Handicapped Girl Still Without Social Assistance / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

Keylis acompañada por su madre YamaykiKeylis Caridad Aleman RodriguezKeylis Caridad con su Sillon en mal EstadoMalformacion en las rodillas y operacionMalformaciones en extremidadesOperacion del CorazonSome days ago a brief note denounced to the world, what a mother described as hell. After she knew from the workers from Social Security that that agency decided to withdraw the pension given to her each month, for her handicapped daughter Keylis Caridad Alemán Rodríguez.

A month after such arbitrariness, the situation is the same and the mother of the minor, in order to be able to support her, has had to do what we know as a part-time job during the week, while the minor is at school. So that she can make some money and take home some relief.

The decision to withdraw the pension of social assistance from the minor of divorced parents, is because — according to the Social Security agency of the municipality of Santo Domingo and the municipal group of Social Prevention of the Municipal Assembly of Municipal Power, this last entity ruled by Rafael know as the Cat — it’s due to the fact that the mother of the minor has informal relations which someone who is now her partner.

Yamayki Rodríguez, mother of the girl, recognizes the fact that she has a new relationship with someone she plans to marry in the future if both decide, but with what she doesn’t agree with is with the fact that the governmental entities question her personal life and that they cite it as an excuse to withdraw the assignment to the minor, that her new partner has to take the responsibility of her minor daughter.

Keylis Caridad Alemán Rodríguez is a 15 year old girl, handicapped, with congenital malformations in the hips, knees, and ankle to which can be added that the girl’s heart was operated on during the first months after she was born, for which illness she gets regular check ups, being check up followed by a specialist in cardiology.

At the time of writing the note Keylis Caridad Alemán Rodríguez, a native of Santo Domingo, province of Villa Clara, is being analyzed by the municipal entity of education to see if she can continue her studies. Her mother and the girl prefer that she study at the “preuniversity” high school nearby, but her school performance, according to the educational directives, doesn’t not allow her to have access to this superior level.

It is important to clarify that rating given to her school performance, is the result of the non-participation of the girl in sports activities, her non-participation in the schools in the countryside, and her non-cooperation in voluntary activities of her school. According to Yamayki despite her disagreement the directors of municipal education say that they would let the girl attend higher education but it’s not possible simply because of the problem that this educational center has not eliminated the architectural barriers and that they don’t have resources for this.

Up to the moment she’s only be given the possibility to graduate as a qualified worker doing manicures and pedicures. Yamayki cites that the girl is not physically suitable to do such job and that she is suitable to continue her studies.

The pictures before you show the minor, in one of the snapshots she poses next to her mother and in the others are proof and testimonies of each of the surgeries she’s been submitted to, surgical operations that despite the effort of the relatives, some have not been finished so some are pending.

Despite what they go through, for both hope is not lost, they believe something can be done for them and that somebody can listen to them. According to the minor and her mother that hope is what motivates them in front of these adversities caused by those who have the local power, to continue knocking on the doors of any necessary institution denouncing what they call an injustice.

Keylis Caridad Alemán Rodríguez and her mother Yamayki Rodríguez live at Calle Agramonte # 38, on the corner of Calle Maceo, in the municipality of Santo Domingo, Villa Clara.

 Translated by Anony GY

May 14 2012

Letters from the San José Prison, Part 4 / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

Mayabeque, Cuba — My name is Yulemi Herreras López. I am 26 years old. I have been sentenced to 14 years without freedom. I lost my career. They sentenced me without anyone accusing me; the police accuse me and I acquired HIV/AIDS through unstable sexual relations.

As a nursing student, I can say that medical attention here is the worst. A week ago, I had a high fever and I was taken to the infirmary and the only thing there was for me was Cogri. My fever only decreased thanks to one of my companions who gave me a pill that his mother gives him from the outside.

The physical and verbal abuse, the poor food: this is what is most seen here, and we cannot place ourselves at their level because they mistreat us physically; they put us in the punishment cell.

If they gave me the opportunity, I would ask for improvements from the Cuban authorities. If they are going to keep us here, why is it like a concentration camp? If only it would improve. We want the medical attention to improve, the preparation of the food to improve, everything that can improve to improve.

Most of those found here are young and here as in our country our errors are chains that we drag. We do not have freedom of speech: if a jail and prison inspector comes in, we cannot say anything because apart from the fact that they have us coerced, it does not resolve anything.

