Mariela Castro’s “Trivial Ticks” / Maykel Gonzalez Vivero

Mariela Castro

Tremenda Nota, Maykel González Vivero, 6 May 2020 — Mariela Castro Espín caused another controversy on Tuesday when, in deference to social distancing, she opened online the annual day against homophobia and transphobia organized since 2008 by the National Center for Sex Education (Cenesex).

During the transmission she made in the company of lawyer Manuel Vázquez Seijido and journalist Francisco Rodríguez Cruz, the LGBTI deputy, official and activist, took the opportunity to describe those who carry out activism outside of state institutions in Cuba as “tchotchkes” and “trivial ticks”.

In the tradition of the Cuban revolution, those who speak without official protection are disqualified for damages at the drop of a hat. For the militant anti-Castro regime, from the opposite bank, anyone who speaks from within the institutions is also disqualified.

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To avoid playing that game when dealing with Mariela Castro and for showing her how she deserves to be shown, it must be said that she has promoted LGBTI rights in all the instances she was able to exert influence and that she has fought for them in the Cuban parliament, away from any debate. She has earned the standing she has among international organizations promoting this agenda.

The legal, educational and health advisory services offered by Cenesex decisively favor the aspirations for the gay, lesbian and trans community in a country that has had more homophobic and transphobic policies than other western nation, particularly after the Cuban revolution.

For the LGBTI community, the work of that institution and the spaces for discussion it has fostered were a revolution. From afar and from other perspectives they have been described as “pink washing”. Here, Mariela has been perceived, day after day, by that charismatic leadership that she exercises in the tone of a “gay-like” woman, like an all-powerful fairy godmother.

Mariela’s name is a talisman for gay men arrested at rendezvous sites or for transgender women rejected when applying for a job. She is a “boss” who inspires her own scale of devotion similar to that which most Cubans bestowed on Fidel Castro.

That kind of cult is not healthy for the functioning of institutions, but it is accepted in Cuba and people justify it, without a doubt for lack of other experiences in political participation. I don’t know how she sees herself or if she questions that model during those times when she turns most revolutionary.

It may interest you: Nine controversial phrases by Mariela Castro

Cenesex and Mariela Castro did not contribute anything to LGBTI activism in terms of parallelism, transparency and coherence, a few of the conditions that the increasingly growing and ambitious movement demands.

The fact that a heterosexual and cisgender* person, not queer, nut or transvestite, is the best-known and authoritative activist in the country reveals the inconsistency on which official activism stands.

Mariela Castro also tends to present herself as an uncritical heir to a social project that excluded sexual dissent. When she has had to take sides, as happened in 2018, when Cuban politicians deleted the article on equal marriage and agreed to submit it for consultation within two years, she aligned herself with the official position and asked her followers to do the same, though doing so would be a betrayal of their beliefs.

There is a moment that seals the fate of Mariela Castro as an activist and leaves the official Mariela intact. That dilemma in which he lived for years was resolved on May 11th, 2019, the day that hundreds of LGBTI people and their allies marched through Havana to protest the cancellation of one of the street initiatives that Mariela herself promoted for a decade.

She had to speak on television and her official voice came out. She then stated, with her activist voice already discarded and without providing evidence, that the independent march was not legitimate, that it was paid for by the enemies of the government and that it does not deserve to appear, unlike what those who called it “the Cuban Stonewall” think, in the LGBTI memory of the island and the world.

Her attitude towards May 11th, the only one an official could have, eliminated Mariela’s prestige as an activist. The violent images that are engraved in everyone’s memory were the government’s response to LGBTI citizens.

Some of the “trivial ticks” alluded to yesterday had to go into exile after May 11th. Others remain in Cuba and strive to work independently despite the legal limits imposed by the government itself when it prevents them from legally associating and managing funds, as Cenesex does.

The metaphor of the “trivial ticks” brings to mind Mariela’s other controversial phrases with that same popular flavor and is very precise in this case. Out-of-control activists are “bugs that bite”. The deputy, intoxicated as she is from disobedient activism, wants to use an insecticide. May 11th ended with arrests. The plague is treated by spraying it.

Yesterday Mariela attributed a lack of “political culture” to independent LGBTI activism, but it should be read only as a lack of adherence to the authoritarian social project of the Communist Party of Cuba. These activists include liberals and supporters of US sanctions, but also anarchists, libertarian communists, and anti-capitalists.

