Orlando, Son of Cuba

This February 23 commemorated the first anniversary of the passing of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a man who paid with fearlessness for his ticket to immortality. He was serving a penalty imposed by a court composed of jailers, judges and police, where all were mentally uniformed and carrying the same intellectual arms. This tenacious fighter did not shrink or fold before his demand for better living conditions in Cuban jails, to stay with his comrades and not with the common criminals — commonly used aggressive instruments of the political police — and medical care, better nutrition and more humane treatment.

This mestizo and bricklayer, poor and from eastern Cuba, who went through door of death and entered history last year, belonged to that group of 75 Cubans arrested in March 2003 for exercising freedom of conscience. His claims were wrongly and cruelly misrepresented and purposefully distorted in broadcasts by Cuban authorities: only those accustomed to power and those who enjoy their “shark splashing” gifts try to maintain and feed this fiction.

Since February 23, 2010 the presence of Orlando threatens the repressive system of Cuba, where freedom is kept in handcuffs. Thus, there is the sad irony that even after death they continue police operations and harassment around his humble tomb in the town of Banes. This town that once provided the country with a former dictator, today, today, despite the sadness at the loss of a son, boasts of having given us a martyr. This humble mason, assigned by his oppressors to a modest slab in the cemetery of Banes, has built himself a lavish memorial on the altar of the history of the country.

March 7 2011


The paralysis of immobility continues marking the pace of the Cuban government, which distracts us with carrots consisting of insipid projects for unconsidered and accumulated needs of our people and which don’t satisfy our voracity for freedom. It is not enough that they grant that which belongs to us by right as if it were a gift which has been forbidden to us for decades.

If the world goes forward and Cuba, owing to the greed for power of the governing group, stays behind due to the denial of the government cadres that we should join the concert of democratic countries and modernity, isn’t this the same as retrogression?

Translated by: JT

February 21 2011

Café con leche

I was walking down the street early in the day when the whispers and voices of a group of people coming my way surprised me.  I discovered two police patrol cars in the next corner and I overheard the same group of people talking.  I asked them what going on and they said the owner of the corner convenience store had been arrested because someone had broken into his store!  The thieves had cut the vertical metal door into an oval shape, entered the store and walked out with the entire monthly quota of powdered milk, matches and coffee.  For all those who are unaware of our “magical unrealism”, I tell you that in the last five decades our government has subsidized a few basic nutritional staples lacking in variety and durability.

Powdered milk, for example, is only distributed in the exceptional cases as a medical diet for the sick, the elderly and children, and in every case they must have and present documentation showing they are allowed to buy a 2.2 pound packet a month. Usually it’s also on display in hard currency stores, but the prices are prohibitive for the majority of the population. The knife’s edge of scarcities we Cubans navigate cut our chances of improving our quality of life and threaten our freedom, as we survive on the shore of illegality.

It is the ironic option that imposes on us a rarefied business where everything belongs to the state, where unfortunately transgression has installed itself as the standard of conduct in our society–except in politics– and it’s easier to break the law than to drink coffee with milk.

For the Cuban citizen it’s an assumed fact that according to procedures, the authorities have, in these cases, arrested the person in charge of the establishment because they allege that on previous occasions it has been they themselves who have planned the misdeed (the “self-robbery”) in order to make some money or to justify a shortage in their stock. I imagine that foreigners who hear or read stories like this are completely shocked by the absurdity of these tales of “true amazement” where “everyone is guilty until proven otherwise.”

Years ago, in the bodegas, they would sell basic food products at higher prices under the counter, commodities such as powdered milk and coffee, as what is allocated for thirty days doesn’t even last fifteen. At times, ironically I think, they would habitually ration, or in order to establish “a culture of rationing” that cemented another “of saving,” more as a way for them to “unite wills” and influences.