This was the best prison that rose to the national level, but is is like a fruit: pretty on the outside, but rotten on the inside. The inspections take place: everything on the outside is very good, but the problems are really on the inside, and they are not resolved.

When someone comes, they prepare the outside and when a prisoner expresses some problem, he is branded crazy.

They are practically killing us; they are killing us psychologically.

I have been imprisoned for four years and I have seen no positive results for us here in the AIDS Jail of San José de las Lajas. If there is some preventative work with those sick with HIV/AIDS, we do not know, and if there is, they do not work with us.

I would like to send a message to the Cuban youth, so they do not arrive here. The mistreatment is chilling and they should protect themselves 100% because as the saying goes, AIDS has no face.

Translated by: M. Ouellette

January 23 2012

Tomb of Mrs. Jeannette Ryder Turns into the Tomb of her Loyal Dog Rinti / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

Tumba de Mrs. Jeannette y su Perro Rinti (1)Tumba de Mrs. Jeannette y su Perro Rinti (2)Tumba de Mrs. Jeannette y su Perro Rinti (3)Mrs. Jeannette Ryder lived between 1866 and 1931.  In life whe was recognized for her noble work and labor in favor of the most needy.  It was Mrs. Jeannette Ryder who founded the Havana Band of Piety group that ceased to exist some years after her demise.

The story is told that Mrs. Jeannette in life had a dog named Rinti whose lineage was unknown.  But who, after his owner’s death, distinguished himself by his loyalty to her.  Those who worked in the cemetery at that time said that the dog lay down on the tomb where the remains of Mrs. Jeannette reposed and that in spite of the effort of several caretakers to throw the pup out of the graveyard he always found a way to return to the tomb of his deceased owner.

At the dog’s great insistence, the administrative authorities of the cemetery permitted the entry of the animal which in time died next to his owner’s grave because he did not want to drink water or ingest food.

The story moved the ex-colleagues of the Band of Piety, who undertook an original work of art that exhibits a reclining sculpture of the famed Mrs. Jeannette Ryder with a dog at her feet as a symbol of the loyalty of he who accompanied his owner even after death until his own death.

Today Havana also has its Rinti and reveres him with the following words:  Loyal Even After Death.  An expression which is placed in bronze letters on the back part of the mutt.

Translated by mlk

May 7 2012

The Tomb of the Domino Tile / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

Tumba del Domino (1)Tumba del Domino (2)Who in Cuba has not played a good game of dominoes?  Who does not recognize that dominoes is the excellent table game for the whole Cuban family wherever it may be?  Did you know that in the Colon Cemetery there exists a tomb that is distinguished by having a domino tile on its top?

The tomb was the property of Juana Martin de Martin, who was the owner of the Havana garden Fenix.  The unit is distinguished by the domino tile known as the double three carved in white marble, and the date with the sequence of the play in the fatal moment of her demise.  They say that to the amazement of those present at the game she still even after death held in her hands the tile that characterizes the Tomb.

It is really an honor for such a noble table game to be venerated or handled by Cubans in any of the artistic expressions.  The double three is the last tile this woman could have in her hands and today she leaves it as a legacy to those who stop to contemplate what was her last game.

Translated by mlk

May 7 2012

Cigar Smoke for Brother Jose / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

Tumba en la que se le rinde culto al Hermano Jose (1)Tumba en la que se le rinde culto al Hermano Jose (2)Three tombs constantly receive the worship of numerous devotees of the whole country and of many Cubans who, for one reason or another, left for other lands. They are the ones of Mrs. Amelia Goyri, the renamed Alberto Yarini Ponce de León and that of Brother José.

It’s curious that in the tomb where worship is given to brother José, is engraved the name of Leocadia Pérez Herrer, who was buried on June 3rd, 1962, and not of any person named José.

Leocadia Pérez Herrero was a well known spiritual medium, whose spiritual guide was the spirit of the already known Brother José. Spirit to which are assigned powers of healing and of granting impossible things. What is true is that this spirit, according to experts of the religious spiritual term, used Mrs. Leocadia to demonstrate on earth before hundreds of devotees or proteges, that after the death of Leocadia they are still visiting her.

The tomb is one of the most visited places in the cemetery of Havana today some people go trying to find consolation, others in search of the spirit of brother José, while hundreds as a way of gratitude leave tally sticks and stone plaques to show their approval or satisfaction for gifts given by such powerful spirit.

