The Reclusive Poet / Carlos Manuel Alvarez, Regina Coyula

Rafael Alcides

By Carlos Manuel Álvarez, published in Univision News, 19 May 2016 Published in Malaletra, a Blog Made in Cuba, Regina Coyula, 11 July 2016

He looks like a god but is a heretic. He seems carved in stone, but is a nervous wreck. He looks like the first among men, but is just the last survivor.

Marina Tsvetaeva, the great Russian poet, said of Rilke: “He is not a symbol of our time, he is its counterweight. Wars, massacres, flesh lacerated in battles, and Rilke. Thanks to Rilke, our time will be forgiven.”

At eighty-two, Rafael Alcides is Cuba’s counterweight. Political courtesans, a nation eaten away by its own skepticism and cowardice, lives wasted in a useless march to nowhere, permeated by resentment and fear, and Alcides. Thanks to Alcides our country will be forgiven.

At age 82, in sacred communion with the world, equally reconciled with defeat and with light, Alcides is all he seems and is also all he is. A poet. He is someone who once wrote, “When a funeral procession of two lonely cars/ goes by and nobody cares, I quiver, I shudder, / I throb; I am afraid of being a man.”


He lives in a garage turned into an apartment — a cave, almost — on the corner of a quiet street in Havana’s Nuevo Vedado neighborhood. It is not the crumbling house of a tortured genius. It is not the lavish home of an acclaimed author. It is not the suffocating house of a bureaucrat. It is not the empty house of a suicide. It is a quintessential example of “mature homes, / where the act does not allow itself to be replaced by the word.”

The volitional force that is Rafael Alcides inhabits an ideogram. The narrow sofa, almost at floor level; the cushions with patterns of tremulous flowers; the still life painted on the ceramic vases; the polished wood of armchairs; the wicker furniture; the wax candles; the sober paintings, with motifs ranging from the ordinary to the lugubrious; the dim lighting; the pusillanimous cold of Havana winters; the afternoon’s plasticity; the vague noise of apparently uninhabited spaces; and the inconstant barking of a lanky dog, with variegated eyes and floppy ears.

Regina Coyula, photo from her blog

Regina Coyula, his wife who is  23 years his junior, brews coffee in the kitchen, and from the back of the apartment, enveloped in this conversational aroma, Alcides emerges. A man who, in order to describe him, calls forth the exclamation that today — except when aimed at him — would sound ridiculous for anything else: “Oh!”

He sports grey heavy trousers, a navy blue sweatshirt, black socks and slippers. The white and generous beard, his elegant baldness, his coppery country skin, wrinkled forehead, and in the depths of his face, howling, the feverish black eyes.

He recites the verses of Rubén Darío:

“Margarita, the sea is beautiful / and the wind / brings the subtle essence of orange blossom!”

The grave and tremendous voice, combined with his scintillating gestures, produces a strange fascination.

“I feel / in my soul a skylark singing; / your accent…”

The hands seem to initiate a subtle dance, led by the vertiginous rhythm of the words. Long, aged fingers trace the words as if his mechanisms of expression were activated all at once and nothing within Alcides were disconnected. If he is going to say something, he says it with his whole being.

“Margarita, I am going to tell you / a story.”

His ears are filled with water, he can’t hear himself, and a few meters away everything is in shadows. Alcides has spent the last two months in bed, except on the days when he goes to the hospital so the doctors can check on him. Only thus he has reconnected with a city with which he wanted nothing further to do, consciously isolating himself from the final stages of its destruction.

“For more than 20 years now, Alcides’ life can be summed up in a linear kilometer. From the apartment to the farmers’ market and from the apartment to the bodega [ration store],” says Regina.

Last November he had surgery for colon cancer; the doctors found it had metastasized and they performed a colostomy. But he still hasn’t decided whether or not to undergo chemotherapy. It seems he would rather spend his last months peacefully, regardless of how many may be left, rather than drawing out the process amid vomiting and nausea.

What is striking about all this, however, is his renewed capacity to celebrate concrete details that others might consider minutiae. This is something that no cancer — whether it is political power or the actual disease – has been able to take away from him. Today, 19 January 2016, Alcides just finished reading with delight the recent criticism of his work by one of his fervent readers.

Rafael Alcides (EFE)

“I’m going to be a beautiful corpse,” he says, “remembered with love.”

But he is not dead yet. He is Cuba’s greatest living poet and very likely the most honest, the most unjustly silenced, the one who has paid the highest price for his nobility, and the one who has not been subverted by fashionable trends nor bought by politicians’ petty cash. continue reading

Intermittently published, he has received some quite unusual awards. In Cuban prisons, in the Eighties, the inmates exchanged cigarettes for his book, Agradecido como un perro [“Grateful as a dog”]. The only things a rafter would take with him across the Florida Straits were Alcides’s books wrapped in plastic so that the sea would not destroy them. Young people from the provinces would show up at his house after reading some book of his at some second-hand bookstore.

Alcides is not a poster boy for exile. He is not a plaintiff from the Five Grey Years. He did not become cynical, coarse, sarcastic, cautious, or violent, nor even less did he ever cave in. For some inexplicable reason, he cares less about his personal luck and more about the death of his country.

“If I lose my book, after many years of writing it, I am the one who loses. That is my own personal loss. But this is the loss of the people and it is a sacred thing, a tragedy:  We have a patchwork of capitalism and socialism that means nothing. Look around for a damned vegetable. You won’t find it. Look at the prices. Is it the blockade’s [embargo’s] fault? Are you fucking kidding? You can’t be serious. What, the produce comes from London? The sweet potatoes come from Paris?

“No. Life goes on and it’s like a chess game. Each move changes the game. You cannot be rigid. This continues because Fidel and Raúl are in a duel with the United States. A shameless and mendacious duel; because Raúl says, ‘We can hold on for another 50 years’… yes, of course, you can hold on. But the people can’t hold on anymore. In no way am I proud of this situation. I feel like the worker who helped build the prison. I am one of those workers. But, if I reincarnated and were given the same circumstances, I would again join in that struggle and do everything that I did. I would sign up for that campaign. We thought we were going somewhere, even though it turned out that we didn’t arrive anywhere.”

— What about your literature?

“I don’t talk about my literature. My history is very simple. In the end, I have been an author of drafts. I have three or four meter-length of novels in my closet, and that’s where they’ll stay. Thirty years ago, when I moved to this house, I burned another meter and a half.”

— Doesn’t this trouble you?

“There was a time when it did trouble me, because it’s what I lived for and gave my life to. But later, you have much less anxiety. Why? Because there have been bigger losses. The biggest loss was losing the Revolution itself; it was the dream of many people like me. There was an opportunity, the opportunity existed, but that is a train that will not pass again.”


Previously, in an interview with the critic and writer Efraín Rodríguez Santana (Cuba Encuentro magazine, No. 36, spring 2005), Alcides had acknowledged that he burned his novels to pay off the mortgage on a future that was weighed down by so much draft material that he would never be able to finalize. In this sense, it can be said that the Revolution itself is the unfinished novel, allegedly complete, never to be finished, that its authors insist on continuing to write at the wrong time. Politicians are politicians precisely because the generosity of true poets is unknown to them.