It’s incredible, given that Cuba is an archipelago, that they even ration salt. Often the shopkeepers will add salt to the rice to make it weigh more, already to grain is moistened with the same end as it is sold by the pound. Also, farm products are sold with the dirt still on them for the same purpose. I wonder, indignantly, if someone will run such a scam on our individual, family and national wealth, but I’m sure that once more I’ll be left without an explanation, which in itself implies “the answer.”

February 21 2011


The ideas and projects of the eternal rulers of the Cuban government seem to float, trapped in the void of unworkability, and wear us down with their monotony, at the same time they have been falling on their faces for a long time, due to inflexibility, inefficiency and lack of productivity. The tacit failure of the political model, the traps and pretexts of the “highest leaders” to remain in power at all costs, as well as their perseverance in mistakes, injustices and lack of respect to the rights of all their citizens for decades are preventing, in their fall, their parachutes from opening up.

Translated by T

February 10 2011

We Now Have a Logo!

These days I am madly happy for the logo that the young Spanish friends Rafa (El Pecas) and El Goyo sent me; they tell me they are graphic designers and own an advertising agency devoted to that creative universe. Thanks to the courtesy of these Iberian collaborators, we now have a logo for “La rosa descalza.” Zankz, chavalez! The displays of affection we often receive are good to us, but some initiatives stimulate us even more because they are evidence of the reach and outcome of our work. I congratulate us all for such ingenious and kind collaborators who are willing to cede the fruit of their imaginative mind with no other gratification than the disinterested help to one of the blogs of the growing independent Cuban blogosphere. God bless you!

Translated by T

February 10 2011

Déjà Vu

I did not hasten to stoop because I realized the piece of paper that had been slipped under my door was neither correspondence nor notification. I told myself This can wait and went on walking out to the street, which in full glitter patiently awaited for some steps to give it some shade and refresh it without the sustained torture of “postponed change” in this civic, lethargic reality.

I came back with three onions and a pack of insipid sausages that would add some protein to the four-person lunch at home that day. I opened the door, picked up the Granma (the State news publication) I found that I had been wrong: the group in power in Cuba—that has usurped our rights for over half a century—notified that they will again stretch the piece of Cuban-American chewing gum-pretext to continue living our lives themselves.

February 10 2011

The Honey of Power, the Reforms… and the Inheritance?

Given the different and legitimate concerns that are displayed by a large part of society with regard to the measures outlined in the Cuban economic and social future, I offer my opinion, because of the indifference and the disbelief as well as the indolence and concerns of the citizens, which deserve attention.

There are concerns in sectors of the population about the real intention of the government to introduce reforms. It is true that there is an unfinished program to discuss in the next Congress, which has been published and will be “discussed and analysed” from its foundations, but the mistrust concerning its likelihood of benefiting society and that it will contribute to economic solvency and happiness crowns the plan with skepticism before its inception. There are so many broken promises and announcements of corrections that don’t correct anything, that a lack of confidence has lorded over and installed itself in a good portion of our fellow citizens.

My experience in these subjects was enriched and reaffirmed recently during a pleasant and fruitful interchange with a full and heterogeneous group of people. Some shared a triumphalist spirit which claims to infuse the leadership cadre of the country with a brave decision to carry out these proposals or guidelines and the lack of criticism generated: is this the system they’ve classified as a “model” and an example to imitate? If it has to be reformed because they admit that it wasn’t working well or, simply, that it wasn’t working at all, it implies a failure. But that isn’t what they’ve said until now, nonetheless, it’s something that many have known for a long time. This “model of inefficiency and anti-democracy” for many decades has ignored the needs and wants of the people and has listened to and prioritized foreign interests over their own needs, thus showing contempt to their comrades on the archipelago.Why weren’t these reforms undertaken sooner? Why just now?

More than two hours went by in which a civil tone wasn’t always maintained; many became indignant that this might be yet another demagogic commercial like that of the “correction of mistakes and negative tendencies” of the ’80s, which was followed by an arrogant “businesslike perfection” — which lasted until the beginning of this decade — and went on to detail the full and successful (for them) catalog of snipe-hunting that has characterized as floating our historic leaders on an unmovable peak of “regression”. Thus, in the group there was consensus in we defined as indisputable: the recognition that the current model failed and that updating it to keep the country moving in the same direction is an act of survival of those who savor and have tasted the honey of power for the last half century, and not a gesture of justice toward Cuban society.

