have gotten too complicated: Twice she had to hand some cakes through the patio window as fast as she could, for her neighbor to hide, when the inspectors came. Thank God that doesn’t happen often! When she can she puts some little candies into the cakes; her sister, who has a successful little dessert shop, sends them to her from Miami. She started in 2000, doing everything alone, but with the years she hired an assistant and now has a modest business that supplies tidbits to a good part of the neighborhood.

She tells me all of this with an infinite nostalgia, a healthy envy of her sister on the other side who has managed to “get ahead.” I ask her if she thinks Raul Castro will allow some economic opening, facilities for small businesses, licenses and the minimum breathing room to make life easier. She laughs, but her eyes look like she wants to cry. “I’m old, chica, it’s all the same to me, I got tired of waiting.”

August 23, 2010

Unknown City / Claudia Cadelo

From so much looking out the same window, seeing the same street, talking with the same people and living in the same city, you end up thinking you know everything. If someone had told me I would not have believed it, now that I know it’s true I’m full of questions. The streets of Havana still hold many surprises for me, fortunately.

Lethal August. I arrive gasping at 23rd and 12th and find, scattered on the ground, various papers as in the photo: FREE IRAN. My God, what’s this? I grab one and look around, I would say I’m the least surprised of those around me. A guy who looks like State Security gets caught in the act of putting one in his pocket and makes a gesture of disgust with amazement. I don’t think he likes it. I couldn’t say if FREE IRAN falls within “Enemy Propaganda,” but apparently it’s not “Friend Propaganda.”

At 23rd and G there are more. Many more. Most have been trampled. Who could have thought up such a brilliant idea? I have no doubt that this is related to the fixed ideas that have gripped the hallucinatory mind of Fidel Castro. How would Compañero Fidel take it if if instead of the Third World War what came to pass was the end of the Iranian dictatorship?

August 20, 2010

Earning a Living / Claudia Cadelo

Photo: Claudio Fuentes Madan

He arrived at G on Friday to join the crowd of other young people watching the wee hours of the night pass waiting for better times. For some inexplicable reason the police would only allow them “to be” on one of the two sidewalks of 23rd and having made an appointment earlier to meet a girl in the “prohibited zone,” decided to run the risk rather than lose his chance of the night.

The risk turned out to be higher than he’d calculated – naïve and crazy kid: an official welcomed him with a shove and asked for his ID card.  Not producing it fast enough, they handcuffed him and before he could ask why he was already in the back of the patrol car.

He was thrown in a dungeon at 21 C. He thought he had forgotten to let go of the wrists. However, a look around allowed to check two things:
– All the detainees were handcuffed.
– There were many detainees.

They threw him in a dungeaon at 21st and C. He thought they’d forgotton to free his wrists. But a look around informed him of two things:

— All the detainees were handcuffed.
— There were a lot of detainees.

As he wasn’t even twenty yet, he was terrified. He didn’t know anything about his rights nor was he going to risk the night by defending them. Then again there is always a third option.  He managed to whisper the magic words to an officer:

“Hey pal, I have fifty pesos. My mother is sick and I can’t get home too late.”

Half an hour later he was home. He summarized the story for me with a moral: “They made a lot of money Friday, we were a ton of people. Next time I’ll give them the money in the patrol car.”

August 14, 2010

Inconceivable / Claudia Cadelo

Reina Luisa Tamayo and her daughter. Photo by: Claudio Fuentes Madan

There are things I’ve thrown in the trunk of the “incomprehensible.” I would say I won, they defeated me, I couldn’t bear it, they beat me. I refuse to exhaust my brain one more instant in trying to find some logic, some, even minimal, sense. In the package – I confess that there are several, too many – is the return of Fidel Castro, the “measures” of Raul Castro, the signers of the open letters from UNEAC – the Cuban Artists and Writers Union – the special session of the National Assembly, the gossip with Elian Gonzalez, the mind of Randy Alonso, the dead of Mazorra, the permission to leave or travel permit, the ideological “utility” of the Roundtable  TV show, the ethics of Orlando Zapata Tamayo’s doctor, the shame of those who today wear the olive-green uniform, or the morality of the Party militants. The list, I swear to you, could become extremely long.

