Silvio Rodriguez To The Rescue of Robertico Carcasses / Luis Cino Alvarez

Silvio Rodriguez

LA HAVANA, Cuba, September, – I must confess that after the episode of the North Korean freighter, Gan Chong Chon, it is increasingly difficult for me to imagine what might be behind each of the surprising happenings of the Raul regime. And if, in fact, Silvio Rodríguez is involved, everything becomes more convoluted.

The troubadour-in-chief, has just announced on his blog Segunda Cita, that he has invited Robertico Carcassés and the Interactive group to be his opening act at the concert that will take place on September 20 in Santiago de Las Vegas.

The invitation comes at a time when the hype over Robertico Carcassés’ slip is not yet over: at the Protestdrome concert on September 12th, in which “as a result of an alcoholic outburst” or otherwise, he could not contain himself, in his tongue-twisting improvisation he demanded, “Freedom for all Cubans.”  Boy, was Robertico out of line!

Did Robertico really think that Cuba would change with the Raul regime? That cracklings are pork meat and that mothers-in-law are really family? Was the outburst that big? Or did he just do it with an eye to his upcoming little jaunt to Miami?

Indeed I must confess that with so much yellow ribbon to demand the release of the four*, and so much drunkenness with the pachanga timbera and reggaeton, we didn’t know what was being celebrated: whether it was the dismantling of the Red Wasp Network*, the Day of Oshun, the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, the coup that defeated Allende, or the bombing of Syria.

Rodriguez, who claims to have an appointment with the angels — flying angels and fallen angels — after the little-yellow-ribbon revelry went off-script, should know what he is weaving when he steps up to rescue Robertico Carcassés, just as we got a whiff of the smell of Bobby’s son burning.

And several questions occur to me:

Is Silvio’s intention for us to forget his ridiculous performance with the graying Amaury Perez and a musical accompaniment that could have been first class but was incoherent due to the haste of the recording by Abdala studios, of the little ditty about the yellow ribbons and the old oak tree?

Does the author of The Blue Unicorn want to put a patch on the burst seam Robertico provoked at the concert of “Cubans of all stripes” demanding the return of the four*?

Recently, Silvio invited Isaac Delgado to sing at his concert in Santos Suarez: Is Silvio now into indulging musicians who are in trouble with the regime? Could we expect him to invite Willy Chirino and join him in singing “Our Day is Coming”?  Is he planning to record a CD with the Interactive group, a rather odd CD, opportunistic, to please generación asere** and indulge the dissidence?

It occurs to me to ask Silvio whether, with this lifeline to Robertico Carcassés — taking into account his tour of the prisons, and the water tank that he resolved for the residents of the Lugardita neighborhood — he’s not aspiring to run for president, without having started the campaign for direct elections that Robertico asked for in his improvisations.

With Silvio everything is possible, especially in these times of miracles and reshufflings.  Didn’t he engage in an epistolary controversy with Carlos Alberto Montaner at the risk of losing his mind? Or did they already forget how he got involved in the mess with Obama, Elton John, Pied Piper of Hamelin and The Little Green Men?***

Ultimately, Silvio’s turnaround has been so wide, he’s even talking about taking the R out of the word Revolution***, for those “dead of his happiness,” the dead provided by all of us under circumstances just as bad or worse.

When I watch the father of “Nueva Trova” in his attempt to be on good terms with the angels and the demons of change, I feel sorry for him.

I cannot help but admire his songs, but in all honesty, not as much as I did then, say 30 years ago.  I have convinced myself that even if I’m condemned to listen to the music of the ’60s with nostalgia, I would never be a good dancer at his party.

I can not longer stand him and his songs, they lack freshness, clear accounts: How can I figure out what Silvio is up to now?

Translator’s notes:
*”The four” refers to the Cuban spies of the Red Wasp Network serving sentences in the United States; originally known is “The Cuban Five” and “The Five Heroes” in Cuba, one of the original five has been paroled and allowed to return to Cuba.
** “Generación asere” is a cultural reference to those — generally of the younger generation — who like the kind of music the regime calls vulgar, thuggish, cheesy and overly-sexed. “Asere” is a casual form of address that means roughly “bro.”
***In a response to Carlos Alberto Montaner, Silvio Rodriguez asked a number of rhetorical questions relating to the pied piper leaving with all of Cuba’s children, Elton John saying that Christ was gay, people of all colors including green, and so on. And in a new song, Silvio suggests “transcending” the “R” in “Revolution” in favor of “Evolution.”

