At the Doors of a New School Year / Luis Felipe Rojas

Photo: Luis Felipe Rojas

The multi-grade classrooms receive about ten or so students of different ages and from different remote regions where the low population rate does not make the area eligible for the establishment of regular schools. But, at the doors of the new school year, parents of these students from multi-grade classrooms from different regions of San German, in the province of Holguin, are worried because education and governmental officials have announced that they will not be opening these educational centers this year.

Their children are supposed to attend schools which are several kilometers from where they live, in the midst of a terrible transport crisis and with the presence of teachers who lack the appropriate preparation to teach the tens of kids.

For this school year there is talk about other changes in other levels of education. They have mentioned once again opening Schools that Shape Teachers, which had previously disappeared and were later replaced by the schools with “emerging teachers” (that is teenagers with very brief training in education). In addition, they have also already announced the reduction of staff in the municipal offices of education, and many of those professionals must return to the classroom after various years of inactivity in the field.

Just over 20 years ago Fidel Castro predicted that Cuba would become a medical power and also eventually reach an outstanding ranking in educational standards; now a friend of mine who works in the education sector is hesitant about the fact that she must return to the classroom, which she left it behind 20 years ago. She thinks that she has a few days yet to come up with a way to take part in the initiative which the government has proposed to “tackle” the social crisis which plagues us, to which the only response in San German up until now, has been to allow self-employment for barbers and hairdressers.

Translated by Raul G.

September 4, 2010

The Digital Playpen / Luis Felipe Rojas

ETECSA telepoint with Internet access only for foreigners

As I look at a map of Cuba, I can’t help but wonder about how, in the 21st century, an island that is so close to the country which exhibits the greatest digital advancement, can be traveling in the opposite direction. From Villa Clara to the tip of Maisi there are only two hotels which offer internet service for Cubans who do not have foreign passports, in other words for Cubans with ID cards. These locations are found in Santiago de Cuba and Guantanamo, and their rates are 6 CUC per hour. They have very low connectivity and some sites, which the government considers harmful, are blocked.

The attentive receptionists in the famous tourist spot of Guardalavaca in Holguin explain to me that in all the dozens of hotels and Bungalow Villas of my province I do not have the opportunity to connect to the internet if I’m not staying in these lodges. But, if I were to be checked in to one of these resorts, with the magical passport and foreign residence card, I’d have to pay no less than 50 CUC for just one day.

There is also no luck in the hotel chains known as Club Amigos, Las Brisas, or Costa Verde, which are symbols of international hostels which particularly exclude Cuban citizens from any rights to enjoy warm sands, computer rooms, or basic cafeteria services.

Every city on the island has Points of Tele-Selection with the ETECSA companies. They are commercial offices which also reserve the right to only admit people who possess some documents that prove foreign citizenship or residence. However, about a little over a year ago they opened a locale which has proven to be surprisingly busy. In them, you can see a long line of guys and girls who await their turn to exchange e-mails with foreign friends whom they have met in the hotels previously mentioned.

Let me explain: For 1 CUC they are allowed to open an e-mail account from a national server that will not have well known extensions like g-mail or yahoo, but which will have the .cu extension, from which they will only be able to read and respond to their almost always flirtatious remarks. There, they cannot use any sorts of devices like flash drives or CDs. For 0.50 cents CUC they can spend an hour trying to exchange messages with the outside world under very strict vigilance on the part of the information functionaries which ETECSA and the G2 position there to watch over the users. Those girls could pass with their foreign boyfriends and friends to hotels, make them spend a fortune on internal services, but when they leave, they have to return to the tourist apartheid.

The game is tight, as the saying goes. Now, Cubacel holds the right to allow, or not to allow, people to use Twitter through cell phones in Cuba. Those of us who are nonconformists and chose to protest, are also bound to lose this time around.

Translated by Raul G.

September 1, 2010

Thirteen Hours of Punishment / Luis Felipe Rojas

Photo: Luis Felipe Rojas

On Monday, August 16, at 6:45 AM, the political police burst into my house to detain me. I was forced to sit in a chair in the lobby, where everyone passed by, of the police station in San German for thirteen hours. It was a punishment, I was nauseated, I had a constant migraine, and muscle pains that lasted for days. I was unable to do anything, anything but pray during the intervals between both of the interrogations, and wait for my release or that they would finally put me in the general prison barracks that the G2 has in the Pedernales neighborhood.

