Governmental Glaucoma / Miguel Iturría Savón

A Spanish friend of mine who has come twice to Cuba told me that she read the official press while in the airport, and according to that paper it makes it seem as if, despite all the problems, deficiencies, and tensions she witnessed when she met with a wide range of people, there are no problems in the island.

“It’s as if there was no dirty laundry, or as if there were laws against washing it in public. The newspapers I read did not mention anything about the crisis, the lack of material things, or about all the collapses in Havana. Instead, they all pointed out success stories from the country and all the disasters that have occurred, and are occurring, in the rest of the world, which seems very exaggerated, just like the talk about victories against the enemy. Which enemy are they referring to?”

Upon finding it impossible to avoid the subject, I told my friend that this was all part of the vertical structure imposed by the single Party which carries out orders from a department that monopolizes the control over the media, while saying that they speak the truth, from a headquarters in the capital which lashes out orders from top to bottom. In addition, there are also radio stations that do the same thing.

“But it is the final straw in censorship.”

Yes, the media is gagged in favor of a propaganda plan that emphasizes historic celebrations, political indoctrination of the personnel who write for the media and who are required to be loyal party members and to fabricate a social mirage of an attainable utopia.

“But then it is a planned fraud…”

Yes, but masked by columns of smoke. In other words, they over-value the importance of pre-determined productive results, they present what is theoretically possible as something imminent, and to top it off they shuffle around the desired values as if they were facts…

“Truly Machiavellian.”

Machiavellian and authentic, for the information data, like testimonies by heroes and functionaries, outweigh what people actually should hear. And in that manner, everything we lack is attributed to the hostility of the enemy and to the foreign problems that affect our state.

“In a way where public expression in regards to the problem belongs to the discourse from those in power.”

Of course. The rest is done by the auto-censorship practiced by communicators, who praise the success of health, education, and economic sectors, even though these same sectors reflect the crisis of the system and of the style of rule and law practiced by the Maximum Leader for a very long time now.

For decades now, the government has suffered from loss of vision — which can’t be cured — towards the reality that the Cuban people face. In medical terms, this is known as glaucoma, a disease which can end in blindness. The rulers of this nation can be diagnosed with such a sickness.

“But aren’t there worthy reporters?”

Yes, the most worthy or ingenious ones “criticize” from their positions of political militancy, while they lose credibility and join forces with the simulators who comply with orders coming from the apparatus, and they do not defy the higher-ups.

“Can one speak of alternatives?”

The alternative lies in the independent press and in the civic journalism carried out by blogs and Twitterers. They are the ones who write without censorship, they denounce the crimes of the regime, and they debunk myths about the supposed social homogeneity mentioned by the ideologists of an apparatus that perceives sees the country through the dark lens of the government.

Translated by Raul G.

August 5, 2010

Twitterers in Cuba? / Miguel Iturria Savón

God created the world in six days, on the 7th, he tweeted.

Last month, Yoani Sanchez, the creator of Generation Y, invited some of her friends to contribute to the diffusion of micro-blogging through the group known as “The First Tweet-up on the Island.” In regards to such a meeting, I asked when and where.

Although I have not followed the chronogram of the next meeting, I bet it will be successful and occur soon because Yoani’s summoning power is supported by more than 50 thousand followers on Twitter and millions of readers of her personal blog. If she was able to establish the Blogger Academy in Cuba, she will also be able to set up this web of interchange between those who use that tool of brief and current messages that travel from an individual to the masses.

According to Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter, his invention is not a social network, instead it is a communication platform that has grown, worldwide, from 44.5 million users in December 2009 to 100 million users just this past June.

Some considered Twitter to be a trend used by celebrities – Al Gore, Barack Obama, Ashton Kutcher – and it was abandoned during the first month by 4 out of 10 users, and that is a bet in favor of micro texting, conciseness, and brevity, which adjusts itself to the urgency of the times and to the desire of reading about those lives parallel to ours.

