Laughing at the Castros, a Mortal Sin / Cubanet, Victor Manuel Dominguez

Eleuterio, character in the play “Crematorium” (archive photo)

For the Cuban government, when satire is against the “enemy,” it is useful and refreshing. Otherwise it is subversive

cubanet square, Victor Manuel Dominguez, Havana, 15 October 2015 – In a country where joking, sarcasm, satire, mockery, in sum, any kind of humor, are more daily than our stunted, acidic, furry and greenish daily bread, the authorities become tense and wage war on any joke large or small that unleashes laughter.

Apparently, political and economic control, leftovers for citizens and other deeds by a Revolution in power, prevent them from chuckling, laughing or even cracking a smile that allows them to resemble a human being and not the miserable lout who fears a raspberry more than the Devil on the cross. continue reading

According to the article, A Very Serious Joke, published in the State newspaper Granma by Sergio Alejandro Gomez, the Office of Cuban Broadcasting (OCB) from the United States, is prepared to finance an act of subversion in Cuba, in the form of a satirical program.

Mocked Mockers

For the information and serenity of the “de-humarized” spokesman, if “humor is the gentler of despair,” as Oscar Wilde said, we Cubans are the friendly gentlemen of the joke, the courteous knights of mockery, and the attentive guests of parody, in a country where one laughs in order not to cry.

And if not even Jorge Manach himself, with his Investigation of Mockery, could prevent us Cubans from laughing at ourselves, still less will a bitter dictator be able to do it, a lap dog with an anemic smile or anyone who publicly censors humor because of fear and locks himself away in order to laugh.

Besides, there is no one like the Cuban authorities for inciting mockery as long they are not mocked. From the beginning of the Revolution, the magazine Mella and the Juventud Rebelde supplement, El Sable, began to satirize the American people, their government and their way of life.

Marcos Behmaras, in his Salacious Stories from Reader’s Indigestion and Other Tales mocked them with “a fresh and suggestive humor, a tone in keeping with our character, but always provoking reflection by means of accurate, witty satire through a sense of humor that always attacks deeply, not remaining on the surface,” according to “joke-ologist” Aleida Lilraldi Rodriguez.

Which is to say that when satire is directed at the other, the enemy, it is useful and refreshing. Otherwise, it is subversive. If Marcos Behmaras had trained his satirical guns at olive-green prudishness and excessive modesty, the salacious stories would have fallen on him like a flood of party membership cards.

His brilliant satirical articles Is It Worth It Having Money?, Those Happy Ones Dead from Hunger, by “Miss Mona P. Chugga” Eisenhower’s Trip: Failure or Triumph? by “Mary Wanna,” or Are You a Potential Psychopath? by “Doctor John Toasted” would have gotten him condemned to death for joking.

A Hanging Offense

To illustrate even further what a joke, satire or any other kind of humor costs when it is aimed at a totalitarian regime, let’s remember, incidentally, that The Joke (1961), a novel by Czech writer Milan Kindera, was described as “the Bible of the counter-revolution.” Another of his works, The Book of Laughter and Forgetfulness, got him stripped of his nationality. Tolerant, no?

But Cuban rulers do not lag far behind. Like imitators of any system or religion, they consider laughter a relaxation of good customs, a lack of seriousness and from other priestly poses that bring on death by boredom, they contribute their grain of bitterness against humor.

In the 1960’s, the comedy duo Los Tadeos was expelled from Cuban television and exiled for the simple crime of asking on a live program: “What is the crowning achievement for a president?” and answering: “Starving people to death and giving them a free burial.”

Around the same time, but in the Marti Theater, a comedian as great as Leopoldo Fernandez (Three Skates), in a scene where he had to hang several paintings of famous figures on the wall, on seeing that one was the image of Fidel, he pointed at it with his finger and said: “Look, I hung him.” It was the last straw.

That joke sufficed to have him shut out of the theater, and the humorist had to leave for exile or starve at home. And although other cases right up to today attest to the rulers’ fear of mockery or satire, none remained in the popular imagination like those.

