Leave Me a Comment at the Entrance and We Will Win This Contest / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, 10 March 2015 — Every morning we would lose ourselves amid the skyscrapers until we find ours. That one. The one with the artificial rain that would fall, even in the driest months of the city. She likes then to take a pause in our route. She would let go my hand and draw near to the false marble facades, until she would start getting wet almost without realizing it, from imaginary drops that would evaporate before reaching the asphalt. Imaginary but, even so, they would wet her in a dance that was greatly erotic and somewhat erratic.

Her liquid hair, her transparent garb, in the megalopolis of limousines and suits. I would lag a bit behind. I did not want to interfere with those little mornings in liberty. They lasted so little, it was only an instant. Far from Cuba, far from the Revolution. Oh not so far. Because once, upon the end of an October of overcast skies and recurrent cyclones, it was raining for real in Manhattan. She said to me, “You smell it, too, right? Today is not New York, but rather Havana.” And she went out from under our umbrella, a grave bumbershoot more appropriate to those scenes of cemeteries at the end of the North American films of our childhood.

Far from the “long island” [Cuba], so close to Long Island. She told me, “One day we are going to be like those imaginary drops that never fall. And another day it will be we who fall amid a tired rainstorm.” I just walked behind during the rest of that morning. I knew that she would never forgive me seeing her mix the rain with her foreign-city tears.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

NO EMBARGO, NO CRY / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

073_pcentral2MantleThought.org, Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, 18 March 2015 — The U.S. embargo against the Cuban government is like those recurrent childhood nightmares, for both Cubans living on the Island and abroad. Oh, the Embargo Embargo: limit of our life, fire of our leaders…

During decadent decades the Cuban Revolution has been defined by that urge of surviving in a besieged place, where distrust and the hate speech are officially justified by the tricky threat of a foreign foe, where an invisible U.S. invasion was continue reading

enough to promote impunity within the Island, including the need of a messianic savior: Fidel, just Fidel—because calling him Castro could be considered a first symptom of dissent.

And public dissent begets personal disaster in dictatorships.

We Cubans are fed with the populist paranoia of Fidel in our mothers’ milk. In turn, this rule of Fidelity feeds a paternalistic State where citizens always behave like children. All responsibilities rely upon the Revolution. Behaviorism in the time of barbarity. Discipline as the substitute of both duty and desire. Meanwhile all our fundamental freedoms were embargoed by the Cuban authorities as a displaced vengeance for the U.S. embargo against them.

At first, with the Soviet satellite republics nourishing the Cuban economy, our Commander in Chief was making jokes about how useless the U.S. embargo was to prevent his Revolution from turning Cuba into a First World nation:

  • “There will be enough milk produced in Cuba to fill Havana bay.” (1966).1
  • “The effect of the American blockade has been to require us to work harder and better, it has been effective in favor of the Revolution.” (1967).2
  • “The language of force does not intimidate us, we have been cured of it, so the blockade is now a subject of scorn and laughter.” (1969).3
  • “Happily, we depend on the U.S. for nothing. No trade, no food, nothing.” (1975).4
  • “Economic relations with the U.S. would not imply any basic benefit for Cuba, no essential benefit,” (1985).5

In the 1990s, however, after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the restoration of democracies in Latin America, Castro had to retool his propaganda machinery. The U.S. embargo suddenly proved to be the genesis of all social debacles on the Island. The economic sanctions threatened our sovereignty more than a coup d’état, and as such the world was to condemn them but with no mention of the scarcity of the fundamental rights for the Cuban people (including the exiles, now more than one-fifth of our population).

Generation after generation, resistance to Cuban totalitarianism has become synonymous with the fine art of waiting.Generation after generation, resistance to Cuban totalitarianism has become synonymous with the fine art of waiting. From ideology to hypocrisy to idiocy, Cubans are experts in expecting with no expectation at all. Anything goes, from fighting the Ebola virus in Africa to signing a Major League contract worth several million dollars.

Once we were austere, once we even had an astronaut, maybe we have just gone astray. Stigmatized as “worms” by the Castroites, many Cubans are indeed waiting for biopolitics—or rather necropolitics—to finish its work on a half fossil Fidel, a Marxterialist Methuselah about to turn 89, shrunken like a magic-realist character by Gabriel Garcia Marquez who, by the way, was his close collaborator and a spokesman of the Cuban Revolution.

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The alternative to indolence is to emigrate to the northernmost province of our country: Miami-Hialeah and other post-totalitarian towns, where we can rent a so-called “efficiency” to watch this film from the burger side of the embargo. Big Brother Marx is easily overwhelmed by a Big Mac.

The end of the economic and financial embargo against Cuba—still inconceivable since the U.S. Congress is reluctant to change the law—should then imply the end of the Castrozoic Cold War Era, still ongoing by sheer inertia on the Caribbean island. And we all enjoyed a preview with the miraculous milestone of last December 17, when the simultaneous speeches of President Barack Obama and General Raul Castro announced the normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations, a pluribus duo, with liberty and justice for none—or perhaps only for the subscribers of The New York Times, after endless op-eds paved the way for the White House to pay the way for the Chamber of Commerce to invest in Cuba, just as their members did in the Fabulous Fifties.

This adulterated affair of a democracy with a dictatorship is about to seal the self-transition from power to power taking place on the Island today. The Cuban dynastic model of State capitalism is already pregnant with a baby dictatorcracy called Castrolandia 2.0. The next Putin-like president is likely to be Alejandro Castro Espin, who, like the Russian autocrat, is a colonel linked to state security who happens to be the son of Raul Castro, who in turn has promised to step down in 2018 at the age of 87 years with six decades of control behind him.

The pros and cons of this unexpected approach are not as relevant as the perverse point that there are no right or wrong options when it comes to monolithic regimes. No deal is dear with the Castro family. Every engagement is co-opted for their own convenience, because all the levers of society remain at their disposition without any limits.

Despite Obama’s rhetoric that breathed life into the Cuban establishment, the alternative to Communism is not likely to be consumerism, but Communism itself. Or collapse. After Fidel, the Flood. And Obama seems to be advancing a helping hand to us before a migratory crisis extends its hideous hands to the U.S., as it is being announced already in the record numbers of rafters and Cubans illegally crossing U.S. borders, before and after December 17.

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Since the nuclear missile crisis of October 1962, these “human missiles” have been used as a pressuring position by Havana in its dialogues or diatribes with Washington, DC. That is why on Island, the rumor is that theCuban Adjustment Act, which privileges Cubans to apply for a permanent resident status after one year and a day in America, will vanish somehow with the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the White House and Revolution Square.

And so we keep voting with our feet in a sort of pedestrian’s plebiscite to kiss goodbye the Revolution—a fleeing flow that is 100% political precisely because 100% of Cuban migrants hurry to declare that they are only looking for economic benefits. What kind of benefits when they had free education, free sports, free arts, free health and free et ceteras on the Island? Farewell, Fidel.

Americans can come to Cuba in the search of profits. Cubans keep quitting their proletarian paradise in search of only we know what.

“Yankees, come home” echoes in the so-called Key to the Gulf for the first time in the history of our hemisphere. Americans are more than welcome to appease our tired tyranny with their new markets for the New Man to cease being a soldier and become a salesman. Money is time in this equation to build a stable status quo for the region, which is a major concern for America’s national security. In gold they trust: bring down the wall means open up the wallet. This explains the urgency of Google, Amazon, Delta, Netflix, Coca-Cola, and even Bacardi to re-conquer the once-called Pearl of the Antilles. Meanwhile, a multitude of five-year multiple-entry U.S. visas is being granted to Cubans of all ages, before and after December 17.