The phrase “What are you doing right now?” is what dominates this technology, but it also serves as a source of social information, civic activism, and also provides a space for denouncing crimes. We must recall that in 2008, a tweet from China reported an earthquake 7 minutes before the media of that country did. One year later, thousands of youths in Iran used Twitter against the electoral fraud that shook up the power of the Ayatollahs. Meanwhile, in Cuba, Yoani Sanchez posted about the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo and the start of the hunger strike of Guillermo Farinas.

The virtual inhabitants of Twitter respond by what they publish, and the velocity of micro-journalism functions as a network which channels the anxieties of the population, which warns and limits power for those in the press and in the government.

Up till now, it is not possible to know exactly how many Cubans have access to the twittering in cyberspace. We know that many alternative bloggers and also state functionaries use this nanotechnology novelty. We have yet to see if rivers of public and private messages will occur, similar to the situation which occurred with drivers in Mexico City which created a Twitter network to alert drivers about blood alcohol level tests.

Perhaps we have other priorities in Cuba, but if Yoani Sanchez already decided to organize “the first tweet up on the island”, such an organization would not lack members who would create profiles, upload web applications to the computer to transfer messages onto their phones, or to create accounts for people who wish to use the website to reach that new communication platform through messages and projects that would ultimately save free expression.

Translated by Raul G.

August 1 2010

The Queen of Bolero/Miguel Iturria Savon

Amidst Cuban flags, famous boleros, and white flowers, thousands of exiles and hundreds of Latin Americans bid farewell to Olga Guillot on Monday, July 12th. On Friday Guillot checked in to the Mount Sinai Hospital in Miami, that city where she lived in and occasionally performed ever since the 60’s, although Venezuela and Mexico were her first sanctuaries after leaving Cuba in 1961, while her voice still filled all the radios of the country.

Olga Guillot was dubbed the Queen of the Bolero, the Actress who sang, and the Latin-American Diva, among other titles awarded in her 60 year career, half a century of CDs – 14 of which went gold and 10 platinum- roles in dozens of movies, numerous tours around the world, and her nostalgic declarations about the freedom of her native island, where she achieved success at only 16 after performing on the show called The Supreme Court of Art. She also was part of such vocal groups like the Siboney Quartet, until she debuted as a solo artist in 1945. She achieved her first international hit when she recorded “Mienteme” (‘Lie to Me’), a song by the Mexican Chamaco Dominguez.

Olga Guillot, who was born on Trocha street in Santiago de Cuba on October 9, 1922, took the bolero all over the world and to new levels with her brilliant interpretations of such classics like “Mienteme”, “Tu Me Acostumbraste”, “La Gloria Eres Tu”, “Lagrimas Negras”, “Soy Tuya”, “La Noche de Anoche”, “Palabras Calladas”, and “Eso y Mas“. During her artistic career she shared stages with such names as Rita Montaner, Beny More, Nat King Cole, Sara Montiel, Edith Piaf, Armando Manzanero, and Jose Jose (who always referred to her as his artistic Godmother).

Like Celia Cruz, Cachao, and other legends of popular Cuban music, Guillot did not get to return to the island, a subject which always came up in her success and in her frustrations. Nostalgia marked her human and creative existence, but such artists like Malena Burke, Annia Linares, Vicky Roig, Emilio Estefan, Tito Puente Jr., Meme Solis, and Roberto Lozano, continue evoking her charisma and solidarity through their art.

Despite all the international fame and success achieved by this great artist, her name and her music were both erased from the Cuban music scene. The state censorship was so deep that for three generations of Cubans, the recordings of the Queen of Bolero is limited to nostalgic references made by parents and grandparents.

While in Miami they are saying goodbye with flowers and flags to the first Hispanic artist to perform in New York’s Carnegie Hall, in Cuba some of us music lovers are starting to search through our old acetates of Guillot and we ask our relatives in exile to please send us some recording of that one and only Diva, similar to Rita Montaner, Beny More, and Celia Cruz.

The death of the female voice behind the bolero could serve as an excuse to retrieve the musical and human legacy of Olguita Guillot and pay tribute to her on the other shore of this island divided by foreign passions of national art and culture.

Translated by Raul G.