It may interest you: Regulated: Mariela Castro and her family will not be able to travel to the United States

Mariela gives the traditional response that the political class used in Cuba to describe the conservative opposition, as if it had no other to give and would have been left without adequate words for the “Elvispreslians”, as Fidel used to say.

What does Mariela Castro have to say to those of us who disapprove of US interference in Cuban affairs and also reject the authoritarian style of the Cuban government?

This anachronistic response, this misunderstanding, as if her previous blunders and insulting metaphors were few, is more expensive than the silence before the “tchotchkes” that already marched through Havana, against tradition, without the White House and without the Revolution Square.

*cisgender: Latin-derived prefix “cis” meaning “on the same side,” also used as “cissexual,” refers to alignment of one’s gender identity and sex assigned at birth.

Maykel González Vivero

Maykel González Vivero: LGBTI journalist and activist. He had a blog while he was allowed, under the alias of El Nictálope, because he has always bragged of having good eyesight, like a nocturnal animal. He misses radio and the insomnia that helped him to write then.  Now he writes when and where he can, collaborating with several Cuban and foreign media.


A note from Translating Cuba: “It may interest you”… that this is our first translation from Tremenda Nota, an independent publication from Cuba, and we are hoping to do more!

The Controversy Over The Identity Of The Clandestinos Is Growing

The nature of the group that calls itself “Clandestinos” is unknown, and it’s not clear if it really committed the actions promoted on its social networks.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar/Mario J. Pentón, Havana/Miami, January 9, 2020 — Doubt, controversy and passion surround the Clandestinos, an anonymous group that through social networks says they have dumped pork blood on several busts of José Martí in Havana. The Government says it detained two of the members on Wednesday but the organization says it doesn’t know them.

The official newspaper, Granma, said the police detained Panter Rodríguez Baró, 44, who had a record, and Yoel Prieto Tamayo, 29, for “the profanation of some busts of José Martí,” but without mentioning the name of the group.

“The offense was a dirty media ploy to create the belief that there is a climate of insecurity and violence in Cuba,” said the article, which was read on the news on television. continue reading

The information, read on Primetime News, also questioned the speed with which the news spread on social networks and independent media. “The photos that showed the busts of the national hero covered in pork blood were posted on the Internet a very short time after it was done,” the text pointed out. “Several alternative media that posted the story support those who try to orchestrate lies about the Cuban reality.”

The Clandestinos immediately denied any connection to those arrested. “We don’t know these people. No member of our organization has been detained,” said one of the members, without revealing his identity, in correspondence with 14ymedio and el Nuevo Herald.

“We’re not a political group,” added a presumed member of the Clandestinos, which claimed responsibility for throwing pork blood on Martí because “his image has been very manipulated by the dictatorship.”

“It’s an outrage that his name is used to reproach and abuse people,” he added. According to his version, the group chose the figure of Martí because “he is loved by all Cubans.”

“He’s our national hero, our apostle, and whatever action is taken with his figure has a great impact,” he added.

Since the beginning of the year, the Cuban internauts have been debating whether their actions were a form of protest or vandalism, or if it’s a strategy of the omnipresent State Security to justify its repression against the dissidents, but up to now there is little evidence and few witnesses.

In a tour by 14ymedio of several places where the Clandestinos said they carried out actions, there are few certainties. On January 4, the fence located on one side of the Ciudad Deportiva, where the faces of José Martí, Fidel Castro and Lázaro Peña can be seen, doesn’t show any intervention or traces of having been changed, although two days before, in a video of the Clandestinos, you can see a red stain.

Bust of José Martí outside the Ministry of Transport. On the left is the photo taken by Enrique Sánchez on January 1, and on the right an image by 14ymedio on January 4. (14ymedio).

It wasn’t possible to find a bust with blood outside the Latin American Stadium, where the group said they poured blood over one of the sculptures. Nor were there traces of any action two days later outside the police station on calle Infanta near Manglar.

Attempts to obtain the exact locations of the stained busts from the Clandestinos didn’t help locate them. In addition, the authorities could have cleaned and painted many of them in the meantime.

The group’s name comes from a Fernando Pérez movie that addresses the clandestine struggle against the regime of Fulgencio Batista and it is careful not to give details that would allow identification of any of its members. One of them appeared in a Facebook video covered with a hood, and the press could only speak with him through chatting, and for a short time.

The official Cuban press has given free rein to its indignation but has been very frugal in releasing information concerning the facts, including the content of the arrest warrant. The personnel of the reviews Bohemia and Verde Olivio, whose writing is close to the buildings that are most emblematic of power in Havana, promote an act of repudiation against the Clandestinos, calling them “vile and unpatriotic counterrevolutionaries”.

