The Vicissitudes Of A “Regulated” Person

A uniformed Immigration official reported Monday to Regina Coyula that she could not travel because she was “regulated”. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Regina Coyula, Havana, 1 August 2017 — I should be in Panama right now. But on July 31, when I showed up at the desk at José Martí International Airport, I was shown to an office where an Immigration officer informed me that I could not travel because I was “regulated.” The word has unpleasant connotations because the most frequent regulation in Cuba is menstrual regulation. In any case, questioning that official about the cause of such a ban was futile. She did not seem to know anything beyond the bad news, and it is logical that she does not have the details, given the way compartmentalization works (or is supposed to work) within the Ministry of the Interior.

I can deduce with confidence that this measure comes from the department that “attends” opponents of the government, known as Section 21 or the Directorate of Counterintelligence Confrontation. In order to know why I was “regulated,” the old retirement villa of the Marist Brothers in La Vibora district, known Villa Marista, is the place where the questions are asked. continue reading

An officer on duty (‘visitor’, I think they call him) was responsible for hearing my complaint and handling the response. The officer dialed the phone and asked for Lieutenant Colonel Kenia, and explained that I was standing in front of him asking about the reasons for the “regulation.” On the other end of the phone, the person asked for my name and surnames, and after a pause the response was disconcerting: Section 21 is not responsible for my ban on leaving the country.

I, who have an idea – an old idea but an idea at least* – of how counterintelligence works, know that if you do not have a traffic ticket or a charge against you for stepping on the grass, and if you do not work for any state agency, but you do engage in independent and critical journalism, the cabals mark 21.

But the visiting officer, very convinced that my meager record of opposition did not qualify me for the league of 21, suggested that I visit the offices of Attention to the Citizenry for Immigration where – and these were his words and not my interpretation – they would tell me who had “regulated” me and why.

After a few stumbling blocks with the leadership of the place, I arrived at 20th Street near the corner with 7th, in Miramar. I did not omit any details speaking to the official who received me and I was direct: I went to Mexico on June 26, invited to a political meeting and I was not allowed to travel.

At the time I did not inquire about the measure, because it seemed to me part of a strategy to abort or disrupt the meeting since, like me, a large group of would-be attendees was left on land by decision of the authorities. But this July 31, I was not going to a political meeting, I was going to the Latin American and Caribbean Internet Governance Forum, an event sponsored by the United Nations. As I do not belong to any party and I am the leader only of my own opinions, I wanted to know by whose orders and why I remained “regulated.”

The official, a captain, clarified for me first thing was the mistake of the Villa Marista officials; they could not give me information about who decided this part of my life and why, but she would consult on my case with her superior, a lieutenant colonel and head of the Department of Attention to Citizenship.

I spent the wait of 40 or 50 minutes reading. Then the captain wrote down my version and put my phone number at the bottom of the page. She then informed me that the bosses had made the decision to “deregulate” me starting on Wednesday.

“That is, I can get on a plane at one in the morning on Tuesday/Wednesday?”

The captain said yes, and, cheerful, added that, just in case, she would suggest doing it after eight o’clock in the morning.

I thanked her for the attention and I walked out under a tremendous downpour. Just 20 minutes after leaving the Immigration office, the phone rang. It was the cheerful captain with a counter-order: “No, you can not travel until further notice and you will be notified.”

This is when one wonders what is the idea of ​​the political police and the guidelines they receive, because my participation in the event is not newsworthy, but my absence is.

Why is the government so sensitive when it is accused of violating human rights? What Rule of Law do they presume if they do not respect their own body of law shaped during this long authoritarianism? What are they afraid of, it the propaganda always insists that they enjoy the unrestricted and combative support of our working people?

But what am I doing asking rhetorical questions?

*Translator’s note: Regina Coyula, in an earlier stage of her life, worked within Cuba’s Ministry of the Interior

Censorship / Regina Coyula

The filmmaker Miguel Coyula shooting. (Personal file MC)

Jorge Enrique Lage interviews Miguel Coyula (extracts) 6

[Miguel speaking]… I am against censorship, as we’ve seen what happened with that film in the Havana Film Festival in New York; it spreads beyond the geographical limits of the island for extra-artistic interests. I mean, politics touches everything.