“In Cuba, a Revolution was needed. What happens is that the Revolution soon ceased to be Revolution and became something else. Fidel began to do whatever he wanted, to lead wars around the world in which, on the other hand, he did not participate — unlike Alexander, Hannibal, and Napoleon, who did participate. Not even his children were there.”

— If we had to venture a year in which the Revolution ceases to be “Revolution”…

“Starting at the moment the new legal body is created. When it was established that blacks and whites were equal, that everyone had the same rights, and that the state was controlling the means of production…at that moment is when the Revolution ends. What takes its place is the natural contract between man and state and man and society, the social contract of all times, where the citizen produces, pays taxes, the state collects, distributes what it collects, builds schools, pays the salaries of officials, the army, the salary of Fidel and Raúl. That state is responsible for giving you a scholarship if you perform well, ensuring that you have a free education — which is essential — and hospitals, and doctors.

“The Revolution ended in 1965 or 66. But — what’s wrong with this picture? It’s that Fidel is very cunning, very intelligent, he is a genius, no doubt about it — he is sinister, and he retained the name, Revolución, that abstract entity.  Why? Because that way you owe things to the Revolution. But since the Revolution has no face, it is not a figure, you need to identify it with someone. Your father was a garbage collector and you became a doctor or lawyer thanks to the Revolution, that is, thanks to Fidel Castro. You owe everything to Fidel Castro.

“No! No! Fidel Castro owes everything to you, everything he is, the glory and power he has, has been given to him by the people, by me as part of the people. I pay him the salary to manage and direct, I have trusted him. That story of ‘At your orders, Commander in Chief’… No, sir! The sovereign is me, it is not you, you must take off your hat to the people, who are the true sovereign, the one who puts the hat on your head and the one who can take it away. This [would be], of course, things rightly understood in a rule of law. Here, you can’t take away fuck. He’s the one who can take away from you, he can take your life.”

–Did you ever admire him?

“Yes, of course, I followed him, he was the chief.”

— Did you have affection for him?

“Affection is a strange word. Affection is one thing. Love is another. Respect, admire, feel a part of. Rather, I felt a part of it all. Also, you have to think of yourself as a big octopus, because you love people for many reasons. So, you’re a leader, you’re a boss, you represent an idea, and there are lots of friends of yours who have been friends of mine and have died — that is, we are all part of an ideal. Already, once I know you, we are united by all those affections of people who have loved you and whom you have loved, or supposedly have loved. We are part of a big family. It is no longer a problem of whether I love. You are simply part of me, and as I trust you and we are part of an enterprise, everything that is decided is correct.

“Fidel was also the man who was facilitating the country’s dream. For example, one of the great things he invents is literacy, which is very beautiful. Or distributing land to the peasants.  Who wasn’t going to agree with that? Anyway, it was a very nice moment, really.

“Fidel could have become one of the Christs of human history, he was going down that road. People loved him, gave thanks to Fidel, ‘Fidel, my house is your house.’ All of this went on, things that would make you cry. And socialism seemed like the realization of man as a species, the political and cultural realization. Open hospitals for everyone. Although he didn’t create the hospitals, they were already there, and, well… the doctors left, because he harassed them. So that all the intelligence of the country would leave for good, and he could start over with people he had shaped from scratch and were in his debt.

“But, yes, it was beautiful. And we were making history, on the other hand. You don’t take money with you, but you do take glory. We were rebuilding the world. The great epoch.”


The life of Rafael Alcides is an excuse for nostalgia. If we continue with Rilke, it can be said that Alcides has been nothing more than the final verses of Duino’s Eighth Elegy: “Who has turned us upside down like this, so that, no matter what we do / we keep the attitude of one who is leaving?”

Everything – born on June 9, 1933 in a hamlet in Oriente province, “immense savannah with only ten or twelve houses” – begins, transpires, and ends this way: “I cannot stop being from Barrancas./ From Barrancas that today only exists in my dream.” We understand that fidelity to moral convictions is, then, a relatively comfortable and minor task for those who have known how to save that which is is most difficult: the integrity of their being.

Alcides is a pillar of memories, and time has finally forgiven him. Regina, his wife, describes him: “Another of the things that makes him extraordinary has to do with his appearance. When we started our relationship 24 years (!!) ago, my niece, with all the candor of ten years, wondered if he was Eliseo Diego. He wore then a venerable white beard and was unexpectedly balding. His contemporaries seemed like younger brothers. It turned out the joke was on them as he didn’t get any older while others lost their freshness, hair, pounds, physical and/or mental agility and for a long time the tables have been turned. That, despite a copious medical record very well concealed.”

He grew up in a clapboard house with a thatched roof and dirt floor. His first heroes were the heroes of Cuban Independence: Maceo, Gómez, Calixto García. Rafael and his brother Rubén were vying for the leading roles in their games, even coming to blows if necessary. Both always wanted to be Maceo, until Rafael convinced Rubén to assume the role of Ignacio Agramonte: young and beautiful.

“That was,” he said, “our childhood literature. And our cinema.” He already assumed Cuba as a vast fiction, the raw material with which his inventiveness would be dispatched.

He attended primary school in Bayamo, and in 1946, when about to finish high school at the Escuelas Pías de San Rafael y Manrique in Havana, he returned to Oriente – only to leave again. In Poema de amor por un joven distante [“Love poem by a far-away young man”] – dated 1989 – Alcides recreates as a protective father the archetypal arrival to Havana of excited young people of the province – that first, terrifying, Balzaquian clash with the city so many times evoked. But in reality, like Whitman, in the harmonious salutation to his fellow man, Alcides speaks to himself,  and comforts and embraces the young man “solitary and lonely, the loneliest of men” — himself — on that day “longer than a century” of June 22, 1952.

In that decade, his baptism of fire was the struggle against the Batista dictatorship, clandestine activity, and membership in rebel groups of action and sabotage. There are moments, situations that haunt him, furies of youth that today he would not subscribe to, that he does not even mention. But they were violent years, tense, he in the prime of his age. What else could he do but offer himself to the fierce ritual of justice?

“Once we were at the university, the police came and started shooting. We threw ourselves to the ground and then, the next day, we saw that the bullets had hit a meter above our heads. But we came to know it the next day. With life, it happens to you exactly the same way.”

In the first years of the Revolution, Alcides was assistant to Manuel Fajardo Sotomayor (Commander of the Rebel Army), participated in the Literacy Campaign, assumed positions of a political cadre in the ORI (Integrated Revolutionary Organizations), and wrote two initiatory and forgettable poetry books: Himnos de Montaña [“Mountain Hymns] (1961) and Gitana [“Gypsy Woman”] (1962). In 1963 he published El caso de la señora [“The case of the lady”] in Unión magazine, a poem that caught the attention of Nicolás Guillén – his close friend – and stood out in the effervescent literary panorama of the moment.

Alcides assumed the conversational language that, first in an organic way – starting with his generation, the so-called “Generation of 1950”: Pablo Armando Fernández, Manuel Díaz Martínez, Roberto Fernández Retamar, Fayad Jamís, Heberto Padilla, etc. – and then later imperatively (due to stylistic fashion or expressive obedience with which to praise the socialist project) would come to rule the Cuban poetic discourse for a couple of decades.