Proof of Life

The gods do not descend from the ecstasy of the clouds, nor do psychopaths apologize for the consequences of their actions. Sometimes, however, they need to show signs of life, like people who, in an extreme situation, go to the notary to prove their existence in a public way.

Something like this happened with Fidel Castro Ruz, ex-president of Cuba and still the Secretary of the Communist Party, who a few days ago appeared at the National Center for Scientific Research and, as if this weren’t enough given the state of his health, on Monday the 12th he presented himself in the evening on the Roundtable News Program on Cubavision, where Randy Alonso and the camera crew gave a Proof-of-Life of the “retired” leader, who spoke with a certain coherence for more than an hour.

The public intervention of the ex-leader coincided with the beginning of the release of half a hundred prisoners of conscience from the Black Spring of 2003, and the cessation of the long hunger strike of the journalist Guillermo Fariñas Hernández, subjects evaded by Mr. Castro, who was busy predicting, in an apocalyptic form, the start, destiny and the end of the last battles in the war of the hemisphere, and coming down on the side of his allies.

The media vocation of our oracle coming as no surprise to anyone, many assume that the questions is not that expressed by the new oracle a la Walter Mercado of Cuban politics, who said similar things before his little intestinal fit took him to the operating room, if not as a demonstration of his physical existence and relative improvement health-wise, but so that the ill-intentioned can’t say that this island Narcissus has been turned into stone at the source of social inertia.

So fine, we note a Goal of the old Comandante, who instead of writing another Reflection left the laptop and the wheelchair and sat down at the desk of the television cameras. He doesn’t have a lot of energy, but demonstrated his ability to speak, read and misplace the pages of his notes. The message is that the man is alive, he’s put on a few pounds, and he weaves together some ideas.

The Comandante gives a “proof of life” and, in passing, offers a strong signal about the release of the men he ordered confined in 2003. Are they wrong, those who think the bars opened because of his deteriorating state of health and the taking of real power by his little brother? Is F.C. showing that the decisions are based on his personal arbitration or, at least, bear his signature? Is it a display of heatl to overcome the brevity of previous appearances?

People have already speculated on the “I’m here and now” of the Old-Man-in-Chief, who apparently spoke without breaks or editing, even though the program wasn’t live. His followers would have liked to change the Nike logo track suit for the red and black diamonds of the suit of the Comandante. For them it was another sign of eternity.

We still don’t know if Castro I will speak at the Plaza on July 26, or continue his tour around the scientific institutions of the island. For those of use who aspire to seal the source of his inertia, his public appearances are one sign of hopelessness.

Inn of Death

When she kissed Daylaun, aka el Bola, on Sunday evening, May 30, his mother never imagined it would be the last time she would have him in her arms. Dayluan didn’t return from the disco located in the Inn of Santa Maria del Rosario, to the southeast of Havana, but one of his companions reported the misfortune before dawn. She waited for the body at the undertaker’s in Cotorro, together with other boys, mothers, and cops.

Still, no one knows why Daylaun, a young black man of 22, chubby, absent-minded and very noble, was stabbed. Some say he intervened to protect a neighbor in the La Magdalena neighborhood, where he lived with his mother. Others say he was confused with some thug the killers were looking for.

Maybe it’s pure coincidence, but the Santa Maria Inn, the old Manor House of the Counts of Bayonne, converted into a massive public place with free access, has been turned into a weekend hot spot. Young people who can’t afford the discos in Playa and El Vedado congregate there. Alcohol, music, the desire to socialize through dancing and matchmaking, now generated dozens of injured and some dead. The fights escalate just like at the Bello Palmar, another Cotorro restaurant with disco under the open sky, and the fights are spectacular.

It is known that Dayluan was tried last year for a brawl on bus to Guanabo, one of the resorts to the east of the capital; in the end he paid a fine. Now he pays with his life for intervening in a brawl among friends.

As such events shake the tranquil town of Santa Maria del Rosario, founded in 1732 by the owner of the Inn, some citizens are asking the local government to convert the beautiful colonial mansion into a museum to promote the architecture, history and landscape of the region. So far the proposal has fallen on deaf ears.