Photos in this essay appear in “Abandoned Havana” (Restless Books, 2014)If 50-plus years of U.S. diplomatic stalemate and economic sanctions failed to bring freedom to the Cuban people it is because these were never designed to bring freedom to the Island, but to penalize a regime that started by sequestering Cuban sovereignty with anti-democratic procedures, including the violent illegalization of civil society and all forms of property—both private and public, including the press—forcing up to one-fifth of our population to live in exile today.

Cuban democracy, like heaven, can wait.

The 50-plus years to come of U.S. capitalist engagement with Cuba cannot guarantee fundamental freedoms for our people, because a market economy is not a redemptive formula per se, and it has been implemented by many authoritarian systems to deny all basic rights. But “rights” is a worn-out word that President Obama, Pope Francis, and General Castro have eagerly agreed to postpone during almost two years of secret negotiations: Cuban democracy, like heaven, can wait.

What has been good for Americans since the Eighteenth Century is still not good enough for Cubans in the Twenty-first Century. This is the basis of revolutionary racism, a discriminatory concept cruelly conceived by American academics in their search of a lost Left. First world democracies seem disappointed to support pro-democracy movements anymore in the Third World, while Castroism keeps on being more than proud to Castrify other countries —Venezuela is the most tragic example today.

Oh, bama! Why not take advantage of these U.S.-Cuba negotiations to seat the historical gerontocracy in olive-green uniforms at the same table with the emerging civil leaders on the Island? Don’t we deserve this after we have achieved so much in the struggle for freedom of speech and to raise awareness of human rights violations and the overall anthropological damage in Cuba? If the Castros want to be treated as a normal government, shouldn’t the Castros constitute a normal government beforehand?

But as it has been impossible to hold the Cuban government accountable, the lesser evil now seems to be to promote “Cuban civil society” only for political correctness in presidential speeches, while in fact excluding us from the establishment to come: State capitalism with the sheepskin of asoulcialism.

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In moral terms the unpopularity of U.S. policies, given the popularity of the Cuban Revolution worldwide, should be less important than securing that a true transition to democracy will take place in Cuba soon. Unless, of course, advancing American interests in the Western Hemisphere still means advancing American interests in Western Union.

Despite any goodwill of the U.S. executive branch enforcing resolution after resolution, involving certain congressmen and think tanks and NGOs and press magnates and corporate tycoons that shake Raul Castro’s hand without asking him a single uncomfortable question, what is being legitimized is a clan that abolished the Cuban Congress and Cuban think tanks and Cuban NGOs and the Cuban Chamber of Commerce and all Cuban press except that belonging to the Communist Party.

I am not sure about “what everybody needs to know about Cuba”—as the American scholar Julia Sweig might say—but rather about what nobody dares to know about Cuba. Even if this is a small step for democracy, it’s also a giant leap against independence. And decency. The U.S. change in its Cuban policy is the latest victory of The End of History: from the Spanish-American War to the Anti-Imperialist Revolution, the growing “common marketization” of international relations is what really counts and “Cuban” continues to be out of date.

Milan Kundera, maybe the best Cuban novelist who is a Czech who writes in French and lives in Switzerland—a perfect mix for liberty—knew that “the old dead make way for the young dead” for “the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.”

“Dialogues between the elites are not the path of the people,” said the assassinated leader of the Cuban Christian Liberation Movement Oswaldo Payá—winner of the European Parliament’s 2002 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Dead since July 22, 2012—like Polish priest Popiełuszko in the mid-1980s— in a traffic “accident” denounced as an extrajudicial killing by the surviving witness who was driving the car, Payá and his peaceful activists managed to collect more than 25,000 signatures on the Island to legally democratize our society, as established by the Cuban Constitution. The Castros’ reaction was dozens of incarcerations, forced expatriations and, ultimately, his murder by the Ministry of the Interior.

Is the Obama administration willing to mention such delicate details in The New Deal with Cuba or will there be no solidarity with Payá’s family, who has been requesting an independent investigation since that sad Sunday that abolished the hope of an inclusive country? And not just a clowntry club for cowboys, a post-totalitarian museum turned into a tourist theme park or worse, into a mausoleum of martyrs like Orlando Zapata—left to die during a hunger strike—Laura Pollán—our second Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought—and Oswaldo Payá?

Respect for universal values like life, mercy, beauty, truth, and liberty—the most natural and yet so difficult to attain in times of tyranny—is the responsibility of every free man and woman who wishes to favor my people, who deserve not to wait any longer to be treated like real citizens, with or without whatever diplomatic decisions are taken one thousand miles away in the U.S.

“Cubans have the right to have rights,” repeated Oswaldo Payá before the Castros took his life. And we Cubans have the right to have rights irrespective of all the Castros’ conspiracies to permanently prevail. I still skeptically trust in such a Cuba “founded with all and the good of all”—as the patriot and poet José Martí wrote more than a century ago—but most of my fellow Cubans already don’t. Our wisdom is weird, for we have seen things that you Americans wouldn’t believe

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[All photos courtesy of the author.]

1.Fidel Castro. Speech at the Meeting of the Federation of Cuban Women, (December 1966).

2.Castro. Playboy (January 1967).

3.Castro. Speech at the Plaza de la Revolución, Havana (January 2, 1969).

4.Castro. Speech at the First Congress of the Cuban Communist Party, (December 1975).

5.Jeffrey M. Elliot and Mervyn M. Dymally. Fidel Castro: Nothing Can Stop the Course of History (Pathfinder Press, 1986).

Castrobama / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

OLPresident

LET THE OLD DEAD GIVE WAY TO THE NEW DEAD

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

The title is, of course, a quote from the Czech, Milan Kundera, an obsolete reference for the rest of a world, which believes it is living in the post-communist era. But in Cuba, it continues to be something referring to the future.

Just as in global capitalism, “time is money”, in twenty-first century Castroism time is the essence of totalitarianism itself. Because of that, Cubans don’t have lives, only, barely, biographies. And because of that Cubans don’t live in human time, but buried, with the dismal defect that it could last for all eternity. continue reading

And because of that, for the first time, the White House is so interested in co-opting us. Because of that Fidel Castro’s funeral fascism is rescued by the tyrranical resolutions of Barack Obama and his Democrat mates who hate democracy, in Congress, just as in the Plaza de la Revolución (before his disappearance as the Chief many of them travelled to the island to take supportive selfies with our dictator).

After his 20 January 2015 State of the Union Address, the United States was ready for his presidential winding-down. The American union’s voters are awaiting his demagogic dissolution. To survive in a stable fashion, the democracies which are going to remain on the planet should now do it not just in opposition to  fundamentalist conservatives or lefties, or both, but also in opposition to the United States. And the Cuban case feels like a valuable precedent.

As a part of the secret pact between the two elites, it was obvious that nobody was demanding anything from anybody, except mutual recognition of legitimacy. The 5 or 55 “heroes” or “brothers” of the horror-show arrived in Havana threatening that they were keen to carry out new assassination and infiltration missions, like the informant doctor who theatrically returned to Africa to challenge Ebola again. David and Goliath nowadays are only money and abuse.

The first attracts the second to the island with no Commander, where time stands still, but where there are a thousand and one “decent” descendants of degenerate generals. The second is the mechanical gesturing of the most unknown North American civil president: his public programme is based on springing a private surprise. Even physically, he seems crafty. We don’t matter to him in the slightest, on the contrary, we irritate him. He has a different agenda and Obama is not going to miss out on the legal impunity he can enjoy in his last two years.

In the case of Cuba, the communists’ revenge for Cuba’s exile has finally been accomplished. They fought for that for decades. They bumped off their  libertarian leaders with sudden post-soviet diseases. They empowered those who were interested in investing – and inventing – with a “Plattismo” economic model. They collided with North American public opinion using little Elian dolls and “sperm spies.” (It was easy to do this as they were dealing with an infantile and detestable audience). And now comes the grand orgy of reconciliation between the victims of post-revolutionary repression –  without the orgasm. Today there is not one sensible Cuban, whether in exile or on the island, who believes in the changes. Castroism ended. And, for that reason it is never-ending.

