A Little Bit of Everything

Patch-work of Valle de Viñales.

Thanks be to God who gave me the gift and my family who helped me to cultivate it, aside from being a teacher, I learned many practical things for life.

The year 1959 arrived, and with it, great changes. I lost my job as a substitute teacher but soon afterwards I started working at the Department of Foreign Trade, where I stayed for fifteen years.  Later on I worked at a branch of Foreign Relations and, when I couldn’t take it anymore, I realized it was time to go home and do what I loved and had been doing for free my whole life: arts and crafts.  I was already a member of the Association of Artisans and Artists (ACAA) and that is how my professional life started.

My first works were on cold ceramics, later on embossing copper, but this aggressive material destroyed my hands and it was affecting my health, so I had to stop, even though I liked it so much.  So I started working on patch-work, that is what I have been working on since 1998.  This work has allowed me to have some expositions inside and outside of the country.

The pieces, which I have shown on my posts lately, and which a dear friend has explicitly asked for, are totally handmade.  I have specialized in faces and believe me, it entertains me, keeps my mind fresh, my spirit calm and overall it brings food to my table, because even though I have family outside the country, they don’t send me any help,  first, because they can’t afford to and second, because I never ask.  I feel much happier supporting myself with the work I do with my own hands, and not being a burden on anybody.  I rather wish I was able to send them something that would make them happy.  Also, with this and other techniques I manufacture cushions, bags, angels, table runners and small cases for eyeglasses, cell phones, etc, which I call fast food because they’re cheap and as soon as I sell them I run to the nearest store to buy food.  As you can see, a little bit of everything.

Translated by: Angelica Betancourt

What the “Wind” Took Away

Here in my small planet, it hasn’t exactly been the wind which has taken everything–or almost everything–away. It seems to be the work of a crazed tornado. And what remains is in such a poor state that it is nearly unsalvageable.

In 1897 Cuban cinema took its first baby steps. Along with its appearance, the first posters were born, then handmade on small printing presses, and photography was also developing. Then movie theaters quickly started appearing, receiving us on their doorsteps with flashy posters or photographs, which gave us an idea what was going to be projected inside. It was a clear invitation to enter. Cinemania was happily taking hold of most of us.

In 1959, we already had more than one hundred thirty movie houses, many of them very modern and comfortable, like the Warner Theater (later called Radiocentro, now renamed Yara), the America (also a live theater), Acapulco, Riviera, Los Angeles, Payret, Miramar, La Rampa, etc. etc. etc. All this, to the delight of about a million people who lived in the capital at that time. We also had three modern drive-ins. Moviegoers had to run to see the more than four weekly releases that were shown.

Half a century later, with almost two million people, only a dozen theaters are operating, most of them in an advanced state of disrepair. Neglect turned many of them into ruins, others have become shelters for various families. Each year, except for the month of the Film Festival, there are fewer options – the films shown are old and many of them have already been seen on television. The wind can still take away what little remains, if nothing is done to stop it.

Translated by: Joe Malda and Tomás A.

Children’s Day

Clipping from the newspaper Juventude Rebele (Rebel Youth), July 18, 2010.

I have always longed for, among the dates and traditions that were amputated by decree, Epiphany, the Day of the Three Kings. I used to feel equally happy to give as to receive. It was, in short, a very special day for children and adults.

Now, reading this article from the press of my planet, the following questions come to me:

Whose were the hands, then, that erased from the children’s calendar the day of January 6?

Whose hands signed the order to say that children over three couldn’t have jam?

Were they the same hands that also signed the regulation that only children under seven had the right to receive a daily liter of milk?

I refuse to believe that José Martí also have had something to do with it.

A Short Story for Distant Granddaughters

A few months ago, a friend, who was going to travel abroad, surprised me by offering to take whatever I wanted to my granddaughters.  It was a unique opportunity, but he caught me at a time when I did not have any money. I then had to use my imagination. I began to go through my drawers where I keep my things in the hopes of fashioning something, given my available means, which would be lasting and above all, something that the girls would like.

It was then that I remembered the beautiful drawings that they send me and I decided, that based on the drawings, I would come up with a story, made up of patchwork squares that would later become a quilt. This would be accompanied by a story.

That is how I came up with the idea of the story that I now transcribe below.

Grandmother with a big heart.

In a small country, long and green like a lizard, lives a grandmother that has a big heart because she constantly feeds it with pieces of love, from her other hearts, which are far away, very far away and dispersed, like the stars.

Since the distance is enormous and one can only get there by air she prays to God that he lend her a pair of angel’s wings, just so that her big heart can fly, fly, fly and finally arrive at the different countries where her other hearts are located.