All except for a popular and prescient joke that was attributed to Cataneo, a singer with Trio Taicuba, who on seeing the Caravan of Liberty with the bearded ones pass along Havana’s Malecon on that distant January 8th of 1959, he was said to say: “Only those who know how to swim will be saved.” And so it was.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Politicians by Decree and Illiterate by Submission / Cubanet, Victor Manuel Dominguez

20080405035345-raulcubanet square, Victor Manuel Dominguez, Havana, 24 June 2015 – Abel Prieto rides again. Not as the author of two little novels whose names I cannot remember. Nor as the ex-president of a union of writers and authors more sold to the powers-that-be than self-help books at the Havana book fair, or reproductions of “Still Life with the Leader” at an art exposition committed to who knows what.

Never ever as that ex-minister of culture, with long hair and little sense, who declared that poets like Raul Rivera could be jailed, but they would not show up shot in the head at the edge of some ditch. Now, such a sad political figure, he rides as the cultural adviser to the Cuban president.

Other “Kultural Pajes”

As the Spanish writer Arturo Perez Reverte said in his article “Kultural Pajes” from the book With Intent to Offend, “The more illiterate the politicians are – in Spain those two words almost always are synonymous – the more they like to appear in the cultural pages of the newspapers.” continue reading

It happens here in Cuba, too. The difference is that here the lines fuse, and writers and artists are declared politicians by decree and illiterate by submission. Our politician-intellectuals also write or “sing” to the authorities, who sign a document to send innocents to the execution wall.

Therefore, Abel Prieto’s words to the Spanish daily El Pais are not strange although they are cynical: “The idea that we live in a regime that controls everything that the citizen consumes is a lie, an untenable caricature in this interconnected world.”

Saying that in a nation where the citizens are only interconnected, against their will, to registration offices, personnel files, surveillance centers, State Security and Interior Ministry monitoring and control departments or crime laboratories is a bluff.

The assertion that Cubans are at a high level of international connectedness would be pathetic, if it were not insulting, when we have not yet even overcome the barrier between the produce market and the stove, and they censor films, prohibit books, and pursue and seize antennas across the length and breadth of the country.

The Dark Object of Desire

According to Abel Prieto in El Pais, “We are not going to prohibit things. Prohibition makes the forbidden fruit attractive, the dark object of desire.” We had and have enough experience. From the prohibitions on listening to the Beatles or writing to a relative abroad to access to the internet.

Apparently among the secret guidelines issued by the Communist Party to its cadres in order to mend the nation is the obligatory reading of the poem Man’s Statutes by the Brazilian Thiago de Melo which in one of its verses he says: “Prohibiting is prohibited.” In Cuba only outwardly?

The reality is that Abel contradicts himself. While on one hand he assures that we are not going to prohibit, on the other he says that “we are never going to allow the market to dictate our cultural policy,” when everything is sold, from Lennon’s spectacles and Che’s beret to the sheet music of the National Anthem.

The strategic shield against cultural penetration designed by Abel (under the guidance of Cain: the State) is that it works against banality and frivolity so that people learn to differentiate, apparently, among the “exquisite” passages by Baby Lores about Fidel and the subversive themes of the Cuban rappers Los Aldeanos* (The Villagers).

Which is to say that, disguised as a demand for quality, absolute control of what citizens consume continues. They will not prohibit them, they will only give them the option, for the good of their cultural appreciation level, of seeing or hearing what the Cuban Minister of Culture, assisted by the Minister of the Interior, schedules.

Among Abel’s proposals against banality and frivolity is a “weekly packet” that includes films like The Maltese Falcon and Gandhi, the new Latin-American cinema, Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet, and a symphonic cocktail by Silvio Rodriguez with the Small Daylight Serenade, that delusional song about “I live in a free country/which can only be free…”

Also to be enjoyed are films by Woody Allen and other offerings that combine “things with cultural density and entertainment material” far from racism and violence, as if in the films about mambises – Cuba’s independence fighters of the wars of independence — the guerrillas and international soldiers fight with cakes, and meringue is spilled instead of blood.

The dark desire for total control by the State is intact. Beyond the linguistic juggling that government spokesmen perform within and outside of Cuba. And without denying a minimal (fortuitous) breach in what is consumed, we still are very far from choosing freely what we desire.

When Abel wonders, in his interview with El Pais, “What are we going to do with Don Quixote?” perhaps Marino Murillo and the company answer him: Send him to run an agricultural cooperative, assisted by Sancho and Rocinante. Or, even better, have him manage the little restaurant La Dulcinea on Trinket Island.

victor-manuel-dominguez.thumbnailAbout the Author

Victor Manuel Dominguez is an independent journalist. He lives in Central Havana.


