State Security Prevents Screening Of Miguel Coyula’s Documentary ‘Nadie’

Note: The video above is not subtitled but the excerpts from Nadie here are subtitled.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 16 April 2017 – Cuba’s State Security and the National Revolutionary Police surrounded the independent gallery El Círculo to prevent this Saturday’s screening of the documentary Nadie (Nobody), directed by Miguel Coyula and featuring the censored poet and writer Rafael Alcides.

The filmmaker and his wife, actress Lynn Cruz, were intercepted by police at the corner of 13th and 10th Streets in Havana’s Vedado district. Starting several hours earlier the agents had closed the street to vehicles and pedestrians, according to a statement made from the location to 14ymedio.

Cruz and Coyula point out that without any reason and with “only a vague argument” the operation was carried out in the area, and the police asked for their IDs and didn’t let them pass. Only “four Spanish diplomats” managed to reach the gallery, according to Lia Villares, curator of El Circulo. continue reading

On 29 January Nadie received the Award for the Best Documentary during its international premier in the Dominican Global Film Festival.

“A group of uniformed men and others in civilian clothes advanced toward us. One of them took out a piece of paper with a list and compared our names with those written there”

“A group of uniformed men and others in civilian clothes advanced toward us. One of them took out a piece of paper with a list and compared our names with those written there,” said Coyula and Cruz describing the moment when the police blocked their access to the site where the documentary was going to be shown.

Cruz also denounced that State Security warned several of the invited guests that the operation was being carried out to “save” them from the “counterrevolutionaries” who had “deceptively” issued invitations to the screening.

“As authors of the work, we denounce the censorship that the government exercises because this time it went beyond the institution,” said Coyula.

“Art is also about the citizen’s right to share and discuss a film. Intellectuals and artists need to take a firm stand and defend their right to perform and display critical works, without compromise, because the attitude that that they take in life ends us being reflected in their work,” he added, speaking to 14ymedio.

Screen shot of the documentary Nadie with Rafael Alcides.

Following the police deployment that prevented access to the gallery, the filmmaker invited several friends to his home where he projected the documentary. Among the guests was Michel Matos, director of Matraka Productions, who is strongly criticized by officialdom.

The Círculo had also announced a Saturday screening of Carlos Lechuga’s film, Santa and Andrés, but the film’s producer, Claudia Calviño, refused to allow the projection and called the gesture an “illegality” saying “this and other activities are outside the traditional marketing framework.”

Lía Villares circulated an email on Sunday in which she defined the “political” character of the gallery that seeks to “promote a culture that continues to be censored despite international awareness and witnesses.” The activist also points out that it is in Cuba that artists have “a moral responsibility to the present and future.”

Rafael Alcides Close Up / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 6 June 2016 — Cuban filmmaker Miguel Coyula participated in the New Media Film Festival of Los Angeles with the seventh chapter of his series Rafael Alcides. The short film was part of a more than two-hour interview with with the well-known poet and writer, addressing topics such as art, beauty and Cuba past and present.

Filmed in Havana, with a minimalist presentation, in this seventh installment the actress Lynn Cruz recites the poem The Stranger, which gives its title to the chapter, in a moving and unadorned interpretation that salvages the lyrical work of an author now silenced in Cuba’s official catalogs and anthologies. continue reading

In the previous installments of the series, Alcides reflects on the relationship between intellectuals and power, the figure of Fidel Castro and the role played by the Cuban people in several events of the last 150 years.

The Stranger is competing in the Web Series category, along with submissions from 37 countries, including Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, France, Germany, Spain, Russia and Vietnam. The festival will take place June 7-9 at Landmark Theatres in Los Angeles and the short, just over two minutes long, is being presented as a world premiere.

The showing in Los Angeles will constitute the premiere of an official exhibition of the series directed, edited and designed by Miguel Coyula, who is also in charge of photography. However, the film has been available for weeks on the filmmaker’s Youtube channel.