Each March 19th, devotees attend the tomb to give tribute to the spirit of José, a day in which the Catholic Church celebrates the celebrity of San José, husband of the Virgin and father of Jesus. My concern is that with so much devotion to this spirit, she who was in life Leocadia Pérez Herrera, may fall into forgetfulness, a Cuban woman who had not lived those times wouldn’t have had the chance to meet the spirit of Brother José.

The echoes of the drums, boxes and even a piece interpreted by violins are some of the ways in which many demonstrate their gratitude. When that happens there is no person among those visiting this holy camp, who does not feel curious or divert their walk to the place marked by two stars of seven colors.

The favor I requested has not been granted yet by this spirit, but before I finish this text I want to let out a little smoke from a Cuban cigar, to help with the viability of each of the requests in progress.

Translated by AnonyGy

May 7 2012

When I am Dead I Want to Be Buried Like Casimiro / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

I have always said, as a joke, to relatives and friends that when I am dead I want to be buried standing up.

In my home town Santo Domingo, there is a story that the first parish priest José I. y Belasa was buried standing in what is today the oldest sculptural complex in the local cemetery. After searching the parish records I knew it was not true, the Spanish priest was buried as usual.

Not long ago I knew that, at the Cemetery of Havana, there is record of a man buried in this position. Casimiro is the name of the person to whom, by means of this text, I want to offer tribute.

Eugenio Casimiro Rodríguez is the only deceased for whom there is record in Cuba, who chose to be buried this way; the funeral took place at the Colon Cemetery. Who was Casimiro? And why did he decide to be buried standing up?

Eugenio Casimiro was one of those characters to whom destiny played foul, but always gave him the good fortune, the same as cats, to land on his feet or always come out fine. It is Casimiro who, on one occasion, had his death penalty commuted, in the old prison of The Castillo del Príncipe (The Castle of the Prince) in Havana.

It is Casimiro who has the good luck, behind bars, to start a love affair with Miss María Teresa de Zayas, daughter of former president of the republic Alfredo Zayas. This is the same Casimiro who, due to government negotiations through his beloved Maria, obtains presidential amnesty, and afterwards he achieves one of the most controversial marriages in the Cuban history.

There is a record that Eugenio Casimiro, after his marriage with the daughter of former president Zayas, held high positions within the Chamber of Representatives in the Republic of Cuba, as an initiative of the Conservative Party.

Is Casimiro a lucky man or what? I would like to ask life, if I am not too ambitious, to smile at me as many times as it did to Casimiro, and I would also like to ask that at the end of my walking in this world, I would be granted to be buried the way he is found in holy ground.

That’s why when I am dead I want to be buried like Casimiro.

Translated by AnonyGY

May 7 2012

What is Left of the University Chapel of Santo Tomas de Villanueva / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

Detalles de los laterales.  (1)Detalles de los laterales.  (2)Detalles de los laterales.  (3)Detalles de los laterales.  (4)Detalles de los laterales.  (5)Detalles del Campanario.Detalles del estado actual de la Cruz en la parte superior de la entrada principal.Detalles del Estado actual de la Portada Principal.  (1)Detalles del Estado actual de la Portada Principal.  (2)Fachada de la capilla de la antigua Universidad de S. Tomas de Villanueva (1)Santo Tomas de Villanueva (2)Santo Tomas de Villanueva (3)Santo Tomas de VillanuevaSome time ago the press media of the Archdiocese of Havana, was cheerfully announcing that the chapel of what used to be the University of Santo Tomas de Villanueva, had been returned to them. The magazine Palabra Nueva (New Word) in a brief piece of news testified what was happening. Maybe just the fact of returning the building for religious worship to the Catholic Church, could be interpreted, by many, as a step forward between Church and State relations.

To me, the news would be relevant, if not only the chapel was returned. But also if the government had decided to return what used to be La Universidad de Santo Tomas de Villanueva. Today the actual building of what used to be the chapel is surrounded by a perimeter fence that prevents the entrance of curious people, but that is unable to prevent those who are overwhelmed by what could be called a naked church from seeing it.

The lens of my camera captured images of the actual state of the building, frayed walls, windows and doors destroyed by unscrupulous people and their most faithful ally, time. What used to be a beautiful main door with the shape of an arc is today sealed by slabs, a broken cross, the bell tower still has the majestic bell accustomed to so much pealing and after more than five decades it is suffering the forgetfulness of those who used to listen to it. As a coda it could give you testimony of the current state in which we find the image or the statue that commemorates Saint Thomas, the inscription on his cross written by those who keep no respect for the faith of others, but just missing the image in stone showing those who detained a beheaded Saint Thomas.