Daylaun’s mother mourns the absence of her son who went to a party and lost his life, but last year alone three children were stabbed on the weekend between the town of Santa Maria and the Cotorro cemetery. Others lost an arm, an ear and were victims of contusions and non-fatal wounds.

But all the signs indication that maternal tears are not enough against the desire to socialize and the virus of violence. For now, juvenile bravado and police indolence mark the rhythm of each weekend at the Santa Maria del Rosario Inn, a former manor house southeast of Havana.

The Hopelessness of the Commander and Human Rights

Upon mentioning the death of the Portuguese writer Jose Saramago, the newspaper Juventud Rebelde (Rebellious Youth) published, on Saturday June 19, fragments of the interview carried out by Saramago with Rosa Miriam Elizalde (2003) when the writer ignored the repressive Castro wave against the peaceful opposition within the island.

The excerpt concludes with the advice of the novelist for the parties of the left, at the request of the interviewer, who asked to be referred to with terms such as Human Rights, the Left, and Freedom.

“I’d tell the left-wing parties that everything that could be proposed for the people is contained in a bourgeois document known as The Declaration of Human Rights, approved in 1948 in New York. Don’t get tangled up with any other programs. Everything is written there. Do it. Abide by it”.

At the edge of the honesty of Saramago and of the current journalistic impunity of the interviewer, the suggestion of the old narrator remained. In Cuba, however, the government continues violating the most elemental rights of the people, and considers members of the peaceful opposition as agents of the enemy, which justifies persecution and political apartheid.

The author of Up from the Ground, The Stone Raft, and Blindness, considered himself a “libertarian communist” and believed in the ideals of the left, whose tenacious propaganda steals the dreams and hopes of humans, which enslaves people in the name of freedom. If Saramago would have lived under the dictatorship of the proletariat, perhaps then he would have understood the horrors of a socialist utopia, far from promoting and applying civic liberties.

Saramago, like many other left-wing intellectuals clinging to the umbilical cord of the Cuban dictatorship, did not understand that the ends touch.  If the Castro regime survived the collapse of the Soviet Union it was, precisely, because it eliminated freedom of expression, press, and association, in addition to penalizing any contrary opinions, abolishing rights to property, and creating a state system that controlled and subordinated the individual.

Since the rulers of Cuba are more leftist than Jose Saramago, until now it has not even occurred to them to heed the suggestions of the Nobel prize winner in Literature.  If they, by chance, ever read the articles of the Declaration of Human Rights, they’d have the alternative of tossing it to one side and damning the writer.  Taking them into account is equivalent to renouncing power and changing the social model to one that is less revolutionary and more in accordance with human nature.

Either way, the suggestion is worth it.  How do you create a better world if you don’t respect the achievements reached and pre-established by society?

Translated by Raul G.

Computing Freedom Threatened

On Wednesday, July 7, while the guests over at the President Hotel in Vedado enjoyed the soccer game between Germany and Spain on the lobby’s screen, I struggled with the internet on one of the computers located in front of the bar.  In a matter of an hour I only managed to check my e-mail and respond to three messages, into one of which I simply copied and pasted a piece of writing I had stored on my Flash Memory stick.

Since I couldn’t attach documents nor view the images sent to me, I called for the specialist of the hotel — young mulata of very few words — who told me that the newly installed program made it difficult to attach, which meant that instead of losing more time and money, the user should instead just open their flash drive and copy and paste on Word what he/she would send, and then just copy it on to the message.

Before these new obstacles I decided to search for other alternatives, although I know that the “Avila Link” installed on various Havana hotels is a malicious program, conceived with the purpose of acting like an agent of the political police, as it forbids the uploading of web sites from The Exile which are censored by the government.

Perhaps that is the reason I cannot access my blog from the hotels in the capital.  Which also explains why I can’t even see Generation Y, Octavo Cerco, Penultimos Dias, or any other blogs written from within or out of the island.  Such installations present risks for tourists and Cubans as they run the risks of possibly having their writings monitored, their passwords recorded, and the use of certain software prohibited.  Even worse — the danger of spam that damages the efforts of so many alternative bloggers and communicators.