*Translator’s note: Lyrics to the Los Aldeanos rap video linked to are available here (in Spanish)

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

The Lying Cuban Press / Cubanet, Victor Manuel Dominguez

Archive photo An elderly man selling Granma. Headline: “Raul will speak tomorrow”
Archive photo An elderly man selling Granma. Headline: “Raul will speak tomorrow”

Montonous, grey, controlled, censored, demagogic, jingoistic, for more than half a century as spokesperson for phantom successes

cubanet square, Victor Manuel Dominguez, Havana, 31 March 2015 (Cuba Sindical) – The “Revolutionary” Cuban press, characterized as demagogic, monotonous, manipulative, with a grey design, poor quality paper, without stylistic and conceptual diversity, born of the mortal remains of a free press that was censored and later banned from the inception of the Revolution.

Always under state control, the role of spokesperson of governmental policy and ideology, the lack of objectivity is required, and the omission or disguising of what really is happening in the country. Faced with its pathetic role, several Cubans talked about censorship, rumors and secrecy in the national press.

The Tagline

“Still, we are lucky that we are not sentenced to jail for wiping our backsides with the image of Marx, Mao, Stalin, or the victorious face of a leader of the country on a first page, like the followers of Kim Il Sung used to be in Pyongyang,” Ernesto Penalver said ironically. continue reading

The former graphics worker for the newspaper Avance, the first media outlet closed by the revolution (1-19-1960), Penalver, at 75 years of age, resells newspapers in order to live. “Occupational hazard, sir. I cannot help but make the rounds. Although now I do it clandestinely and through the back door,” he said.

According to the septuagenarian typesetter, since the imposition by the Cuban authorities of “The Tagline” (12-27-59), a kind of opinion by the graphics workers who refuted, under each article, the supposed attacks against the Revolution, the end of press freedom that was seen coming.

“We did not write anything. The old communist agitators dictated and imposed it. After Avance, El Pais, El Mundo and the radio and television states CMQ were grouped together on March 31, 1960, into the Independent Front of Free Broadcasters (FIEL).

The unfortunate FIEL was the beginning of the end. Later would fall Diario de la Marina and the magazines Bohemia, Carteles and Vanidades, all with quality, without ideological restrictions, with diverse information, added Penalver. “In that year there was not a monkey with a brain in the press who would oppose Fidel. It was over.”

Newspaper and magazine vendor on Monte Street (photo by Victor Dominguez)
Newspaper and magazine vendor on Monte Street (photo by Victor Dominguez)

After getting up between five and six in the morning, Penalver says, he takes a swallow of coffee (if there is any), a bowl of Cerelac, if there is any left, and washes with stored water and unscented soap. Then he joins dozens of old people who stand in lines in order to buy and resell today’s national press.

Governmental Secrecy

“In Cuba we have good journalists, said a young woman who said she is named Isel. The only thing is that they are tied hand and foot, and above all, they are castrated of their opinion. Whoever steps out of the official line will never write a line in Cuba. At least in the national press. And examples abound to illustrate this point.

According to the young woman, the role of journalist hero and villain from the daily Granma in Santiago de Cuba, Jose Antonio Torres, first praised by Raul Castro in the newspaper itself and then accused as a spy and sentenced to 14 years in prison, is more than sufficient to discourage any kind of objectivity that questions the interests of the Communist Party and the revolution.

A worker from Water and Sewer Works who is tearing up Escobar Street from San Rafael to Malecon, asked if he likes the Cuban press, said, “I read between the lines. The truth is the opposite of what is said here. But, friend, what will I carry bread in or what are the kids at home going to use for whatever?”

Likewise, a lady who was buying the Cartelera supplement, with information about the month’s artistic events, said: “This is among the little that can be believed. Although sometimes you get to an exhibit or a theater, and the program is completely different. But at least it can be read.”

Later, regarding a question about the objectivity of the national press, she added, “Can print, television or radio press be believable when it talks about over fulfillments, advances, achievements, when the reality is inversely proportional to the report they give, as happens every day in this country?”

Also, she added, that hidden, almost non-existent, are the data about rates of violence in the country, the levels of drug use and prostitution, the alcoholism, thefts, some diseases, government corruption, other reports that could serve as a warning about the population’s behavior.