We are not forgetting (we cannot nor should we) that the black and white times of demagogic slogans and the dizzying musical litany about the climb to “The Olympia of the Proletariat” was the refrain of an era’s Hit Parade. We sought strength in power, and it was necessary to dazzle the poor — the majority — confronting them with “the oligarchs who exploited” them or owners of giant ranches, monopolies, consortiums, and even small businesses — who were and are minorities in society — to send the message of the people’s revolution to the world. Thus, even a poetic allegory was seen as a suspicious sign of weakness in the bourgeoisie in moments of liveliness, fishing without a pole and “socialism with reverie“.  To think differently remained prohibited by decree.

I have always wondered why we turned ourselves over resolutely to a patrón who persecuted the poets with prose and independent metaphors, and sent for “… Attila the Hun’s colts” to hunt them down. Had César Vallejo and Roque Dalton materialized, perhaps they’d have been more honest in recognizing their mistakes and observing that communism (read: state capitalism; always metamorphosed the same) has been shown to be “an aspirin of the size of … an aspirin!” nothing spectacular. Thus, the ideological Cuban invention didn’t get close to that which it alleged was its initial most elevated and humanist purpose.

Caudillismo — strong man rule — was the strategy to inject prohibitive laws into the arteries of society with the centralizing and nauseating purpose of submission. With strokes of pink teque (the empty rhetoric of political discourse and its phraseology) and red whips they manipulated the workers and looking down their noses, they rolled up their sleeves and took the elevator from demagoguery to “go down” to the proletariat and feel the “civic participation” in the process. What participation? That arising from an enslaving perception: work for me without any rights or demands! With cunning pre-concocted carbon copy phrases, they have held a speech contest; not of participation, but of general benefit for them, not for the national community. Thus they usurped all the gains they had obtained against their former capitalist patrons; now they have the audacity to say that the working class ceded it to them to form the present government of the people.

It seems that the ruling elite (or perhaps ruling bourgeoisie?) has its own vision of interpreting the Cuban reality and uses a language — glossolalia of Pentecost? — different from the rest of society, that for many years has communicated in a language that few seem to understand. Not to mention the added value, that for over half a century, it has taken from the national working masses!

A fleeting reminder leads us by the hand from comments that are not always pleasant — though necessary in order to set out from a basis of honesty, so as to make as most accurate an analysis as possible; of who we are and what we have achieved after decades of sacrifice.  It’s a constructive critical look outlined from realistic or honest reading, but with new outlooks and always prioritizing that the spirit which should encourage us is the solution, not the pollution of the problems, and as a result we can get some valid questions that are worth reflecting on here.

We have all been unexpected and surprised witnesses of the critical comments made by government leaders towards the population. It turns out that now “we are pigeons with our beaks open awaiting the food they bring.” My God, from where was this idea conceived? In which planet do the government leaders live? Was it not they who confiscated (nationalized) Pepe’s fry stall, Pancho’s shoe shop, John’s plumbing tools or Kung Fu’s laundry?[i] The list of examples could be the length of fifty helpless years.

They began with the large landowners accusing them of monopoly and ended with the simple Cuban churros seller pushing a modest cart with his own willpower. It is why they continued to subjugate the citizens with the not laudable purpose of making a citizen economically dependent on the state. That has been the case and still remains to this day, even though they have disguised it in the form of paternalism; a hegemonic commitment of domination and subordination, which in this digital era is lagging behind and is condemned by the pragmatism of globalization, libertarian clicks on the Internet and technological advances in general.

One might think then that the price for raising the educational level of society or having compelled us to think” is that it has to be done solely for the convenience of the institution of the state, and always with the patriotic, democratic and disinterested intent to the hold on power by the historical leaders.