I returned to the love of my relatives after 8:00 that night. One day, I will not return home so quickly, I know it. Now, I write while I can. My wife also suffered her par, spending the entire day in front of the Police Station, informing the press by phone, leaving voice-mails and being on the lookout to see if they sent me back to Holguin.

The week before I had posted the report about human rights which the Eastern Democratic Alliance released that week and which they also published on various web sites or sent to various organizations which monitored human rights in countries which violated them.

I saw it coming, I even had a premonition dream about it (it has happened more than once to me).

I have searched the Human Rights Covenants, including the one about “Principles for the Protection of All People Subjected to Any Form of Detention or Prison.” In paragraph a) it says: ” By ‘arrest’ is meant the act of apprehending a person who has supposedly committed a crime or by an act of authority.”

Amongst the different norms about torture, and cruel or degrading treatment, there is nothing about sitting a person for 13 hours in a chair without access to any food, simply because in a specific place in the region where I live, they were going to undertake a peaceful activity, or for divulging the testimonies of horror that I have seen, as it seemed was my case.

Their arguments seem to run out quickly, the corporal punishments assume the morality of those who have the power. This reminded me of when I was a child and I misbehaved, like now. I have always been irreconcilably disobedient, I don’t think I will change at this point in my life.

On Monday the 23rd, I hadn’t even gotten up from bed when I once again heard some loud banging on my door. I had to live through the same police story, only with the difference that now they told me about reports denouncing human rights violations, about my blog, and about the independent journalism which I do. They reminded me that to write, like I do, many others spent much time in prison since 2003. They told me about the Gag Law which mentions something about 25 years behind bars.

I could only think of Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina, of his brother Nestor, of Enyor Diaz Allen, Roberto Gonzalez Pelegrin, and Francisco Luis Manzanet Ortiz who were all imprisoned incommunicado, over there in olive-green Guantanamo. They were paying for the crimes committed by the police of Baracoa.

Now I wonder, what will the regime consider my next prank to be. I think about the path that has brought this country the totalitarian power that is eating away at itself. What will be my next punishment?

Note: This post was delayed 15 days from being published on “Crossing the Barbed Wire,” but it was finally able to be posted.

Translated by Raul G.

August 29, 2010

Clarification Note / Luis Felipe Rojas

Photo/Luis Felipe Rojas

In the absence of bread, cassava, say the grandparents. I say that in the absence of a tweet, a post.

I was able to put a note on Twitter before leaving for the barracks of San Germán this past Monday, the 23rd because I only had enough money on my card for one “twit” (tweet). I left the phone in the hands of my wife before I left so that she could attend to those interested during the time they would have me in that Cuban farce that’s called “detención” (detention) and in which no official procedure is entered into.

There was no lack of solidarity from others who from other latitudes immediately came to reload my phone so that I could let them know of my situation, however, after an interrogation, unknown voices clarified in my wife Exilda’s ear that they would not permit reloads. Later I learned that on the other side of the barbed wire, my supporting friends received the same information: no reloads permitted.

Now like always I dictate to two big restless young men from FIU, this that you just read.

Later I’ll add more because my restless and loyal guys from beyond will have to return to the old method of sending money via foreign routes so that I can buy the card and continue “twiteando” (tweeting) my island in 140 characters.

On Monday I was released six hours later and I lived the same story from the previous Monday: my complaints, the blog, my daily use of freedom of expression and movement, well ultimately… last Monday was a shorter penance. I thank all those for the concern but since I couldn’t do it in 140 characters I have no other option other than this dictation.

Translated by: Antonio Trujillo

August 26, 2010

The Double Standard Policy, a Daily Routine / Luis Felipe Rojas

Photos / Luis Felipe Rojas

The Alianza Democrática Oriental (Eastern Democratic Alliance) energetically condemns the imminent arrests under a prosecution devoid of legal guarantees of five brave activists from Eastern Cuba.