Nobody will ever ask the Castros anything about their more or less famous deaths. In her conspiratorial path to Havana, Roberta Jacobson must have gone cursing the plane from Washington DC on which she met Rosa María Payá when she felt obliged to lie to the martyr’s daughter: “it’s something we can always put on the table” (the translation is mine, the deceit is hers). Always say always.

Do me a favour. If nobody is against this farce. This disingenuous vaseline applied by the victors is unnecessary. Do less of the LGTB posturing, be less culpable, with fewer dirty needs, and come out of the Castro closet with the oppressor’s pride (the shame assumed is ours). The old dead are not yet good luck charms for our memory. The new dead can now wait to be recycled into the future dead, who are coming.

The obsolete Castroism – except in the rest of the world – manages to survive because it knows many things. But the Czech Milan Kundera had the weakness of only knowing one thing. My fellow countrymen, you can finally hang up your Cuban passports. Now, the nation of the Castros, by the Castros and for Castros has finished being embargoed forever.

Translated by GH

21 January 2015

 

Cubamerica / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Cuba I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.
Cuba two CUCs and 56 years, January 1st, 1959.
You can’t stand my own mind.
Cuba when will we end the human peace?
Go fuck yourself with your Revolution
I don’t feel good don’t brother me.
I won’t write my poem till I’m in my left mind.
Cuba when will you be angelic?
When will you take off your uniform?
When will you look at myself through the grave?
When will you be worthy of your million Castroists?
Cuba why are your libraries full of totalitarianism? continue reading

Cuba when will you send your eggs to Indianapolis?
I’m sick of your sane demands.
When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my Gross looks?
Cuba after all it is you and I who are perfect not the ex world.
Your Marxism is too much for me.
You made me want to be a serf.
There must be some other way to settle this government.
Batista is in Target I don’t think he’ll come back it’s minister.
Are you being minister or is this some form of practical joke?
I’m trying to come. To the point.
I refuse to give up my obsession.
Cuba still pushing I know what I’m doing.
Cuba the rum blossoms are falling.
I haven’t read the newspapers for months, everyday somebody goes on trial for
migration.
Cuba I feel sentimental about the Bolos.
Cuba I used to be a communist when I was a kid and I’m not sorry.
I smoke Aromas every chance I get.
I sit in my house for days on end and stare at the Raulists in the closet.
When I go to Chinatown I get drunk and never get laid.
My mind is made up there’s going to be transition.
You should have seen me reading Mao.
My psychoagent thinks I’m perfectly tight.
I won’t say the Lord’s Prayer.
I have mystical treasons and Cardinal vibrations.
Cuba I still haven’t told you what you did to Uncle Sam after he came over
from The Obama House.
I’m addressing you.
Are you going to let our emotional life be run by The New York Times?
I’m obsessed by The New York Times.
I read it every week.
Its cover stares at me every time I slink past the corner candystore.
I read it in the basement of the José Martí National Library.
It’s always telling me about responsibility. Businessmen are serious. Movie
producers are serious. Even the exile is serious but me.
It occurs to me that I am Cuba.
I am talking to myself again.

Original in English

27 January 2015

OLPL at Americas Society (NYC), 5 March 2015

We passed the book from hand to hand. A worn-out volume, despite being a new edition. An edition in Cuba means a foreign edition. As readers in revolutionary Cuba, we suffered from the oxygenating syndrome of xenophillia.

The title was “Less Than One.” The author, an exiled Soviet dissident. In the early 90s this mixture sounded perfect for us. To be an author, to become a dissident, to commit exile.

We worshiped every word of Joseph Brodsky, literally and literarily. We memorized sentences as we copied them by hand, with those remaining huge and hideous pencils imported by the ton to the Island from the Cold War Era.

“The real history of consciousness starts with one’s first lie.” But we were spontaneously sincere continue reading

in the naïve nightmare of our unconsciousness. Dear and dreadful daylight dreamers.

“As failure goes, attempting to recall the past is like trying to grasp the meaning of existence.” “The more one remembers, the closer perhaps one is to dying.” But we hadn’t failed in anything at all. And life, like literature, was elsewhere and still waiting to be written, both floating in a totalitarian perfect present tense, with little meaning to grasp and less memory to recall.

In the palindromic 1991, immortality was a common place taken for granted, as we dwelled not in Havana, but in city of books smuggled from abroad, while the so-called Special Period in Time of Peace was being dramatized by our omniscient omnipotent narrator, Fidel. No last name required after such an intimate and intimidating F, because calling him Castro was considered a first symptom of dissent. And dissent begets disaster in our proletarian’s paradise.

“There isn’t an executioner who isn’t scared of turning victim one day, nor is there the sorriest victim who would not acknowledge a mental ability to become an executioner.” “That is the ultimate triumph of the system: whether you beat it or join it, you feel equally guilty.” But none of us knew any executioner or victim back then, being both ourselves without yet noticing it.

The absence of all magnitude or quantity. The quality of a point of departure in reckoning, from which the graduation of every scale begins. The one and only whole entity between minus 1 and 1. Less than 1, more than minus 1. Not positive but still not negative, still useful as a “place-holder” to write all the other numerals. A closed cycle of zero revolutions per minute. A void paradoxically not devoid but full of properties. An unnatural number that had to be invented by the human mind, so that, as humanity itself, anything multiplied by it becomes it, including authors, dissidents, exiles.

Their years 2000s were soon to be our years zero. Arid arithmetic for a literarid field. Playing to be marginal squatters, positioning ourselves among sequestered cultural institutions that left zero space beyond duty and discipline, not even for delusion —not to mention disappointment— we were just amateurs in an asphyxiating atmosphere, where the State monopoly occupied every channel of information, creativity, criticism, distribution and legitimation. For Cuban intellectuals, these are the real Five Heroes of our time: the impossibility to break free and the urge to find a way out.

We arrived late to Cuban literature, to Cuban history, to Cuban socialism, to the Cuban Revolution. We arrived late to acquainting Fidel with Truth, to holding him accountable. Not to be the audience of his monologues any longer, but his surviving witnesses that through fiction will force him to dialogue. We stole a piece of his despotic pie to imagine by ourselves another Island in our image and likeness: the barbarity of books versus the orality of horror. We pretended to be fake foreigners in a hyper-realistic minefield, tantalizing the tiger’s teeth with our insulting innocence.

To narrate an obsolescent Fidel was an obscene obsession for our generation of zeros. After decadent decades of imposing the term “worms” in the official speech against the Cuban people, as authors we approached the delicate and dangerous beauty of “the chance meeting on a dissecting-table of a machine-gun and Fidel.” Fetus or fossil, feast or funeral, among other fundamentalist F’s, we just typed. We tried, we were tried. Then, we were trapped. Then, trialed.

We developed an interest in bodies, in hidden desires under the hopeless green uniforms, in love and lust despite the Cuban faraway military interventions renamed as “worker’s internationalism.” We despised the rule of law understood as the rule of loyalty. From dynamization to dynamite. From the reasonable to the treasonable. From tradition to the untranslatable. From vocabulary to a kind of unkind vocubalary. From literature to limiterature. We were prone to pay the price and then, of course, to prevail in silence.

Mute and mutants as only zeros know how.

Generations, of course, do not exist. The 11 outlaws included in CUBA IN SPLINTERS (an anthology of O/R Books, New York 2014, translated by Hillary Gulley), behave like professionals of provocation, textrrorists between apathy and aphasia, focusing on the black holes of literature, history, socialism, revolution, fidel —the Five Heroes of our writing— digging into the uncomfortable and the unpleasant, cannibalizing our cultural cannon, perverting all political perceptions not to épater le bourgeois but épater le proletaire.