At the same time, within the ICRT (Institute of Radio and Television), he wrote scripts and conducted En su lugar la poesía, a radio program on which several of the most important poets of Latin America were guests. In addition, he amassed narrative projects. In 1965 he delivered, with the tagline Brigada 2506 [the name of the exile group that carried out the abortive Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961], his novel Contracastro to the Casa de las Américas contest. Mario Vargas Llosa defended it tooth and nail, but such a title aroused resentment and, the prize being declared null, Alcides was awarded an honorable mention.

“The novel was not a counterrevolutionary novel — far from it. Maybe it was the doing of Haydee Santamaría (president of Casa de las Américas), a wonderful woman, very big, but for whom Fidel was untouchable, and the name must have seemed like a rumble, an elephant in a glassware shop. Later I learned that while on a trip to Vietnam [Fidel] asked for a copy so that he could read it, and decided that yes, they could publish it.”

But he was asked to change the title, and Alcides did not accept.

— Maybe that’s where your disappointment with the project begins.

“No, it’s not that. It was a very individual thing. We are still in January of ’65, a romantic year, and any individual could come up with anything.”

In 1967, La pata de palo [“The wooden leg”] appeared on the Letras Cubanas imprint, and the first poem, El agradecido [“The grateful one”] is enough: “My whole life has been a disaster/ that I do not regret./ The lack of childhood made me a man/ and love sustains me./ Prison, hunger, everything:/ all of that has been good for me :/ the stabs in the night/ and the unknown father./ And so from what I had/ is born this thing that I am: a very little thing, it is true,/ but huge, grateful as a dog”.

Since then, Alcides is a parable. Diaphanous, but deep. Assertive, but suggestive. The straight line of his actions, the clarity of his verses, end up creating an immensity.

He broke down the epic patiently. He sat at his kitchen table, took the Homeland, put it in the coffee grinding machine, and began to crush at times with the left, at times with the right, and so on. His colloquialism is ambidextrous. He equally claims the legitimacy of agitating himself as though a blind and universal god to whom everything is incumbent, as the possibility of composing, like the industrious potter, the exquisite daily piece.

“The wooden leg” found immediate homage in Guillén’s late exercises, such as En algún sitio de la primavera [“Somewhere in Spring”], and in Taberna y otros lugares [“Tavern and other places”], Roque Dalton’s main collection of poems. About Carta hallada en los bolsillos de un monje [“Letter found in the pockets of a monk”], one of the poems in the book, Virgilio Piñera said: “The reader who tries to find the ’trembling’ of St. John of the Cross, the ’imagery’ of Góngora, the frisson (goosebumps) of Baudelaire, the flares of Rimbaud or the ’silences’ of Mallarmé would understand nothing of this ’Carta’ [’Letter’] in which poetry is anything other than trembling,  imagery, frisson, flares, and silences. And perhaps there is all that (…), but inserted into words that are not the words that the aforementioned poets used in their songs”.

In the braid (impossible to remove without destroying it) of History in capital letters and lyrical will that is the existence of Alcides, “The wooden leg” was followed by 1968, the Soviet tanks in Prague, the Cuban government’s approval of the invasion, and with it the pragmatic dagger of realpolitik destroying the brave illusions of the poet.

There would come the parametración imposed the literary and artistic field, the established and legislated censorship, the accelerated Stalinization of society, the most abusive methods of alleged ideological re-education, and the famous Padilla case – the author challenged for his “critical and anti-historical” literature, imprisoned under accusations of subversive activity, then pushed to publicly read a self-criticism in the purest of Soviet styles – and the Western intelligentsia’s immediate and majority divorce from the Revolution.

“We must understand the enormous cruelty that this meant, the wound it made in the field of culture. Everything went through a black hole. Someone moved the needle of the trains and diverted the route. The experience of the USSR began to be duplicated and the martiano program [the study of José Martí’s legacy] was betrayed: “a republic with all and for the good of all,” an economic program for small and medium-size business owners. This shows how that very human process, which seemed to be led by men, was carried out by So-and-Sos who wanted to look like divinities.”

In 1970, intent on publicizing his disenchantment, Alcides presented at the National Union of Writers and Artists (UNEAC) a notebook entitled The City of Mirrors, and was predictably rejected “as nihilistic, as improper of the New Man”.

Knowing that he would also be set apart, he decided to set himself apart. He would not visit UNEAC again. He would not submit books to any publisher. He would not attend any exhibition or cultural event. He would not be seen in cinemas, concerts, or public events. Thus began the longest inxilio [internal exile] of Cuban literature.

“The alternative would have been to plant bombs to destroy what I had helped build, and that I was never going to do.”

Alcides wrote radio scripts from his home and wrote prophetic verses in the most complete and conscious solitude. He subjected his soul to a disciplined military regime. He wrote: “The past and the future have already passed./ Everything we had we lost,/ and it was more than we could have./ We have this rumor. This / lot of sorrows that the wind spreads, / immemorial, without time./ This rumor / of what was / life before the future came.”

These were scary times and no one paid visits to anyone.

“César López and Pablo Armando saw each other more or less, from time to time. Manuel Díaz Martínez was stuck in a radio station without being able to put his name to his work, Heberto (Padilla) translated Maiakovski without being able to sign his work, Virgilio at that time also translated without being able to sign his work — everyone was very scattered. It was an offensive against intellectuals who had applauded the process, who had fought in Playa Girón [Bay of Pigs], who had slept rough, by the sea. People who loved the Revolution. These writers began to have ideas, to make critical literature, and they annoyed those who were already seated on the chair of Stalinism. That’s the whole story.

Later, many of the defenestrated intellectuals would be reinstated and would gladly accept the state’s perks. But not Alcides. An eminently sentimental — even melodramatic — poet, and with enough courage to write the fieriest confessions and walk the edge of any excess. But possessing, also, a cold lucidity. He believed that what the Revolution should expect from true revolutionaries was not faith anymore, but doubt: “A poem can be/ a machine of emotion/ or a machine of intelligence./ (Emotion passes).”


“Poetry is mixed with the story, with the novel, with everything. Poetry is given in fits and starts, it is like love. You have to write as you feel it. This is your chance, you will not be born again. That’s the secret. It doesn’t matter that others don’t see it. The creator risks his death, others risk their lives. Poets who today seem transcendent, tomorrow are forgotten. It happens with all authors. Poetry is the mystery, the gift that the word has to captivate. But it’s not a safe place. Today they can throw you kisses, give hugs, but tomorrow… There are so many poets out there. That’s why you have to take a chance. You don’t write for now, not for me, not for you, not for anyone. You are writing for your contemporaries — that is, the future. Sincerity. If it goes well, it goes well. If not, then no. Do not lie. Do not lie.  He who lies will have his hand withered,” says Alcides, the noble conversationalist.