By Luis Cino

From Cubanet

Translated by LYD 

17 September 2013

I Like That They Call Me “Papi” / Luis Cino Alvarez

Havana, Cuba, September, – Lately, with guys over the age of 40, in addition to “Tío,” “Puro” and very rarely “Señor, the younger generation calls us “Papi.”

As sexists as we still are — sorry, Mariela Castro —  it is still a bit startling.

They call the taxi driver “Papi,” a guy with a criminal face who can barely hide that he’s up to no good; a young man who looks like a metrosexual, all very ambivalent: gelled hair, waxed eyebrows, piercing in his left eyebrow, tight top which shows his well sculpted arms, and chest hairs showing signs of prior shaving and even the top of his underwear showing the name of Versace that sticks out two inches above his pants, which also, by the way, are hanging almost to his crotch.

And how about if the one calling you “Papi” is a good-looking girl made up like a porn star?  First, make sure that is not a man. If it really is a girl, then perhaps there no need for a sweet little compliment.  Within the next hour she can ask you to light her cigarette and then turn her back on you, shaking her assets without even thanking you. As if everyone in the universe deserved it.

She might also be a hooker looking for clients.  Chances are that nothing will happen, because the money you have is not enough to pay her fee; perhaps you don’t have a place to take her; or you are afraid of the place where she could take you and where two or three of her followers could be waiting to fleece you; fear of AIDS might stop you; or you’re turned off by her warnings that you have to pay her in advance, use a condom, not take too long, and not kiss her (the prostitutes in Cuba do not kiss on the mouth).

In many instances, when you really look at her, you have to be a championship pervert to overcome the weight of your conscience and do it with a girl who could easily be your daughter and who you can tell from a mile away is hungry.

Now it doesn’t bother me when they call me “Papi.”  Perhaps I would feel uncomfortable if they called me “Señor. Especially if it is a young girl. I feel that if they don’t address me in familiar terms it is because I look as old as a Polynesian turtle.  Too old for them to call me “Papi.” And that is much worse.

From Cubanet, September 6, 2013

Luis Cino Alvarrez —

Translated by – LYD


Selective Ignorance: The Women Writers of UNEAC / Luis Cino Alvarez, Angel Santiesteban

To the wall! To the wall!*

HAVANA, Cuba, March,  – Luis Cino Alvarez –   A worthy poet who has known how to confront decades of ostracism, Rafael Alcides, wrote, “Regrets and hopes for a new jailed writer.”  After the letter by Alcides, email notes of support signed by various writers in favor of Santiesteban began to circulate.

It was then when the official counterattack was launched.  It was a ploy wrapped in political correctness: eight female writers and journalists signed an appeal against gender violence, in which the case of Santiesteban seems to be the epitome of masculine abuse against women, and the Cuban justice system is pristine, free of suspicion except in falling short by only giving five years of jail time.

It even appears to hear the screams from the women of the Cuban Writers and Artists Union (UNEAC) against the writer-machista**-abuser: To the wall! To the wall!

The document signed by Sandra Álvarez, Marilyn Bobes, Zaida Capote, Luisa Campuzano, Danae Diéguez, Lirian Gordillo, Helen Hernández and Laidi Fernández de Juan demonstrates solidarity with Santiesteban’s ex-wife; whose name — Kenia Rodriguez — curiously, is never been mentioned; and it calls “for the Cuban institutions and organizations to speak up about this case in particular and about the violence against women in our society.”

So, after so much effort to clarify that the judicial process that sent the writer to prison for a fight that occurred almost four years ago had no political motivation nor the intention to punish him for being a dissident, all those who have doubts will be marked as machista and misogynist.  Amen to being identified as prone to being manipulated by “the Counter-Revolution.” And you already know what that means at UNEAC!

Would the signers know of the frequent beatings, outrages and sexist insults that the Ladies in White and other dissidents receive from the hands of State Security and rapid response brigades at the frequent repudiation rallies?

They must know something about those repudiation rallies.  At least one of the signers, Laidi Fernandez de Juan, a few years ago in the Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth) newspaper, called these pogroms “repudiable.”