The worsening of the position goes back to the censorship of the film El Rey se Muere (translated into English both as “Exit the King” and “The King is Dying”) in 2015. Many people defended Juan Carlos Cremata’s work, saying they did not believe that the censors would interpret the king as being Fidel. That is, they used the language of the government to try to address the problem, when it was clear that the reference point was him. What they should have said was “Yes, it’s Fidel. And what of it?” continue reading

To the extent that artists draw up their mental blueprint to go “as far as they can” there will never be a truly independent art form. It ends up affecting not just the content, but also the form.

Liberty has to be absolute, in order to be able to take risks, and to take off. Nothing can be sacred. At least, that’s how I see art. I’ve never been interested in being part of the political game, of religion, of the consumer society, or of drugs. It seems like a nothing, but a film-maker, interested in social or political issues, who cannot have one of his characters say “when are Fidel and Raul going to die?”, which is a such a common thing to say in Cuban homes, along with much more agressive variants on the theme, is symptomatic of a dysfunctional whole.

The artist documents his time, but, looking at Cuban films made in the island over the last seventy years, you’d think that no Cuban had ever asked that sort of question. Recently I was told, by way of advice: “You can fiddle with the chain, but not with the monkey, otherwise you are out of the game”. To which I replied: “Who said I see it as a game?”

It is essential that film producers are ready to completely defend their work,  because a half-assed attitude only gets you a slow-motion impact, which is inevitably reflected in subsequent works. You can’t give an inch.

But, returning to your question, the most recent case of censorship had to do with Nadie (Nobody), April 15th just gone, when the State Security and the PNR (National Revolutionary Police) blockaded the entrance to the El Circulo Gallery where they were going to show it. This censorship is not an institutional arrangement but a blatant governmental act, a complete invasion of a private space by way of a show of police force.

Many people outside Cuba ask me how can it be possible that no Cuban intellectual living in the island made any public protest about what happened. The film had its international premiere in the Dominican Global Film Festival, where it was awarded the Best Documentary prize, but it has been ignored by the island critics.

We don’t know if it’s good, or bad, or they were left feeling indifferent to it, or if, simply, they were afraid of writing about it, as it’s difficult to make a critical appraisal of Nadie without mentioning Fidel Castro. And, to this day, that’s the line almost no-one has dared to cross.The rock group Porno para Ricardo is one of the few who have dared to confront it, and, well, the price they have paid is that they are not allowed to play in Cuba.

Translated by GH

Anime Animates Coyula / Regina Coyula

The poet Rafael Alcides. (Regina Coyula / lamalaletra.com)

Jorge Enrique Lage interview with Miguel Coyula (fragments) 2

Miguel Coyula: [… the cinema where I first encountered anime.] [… like the video games of the late eighties and early nineties, the anime of that time had no big budgets for a fluid animation at twenty-four frames per second, Disney-style. Then they went to a visual design and assembly and sound very often shocking.] [… in the subconscious, that left a mark on the film I make.]

For me it is very important to work the space and design the storyboard to the last detail, so that no image is repeated during the editing of a scene. That is something that comes from anime, and the comic book in general. Each panel expresses an idea, just as in literature each sentence expresses something different.

As for video games, the animation was even more limited: 2D, but that same limitation …] [… it made me shape an aesthetic where the image is as loaded as possible with small elements that add density to the setting.

[… the anime stories often left me with a bitter taste. Yaltus, known as Baldios outside Cuba, was a film that marked me a lot. Its apocalyptic and depressing ending, where the earth is completely contaminated with radioactivity, left me in a state of discomfort that I have pursued in my films.

[… one of the most striking films for me, for the stylistic collage it represents, was Belladonna of Sadness, 1973. For some reason it’s the 70’s that keeps calling me over and over again as a source of inspiration.

Site Manager’s note: Once all the fragments of this interview are translated (by different volunteers) we will unite them in order, in a single post.

Counterrevolutionary or Communist / Regina Coyula

Sadly, the above video is not subtitled, but whether or not you understand the words, you can observe Miguel Coyula and Rafael Alcides speaking.

Jorge Enrique Lage interview with Miguel Coyula (fragments) 3

Miguel Coyula: … And it’s [Rafael] Alcides for several reasons. First, because in my opinion he is the best Cuban poet alive. Pata de paloAgradecido como un perro and Nadie are indispensable books; Especially Nadie [No one], written and censored in 1970, and that doesn’t see the light until 1993, when I read it for the first time and it hits me.

