Repudiation Against Acts of Repudiation / Regina Coyula

The year was 1993, my son was about to be born and I was given a weekend leave from the hospital. Upon my arrival at home, my husband was absent. He arrived very upset from the home of his son from a prior marriage. An act of repudiation had been made against the child’s mother and her spouse. They closed off the street, installed loudspeakers, brought in a mob that vociferated for hours without knowing for what nor against whom.

The couple had been battling for months to travel abroad, but would not accept the definitive exit that authorities wanted to impose. My husband’s son, then an adolescent student of painting, had decided to stay with us. After that demonstration of “revolutionary fervor”, the youth no longer wanted to live in a country where such things happen. A long time afterward, he continued having the recurring dream that the mob would demolish the door to his home and would squash them.

My son was born within a few days, and his brother left into exile three months later. They never had the opportunity of knowing each, of even recognizing one another, since they have a great physical likeness.

So to the ethical reasons, I add this very personal reason for championing a repudiation against acts of repudiation, so that nevermore any government will be in a position of confronting its citizens ones against the others.

Translated by: Maria Montoto

June 1 2012

Let Us Talk About Homophobia in Cuba / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

Havana, Cuba– During the entire month of May, the Cuban government in conjunction with the official entity Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual (CENESEX, National Center of Sexual Education) has developed a group of activities with the purpose of curtailing homophobia in Cuba and to demonstrate its commitment to walk alongside the LGBT, Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgenders on the island.

Fruitless and insufficient efforts that lack credibility in contrast to the true reality that this community lives daily. The official efforts that are led by Mariela Castro Espín have only had, until the moment, the achievement of approving in 2008 genital reconstructions. These add up, to date, to a total of 16 surgical intentions headed by a group of Belgian specialists. It is valid to point out that said operations have been seen to be halted after the abrupt departure of Wendy Iriepa Díaz from CENESEX.

One would have to ask the LGBT, “which is the most homophobic sector in Cuba?” If we analyze the reality this community faces in spite of uncertain apertures and inefficient campaigns, we would find a society in which the existent homophobia may be called Governmental or Official Homophobia.

I realize we are a “macho” nation by identity, but I do not fail to realize who the true culprit is behind what is faced by a community that, for more than five decades, has lived the slap on the back by those who sent it to forced labor camps, into exile, stigmatized it, marginalized it and now, changing its tactic, sends it to prison for the supposed crime of posing a social danger.

It is time to speak of things as they are. “Whoever is afraid should buy a dog,” says one of the phrases repeated daily on the island. I can not adapt it to me because I have no fear of expressing what I feel and think. Even less so do I have to buy a dog because I have on my side all of the existent social networks which, unlike dogs, can not be poisoned or decapitated. It is a weapon that constantly barks and is at the defense of humanity.

Let us call homophobia in Cuba Governmental Homophobia. Is it by any chance not they who are culpable for all that we have lived? Are they not the ones who pursue us daily and take us into police units for roaming the Cuban streets? Is this not the same government that submerges us into a state of lacking rights and usurps each of our spaces? If we wanted to keep asking, I would ask Mariela Castro Espín several things.

One of the questions we could ask this feminine personage, who today makes an effort to demonstrate to the world her leadership, why does she make such an effort in taking all the credit for the work with the LGBT community in Cuba when it was her mother who initiated this gesture before the Cuban government? Why does she try to erase the role developed by that Belgian sexologist who lived for years in Cuba? What is her true intention in representing the Cuban LGBT community? What gives her a sense of identification with our community, perchance is she equal to us or some member of her family a member of our organization? And one of those questions I would not tire of repeating to her is, “Does there exist some relation between those five Cubans sanctioned in the United States — for spying — and the LGBT community?” When I ask this last question, it is due to her use of placards demanding their liberty on behalf of the LGBT community.

I am a member of that LGBT community and have never participated in demanding liberty for any of them (the aforementioned group of five); I believe that before we can achieve liberty for those whom the Cuban government says are innocent, we must achieve liberty for each one of those homosexuals taken to prison and we have to achieve a public apology for what we have lived through for years.

Now let us talk about Homophobia with the truth and, seated in the bench for the accused, the true culprits.

Translated by: Maria Montoto

May 28 2012

The Rosa Parks Girls Close the Capitol in Havana / Dora Leonor Mesa

It is no coincidence that the women who struggle are called crazy,
because in reality they must underestimate something,
and this has been thus in the history of humanity,
because it is very difficult for them to recognize that woman also has a brain…
Elisa Carrió, founder of the Argentine political party
“Affirmation for a Republic of Equality (ARI)”, lawyer, university professor

For some it’s strange to relate Rosa Parks with the largest island in the Caribbean. The Rosa Parks Female Movement for Civil Rights was founded some time ago. Rosa Parks was a reserved and dignified lady who, in 1954, was arrested in Montgomery, a city in the south of the United States, for refusing to give up her seat to a white man. This attitude of hers, so disconcerting in those years, provoked an ongoing popular movement for civil rights in the United States. Anyone was far from imagining that her exemplary attitude would arrive in Cuba.