Néstor and Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina, Enyor Díaz Allen, Francisco Luis Manzanet Ortíz and Roberto González Pelegrín received non-written communication, that is, only verbally from the secret police, that they would be prosecuted for the supposed crime of public disorder, an action they did not commit at any time and which was actually carried out by the police in Baracoa themselves.

This story surpasses the recent incident of 11 August, when Yordi García Fournier and Heriberto Liranza went to Baracoa to attend a session of the Foro Juvenil Cubano (Cuban Youth Forum), along with other activists and residents.  Immediately, the police detained García and Liranza and decided, without cause, to expel them from town; they were then notified that they were under ‘deportees’ status and, by order of the high command, were barred from returning to Baracoa.  Their friends who witnessed the incident reacted without hesitation and demanded an explanation as to why the police themselves were violating citizens’ rights to move throughout the country and to meet with whomever they choose.  The response once again was, ‘you can’t come back here.’

The only method available to Cubans facing injustice is to protest in a peaceful manner, chant slogans, or display banners with demands, even if later they’re worked over by a good beating or thrown in jail.  That’s what the remaining activists did, only this time not in broad daylight nor in groups along the main avenue.  They went to Néstor’s and Rolando’s house and from the balcony of the third floor they displayed banners that demanded freedom of mobility, they chanted slogans such as ‘Long live human rights!’ and ‘Orlando Zapata was murdered!’ The trained mob soon appeared. From the ground-floor entrance of the building, kids, elderly, men and women in a tight crowd chanted slogans of praise for some guy named Fidel and some other guy named Raúl and said that the streets belonged to those two. No policeman made a single arrest, nor scolded the mob that, from the groundfloor of the building threw stones and bottles, shattering apartment windows.

There was a nighttime pause on the 11th but daybreak on the 12th was more turbulent.

The protest activities from above and the aggressions from below continued.  Later came the detentions.  From the third floor the police brought down, in handcuffs, the five men who remained up there.  They raided a residence where a young girl, a pregnant woman, and an elderly woman had witnessed the entire spectacle and from which they were expelled for the 12 hours the police took to search the home.  They took whatever objects they pleased, including cell phones.

As those who know well the brutality of the Cuban police can attest, the five activists were the victims of a disturbance brought about by the mobs at the service of the National Revolutionary Police in Baracoa and yet they are the accused.  International public opinion has been informed, as have organizations that monitor human rights on the island been informed that the judicial prosecution will be carried out against the five for the crime of “public disorder.”  All this, after a brutal wave of repression was conducted in the eastern region of the country between July and well into August resulting in more than 50 detentions and a fierce smear campaign by the government against the Alliance’s platform.

The possible sentencing of the five dissidents from Guantánamo confirms yet again the double standard policy assiduously practiced by the government as part of its greater foreign policy.  On one hand they release some dissidents from prison, on the other those who attempt to say ‘I disagree’ get shoved behind bars.

Translated by: Yoyi el Monaguillo

August 24, 2010

Amnesia, Spells, and Survival / Luis Felipe Rojas

Photo / Luis Felipe Rojas

I have to admit that the kids of this current generation really manage to try to live with the pulse of the times.

Increasingly, I run into more and more people on their way to the babalao* or tarot card reader; there are those who at night go into downtown Holguín to take courses in Positive Energy.  I have two friends that are introducing Buddhism to Moa, the City of Nickel.

It’s been a long time now since I’ve been to a bembé** or saint’s feast.  Before, I used to go and have fun all night eating and dancing or watching the acrobatics and spasms of those who say they’re “mounted by the dead,” but I’ve known that many people who go also want to leave the country, to meet an American, to get a doctorate, want their boss to break a leg or that chick to finally get kicked out of the union “because she’s a real snitch.”

They ask for everything.  They bring everything that the priest asks for the spell and sometimes it’s as expensive as the trip itself or the miracle they wish to accomplish.

I don’t know if they ask for the police and the worst elements of the army to be abolished once and for all; for an official decree sending state inspectors to cut sugar cane at 12:00 noon; or for the unattainable merchandise in the foreign currency stores to be finally marked down.

I started asking some neighborhood pals, if they went to Yiyí the Santería priestess, what they would ask for, and these were the most common requests:

– For the economy to improve (but nothing about Economic Freedom).

– For all to able to travel without having to ask permission (but nothing about the Freedom of Mobility).