There are, however, other kinds of rebel events that also fall into the sack, that I can’t understand either – including some I understand even less – but I can’t stop coming back to them over and over, analyzing them, dismembering them. They haunt me, they rob me of my sleep. I feel that they shouldn’t exist, or more to the point, that they CAN’T exist. My rationality tells me that they are impossible, my brain screams at me with desperation that people who are paid to beat a mother, to prevent her from visiting her son’s grave at the cemetery, or putting flowers on it to pay tribute to her dead son, these people can’t exist.

I fall back on science, I want to analyze it like a reality show: I want to know what each one of the repressors (actors and directors) of Reina Luisa Tamayo do when they get home. Put a pot of beans on the stove? Open the windows as night falls? Hug and kiss their children before bedtime? Sleep the sleep of the innocent or do nightmares haunt their dawns? Laugh out loud? Look in the mirror and see… what? Enjoy the rain? Chat with their neighbors? I can’t help it, my mind makes its calculations and finds them to be unreasonable: At best, they don’t breath oxygen, or perhaps they are not mammals, it declares. Then I protest: NO! I already told you, they are human, human like everyone else! But the other me, impartial, is unmoved: They must be another species, they must be another species.

August 11, 2010

Mommy, what is “good”? / Claudia Cadelo

Photo: Claudio Fuentes Madan

With a rope and a piece of wood, three children were preparing a torture trap for a lizard. One of them held onto the victim which, with eyes wide and body rigid, awaited his martyrdom without much hope of survival. At that moment I passed by and intervened, as is normal, in defense of the poor animal: I explained to them about caring for living beings and grabbed the creature in my hands. Fortunately for my good deed there was a tree suitable for its welfare and I let it go among the branches. Up to that point, everything was typical, children experiment with birds and small animals and adults try to inculcate a love of nature.

The unusual came minutes later when the mother of one of the kids knocked on my door to demand an explanation. I decided, then, to use the same arguments with the mother that I had with her son, and she seemed to understand me though she didn’t say a word, but grabbed her son by the hair and dragged him away. I felt a little guilty, not expecting such a punishment for a lizard, but to intervene again in the moral issues of this family would have been excessive.

The incident puzzled me, not because the boys were playing at martyrdom with a reptile, but because they were so unaware of how bad this was; judging it “right,” they went to their parents for support. When I was little the kids in my neighborhood surreptitiously killed sparrows, knowing that what they did was wrong. What has happened that, fifteen years later, the simple notion of good and evil has disappeared?

August 7, 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


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.

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.

“We Are the Root of The Change,” by Raudel of the Patriotic Squadron

This video was made yesterday at a concert organized by the group OMNI-Zona Franca in Gaia house. There was very little light and the audio is bad, but the song of Raudel shines out above any technological problem.

I transcribed what I’ve managed to understand, any contribution from a reader with a better ear than me is welcome:

“We Are the Root of Change”

Ten months later I have to remember my position, given that we want the best for all and ensure a life with tolerance, balance and harmony for all the people of the nation and the diaspora, but also with a lot of progress, balance and spiritual evolution because there are many dreams and much faith.

The Squadron shows:
I am Afro-descendant and Cuba is my country,
We are not a threat to anyone, pay attention:
We do not want violence and confrontation,
They insist that our message is counterrevolutionary,
This is called reality and commitment to the nation,
Love conquers fear, the word to (inaudible)
We remember the mind the voice, not the resignation:
Revolution is change, it is progress and it is transformation,
Do not hide the hopes of millions for no reason.
Conspiracy against the Squadron, why? In my view
Who knows knows the worst side of this nation
Neither bourgeoisie, nor family in Yuma, nor a good position
I live in the heart where people suffer and swallow the pain
I do not sing to them of politics, mistakes,
I have a critical awareness and this is my projection
And of course I worry, I live in the center of the cyclone,
The demands of the country are so many without enough investigation:
Inequality, deprivation, poor nutrition,
overcrowding, isolation, repression,
disoriented generation, misfortune, separation,
racism, destruction and a list with no definition.
But we they still see us as a provocation
Who justifies that the shelters weaken the nation?
We are the blood flowing from the open wound of the revolution
The flag of the soldiers (inaudible)

May you stay in the light that this is revealing,
Let’s go, We are the root of the change!
Much time thinking and no action,
What are we waiting for? We are the root of the change!
They can’t with us: the truth is in the people.
They know, We are the root of the change!
For the children and the elderly, for the blacks and the whites:
We are the root of the change!