Quod scripsi, is crisis.

The communicating vessels between these short-stories are not bridges, but short-circuits: tensions among fictions must produce friction and fractions of fertile sense and nonsense, a bit of idiocy after so much ideology, from the Berlin Wall to the Bloody Jaws of the Florida Strait, from Fidel’s bodyguards to sex for sale at a tetric train station; snob Buddhism and stunt zombies; smoke of cannabis cubensis so our mind can emigrate north beyond the Castrophobic line of the horizon; Habaniroshima, mon amour: remake and collage, cut-up and remix, plagiarism taken to the paroxysm, the newrrative of the portrait of a family that never was but still is.

Zerotomy. Metastazero. Soulcialist sickstem.

Today the new markets expect the New Man to quit being a soldier and become a salesman. Bring down the wall, open up the wallet. But what was good for Americans since the 18th century is still not good enough for Cubans in the 21st century: second class citizens, having waited so long, democracy now, like heaven, can wait —a racism conceived by US academicians in their search of their lost Latin American left.

An extreme experience might be exhausting, but the humblest Cuban now has a weird wisdom that top public figures in the US lack, for we have seen things that you American people wouldn’t believe. Not like tears in the rain, but like tears in the ruins. So, let it read. Let it rip our clowntry in as many unsuspected splinters as feasible. Nuclear fission, nuisance fiction. Cubansummatum est.

Please purchase the paper or digital edition of the anthology here.

Original in English by Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

6 March 2015

1991 / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Orlando, 2nd from right, and his mother María, far right, with two friends.

We started university. It was Havana 1991.

One afternoon we went to sit in the stands at the university stadium. We had no desire to remain in the classroom.

At times we knew biochemistry as science-fiction, in a Biology Department where there wasn’t even distilled water.

Professors and students deserted en masse, when they could get any kind of little scholarship to study abroad. Those of us left behind, they expelled us as soon as we dared to voice an opinion. The climate was one of immeasurable cruelty. I was never sadder than when I was a Cuban student, poor and happy and with the permanent look of our indolence before so much pain. For me Castroism is this. A wasteland where healthcare and education are free, but human life is continue reading

not given.

That afternoon we passed through the Calixto Garcia Hospital. When we passed the emergency room a gentleman approached me. Not the group, but he came straight to me. He was wearing a suit and tie in the summer of that Cuba in the midst of the Special Period. He grabbed me by both arms and said,

“How old are you?”

My friends reacted somewhat violently. Including my girlfriend of the time. Girlfriends are always girlfriends of the time.

They separated him from me.

But I had seen something in that sudden scene. I went to where the group had pushed the gentleman. I grabbed him by his arms.

“I’m 19,” and even gave him some more details, “I’ll be 20 in December.”

The he hugged me. Strong, deep, feeling. He smelled too strong, deep, feeling. And broke into tears on my shoulder. On my collar, my neck, on my hair which had started to look long at the beginning of the decade and the end of the millennium.

“I knew it, your same age,” he said with a voice cracked with tears. “And it almost killed me inside. I just left him dead on the same stretcher in which we brought him yesterday. Go and ask his forgiveness for me. I don’t want my son to know that his father had to see him like this.”

And he released me as abruptly as he had come.

And started walking toward the Philology Department, an oasis of Ficus or laurels or whatever they call those trees that preceded and will survive the Revolution.

I can barely remember wow the exact works of that dialog. But this final phrase was syllable by syllable, this:

I don’t want my son to know that his father had to see him like this.

Nor do I.

I don’t want Cuba to know that we had to see her like this. Horrible, hateful, hypocritical, hollow.

I left. We left.

That afternoon we didn’t go to the university stadium.

That afternoon the friends and girlfriends of that time, in that band of barbaric biochemists, we each went to our own homes to never return to our country.

For some if took us almost a quarter of a century, as in my case. Others didn’t even graduate from the university, to simplify the paperwork and the harsh bribes. Most ended up “betraying” the country as soon as the country “located” them in a high technology center of the Council of State, from where they could travel to a meeting in Europe or the USA.

We disbanded as a group. As fellow travelers of our biographies and our hearts.

I and my girlfriend (in that order) went to the nearest Route 23 bus stop, in a deserted park at 25th and N. I gave her a big kiss on the lips. I loved her so much. But it was, of course, a kiss of farewell.

I decided to return to the hospital. I went for the dead son of the gentleman in suit and tie, who recognized me as his I-don’t-know-what in the midst of a tragedy as personal as it is collective. I always return for the death of my loved ones.

In the emergency room, with the filth of the police and the beggars, with its students caught between ignorance and incivility, there was no longer any dead son on any stretcher. For other reasons, I never again saw my girlfriend of that time. Nor our Cuba of that time.

Today the climate remains one of immeasurable cruelty. The sadness didn’t let us save ourselves from totalitarianism. We are, each one of us, the Castro regime itself. And especially now, when hope is a poor and happy whore, paid by the exiled dance of millions, those who erased death by death the memory of our indolence faced with so much pain.

12 February 2015

Book Fair or Fidel of the Books / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

CENSORSHIP WITHOUT CENSORING

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

2003 was a deadly year for Cuba. In March, the government declared an open war on the citizens. In less than a few hours, the Police arrested over a hundred peaceful dissidents and independent journalists from all across the island. Although the international press nicknamed the most notable of the arrested men and women as the “Group of 75”, there were many others who had been repressed months before (and also after) the event that has come to be known as the “Black Spring”.

Jorge Alberto Aguiar Diaz was 36 at that time and was selling books in the Centro Habana district. He had an honourable amount of books and as a post-Deleuzian idealist, he offered free literary workshops, which he called “labs”, or “clinics of writing”. He was known as JAAD (the acronym of his name) and had a large, enthusiastic fan club, to which I also belonged. We were his audience and we sometimes seemed to look at him as a kind of a generational guru. And he was one, in fact: it was as if he were a cross-breed of Charles Bukowski and Roberto Arlt, embodying the angry desires of the former with the neurotic touch of the latter.

OLPL & JAAD

I was his favourite pupil (or perhaps, the bad one). In fact, JAAD’s words gave us freedom within the increasingly prison-like, funereal atmosphere of Havana. JAAD wrote opinion columns for the dissident newspaper agency known as Decoro. That’s why his home was frequently visited by the State Security. There were always two of them, those secret little agents continue reading

in plain clothes, coming on a single Suzuki motorcycle. One of such visitors was the brother of a poetess exiled in the USA, who has recently become an academician. JAAD recognized him but preferred not to say anything (and I prefer to do the same now, for the very same reason).

At another battlefront, Iroel Sanchez, president of the Cuban Book Institute, was sitting on his Taliban throne. In 2001, JAAD won a short story award in the “Premio de Pinos Nuevos” literary contest with his book entitled “Adios a las almas” (Farewell to Souls). A part of the award was the publication of the book by the “Letras Cubanas” publishing house and indeed, the book came to be published in 2002. Apparently, the censorship in Cuba was gradually becoming skilled in the art of circumventing scandals, averting collateral damage and avoiding making more martyrs.

Yet, JAAD began to be subject to hidden pressures and blackmailing, both from the Ministry of the Interior (Political Police sponsored by the Castro clan) and from the Ministry of Culture (literary sergeants paid by Abel Prieto and Miguel Barnet). After all, “Adios a las almas” was introduced at the International Book Fair of Havana and it seemed that it started circulating. The book immediately became a best-seller, which was both unexpected and suspicious, considering the fact that there had been no official promotion campaign. In just a few weeks, the thousand copies that had been published disappeared from the shelves of Havana book stores and nobody heard about the book’s sales volumes any more. Ahem…

JAAD’s friends congratulated the author on his success, but he didn’t celebrate. He had an intuition, which later proved prophetic. The thing is, State Security always carries out its operations in the realm of the invisible. It never shows its face. That’s the sinister essence of any left-wing dictatorship. Also, JAAD couldn’t forget how much he was pressed to stop publishing his critical pieces as a member of the Decoro group on the CubaNet website.