We know that running risks is a constant, but it is such madness having to confront these malware products which try to control your servers and install secret programs that record your messages.  Hotels are properties of the State, but the people are neither basic pieces of media nor dogs with muzzles.

If the owners have the right to protect their properties and secrets, we citizens deserve respect for our public images and what we wish to publish.  Adding on to the cost of establishing a connection, we must also point out all the cyber-vigilance we face, all the “gifts” brought to us by spam, and all the combing of our passwords and personal matters.  I think it would be better if they denied us internet altogether in hotels and cyber-cafes, or that they would just abolish all the absurd limitations and authorize connections from home, as is seen in more than half of the world.

That same day Yudeisi, a girl who was not able to chat with her boyfriend in Spain, told me that he had actually bought her a Chinese computer on Paseo and Malecon, and “since he is an expert in computing,” he checked the system inside and out, for “they say that Cuban officials ordered their Asian counterparts to install the filter software known as Green Dam Youth Scort on all computers sold here.”

I barely know any of these new technologies, but my experiences in hotels and cyber-cafes lead me to suspect that information media censors and supervisors still insist on controlling those who search for, and share, information from within Cuba.

Translated by Raul G.

The Test Tunnel

If we start from the struggle between the military authorities and the peaceful opposition in Cuba, the first, supported by the Spanish government and the second with the Catholic Church as occasional intermediary, the recent release of five political prisoners and the transfer of six to their home provinces is a first step in the tunnel test, i.e. the search for light on the issue of human rights.

To this type of first-time Goal, we add the announced released o the remaining 47 prisoners of those from the Black Spring of 2003, which approximates a win for the goal of rationality, but is not a definite penalty because it lacks some corner kicks and a lot of pressure on the government to release all the prisoners of conscience and to modify the laws that penalize the opposition and justify the existence of the cards — white, red and yellow — against the thousands of people who try to survive on the margins of the State.

More than 140 political prisoners remain behind bars, not counting those sentenced for defending civil rights but charged with alleged common crimes, such as social dangerousness, assault, or receiving stolen property.

We are looking at a positive gesture from the government, influenced by hunger strikes, the marches of the Ladies in White, denunciations of the human rights violations, the internal economic crisis and the international disrepute of the regime, which seeks legitimacy to get external credits and to get the European Parliament to lift the so-called Common Position, which would improve its image and allow it to concentrate on the country’s basic problems, immersed in collective misery and generalized repression as it is.

But there is a history of prisoner released that eased the humanitarian crisis, without affecting the structure of domination established in the name of a Revolution that hit bottom with the Sovietization of Cuba, in the mid-seventies. From 1977-1979, the prison bars opened to more than 3,660 political prisoners. In 1998 101 prisoners of conscience were freed after Pope John Paul II’s visit to the island.

Such antecedents generate skepticism among groups of exiles and leaders of the opposition, who perceive the prisoner releases as a new media landscape with political purposes and faces far from the real actors: the peaceful opposition facing the military government.

It’s certain that neither the Havana Archbishop — Jaime Ortega Alaminos — nor the Spanish Foreign Minister — Miguel A. Moratinos — suffer the effects of the problem, but their intervention constitutes one point of the island’s political triangle, where the powers-that-be represent the point that exclusively moves the pieces, when they sing songs of protection and their adversary is approaching the goal.

The release of the prisoners of conscience shows the weakness of the Castro regime. Perhaps the beginning of the end, but it is hasty to think that it represents an essential change in the transition to democracy. There are no social changes without internal movements and international pressure. How do we access the highway of freedom without throwing off the blinders of fear and the masks of the group anchored in power? The path of light passes through the test tunnel.

An Invitation to the Pictoral Universe of I. Miranda

For a decade critics have been talking about the poetic, Baroque, telluric and zoomorphic painter Ibrahim Miranda Ramos (Pinar del Rio, 1969), who presents his swarm of metaphors in UNEAC’s Manuela Villa gallery, where he invites us to unravel his allegories on Cuba and the world through the prints of his series Punishment, Bondage and Maps, woven together under the Carpentier title, The Lost Steps, which is presented  through a woodcut on paper, offering a face tattooed with rivers flanked by carts with goods on a red background.