I’m not lying when I say that this control was
Surely (inaudible)
For the safety in action
The orientation of which is not to call for the arrest
And in each presentation there is respect and reconciliation
I know it takes a ton of work to wake up
(Inaudible) as I was a fatal victim
Certain partial information, state ignorance
Isolation is deadly I can show it
I am unable to promote hatred, to manipulate anyone
Nor to launch the most (inaudible) testimony
I have family, friends (inaudible)
I am rooting for a change for prosperity, it is obvious
Because what most people think
What most people want
What most people think of this people I know
I have no fear that it happens
Take up space in every corner of my house
Tell everyone the Squadron is a threat
Stop them from being the image .. (Inaudible)
And silence on the lips (inaudible) undermines the soul
The truth may have relativity
But we do not believe it: We are the reality
The dawn of a new day will come from (inaudible) and music
It is a nation tired (inaudible)
After a declaration against heaven
I remain silent and ask the supreme
That for every tear shed

May you stay in the light that it is being revealed,
We are the root of the change!
Much time thinking and no action,
What are we waiting for? We are the root of the change!
They can’t with us: the truth is in the people,
They know it, We are the root of the change!
For the children and the elderly, for the blacks and the whites:
We are the root of the change!
Every child in every neighborhood in every town
With a fist held high, We are the root of the change!
Much time thinking without acting
What are we waiting for? We are the root of the change!
They can’t with us: the truth is in the people,
They know it, We are the root of the change!
For the children and the elderly, for the blacks and the whites:
We are the root of the change!

(Inaudible) … Even my nation Cuba: Love, peace and faith. Love, peace and faith in the name of the highest of creation, we are all the root of the change. We all love this country. We all love it and freedom we want to have harmony, spiritual progress, economic and social development for our island. We all have responsibility and we are the root of the change.
Thank you.

My Husband is Worth it, Telephone Interview with Suyoani Tapia Mayola (II)

Part Two: Kilo 5 ½ Prison in Pinar del Río

– When did you decide to follow the fate of Horacio and move out of Ciego de Avila to Pinar del Rio?

It was difficult to get them to give me authorization, me being a doctor, to go visit Horacio after they transferred him. We intended to make the relationship work and so I had to move there. Also, I couldn’t keep up the pace of the visits from Ciego de Avila.

I have been living here in Pinar del Rio for four years with no one, only his family and the friends I’ve made since I came. The families of the other prisoners supported me, for example I would stay in the house of the family of Victor Rolando Arroyo when I came on the visits.

It was hard to separate from my family, I never dreamed of living in Pinar del Rio and look, here I am. Then my mother-in-law died, which was a very hard blow for Horacio and for me. She helped me with everything, she died March 2, 2008, of cancer.

I was very lonely but months later God gave me the gift of becoming pregnant and now I have a daughter of 15 months; we named her after Horacio’s mother: Ada Maria, she’s the youngest little Lady in White.

Despite everything I think we are happy, despite being separated we have a lot: a family on a sound footing. We, Horacio and I, have always had a great deal of faith, and at times — my mother also tells me this — I feel as if it were a mission, that only God knows why he does things.

I can’t say it is completely happy, having him in prison is very hard; we are all prisoners, we have no life. I take my daughter to all the visits, she plays for two hours and on leaving him she cries. For us as parents, also, it’s very difficult, he has missed so much: her first steps, her first words. We miss having Horacio very much, as do his children and their spouses. We hope that everything will be solved and we can live as a family, as the real family that we are.

– Are you still practicing as a doctor in Pinar del Rio?

I finished my social service and I continue working here, the move was difficult, at first no one wanted to give me a position. My career is very practical and I always want to work. State Security made sure that my position here in Pinar del Rio was very far away, there wasn’t even a road, I had to get there in a horse cart, and I was there for six or eight months. When I was pregnant I had to travel by wagon with my big belly, coming and going every workday.

Eventually I approached the town and then the municipality, but with all that I’m still very far out. In my work I’m assigned to the municipality of Sandino, about twenty miles from where Horacio’s family lives.