The decades pass and Cuba seems an ageing photo; both the leaders of the State and the manner of imposing norms and implementing discipline remain as coercive and vigorous as ever. Cubans get tiny bites of freedom through development, modernity, the ever-increasing demands of society and its interaction with other individuals or groups of countries, not the will of the state. It is a narrow margin gained against the authorities and has prompted a state reanalysis and refocusing of current circumstances in favour of “maintaining everything that should be maintained” so as not to jeopardize the revolution , or namely, their own status.

In this way reforms are imposed. The reality of the political, economic and social stagnation  Cuba has been led into, compared with the rate and international social levels (modernity) suggests, per se, an involution.

Many times we feel that the rest of the world moves or travels by plane whilst we walk. Long ago we should have taken action, but the government’s stubbornness and fear of loss of control or the inconsistency of what they have advocated so far has basically added to their ineptitude and indolence, as the inefficiency and infeasibility of the model has been stretched so far that the bond is about to break. Either way, the lack of self-criticism by the country’s leadership acknowledging that the current model has failed is the typical rubric of its political culture that it should not come as a surprise to all who have followed their litigant and discursive suggestions for more than five decades.

Governmental untouchability with its bad policies in almost every area and the applications of these, have demonstrated the expiration of the ideological prototype it defends. Who are those responsible for economic and social collapse in our national home? The drafting of the “Project of Guidelines for Economic and Social Policy [ii]” is another example of the arrogance that characterizes the government directive: Why introduce reforms now and not one or two decades earlier? The directives, which are now in the hands of many, were written by an elite committed to the leadership (or to themselves) who are, in short, the authors of the current crisis.

Of course we support any attempt to change what obstructs or curbs the development and welfare of society and its unfolding in the national context; but the authoritarian and controlling mentality of the minds of the leaders of government limits the good performance of any real attempt to reform, which would be those that must be made in today’s society. To this, one must add that they do not propose substantial changes, since they obviously obviate the core issues like human rights, freedom of expression and freedom of association, which are the pillars on which rest any proposal for amendments if they are to be genuine and not an ideological fairground carousel for them to continue playing for time.

We are not in the mood for warm washcloths and we must reform “everything that must be reformed” in order to allow Cubans to build their own dreams freely, which though they may not be perfect, at least would give us the opportunity to enjoy all that has been taken away under the guise of an ideology.

Also, the right of ownership should not be treated with prejudice or pseudo-paternalism and the participation of ordinary Cubans in the investment processes must be permitted, something that until now we have been excluded from.

In short, it has been such a long stay in power, and the number of accumulated problems is so high that it warrants changes instead of reforms, not just in economic and social development, as proposed by the leadership of the government, but integrally. The model is unrealizable, and has long been maintained through the force of control and obliged obedience.

I want to return to recalling the productive interchange I had with the interaction group; there was consensus that the maintenance of the system has always been prioritized regardless of the economic or human cost. So where is the humanity of which they boast? Why force this society to suffer and endure, rather than recognize the rights of the citizens? They gave us free education and healthcare (now also in crisis) and it has proved to be a sine qua non – that in modernity there is extortion – to disregard all other rights.

It is worth mentioning at this point how they are still working on the installation of a fiber-optic cable from Venezuela to access broadband Internet and have already claimed it will be “for social utility”, which they will determine, of course. And this is what we aim for as the key to development; free access to information through the mega network that is the Internet and other technological highways, and it is inevitable for the healthy progress and performance of social civility, liberalization or decriminalization thereof.

Someone then added that it seems that the claim over control of the Government has been that the capitalists will subsidize plans for a revolución against them. If they want capitalist finance, which is something they ask for publicly, why persevere in the socialist system?

My friends and I then came back to what we believe is the crossroads that Cuba’s historical leaders have always wanted to bypass, since this would imply democracy and, hence, a change in power. We therefore conclude that this point is also fundamental and an attack on development.