In one of Villa Manuela’s rooms, Miranda surprises the visitor with an installation of multicolored fabrics of varying dimensions titled Without Destiny. The fabrics seem like a pretext to return to the rivers and infer the limits and the crossroads that interweave the searches of the man. The tendentious nearness of the Nile, the Tigris, and the Danube, with the Hudson, the Yangtze, Ganges and Mekong, exemplify the comprehensive geographical point of view of the creator.

Ibrahim Miranda’s search for paths and his philosophical concerns are reflected in the suggestive figures recreated in maps. The originality of his pictorial cartography gallops on the prints, A Pig in Sao Paulo, A Bull in Tel Aviv, Horse in Madrid, Elephant in Berlin, The Beast of Sanlucar, and Horse in London, the first four from 2007, the others acrylic on cloth from 2010.

While this surreal map room is a part of a hermeneutics that challenges our codes and puzzles, it will lead to a conceptualization that goes from history to the perception of the creator and his technical instruments, although initially Ibrahim was inspired by the poem by Jose Lezama Lima, Island Night: Invisible Gardens, and subsequently by the novel by Alejo Carpentier The Lost Steps.

But the authenticity of the maps and their philosophical narrative sense, connect the artist with the route closest to him, the cartography of Cuba, given in two series: Punishment and Bondage, both in collage on paper from 2006.

In the series Punishment, the photographic montage of a nude woman who hits a child, becomes a metaphor to suggest the pain of Cuba, interlaced by overlapping maps that externalize the notion of inside and outside: the island hits its children who, according to the exterior images, ceased to feel but put up with it.

In the series Bondage, less intensely colored, the limits intuited are more external and with a social connotation: discrimination generates emigration. Faces, maps and birds induce spaces and searches.

Other spatial codes animate the poetic and the philosophic uneasiness of the painter. Ibrahim Miranda Ramos, has exhibited in other galleries in Havana, Switzerland, Spain, the United States, Brazil, Austria and Canada, and lectured on his work in museums and universities in Europe and America.

Until mid-July Miranda’s screen prints await us on the walls of Villa Manuela, where his rivers flow and from his maps jump birds and animals who arouse reflection, illuminate memory and enrich our imagination.

Authors Blessed and Authors Proscribed

Friday, July 2, while waiting at the Cinemateca to see the French film Rapt (Kidnapping), I was surprised by the commotion of chairs, books and the songs of Joan Manuel Serrat on the Spanish poet Miguel Hernandez, a recurrent figure in Cuban publishing houses, which they were celebrating on another Book Night at 31 points along 23rd Street in El Vedado, stretching from 14th to the Malecon.

Although rain reduced the flow of the public, late Friday afternoon there were attractive options on the premises of the movie theaters, the parks and the entryways of cafes and restaurants, where passersby could find the works of Jose Lezama Lima, conjured up in an interactive form for his centennial; Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, author of Don Quixote, around whose sculpture the bookstore In a Place on the Rampa was opening; Dora Alonso, who presented three children’s books in The Blue Driver tent; and authors such as Jostein Gaarder, Carlo Frabetti, Nicolás Guillén, Rogelio Martínez Furé, Ariel Díaz, Joaquín Borges Triana, Joel del Río and the already-mentioned Miguel Hernández, whose Passions, Jail and Death of a Poet, is being sold by the publisher Art and Literature.

Book Night is a mini urban fair that takes advantage of the pedestrian spaces which are used by various cultural institutions. Each publisher brings recent examples, while the move theaters in the area, Casa de las Américas, the Fundación “Fernando Ortiz” and the UNEAC show their usual fare.

As the current latest thing is the Soccer World Cup in South Africa, the final matches are being shown in the Yara theater, although sports fanatics could also be found on the “hot corner” of 23rd and B, where there were ball demonstrations, sales of the Baseball Guide, and a chance to meet athletes from the Industriales and the Capitalinos basketball team.