During the last Young Filmmakers Exhibition, Coyula was invited to participate in the panel Routes and Routes, Cuban Cinema of the Diaspora in the 21st Century, organized by the researched Zaira Zarza. This panel debated the peculiarities of the diaspora and the formulas to keep alive contacts between “those who leave” and their audience on the island.

In his presentation, Coyula formally introduced the sixth chapter of the series dedicated to Alcides, under the title Capitalism. The filmmaker maintains in these recent creations his particular style of independent and artisanal production, relaying on clean and simple visual effects that build to a striking finale, with his pinpoint accuracy in mixing music, voice and image.

Coyula’s debut in feature films was Red Cockroaches and among his most outstanding productions is Memories of Overdevelopment, which was chosen in 2010 as the Best Cuban Film of that year by the International Film Guide. After several years living in the United States, the filmmaker has returned to live in Havana, where he is filming his third feature film: Blue Heart.

See also:

“I want more movies and fewer laws” / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

Miguel Coyula: All Movies All The Time / Regina Coyula

Resignation Over Censorship / Miguel Coyula

Independent Cinema, Dependent Cinema / Miguel Coyula


Rafael Alcides, Chapter 6: Capitalism in Cuba – Before and After / Miguel Coyula

This video is the 6th in a series of vignettes extracted from a four-hour interview of Rafael Alcides conducted by the filmmaker Miguel Coyula. Below are links to the previous Chapters.

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 1: The Beautiful Things / Miguel Coyula

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 2: Artists and Politicians / Miguel Coyula

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 3: About Beauty / Miguel Coyula

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 4: Once Upon a Time in Biran / Miguel Coyula

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 5: The People / Miguel Coyula

With Regards to the Guantanamo Naval Base / Rafael Alcides

Rafael Alcides, Havana, 2 April 2016 — The government that has ruled us since 1959 insists that the American Naval Base in Cuba’s Guantanamo Province is illegal. Mistake. It is immoral, but not illegal. At a time when the United States did not hide its eye patch and peg leg it took advantage, before leaving the island, of four years of military occupation to get the impoverished Cuban government of the time to cede the 117 square kilometers where the base is located. Arrogant, it demanded a contract “in perpetuity.”

Resorting to sophistry, the authorities of the recently inaugurated Cuban government, after four hundred years of Spanish colonialism and a war lasting thirty years, got them to change the humiliating term “in perpetuity” for another that today would be comical if it didn’t move us to pity the precarious situation of those exhausted liberators. continue reading

Listen for yourself: In the document signed by both governments the territory that houses the Naval Base in held not “in perpetuity,” but for as long as the United States “needs it.”

Cuba, of course, has the duty to reclaim this territory. It is part of the Island. It belongs to it. But they should do so in polite terms, neighbor to neighbor, taking advantage of yesterday’s pirate, who today is, or tries to seem, sustained by democracy, the archetype of man dreamed of by God.

The Cuban government’s acting like a “tough guy,” is ignoring that while governments come and go, the conventions of one state with another state are the commitments of the nation. This is serious.

It would authorize Spain, for one example, to set aside the Treaty of Paris signed on Janaury 1, 1898 any time it wants, and to show up at mouth of El Morro with troops and the king, in person, to resume its former sovereign rights over “the Always Faithful island of Cuba.”

Cuban Poet Rafael Alcides Denied US Visa As “Possible Emigrant” / 14ymedio

The poet Rafael Alcides. (Regina Coyula /
The poet Rafael Alcides. (Regina Coyula /

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 2 March 2016 — The US Embassy in Havana denied the poet Rafael Alcides a visa to travel to Miami, this morning, believing he might be intending to emigrate, as reported by his wife, the blogger Regina Coyula. Alcides had been invited by the Vista Foundation, which organized a tribute to him and to the writer Manual Diaz Martinez, living in Spain; both writers were awarded the Gaston Baquero National Independent Literature Prize this last December.

In a very brief interview, the embassy official who met with Alcides classified him as a possible emigrant because he has a son in the United States and, in consequence, denied the visa. continue reading

“Come back in a year,” the official said at the close of the meeting. The poet has declined to comment on his reaction to what occurred.