Alcides is often described as a sensualist, but his range is very wide. Take, for example, his poem “El Extraño“, which appears in the film: it is very brief, stripped of artifice, combines the existential and the political in a universal way, with an admirable economy of means.

But even if Alcides had not been able to write anything …] [… his own person is poetry; he has the gift of speech, a diaphanous word, he speaks of beauty and poetry without intellectual poses, despises politicians and yet can speak of them with poetry, to the point that the passion of his gestures makes him a force which seems more typical of the field of fiction than of the documentary. continue reading

[… probably Alcides is one of the few Cuban intellectuals of his generation (in fact, the only one I know of) who, residing on the island, has no qualms or filters when it comes to making public what he thinks. He has paid the price for his honesty with ostracism. Also contradictions and guilt coexist in his person. He gave himself up to a dream, sacrificed himself for it and accepted failure. I’ve always been interested in misfits. Alcides contained all the elements that interest me in the construction of a character. Perhaps his honesty and his nonchalance mean that the film can not find a place anywhere: neither in the diaspora nor in the intellectuals of his generation who remained on the island.

The fact that the film is indistinctly labeled “counterrevolutionary” and “communist” is something I am very pleased about.

The first thing we recorded was a four-hour interview, from which came a short web mini-series, seven chapters, titled “Rafael Alcides.” (Many people believe they have seen Nadie but what they have seen is the miniseries on YouTube that only totals twenty-nine minutes).

At first there was no theme at all, it was about Alcides talking freely, but he himself was outlining the theme of the Revolution and then we began to record more specific questions.

Site Manager’s note: Once all the fragments of this interview are translated (by different volunteers) we will unite them in order, in a single post.

Perverse Uchronia* / Regina Coyula

Jorge Enrique Lage interview with Miguel Coyula (fragments) 7

Miguel Coyula: So after editing it in Miami [the novel Red Sea, Blue Sea] I sent it out to Union Publishers and also ICAIC Publishers, but this is already four years ago.

The universe of this novel, post-apocalyptic, with genetic manipulation, strongly influenced by the science-fiction anime, later became Red Cockroaches and right now Blue Heart.

…In Blue Heart, Fidel Castro has undertaken an experiment in genetic engineering to construct the New Man and to save his life’s work, his project. These experiments result in failures: they result in individuals with psychological disorders, but very intelligent, which, once they are rejected by the regime that created them, they unite to destroy it. In this alternative future the system is very similar to that in China, which continues to say it is socialist, but behind the facade is brutal capitalism. continue reading

[I have been filming Blue Heart for] five years. What I don’t have in money I put in in time: hours in front of the computer to virtually build the universe that could never be built in physical reality, in ordinary filming without permits and extras.

Every time I have approached institutions to ask for money they have rejected me. The people who have become patrons of my films have approached me on their own. This is important, because when it is you who knocks on the doors, you have to be willing to accept compromises.

It is very difficult for me to sell a project because the script is constantly changing. The script is no more than a map, a skeleton without flesh, and this skeleton could change itself into an unknown creatures because, being a long process, I end up using mutations of everything that happens around me to integrate that into the narrative. It’s about filming with the same freedom as a writer have, having an idea and writing.

…more and more I choose not to go out into the street: I record the actors against a green screen

In the street, once you set up a tripod you have ten or fifteen minutes of impunity before they come to interrogate you. You may have more time, but you have to have studied the location and rehearsed the actors to be able to film very quickly. It’s the only want to have any certainty when you are filming without permission. And if the location is very complicated you have to resort to digitally unifying the different scenes and actors. The film crew is just me and my partner, Lynn Cruz. So because I don’t have the money I have to put in the time.

*From Wikipedia: Uchronia refers to a hypothetical or fictional time-period of our world, in contrast to altogether fictional lands or worlds. A concept similar to alternate history but different in the manner that uchronic times are not easily defined (mainly placed in some distant or unspecified point before current times), sometimes reminiscent of a constructed world. 

Site Manager’s note: Once all the fragments of this interview are translated (by different volunteers) we will unite them in order, in a single post.