I don’t know why the head is missing, I don’t want to be merciless with those who in an unscrupulous way made theirs each of these pieces of estate, depriving the Cuban nation of its culture and identity, expropriating from the Church each of its properties.

I intercede for the return of the estate in this comment, I intercede for the return of each of the temples, schools, institutions and properties of the church in Cuba, regardless of any denomination to which they belong. I intercede for things like these not to happen again, for the freedom of worship, and for the education each parent decides to choose for their children.

I intercede for the renovation of the Cuban Church, and I advocate for this church not to continue motionless and approving such little things.

Translated by AnonyGY

May 7 2012

Until When … / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

El Cobre Basilica in the tropical forests outside Santiago, Cuba. Photo © Klaus Schäfer.

 By Ignacio Estrada Cepero

Havana, Cuba: Once again human rights activists denounce the repression in the Eastern provinces, against a group of women who belong to the organization Ladies in White.

Such an embarrassing event was characterized by a group of elderly and paramilitary people armed with many different types of sticks, some people say, to impede the activists from going down the steps of the sanctuary of El Cobre. Last Sunday the 19th history repeated itself at feet of the Mother of all Cubans.

La Virgen de la Caridad, some time before the event, would welcome each of the fervent prayers made by these women who were demanding the release from jail of all Cuban prisoners and the end of violence. While these women were listening to the Sunday mass, a few meters away from them, the Ministry of the Interior police was preparing a crowd to repress them.

The event is repeated every Sunday in each provincial capital of the country.  Repudiation rallies, temporary detentions, withdrawal of identity cards, the presence of police agents around the temples. These are some of the actions taken by the Ministry of the Interior police to stop these brave women, recognized by different international awards, from attending the churches.

These events are are not unknown to the Cuban ecclesiastic authorities, institutions that become accomplices of such provocative acts, carried out in their own headquarters by the Cuban authorities and their ambassadors of terror.

Maybe this is only the advance of what it will be like for these women when the Holy Pope visits the island next March. Just to think of the fact that Pope Benedicto XVI will be in the same place where Sunday after Sunday these women are repressed and besieged by persons without scruples before faith, makes me feel scared.

It can be imagined the Holy Pope accompanied by his followers all dressed in white going up and down in the presence of the Virgin. They would be surprised by the fact that wearing white clothing, they would be considered mercenaries or receive the repudiation of such orchestras prepared to repress unprotected women as well as human right activists.

Such a fact can only be thought in our minds, we know it is not going to happen, but we will continue asking ourselves how a government which proclaims women’s rights, social equity, equality and freedom like that of speech just to mention an example, why it does not let women today walk along the streets claiming freedom for their loved ones?

Is it something that other women in a different time did not do?

It is a regrettable situation under which Ladies in White live. We must trust in that God who provides their strength, that soon there will be no tears in their eyes. We trust in God that soon their husbands, relatives and friends in prison return home.

As we can see, before the rage of those shaking on the throne before the encouragement of this group of women throughout the country, others like me will keep on asking themselves, until when will things like this happen.

Note the Increase of Violence Against Prisoners with HIV/AIDS.

The Cuban Alliance Against AIDS before the increasing number of beatings in the Cuban jails of prisoners with HIV/AIDS, is calling on international organizations of Human Rights to demand Havana to stop these violations to which prisoners with such disease are submitted.

The violence against prisoners of both sexes is known, the incorrect use of punishment in the isolation cells and the increase of self aggressions as a protest to a whole string of violations on the side of the penal authorities.

To all this, we can add the extremely bad medical assistance, the lack of medicines, malnutrition and humiliating treatment.

The Cuban Alliance Against AIDS alerts the world and asks to stop these violations which put in danger the physical integrity of Cuban prisoners affected by HIV/AIDS in the six penitentiaries in the island.

Ignacio Estrada Cepero
Executive Director
Cuban Alliance Against AIDS
estradacepero@yahoo.es Twitter: @desidahoy

Translated by AnonyGY

February 20 2012

The Cardinal of Disgrace / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

I have no words to describe the recent statements made by his Eminence Cardinal and Archbishop of Havana Jaime Lucas Ortega Alamino during his stay last week in the United States of America.

Those who have followed each of the press releases that mention in one way or another the statements of the highest Cuban authority within the Catholic Church, have noticed that despite the fact that he has spoken in a deliberate tone, the language used by the Cuban cardinal places at disadvantage the credibility of the good function of the Catholic hierarchy in the island. He has repeated in his discourse the same phrases used by the ruling class.