– That there be (said two or three, almost in a row) many TV channels and that the Internet be free (but they didn’t even mention Freedom of Expression).

It’s astonishing: there are people who don’t know that in the Spanish lexicon the word LIBERTAD (Freedom / Liberty) is one of the most beautiful and luminous.

Translator’s notes:
* Babalao: Yoruba term used in Cuba for a priest of the Santería religion.
** Bembé: A ritual party thrown in honor of the Santería dieties, wherein they are exhorted to descend and join by way of channeling through, or “mounting,” the gathered priest/ or priestess/mediums.

Translated by: Yoyi el Monaguillo

August 21, 2010

The Five Reasons of a Blogger / Luis Felipe Rojas

Photo: Exilda Arjona

I’ve spent weeks developing today’s explanation. My colleague Miriam Celaya has given me, as we Cuban peasants say, “the forced foot”, a shove in the ass. I think I did it once, in my previous blog. Even now I fear that if other colleagues from the free and alternative blogosphere decide to explain how they post their texts and images, we’ll end up finally giving the compass to Military Counter Intelligence (G2). But as “he who has nothing to hide has nothing to fear,” here goes.

ONE. I am helped by a kind soul who from time to time once a month copies my texts from abroad; the money she spends on international calls doesn’t allow her to receive my dictation for more than three minutes. So because of this, three hundred words.

TWO. I send the photos at random, indiscriminately, and as the repressors are less and less original, at least in the Eastern part of the country, and almost always repress the same people, when they beat Caridad Caballero Batista, Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina or Idalmis Núñez in Santiago de Cuba, maybe a few months ago, I already sent their photos off into cyberspace. Sometimes I hit the target and report within 72 hours of an event, a real privilege.

THREE. With this I really can’t manage. I don’t denounce for the sake of argument, I reveal the images, the names of the violators “so that the shame may convert him(them)” in the words of Martí. One day they will be pointed out by the accusing fingers of the most ordinary citizens and it will be worth it to have a Constitution; you will see, be patient. I don’t reply to insults or provocations. I am a poet and actor in the theater of the street: that is, a provocateur par excellence. I’m satisfied with letting loose this chirp of trumpet-blasts in order to stir up the honeycomb a little. Among my standards of ethics and civility is the intention not to offend anyone, and I never will, I’m sure.

FOUR: This blog is divided into three pieces: one belongs to me, its intellectual author, here are my tantrums and doubts; another belongs to my good administrators, patient and sweet people as long as I deserve it, and if I behave badly it is not due to them, they don’t deserve it, because there they are, ready to serve me every day; and the third is you, my readers and friends. So everyone has the right to sustain me or threaten me with “cracking your face in two” as someone has said recently. Help yourselves to equal servings, don’t fight over it.

FIVE. Sometimes I travel over 120 miles to view the blog at an internet cafe. From San Germán there’s no place closer where I can get on-line. Is it a reward or punishment? I don’t know, but I feel like a great guy when I walk through the door of a hotel with a piece of my blog on a flash memory stick recently fished out of this stormy sea of the universal country that is the Internet. So, you have to believe me, these sacrifices are for my children: so that one day I can tell them without blushing the little that I did. I do it for the patience of my good Exilda, who prays every night “so that the beasts won’t come back to the garden” (sic), and I do it for you: in a few years when compiling these shreds you can see the face of a man who was often afraid, but whose desire to become a free man overcame all his anxieties. Thank you.

August 17 2010

Horror Report / Luis Felipe Rojas

Photos: Luis Felipe Rojas

And here is the report on human rights (derechos humanos) presented by the Eastern Democratic Alliance. Within a six month period in this Cuban region there have been reported 128 arbitrary detentions, 32 police citations without proper official warrants by the political police, 4 evictions, 49 beatings, 6 fines levied on human rights defenders, 23 cases of hunger strike and almost twenty cases of suicide attempts in jails.

The partial Report is available for reading where the names of t the victims and of the victimizers are recorded, and also private addresses and even phone numbers for verification. It’s a shame — and I never get tired of repeating it — that the great and lustrous international press agencies located in Havana never hop over to the East, the heart of the horror in Cuba.