In 2004, after more than a few warnings and threats, he got a permission to travel to Spain on account of his being married to a Spanish woman. Before that he had been warned that he could be put to prison with the members of the Group of 75 on a charge of enemy propaganda. He had also been told that something unpleasant could happen to his closest family, including his daughter. The government wanted to get rid of his presence in Cuba and in the end, they succeeded.

Several hours before he was to board the plane, he got an anonymous phone call: “Come immediately to this address. Bring money. It’s in your interest.”

JAAD, book and adventure trafficker, couldn’t resist the temptation ant went there. I’m his witness.

When he got to the address, he found a book distribution warehouse of a company belonging to the State book empire run by Iroel Sanchez. The man who was waiting for him was an old acquaintance of his from the Centro Havana district. He told JAAD: “You’d better sit down or you’ll fall back.” (Actually, that’s just my bad, self-censored transcription of what he really said, which was: “…you’ll shit yourself with shock.”)

They entered the warehouse and in one of its large naves there were several metal containers, one of them padlocked. The boy took out a bunch of keys, chose one as if at random and opened the padlock. What JAAD saw inside was a kind of aleph – as if the whole, unique universe were condensed in a few square meters of the most populated neighbourhood of Havana.

Actually, the belly of the padlocked container was filled with an intact edition of the book “Adios a las almas”. The books were not only intact, they hadn’t even been released to the public. In fact, the storybook was published only formally, to fool the public and it was withdrawn from circulation. That was the reason why the government spread rumours that “Adios a las almas” had become a best-seller and soon sold out.

The boy had strict orders to sort the books out with “damaged books” and turn them to pulp for recycling. What a perverse kind of palimpsest, what a crooked demonstration of tropical despotism of an obsolete regime, which despises any form of free Cuban culture. The boy had been postponing his destructive task on the books for quite some time, but it was not for sympathy with the author. His hesitation had purely financial motives. I bet the boy had surely traded even with his soul, selling it to Death.

Now, this boy, this employee of Iroel Sanchez, asked JAAD for a dollar for each copy of the book he wanted to save. A difficult dilemma for a writer, indeed. How many books of his own could he save and how many can he bear to see crushed, without being able to do anything?

JAAD had saved a few euros for his journey – the currency was quite new in the island at that time, you wouldn’t see it very often. So he bought almost half a thousand copies and paid the boy about 300 euros in total. He put the books in a box and carried them away to his flat on the second floor at the corner of San Miguel and Escobar streets.

He hardly managed to find a taxi and get to the airport on time. In Madrid airport, his recent wife was awaiting him (they aren’t married any more). JAAD had left half of the copies of his only book (it still is), the worst-seller entitled “Adios a las almas”, in Havana. It seems that JAAD has always been between two waters, as if he were a Christ of totalitarian scams. Caught between carnal passion and passion for literature.

On the one hand there was the mendacious State ready to do something wicked, spending Cuban people’s money on a futile endeavour of printing and recycling “questionable” books, without even bothering to present them to readers. On the other hand there was the pleasure as a substitute of death and life in the truth: escaping from fossilized Fidel and pretending to be an intellectual, far away from the raw material he was made of – Havana.

Almost nobody in the world knows how the Cuban State recycles published books without even releasing them. I’d like to warn all famous Cuban writers not to be so confident about the sales of their books in the island. Leonardo Padura and Pedro Juan Gutierrez, for instance, may also have been censored without censoring.

A decadent decade later, JAAD is still living in Spain, displaced and abandoned by the State and by God, suffering 1959 misfortunes without complaining. The storybook “Adios a las almas” is a rare and valuable thing that almost nobody has had the luck to get hold of. Hopefully we, Cuban readers both inside and outside Cuba, will bear in mind to save this author before it is too late. One euro per book will do.

14 February 2015

OLPL in “A New U.S.-Cuba Policy: Did Cuba Win?”


Fifty-plus years of US diplomatic stalemate and economic sanctions have failed to bring freedom to the Cuban people because they were not designed to bring freedom to the Cuban people, but to penalize a regime that started by sequestering Cuban sovereignty by violent and anti-democratic procedures (reestablishment of death penalty, radical hatred speech, citizen apartheid), by the illegalization of civil society and all forms of property (both private and public, including the press), and by tyrannizing every institutional power into a despotic State, plus the militarization of the nation to the point of demanding a nuclear attack against the United States from Cuban territory.

The 50-plus years to come of US diplomatic relations and capitalist engagement with Cuba can neither guarantee the advance of fundamental freedoms in my country, nor our liberation from the successive Castro generations, because a market economy is not a redemptive formula and it has already been implemented by authoritarian systems as a tool for tyrannical control of all basic rights. And this is a wicked word that President Obama, Pope Francis and General Castro have secretly agreed to postpone: the rights of the Cuban people. continue reading

As the pro-democracy leader Oswaldo Payá stated many times until he was extrajudicially executed in Cuba on July 22nd 2012: Why not the recognition of all our rights now? What is good for Americans since the 18th century is still not good enough for Cubans in the 21st century?

Is this about US interference, as in the hegemonic past times when the capitol of DC was the capital of the continent? Or this is only about insulting the intellectual capacity of my people, wise enough to escape in a pedestrian’s plebiscite in search for a real “normalization” of their lives far from an abnormal socialism?

Democracies seem guilty of their duty to foster democracy worldwide, but Castroism has been more than proud to Castrify democratic countries (Venezuela is the most tragic example today), as the recently liberated 5 Cuban spies in US have declared when ordered as National Heroes back on the Island: we are ready to commit our crimes again if we are ordered to do so. Sic semper tyrannis.

Why not the effective solidarity and the pressure of the international community, so that the legal claims that have already mobilized tens of thousands of Cubans be respected by our non-elected authorities? Why not take advantage of these US-Cuba negotiations to seat in the same table the historical gerontocracy with the alternative civil leaders, after we have risked so much to conquer freedom of speech and to raise awareness on human rights violations and the anthropological damage in Cuba?

In moral terms, the unpopularity of US policies given the popularity of the Cuban Revolution worldwide should be less important than the unpopularity of the retrograde regime within the Island, if a true transition is to take place in Cuba today. Unless, of course, advancing American interests in the Western Hemisphere now means advancing American interests in Western Union.

Did Cuba win?

Cuba cannot win because perpetuation in power is always a failure and the best approach to endure a fossil past, despite the faith in the future expressed by Nancy Pelosi, as the US executive branch enforces resolution after resolution, involving exclusively those congressmen and NGOs and think-tanks and press magnates and corporations’ tycoons that hurry to shake Raul Castro’s hand without asking him a single uncomfortable question, thus legitimizing he who abolished the Cuban Congress and Cuban Chamber of Commerce and Cuban think-tanks and Cuban NGOs, as well as the exercise of free press. By the way, convenient Cuban dissidents are also called into play, not for the rule of law, but for the rule of loyalty.

The rationale seems to be that, as it is impossible to hold the Cuban government accountable, the appeasement of the dictatorship into a dictatorcracy is now the lesser evil, mentioning “Cuban civil society” only for political correctness in presidential speeches, while in fact excluding us from the new status quo.

I am not sure about “what everybody needs to know about Cuba” (as in Julia Sweig’s book) but I am certain of what nobody dares to know about Cuba. Milan Kundera, maybe the best of Cuban novelists who is a Czech who writes in French and lives in Switzerland (a perfect mixture for freedom), knew that “the old dead make way for the young dead” for “the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting”.