Another lady, who came from a battle royal to buy some potatoes at a Belascoain farmers market, said, “They don’t even blush when they talk about the victorious deployment of the potato harvest, knowing that people and they themselves have to fight and it’s not enough or to buy it from outside, from the scalpers, at two dollars a kilo. They are wholesale liars.”

Line of old people to buy and resell newspapers (Photo by Victor Dominguez)
Line of old people to buy and resell newspapers (Photo by Victor Dominguez)

In accord with many of those who spoke about the topic, the most read parts of the national press are the daily Juventud Rebelde’s complaints and suggestions section, Acuse de Recibo, and Granma’s letters to the editor, for being a kind of wall of lamentations where the people complain although nothing is resolved.

In these sections – a typical reservoir of calamities – are read complaints about mistreatment, dumps, collapses, blockages, withholding of wages, evictions, unfair penalties, illegal expulsion, lack of medicine, rallies, negligence, lack of control, corruption and fraud, among thousands of other acts that afflict the country’s citizens and are endemic within the Revolution.

Beyond publishing these bouts of complaint, only without solving them although the respective entities should respond to the people’s demands, Cuban journalists devote themselves to praising the phantom successes of the Revolution, and to pointing out the speck in the foreign eye of other nations at an international level, all the better if they are not members of ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America), CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) or CARICOM (Caribbean Community).

Thus the press in Cuba, according to popular opinion, only serves for wrapping trash, plugging holes, stuffing mattresses, and, above all, as toilet paper in hospitals, recreation centers, work places, sports centers, schools, bus stations and homes. And maybe someone can read it from time to time.

About the Author

Victor Manuel Dominguez. Independent journalist. He resides in Havana, Cuba.

Translated by MLK

You Don’t Remember the Parametracion*? / Victor Manuel Dominguez

Heberto Padilla

Havana, Cuba – If April was the cruelest month for the Anglo-American poet T.S. Eliot, for Cuban writers and artists it has always been a nightmare. Disqualifications, censorship, marginalization and prison for ideological, sexual and religious “deviations” turn the freedom of creation into a nightmare.

While the so-called “Words to the intellectuals” — Within the Revolution everything; against the Revolution, nothing — spoken by Fidel Castro signified a political corral for artistic and literary work in Cuba, the April diatribes transformed Cuban authors into docile sheep. continue reading

From the publication in Olive Green Magazine on 11 April 1965 of Ché’s book “Socialism in Cuba,” where he affirms that the “original sin” of the intellectuals was not having fought against Bastita, to the First Congress of Eduction and Culture, everything went from bad to worse.

With censorship of cultural projects, books, movies, “decadent” movies and works of dance and theater in place beforehand, the celebration of the Congress (23-30 April 1971) was a point of radicalization of the culture within the island, and a break with its followers abroad.

The Cuban Revolution, criticized by friends and enemies at the international level for imprisoning the poet Heberto Padilla, inaugurated during the Congress of policy of repression and intolerance that transcended the national atmosphere, and so as not to maintain the custom, established radical measures in April.

The celebration of a cultural exorcism or political farce staged in the midst of the Cuban Writers and Artists Union (UNEAC) so that Padilla (freed after 38 days in prison) would incriminate himself–in the best Soviet style–of being an enemy of the Revolution unleashed new criticisms in the final declaration and in Fidel’s speech.

The final declaration poured down like hot lead over the intellectuals present at the Congress, condemning all “forms of intellectualism, homosexuality and other social aberrations, any kind of religious practice, and affirms that art should be only at the service of the people.”

Moreover, in his closing speech Fidel railed against Western intellectuals (Sartre, Vargas Llosa, Rulfo, Cortázar, Moravia, Goytisolo, Octavio Paz, among others of the over thirty signatories of a letter published in Le Monde), and coined that “Art is a weapon of the Revolution.”

A year later came the parametración* which, born of the final declaration of the conference, dictated that “it is not permissible that through artistic quality homosexuals gain influence that affect the formation of our youth,” what was expressed legally and given criminal status in a Law.

More than three decades later, starting this coming Friday through Sunday, Cuba’s Palace of Conventions will host the victims and victimizers of a political culture subject to similar ideological and political bosses, who will make them cluck like broody hens the script written by power.