As she passes by the castle where the Princess is, the Princess gives her a kiss on each cheek and invites her to follow the path until she finds herself on the beach with a Little Blue Whale who will take her on his back to the moon itself.

On the way, she makes a stop to pick flowers to fill an old wheelbarrow that she will take as a gift.  She will then be able to give out daisies, tulips and violets to her three granddaughters.

On her travels she runs into Mr. Radiant Sun and she gets closer to him in order to feel his heat. She is careful not to get too close so that she does not burn her brilliant wings so that she can continue to fly, fly, fly until she reaches her destination and is able to reunite with all of the hearts, to make her own heart bigger and stronger.

Once all are together, they will reunite under the shade of a large tree and from there, they will send messages of love to all the other countries, leaving room in the wide branches to hang more hearts.

Translated by: Amante de una Cuba Libre

“Carné d’idá”

In the popular slang of my little planet, this is what we call the Identity Card (DNI).

This slang has been adopted by the police. Almost all the members who make up this repressive body have been imported from the eastern provinces; in general, people in the capital refuse to participate in this work. The police are almost always characterized by the low educational level and equally low stature, where normally it could be resolved with just one, well that’s one way to reduce the unemployment numbers.

Yesterday was one of those days when it took all morning, or all afternoon, to settle a little matter that really shouldn’t have taken more than hour, as they brag in the propaganda posters in these offices: Rectifying a mistake, even if it’s their fault, as for any other kind of issue, means you begin by standing in line. Soon a voice emerging from somewhere over there says, “Number three.” You go into a little office, where they ask you what you’ve come about, your name, et cetera, which they dump into a computer. Then they send you out again to wait, until they call your name. After a great deal of time has gone by, another voice from the back of beyond calls your name and takes you to another office where you are asked the same questions all over again. Then they take your old card, three photos, two stamps at 5 pesos each, and tell you to go down to the end of the hall and wait to be called. I was with my sister who is physically disabled, which no one seemed to notice despite its being completely obvious, since she can hardly walk on her own.

There, in the final waiting room, we stayed nearly four hours. Each time I approached an employee to explain the physical condition of my sister, they told me her card still had not arrived. It was as if to get from the little office at the entrance to the last room of the building, the paperwork had to make an inter-provincial journey on the back of a turtle.

Finally, after checking the new card, and correcting the accent which was missing from her last name, they had taken my poor sister’s ten osteoarthritic fingerprints twice, which is twenty prints as if to say, AY! We left there at noon, happy, despite the ordeal, to have had issued a new and correct carné di dá.


Edith Piaf

July 14th, the anniversary of the taking of the Bastille.  My little homage to France. A portrait in patch-work created by me.

Recently, two Spanish filmmakers I know, commented to me that every time they talk in the street to some native of my planet they comment to them about “the media campaign” of the European Union against our country, and when the filmmakers ask them what this campaign consist of, simply no one is able to explain. I remarked to them, that in general here on my planet, it’s like this. People repeat incessantly what the media manipulate and call news, based on the headlines, but from there to being able to give the details, is a long way! It’s the same whether it’s the Cuban Adjustment Act, the sick people who died in Mazorra mental hospital, or the recent and much-lauded release of the dissidents of the Black Spring, and on and on and on.

With my ears once again glued to the shortwave I heard some news that made me jump to attention. Ingrid Betancourt had withdrawn a demand she’d made to her country to pay her a million dollars. Was it ingratitude or bad memory, I wondered. As far as I know, it was the government of her country itself that freed her from the guerrilla terrorists, who held her hostage for years. To err is human, I have no doubt!

And another thing, here I go again, about the Arizona law. It’s good that the Latin American countries show solidarity when something is wrong in a neighbor’s house, but what strikes me is, no one ever said anything about it when on my planet they go after the native-born from different provinces for being in the capital of all Cubans illegally. There are none so blind as he that will not see!

A couple coming towards me were talking loudly about how nervous they are thinking about the impending war that is looming. I couldn’t help but speak to them, apologizing for having overheard. To reassure them I commented that surely the ones who were really nervous were their respective grandmothers and moms, thinking of the daily war to be waged in the kitchen to put some food on the table.

Fine, that’s enough for now, I’ll say goodbye because I just heard news of the 6.5 earthquake in central Chile (near Temuco), and in truth, what is trembling now is my heart. Remember that I have people very dear to me in that country.

Farewell to the Queen of Bolero

The sad news came through short wave radio during early hours.  After a very fruitful life and at the age of 87, one of the most beautiful voices of our country has left us.  She was silenced for those of us who still live here for more than half a century.