It is easy to trace the transcendent events in Alcides’ life, because they are all in his work, without disguise. He married Teresa – “Without solitude to deceive,/ today Teresa and I do not eat and we drink the poem/ made stew and made coffee that is how it feeds,/ and we laugh at how they are heated in a jar / or fried in a pan with butter / our next Complete Works” – and had with her the most famous of his four children: the painter Rubén Alcides.

When Teresa – several years divorced from Alcides – emigrated in the early 90s with the son they had together, Alcides composed Carta a Rubén, one of the most shocking elegies about the main trauma of the recent Cuban family: “But we, / we alone, / the sad, / the mournful ones / in what homeland are we now? (…) / The homeland, far from what you love? (…) / Where you live between walls and locks / it is also exile…”.

He sang, also, to the helpless flower (Canto para los dos) [“Song for the two of us”], to the tomb of his only general (En el entierro del hombre común) [“At the burial of the common man”], and even to the ministers, in a poem where he confesses: “Every time I hear about a friend / who is going to be made a minister, / someone erases a part of my life …” If we review the updated list of cultural commissars or retroactive sacred cows – a good part of the Generation of 1950 – we will see that power has been erasing Alcides more than should be erased from a man.

But in 1984 – years of a certain thaw already – Agradecido como un perro [Grateful as a dog]” appeared, an indelible explosion. Reviews rained down and young and gallant readers, stunned, broke their fast with Alcides. In the title poem, the Revolution is mentioned. However, the poem does not wither, which is what usually happens, but the Revolution endures. The Revolution, after so many flat balladeers and grandstand impostors, finally owed survival to a dissident.

At the end of the eighties, believing that idle abstention made no sense, and driven by what he described as “the deceptive winds of Perestroika,” Alcides reconnected with the UNEAC and participated in meetings and congresses.

“My attitude had been that of someone who did not want to charge against what he had loved and continued loving, and for which he could still give his life because he had hopes that we would rectify it.”

Returning to the world, he found Regina, then an official of the Ministry of the Interior. She knew his poems inside out, and the gravitas, the manifest disinterest of Alcides in standing out, the silences interrupted only by his affable radio-announcer voice, ended up captivating her.

“I saw him for the first time at a wake and we didn’t speak, but I was very impressed by his concentrated expression, by himself, sitting in a Calzada y K [a Havana funeral home] armchair. Then we were introduced to each other at UNEAC and there was empathy, but no more. We met again through the complicity of a friend on 31 December 1988, and the rest, as they say, is history.”

In 1991, after the events of the “Letter of the Ten” [also called the Declaration of Cuban Intellectuals] – expulsion from the UNEAC, administrative sanctions, false accusations, and a shameful campaign to discredit a dozen intellectuals who dared to sign and disseminate what, according to Manuel Díaz Martínez himself, a signatory, was no more than a “list of moderate demands to the government” – Alcides concluded that everything would remain the same and so he again began to prefer his solitude to the company of colleagues whom he still loved but whom, in the best of cases, the pusillanimous silence turned into accomplices.

Around that time, Letras Cubanas released the forgotten notebook La ciudad de los espejos [“The city of mirrors”], but with a much more bitter title, which summarized the annoyances of Alcides: Nadie [“Nobody”]. It was his last book to be published by a Cuban publisher and he would never appear again in any public space. They once tried to recognize him with the National Prize for Literature and he rejected it.

As alternative avenues of expression opened up in Cuba, Alcides moved from silence to critical participation. He has held nothing back — not in interviews, not in articles, not in talks or events to which the political opposition invites him. During the last 23 years, his poetic work has only seen the light of day thanks to the Sevillian publisher Abelardo Linares, who one day knocked on his door and rescued him.

Screen shot of the documentary Nadie with Rafael Alcides.


On the occasion of his 80th birthday, Regina wrote: “Alcides is incapable of boarding a bus, a shared taxi (almendrón), or a called taxi (panataxi); he is incapable of walking even 200 yards to meet a celebrity. Instead, he is an extraordinary host, so warm and attentive, who immediately makes even new acquaintances feel comfortable.”

“In this time of ideological polarization, he keeps affection intact and that intense way of loving, be it for a high government official or a senior opposition leader in exile. He forgives (but does not forget, he has an excellent memory) some fool elevated? from bison poet to official who from his new position has allowed himself to treat him coldly. He still regrets the errata by omission of the dedication to Roberto Fernández Retamar in a poem from a book recently published in Colombia.”

A year later, some online media outlets published the following email, signed by Alcides:

“Havana 30 June 2014

Miguel Barnet, Poet

President, UNEAC

“Friend Miguel: In view of the fact that my books are no longer allowed to enter Cuba either through customs or by mail, which is the same as prohibiting me as an author, I resign from the UNEAC. You will also find in this envelope the Commemorative Medal of the 50th anniversary of the UNEAC which, as a founder, belongs to me. The rest of that mansion that was so mine in another time, are my memories, and these, being personal, will leave with me. Among those memories, that of the good friends found in the UNEAC of that time, treasures of my youth, what I have left of that great failed dream, figures whom I love even if they do not think like me and who love me, even if they do not dare to visit me. That is all, Miguel. Anticipating interpretations that would omit the text of this irrevocable resignation, I have gone ahead and made it public.”

And it has continued. Filmmaker Miguel Coyula’s YouTube channel has been publishing, since the end of 2015, some short videos – powerful visual haikus – in which Alcides talks about the lost dream of the Revolution, the people, beauty, Fidel Castro, artists. Similarly, the Verbum publishing house has just launched a poetic anthology of his, with definitive overtones, of which Alcides has only one copy.

Still, resentment is something he knows nothing about, and he fervently believes in God.


—Over time, you have gone further than any of your generation.

“No. I have advanced just like everyone else. I’m pretty sure we all think the same. In Cuba, there are only two dissidents: Fidel and Raul Castro. The rest of us agree that this does not work. What happens is that some dare to say it and others do not, because some are inside the game and others outside. Since I don’t need to take trips, nor do I accept trips, nor do I want a different house, nor do I aspire to be given a car, and I don’t even have a landline, I can say it.”

—But that’s going further.

“It is not.”


Manuel Díaz Martínez has said of him: “Rafael Alcides treasures still – they live on in his conduct and his writing – the rebellions and longings that were once the currencies of our already dismantled generation. It should not surprise us, then, that this Caribbean Ulysses continues to dream, in the grotto of Polyphemus, of reaching Ithaca. Across the Atlantic I discover him, a navigator of stubborn dignity, resisting the siren songs in a muddy sea of betrayals and surrenders.”


—Did you ever think about leaving Cuba?

“No, never. I am from here. Honestly, I wouldn’t know how to live outside of Cuba. But the problem is to continue fighting. It doesn’t matter if it’s here or there. That isn’t important. And I believe that those who fight for change, be it here or there, have the same right.”

—Do you feel alone at times?

“No, I don’t feel alone. I have many friends outside. But the friends from before no longer exist. They are a part of the before times. They don’t come here.”

—Do you still love them?

“Yes, I love them in the past. What has been, not even God can erase, and I respect it all. Now, those friends no longer visit me. If we run into each other, by chance, some of them hug me, others turn away. I have become invisible.”

—And how does that make you feel? Sad?