Tongues controlled and holding hands, many committed to the most despicable acts in the national culture, they will joing their voices in the VIII Congress of the UNEAC.

*Translator’s note: Parameterization/ parametración: From the word “parameters.” Parameterization is a process of establishing parameters and declaring anyone who falls outside them (the parametrados) to be what is commonly translated as “misfits” or “marginalized.” This is a process much harsher than implied by these terms in English. The process is akin to the McCarthy witch hunts and black lists and is used, for example, to purge the ranks of teachers, or even to imprison people.

Cubanet, 10 April 2014,

10 April 2014

Santa Claus in Old Havana / Victor Manuel Dominguez

HAVANA, Cuba, December 24, – After all Christmas festivities, including Christmas Eve, New Year’s and Three Kings Day were, with the greatest silliness, ended by decree, the image of workers in the tourist industry decked out as Santa Claus, sweating away in hats, beards and boots (with no air conditioning to save electricity at their workplace), could not be more ridiculous.

To make this domestic comedy even more extreme, they strut around in their exotic hats bought with their own money, hoping to present an image of well-being that is belied by the poorly stocked shelves, and above all by a family atmosphere fragmented by the machinery of a revolutionary horde that never believed in God.

The elderly Otilia, who according to her own words is poorer than a rat, lived decently before 1959, with decency and the ability to enjoy real Christmas celebration in Cuba, gives short shrift to the unusual scene where there are little trees, Santa Clauses playing the saxophone, or garlands whose bulbs flash on and off depressingly, trying to look happy.

continue reading

“That’s over Sir, or rather the Communists exterminated it when they took over the country. You can’t resuscitate the dead, and they buried Christmas in the cane fields*, the coffee harvest, the agricultural and political mobilizations, and a fanfare of slogans, tasks, confrontations and victories that ripped it out by the roots.”

“In addition,” she said, “they replaced the traditional Christmas carols by Pello el Afrocán; midnight mass for a witches’ coven; the turkey and roast pork by a beans and rice sandwich; the wine by Bocoy rum; and the birth of the baby Jesus by the images of a disheveled troop of bearded ones passing by on television that day.”

“How can you talk about Christmas when people have barely anything to eat, dreams of abandoning the country, live off those who no longer live here, and don’t believe even in pretending to be what they are not? What celebrations can there be with the low salaries, disunity and violence, and yet they pay for those for the anniversary of the Revolution that provoked all this evil?”

A worker at the Carlos III department store says she only remembers Christmas festivities in which it was forbidden to light the tree in their house and instead of a celebration the New Year brought another anniversary of the triumph of the Revolution. If they violated these precepts her father could have lost his job.

Young workers at Harris Brothers, La Dominica, El Rapido at 15th and L, la Fuente and other establishments where workers do not walk on snow or slide on sleds because the budget does not allow it, say they don’t know anything about it and do it all by imitation, or because the union demands they pretend. What a way to celebrate Christmas.

Party and pachanga, demands the Revolution, and the more it seems that the traditions are cultivated in capitalism the better. Here we’ll go with many guidelines and supposed reforms to perfect the country’s socialism. The issue is staying in power.

No one is surprised, then, if during the days of Christmas Eve and Christmas the soldiers substitute crucifixes for weapons, and those who still pretend to be communists exchange the Che beret for a Santa Claus hat. As the poet said: Let the rumbón continue!

Victor Manuel Dominguez,

Cubanet / 23 December 2013

*Translator’s note: The initial excuse for “postponing Christmas” was that it interfered with the sugar cane harvest.

The Literary Mafia in Cuba / Víctor Manuel Dominguez

HAVANA, Cuba, October, -The overall control the authorities have established over the publishing system, promotional spaces, travel agendas, and whatever takes place on the country’s artistic-literary plans, brings many writers together in a kind of mafic that some prefer to call a “clan,” a “pineapple” and other words that mean the same: “Interest groups.”

Joined by friendship and affinities of aesthetics, politics, generations, race, sexual orientation, or simply for advantaged access to publishing opportunities, spaces of influence or prevalence in the rarefied Cuban literary market, those involved in this war of interests defend, by any means, the groups chosen for their personal realization.

In a country where everything is measured by the common denominator of the unconditionality of the regime, these groups, driven to certain tricks that allow them to expel or disqualify others, living together without public displays of animosity, but alone tripping each other up, setting dirty traps, and making use of their space gained at any price for their works, styles, shapes and themes: these are the literary reference points of the nation.