They gave me a job, but they have never made things easy for me. A doctor friend told me when I arrived, “Are you prepared for how you will live? I’m convinced you can’t even imagine how things are going to be for you.” And it’s true, very difficult things have happened, when I got pregnant it was even worse, with a huge belly for six, seven months, going alone to the prison, arriving with three or four suitcases of things for Horacio and the officers weighing them so they can start removing things. All of the prisoners’ families live through this, but looking at my story in particular and what they have done, there is cruelty.

– Do you have any special moment you would like to tell me about, something that has been marked you as a couple?

We have had very hard times but also very beautiful times in our relationship. I can’t deny that at times we’ve fallen, like everyone else, but we are always able to pick ourselves up and the proof is this: today we are together, after nearly seven years in a relationship, we are more united than ever, and that’s the truth.

There is a story that marks us — it’s even amusing — at times a person from outside hears it and it seems normal, but for us it has a great deal of significance: Once I was looking after a prisoner and Horacio called me to attend to him. I thought he felt bad, I was worried because I thought it was serious. It happened that I was examining other prisoners — the doctor in the prison usually goes in and examines the prisoners in the same cell — and the guard forgot about me and left me alone with the inmates. Horacio was calling and calling me, and suddenly he was at my side and without thinking he gave me a hug as if he wanted to say that no one could touch me. When I realized what was happening it frightened me. Afterwards we laughed and I asked him, “What were you thinking?!”  What he hit on was to hug me before the whole world!

– When did you get married?

We were married on March 21, 2007, the wedding was in the prison, a very simple thing: we brought a notary, signed. Perhaps one day we will celebrate our union in a better way with our family. Horacio has three daughters, the oldest is 22 and is very attached to us, she was 16 when her father was convicted.

Perhaps we’ve managed to achieve things other couples living together don’t manage, I daresay there are married couples in the street, you see it every day, who do not have what we have. This is not an heroic act of mine: Horacio is worth all this sacrifice, he inspires me to do all of this.

– What do you think of the negotiations taking place now between the government and the Catholic Church?

It is very difficult to have a daughter alone, to see how this baby walks, talks and grows without being able to see her papa, to see how she cries every time we leave him. It’s very hard to see him turn his back and know that he is enclosed behind a fence, to not know if he’s eating, if he’s going to be fine. Then, as long as it doesn’t go against our principles, I’m infinitely thankful for everything that is being done to free him and all the prisoners.

There was a time in my life when there was no light, I lived to live and today I have the hope of being able to form a family, to give my daughter a stable home. Her father is irreplaceable, his place can’t be filled by anyone else, not by grandparents, by no one, then the possibility to live together, to have a normal live, as God wishes, it’s something I am very grateful for.

(End of interview)

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

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

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

Part One: Canaleta Prison, Ciego de Avila

Q: How did you meet Horacio in Canaleta prison?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To comment on this article please visit:
Claudia’s Blog: Octavo Cerco – English.

The Return

Image: El Guama

I don’t know why, nor for what, the obscure reasons and the theories surrounding his reappearance don’t interest me. I don’t think, even for a moment, of trying to figure out Fidel Castro’s return to the cameras. There are things in life that that are only for delight, and this is one of them.

The Twilight of the Dictators is hard not to enjoy in its entirety, since his retirement in 2006, I had a feeling I would miss a good part of the senile finale of the “Cuban Revolution.” I was wrong and I rejoice for my mistake.

I had to satisfy myself with the Reflections, becoming more like science fiction short stories in nickel magazines than anything else, good for a laugh, but infinitely inferior to their graphic versions — it wasn’t for nothing that television flooded the market place in the twentieth century.

It is not the same as reading this:

“The economy of the super power will collapse like a house of cars. American society is the least prepared to withstand a catastrophe like that the empire has created on its own territory from where it left.

We are ignorant of the environmental effects of the nuclear arms, which will inevitably burst upon various parts of our planet, and that in a less severe variant will be produced in abundance. To venture a hypothesis would be pure science fiction on my part.”

Or listening and seeing this.

Gentlemen, without sadness or despair, this miracle of the national comedy calls for a celebration, there is a distinct possibility that this will be the last time we will see it pass by.