Cuban Authorities Block Seven Activists From Traveling to Mexico for Democracy Action Meeting

Regina Coyula was not able to board her flight this Monday, like six other activists, to go to Cancun to a Forum on Democracy in Cuba. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 27 June 2017 – Cuban authorities blocked at least seven activists from traveling to Cancun, Mexico this Monday, to participate in the 4th Forum on Roads to a Democratic Cuba, a meeting of the United Democratic Action Roundtable (MUAD) organized by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS), according to blogger Regina Coyula speaking to 14ymedio.

“When I arrived at the immigration window in Terminal 3 of Jose Marti International Airport, they told me to step back and wait a minute” said the activist. Then she was approached by an immigration official who, after asking for her documents, informed her that there was “a ban on travel abroad” in effect against her.

Coyula demanded explanations for the reasons she was prevented from leaving, but the agent would only say that she “had nothing to do with this” and told her if she wanted more information to visit the Office of Attention to the Population near the Plaza of the Revolution. continue reading

The other activists who were not allowed to board the plane are Rafael León Rodríguez, general coordinator of the Cuban Democratic Project; Hildebrando Chaviano, director of the Center for Analysis of Public Policies of Freedom and Development; Wilfredo Vallín and Amado Calixto Gammalame, members of the Legal Association of Cuba; Erick Álvarez, promoter of the CubaDecide initiative; and Alexei Gámez, activist of the Somos+ (We Are More) Movement.

The practice of preventing dissidents from leaving the country has become a repressive method of State Security in increasing use in recent months.

The practice of preventing dissidents from leaving the country has become a repressive method of State Security in increasing use in recent months.

In early 2013 a Migration Reform measure came into effect which eliminated the “exit permit” required for travel abroad. In the first ten months after the approval of the new measures, Cubans made more than 250,000 trips abroad. The opposition also benefited from this relaxation of controls.

However, any time it likes the Government may invoke certain subsections of article 25 of the new immigration regulations that prohibit departure “for reasons of public interest or national security.”

Travel bans are put into practice in a number of ways, including preventing opponents from leaving their home, intercepting the vehicles taking them to the airport, or notifying them at the immigration window at the airport that they are forbidden to leave, as happened on Monday.

From Joystick to Canon / Regina Coyula

Cuban Filmmaker Miguel Coyula

From Regina Coyula’s blog, 9 June 2017 (Ed. note: These interview fragments are being translated out of order by TranslatingCuba.com volunteers. When they are all done we will assemble them in order into one post.)

Jorge Enrique Lage interview with Miguel Coyula (Intro) 1

The country was falling to pieces, there were people drowning in the sea and on land, there was something called the Diaspora, but we bourgeois teenagers of Havana’s Vedado neighborhood knew nothing. Our lives revolved around a company and Japanese console. In my SuperNintendo years, Miguel was already a legend. Coyula was a gamer before gaming. His name passed like a password between initials. You don’t know how to kill a boss on one of the levels of the game? Ask Coyula. You don’t know how to activate this or that power? Go see Coyula.

We were playing Street Fighter II Turbo and Coyula already had Super Street Fighter II. We went to see him so he could show us the four new fighters and the recent versions of others. I remember that he revealed on the screen the improved attacks of Vega, the Spanish ninja that was my favorite fighther. Afterwards he started to clarify for us some technical doubts about The Lion King.  And I remember that, while he was leading Simba over some cliffs, I looked at his hyperconcentrated face and had a revelation, “This guy is alienated, bordering on autism, he’s going to melt, he probably does nothing else in his life,” I said to myself. “I have to give up video games, because if I don’t, I’ll end up like Coyula.”

Unfortunately, I quit videogames. Then time passed and I saw [Coyula’s] movie Memories of Overdevelopment. I saw it, by the way, before I saw Memories of Underdevelopment, which now seems to me like a regular prequel and a little drawn out. Sergio, the protagonist of Memories of Overdevelopment, ends up in a desert landscape that looks like another planet. He’s carrying a Barbie doll and his brother’s ashes, which are the ashes of the Mariel boatlift and, after that, of the Revolution.  To summarize. In 2010, Miguel Coyula scattered the ashes of Cuba in the desert in Utah; he dispersed these ashes in a psychotronic dust, between mutant and Martian. Seven years later, there are many people who still haven’t noticed.

I like that there is a guy like him in Cuban cinema.