That’s why the Cuban literary mafia, beyond their ambitions for or vision of the national literature, share control, participate in book presentations, and even serve on contest juries that know ahead of time who will win, or organize a story or poetry anthology where members of each group appear in equal parts, like a pact of honor among mediocre authors who represent the interests of the clan.

For many years, and in the corridors of clerks, careerists, believed, and other members of the various literary trends, walking the gardens of UNEAC (Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba) — mojito in hand — among other places of cultural interest, four denominations have arisen to “characterize” each group in the national literary watering hole.

Cafe Literario Attendees -- Photo from VMD
Cafe Literario Attendees — Photo from VMD

The first, baptized The School of ’Socialist’ Realism (also know by its rivals as The Penis Club), brings together the macho egocentrics who call themselves realists, “filling key posts in magazines, publishers, and the country’s promotional institutions, despising other current modalities. Their totem is Mario Varga Llosa.”

For natural opposition, the second group is called The Pink Mafia, with the principle characteristic of its coreligionists being homosexualities. The defend fantasy and absurdist literature, and their works revolve around the issue of gays looking for a place in society. They are belligerent, to the point of scandal, toward their counterparts in the Penis Club. Their idol is Virgilio Piñera.

The third is called The Black Colony, because it “brings together individuals of this race united in asserting their neglected rights in a mass mixed-race yearning, at all costs, to pass through Aryan, Nordic, Slavic or Latin, according to its spokespeople.” Their literature is a provocation, conceptual, deconstructivist. Your guardian angel is Severo Sarduy .

In last place, The School for Wives, whom The Penis Club call Clitoris Hall, or Hell, due to the fickleness of their demands, and a fierce feminism which advocates a generic discourse to gain areas of sociocultural emphasis, and is uses to achieve their purposes. Their idol is Simone de Beauvoir.

These and other qualifications heard at gatherings, exhibitions, bars; or read in publicized controversies in literary magazines (Yoss), and books such as Questions of Water and Earth (Jesus David Curbelo), show us the interior panorama of an exclusive literature, divided and censored, that lost its influence on the cultural heritage of the nation.

Víctor Manuel Domínguez,

Cubanet, 18 October 2013

No Respect for the Teacher / Victor Manuel Dominguez (Posted on Dora Leonor Mesa’s Blog)

By Víctor Manuel Domínguez

Havana, Cuba, 2.7.2013

Another academic year with more pain than glory comes to its end (2012/2013). Another mess-up. Never mind that the information media go on about the advances in the pedagogical methodology, the implementation of the plan, the improvement in the basics of study, the improvement in the learning of the student body, and exemplary discipline.

The parents, teachers, education sector managers and the students know it isn’t so.

The promises of better courses for the students are erased like words written in chalk. The fraud, corruption and the lack of interest in teaching or learning are common in the schools.

The reasons why, course after course, things go from bad to worse, are there. The frustration of many professional parents who hardly have enough to live on, the low salary of the educators who can’t survive to the end of the month, the corruption of many directors, and the lack of prospects on the part of the pupils, are more than enough to ensure things don’t get any better.

Obdulia Camacho (not her real name), librarian, ethnologist and professor of literature and Spanish for more than six decades, says that the education sector is one of the worst and most complex in the country, because of its influence on the formation of the people from infancy.

“Before, without learning, you couldn’t advance,” she said.

At the age of 80, she still works in the sector on a contract basis. Although, as she points out, because of her low pay (about 350 pesos in national money, $16 USD) she has had to work as an attendant in a hospital and receptionist in a primary school, as well as washing and ironing for anybody who wants it, looking after people who are ill, among other work she does to make up her salary, because she has a daughter and a grandchild to support.

In accordance with her authoritative opinion, indiscipline in the sector is general. The study plans leave much to be desired. Most education centers are in bad condition in regard to basic needs, sanitary fittings, but above all education is miserable because of lack of values and corruption.

“Last week,” she said, “the mother of a student in a school located at 20 de Mayo and Ayestarán in El Cerro, turned up very upset in the center’s management office and shouted that her daughter had to pass the physics exam, since she had paid $20 in order that she wouldn’t have any problem with the grade.”