Now 82, Alcides was born in Bayamo in 1933 and began his literary career at Cyclone magazine, and is considered one of the greatest Cuban poets of the so-called “50’s Generation.” He has published poetry collections such as Mountain Hymn (1961); Gypsy (1962) and his well-known Wooden Leg (1967). In 1983 his poetry collection Thanked Like a Dog was released, but by that time the author already suffered from the institutional silence that had marked decades of his work, due to his openly critical positions with regards to the Cuban government.

In 1993, he withdrew from all editorial collaboration on the island and subsequently resigned from the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC) in an open letter. In 2011, he won the Café Breton & Bodegas Olarra of Spanish Prose Prize.

At a meeting of members of the Club of Independent Cuba Writers (CEIC), held in Havana in late January this year, the group’s coordinator, Victor Manuel Dominguez stressed that in “the official exclusion and manipulation of his work” it is recognized that “the censors, the ideological tattletales, and the political commissars who have tried to silence Rafael Alcides… have failed.”

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 5: The People / Miguel Coyula

This video is the 5th in a series of vignettes extracted from a four-hour interview of Rafael Alcides conducted by the filmmaker Miguel Coyula. Below are links to the other Chapters.

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 1: The Beautiful Things / Miguel Coyula

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 2: Artists and Politicians / Miguel Coyula

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 3: About Beauty / Miguel Coyula

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 4: Once Upon a Time in Biran / Miguel Coyula

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 6: Capitalism in Cuba – Before and After / Miguel Coyula

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 4: Once Upon a Time in Biran / Miguel Coyula

This video is the 4th in a series of vignettes extracted from a four-hour interview of Rafael Alcides conducted by the filmmaker Miguel Coyula. Below are links to the other Chapters.

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 1: The Beautiful Things / Miguel Coyula

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 2: Artists and Politicians / Miguel Coyula

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 3: About Beauty / Miguel Coyula

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 5: The People / Miguel Coyula

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 6: Capitalism in Cuba – Before and After / Miguel Coyula

The Functionary and the Poet / Regina Coyula

Rafael Alcides (Screen shot from Miguel Coyula's video interview)
Rafael Alcides (Screen shot from Miguel Coyula’s video interview)

Regina Coyula, 3 March 2016 — A consular official, in a flying interview lasting barely five minutes, told my husband he was not eligible to travel to the United States with a non-immigrant visa. According to the document he was given, my husband was not able to demonstrate that his proposed visit was consistent with the visa he requested.

What did this interview consist of? The official asked the reason for the trip, and the reason for the trip is a cultural meeting to deliver a tribute, in which my husband is the person to be honored. The second and last question was regarding whether he had family in the United States, to which he responded honestly that he has a son that he lost contact with a decade ago

The consular authorities of this (and any other country) have the right to approve or not approve the entry of foreigners to their territory. But haste should not make this interview a mechanical process. This awkward gentleman who face-to-face with the inquisitive functionary wasn’t able to remember the name of the institution intending to honor him, is one of the most important living poets of Cuban culture. A brief glance at Google could have informed the official about the gentleman in front of him, and relieved him of the idea that this traveler would be one more old man wanting to shelter under the Cuban Adjustment Act and Social Security benefits.

The decision — which cannot be appealed to anyone — recommends that he wait at least a year to return “if and when personal circumstances have significiantly changed.” It is lamentable, because Rafael Alcides will continue to live and write from his inxile in Havana in the same circumstances of today if he survives this year of being ignored awarded to him by the consular official.

Sent from my telephone with Nauta Mail.

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 3: About Beauty / Miguel Coyula

A series of videos with Rafael Alcides, by the filmmaker Miguel Coyula, with Lynn Cruz and thanks to Leonardo ds Vinci, Tomaso Albinoni, Alberto Korda

The other videos:

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 1: The Beautiful Things / Miguel Coyula

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 2: Artists and Politicians / Miguel Coyula

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 4: Once Upon a Time in Biran / Miguel Coyula

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 5: The People / Miguel Coyula

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 6: Capitalism in Cuba – Before and After / Miguel Coyula

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 2: Artists and Politicians / Miguel Coyula

A series of videos with Rafael Alcides, by the filmmaker Miguel Coyula. Music by Ivan Lajardi and thanks to Lynn Cruz and Marta Aquino.