All of us who follow the evolution of the Catholic Church in Cuba, have denounced on many  occasions the so badly called relationship between Church and State, and the complicity of the Church with the silence of the true existing situation in the island related to the lack of a state of rights and also the lack of places for free religious worship.

Maybe for many people the last two visits of the Popes to the island are more than enough, if we would add some minutes on domestic television, or the last tour of the pilgrimage of the Virgin, to show the world the false freedom of worship in Cuba.

Today’s comment does not attempt to criticize the role of the Church in Cuba, but it tries to put in its right place he who uses the Catholic Church for his own benefit and in defense of those who are sinking the nation into an increasing poverty.

Today I want to use this article or comment as a pulpit, and from it denounce the words of someone who does not deserve to wear the purple color used by martyrs of the Christian faith. The last words spoken by Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino, on April 24th during his mediation at the Church and Community Forum sponsored by the David Rockefeller Center of Latin American Studies of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. As many have judged, his speech was similar to one of the many speeches dictated by the office of the Department of Ideology of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba.

We would have to ask such a Cuban Cardinal, “How could he have access to the police records of each person who occupied the Caridad Church in Havana?” We would also ask, “How could he obtain the information that such acts of civil disobedience were organized from Miami?” I understand this time, like many other times, that the Cardinal spoke more than he should, and now he has to withstand all the critics coming from different latitudes.

I never imagined to hear, from the lips of the highest pastor of the Cuban Church, so much malice for those who try to promote full respect to the basic freedom of each man. To call those who serve unfair sentences under the most terrible conditions not described by people like him “common delinquents,” at some international meeting, makes him an accomplice of a corrupt and inert government.

We would have to ask Jaime, “How would he feel if we call him delinquent because of the fact he was sentenced to compulsory work during the years of UMAP* together with many other priests and religious people who practiced faith?”

I am a true catholic, I love the faith of the church, I love my motherland and the freedom experienced in the abandonment of each of our vicissitudes on the shoulders of Jesus who deserves to be called The Greatest Man of All Times. But every time I face situations like the ones today, by means of which the judgment of the world is focused on the behavior of the Catholic hierarchy on the island,  I see myself with the obligation to ask that the whole Cuban clergy not be judged for the behavior of him whom I dare to name the Cardinal Puppet of Castros Brothers.

It is my wish that there be a new awakening of the Christian faith in a Cuba free from stereotypes and obsolete dogma which place next to the ruling class those who have to walk next to the poorest people. It is my wish that the body of the Cuban church receives a transfusion of young blood with a new zest for life and who will promote a new nation where  true patriotic and Christian values are practiced.

For today I say goodbye to someone who does not deserve to be called Cardinal and even less Cuban, people like him should be sentenced to forgetfulness or, it would be better to say, to be sentenced to carry the weight of the disgraceful history that only he using his high position has invented, only God knows, and his terrestrial accomplices for in exchange for benefits.

Translated by: AnonyGy

*Note: UMAP = Military Units in Aid of Production, a series of concentration camps for religious believers, homosexuals, and others who ran afoul of the Castro regime. Cardinal Ortega was interned in a UMAP camp when he was younger.

April 30 2012























































































What Would the Virgin Do? / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

Almost 400 years after Juan de Hoyos, Rodrigo de Hoyos and Juan Moreno — the three Juans, as the Cubans affectionately called them — saw the appearance of a virgin that held a baby Jesus, while they rowed their little boat in the middle of a storm, I had the blessing of seeing the statue raised in honor of her in El Cobre, close to an old copper mine in a towering church on top of a hill in the outskirts of Santiago, a place I visited on a pilgrimage in 2002.

I was reporting from the island during a month-long trip, but the dozens of poor children fathered about a half mile from the church, where the tourist buses stopped, thought that I was a foreigner. “Auntie, auntie, here, here. Just two dollars”, they said while they tried to sell me a piece from their selection of wooden images of the virgin, the size of a hand or of a toothpick, within a crystal capsule.

My Cuban friend who had brought me there gave me a ride. “Too expensive,” he said. “I’m going to buy some with Cuban pesos, once you’re further in, so that you can give one to my cousin in Orlando”.

On the inside, the Cubans and the tourists mixed. One girl was celebrating her 15th birthday, dressed in a precious white outfit, which someone had probably sent her from Miami, and bearing a veil in a procession.