In another school in Central Havana, a student taking an exam stood up in the middle of the class and, in a disrespectful and threatening manner, went up to a female teacher, who had been in the sector for more than 40 years, and shouted at her:” Hey you, cross-eyes, if I don’t come out well in this test, you will see what happens to you.”

The teacher started crying.

According to Obdulia, although such things can happen in any country, the causes are distinctly different in Cuba, whose educational system is permeated by a disproportionate control, coercion and indoctrination of the student body to the detriment of a free and universal education.

“It’s embarrassing”, she said, “that with so many basic problems, like indiscipline, the frustration on choosing a course which offers hardly any benefit, the sale of exams – recently recognised by the official press [1] – the favoritism and a thousand things more that demand radical change in the national educational system, they still talk as if nothing was wrong and they hold up the Cuban educational system as an example which the world should follow.

Another academic year with more pain than glory, comes to its end. The teachers dream that in the following year their pay will go up and their working conditions will improve. The parents pray because the vacations are coming up soon. And the students enjoy themselves away from a classroom which gives them more nightmares than dreams.

[1] Recognised recently in the official press.

Translated by GH

16 September 2013

A Palestinian in Havana: Why am I illegal, isn’t it the capital of all Cubans? / Víctor Manuel Domínguez

A "Palestinian" with his residence permit.
A “Palestinian” with his residence permit.

HAVANA, Cuba , September, – Héctor Pulgar Fernández has a temporary residence permit for Havana, but not the right to sell chiviricos (thin strips of cake batter, fried and dusted with sugar), because he has no license to trade. A native of the town Bartolomé Masó, in Granma province, he decided to return to the capital to make a living at anything.

Today he flees from the police, hides, and sells chiviricos to survive and to ensure that if caught will he will not be sent back to the East.

He earned a teaching credential in the Camilo Cienfuegos School in his area, and he taught mathematics to 7th grades in the municipality for 236 Cuban pesos a month, during the 2001-2002 school year. With expectations of success, he accepted a job here for 425 pesos a month.

Dazzled by the promise of good food, shelter and other possibilities among which he could continue to live in the capital, he taught the same subject and grade level, Nené Traviesa, Hermanas Giral and other schools in Havana from 2003-2008. Disappointed, the teacher returned to Bartolome Maso .

“Nothing was as promised. The food was slop, the housing conditions were a shack, and I didn’t stay because when there were enough capital graduates to fill the jobs, I would have to return home. In addition, 400 pesos here don’t last even half as long as 200 there. And what of the 21st Century Mambises,” it’s just a daily battle.

At 28-years-old, married with a young woman who also graduated as a teacher, although working in his native town, Héctor Pulgar Hernández, according to his expression, “had to invent it in the air to survive.”

Determined to get out of what he considers the medieval backwardness there in the mountains of Bartolome Maso, he thought that as a citizen of the country he had the right to seek better employment in “Havana, the capital of all Cubans,” as the official slogan says.

“Everything was a mess. Having no change of direction they did not give me work, and worse, when I went out and the police stopped me, seeing on my ID card where I lived, they told me I was illegal and had to return to my place of origin, or I would get a fine the first time, and the second, I would end up in a cell until they could deport me,” he said.

Back in Granma province he worked in whatever came up, not returning to teaching because of the low wages, the lack of consideration, and great number of activities and other extracurricular work that, more than a teacher, were the work of a member of the Young Communist Union, or what’s worse, a labor union or Party militant.

In 2012 he returned and started selling whatever came up illegally. He was captured by the police and as he was a repeat offender they gave him an official warning that he couldn’t return to the capital for five years, and he was taken to the police station Zapata and C, and from there to the Blanquita detention center, until they filled the train car and he was deported.

On arriving in Bartolome Maso, he fined 350 pesos for illegal movement, and warned that if he returned to Havana, he could expect to go to prison at El Tipico de Manzanillo or Las Mangas , in Bayamo, both in Granma province.

But through bribes he is here, with a temporary residence permit for six months (May 29 – November 29, 2013 ), and as he can’t get work, he sells chiviricos illegally, fleeing the police, hiding, and ensuring that if they don’t catch him he won’t be sent back.

“I’m like a Palestinian in the Gaza Strip or Israel. Without rights. That’s what some people in Havana pejoratively call us. We can not live in the capital of our own nation.”

By Víctor Manuel Domínguez,

From Cubanet