The other videos:

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 1: The Beautiful Things / Miguel Coyula

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 3: About Beauty / Miguel Coyula

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 4: Once Upon a Time in Biran / Miguel Coyula

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 5: The People / Miguel Coyula

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 6: Capitalism in Cuba – Before and After / Miguel Coyula

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 1: The Beautiful Things / Miguel Coyula

A series of videos with Rafael Alcides, by the filmmaker Miguel Coyula (with Lynn Cruz and thanks to Marta Aquino)

Links to the other videos:

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 2: Artists and Politicians / Miguel Coyula

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 3: Beautiful Things / Miguel Coyula

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 4: Once Upon a Time in Biran / Miguel Coyula

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 5: The People / Miguel Coyula

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 6: Capitalism in Cuba – Before and After / Miguel Coyula

The Future Begins on August 14 / Cubanet, Rafael Alcides

One segment of the Island's population looks favorably upon the rapprochement between the two countries. (File Photo)
One segment of the Island’s population looks favorably upon the rapprochement between the two countries. (File Photo)

Cubanet, Rafael Alcides, Havana, 3 August 2015 – For some, it began on 17 December of last year, when – as surprisingly as a goal scored at the last minute deciding a world championship – the leaders Barack Obama and Raúl Castro publicly announced the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, following 50-some-odd years of politicians on both shores hurling invective at each other. But that was still just an announcement, the prologue. The materialization of the historic event – the first part of which was accomplished on 20 July when the Cuban government inaugurated its embassy in Washington – will take place when, this coming 14 August, John Kerry will raise the US flag at the American embassy’s old-time home facing Havana’s Malecón.

It is a moment awaited with curiosity by Cubans in general – and, very particularly, by that part of the dissidence that supports the reconciliation of the two governments. What will come later? The conjectures are flying and there is not one that can be taken seriously. But one thing that is known, that is certain, everywhere, is that tomorrow has begun, and yesterday has started to become a distant memory. It’s what can be heard in the lines to buy eggs, at the neighborhood domino tables, at bus stops, in factories, in offices, at funeral wakes, and at any other place where two or more Cubans are together, talking. continue reading

The government doesn’t see it this way, and it continues to make plans with the optimism of someone who is sure of its people’s unconditional approval. It insists on governing under the rallying cry of “Socialism or Death” for all time.

Nor does a certain segment of the dissidence see it this way. This is the part that has seen Obama give everything in return for nothing; that fears that the measures to soften the economic embargo, which have already begun to be seen, will regenerate a regime which (notwithstanding what should, by natural law, have already occurred in Venezuela, but has not) would otherwise be a memory today.

The other segment, the optimistic one, already sees itself raising a glass on that great day marking the start of the future, as they come and go amongst government authorities who, in Panama, fearing contamination, refused to stay under the same roof and breathe the same air as their opponents. Because of course, those people (the ones in Panama, at least) could not but be there that day, when their foreign minister, Bruno Rodriguez, sat down with his counterpart, John Kerry.

It is not to be believed that the US Embassy will also then allow itself to be restricted by the condition that for several years now has been governing festivities sponsored by accredited diplomats in Cuba. It is an unusual constraint that prevents ambassadors from simultaneously receiving on their premises both government dignitaries and dissidents. Or to put it another way, it obliges them to have the government people enter through the front door, and the dissidents through the back.

The US would never accept such a thing. In that case, the optimistic dissidence maintains, the other embassies would find themselves dispensed from continuing to carry such an onerous burden. Thus, another significant breach between the two sides of the opposition.