In the sanctuary, the small image of the virgin, dressed majestically in gold above a white pedestal, brought me back to the memory of the only Virgin of Charity of Cobre which I had seen, a copy brought by the exiled from Cuba in 1961 and that adorned the Ermita which was in the Bay of Biscayne next to Mercy Hospital, in Coconut Grove. I was in Santiago to report, but my Cuban heart told me to pray.

I was in the middle of my journey through the country where I was born, already under the careful watch of a Cuban government agent who had made it clear to me, without saying a word, that he had been following me from the Havana airport, where I had taken the flight to Santiago. I took out my composition book of notes and my pen and wrote down a prayer, in order to leave it among the thousands of other prayers that had been deposited in a prayer box over the decades. “Give them freedom,” I wrote. “Save Cuba, beloved Virgin.” On both sides of the pillars that encircled the virgin, there were framed medals of soldiers, young and old — from cadets to colonels — who had left her their honors and tributes. In this small space there was a gleam of freedom of expression. On one side there were the medals and badges of the Cuban soldiers from before the revolution, the men of Fulgencio Batista’s army.

On the other side there were the medals and badges of the revolutionary soldiers of Fidel Castro. They also sought comfort in Her during the ’50s and many of them still do to this day. And there, on top of a table directly below that setting, there was a placard fixed to the wall asking for the liberation of the political prisoners, among them was the plea that Fidel Castro had once sung, “Virgin Mary, for the freedom of the POLITICAL PRISONERS,” it said in big capital letters.

The Cuba of Castro, always a place of contradictions, had spent 52 years imprisoning people whose only crime had been that they don’t share in the political views of the revolutionary government, which one man governs in the name of so-called socialism. Fidel read books, he ate well and he amused the newspaper journalists from his jail cell during his short stay in prison under the Batista regime. It’s not like that for the thousands of Cuban men and women who have been imprisoned during the half century of dictatorship: their rulers didn’t even allow the International Red Cross or a representative of the United Nations to visit the ruinous prisons on the island, that now add up to hundreds.

That Thursday in Miami, the Cuban-Americans would commemorate the 50th anniversary of having received a replica of the Virgin, brought from the Guanabo locality, for more than 30,000 exiled Catholics who filled the abandoned Bobby Maduro Stadium in order to celebrate the feast day of their patron. I say commemorate because it is difficult to celebrate the tyranny that brought so many people here.

However, not a single day goes by where the topic of current Cuban politics is talked about: more arrests of Cuban citizens who dared to speak out on the island; a Pablo Milanés concert in Miami, an advocate of Castro; the leader of the Church in Cuba, who does not appear ready to take a stand against the terrible violation of human rights, but instead is only willing to help the communist regime put those prisoners on a plane to Spain, or the hardened hearts of exiles, who they call on to stop all of the family visits to the island, without which I ask myself: What would the Virgin do?

I believe that people of good will cannot accept the politics between the United States and Cuba and still share in the same objective of liberty. Some religious Cubans – Catholics, Protestants, and Jews — have sometimes arrived at the conclusion that Cuba is being punished by a higher power for the stubbornness of their town. Forgiveness? Reconciliation? Some sort of recognition of this sin being made by their oppressors? Neither side wants to surrender.

The Virgin of Charity, who appeased the waters of the Bahía of Nipe, as the story goes, saved three youth in 1604. More than 500 years later, after suffering for 52 years under the government of a single man, the Cubans await their grace.

Taken from: Myriam Márquez. The New Herald

Translated by: Megan Jantsch

February 27 2012

A Poem by Pablo Neruda / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

Allow me to share with you this beautiful poem by Pablo Neruda, which I found on one of the walls near San Francisco square in the historic heart of our dear Old Havana.

Someone was reading it when I found it. Wendy and I situated ourselves behind this person to see what they were reading. To my surprise, it was a poem by Neruda: one of those poems that makes us breathless when we read or recite it.

I did not hesitate an instant to share with my wife, in my own voice, the same poem that on that wall gave its letters to us; I know that when I recited it, I did so in my best voice. When I ended, we both looked at each other with the same conspiratorial, loving look we have shared since we first met.

The person that was in front of us, listening as I recited to my wife this poem that I share with you today, smiled at us.

