A different end of year / 14ymedio, Juan Carlos Fernandez

Pinar del Rio returned to the custom of burning a doll symbolizing the old year  (Juan Carlos Fernández)
Pinar del Rio returned to the custom of burning a doll symbolizing the old year (Juan Carlos Fernández)

Despite all that has to change, Pinar del Rio greets the year with something new: hope

14ymedio, Juan Carlos Fernandez, Pinar del Rio, 2 January 2015 – The New Year was welcomed in the city of Pinar del Río very differently from before. For a long time it seems that we experienced more of a wake then a celebration. Wallets were thin, tempers heated, social violence was almost daily news. The predominant feeling was one of suffocation and a desire of many in Pinar del Rio to go to any other country, provided they could leave this quagmire called Cuba.

However, something changed this year. There is no noticeable improvement in the basic market basket, nor do we enjoy fundamental freedoms. The economy is touching bottom, the housing situation is terrible, and corruption undermines all levels of society. And yet, what motivated the sudden happiness and the signs of hope at this year end in a people who have almost nothing to cling to? continue reading

Many, among whom I count myself, point to December 17 as a turning point to begin the countdown to the opening of spaces for progress and well-being. It is not a magic wand but, undoubtedly, the news has cheered and breathed new hope into the lives of a great number of Cubans.

The reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States has caused the few vehicles circulating on the streets of our city to blow their horns for the celebrations of December 31. It has been many years since the sirens of the Pinar del Rio Fire Department have been sounded with such emphasis on January 1. Even the popular tradition of burning dolls – made from cloth and straw and symbolizing the old year – was readopted on a massive scale. To the desires for prosperity, peace, tranquility and good health are added the omens of development for businesses and investments.

The passing of the old year and the welcoming of the new have taken on a great intensity in the city, along with the joy of seeing people feel like things will change for the better.

We don’t know whether this will be realized with more or less speed but, although we are not satisfied, we should be happy that this year end has been the one in which the countdown has begun.

Fear Has Seized the Artistic Community of Pinar del Rio / 14ymedio, Juan Carlos Fernandez

The strange ramblings of Utopito, Pedro Pablo Oliva. (Source: Web Utopias and Dissent)
The strange ramblings of Utopito, Pedro Pablo Oliva. (Source: Web Utopias and Dissent)

14ymedio, Juan Carlos Fernandez,Pinar del Río, 25 September 2014 — The artists’ guild in Pinar del Rio is living in distressing times because of the cancellation of the exposition by Pedro Pablo Oliva, “Utopias and Dissidences.” Talking about the most famous of the Pinareno painters has turned into a sad argument by Tyrians and Trojans, some in favor, almost in whispers, and others not so much, also in a quite low tone. But what the whisperers have in common is that they are living a fear that is corroding them and brings up the miseries and limitations that we humans all suffer, but that situations like this multiply.

The way in which the machinery of creating enemies can be efficient and dissuasive then becomes the model, the perception of real danger has been the offering of a local artistic community that shows its solidarity by emulating Nicodemus: they do not want to be seen or heard. They have given to the victim their absence and silence. They have been simple spectators, once again, of the crime of exclusion and disqualification. Listeners at a trial in which they themselves have been condemned although they may only have attended as the public.

The inquisitors of Pedro Pablo Oliva have known how to stimulate in the neurological systems of many Pinareno creators the amygdala situated in the temporal lobe which fires that feeling that we call fear. Although a scant minority has risked and has stood out in spite of also admitting its fears. These last have revived the artistic brotherhood in Pinar; some few carry the decorum of many; someone said one day, those few have meant a breath of hope in the middle of so much impoverishing hate against someone who only has sown love and has been consistent with himself. That is the price of honesty.

The others, the majority, are captivated by reforms that award airplane trips and trips for compensation that rot the soul and ruin the brush.

On the other hand, the common people possess an intuitive intelligence, flavorful and uninhibited and tell you to your face what they think. Overall, they do not plan to fly or exhibit in halls of the elite. Without any ambiguity that take sides with Pedro Pablo, both as a person and an artist, and lament the fear of his fellow painters, according to rumors.

That’s why I think that, although what has happened has been a sovereign injustice, it has served to put on the table who is company for cocktails, galleries and inaugurations and who accompanies you on the road overcoming their fears and discarding the complicity of silence and pretense.

It has been painful for Pedro Pablo, his family, work team and all of us who love him as a friend and national treasure, but instructive. Although it may seem utopian, I think that the night we are living today will not have the last word. It only serves as the anteroom for the light of day.

Translated by MLK