Of course, “Who Knows Who” does not live far from there. But in any case – as an estimable dissident told me who practically applauded the skin off his hands on December 17 and who today avidly awaits August 14 – “that embassy” is over there, too, to provide its occupants the pleasure of looking over their celebratory glasses towards those captious attendees of the Panama summit, as if to say, “Never say never.”

“That embassy over there,” he continued, will be an important and none-too-silent witness of what is happening with human rights in Cuba. For the moment, the government will continue to arrest and abuse, but it will have to do so with much caution, given that it is being observed in situ; and given that neither the tourist, nor the investor, nor any of the characters who will play a role in the future that has just started, would much like the spectacle of police massacring the citizenry who, in exercising a universal right such as that of dissent, has gone out on the street to demonstrate. Besides, what’s coming now in the bilateral relations is “I’ll give this much if you give that much.” And Time, for Its part, continues to march over the administration of little old men who have run out of time.

All this would seem to confirm what the journalist Regina Coyula was saying in a tweet launched into the ether at 12 midnight on July 20 that, while seeming to have given all in exchange for nothing, the astute Obama had reopened the US embassy in Havana in a “subtle stratagem that one day will be dubbed a novel version of the Trojan Horse.”

About the Author

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

What Is the General Plotting? / Cubanet, Rafael Alcides

cubanet square logoCubanet, Rafael Alcides, Havana, 26 May 2015 – From a distance I saw them arguing. They were father and son—they could not be heard, but their animated gesticulations spoke volumes. The son, already in his 60s; the father, a captain in the Sierra, who escaped from the Party a while back, is a person I’ve always gotten along with, although we are not intimate friends. Finishing the discussion, the son was telling him, as I approached, “I will not forgive you for that.” And the captain, catching up with me, replied, “Because you’re blind.”

Unexpectedly, he asked me if I believed in the sincerity with which Obama and those people from the European Union (EU) were accepting the “skeleton deal” that Raúl had sprung on them, “unless Raúl is also partaking of those magic powders of Belarmino’s,” he remarked sadly.

As he was also on his way to the farmers market, hopeful of finding a little bunch of lettuce, at least, or a carrot, and because my columns tend to focus on the national situation not from my own viewpoint but rather from what people are saying on the street, I listened to him intently. Given his age, his “Belarmino” quip might be considered a flight of senility, but in the captain’s account, it was quite realistic.

When Belarmino would arrive at a dance, some girl would soon disappear in the darkness for a while, and so would Belarmino. continue reading

A thirty-something jabao [light-skinned mixed-race man] with a gold tooth, and sporting a linen guayabera even when going down to the river to bathe, Belarmino was the proprietor of the town funeral home. The term “funeral home” here is generous, because in that little shack, nobody ever lay in state. People would come and buy the coffin—built by Belarmino himself—to take away by horse or wagon.

In the town where Belarmino was previously established, and from where he had to flee under protection from the rural police, he “damaged” fourteen teenage girls, and took to his bed everyone and their mothers for he had some magic powders that made him irresistible. In the brief time in which he resided in the captain’s town, he had no chance to use them because very soon the girls were being hidden by their parents or sent to relatives up in the hills; and a lovestricken quinceañera [a girl celebrating her 15th birthday], resisting being sent away, hanged herself. Belarmino became invisible. He was never heard from again.

Perhaps, the captain did not deny, there are in politics powders that have equal powers of seduction to those used by that Belarmino of his childhood. Why did the captain say this? He began to list the reasons:

Upon nationalization [taking possession of foreign-owned properties, businesses and industries in the Revolution’s early years], Fidel and Raúl left the Americans living in Cuba—and the priests, and most Spanish merchants, as well—without even the laces to tie their shoes. They took down God from His altar, implanted a political system that is the negation of everything that had been known in these parts, agitated the political henhouse of the region (because this America of today is not the same as in the 1950s), and now—as if none of this had taken place—suddenly, almost 60 years on, the United States gives in, the EU gives in, the Pope smiles, and Raúl continues to make demands. Besides removing Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, and reestablishing diplomatic relations, the USA now has to return the naval base in Guantánamo and lift the embargo—and maybe even indemnify it. Could this be understood?