It Is Forbidden

It is forbidden to cry without learning,
getting up one day without knowing what to do,
being afraid of your memories…

It is forbidden to not smile at your problems,
to not fight for what you want,
Abandoning everything to fear,
not converting your dreams into reality…

It is forbidden to not try to understand people,
to think that their lives are worth less than yours,
to not know that everyone has their own path and happiness…

It is forbidden to not create your history,
to not have a moment for people in need,
to not understand that what life gives you,
it can also take away…

It is forbidden to not look for happiness,
to not live your life with a positive attitude,
to not think that we can be better,
to not feel that without you, this world would not be the same…

Translated by: M. Ouellette

April 16 2012

Art on the Streets of Havana / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

Arte en La Calle (1)

Arte en La Calle (2)

Arte en La Calle (3)

Arte en La Calle (4)

The images we publish today, were taken through the lens of my camera on our walk down Obispo Street last Sunday. The Art of Mime is a must-see for those strolling down this central artery of the oldest part of Havana.

For Cubans and foreigners alike, the presence of the mimes is something new to the streets of Havana. Pirates with chests on their shoulder, fictional gunslingers, clowns and even those who pretend to come from the far east, are some of the most seen and applauded by those who appreciate the art that has never before been seen on our streets.

The resurgence of these mimes or performing artists, is due to the reforms of the Cuban economic model. These artists pay a fee to exercise their work and what they collect becomes their earned salary. In speaking with one of the performers, he commented that what concerns them is that despite their contribution they have nowhere to buy the supplies they need to refine their craft. He also said that many Cubans refuse to pay to photograph the characters they create.

When in the presence of these artists of the streets of Havana, give them a hats off and recognize them as part of the resurgence of a new community that stands today.

Translated by: Hillarie T.

April 16 2012

The Posts I Will be Publishing Today / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

The posts I’m publishing today in our blog were taken from different sites on the internet, and posting them here signals my agreement with the opinions of the authors, taking into account the recent visit of his Holiness Benedict XVI. From his visit, he will be called the most controversial Pope in history.

I hope that you will also enjoy these publications.

April 8 2012

Letters from the San José Prison Part 3 / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

Mayabeque, Cuba.- My name is Denis Luis Gómez Serrano, I’m 26 years old, I’m a primary, it’s my first sanction.  I would like to tell you that there are no psychotropic drugs here, and I left with permission and brought back my medication and now they want to sentence me to 8 more years of unlawful detention, when I was just about to be freed for finishing my term.

I had had HIV/AIDS for six years, when I became a prisoner, I came in as minimum security, getting a pass and everything since there are no medications here, they are always lacking, and since I have psychiatric problems I bring my medication from home and now they want to give me a longer sentence.

There are some 20 women here, and even they have knives because here you have to survive against the delinquency and neglect. You have to have weapons even if you don’t want to, even if you don’t have the courage to use them or else they’ll kill you. Here the black race is predominant. There’s no discrimination between us, the discrimination comes from the authorities because of our medical condition, if you go to a court and you have HIV/AIDS, they put you inside, so there are fewer people on the street with AIDS.

The authorities here, even the senior ones, know everything that is happening to us, they are the first ones that turn to stealing, imagine that to transfer to another detachment here in Baracoa, the head of internal order charges you $25, they are living with us here, the guard sell everything, food, drugs, the beds are $20 and there are sick people sleeping on the floor.

I want the world to know our situation and for international human rights organizations to consult with us.

Translated by: Megan Jantsch

January 23 2012

Praise for the Cowardly / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

Havana has carried out a process of appropriation of post-Marxist nationalism, through a nearly mystic cult of the figure Jose Marti, at the same time attempting the depoliticization of writers and artists.

The mechanism of terror employed by a dictatorship fails only with one social group: the intellectuals.

It’s not necessarily that the intellectuals are the most valuable citizens. It could be that among them are the most cowardly, but they demonstrate a larger capacity for assimilation and resistance. They are also the ones that transcend.

Jorge Edwards, in his biography of Pablo Neruda, “Goodbye, Poet,” says: “I always found Fidel irritated in the presence of writers, suspicious, as if that precarious power that they maintain, that which allows them the use and the art of words, embitters in some way, in his most vital and sensitive nucleus, his own power.”

The biography on Stalin by Edward Radzinsky narrates the preparation of judgment at Babel y Meyerhold, that would involve figures like Einstein, Katoyev and Ehrenburg. But in the course of the interrogations, Stalin lost faith that the intellectuals would play their part just as it was planned. He stopped confiding int he process, as, for example, Babel admitted everything and later retracted it. Stalin decided that artists are “unpredictable types,” to a dangerous level: that they too easily admit invented faults, but with that same ease negated what was said a minute ago. So he opted to kill them quietly.