Citizen Kastro-Citizen Alcides / Regina Coyula

Miguel Coyula (tallest in photo) and Rafael Alcides (3rd from right) collect the prize for the documentary ‘Nadie’ at the Dominican Global Film Festival. (Facebook FCGD)

Regina Coyula, 14 June 2017– Jorge Enrique Lage interviews Miguel Coyula (excerpts) 4

… at many times during the interview, Alcides interrupted himself and began to speak to Fidel as if he were right in front of him. It’s something one saw a lot in our parents’ generation: bothered by something Fidel was saying on TV and arguing with him, but supposedly there was no one listening inside the box. Documentaries offer that opportunity, that fantasy secret for many.

For me the film is a love-hate story between two men and a woman. The men are Rafael Alcides and Fidel Castro; the woman is the Revolution. Alcides lost her, and deeply resents the man who snatched her from him to dominate her, strangle her, and make her into an unrecognizable ghost. But in spite of it all, Alcides continues loving her somehow.

When he died I said that one of my actors had died, but Fidel appears in Memories of DevelopmentNobody, and Blue Heart. In the three films, I had to listen to many hours of his speeches and conversations to be able to edit and construct the dialogs in them. I can tell you it was pretty exhausting to work with him, who’d succeeded in telling me the lines I needed. But definitely he was one of the great actors of the 20th Century, including at the beginning of the 21st.

Supposedly, now one can read it as a great hallucination too, but when Alcides speaks, he addresses him in the present, as if he were alive. This doesn’t come out of nowhere. Anyone who reads Granma and reads the recycled quotes from Fidel in every issue can, as in the persistence embedded in all the talking heads you see on Cuban television, arrive at the conclusion that we’re being governed by a dead man.

Translated by: JT

#SaferInternetDay / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 7 February 2017 — Today is the worldwide observance of Safer Internet Day. Best practices should guide navigation for the benefit of the user; thus, she would never have the sour sensation that her Facebook page has been taken down for having undesirable content or that he has lost access to his email account containing all his correspondence–not to mention the disaster of a hacked web page–and all for not selecting a password other than “password” or “1234.”

Often when I speak of these matters, people stare at me in surprise or with frank indifference and think that “my contents are not secret.” I always say that mine aren’t either, but to maintain the security and privacy of my data is my right, even more so in a country where intrusive (bad) practices are part of daily life.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Embezzlement Today / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 17 February 2017 — The long laissez faire of the government with the “if you behave well, I look the other way” has given birth to a generation (just one?) of the cheerfully shameless, known generically as “fighters.” The nice denomination that began by being applied a few, no longer has color, sex or occupation. The common denominator is a very short wage for very long prices. Yes, those same people who cried in front of a photo with flowers* not yet three months ago.

Poles as distant as commerce and culture converge on this news that can only be half-confirmed because the official press never covers it without prior permission, and the friends, family, or co-workers of the enthroned acquired long ago the Pavlovian reflex of “not getting involved in things.” continue reading

The first of the cases, is in the Puentes Grandes Shopping Center, not yet three years from its opening and it already seems like a place in decline. There is an internet navigation room equipped on its opening with five computers and air conditioning. Something happened there that we have already become accustomed to. The PCs didn’t always work, the air conditioning didn’t either. In the room itself there was a counter with electronic devices such as USB memories, keyboards, headphones and the like, which was a point of sale for ETECSA, the Cuban Telecommunications Company that runs the place and maintains the monopoly of communications and as such keeps its users in a state between dissatisfaction and disgust.

And I speak about this in the past because no one can tell me if it will ever operate again; just very hastily in the parking lot an employee with a corporate image in a uniform one size smaller than necessary, acrylic nails, keratin-strengthened hair, and black-lace leggings, without raising her eyebrows or her voice, told me there had been a “tremendous explosion.” An informal taxi-driver on the hunt for a home refrigerator, was the one who told me that she was very pleased to be selling articles privately, much more cheaply than in the store.

It’s not just the stores. I remember, many remember, some fifteen or twenty years ago, the scandal in the International Relations Department of the Ministry of Culture, where artistic delegations were assembled without artists for the modest price of 500 CUC. Now it was the turn of the Council of Scenic Arts, and the information came from Colombia, Mexico or Central America with all the migratory connections, where some of the vigorous claimants of rights overseas, both university professors and lowlifes, learned to act although they never made it on stage. They demanded a red passport, that is an official one, authorized by the aforementioned Council that is supposed to authorize the travel of actors and theater groups.