Those who hope that the guidelines will be the cure-all to the problems of the failed Cuban model, I recommend you check the label so that you read that it expired before its implementation.  That way we reaffirm the setting of the debate that it already generates and the expectations that it sows amongst Cubans living in the archipelago.  We believe it is possible to put into practice new and better challenges that will lead to other new measures, which in turn will contribute to the necessary and inevitable democratization of society. The famous theory of fine-tuning…

[i] In the years before 1959, small dry cleaning and laundry businesses in Havana, were largely in the hands of the Chinese settled in Cuba.

[ii] Document dated November 1, 2010 and drafted for discussion at the VI Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, which will be held this the coming April.

Translated by Eric Peliza

January 3, 2011

Chronos at the Service of Politics

All of our mass media have already announced, with a great fanfare, the VI Cuban Communist Party Congress—which will take place in April, 2011,—and the “Project of Economic and Social Policy Guidelines” which is already in debate within the party’s base and which will be analyzed during said congress. As we read this announcement, we were slapped by the irony of the propaganda and the call being made by those eternally in power.

Debate what? They have already drafted the 291 articles of the program! The rest is just pure formalism to do what they have always done, for over half a century: to give a party or governmental task to their members, so they, in turn, can go back to the people for more shallow and monotonous meetings and discussions, so the people are made to believe in their usual fictitious staged offering of theatrical and participative banquets, when, in fact, all they are giving people is mimicked insinuations of buffoonery.

Then the other part will come, the implementation, which can last… who knows how long! because they never set real deadlines, making use of their usual trick of delaying projects to use the opportunity at hand to make people happy and content. The hope of the citizenry placed on the roulette of their chronopolitics. Always playing in the same key: to gain time.

The appetite for openness of our society is getting bigger and bigger, and more visible, which is why a conceptual change on the part of the highest leaders in our nation is crucial; but they have always demonstrated, and still do, that they are far too conservative and inflexible when it comes to facing such a challenge. Thus, they are leaving us with just one imaginative equation: If the old powers cannot properly drive the government car nor deal with those urgent transformations our country has needed for decades—not only economic and social ones, but also political ones,— then what is left for us, and what is left for them to do anymore, those stubborn and static leaders of the Cuban government?

Translated by T

Spanish post
January 31 2011

Brief History of Maternal Wisdom


I still remember how, as a teenager during the ’70s, my mother would give me sex education lessons: “Open your eyes wide and keep your legs shut tight,” was the verdict. A male-chauvinist invitation to my development, burdened by the prejudices of ancient moral concepts and different inheritances from other cultures and from our own Hispanic roots.

Back then, as had been the case since remote times, men—who, as opposed to women, could choose their partners—were entitled to a prize when they married. There were times when they would even receive gifts if they married a damsel, which more than discrimination was an affront. Incredibly so, in the Cuba of the ’70s, the idea that men needed to be awarded their partner’s virginity through marriage or nuptials still existed. Women must remain virgins until marriage, adults and believers would say back in the day.

Supposedly the woman would acquire her name and her representation in society through the husband, and he, in turn, would acquire her hymen and the innocence of a consort, not to mention the multiple and different functions the lady of the house would eventually undertake, (and without the actual help of the husband, due to the scourge of male-chauvinism), so we can reaffirm—something that is evident and many have pointed out already—that the male gender, through marriage, always gained much more than just a life partner.

During my early childhood I heard expressions such as “they married behind the Church” in clear allusion to people who had sex outside of marriage. “Bought on credit” would imply the same. In other words, such people had “played around” or “done little things” regarding their mutual commitment before actually “signing the papers.”

Other warnings would include “after what’s been taken, nothing is left of what was promised,” to warn of men “who promised villas and castles” with the sole purpose of “cleaning their gun“… So I would worriedly wonder what size was that gun, and, for a long time, I would go into utter hiding if someone took an interest on me; that is, until biology and physiology imposed themselves…

In 1989 my husband and I joined the ranks of opposition, and by then, the maternal litany was “open your eyes wide and keep your mouth shut tight,” because, if Rafa and I were imprisoned, what would happen to our children? It was a recurrent expression up until last year, when she traveled to the United States and was able to stay.