The death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, the beating of about 15 women in Camaguey on February 3, and later the abuses against Idalmis Nunez, Caridad Caballero and Mari Blanca Avila are signs of some horrible events. Before or during when his Lordship Cardinal Ortega, Raul Castro and Moratinos shook hands for the future Cuba that is being dreamed of only for a few.

There is physical torture and cruel and degrading treatment in Santiago de Cuba, Banes, San German and the Guantanamo of the olive-green government. The attachments to the document corroborate it for you.

PS: In the pictures Isael Poveda Silva, former political prisoner in Guantanamo Prison Complex staged for bloggers and the independent press showing how they apply the techniques of torture known as “The Bat” and “The Rocker.”

August 14, 2010

Impunity, an Order from the General / Luis Felipe Rojas

Photos:  Luis Felipe Rojas

Before General Raul Castro had even finished giving his discourse before Cuban legislators on August 1st, his armies had already rushed on more than twenty human rights activists in the Eastern region of the country.  The indiscriminate hunt had arrived.  The purpose was so that these activists would not reach Holguin, get close to Banes to the house of Reina Tamayo, and to prevent them from leaving their homes.

The phone did not stop ringing with people calling us to inform us about the detentions.  Some even thought of it as a Black Summer.

There were some house arrests.  Anni Sarrion, Aurelio Morales Ayala, Martha Diaz Rondon, and Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez were all beaten when they tried to get to the house of the independent journalist Caridad Caballero Batista in Holguin.  Caridad, her husband, and her son were all dragged on the floor and the officials tried snatching their photo camera.

Omar Wilson, from Moa, was trying to get to the house of a friend in Holguin when he came under attack from the military operation.  He felt it so intensely that he experienced tremors from a disease he suffers from.  He went from the street to detainment in a hospital and he spent more than 48 hours there in a very delicate state of health.  Francisco Luis Manzanet and Carlos Manuel Hernandez, both of whom were trying to help, ended up spending two nights in the cold jails cells of the G2 (Secret Police) of Holguin.

In some of these cases, the arrests lasted until the afternoon of August 5th.  And, on that same day, 5 activists were detained in Santiago de Cuba after they commemorated the tragic events of the Maleconazo in 1994.

The Cuban president has incited a tainted war among Cubans.  He has returned to the rhetoric of not allowing impunity.  The ones who act unjustly are the political police and their civilian helpers, those dressed in olive-green, or that very police unit which claims to call itself National and Revolutionary.  It is to the point that all streets are just being watched.  They are just waiting for a protest or any display of nonconformity, waiting for the whistle that will go off in the headquarters of the G2.

Translated by Raul G.

August 10, 2010

The History of Amnesty International / Luis Felipe Rojas

Photo by: Luis Felipe Rojas

It’s called Like Water on the Rock and it was written by Jonathan Power. It’s a book full of insinuations about the saintliness that Amnesty International represents for many suffering people. I rarely walk in to Cuban bookstores that sell books in dollars, but a friend of mine convinced me to do so, telling me that there were sales, books for about one convertible dollar. I found a biography of Churchill, a novel by Henry James, and this portrait of AI, that group of Human Rights that is on the verge of its 50th anniversary.

The book was prepared in honor of its 40th anniversary, and if it weren’t for its laudatory tone, it could have been a true jewel. Two of its best chapters are dedicated to China and Northern Ireland: precise, full of facts and testimonies that remind us of the best of English journalism, but also suffering an attack of unforgivable forgetfulness. Cuba is only mentioned once, on page 160 out of the more than 400 pages in the book, and it is only mentioned while it is being accused of supposedly assisting Latin American guerrillas.

It’s difficult to believe that a book that recounts four decades of the most prestigious human rights organization in the world fails to dedicate a single page about the oldest dictatorship in this hemisphere. Legal records, case studies, and fieldwork made up Mr. Power’s research of different AI committees. His mission was to verify all sorts of diverse assassinations and violations, and there is not one single mention of the country that has generated a shocking number of exiles, physical and mental tortures, political prisoners, and the heaviest set of information gags that this country denies.

It is a book published nearly nine years ago for the paper known as Debate. And now they sell it for almost the same price as a pound of pork costs the average Cuban.