Would they know that only a few weeks ago, in Santa Clara, the dissident Iris Tamara Aguilera, head of the “Rosa Parks” Feminine Movement received forceful blows to her head when she was thrown to the sidewalk by a henchman and was mistreated at the hospital where they took her for being a “counterrevolutionary”?

Would they know about the case of Sonia Garro, another dissident who was jailed more than year ago, without trial, and who was arrested at her house in Marianao during a loud and violent police operation and was hurt by a rubber bullet in her leg?

Would they have taken all these facts into consideration when they drafted their petition and procured an email address to collect the signatures against gender abuse?

Would they be willing to fight against violence against all women in absolutely all instances?

If that is the case, independently from the Santiesteban situation, surely they will collect many more signatures.

Published by Cubanet

The Always Disconcerting Writers of UNEAC

By Luis Cino Álvarez

The writers of UNEAC can’t but disconcert me with their liberal poses when it comes to believe in the openings of the regime and the hoops they are willing to jump through so that they don’t jeopardize their awards, travels and publications.

With the imprisonment of Angel Santiesteban, under such doubtful circumstances, I was not expecting a protest from the writers at the UNEAC, not even from the more outspoken ones.  That would have been asking too much of them.  However, I did suppose that at least his friends, like Eduardo Heras Leon, who a few years ago boasted with pride that Santiesteban was one of “his boys” from the Onelio Jorge Cardoso Cardoso Narrative Workshop, and Laidi Fernandez de Juan, who considered him one of her most dear friends, even if they didn’t publicly protest, at least would feel sorry for him.

But, oh surprises, miracles and hocus-pocus from the official culture! Here is a letter from the poet Rafael Alcides  — one of the few dignified — and with notes of support in favor of Santiesteban; and then it was precisely Laidi Fernandez de Juan, one of the eight intellectuals who signed the letter against the violence of women in which the case of Santiesteban seems to be the epitome of masculine against women, and the Cuban judicial system is completely exonerated from wrong doing, with exception of falling short in its sentence of five years in jail.

In different time we would have heard chants of ”To the wall! To the wall!”

The document signed by Sandra Álvarez, Marilyn Bobes, Zaida Capote, Luisa Campuzano, Danae Diéguez, Lirian Gordillo, Helen Hernández and Laidi Fernández de Juan idemostrates solidarity with Santiesteban’s ex-wife and calls on “Cuban institutions and organizations to speak up about this case in particular and against the violence against women in our society.”

So, everyone who dares to doubt that this process was free of political motivations, or who thinks it was a vendetta to send this writer-abuser to jail, will be categorized as stubbornly machista and misogynist.

And me, silly me, who thought that at least with her daddy Roberto Fernández Retamar, the poet-commissary-president, with his Bolshevik cap of the Casa de las Americas, and in the privacy of their home, Laidi Fernandez would complain and regret that Santiesteban was in jail to see if daddy would cease to play the Caliban and sympathize, and make use of his influence “up there”!

Does he know Laidi Fernandez de Juan claims to be “as devoted to the Revolution as acid in her critiques” of the frequent beatings that the Ladies in White and other dissidents receive from the hands of State Security and the cheerleaders of the rapid response brigades in those also frequent repudiation rallies that she herself, on occasion, has called “repudiable”?

Do she and the rest of the signers of the petition know that only a week ago in Santa Clara, dissident Iris Tamara Aguilera received strong blows to her head when she was thrown to the sidewalk by a henchman of the Ministry of the Interior (MININT)?

Would they have taken all these facts into consideration when they drafted their petition and established an email address to collect signatures against the abuser?

Years ago, in an interview with Angel Santiesteban himself (in the magazine El Cuentero, No. 6, 2008), Laidi Fernandez de Juan said that she didn’t share the view that no friendship could exist among writers. “What happens is that sometimes we believe someone (being a writer or not) belongs in this circle of friends and then we discover that he is a miserable, repugnant son of a bitch; but this has nothing to do with literature,” she clarified.

Would this be what happened to Angel Santiesteban?  Nothing’s worse than the fear of having a connection with a dissident.