In the insular history there is a Pleiades of talented and ferocious women: some are most beloved as Mariana Grajales, the mother of the Maceo generals. We have heroines and famous professionals. Others are virtually unknown although they gave their all: their hair, jewels, their life, for the country’s liberty; however the concept of passive resistance was practically unknown in Cuba.

Rosa Parks is at Saint Rita Church as of the first march of the Ladies in White, known worldwide today. The indomitable spirit of Rosa Parks, identical, penetrates each gladiolus, each reunion, each step. No money could pay for the beatings and daily humiliations those simple Cuban women must bear, and even though the populace claim that one of them must be an agent of Cuba’s National Security, one must also certainly recognize, her suffering is double. To stand beside convinced beings must be very hard for a woman, be she mother, wife, sister, and at the same time a spy. The patriotism with which she could be adorned is of scarce value now, after all life will send her the bill.

In spite of the departure of the tireless Laura Pollán, first a grade-school teacher and later a human rights leader, the spirit of Rosa Parks, which does as it pleases in the rest of the country, now adds an extraordinary deed to the History of Cuba: the closure, for months, of the main entrance of the Havana Capitol, the most emblematic edifice of the Capital to all Cubans, constructed in the 30′s decade of the past century.

Four women from the Rosa Parks Female Movement for Civil Rights behave, apparently, like the boys and girls that rode skates and skateboards on the Capitol steps. With the same self-assurance and ruckus, they exhibited a bed sheet with signs that said: “Down with the Dictatorship” and “Long Live Human Rights.” Incredible!

These “cuatro gatas“, a mere handful of the Parks group, make history in August of 2011. Little did they care about the month of the “Maleconazo of 1994″, the so-called “vacations” of many with crumbs and hunger, the breaks on the beaches devoid of palms and umbrellas. Once ex-president Fidel Castro labeled “chicas locas” — crazy girls — those young women who prostitute themselves due to their unending squalor. Now (Thank you, Rosa!) nobody calls these four women crazy; at most, “dangerous”.

The Cuban capitol was partly to blame for all that transpired, constructed in the image and likeness of the one in Washington. Rosa Parks, from another dimension, once again felt the same as in the decade of the fifties. She believed the events were repeating and God only knows how the beliefs of these Cuban ladies were mixed with those she always held. The power of convictions and ideas is without discussion, so for now, the lavish entrance of the Capitol remains closed as of the end of August 2011.

Within the building, the Statue of the Republic awaits sad and lonely. Perhaps she believes that now no one remembers her, so famous for her beauty and size in her time. But no, we must convince her that we continue loving the Republic of Cuba, and although they insist that it is not so, the majority of the Cuban people comment between looks of complicity and kidding around:

…the Capitol still remains closed due to the repairs of:

Sara Marta Fonseca
Mercedes Evelyn García
Odalys Sanabria
Tania Maldonado Santos

There is no joke, nor does there exist, in my belief, any motive for laughter. The ladies of Rosa Parks have before them a colossal task. Each Cuban energy, within their means, will have to help them. Otherwise, some day we shall run into the Statue of the Republic crying in the Hall of Forgotten Steps. We allow the valuable metal of her body turn to mud.

Translated by: Maria Montoto

May 29 2012

El Sexto Once Again Demonstrates His Art / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

Havana, Cuba- Danilo Maldonado (El Sexto, or “The Sixth”), a well-known young graffiti artist in Cuba, exhibited his work this past Friday the 25th in the afternoon at the alternative space of Estado de SATS (State of SATS).

It is the second time that this artist showcases his creation, the samples running the gamut from already known templates to new plastic works. The activity included the participation of friends and followers of the work of the one who signs his name — El Sexto — in the most unexpected places.

One of the featured pieces was an altar with a white background, which illuminated with candles the Human Rights activists that in the last few years have revived in spite its demise, a new awakening in countless groups that champion respect for Human Rights within Cuba.

Amongst the people honored in this sort of altar aromatized by incense were: the leader of the Ladies in White, Laura Pollan Toledo, who passed away under unknown conditions in a Havana hospital after suffering a respiratory infection; Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia (The Student) who died in Santa Clara as a consequence of a beating fostered by agents of the police; and the (hunger) strikers Orlando Zapata Tamayo and William Villar Mendoza. On the altar there also appeared, within a frame in the superior portion, tiny images of the endless number of victims that will someday form part of the martyrology of a badly managed Revolution.