As psychiatrists do, I responded with another question. “Where are you going with this?” And he, in psychiatric fashion, asked me if I believed in the power of Belarmino’s magic powders. He was laughing at me. In any case, for him, the situation was very clear: Whereas the super-powerful United States could impose on Cuba the “skeleton deal”—as in his straightforward way of speaking privately Raúl Roa characterized this relationship—Cuba couldn’t do the same with the US, nor with the EU. And so given that Raúl doesn’t possess anything similar to Belarmino’s magic powder, nobody here should lose hope yet. Nobody, affirmed the captain resolutely. Another thing: Hadn’t Fidel kept until the right time the secret that the Revolution was Communist?

At the farmers market there was nothing green to be found—except for some mangoes going for five pesos per pound, which were already under the effect of some evil liquid that in two hours makes them look ripe on the outside, but on the inside they are acidic and greenish, and ready for pitching into the trash 48 hours later, covered by then with a white mold resembling a sinister cobweb. The captain mourned them, recalling the mangoes of his childhood, when the best of them—the fragrant mango bizcochuelo—cost two cents, and others—including the Toledo mango—could be purchased by the bag, filled to the top, for a nickel. But he did not ask for my view on his theory regarding the Raúl-Obama-EU-Pope Francis issue. Having undergone his catharsis, what could my opinion matter to him?

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

About the Author


 Rafael Alcides: A short biography is here.

“If I had someone to sponsor* me…” / Cubanet, Rafael Alcides


cubanet square logoCubanet, Rafael Alcides, Havana, 19 May 2015 – This morning I woke up pessimistic. There was no milk in the house, and the kind they sell at the “shopping” [hard-currency* store] is priced out of reach for anyone who is not an executive at a firm or who does not have relatives out there who love him very much and are well-off.** But at the bakery where I purchase the bread allotted to me via the libreta [ration book], I ran into somebody who today was more pessimistic than I am. He is a retired teacher and, without taking into account his age, one of those characters who pride themselves on being well informed told him that the ration book is about to be discontinued, that in fact it would be eliminated before August.

The teacher understands that this book weighs heavily in the pocket of the government, but he also thinks that instead of taking it away, the government should make it selective. Neither the powerful musician, nor the executive, nor he who receives remittances from abroad, nor any other characters of the New Bourgeoisie, need the ration book. The teacher, however, retired on a pension of nine dollars per month (that is, less than 30 cents a day), and with no one abroad—what would he do without this small assistance? There are just four little items that the ration book now subsidizes, but these four little items keep him from begging in the streets. The teacher spoke to me very badly of the Revolution, to which he had dedicated his life. continue reading

To console him, and because I don’t believe that, for now, the government intends to abolish the ration book—a costly burden, yes, but an even greater psychological benefit—I advised him to relax. “Don’t believe in rumors,” I told him.

“This was the only life I had,” he replied.

I let him vent.

Have you considered leaving the country?” I asked him.

He sighed heavily.

“If I had someone to sponsor me*…”

I purchased my three little rolls of 20-something grams each, and perhaps because an evil shared among many is easier to bear, I returned home feeling better. On the way back I compared the disenchantment of this teacher—a fragile but dynamic man who used to dress in his militia uniform festooned with all his decorations—with the latest hobby of a certain neighbor. This is a widowed doctor who grew old dreaming of leaving the country, and who, now that he could do so without major paperwork and without losing the house he inherited from his elders, refuses to go. Neither his children nor his nieces and nephews (all of whom are abroad) are able to persuade him otherwise. Of these, one who was visiting in January, told me, grinning, “Imagine, with the remittances we send him, he’s living like a king, with a maid, lots of Viagra, and three, 20-something doctor-girlfriends to keep him busy.”