Santiesteban’s case is confusing and contradictory, to say the least.  Many consider that State Security used the four year old incident with his ex-wife — whose name is Kenia Rodriguez, in case that the authors of the manifest supporting her without mentioning her name didn’t know — as an excuse to punish Santiesteban for his affiliation with Estado de Sats.

If that’s the case, one can’t help but wonder: Why him? Is he one the biggest critics of all the bloggers? Are they trying to send a message to UNEAC? Was it really worth it for the regime, precisely now that they are trying to fake a certain opening, to pay the costly price of sending to jail a writer who, a few years ago, won the distinguished Casa de las Americas prize for the book entitled “Blessed are those who mourn”?

I have heard some intellectuals who wonder if State Security might not be creating a legend, with Angel Santiesteban as a “super dissident,” with this jail sentence?  “Here you don’t know who’s who,” they murmur.  And so, aside from being wise-asses, they justify their fears of getting into this mess and end up like machistas. And maybe they are right. You never know…

Published in  Primavera Digital |Email

Translated by: LYD

Translator’s notes:
*”Paredón” literally means “wall” and is shorthand for “to the wall” as in: “put him up against the wall and shoot him.”  Immediately after the Revolution it was the word shouted by the mobs at the show trials.
** Machista is related to the words macho and misogynist and is similar to the term “male chauvenist”

30 March 2013

Generals Sharpening The Teeth Over the Burial of Castro-ism / Luis Cino

HAVANA, Cuba, September, Luis Cino, — Those who restored capitalism in Russia rose from the ranks of the Communist nomenklatura. High-level bureaucrats, officials and generals made immense fortunes appropriating the assets of the state during the process of economic privatization that led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The cases of Roman Abramovich and Mikhail Khodorkovsky, former comrades turned multi-millionaires, are two such examples.

It is possible that something similar could happen if Castro-ism has a soft landing, as seems likely to happen, and is transformed into something else which, by virtue of being different, will be less bad in terms of public well-being and political freedoms.

But what could also happen is that, as apparatchiks and generals start filing their teeth over the prospect of burying Castro-ism, the Helms-Burton Act could prevent them from diggings its grave.

According to Title III of the law, which deals with protection of property rights of American nationals, the assets expropriated after Fidel Castro’s revolution — including those of Cuban exiles who have acquired American citizenship — would have to be returned by any government that succeeds the current regime as a condition for American diplomatic recognition and a lifting of the embargo.

After property is returned and people are compensated, it is quite possible that very little of the loot will be left over for “the corrupt bureaucrats, whose jobs were secured through calculation and opportunism, who use their positions to accumulate fortunes, betting on an eventual demise of the revolution,” as General Raúl Castro put it in an address to the National Assembly of People’s Power in December, 2011.

This is the idea the government would like to plant among its supporters who are hoping for the grand prize and Putinism in the tropics. It wants to convince them that burying Castro-ism is not in their interests, that they would be better off digging in, remaining loyal, being satisfied with what they already have and what they can steal. It wants to convince them that they should never exaggerate, that they should play dumb lest the General Accounting Office nab them.

But the chiefs do not have to go along. The players who want to break open the capitalist piñata at the expense of the state know all too well the risks they face. And the possibilities as well. They even know where to stretch their feet and put their hands. Accustomed to shady deals and a shopkeeper’s economy, they are patient, astute and make do with what they can steal… for now. They have begun accumulating capital, knowledge and relationships. After dealing with them for so long, many foreign entrepreneurs prefer to deal with them over the good guys, even if they completely lack the know-how. These players have neither class nor moral scruples but they do have a strong hand, which allows them to maintain order and get Cubans to work like slaves without complaint.

The Helms Burton Act placates the most hard-line exile factions and serves the Castro regime by allowing it to portray itself as the victim. It is not, however, of much concern to today’s players, who hope to be tomorrow’s oligarchs. In a post-Castro scenario this law will be almost pointless. Events, once they are set in motion, will make it irrelevant.  And then the players will be the mafiosi of the piñata, ready to parachute into any given situation with anyone who presents himself. But they will not exactly be working as doormen, security screeners or bodyguards. They know, of course, they will not be able to afford multi-million dollar yachts, real estate in La Luna or mansions in Silicon Valley. They are not fools. Their aspirations are more modest. They better than anyone know in what state they have left the country.

By Luis Cino —

From Cubanet

9 September 2013