Before, the same or similar matters had been in Heritage and Cultural Welfare and because of something missing in the works of art and some surplus in the construction works, appears to have been the reason for the exit through the back door of the previous Minister of Culture.

Even an octogenarian revolutionary fighter had amassed a modest fortune for the future, the future that was supposed to belong entirely to socialism. Barely two months after an anodyne article in the ’90s by Fidel Castro in the already anodyne newspaper Granma.

Nothing astonished Cubans, and from time to time we notice that corruption accompanies us wherever we go. The employee with the corporate image and the cultural officials as I already said, share the salary as a symbol. In the other case, I don’t know about you, but to me to the affair of the octogenarian fighter (for the uninformed his name is Héctor Rodríguez Llompart), tells me something about how things go among “the historicals” — as the original leaders and fighters of the Revolution call themselves.

*Translator’s note: A reference to Fidel Castro’s death

Translated by Jim

The Cuban Exile in Havana / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula

”Departure” is a performance by the company The Enchanted Deer that tackles the drama of those who left Cuba. (The Enchanted Deer)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Regina Coyula, Havana, 27 February 2017 — From the beginning you feel that something is missing, you shift awkwardly in the seat in the small room at The Enchanted Deer, although you want to seem calm. After a long version of Amazing Grace, you will be detached enough to take in what follows. The stage is lit, before us, almost like a mirror, and other rows of seats appear, occupied by photographs and a woman. The actress Mariela Brito leads us through a national memory that is not spoken of but that is among us, we Cubans, with an almost physical presence.

Mariela, in a colloquial tone, tells us why many of those who left went away, stories very similar to those we tell of our own families, between friends and acquaintances. But beyond the stories told, like empty rafts float others, those who didn’t live to tell and who are, somehow, the protagonists. This is the absence that the audience can fill with its own memories.

The staging, deliberately slow, allows us to digest, metabolize facts, moments that mark one of the great dramas of our country: the family and social fracture. As if that were not enough, a screen runs through the successive departures of the last 58 years. Scars that we carry and that – the performance is here to remind us – do not end.

The audience interacts with the performance ‘Departure’. (The Enchanted Deer)

At the end of the performance, the audience is invited to approach the proscenium and interact with the photos, read the texts in the form of short letters that accompany many of the images, confirm, now closer, that they are indeed Celia Cruz, Jorge Valls, Cabrera Infante or Ana Mendieta, along with Maria, Juan or Manuel. The empty seats seem to tell us: Do not forget. Do not forget, with that dangerous selective oblivion that does so much damage to society and that history needs to reconstruct.

Inevitably, the site acts as an emetic. The accounting of this period, begun in 1959, raises the question of whether a project built at the cost of such sacrifice, the exile and death of those who are beyond the performance on the stage of The Enchanted Deer, of those who are absent, was worth it. But this is a brief chronicle. That would be a very long reflection.

World’s Harley-Lovers Gather in Varadero / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula

Participants wear vests that identify the owner’s name and country, in addition to the countries where they have been with their motorcycles. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Regina Coyula, Havana, 14 February 2017 – This last weekend colorful festivities marked the 6th National Harley Davidson Meeting in Varadero in Cuba’s Matanzas province. Lovers of these powerful and visually attractive motorcycles attracted the curiosity of many tourists who were surprised by the peculiarity of the event.

Sponsored by the Cuban section of the Latin American Motorcycle Association (LAMA), the meeting was also attended by owners of other makes such as Indian, Triumph, Honda and Yamaha. Members have formed a strong community that helps in case of traffic accidents, or simply meets to talk and share their passion for motorcycles. continue reading

Numerous Harley-lovers from different parts of the world also met in Varadero to support their Cuban counterparts. Identifiable by their names and the flags of their country of origin on their vests, it was easy to distinguish members from Canada, France, Italy, Mexico, the USA, Germany and Croatia, who often were able to understand each other only through the passion that unites them.

One of the most exciting activities was the visit to Cheita in the city of Matanzas, to the home of a 107-year-old Harley enthusiast who had the strength to briefly peer out his door and enjoy seeing the street filled with motorcycles and the curious who came to see what all the commotion was about.

The attendees enjoyed the different competitions, such as one that tested the ability to ride most slowly without putting one’s feet on the ground, or another that tested riding through a serpentine course without touching the obstacles.