Therefore, even if this is a small step for democracy, it’s also a giant leap against independency. And decency. The Cuban policy of the US is the ironic victory of The End of History: from our War against Spain to the anti-Imperialist Revolution, the growing “Common Marketization” of international relations is what really counts.

That’s why for the first time in the history of our hemiplegic hemisphere it’s paradoxically in a Communist country where the cry of “Yankees, come home” echoes. In fact, you are more than welcome to try to fool our terminal tyrant with US dollars. But having dwelt in the entrails of said terminal tyranny during never-ending decades, my only remaining resistance is a sour skepticism to soothe our soul.

(Original in English)

Music After The Death of Fidel / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

A ROSE IN YOUR HAIR PERISHES

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

There aren’t enough of the stupid-ass songs. Because those same songs, the ones we joked stupid-assedly about in our rage-filled adolescence, are now the only thing left that allows us to know what we were, what we are, what we will be.

With those songs, we can forget about everything and everybody. It seems like we have it all if we have them, these jingles from our bad memory. And then we don’t feel that malady we carry that weighs us down, that ruins this life we have and can’t live.  Much less do confront destiny, that deviation that destabilizes us from despotism to despotism, and from corpse to corpse, without their ever sparking in our breast that semi-magical, semi-mendacious flame of love continue reading

, always so hesitant.

A rose in your hair would be redundant. Not stars in the sky nor medals hanging from the neck would give off more light than that which illumines the nights on our long trek — which in the wind seems the accent of a musical voice sounding at the least movement of our body as we walk. This is the danger of rheumatic rhymes. They entwine themselves ridiculously around our heart until one day we realize that our blood pump is no more than that: a mortal wound that we endeavor to heal until now all we know is what we were not, what we are not, and what we will not be.

Today the YouTube dawn of the United States is tenuous, tender and so troubled that it knocks us down.  In that word millions and millions of us Cubans will perish here. Into a countryless grave we will enter without peace a number much greater than the statistics of the Island and of Exile, because each one will die multiple times the death of his memories, but without ever coming across Eternity.

Archaeology in the United States is also a digital discovery. We click on sound tunnels that hardly fit into the interactivity of an internet navigator. They and we are hollow echoes, echoes of bones. We reproduce those miracles of bits and their intact state of preservation is incredible after having been abandoned so long after the stampede. In our escape we have spinelessly left behind the music, fossilized notes confiscated by the dictator’s delirious marshalls and his hymns at the level of history (the level history).

However, it was not the Tyrant of Pentagrams, but rather ourselves, the ones without history, who sacrificed the sonorous band of our biographies under the resentful boot of the Revolution. This is why God, who supposedly was mysterious music for the sicknesses of the soul, such as love, took revenge on us by inflicting an atrocious amnesia, with an emotional arrhythmia that makes us cry like stupid-asses at the first chords of decrepit songs from our other life.

The United States, for Cubans, are the silent states of the spirit of that other nation, so stuffed with bad verses, dreadful versifiers, decadent melodies, as is right for a real life that has made us more implausible with each new performance of those fossilized clips recorded in another Cuba just a few decades ago.

Exile is this: the betrayal of the eardrum. Totalitarianism never dreamed of converting us to socialism, but rather to deafness. He who does not hear gives his consent by not speaking. And the more we desire it amidst the decency of any country lost in common, the less we hear ourselves now among Cubans.

Oh, Love, a rose in your hair doesn’t even know what it looks like.

Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison

12 January 2015

Alan GGross / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

The Silence of Alan Gross

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

We live not in the civilization of media, but of the mediocre. And from there directly we inhabit the miserable.

Cubans desperately need witnesses to our tragedy. In the absence of politicians on the Island, we pin our hopes on any alternative voice: bloggers, musicians, graffiti artists, performers, etc.

Just recently a supposed North American hostage has been released. Alan Gross completed his role in the democratic-totalitarian theater of legitimization of the Castro dictatorship. He is now free, but he remains stuck in the labyrinth of his lawyers and the six-figure compensation with which they have invited him to recuperate and remain reticent. In the United States, he will not for one moment stop being a true hostage. continue reading

Cubans therefore ask why Alan Gross does not speak to us. Does he not feel shame for his irresponsibility towards our nation? He has not asked for forgiveness–that is, if he were to consider himself guilty. Nor has he accused his olive-green tormentors who, according to him, drove him to the point of suicide and stole five of the possibly fewer years of life he will now enjoy in liberty.

Alan Gross was another of our sterile hopes for drawing attention to the criminal cruelty that hangs over every Cuban. But he has come out–along with his unhinged gaze–determined not to expend even one drop of saliva on the Revolution. He is the “sixth hero”* of this complicit comedy of trade and trickery. And he has no problem with the G-2.

Thus is perpetuated the impunity of the 56-year-old regime imposed upon Cuba by a gerontocracy and by millions of North Americans–and soon, by the “millions” of the North Americans. Except for the Cubans–including the agents of influence and the spies–socialism is loved in America. This is consummate statistics. And the month of muteness of Alan Gross is one of its most sensational symptoms.

Why does he keep silent, and what is he silencing, our USAID contractor in Havana? How was his trial behind closed doors? Was he tortured physically and verbally?   What are the repressive buildings like inside, where he was disappeared even from his biography? With whom would Alan Gross speak in Cuba, and what did he know of the world during his time on the scaffold in unreal time? While in Cuba was he threatened with death or the death of his family if he did not cooperate? And, now, in the United States, what is the retaining wall that keeps him betraying us, while saving the very regime that destroyed him?

The meat grinder will not cease even when the Castro regime falls. There is no justice that can withstand such violence and vileness which were inculcated in us, between paternalism and panic. The world will never be as scared of the Castros as we are, their executors who in turn will be executed. Among the people there are too many Alan Grosses.

*Translator’s Note: The five Cuban spies who were serving prison terms in the US and were released in December, 2014, are labeled in Cuban government propaganda as “The Five Heroes.”

Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison

13 January 2015

Sunday: Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo at Northwestern University for a Free Cuba, Damn It!

"Get out of Cuba TYRANT" / This island is MINE"

Tempting the Cuban Transition

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

FOLLOW THIS EVENT ONLINE HERE and HERE

Since December 17th, when President Obama and General Raul Castro performed their simultaneous speeches, many Americans insist on congratulating me. I wonder why no Cuban has congratulated me so far, and why I still haven’t congratulated any other Cuban, whether in favor or against the US embargo against our country, whether on the Island or in exile.

I always respond to my foreign colleagues with a twisted-smiling emoticon. As a writer, I’m aware that language is not enough when feelings and facts seem altogether indistinguishable.

Let’s try now an answer from the viewpoint of digital dissidence, from the initial skepticism about the Cuban alternative blogosphere to the enthusiasm of today about the achievements of cyber-activists on the Island. So that tomorrow’s disappointment doesn’t take us by surprise. continue reading

Let me start by recalling that many people think that Cubans have already waited for democracy for so long, that we could wait for just a little longer. President Obama, with his historical speech for the “normalization” of US-Cuba relations, is also legitimizing a non-normal government that has never consulted my people about our rights to live in truth and liberty.

Obama’s military counterpart, Raul Castro, successor by blood of his brother Fidel, didn’t grant a single demand of our civil society, recently best represented through peaceful cyber-activism. The octogenarian made obvious that communism with the surplus value of State capitalism was the model to be imposed to all Cubans, whose civic leaders were left out during the secret negotiations between power elites. If many pro-democracy activists feel betrayed it is because blogging on the Island was struggling precisely for citizens’ voices to be taken into account, and to hold accountable our personalistic regime. But transparency, like heaven, can wait.