“Not even, not anymore. I realize that it can’t be otherwise. I realize that they are afraid. It makes me pity them (a little) because I know that they have not stopped loving me. Because I have not stopped loving them. I love them in the past, but I love them all the same. I greatly respect the choices of others, in every sense, but I also respect my right to disagree. If in the next government we will be as intolerant as we have been in this one, I’ll take this one, because I already know it more or less.”

—The radical position of the old exiles is not very convincing to you. “No, I don’t believe in radicalisms, radicalisms are stupid. We don’t realize it, but we have lived through a great tragedy. Today the word Patria — fatherland — doesn’t exist. We have drama. And literature — the novel, poetry — is made with drama, with pain. This is coming to an end. The time has come to start telling about it.”

Rafael Alcides

Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison and others. 

Cuba: Anatomy of Fear / Regina Coyula

Ilustration: Rafael Alejandro

For the women of today, leaders.

Regina Coyula, Havana, 23 October 2020 (Originally published in El Estornudo).

In 1980, I worked for G2 (yes, the G2), and I provided staff support to that gigantic “Operation Inca” launched during the events at the Peruvian Embassy. The first times I crossed the many throngs, vociferous and intimidating, where Fifth Avenue splits and opens up to the old Abreu Fontán roundabout, I felt the real possibility of physical aggression. Only after reaching the post of the entrance was I able to breathe easily. At Abreu Fontán, there was a concentration of citizens who would abandon the country through the Port of Mariel.

I, who am not one to wear T-shirts and never have been, acquired three of those “Down with the Blockade,” “Yankees out of Guantanamo,” and “No Spy Flights” T-shirts, each one with a corresponding image. They were my fragile protection to feel safe among the crowds. I was not deterred by my great and disarming fear of the wall of “indignant people” seeking their freedom. In the weeks that I worked in that beach spa, converted into a noisy, crowded, and smelly warehouse of anxious people, ignorant of their future, sustained only by their hope of leaving, I thought of the fear of the “other”.

I rejected the barbarity of the acts of repudiation, that amorphous and anonymous mass, which unleashed its impunity and its instincts, which baited frustrations and in collusion with the authorities, passed them the bill. I did not participate in any repudiation. The only one on my block was against a single family, quiet and decent, who never pretended to be in favor of the government. It was carried out by four vociferous women who had just arrived in the neighborhood.

Carlitos Berenguer, himself, received the derision for all those who left. He was, as far as I know, a mid-level government official; however, in front of his building on 26th Avenue, very close to my house, they built a stage with audio and lighting equipment. Every day, they organized a program, which included everything from loud songs to the worst references about his personal life. This was accompanied by gas and power outages and graffiti on the front door of his apartment.

I cannot imagine the hell his family went through and was ashamed for continue reading

them the one time my curiosity detained me there. I recognized in many of the faces the same rejection it inspired in me, but they did their part to appear neither too enthusiastic nor too apathetic. Spontaneously, those who were purely ideological took the microphone, they raised their fists and lost their voices during their diatribes.

To many of them, who today spit in disgust in the four corners of the world when anyone speaks of the Revolution, the fear of being unmasked accompanies them, and that also must be a very disturbing fear.

There were other cases less meaningful but which ended tragically in injury or death. I do not know if the data exist, 1980 was not the internet era, and much of that horror occurred unbeknownst to the world and even to Cubans themselves. I can understand hate eating away at them forever because, in life, there are strong blows. . . Even so, there were repercussions for the Government of Cuba. Retracting, after affirming that the people would take action; Fidel Castro declared the moral superiority of the people, putting an end, at least officially, to those shameful days of intransigence.

The latency of the method was maintained by the Rapid Response Brigades and during the “Maleconazo” of 1994, and especially so far during this century, against the peaceful opposition and especially against the Ladies in White.

It was my turn to closely observe the act of repudiation in 1993 against the families of my husband’s, Rafael Alcides’s, children. Hospitalized for months to protect my pregnancy, and three days after my C-section, the details of that grand performance and Alcides’s detention became known to me with time. The street closed off, cameras, loudspeakers, strangers taken from their workplaces to yell without knowing to whom or why they were yelling.

My own act of repudiation was missing. And I experienced it on December 10th and 11th of 2013 at the headquarters of Estado de Sats. Twenty years later, but the same methods: the street closed off, cameras, loudspeakers, strangers taken from their workplaces (and schools) to yell without knowing to whom or why they were yelling.

I do not want to focus on the repudiations, intrinsically vile. I want to focus on the fear. In the fear of blowing their cover and denouncing the degradation to which human beings were being subjected, those who on the previous day they greeted or perhaps they even owed a favor to the enemy. Of the fear that, like preventive medicine, they attempt to spread among an ever more indocile citizenry; of the participants’ fear of ending up transformed from the victimizers into the victims.

The fear of demonstrating my rejection at the “right moment and place,” the fear of being considered not sufficiently combative, the fear of not belonging. The fear at that the time they surrounded the headquarters of Estado de Sats and I decided to cook to set aside my worries that my family hadn’t heard from me since the day before. Terrible thoughts enter your mind at moments like those.

This is not a story, it is only to call attention to a phenomenon that is creatively recycled, always with those hateful ones whose help further damages — if that is possible — the fragile social fabric. That is the fear that remains.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

Among the Lines / Regina Coyula

Cubans routinely spend hours a day standing in lines. (14ymedio)

Regina Coyula, 27 December 2020 — “Among lawyers you see yourself,” that curse from the movies, would be readapted for Cuba as “Among the lines you see yourself,” exact, comprehensive.

I’m going through paperwork, a brutal exit after the isolation of the pandemic. But in addition to the exercise of patience, long hours of waiting are much better than Granma* or Cuba Dice*, as the states of opinion go.

After the first hours, the complicity of suffering the transitory common destination of the solution (or not) of the procedure, no longer cautious, the irritation, discontent and suspicion faced by the advent of 2021 emerge.

The new prices take up far more space than the wage increases; one does not have to be a mathematician or an economist, everyone who complained in my line at the Civil Registry — which was not a few — assumed that life was not just paying for food and energy, and that those normal extras are clearly not a problem for those who “ordered” the “Ordering Task” [Tarea Ordenamiento**].

I saw serious doubts with the phrase “no one will be left homeless,” as more than one case of continued homelessness was narrated in the line.

As always in Cuba, the jokes, now also in the form of memes, were shared with that ability to laugh at our misfortune, an escape valve also to wow “all those leaders who appear on television whose appearances deny any food difficulties.”

As a background note: in that line of anxious people, and in those at the fosca Bank, the currency exchange, the ration store at N and 21, the Coppelia ice cream parlor, the agricultural markets at 17 and K and at 26 and 41, the foreign currency store at 12 and Linea and State TRD chain store at La Mariposa, the 12 and 25 market, the former Pain de Paris at 26 and Kohly, and on the A27 bus; social distancing is an entelechy, something that, like the general discontent, television journalists fail to capture for their year-end triumphalism.

Translator’s notes:
* State newspapers.
**The so-called “Ordering” or “Statutory” Task will begin to be implemented on 1 January 2021 with the elimination of Cuba’s dual currency system, the revaluing of the Cuban peso, increases in pensions, wages and prices, and other actions.