Danilo Maldonado thanked each of those present and especially thanked those who, in one way or another, made possible the exhibition of his work in the venue of the Biennial of Havana in spite of the fact that he received no invitation to expose his work in this oficial edition. The expo was animated by singer-songwriter Ciro who is part of the well known group Porno para Ricardo.

Translated by: Maria Montoto

May 28 2012

Murmurs / Rebeca Monzo

For some months now, they have spread like gun powder throughout the city: rumors about embezzlement, theft, deviation of resources, practices of nepotism, etcetera.

Old Havana has generated the most commentaries these days. The director of Puerto Carenas, the great construction enterprise dealing with the restoration of all the real estate in the historic center and some other buildings and monuments outside this area, is presently being investigated, according to commentary, for crimes against the economy of the State.

In other news, the La Muralla brewery, the recently appointed administrator is being detained under investigation after having had a field planted with marijuana confiscated, in the providence of Pinar del Rio. This caused the spread of the investigation to encompass the business he was administrating up to this time, situated at Muralla and San Ignacio, where other crimes on his behalf were discovered in which some of his workers were implicated, the latter of whom are also subject to investigation. Some are being detained and others are in waiting under house arrest (what we Cubans like to call “the pajama plan” — though only when it is the ’cushy’ version that is applied to high officials).

The Planetarium at the Plaza Vieja (Old Plaza) has also been investigated, due to police reports that these facilities were being offered for functions outside operating hours and administrative control, and whose dividends were ending up directly in the pockets of those implicated. There also exist strong rumors of nepotism practices on behalf of the directorship of Habaguanex. This not taking into account existing rumors as to the sale of job positions within these entities, which oscillate between $1,000 CUC and $1,500 CUC, depending on the type of job.

These rumors give much food for thought. Might it truly be as is being rumored? If so, how is it possible this has not reached the ears of the primary directors of said enterprises, when it is already public knowledge?

But sadly, this is not the only place where such criminal activity occurs. Recently on national television they showed images demonstrating the goods that were illicitly acquired by the administrator of the jam factory in the province of Matanzas; he was dismissed upon proof of illicit enrichment and deviation of resources. The president of the Havana Yoruba Society (Sociedad Yoruba de la Habana) also fell into disgrace, as we say here, for utilizing the influences inherent to his post, in order to secure trips and visas at a price of $3,000 CUC, for those privileged who were able to pay.

Apparently crime and corruption are spreading like a pandemic. It is truly very sad, even more so when, for more than 50 years, we have been hearing talk of the New Man, of revolutionary honor, of our militant Gentlemen, here on my planet, in order to occupy the post of director or administrator of an entity, you at least have to be a militant of the party and, in some cases, a member of State security.

These are the effects, those which regularly come under fire, but what of the causes? What truly are they?

A totalitarian State that monopolizes the administration of all large businesses, that pays miserable salaries, that maintains a dual currency: one with which you are paid for your work and retirement and another, that you need to acquire however you can, and with which one acquires at very high prices, all the articles of primary necessity; do you sincerely believe it can take the luxury of having, in those high positions of directorship, honest and incorruptible men? Who taught them to steal?

Everything here exposed are confidentialities and rumors that have reached me, and that have filtered drop by drop. I don’t have all of the information, that here is almost impossible, but I recall an old saying: “Cuando el río suena, es porque piedras trae.” (Literally: “When the river sounds, it’s because it’s carrying rocks.” Loosely translated: “If you hear rumors, there must be some truth to them.”)

Translated by: Maria Montoto

May 29 2012

National Thermometer / Regina Coyula

Photo: OLPL

The relationship of Cubans with public transportation is intense. The interaction is produced on various levels: between the public and the driver, amongst the public themselves, and between the public and the bus. This interaction is determined by the frequency between one bus and the next; and at this time that frequency has once again become, as it almost always has been for many years now, low. The irritation and annoyance with transportation that is delayed and packed determine the violence with which “the factors” react. Now on television they chide the public for the mistreatment of the buses and for the quantity and quality of the collection made as a conception of payment. In that type of reports there is no mention of “our working people”, as if those chided didn’t form part of those same people of the official demagoguery.

So if the public decides not to pay, or prefers to hand their fare directly to the driver, or refuses to pay $1.00 CUP (Cuban Peso = national currency) for a service that costs 40 cents and tears a bill in half to approximate the price, or bangs without mercy on the back door of the bus when the driver misses a stop, or points out somewhat cryptic responsibilities but in a loud voice; I don’t know what sociologists see (especially if those sociologists don’t travel on public transportation), but I see a reaction to accumulated frustrations, and not just with the subject of public transport.

Translated by: Maria Montoto

May 29 2012