Rafael Rojas, a renowned Cuban essayist summarizes this in his book The Art of Waiting. Oswaldo Payá, founder of the Christian Liberation Movement on the island, called this self-transition a Fraudulent Change. Rojas is forbidden to live in his country. Payá, who collected more than 25,000 signatures in order to constitutionally democratize our society, like Polish priest Popiełuszko in the mid-80s, was assassinated in July 2012 after a car crash provoked by the secret police.

The Obama administration is not willing to mention deadly details like this in his New Deal with Cuba, designed so that the Revolution mutates in the Chinese way from dictatorship to dictatocracy. The White House seeks to make profits before other competing nations invest in the Island, as well as to prevent social unrest that could end in a migratory stampede towards South Florida. Since 1959, the Castros have always been using such a “human missile” crisis to negotiate with the US.

The struggle of civil resistance in Cuba is as long as the Revolution itself, which has abolished all kind of dissent. That’s why our nation is split apart, with 20% of our population residing elsewhere, in a kind of pedestrian’s plebiscite in which we Cubans say farewell to our proletarian paradise.

During the last years a small group of critical bloggers have been reporting insights behind the Cuban Curtain, most of them available at the websites VocesCubanas.com, HavanaTimes.org, and translated to English by the volunteer project TranslatingCuba.com.

Several of these independent communicators, like Yoani Sanchez —the blogger of Generation Y— have received international awards and, after the migratory reform that abolished the exit permit that turned all Cubans into hostages, many have been invited to forums that empower our impact on global public opinion, making more visible the cause of denouncing human rights violations, but also raising awareness about the complexities of day-to-day life in such a closed society, where marginalization and corruption have replaced ideology by inertia, discipline by deception, and ethics by extortion, with an anthropological damage that it will take generations to heal.

Cuban bloggers are usually not members of any opposition organizations, all of which are illegal under the rule of one political party, one press, one worker’s union, one non independent judicial and legislative system. But bloggers have helped many opposition leaders and political prisoners to reshape their communication strategy, by teaching them —in independent projects like the Blogger Academy and Festival Click— how to use social networks under the restrictive conditions of Cuba; a country that still offers no public internet service, despite the fiber optic cable that connects us with Venezuela. Although Obama has offered to let American communication companies to provide internet to the Island, Castro has declined because of national security concerns. So we are still waiting for the lifting of this other embargo of the Cuban government against the Cuban people.

Besides censorship, interrogations, threats, public repudiation, arrests, and job dismissal against independent bloggers, the Ministry of the Interior has created an official blogosphere that now outnumbers the critical voices of Cuban cyberspace. They connect to the internet in their workplaces and mainly from the infamous University of Information Sciences, where the ironically-called Operation Truth searches the web to counteract any inconvenient tendency, by distorting forums and even by digital bullying. Thus, the belligerency of the Revolution has been copy-and-pasted into the virtual space. This is why Cuba is rated as an “internet predator” by the NGOs committed to freedom of expression, like Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Given this harassment, some Cuban bloggers have ceased posting in their websites so as not to bring more difficulties to their family life. Others still publish but prefer not to be involved in confrontational events, like the photo-documentary contest “Pixel Country” or the filmed community debates “Estado de Sats” . Still others have committed exile . The majority of this civil minority keeps on organizing new initiatives like the free-lance 14yMedio.com for citizen journalism. The more fragile we become, the greater our certainty that we owe a more inclusive society to future generations. But without international solidarity we are helpless . The time to stop 21st century totalitarianisms is none other than today.

Castroism, with its dynastic style, is trying not to disappear with the original Castros and a 2.0 generation is already in position: Mariela Castro (now Deputy in the National Assembly) and Alejandro Castro (a high-ranked intelligence officer: our tropical version of Vladimir Putin). The successful marketing campaign of The Cuban Revolution is being reloaded. For example, questioning the Cuban establishment in US academies, sometimes is considered as non-progressive . At the same time, official bloggers are being authorized by the government to get training and fellowships in America, and then go back to Cuba as think tanks of our status quo.

The US Chamber of Commerce and Cuban American millionaires are eager not to be excluded from the investment schedule, despite that foreign companies can only pay their workers through monopolistic State enterprises, which retain most of their salaries. While Cuban army professionals are mutating from military to managers, in order to run our half-Marxist and half-market economy.

I’m not the spokesperson  of disenchantment, since I still trust in a Cuba with respect for universal values like life, mercy, beauty, truth and liberty —the most natural and yet so difficult to attain in times of tyranny. The responsibility of every free man and woman of the world is to stand with the Cuban people who deserve not to wait any longer for our free nation.

Look at Me, Miami and, If You Value Your Death, Don’t Cry / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Alan Gross, like every North American who comes in contact with the Castro regime and defends it even from within a captivity of little lies — attacking his own government with million-dollar demands — is a bad man. Gross’s little suicide threats, his lack of solidarity with Cubans in exile and civil society on the Island, his backward religiosity of psalms and miracle-mongering, his complicit silence as to the assassinations committed by the Castro regime while he was supposedly in prison, his lawyer subsidized by Havana, his support of the lifting of an embargo that had not appeared to be his concern when he was contracted by USAID, his servile flattery of President Obama, his admiring loyalty to the sacrosanct balls of Raúl, his suspicious loss of dentition at the record pace of one tooth per year, his (and his wife’s) insipid leftist pose, in short, what a fossil, what fealty, what Submerged States of Fidelity…

Meanwhile, the triumphal return to the Island of the 5 deadly spies, with their muscles worthy of hand-to-hand combat, their vacant stares of those who know themselves to be puppets of a dismal power that can pulverize them at any time, with their exaggerated dentitions, surrounded by a people who for decades have not been even plebes, a perverse and impoverished populace, terrified in their fear that swings from meanness to mediocrity, jabbering with the neighbors in a language that we free Cubans do not know because it is a jargon of the stable, of the State.

My Fellow Cubans, let us not kid ourselves. The stupidity of our country can be reined-in by taking advantage of this umpteenth criminal juncture in our history. We will never live in liberty. The Earth is cursed against our volatile beauty. The race that inhabits the Island is infected and cannot be decontaminated. The lucid ones, the virtuous ones, escape without ever looking over their shoulders, or else they will pay the brave price of being martyrs killed in cold blood, like the holy souls Laura Pollán and Oswaldo Payá. continue reading

The stampede cannot be stopped now in Miami. It is too late for us to remain so close to evil. We must run away, further and further to the north of the world. Throughout generations upon generations, the Castroites have become millionaires in South Florida. Castroism is the factual and media-conscious law in the Cuban exile community. It is the majority. The Cuban-American sensibility in itself is an insular invention: with that nostalgia bent-over and submissive to a frigid Fidelism, with that vernacular that sounds taken out of Google Talk, with those gold trinkets of 19.59 carats and eyebrows groomed to delirium. Please.

The legislators of Florida count for nothing. What does rule is the corrupting power of the mafias that Fidel has institutionalized in Miami, from the church to the academy, from the marinas to the slaughterhouses, from the swamp to the cane field, from the airport to its horrendous museums and mausoleums, with their fairs and their colleges and their constant kitsch, from the restaurants to the Revolution itself.

Miami has made its best effort, but today Miami is millions of Alan Grosses and Five Heroes. Forget all that about them being spies, My Brothers and Sisters. Miami is the pure heroism of unpunished horror. The Battle of Florida was lost. Not even Castro won. Miami won, which reproduced and grounded a kind of Castroism little by little during decadent decades. Take a look in the malls, My Poor People–take those little checkered shirts that are sold in bulk off their hangers. You’ll see the labels of Cuban State Security, My Poor Love. The tackiness and the vulgarity. It’s the dirty trick somewhere between magic and secretiveness. As in Cuba, there is not even one word said by Cubans that isn’t false. Castroism is that: the outer shell of Cubanness, its disposability, its hahaha.