They seemed to be saying—that disenchanted teacher who wouldn’t know how to live without the ration book, and that doctor who has discovered that, with money, even being widowed and very elderly one can be happy—that the Cuban exodus would not have been so massive had the socialist government been able to provide a privation-free life for the citizen. However, the end of Pinochet, even though he left Chile off the charts in terms of a First-World standard of living, or of Franco, despite the vertiginous development achieved by Spain during the Generalísimo‘s last two decades, demonstrate that the issue is not just an economic one. As I read somewhere once, without freedom there is no lasting splendor. Nor is there ground that can withstand the cathedral placed upon it.

It has always been thus. Rome, once the ruler of the world, that mighty Rome of patricians and slaves where, moreover, the Christian was persecuted, eventually disappeared. A comparable lack of freedom ended Spanish colonial domination of lands in Our America, as well as the English, Portuguese and French. Vanished from that former America were Juan Manuel de Rosas, and Gaspar Rodríguez Francia, and Rufino Barrios and Porfirio Díaz and Gerardo Machado. In the America of my time, that America from when I was young, we saw the last of Trujillo with his braided uniform, and Somoza, and Stroessner, and Pérez Jiménez, and the Brazilian Joao Goulart, and Cuba’s Batista…

In recent times, following the fall of the Berlin Wall, the world has continued lightening up. No longer are there even Hussein, Milosevic, Gaddafi, nor now, finally, that odious fellow in Yemen. With efficiency, in each of these cases, the lack of liberty—that secret gift of the oppressed—has done its fatal deed.

I do not surrender, and therefore do not give up the dream that today or tomorrow—that is, sooner or later (and these things almost always happen when one least expects them)—I and others like me, who number 11 million, including the glum teacher from this morning, will see solutions to our problems putting food on the table—as well as the slum housing, our city falling apart, and everything else that we know too well.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Translator’s Notes:
* To obtain a visa to immigrate to the U.S., a Cuban national must have a sponsor. This page from the U.S. Interests Section in Havana explains.
** Cuba has two currencies: Cuban pesos, also called moneda nacional (national money), abbreviated CUP; and Cuban convertible pesos, abbreviated CUC. In theory CUCs are a hard currency, but in fact, it is illegal to take them out of Cuba and they are not exchangeable in other countries. Cubans receive their wages and pensions primarily in CUPs, with wages roughly the equivalent of about $20 US per month, and pensions considerably less. The CUC is pegged 1-to-1 to the American dollar, but exchange fees make it more expensive. The CUP trades to the CUC at about 24-to-1. See here a concise description of Cuba’s dual-currency system and an announced plan to unify it.
*** The average Cuban citizen relies on “remittances”—material help—from relatives abroad. A Cuban blogger explains it here.

About the Author

461.thumbnailRafael Alcides was born in Barrancas, municipal district of Bayamo (Cuba) in 1933. A poet and storyteller, he was a master baker in his teen years. He has worked as a farmhand, cane cutter, logger, wrecking crew cook, and manager of a sundries store in a cane-cutters’ outpost. In Havana in the 1950s he worked variously as a mason, broad-brush painter, exterminator, insurance agent, and door-to-door salesman. In 1959 he was the chief information officer for the Department of Latin American Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Relations, and spokesman of this agency in a daily television program in which he hosted and interviewed foreign political personalities. He was chief press officer and director of Cultural Affairs in the Revolutionary Delegation of the National Capitol.

Among his most recently-published titles are the poetry collections, GMT(2009), For an Easter Bush (2011), Travel Log (2011), Anthologies, in Collaboration with Jaime Londoño (2013), Conversations with God(2014), the journalistic Memories of the Future (2011), the multi-part novel, Ciro’s Ring (2011), and the story collection, A Fairy Tale That Ends Badly (2014).

As of 1993, he had been employed by the Cuban Institute of Radio & Television for more than 30 years as a scriptwriter, announcer, director and literary commentator when, at that time, he ceased all publishing and literary work in collaboration with the regime in Cuba. As a participant in numerous international literary events, Rafael Alcides has given conferences and lectures in countries in Central and South America, Europe, and the Middle East. His texts have been translated into many languages. He was honored with two Premios de la Crítica, and a third for a novel co-written with another author. In 2011 he received the Café Bretón & Bodegas Olarra de Prosa Española prize.