The Usefulness of the Tongue / Regina Coyula

Carlos Lechuga, filmmaker. (Facebook)

Regina Coyula, 9 September 2020 — There are things I read that have the effect of making me want to write more. I was commenting to my love about that convoluted relationship we maintain, a game of distances, a game that Carlos Lechuga would understand and will understand better when he is an old man.

In this novel (?) Carlos talks about himself through his obsessions: movies, sex, Cuba. Even in these interviews he gifts us, it is Carlos who draws himself. He does not sing and celebrate; he torments himself with that insolence of the young to believe that forty is the end of everything. I writes about what he knows best, which is himself, and emerges as imperfect but credible, and I forgive those imperfections because his authenticity shines through.

This is not a literary criticism, I liked the book after the trap that warns us that what we see may or may not be, that reality and fiction erase the limits for this obsessive who writes while he hopes to raise money for his next film project.

Kill and write, Carlos Lechuga. The cinema will come. Cuba will come (or go). As for your other obsession, Pfizer has it figured out for you.

Imperialism or Twitter Trolls: Who’s to Blame? / Regina Coyula

Cubans connect to the internet in a park in Havana (Photo: Yucabyte)

Regina Coyula, 20 September 2019 — During a special appearance by Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel on the September 2019 broadcast of the talk show Roundtable, several Twitter users complained about a number of accounts which have been blocked on the platform. Many, though not all, were linked to the news media. The suspended accounts included those of Roundtable and its presenter, Randy Alonso Falcón, the official news website Cubadebate, the Cuban Union of Journalists (UPEC), Radio Rebelde, Granma Digital, Canal Caribe and the Ministry of Communications. The account of Oliver Zamora Oria, the Cuban correspondent for Russia Today, was also among those suspended.

The reaction was swift. Using hashtags such as #CensuraVsCubaenTwitter, officials, journalists and supporters of the ruling party — including Díaz-Canel himself —denounced the suspensions as an anti-Cuban operation orchestrated by the United States government. “The U.S. State Department’s Internet Task Force for Cuba issued recommendations last June which called for using the platform as a highway of subversion in Cuba,” read an official statement issued by UPEC regarding the suspended accounts.

It is paradoxical to see a campaign in which labels referencing freedom of the press and democracy are used by parties which despise both concepts and operate in ways counter to them. continue reading

Many of those protesting seem to ignore the fact that Twitter has terms of service, the violation of which carries a penalty.

The Computerization of Society initiative has increasingly given rise to what we might call the “cyber trench” in the Battle of Ideas*. A large number of public officials have opened Twitter accounts while journalists have increased their cyber presence and activity on social media. Many of them enjoy what in Cuba is popularly known as the “oil tanker phone,” a mobile device paid for by the institution to which an individual is affiliated and whose purposes include the “defense of the revolution.”

A review of most of these accounts reveals that an overwhelming number of posts by official news outlets, members of the Council of Ministers, the National Assembly, the president’s office and the president himself are retweets. These accounts produce very little original content or content related to the professional activities of these individuals and institutions.

In turn, all of these posts are replicated by an army of trolls, dubbed by Cuban users as cyberclarias. They generate massive numbers of fake profiles whose sole purpose is to spread the content of accounts a user follows.

It is a huge and varied scheme. Nearly all the trolls, if not all those I have listed, follow the account of President Díaz-Canel. They can then alternately follow those linked to Cuba’s vice presidents, government ministers, party secretaries, officials at different levels, directors of institutions, official media outlets and some foreign press outlets. They also tend to follow international politicians such as officials from the governments and institutions of Venezuela and Nicaragua, Bolivian president Evo Morales, and former presidents Lula da Silva, Cristina Fernández and Rafael Correa. Having done this, they then follow each other.

Although fake profiles are identified by specific professions, they generally do not follow other accounts related to the profession to which they claim to belong. They don’t sleep, they don’t work and some tweet at a frenetic pace, almost by the minute, retweeting thousands of posts from the accounts they follow. They use random images downloaded from the internet as a profile pictures without giving it too much thought. And a nice detail: they usually choose photographs that align with western standards of beauty.

Among the profiles created for ideological propaganda purposes are some which post original tweets with the goal of starting trends.

Such large scale, irregular activity should not have gone unnoticed by Twitter. Shortly after Díaz-Canel’s September 11 appearance on Roundtable the tweet storm began. It was probably then that Twitter decided to suspend many of these accounts.

Ultimately, almost everything will go back to normal and the real accounts will be reinstated, as happened in Venezuela. After a similar episode, many were restored.

I will put aside the questions I always ask myself when I stumble upon hordes of fake accounts: Why do those who defend the government create fake accounts? And why do they want to remain anonymous if they are defending the truth about Cuba and have the support of those in power?

Originally published on on September 13, 2019

*Translator’s note: The use of the term “Battle of Ideas” was formalized by Fidel Castro as a ’stage’ of the Cuban Revolution in response to the case of the child rafter Elian Gonzalez. According to, a Cuban government website, it consists of five major ’battles’ and around 200 programs.

Governance Without Transparency

The press did not detail the agreements and conclusions, nor any final consensus outlining the future lines of work. (Cubadebate)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Regina Coyula, Havana |7 July 2019 – In forums about the governance of the internet it is easy to determine who represents the governments, almost always in formal clothes, and who represents business, also formal but with more expensive clothes. Then there is the academy, with that mix of athletic shoes, jacket and blazers, and finally, in a group with very permeable borders, those who are concerned with the development of technology and the representation of civil society.

This latter is undoubtedly the most attractive group, with its casual attitude toward dress and in the way it conducts itself. It is also almost always the youngest group. And above all, the most numerous and active group in the panels and discussions. continue reading

Participating in these forums is a great experience, unforgettable the first time, at least in my case, as I had the privilege to start doing it when internet access for citizens in Cuba was scarce, slow and very expensive. The absence of ceremony and protocol between participants from different geographical points, cultures, languages, allows us to acquire and weave numerous affinities and relationships, even though we have different problems.

The essence of these forums is to achieve consensus between competing interests such as cybersecurity in the fight against terrorism and the protection of privacy and citizens’ data, the sale of personal data to third parties by platforms such as Facebook, or the fight against false news, to give recurring examples.

For these reasons, I received with optimism the news that provincial forums were being organized in Cuba for the first time, and that their results would be represented at the National Internet Governance Forum held from June 25 to 27 at Havana’s Palace of Conventions under the title: Social Justice And Sustainable Human Development.

Having participated in May in the Havana Forum, I could see that, at least in the capital, the participants represented organizations such as the Computer Association, the Union of Jurists, the Higher Pedagogical Institute, Etecsa (the state-owned telecommunications company), and journalists from the capital’s media, and they did not have much, if any, information about what Internet Governance is and the nature of these meetings.

I was very active in the event, touching on topics such as the use of proprietary software and migration to open source, which excited the computer scientists, and I emphasized the need to improve the interaction of public officials on their Twitter accounts. Finally, I proposed to raise as a theme for the National Forum the establishment of a University for All course on the Internet, taking into account that we have an educated but aging population that has arrived late to the development of information and communication technologies (ICT).