My Fellow Cubans, it is time to recognize that not only do we not want changes in our nation, but that we abundantly want to never again have a nation. The experience of having been subjects of the Kingdom of Death is irreparable. Now we will all die very alone, somnolent in a peevish rhetoric that debases us. We deserve to remain dead for the rest of our lifeless biographies.

Nobody is sadder than we. Nobody is more “We” than I.

Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison

18 December 2014

The MTA Story / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

*STAND CLEAR OF THE CLOSING DOORS PLEASE.*

*Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo*
1 April 2013

Recurring dreams, dreams in the electrical night of the third rail when the moon is a cutout on New York’s clouds of smoke. Cloud-tunnels of Elizabeth Bishop. Cloud-graffiti of Rene Magritte.

I have dreamed them, daily.

I drop a couple of hours before dawn and dream recurring dreams of a Havana perforated by a maze of subways. Shelters. War of the whole people. Zero option, reconcentration. City hole, nobody is going to survive the system: this the socialist slogan of the assassins. Psycho killers.

National nightmares made of a Gruyère insomnia.

To dream is that. Short circuits. Crossed cables, like those floating supports of the bridges of this miraculous chip called Manhattan. continue reading

I spent 40 years in Manhattan. But once, decades ago, on another long island where death wasn’t even a month old, men in green-surgical uniforms began to dig the metro catacombs of my city.

It was an order that came down directly from the Kremlin (for decades Cuba was the 16th republic annexed to the USSR). Only thus might Havana finally have the dream of a subway. And station number zero would be, of course, in the basement of the Plaza of the Revolution.

From that heart of marble and memory the furrows of propaganda would leave the heart, as well as the earthworms dying from the blast of neons and train whistles (the worms are deaf and blind but have a disproportionate political sensibility).

I was a teenager (if you have been a teenager once, you will be one forever). I had all my teeth intact. I also had intact all my desperation. The idea of a life underground attracted and panicked me.

Hence, perhaps, the circular dreams, sitting near the emergency doors and the guide map. *You are here…*

I dream of changing lines at each stop. Lines with letters and colors. It’s like a child’s game (they are very macabre). The trains fly over the rails, weightless despite their human cargo. There are loudspeakers and an exhaustive signalling, that exhausts. It must be very late already. But to wake up now would be to ask the driver snoozing with God.

The doors open and close in half a second, like hysterical eyelids, like puffs of air from a freedom sewer, like the guillotine of a photographic camera. Within and outside the same light. A cold light of high latitudes with voltage to spare, while I stand up (while still seated) and leave and enter the chain of cars that dissolved in the speed in front of me.

The voice of my father (1919-2000) doesn’t stop lecturing: *Stand clear of the closing doors, please*… and I remember then with pleasure and pain his short Republican English, from some sacred texts with pages of glitter printed in CinemaScope: Life, National Geographic, Reader’s Digest.

As a child I came to think that it was logical to speak and write in Spanish, but that people read exclusively in English. Like my dead father. Like me.

The English that returns to me now in New York is the legacy my father gave to this megalopolis from a corner of Lawton, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Havana, a city on the outskirts of history.

Subsurface citizens ask me for money now in this language and, of course, they look so read playing their guitars and pianos and even batteries, that I give them a dollar and they call me “Sir.” I am more destitute than they are and so I can give myself the luxury of giving them all the cash I carry in the pockets of my US Army overcoat (a family donation from Miami).

I have come from Cuba to New York to dream this infinite succession of images that inevitably make me miss my station. The late night spits me out on the icy pavement. I stumble like a sleepwalker. I hurt down to my gloves. I climb a rocky point of Manhattan. I have no shadow, the light is very weak despite being atrocious; this is to be alone and absolutely not need your pity. In any event I feel sorry for you, because you haven’t heard how the magnanimous rumor of the Hudson doesn’t let me sleep (this sentence drained Marti of all his syllables).

My father even scolds me from the MTA loudspeakers. Stand free of the doors that are about to close, he tells me in archaic English (all language is archaic). My father doesn’t prevent me from having an accident, if by mistake the doors open between the stations. My father tells me that I could be trapped between the cars, immobile, and that I can’t go (he knows that in Cuba accidents are on purpose).

Hence my urge to wake up, in part because of the discipline of the loudspeakers.

1 April 2013

Cubans, damn it! / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Total, infinite pity and shame! The teacher Odali has written Maceo (Antonio Maceo, hero of the Cuban War of Independence) with an “s” on my primary school blackboard, and I started crying. I couldn’t help it. That’s what happened. She wrote “Maseo” with her chalk and I started to cry in the middle of the classroom.

Those times were terrible and loving. The world was blue: Havana was white. My parents were living and that was a permanent certainty. Nobody got ill unless they deserved it. People laughed. Their eyes were shining, perhaps caused by tears. The Revolution still had not become fact. continue reading

I am talking about a house on the outskirts of a city on the outskirts of a country on the outskirts of a history with no outside, a history which is purely internal. Private, intimidating, and insular. There was nothing out in the open.

The week had days which were totally unconnected. Mondays, for example, were miles away from Fridays. April and October never occurred in the same year. Do you know what I’m saying? I am talking about happiness.

The looks on the faces of the dogs I had on my dirt backyard. The odour of resin which oozed out of mangas*, which I always knew were a fruit which had nothing to do with mangos. The smell given off by the tar when the sun beat on the roofs of the houses in Lawton. Neighbourhood buzz. In the US there are one-off sounds, whispers or screams, but no buzz. The counties don’t sound like that. It has something to do with the sea, with the possibility of flooding and flight. Havana sounds like seashells And seashells make that sound because they are echoing the blood circulating round in our heads.

We weren’t bothered about anything. We were immortal. So sensitive. We had marvellous music which was strictly North American. The United States, in the forbidden distance, was the homeland which was waiting for us. It is still waiting for us, far away over there, in an unimaginable memory. Because it would mean less if it were so close. In effect, now, with our US eagle passports in our hands, we are outcasts in all the world. While we seem more free, we are more condemned to float in a slave’s nothingness. We have lost our impossibility.

The sidewalks in Havana were highways. The roots of the almond trees pushed them up. The concrete they used in the fifties had a different density, they laid it with a sense of style and every section had its own personality. I knew that those sidewalks would outlive life on earth.

And then the flamboyants. And the pine trees. They were the first ones to experience the cruelty. They were dying. They cut the pines for two or three decades. The flamboyants fell sick. When the ones in the Parque de la Asunción died, I decided that if I was ever able to leave Cuba, I would never return.

I still walk in Manhattan and I am walking over a map which reflects Havana. Not like Miami, because Miami has no map, it is a whole. In Manhattan every corner has its opposite number in Havana and it’s very easy to work out where you are. Two island cities in two countries which don’t belong to them.

It’s four thirty in the morning in Rhode Island, a mobile island. There’s a new moon which doesn’t let me sleep. I’m sure I am going to spend many days without sleeping from here on out. And then I will fall over, like a pine or flamboyant, exhausted. Laid out.

“Maseo” seems much more human written with an “s” on the blackboard. But no word can make me want to cry. It’s just that I don’t see them as words. I have forgotten the instinctive reflex of reading. It’s all information here, and so you have to read it. Information is innate and it doesn’t speak to you, but to your capital.

We Cubans don’t have contemporaries. We are the only group of people who don’t have any common inclination at all. That’s our salvation. To be an ungroupable group.

I still love them. I still don’t know how to love anyone born in other perfect impersonal groups. This affection is our prison sentence. To keep loving in the Cuban way.

I love you. Do you love me?

*OLPL-provided note for the translation: Manga is a fruit similar to mango, smaller and with a lot of loose thread in its pulp. 

Translated by GH

31 October 2014