Even so, from La Yuma, she still calls and insists I too should leave, repeating her ancient script of the neglected housewife, neglected by the male-chauvinism that defined the society of her time, and which she reformulates, adjusts and reapplies according to the circumstances. All my life I have been chased by a set of words that constitute a set-phrase: “Keep your legs wide open and keep your eyes shut tight,” Or was it the mouth? Or was it keep your mouth shut and open your eyes wide? Who cares! In any case, I am a grown woman now, and I refuse to renounce what has defined my passage through this world: to do what my civic conscience dictates me.

That mother of mine just never got it that I decided to skip the Anglo salutation (Hi) and go straight to the motions, disregarding any moral etiquette that, even if in an ever-decreasing fashion, still permeated my youth. She never understood—and it seems she never will—that I am a transgressor when it comes to anything I deem unfair, and she has still not come to terms with accepting who I am.

The prejudices I have mentioned here fortunately have disappeared from society, and my poor mother reached her old age riveted by the discrimination and humiliation of centuries, and remains lodged at the edge of fear. These days I don’t refute her opinions, I don’t fight her; I limit myself to replying, half-caustic and half-joking, in allusion to her old litany: Let’s shut the doors tight to any expression of intolerance and open our eyes wide to the world, Mommy! (because it’s never too late….).

Translated by T

January 31 2011

Stark Naked…

Here in Cuba we have the habit of calling small state businesses puestos — places — those businesses that, up until recently, sold agricultural products through the poorly-named ‘supplies book’ (seldom did it supply us), for prices subsidized by the state.

Their prices were similar to those set for currently for the diminished medical diets, which minimized the impact of the high prices of “liberalized” products (products not subsidized by the State). These shops exist today exclusively to dispatch produce that has been advised by the such medical diets—prescribed by a physician for specific aliments—and, every now and then, a few other agricultural products.

In the absence of any armed conflict in the past fifty years—but also in spite of the continued and systemic crisis in which the nation has been immersed—nobody understands why the said ‘supplies book’ is still in place; though given the lack of supplies and the helplessness into which the Cuban people are sunk, most people vote for its continuation, based on the logic that it’s better to have something, even if it’s little and bad.

Nowadays, some products have been liberalized — that is taken off the rationing system — and there are fewer and fewer priced under government subsidies. Salaries continue to be symbolic in today’s Cuba, so the prices of products in stores selling in “hard currency” or  that sell “released” products (that is those no longer rationed) are prohibitively unaffordable for the majority of the population.

Such establishments often find themselves in the nude when it comes to merchandise, and even when they do have merchandise, the seller has managed to build on a clientele that has more economic solvency, and to whom the products are sold in bulk, for a better price, and more quickly, leaving them with more time for other activities; we all know that when these businesses lack merchandise, they simply close down until the next delivery is made.

The one at the corner where I live (Freyre de Andrade and Juan Delgado, at La Víbora) is yet another example of the deterioration Cuba has undergone since 1959. The corner that like a coquettish, tidy, well-made-up and proud girl (like a permanent Sunday), used to distinguish its surroundings, is today—like almost anything around us which is not a propagandist display window that the State presents to the world—a depressing and ruinous eruptive engraving that has soiled our urban landscape, and become a synonym of abandon and lack of hygiene. The worst of it all is that we have become accustomed to it.