The book sales alternated with “Reading on the Web” (at the FEU headquarters), Art on the Rampa (Cuba Pavillion), a presentation of the Puerto Rican group Otoqui (the park at 23rd and C), a poetry reading conducted by Basilia Papastamatiú (Cafe de G), and the Campesino Gauteque of the El Cochinito restaurant, where the publisher Capiro shared Limendoux, Legend and Reality, by Rene Batista Moreno.

Among the novelties of Friday was Physics, Adventures in Thought, by Albert Einstein and Leopold Infeld; three compilations about Africa, two volumes on computing, the anthology Mucho Mas Cuento (Enrique Pérez Díaz), participative spaces on narrative, books and magazines; recitals by singer-songwriters and concerts from Síntesis, Clover and the humorist Antolín in the theaters 23rd and 12, Riviera, and Chaplin, respectively.

On Book Night on 23rd Street we appreciate the exclusion of the writers marginalized by the official commissars of culture. Works of authors who are integrated within the system of stars of the Castro regime predominated: (Miguel Barnet, Nancy Morejón, Cintio Vitier, etc.), apologetic pamphlets such as Ángel (father of the Castros), and Cuba, Little Giant Against Apartheid, by Hedelberto López Blanch; Media Violence: Words and Images for Hatred and War, by Pascual Serrano, and pamphlets by or about Ernesto Guevara and Fidel Castro, basically a compilation against the dissidents who challenge the dictatorship.

In verses, printed on a sheet, would be added — by the same author — the following: “As a spring that / flows eternally / as a path, I will go / and I will never finish going.” Quoting these lines is an intention to honor those eternally absent from the bookstores, but not from our minds.

Through the streets I am leaving something that I am going to gather in: pieces of my life come from very far away.

Miguel Hernandez

The Commander’s Chiaroscuros

Commander Delio Gómez Ochoa has disappeared from the annals of the Cuban military and bureaucracy. Only his family and colleagues remember his actions in war and the energy he put into businesses and regions in the country. Some say he fell into disgrace after his failed intervention in the Dominican Republic where he went in mid-1960 on the orders of Fidel Castro, as head of a special command intended to overthrow the tyrant Rafael L. Trujillo, who was executed a year later by a group of intimates.

Ochoa Gómez and his company landed in the region chosen, but could not seize the airport, deliver weapons and initiate an insurrection. They were not waiting for him with flowers, but rather with shrapnel. He barely managed to escape into the nearby mountains, others were hunted down and tortured by the bloodthirsty Ranfis, eldest son of Trujillo, who pardoned the life of the commander aggressor and returned him to Cuba with his pilot and plane.

I am updating the story as a friend to whom I lent La Fiesta del Chivo, a fictionalized biography by Mario Vargas Llosa about the Dominican despot, on returning the book to me reread the passage where the Peruvian writer tells of the military misadventure of Delio Gómez Ochoa and the “act of goodwill of Trujillo,” who anticipating the continental leadership of Fidel Castro, enlisted in 1947 in the abortive expedition of Cayo Confite.

It turns out that my friend worked with Gómez Ochoa, when the officer directed the National Marble Company, located in the late eighties in El Vedado (20th Street and 3rd). According to him, Vargas Llosa would have been interested the following anecdote of the soldier turned entrepreneur.

“I practiced as a specialist in lubricants at the office of Vincent, head of transport and a close friend of the director, who used more as a personal intermediary responsible for the vehicles. Delio was then in his sixties, of medium height, going gray, he knew nothing of marble or building materials and used to snore in meetings. He distinguished himself with beautiful young women, especially his secretary, a Caribbean nymph who led to his divorce.

“I can’t forget that morning when Delio’s wife came to the company in her Chaika — a Soviet-made luxury car — and threw into the reception area several boxes of the director’s clothes and belongings, who calmly called Vincent and ordered him to accompany us to his lover at a residence in Siboney. As the secretary did not like the mansion, a little while later poor Delio asked us to leave everything as it was and we helped her to settle into an apartment in the Almendares neighborhood, with a terrace overlooking the river.”

According to the friend, Commander Delio Gómez Ochoa was later promoted, while Vincent was killed in a tenement fire in Zanja Street in Central Habana, where he lived with his wife and children, waiting for the apartment that his boss had promised him. Fate is ironic, No?