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Claudia’s Blog: Octavo Cerco – English

Sad Highways

Photo: Claudio Fuentes Madan

Practical woman that I am, I thought I would take advantage of my trip to Santa Clara to buy, along the highway, products which, in the capital, are hard to get or very expensive. From when I was little I remember the peasants by the road side selling what they themselves had planted and grown, trading their wares directly with travelers.

The lack of vendors on foot for miles and miles, surprised me, as I know these farmers have a very precarious economy, and I had to believe that the police dedicate themselves to punishing those who sell what they grow with their own hands. From their wooden houses, with their government-registered cows, they could earn enough from the sale of a few pounds of cheese to feed their families for some days.

There are still some, maybe fewer than twenty, along the miles that separate Havana and Santa Clara. Fearful, when a car stops they approach with caution, because the National Revolutionary Police hunts them by posing as customers.

The boy who finally sold me some cheese couldn’t have been more than 25. I asked him what happens when the police catch them: he said they run as fast as they can, trying to save at least some of the goods, while the police chase them back into the woods.

“They chase you into the woods?”

It’s hard to take seriously the ridiculous image of a uniformed officer knocking a peasant down into the grass to seize twenty bananas. As the poor boy hadn’t come to hear a lecture from me, I simply paid him and left, but the idea was making my head spin. Are there not, according to Raul Castro, a million unproductive people in Cuba earning salaries? Why don’t they start by getting rid of the jobs of these predators on the family economy and allow the farmers to sell their products wherever they want?

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Claudia’s Blog: Octavo Cerco / English

The One Who Understands Nothing is Me

“Don’t believe, don’t fear, don’t beg.”
Alexander Solzhenitsyn

The last days have been dizzying, torn between joy and uncertainty. I didn’t say goodbye to Pablo Pacheco because he sneaked out of the country, I haven’t been able to talk with Pedro Argüelle and I still have my eyes fixed on the image of Fariñas, frozen in the moment when the grimace on his face proved that to take a sip of liquid was, for him, Pure Misery.

I felt a little disconnected, running here and there, from Pinar del Rio to Santa Clara, finding out about everything going on through a flow of text messages that we managed to keep going between some friends. I have seen many people with the faith that one day we will live in a free country, I was struck by the network of solidarity outside Coco’s hospital, a score of his loyal friends and colleagues desperately watching the ups and downs of his health, turning to the clueless, like me, who arrived three hours before the visit, bringing everything they have, and that is: almost nothing. I sincerely regret that not a single journalist has taken the trouble, until now, to talk with these people who for four months, silently, have cared for the life of the freest man in Cuba.

It is sometimes unsettling to see so much courage and the kindness in people, like the mother of Fariñas, and so much indolence and hypocrisy in articles like this*. There are times when it is preferable not to connect to the Internet.

It bothers me deeply, horribly, to see the sleight of hand that has been shown to the voices of civil society in pursuit of a policy so opportunistic towards those who live in my country today: the release of the innocents. At what point in history was the dialog between the Church and the Cuban government, and with Moratinos left as mediator? When will the prisoners who want to live in Cuba be released? Why, in an international airport, don’t “free people” board the plane like the rest of the passengers? If they can come to Cuba whenever they want, why couldn’t they say goodbye to their friends today, or stop and have a cup of coffee at home before leaving the island?

Today for the first time I saw José Luis García Paneque’s face in a photo on the Internet, my feelings are indescribable, this post would become absurd if I indulged all my questions. I hate to say this, but so far only one word describes the achievement of this unique dialog that excludes the protagonists and victims of one of the two parties: Exile.

When at least one of the ex-prisoners of conscience released in Madrid puts his feet on Cuban soil again, when Pedro Argüelles, Eduardo Díaz and Regis Iglesias are in their homes, when the laypersons Dagoberto Valdes and Osvaldo Payá are invited to the negotiations between the government and the Catholic Church, and can express their opinions on equal terms, then we will be engaged in DIALOGUE; until that time we are only talking about concessions, convenience and emergency exits.

* Translator’s note: The link is to an article, in Spanish, titled, “Dissident Cubans in Spain Face an Uncertain Future”

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Claudia’s Blog: Octavo Cerco – English