It is a systematic forgetfulness, a State strategy. Soon, they’ll probably let us purchase the Bible, The Illiad, or History Will Absolve Me (LHMA)….we must be attentive.

*LHMA: The accusatory text which Fidel Castro had the opportunity to defend himself with when he violently assaulted a military barracks under the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1953.

Translated by Raul G.

August 8, 2010

In the Voice of the Victims / Luis Felipe Rojas

Thanks to friends of mine, I leave you with this:

The voices of Caridad Caballero Batista, Marta Diaz Rondon, and Mariblanca Avila. The three women have been victims of police brutality in Holguin and Banes. In the cases of Cari and Marta, what they are narrating in this clip occurred on August 3rd.

Mariblanca, in just one month, was victim of police beatings three times. Here she recounts the worst of the three times.

Here is the text:

Voice of Caridad Caballero Batista: Marta Diaz Rondon from Banes, and Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez, also from Banes, were walking towards my house when State Security officials impeded them from entering and dragged them on the street and threw them in a car. When I tried to intercede for them, my husband and I were then also dragged and beat. My husband, Esteban Sandes (?), and my son Eric Esteban (?), 17 years of age, and I, all tried to intercede for Marta and the agents of State Security dragged us all, beat us, and they threw me to the ground and they brutally continued to beat me and drag me. The same thing happened to my son who is full of scratches and bruises because he was shoved up against a fence. And well, they took Marta with them, and we were further victims of offensive words shouted at us by the agents of State Security.

Voice of Marta Diaz Rondon:
Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez and I were on our way to the house of Caridad Caballero and there were some cars parked nearby, there were a few, I don’t remember how many. In those cars was Commando 21, whose members looked like giants. When we arrived right outside Cari’s house, they rushed up towards us and began to brutally push us and dragged us to the car. I’m full of bruises everywhere on my thighs and my legs, as is Gertrudis. Cari rushed out of her house in defense of us, when she saw us she began screaming anti-governmental slogans and they also dragged her on the ground, while some of the agents jumped on her and covered her mouth. We screamed “assassins”, and “down with the dictatorship” when we saw this, and they locked the doors of the car to prevent us from running out and defending Cari, for they were now beating her. They took us to a penitentiary (?) center and kept us in a cell from 6 pm to the next day at 2 pm. We protested, we didn’t eat anything, and we continued protesting. They accused us of public disorder. Public disorder is what they did because they were the ones who attacked us.

Voice of Mariblanca Avila: I think they are like an army (?). The dirtiest man in the world that any mother could have given birth to was that man. While we were driving towards Guardalavaca, that man took advantage that I was hand-cuffed, harassed me, and told me, “I am going to kiss you”, and then he kissed me on the neck, and the more I screamed the more he took advantage. He squeezed hard down on my left arm. I now have an incision there, my arm is swollen. The dirty things he told me scared me. There were 3 others in the car with us, but that man put the cuffs on me and went in the back with me as if I was an assassin. 3 others were in the car with me, and 2 others behind in a desolate road, there were woods everywhere. I was very afraid because I know that they are capable of anything. And because of that man I have not been able to sleep again.

Translator’s note: If anyone wishes to fix the ‘?’ which I could not hear too well, please add it in the comments, below. Thank you!)

Translated by Raul G

August 5, 2010

The Violators / Luis Felipe Rojas

Photos by:  Luis Felipe Rojas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 3 2010

Translated by Raul G.

Omar, The Image First, The Words Later

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simpleness and Solidarity

They took me to a scenic park in the city of Holguin. I accepted the offer of a natural orange juice and we sat at the table. They were two young guys, most likely about thirty years of age. They lived through the hell of the rafter crisis and had returned in solidarity with the Cuban blogosphere.

She pulled out a small bag with some Flash Drives while he pulled out some blank DVDs, “So we can fill them up with whatever we like.” That is enough for them, they think, that is enough, I know it’s true. Carrying a few gigs with prohibited movies and documentaries to pass from hand to hand. That is well worth it.

“What else can we do”, she asks me. And the question remains lingering and contaminating the air of conspiracy and secrecy.

Many things can be done to help a blogger.

This example of ingenuity and simpleness is enough in itself.

Translated by Raul G.