According to Bohemia, a bust of Martí made by the now-deceased Cuban sculptor, José Delarra, had to be restored after the group’s action, but they didn’t show any photos of the action.

Vague opinion columns, texts of claims around the figure of the national hero, references to expected sanctions in the Penal Code against those “who don’t deserve to be called Cubans” have appeared in media like Cubadebate and Granma and have been replicated by members of the Government, including Miguel Díaz-Canel.

The Clandestinos assert that the photos give them recognition. “Why would the Government complain about something that didn’t happen?” they said, after many Cubans didn’t believe the photos and thought they were a hoax or something that was photoshopped on the social networks.

Anonymity makes it easy for people who don’t initially have ties to the Clandestinos to join the cause, whether by following or even by imitating them. Some Facebook posts are sharing the slogan “We are all Clandestinos”, placing the group in the predicament of having to claim or refute actions that can be carried out independently.

“We want to send a message to the dictatorship: this is war. We are tired of bowing our heads. And to the people the message is clear: The time has come,” said the supposed leader of the Clandestinos.

The organization has members in Cuba and in exile, added the spokesperson, refusing to reveal the number of militants. But he did say that they were mainly young people who were “tired of the dictatorship”.

One of the few witnesses of the Clandestinos’ actions was the meteorologist, Enrique Sánchez. “I was walking through the area of the Ministry of Transport and what called my attention was the stained, vandalized bust,” Sánchez told this newspaper.

“It was on January 1, in the afternoon, when I saw it. It made me mad so I took a photo in order to complain on Twitter about the lack of punishment for whoever was responsible,” he added. Sánchez stated that he didn’t agree with “desecrating national symbols as a mode of protest”.

A little later, this newspaper could confirm that the bust had been cleaned and painted and that an offering of flowers had been placed at the pedestal.

From Miami, where he was visiting, the dissident, Guillermo Fariñas, spoke about the subject with the América Noticias network. He showed an exchange of messages that he had with an internaut who identified himself as a member of the group. “What they’re doing is exercising the right of rebellion,” said the winner of the European Parliament’s Sakarov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

“It’s a group that doesn’t use our same nonviolent methods,” Fariñas said. “Other dissidents and I go down one path, but the right to rebellion exists, and they can go down a different path.”

Bust of José Martí just outside the Cerro Police Station, one of the places the Clandestinos said it carried out its actions. (14ymedio)

Meanwhile, the journalist and director of the magazine Tremenda Nota, Maykel González Vivero, wrote on Facebook, “The problem is that the bust is not alive and cannot defend itself. Martí is one thing, otherwise open to criticism, and the busts and pedestals are another. They speak about who erected them, not only of Martí himself, and they are something dead,” he added.

The dissident, Antonio González Rodiles, criticizes the Clandestinos movement. “In a time where it’s impossible for the opposition to hide anything from the Regime, it will do wonders for showing them as misfits, riffraff, vandals, incompetents–the Government  has always used this line,” he wrote on his Facebook page. Several followers of the dissident said that the actions might be a provocation orchestrated by the Government.

In the last decades in Cuba there have been frequent cases of graffiti on walls and storefronts denouncing the acts of the authorities, with slogans like “Down with Fidel” or “Down with Raúl”. However, actions around the figure of José Martí have been more circumscribed on the artistic scene.

At the beginning of 2018, an intense debate erupted over the censorship of the film, I want to make a movie, directed by Yimit Ramírez. The Cuban Institute of Arts and Cinematography (ICAIC) removed the tape from the ICAIC Youth Show because one of the characters “says something unacceptable” about José Martí, calling him a “turd” and a “faggot”.

“This isn’t something that can be accepted simply as an expression of creative freedom,” said the institution in a statement published on Facebook, which further fuelled the debate over the sanctification of the figure of Martí.

Translated by Regina Anavy


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

14ymedio Faces of 2018: Maykel Gonzalez Vivero, the Fearless Journalist who Founded ‘Tremenda Nota’

Maykel González Vivero was also arrested when he was working covering the damages caused by Hurricane Matthew in Baracoa. (El Estornudo)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, December 29, 2018 — Maykel González Vivero has had a hectic year. In the last twelve months he took the first steps on the difficult path of directing an independent publication, fought a tough battle on social media for marriage equality, and his name was definitively inscribed on the Government’s list of “enemies.”