It was encouraging to converse with very capable people, among them a telecommunications engineer was was a pioneer in the assembly of satellite receivers, or a CUJAE professor with three doctorates, who approached me to thank me for my interventions, because they had provided a glimpse of where Governance is heading.

The topics discussed were the same in all the provinces and in the national meeting: obviating the peculiarities of each region. The topics were very general and, at least in the provincial instance, treated in the form of tedious readings whose content was good for a classroom, not for the dynamic forum that it should have been.

I expressed to the organizer of the provincial forum my interest in participating in the national, but as part of the public, because I did not intend to make a formal presentation, like those representing the state-sponsored organizations. Always in those events there are more participants than speakers, and the organizer found my request logical.

Anyway I tried to formalize my presence by writing to the vice president of the Organizing Committee, since it appeared that a requirement for participation was membership in the Computer Association, or that of Jurists, or to be a collaborator with the Cuban Association of the United Nations, and I did not fulfill said requirements. Instead, I could contribute my experience in seven international forums on Internet Governance, including three global forums. The response was very bureaucratic: since I did not belong to any of the organizations mentioned, I could not attend.

I tried to follow the development of events in the Palace of Conventions through the press and television, since there was no streaming, but it was all very general and repetitive from one medium to another. They highlighted and confirmed the idea expressed by the first vice president of the Computer Union: We need to build in Cuba our own vision of the Internet, a postulate that leads us to ask ourselves in whose name we speak to build that vision.

On Twitter the hashtag #IGFCuba2019 barely reached 60 tweets, and of those only 27 were originals. There was nothing about the development of applications for the national environment. Although the University of Havana and the University of Information Science (UCI) must have been present, there was no information about Etecsa’s service expansion plans and how it plans to reduce rates, a demand that now has its own hashtag and a full news campaign. No original tweets came from civil society on topics of citizen interest.

Given all of this, it is difficult to get an exact idea of ​​what happened at the event. I have not found a repository where video or audio is stored; only the presentation of Rosa Miriam Elizalde, a student, on the topic of the media and internet.

Far from the transparency that characterizes the conclusions in these conclaves, the press did not detail the agreements and conclusions, nor any final consensus outlining the future lines of work.

As I expressed to the Minister of Communications through Twitter (to which, with a custom that is already becoming a trend, he did not respond), the meeting could have marked a milestone, but it was nothing more than the fulfillment of one more task.


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Emotions and Social Networks / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 10 April 2019 — With the ability to access the internet from a mobile phone, the vast majority of the Cuban people have opened a door to an almost unknown world. A world with many years of experience where ingenuity mixed with a voracity for the so long denied, produces unhealthy behavior, visible especially in social networks.

It’s enough to be in emotional disagreement with an idea/photo/video/text, for a normal person to become a troll. And if the attacks or endorsements multiply in one corner or another of this virtual quadrilateral, new users will mutate into trolls on both sides. They reinforce the idea of what others expect from that interaction. Not being face to face and the use of pseudonyms reinforces behavior that in real life tends to be of lesser intensity, or that at least, does not reach a peak with such immediacy. continue reading

It is not a phenomenon  exclusive to Cuba. It is known that when the subject is emotional, people act on the basis of moral indignation, which makes them feel good about themselves, and that feeling of being right reinforces intervening again in the same tone.

Facebook and Twitter are ideal spaces to transmit emotions, and this emotion feeds of “likes,” sharing and retweeting as a moral reward of approval.

From another angle, this behavior has not gone unnoticed for those people who have seen an economic mother-lode.

Have you ever — or often — shared tender photos of animals, beautiful sunsets, idyllic landscapes, wise, motivating, witty phrases; or those more emotional images of undernourished people, babies with Down Syndrome or children with cancer?

Do you share religious messages, hugs, friendship, in short, the varied combinations that always end up generating a ton of retweets.

Almost everyone has shared once, others have lost count of the times they have clicked or endorsed these contents.

Victims of ignorance, we have also circulated the messages of “the Messenger administrator” or “the CEO of Facebook”, alerting us that there are who knows how many accounts and we should forward information to our contacts. Another variant with a corporate disguise.

Almost all those arrivals on our wall have a different purpose than they appear to have. Appealing to the underlying feeling that if you do not get involved you are not a good person, or do not support a friendship, or that a catastrophe may occur in our beloved social network; in different parts of the planet, people we will never know, earn money with our clicks.

Only in passing, mention the news or false images out of context with apocalyptic headlines. So important / ingenious / impacting states arrive at our wall that we share immediately. We are not obliged to fact check, but at least we must be aware that there is a problem and it is increasing.

These are, shall we say, tricks but rather innocuous ways of winning a chat at our expense. But there are others whose scope we can not handle.

A while ago it was learned that a pastime that is still on Facebook and became very popular, was designed specifically to capture data: How famous are you? From your photo you observe the transformation to the famous one in question. To run, the app requests permissions and receives data such as name, photo, age, sex, language, country, friend list, mail, photos, likes …

The South Korean company VonVon, and I no longer speak of individuals if not of companies, developer of this and a variety of games for Facebook, trades with this information. In its privacy policy it announces that the data it collects may be sold to third parties, which means that our data may be sent without our knowledge to a site with which we have never interacted, of which we have no knowledge and that we do not know for what purpose they are collected.

Nor is the solution to “turn off” Facebook, which a year ago already allowed the filtering of data from millions of users to Cambridge Analytica and a security breach has just become known that exposed the data of at least one million usersIt is common sense not to get carried away by empathic first impressions.

If a friendship shares important content with us, we can and should support it. Or simply because we like it. But it is much healthier to create our own content with the topics that interest us rather that resend those that come from who knows where.

With chains of all kinds, the word should be NO, but we talk about social networks, and we should not exaggerate either. What we publish and what we share will always be an individual responsibility.

Jose Marti and the Single-Party Political System / Regina Coyula

Jose Marti in the Plaza de la Revolucion

Regina Coyula, 31 August 2018 — Given that the subject is fashionable and that, in support of it, Fidel Castro’s speech has been quoted in the press, I quote José Martí — better positioned in the ranking of national public opinion — on the topic:

 “… The Republic … will not be the unfair dominance of one class of Cubans over others, but an open and sincere balance of all the real forces of the country, and of the free thought and desire of all Cubans.

“Every public party must adjust itself to its people.

“The Revolutionary Party, whose prior and temporary mission shall cease on the day when Cuba does its share of the war it has agreed on with the island, has no heads to raise, nor old or new bosses to impose on those of the country, or aspirations which would be swept away in one breath by the prior right of the first republic, and the new, supreme right of the country.”

Pacts / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, Havana, 5 October 2018 — State Security has not only forbidden me to travel to Spain (where I should have been on the 25th of September), but “el compañero who attends me” (i.e. my own personal State Security minder) has been promising me since Tuesday the 25th that this prohibition would be lifted, a falsehood that discredits his institution still more, and at the very least calls into question his professionalism.

Contrary to my desire, I have postponed this trip I’d dreamed of. If this were a country of laws and rights, someone would have to compensate me, because I don’t have so much as a citation for stepping on the grass, much less is there a reason to limit my movements, but being a dissenter – and writing about it – makes me an enemy of the State.