In regard to such establishment, which—as shown in the image—is closed to the public during working hours and days, some people from the neighborhood jokingly put forward that it is “un puesto que no tiene nada puesto” (or, less cleverly in English, “a naked place”) which would actually make it a “porno store…” Nothing like popular irony. But if it weren’t for such an attitude in the middle of adversity…

Translated by T

January 31 2011

Making Off

A new day should mean a new adventure, a new approach to our duties and rights, a constant growth and rebirth, but in the narrow framework of a routine instituted and supervised by the State there is no room for logical thought. I robotically go out in the street and find with regret that everyone has a warning side on their forehead reading, “No I can’t.” I look at the eyes which, paralyzed, should meet mine and they don’t, and I notice they’re looking with dread at my own forehead…

I shake my old wristwatch, which is so lazy it decided to stop marking the minutes, and I verify that once again it has stopped: I think, then, that it’s likely someone has pressed “pause” on the Cuban film of my life.

January 31 2011

Of Letters and Dreams

Last night I dreamt that a “national emergency congress” got all the government leaders together on a common task: eliminating subversive letters from the keyboards of all the computers in power over the Cuban population. The idea had been proposed by a “base panel”, which appeared when the bicycle on which it was traveling fell in the pronounced depth of a pothole and lost control, rolled with it down the rest of the pavement converted into dust, earth, and gravel … and it thought that it wouldn’t have lost its stability from not having even existed.

So it figured out that going the wrong way the authorities could avoid problems, criticisms and worries: if empty spaces were to exist in place of some letters, the infamies that some write about Cuba couldn’t proliferate and have receptive listeners at the international level. While the sweaty body dried itself off by the pedaling of the sandy dogfish that were burning their skin and their clothing with the intention of continuing in the same direction, they also thought: “Perhaps they’ll give me whatever a motorcycle might be for the difficulties I’ll save the leaders of our party and then I won’t arrive so wiped out at home”.

It was thus he revealed his genius in a labor meeting; but nobody thought his plan worth anything, he then took the “grand idea” (idiot) to one of the Union of Young Communists and from there, he traveled by the straight and fast dust course of censorship to the offices of the Central Committee. The plan was presented by a youth director who alleged that “some despicable Cubans” dared to speak and write badly of the government in spite of their magnanimity which permitted us to have computers. I was debating myself trying to intervene “from on high” — an altitude from which God could grant us the magic of dreams — to avoid a similar absurdity installing itself in our society or worse, legislating itself with such erroneous pretexts.

I spoke and spoke and nobody was listening to me. I tried to hold on to Rafa, my husband, who was clashing in a Quixotic chronicle with the oppressor’s bureaucrats, but in his place I grabbed only emptiness. My movements slowed and my voice turned slower and more serious than normal: I didn’t understand how I demanded at the top of my lungs that they weren’t going to take the ‘B’ key of ‘blogger’. I mixed myself with green air and melted myself with the nothingness as my startled eyes opened to discover the faint light of my nightlight. I got up agile but drowsy to go to the corner where I usually write my works. I had to glance at my accomplice work tool to check that it still had its keyboard intact. On seeing it I loosed such a snort of relief that it lifted papers off the table and took a little dust from the familiar old laptop.

Imagine in one dream such nonsense!

January 10 2011

Steeping Peas

The General-cum-President of Cuba has publicly announced that we are going to return to drinking coffee mixed with peas. For the uninitiated, this brew is a disagreeable invention. The only thing that can be said in its favor is that it stimulates the imagination to make us believe we are drinking coffee.

Those who work in the area of the aromatic should be happy because the announcement might mean, for them, a period of “fat cows” in which their revenues might swell from the possibility of multiplying the unit volume of this product that can be introduced into the underground market because, as has happened in the past, who will control the amount of toasted peas that are mixed with the coffee?

The proportion of the composition will be progressively adulterated, until the quantity of coffee grounds is minimal. We already have vast experience in this regard and now, with the national and global economic crisis and the increase in corruption already well established in our country, the conditions for this to succeed are perfect.

I am struck by the lack of vision of the Cuban governing class to prevent the proliferation of these kind of evils and how, instead, they seem to promote them. On the other hand, I would like to hear a specialist in biochemistry explain to me how these concoctions support our liver, pancreas, gallbladder, etc. because I know that peas are for soup, not hot drinks.