Although at first this young man, born in 1983, thought of becoming a philologist, he ended up graduating in 2012 with a degree in Sociocultural Studies and entering journalism. His first steps in the profession were as a reporter at the radio station of his native Sagua la Grande, Villa Clara, where he learned the rudiments of the press but also saw firsthand the face of censorship.

In 2016 this journey through the official editorial offices ended abruptly when authorities annuled his contract for collaborating with independent media. From then on his signature became common on various alternative digital sites, but González wanted to go further and form a new publication, where he could combine his two passions: the press and LGBTI activism. continue reading

Thus in December of 2017 Tremenda Nota was born, a publication that he directs and describes as “the magazine of minorities in Cuba,” which they produce in the difficult setting of a province, far from the capital. From there, and along with his team of reporters, he has covered controversial subjects like discrimination and racism, opted for graphics to accompany the most complex issues, and managed to become a reference in the extensive ecosystem of independent media.

Tremenda Nota also devoted wide coverage to the controversial Article 68 in the draft of the constitutional reform project, which would have opened the door to marriage equality and which, ultimately, was withdrawn. A monitoring done with journalistic quality and without fear. On balance, Maykel González Vivero has paid all the social and professional costs possible for writing. Arrested for his work during Hurricane Matthew, vilified by his former colleagues, and watched by State Security, now he does journalism without a gag, as he likes it.

See also: Orbiutes

See also: 14ymedio Faces of 2018

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Orbiutes / Maykel Gonzalez Vivero


Maykel Gonzalez Vivero, Sagua la Grande, 20 May 2015 — My sister is telling me about what she just read: the unpublished autobiography of an elderly doctor in Camaguey. The memoir writer was an octogenarian when he wrote down his memories. The coming of electricity to the village of Cascarro, for example, figures in his review. A Galician installed the generator, pushed a lever, something trembled and there was light. I felt like I was there, my sister concluded.

I also enjoy reading memoirs. I value the survival of time as much as Proust. I’ve been obsessed with lost times since I was a child, when I would ask my grandmother to tell me something about “the olden days.” What came before, with its character of unknown certainty fascinates me, it motivates me more than now. continue reading

The old people of the family, settled in their present, are used to entertaining us with news from the past. Often, I guess, they’ve forgotten, and I remember a passage in Cintio Vitier referring to the mysterious capacity for forgetfulness. I, perhaps to my regret, can’t erase anything. Memory weighs me down, ties me to this forgotten city, to its disturbing cemetery of images.

Here’s an example that surprised my sister: inexplicably I remember what she was wearing almost twenty-five years ago, when we woke up on the morning to go to our grandfather’s funeral. I don’t remember how we made the journey, or what I myself was wearing. It was winter, we weren’t allowed to approach the tomb, and my sister, very small, was wearing a pleated skirt. Abounding in mournful red, it was probably a curtain or velvet crepe, like the brown of the jacket.

My sister reasoned, with alarm, that we know nothing of our ancestors. We go back a couple of generations and lose the trail. Unlike the elderly doctor, no one left memoirs. There is an explanation: we are descended from inevitably illiterate people. An old entry that our great-great-grandparents didn’t sign recording the birth of their children because they didn’t know how to write. Classified among the so-called “people without a history” that has confounded contemporary historians.

Appearing there, among the anonymous, doesn’t imply that they lived outside the vicissitudes of their times. During the famous strike of 9 April 1958, my grandmother hid her progeny under the bed. In the face of the anti-Machado revolution, in 1933, my great-grandfather forbade his offspring to leave the house. In 1896, after the Weyler proclamation, our relatives complied with the lethal order to leave their village. The site of our ancestors, I explained to my sister, was a hole, a hideout, an intrahistorical stronghold. The few exposed lacked experience in dealing with History and didn’t know what to do.

From the family forgetfulness and the biased stories, from the partiality of numerous historians, a late and peculiar compensation has come to us: my sister spent her teenage years collecting volumes about the Second World War; I assumed I had legitimate ancestors in the memoirs of Madame de Sevigne, Hans Christian Andersen, George Sand, Lola Maria de Ximeno and Renee Mendes-Capote. To Sand I owe the recovery of a memory, one word: orbiute. I thought there was no term to refer to the spots the sun leaves in your eyes after you have stared at its radiance for a while. Many summers I saw them. They stayed with me, unnamed. And it exists in Berry: orbiute. And it is not indelible, like memory.

maykel M4Maykel Gonzalez Vivero, Sagua la Grande, Cuba

“It was the night I desired and now I have it.”