All that’s left for me – because I didn’t do the thing they told me not to do – is to lodge a complaint with the Citizenship Service of the Ministry of the Interior and make it known among my friends.

Alcides already expressed it in an epigram: The pacts between bandits and knights do not work and the knight ends up in jail. The bandit will never become a knight but the knight ends up becoming a bandit.

A Cuban in the Court of Happiness by Decree / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 11 September 2018 — A friend recently pointed out to me, the Granma newspaper was a magnificent source of inspiration for alternative journalism. I do not subscribe to the paper nor would I be capable of standing in line at a kiosk to buy it, so it is an exception when I find myself with a copy. This rarity led me to a pearl on Friday, an idyllic full-page article: “The Untold Reality of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”

The journalist seems to have written in situ about what he calls “the ignored realities.” He was very impressed after a visit to Songdowong International Camp, where he captures the opinion of a North Korean teenager: “The bed, the mattress and even the paper stuck on the wall are so fantastic that we fell asleep without realizing it.”

For most Cubans, still without access to open and verifiable information, this chronicle may even light a small flame of solidarity towards the North Koreans, trapped seventy years ago in the happiness by decree of the Kim dynasty; a dynasty with hereditary castes that depend on their ties to the government. continue reading

A full page article, analyzing it would require an essay and not a blog post, but the excited journalist doesn’t mention that the beach camp of his North Korean son known as the Songdowon International Children’s Union Camp, a set specially prepared by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for the benefit of foreigners, Tripadvisor site included.

So it is totally consistent that a child in attendance asked to talk with a representative of a friendly government, does not dwell on slogans in his statement, but is honest about what really impresses him about the place: the bed, the mattress, the wallpaper…

From the National Highway to the Information Highway / Regina Coyula

Source: Wikipedia

Regina Coyula, 13 September 2018  — In the 1980s, when driving along the brand new highway pompously named Ocho Vías (Eight Lanes), one’s attention was drawn to the small sheds distributed along the way. It was then for coaxial cable, but it would be for fiber optics. The latest. Those little sheds promised (or seemed to promise, would be more accurate) modern telecommunications thanks to a fast and reliable technology, even in the face of storms and our traditional hurricanes.

But it was the ’80s, the country was pointed towards (and bolstered by ) the societal project of the New Man, and with the demise of that project a slow death has taken over what came to be constructed of the National Highway, which should have ended in Santiago de Cuba, but lurched toward and ended at the center of the island. The same fate must have befallen the other project of the small sheds, regarding which there is no news.

I was thinking about this on this weekend in 2018, when I tried to connect through the free test announced by Etecsa, the phone company, which was meant to allow us to connect to the internet via cellphones.

Translated by Jim

Memory of the Future / Regina Coyula

Rafael Alcides

Regina Coyula, 29 June 2018 — Alcides was not a censored one (although undoubtedly he would have been), but a quarter of a century ago, by his own will, he insiled [internally exiled] himself from Cuba’s cultural life. As part of that insile, he did not let himself be seduced by the national literature prize about fifteen years ago.

He felt rewarded knowing that his book Agradecido como un perro (Grateful as a Dog) was exchanged for cigarettes in the Combinado del Este prison in the late eighties, that it traveled in a plastic bag with the scarce possessions of a rafter, or was requested in the neighborhood; that kids would arrive from all over the country who discovered in a bookstore second hand.

His books are now collectors’ items, a writer unknown to the youngest and unpublished after 1990, if not for the Sevillian editor Abelardo Linares knocking on the door one day and later others appeared in Logroño, and because of the insistence of the unforgettable Albertico Rodríguez Tosca, in Colombia.

Alcides was unable to leave the house to meet a celebrity. Instead, many will remember an extraordinary host, both friends and recent arrivals. He lived as a poet, always wanting to see poetry in everyday events. Some verses saved for posterity. Poetry driven away, he dedicated himself to to finishing enormous drafts of novels left in the pipeline in the hurry to live, and now left to me, filled with notes for a huge job ahead.

Many thanks to all of you who have sent me your admiration and regret.

Rafael Alcides, Who is a Very Important Person / Regina Coyula

Rafael Alcides, poet, writer and my husband

Note: This article is being republished from 2013. Rafael Alcides passed away yesterday, 19 June 2018.

My husband is not just any writer.  He belongs to the generation known as “The Generation of the ’50s,” a rather arbitrary poetic grouping that started with Carilda Oliver (1922) and ran through David Chericián (1940). His generation’s peers — if they haven’t died or emigrated — have received the National Literature Prize and enjoyed social and official recognition. This is one of the reasons he is an extraordinary writer. Not only that he wasn’t seduced by the siren song of the National Prize ten years ago. Not only that he willingly “inxiled” himself from Cuba’s cultural life for twenty years and is not published in Cuba. continue reading

For him, the prize has been that his book Agradecido como un perro (Grateful As a Dog) was traded for cigarettes in the Combinado del Este prison in the late eighties, and asked around for; kids coming from the provinces discovered him by chance in a second-hand bookshop. His books today would be collectors’ items, of a writer unknown to the young and unpublished after 1990, if it weren’t for the Seville publisher Abelardo Linares who knocked on our door one day.

He is not a run-of-the-mill writer. Foreign publishers are highly sought after, their visits to Cuba put them in a position to receive a ton of unpublished and published texts from hopeful authors who either fete the foreign visitor or put a Santeria spell on them.

Alcides is incapable of boarding a bus, a shared taxi (almendrón), or a called taxi (panataxi); he is incapable of walking even 200 yards to meet a celebrity. Instead, he is an extraordinary host, so warm and attentive, who immediately makes even new acquaintances feel comfortable.

In this era of ideological polarization, he maintains an intact and intense affection for those he loves, whether a high government official or a senior opposition leader in exile. He forgives (but does not forget, he has excellent memory) some highbrow (?!) silliness from a fledgling poet to a functionary who from his new position has been allowed to treat him coldly. He will regrets the error of omission in the dedication to Roberto Fernández Retamar in a poem in a book just published in Colombia.

Another of the things that makes him extraordinary has to do with his appearance. When we started our relationship 24 years (!!) ago, my niece, with all the candor of ten years, wondered if he was Eliseo Diego. He was then a venerable white beard unsuspectedly balding. His contemporaries seemed like younger brothers. It turned out the joke was on them as he didn’t get any older while others lost their freshness, hair, pounds, physical and/or mental agility and for a long time the tables have been turned. That, despite a copious medical record very well concealed.

With the bias of affection, there are those who say he’s the best poet in the world. There’s no need to exaggerate, although some verses are saved for posterity.

These fires feed this man who writes and writes on a battered computer with no more to give. Leaving poetry behind he is dedicated to finishing enormous drafts, novels that became priorities in the rush of life.

No one would expect that behind this thunderous voice asking who’s last in line at the farmer’s market, this competent cook who saves me from the daily doldrums, is this Amazing Poet in “atrocious invisibility” who tomorrow, June 9th, will be 80 years old.

8 June 2013