Like I’ve said before, I requested her songs numerous times in the Sunday morning show known as “Memories of Rebel Radio”.  They never fulfilled my requests, they always used the most outrageous excuses.  They became accomplices of an absurd censorship that should have never existed.  Perhaps now that she has passed away, and that her declarations don’t pose a threat to the ideology of ‘the “New Man,” now those of us who knew who she was will have the luck to once again hear her interpretation of “Campanitas de Cristal” (‘Crystal Bells’), which, together with many other songs, became unique when sung by her beautiful voice.

May God keep you in Glory, Olga.

Translator’s Note:  “Bolero” is a genre which hails from Cuba, it is a ballad, a love song.

Translated by Raul G.

Congratulations Spain!

Yesterday was a day of many emotions. From the early hours the largest theaters in the capital were completely full. The young and sweaty faces of those present, decorated with the colors of their teams, eagerly awaiting the start of the last game of the Series, to gaze in full color on the gigantic screen. Homemade flags and other original handicrafts were waving in the tight space. It was a great party, above all for the youth of Cuba.

A close game where both teams showed their wonderful skills and greatness. Each team had a fantastic goalkeeper, finally Casilla showed who was the best in the world, and together with to the goal by Inhiesta, it ended with a resounding victory for Spain, making Queen Sofía herself jump for joy.

I hope that very soon, in our little planet Cuba, we can enjoy baseball games in the same way, on a large screen in full color in the Big Leagues, because that is the sport that is the true passion of all of us natives who live here.

Translated by: MarcosD in NYC

New Satisfactions

When I first heard someone speak about a blog I had no idea what it meant, yet I was still interested and decided to attend the classes with my friend Regina.

I recall that my first post was actually published on her blog, for I had not yet opened mine.  I would have never imagined just how far of a reach this would have, nor how much personal satisfaction it would bring me.  Through this, I have found long lost friends, while I have also made new friends like Gustavo and Aracelis.  I just found another one of my very loved friends whom I have not seen in years, but who I still keep very close to me through many cherished memories.  She asks me to please post photos on my blog of all of my work.

However you paint it, we have gained a bit of relief with the positive outcome of the hunger strike of Coco Farinas.  Meanwhile, the World Cup has everyone absorbed.  I am going to publish, especially for Felita and for all of my readers, some photos of my recent works on patchwork.

Translated by Raul G.

It's Never Too Late

Finally something is moving, very slowly, but it’s moving.

It’s very good that the church of our country came out in defense of our unjustly imprisoned compatriots. It has been a long seven years, waiting for them to be freed, and it’s inconceivable that they have been imprisoned for something which nowhere in the civilized world is a crime: thinking and expressing yourself publicly.

We are happy, because they will get their lives back, not only the prisoners of conscience but also their families who have suffered along with those sentenced.

Fariñas says that he will not give up his hunger strike until at least ten or twelve of them have been freed. Time is short. I think that if it only took twenty-four hours to try and incarcerate them, they should be able to free them with the same speed.

From here, I want to express my recognition for those who in one way or another have had something to do with this goodwill gesture.

As my grandmother used to say, it’s never too late.

The Shame of Others

Reading the declarations formulated by Dr. Caballero in the newspaper Granma about the  state of health of the dissident Fariñas, and the attention paid to it, I can only feel pain and embarrassment for others.

How is it possible that a gesture as selfless and courageous as the voluntary hunger strike of this dissident, be talked about as if he had just on a whim decided not to eat?

The only thing that Coco has called for all this very long time has been the release of twenty-five prisoners of conscience who are in poor health, and serving sentences passed down some  years ago, simply because they dissent from the regime, and express it publicly.

Did they not think they could have saved all these costs they’re talking about having to incur to try to save the life of Fariñas, by simply agreeing to his fair request?

The life of this citizen, and the responsibility for his imminent death, as he himself expressed today, rests exclusively on the Cuban government.

Distinguished leaders, time is running out!

Emulating Nostradamus

These days the hysteria on my planet, has spread like wildfire, especially for those fans of the television*.

There are a few who have called me on the phone or have told me personally, about the impending war looming. I have tried in my way, to calm nerves and assure them that the danger is slight, but there are no indications that it is about to be triggered in any immediate way.

It is true that there are many tensions created, with the proliferation of nuclear weapons, with the incident perpetrated by North Korea against its neighbor to the south, Iran’s insistence, despite sanctions, to develop nuclear energy, the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, and so on. But from there, to simply make people nervous based on hardly any information, is another matter.

It could be that the internal problems of my planet: food, transportation, health, education, water, electricity, hygiene, freedom of speech and travel are minimized or disappear in the face of the danger of a third world war ? Or is it that we have not realized yet that Nostradamus has been reincarnated, this time as a native of my planet.

*Translator’s note: Fidel Castro has recently been asserting, in his “Reflections” column in Cuba’s daily paper, that there will be a global nuclear war before the end of the World Cup in South Africa.