In Cuba, Ernesto Che Guevara raised more starkly the conflict between intellectuals and the government, stating: “The original sin of the Cuban intellectuals is that they are not true Revolutionaries.” The phrase could have been reversed: the first sin of the Cuban Revolutionaries has always been that they are not intellectuals (begging pardon from Jose Marti), or worse still, that they are false intellectuals, but Che was a proud man.

With The triumph of the Revolution, a guilt complex was imposed on the intellectuals. Roberto Fernández Retamar (did he go on to be Catholic?) expressed it in an unhappy verse: “Who died for me in the slaves’ prison? We the survivors, to whom do we owe our survival?”

The complex of guilt for not have been a terrorist or executioner extends over the first stage of Cuban literature before the first of January 1959 — dominated by Sartre’s existentialism — and is transformed into a complex of the proletariat class, for not being a manual laborer, in the later literary generations.

More than half a century after the Revolutionary triumph, years also marked by the failure — of the diaspora, the United States and a good part of the international community — when it comes to offering a “democratic enlightenment” based in liberty, and the possibility of the existence of a representative government as a counterpart to the “socialist enlightenment,” built on a frustrated project of social justice, the regime continues to be one-party and persists in calling itself “Marxist-Leninist,” despite the signs of exhaustion of the model.

However, the ideological exhaustion of Marxist-Leninist model has not led to a collapse of the system, much less has it led to greater external influence. If those living under Cuban socialism are subjects molded into believing that the State must carry out a wide distribution of rights and social benefits — something never accomplished, always justified with the pretext at hand: underdevelopment, blockade, the end of the socialist camp, the international economic crisis — they have also been socially conditioned in the constant postponement of the moment at which they will be able to exercise their civil and political rights in freedom.

The government in Havana has done everything possible to maintain this condition, steering according to the time without letting go of control of the course. To perform this maneuver, the regime in Havana has not only headed up a process of redefinition and appropriation nationalism leaning toward Marxism — supported by an almost mystical cult around the figure of Jose Marti — but has also developed a tactic based on the depoliticization of writers and artists — marked by the passage of the “organic intellectual” to the neutral creator — exemplified the forgotten quasi official Communist poet Nicolas Guillen and the canonization of the Catholic Jose Lezama Lima Catholic and Origenes (Origens) magazine.

To sustain these ideological treats, the regime in Havana has needed to control both reading and writing. Although in both cases progress has been made in Cuba, beyond specific cases  genres and historical moments mentioned, even the Cuban government and the intellectuals who defend its cultural policy based on an administration territorial in the creation and practice of an ideological filter, which allows some to pass and others not. Although not published in Cuba it can not be considered synonymous with the unread on the island, the presence of marginalized books, topics and authors is not strong enough to break the logic of exclusion.

In this sense, Cuba becomes part of another world, largely alien to the West: A species of Africa, where the conditions for the preservation of the species are created by a band of outlaws disguised as guardians of the park, who obey the orders of the great hunter. Here the attempts to devalue the role of intellectuals are more serious for several reasons.

While on the one hand, the complex relationships between writers and the revolutionary process are still under dispute on the island and in exile, there is a labor of a erasing and re-telling by the regime in Havana, which aims to dilute the need for a moral and civic orientation in the country. it is an attempt at the trivialization of censorship: a minister of culture who displays a mane of ancient curls, rock and rap concerts, a statue of John Lennon opened to great fanfare, the appearance of banned works by exiled writers already dead.

Late acts and gestures. A policy of cages with the doors open but watchers at all four corners. Outdoor zoos for tourists. In return, a systematic effort to tame the group. A tactic of not using the stick but the carrot.

For unlike Europe, where the intellectual class’s ability to influence was diminished as a result of political and social change — which has benefited leaders and businesspeople —  in Cuba there is a government campaign to replace the repression against writers and artists, wherever possible, by a controlled permissiveness. Circumstances differ, but the goal is the same: to limit the power of a social group.

To control the intellectuals continues to be an interest of the Cuban regime, and efforts in this regard are not underestimated. The government in Havana does not feel safe. Among its fears is that any moment the intellectual says: “On one side Comrade Mauser” and takes the floor.

From: Alejandro Armengol, Miami, 06/09/2011 Cubaencuentro.com

Translated by: Boston College Casa

February 27 2012