In any event, I recommend that you not imitate the Cuban government in improvising or inventing with your family members, or by yourself, when you lack some ingredient or infusion in your pantry. The taste is not good and the potion may not be healthy. I am putting in my two cents worth of “peas” to combat such nonsense and to expose my opinions publicly so that no one might think that Cubans “don’t give a pea” as a sign of protest.

January 3 2011

Censorship is the Pampered Daughter of Dictatorships…

Censorship, among other things, is a moral scourge, one of the tools totalitarianism uses with devastating impact on the self-esteem of those targeted. Its practice not only should be abolished, but banned throughout the world. Thus, dictatorships are erected and sustain themselves, carving on the societies where they are in place what some call their different faces, costumes, reflections, and masks.

Totalitarian and authoritarian systems of government are the potters of this disease, and the strongmen or Caesars — ancient or modern — who introduce such arbitrary lawlessness are its sculptors. But it is to the mutant face of the censor that I am speaking of: self-censorship. It is, definitely, the same face, but with a different mask: the denigrating and simulating of the most ignominious self-muting of the metamorphosis.

In Cuba after 1959 is found the ideal substrate to enthrone it, and its crown of mud washes down over the face of democracy to the shame of the world’s democrats and Cuban society, which wants to join the free nations of the world and incorporate, adopt and internalize democratic values of justice and equality.

We don’t understand when Cuba’s leaders talk of fighting censorship and ask that be begin to eradicate self-censorship from the social fabric. This signal-suggestions infers a criticism, and this phenomenon is so deeply rooted, and logically embedded, complex, that I think the best way to combat it is to dismantle the conditions that originally gave rise to is and recognize and defend the inalienable rights of individuals in order to sow trust in society. And that would be just the beginning of a liberating process that needs time for “mental processing,” assimilation and incorporation of new patterns and paradigmatic references.

The invitation to “not censor ourselves” when they haven’t created the conditions for that to happen, seem like demagoguery to me. We all know that the authorities have almost total control over society, so any attempted to “really” combat this aberration that they established must be based on the recognition of the rights that are at the base of the entire process of personal and social liberation.

To criticize a people about exercising freedom of expression which has been penalized for decades and which has brought many of our compatriots long prison sentences until yesterday, is neither just nor realistic. Is it credible?

They accuse us, when they have totalitarian control, of the injustices they themselves have committed “because we allow them” or make us responsible when we are tied gagged and with a rope around our necks taken on foot to be lynched, and yet reproach us “because we let ourselves be taken.”

In fact, after fifty-two years in power, the authorities leave no doubt that they are the lion and people are the monkey in chains. So where does this story come from?

January 17 2011

A Decoration for Talent


This past Friday, January 7, 2001, I had the opportunity to enjoy together with my husband an outstanding soirée. We went to the home of the ambassador of the Queen of the Netherlands, where the official presentation of the well deserved Prince Claus award was made to Yoani Sánchez. Her participating family members and friends were extremely proud of the importance of this international recognition and of the fact that it had been granted to the pioneer and most outstanding vanguard of Cuban bloggers.

In a simple but emotional ceremony, the host read some words in which he explained to those present that Prince Claus was the late husband of Princess Beatriz, the Dutch queen; and the elements that are considered to award this prize annually to different persons on the world stage. In his reading he also added the fact that her right to travel had been violated, along with that of Guillermo Fariñas (Sakharov Prize 2010 and present at this ceremony), something that unfortunately continues to be a daily practice in Cuban reality.

Yoani’s statement started by thanking the Dutch ambassador, the members of the Prince Claus Foundation, those present, including the readers, commentators and translators of her blog — something that defines her in its simplicity. She also shared with us her plans for the immediate future and invited everyone to accompany her to be part of the same, distinguishing the importance of maintaining the differences that “feed our plurality and avoid the recognized error of unanimity.

* The photo which accompanies the present work was by courtesy of Reinaldo Escobar, Yoani’s husband.


January 10 2011