Others, more entertaining, involved a co-pilot, such as one biting a hotdog hanging from the bike in movement, or another called “straw in the bottle” which had to be accomplished without stopping or putting one’s feet down. There were also prizes for the bike that came from farthest away, the best repaired bike, or the most personalized chopper.

In all the competitions it was notable that the oldest motorcycle, a 1936 Flathead model, ran through its paces on Cuba’s roads, and in the hands of its experienced owner won several skills tests, including those for slow riding and stability.

Saturday did not come to an end without the usual concert open to the public with the popular David Blanco. The artist, also a Harley aficionado, satisfied his followers with a thrilling three-hour concert, very in tune with the spirit of the meeting, where he presented everything from classics of international rock to an arrangement of the emblematic Yo Soy El Punto Cubano.

On Sunday at noon, the motorcycle brigade departed from the park where the event was held to a point near the Varadero Marina. Once there, the official photo of this year’s meeting was taken.

In this edition an increase in the number of participants was perceptible, although neither the event nor the association have the appropriate tools of dissemination, beyond their official web pages. A proper promotion could help to promote this exceptional annual meeting in Cuba, on whose roads circulate true objects of desire for any collector in the world.

With Regards to ‘Santa and Andres’* / Regina Coyula

Cuban poet Delfin Prats

Regina Coyula, 30 January 2017 — In 1988 the Holguin poet Delfín Prats won the critic’s prize with his poetry collection “To Celebrate the Rise of Icarus,” and a friend of that time who didn’t want to see his name on my blog, on the night of the award ceremony brought Delfín to my house.

It was a moment of celebration and joy, because the prize came as a vindication of Delfín, a homosexual and poet in a provincial city. But that too was a trap.

In the middle of the toasts and after he dedicated his recent prize-winning book to me, I told him I had a present for him, and put into his hands “The Language of Mutes,” his David Prize winning poetry collection of 1968.

Delfín looked at me, looked at the book and broke into tears. It was the first time he’d seen the printed book, because that notebook in a landscape format did not circulate, it had been turned into pulp for including poems with homosexual content.

Translator’s note: “Santa and Andres” is a new Cuban film whose story revolves around a gay intellectual who was censored in 1980s Cuba. The government refused to allow the film to be shown in last year’s Havana film festival, saying that the plot of the movie “aims to highlight political persecution and attacks on the island that did not take place,” and that it follows “a course of action that is not consistent with history.”

The following video about Delfín Prats is not subtitled, but even if you cannot understand all the words, it is a delight to see his smile:

Three Days Without Fidel / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 20 January 2017 — I was asked for this by a press agency, and they didn’t publish it. Then came the official reaction and we couldn’t have much time without his image. It’s like what a wise lady said in line at the pharmacy, “It would be preferable that the (National) Assembly approved an enormous monument, and not this Fidel that comes at us from all sides and doesn’t just die.”

Friday, already late in the evening, in front of the TV, idly I switch it on. Raul Castro is talking. A good part of the city was sleeping when the phones began to ring.

Perhaps for those who loved him, the reaction was emotional, but there is no surprise in the death of an old man who’s been sick for more than ten years. Yes, there is the irony that he was killed so many times, and now his death takes us all by surprise. continue reading

The programming continues and they even start playing a film, American of course. It was not until the movie was well along that they interrupted it to replace it with images from the documentary Fidel from Estela Bravo. It gives the impression that the TV directors never dared to make a plan for this moment; and on receiving directions “from above” that they began to look for film materials for the new days of “history and patriotism.”

It’s already dawn and groups of young people are coming from the Art Factory, their party having been interrupted. The drunkest obey the “on your feet!” that they learned in military or farming encampments, and add to the amusements and loquacious, “Turn on the TV, Fifo died!” These heralds continue on their way and others camp out in the park in front of the Acapulco Cinema; two girls dance little skip steps to their own music. It is a group without tears, these displaced from the Art Factory.

Saturday. A clueless man raised his eyebrows on hearing the news in the Tulipan agricultural market and continues on. Full as ever, the market is quiet without the loudspeakers; the buyers are very discreet moving quickly among the stalls to get a few vegetables at import prices.

In the morning there are still shops that haven’t received instructions to suspend sales of alcoholic beverages; a dry law and nine days of national mourning will be a tough test for those who live between hits of rum and reggaeton. I don’t see sad faces, rather serious ones. Or cautious.

Sunday. The television broadcasts endless materials about Fidel. Fidel at the UN, at a school, at a market, with Garcia Marquez, omnipresent Fidel.  Now he is a bigger star than ever, such a focus in the media, he who spent hours at the microphone on the national channel and on Radio Havana Cuba.

On the news, the announcers are dressed in black, they provide information about the funeral rites in the Plaza of the Revolution, the journey of the ashes to Santiago, the closing of the streets. On TV there are tears, but there is no children’s programming. And no one talks about causes of death.

My neighbor in the back, who has been so worried, talks with someone on the phone about the pills she has to take for the disgust. A woman is interviewed under the marquee of the Yara cinema, at the corner of 23rd and L. She is dressed in white and wears a black mourning band on her arm. She reads a poem about her soul being torn apart at the news.

Behind her, on the wall of the Habana Libre Hotel, you can see the enormous graffiti by El Sexto. “He left,” it says on the wall, and El Sexto is in prison for this graffiti with seconds of posterity on camera.

Monday. The buses are like always, going by full. Nothing seems to have changed, but in the workplaces and schools activities are suspended so people can go to the Plaza of the Revolution. At the base of the José Martí monument that have arranged sites with flowers and huge photo and the people file by.

No one stops in front of the photo where there are no ashes. The ashes are under control of the Ministy of the Armed Forces and the people don’t file past there. Many cellphones film the flowers and the photo. The real mourning does not happen on camera.

There is disgust and angry protests from those who spend hours in line and see groups of soldiers and people from other work centers who are allowed up the ramp to the base of the monument as soon as they arrive. A note of social indiscipline without public order to order it. The solution: to extend the hours of the line and people parading by until midnight so people can pay their respects.

In a country where saying yes while thinking something else has been a practice for years, we won’t know how many bottles were uncorrked, how many complicit hugs were given. But even those legitimately struck by the loss understand the before and after.

Fidel was in charge of embodying the Revolution. It doesn’t mater how many commitments we Cubans are invited to sign*, in an illusion of continuity. His phrase, “To change everything that should be changed,” will recur in the immediate future.

*Translator’s note: At the time Fidel died, the government asked all Cubans to sign a loyalty oath to his socialist ideology.

Impressions of a Novice (Part 1) / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Regina Coyula, 8 December 2016 — A novice in Mexico and a novice in the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). The city surprised me because I had attributed to it a rural character it does not have. Zapopan and Guadalajara, to the eyes of a stranger, are a single city; one city with the equivalent of three-quarters of the entire population of Cuba. Many construction sites, many luxurious apartment towers that don’t seem to be inhabited, never mind the information from Miguel, my taxi driver to PALCCO.

PALCCO is the Convention Center and is enormous. The security measures are extensive, because it is a world event filled with people, including famous people, sponsored by the United Nations.

Numerous social, academic, journalism and other organizations have set up little stands in the entrance to present their programs. continue reading

Once inside the main building it is very difficult to orient yourself; an army of young volunteers, smiling and helpful, help you find your way in that labyrinth of meeting rooms and a place to have coffee.

I look at the agenda. All the topics are interesting and it’s hard to decide which to attend because up to ten sessions overlap at the same time. The technology is a wonder, because you can follow them on Youtube or watch them later.

For personal reasons I’m interested in the forums on public policy about access and internet rights, digital security, and surveillance; but I also attended sessions on other topics such as on-line education, and the lower levels of use among women, the disabled and minorities.

The sessions are in English and there is no simultaneous translation, which requires all my attention. Huge screens transcribe it and thus I can follow the topic.

I make the briefest comments on the panel on the Right of Internet Access in Latin America. I am listening to my Latin American colleagues, realizing the uniqueness of Cuba: not only has Cuba not ratified the UN covenants on human rights, but it voted against considering Internet Access a Human Right; and although the “cable” (Alba 1, from Venezuela) came to Cuba, the Internet has not come.

A synthesis that seems to be interpreted literally by another Cuban delegate, a woman representing the business sector, feels the need to remind the audience that Cuban has free education and healthcare, about the impact of the “Blockade” (the American embargo), and in my opinion, the most pernicious idea: the concern about giving people Internet when no one knows what they will do with it.

Here is the video with my comments, which occur roughly between 1:17:53 and 1:30:25.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWpZ9PMFobk&t=1h17m53s