If Venezuela looks into Venezuela

Fifteen kilometers to the south of Ciego de Ávila, in the center of Cuba, there is another failed town, the outbuildings of the demolished central Stewart, that today is called Venezuela. One more ruin.

Venezuela was once a thriving town. More than 7500 workers earning their bread and some constant progress in a sugar refinery that became the third in production capacity in the whole country. One million sacks of sugar produced in 1952. Big old wood houses that still exists, though leaning a bit and unpainted. A Union capable of hard battles for their workers’ progress, without limits, even against governments or companies, as it should be. Hundreds of residents members of different political parties, lodges, religions, cultural societies, choosing to buy amid different newspapers or crowds of commercial brands.

All that was reduced to One. And often to Zero.

Only one union trained to tell their workers that they must continue working in silence even if the receive less each time; one school where the boys learn a bunch of things that won’t give them any prosperity after graduation if they stay in that town or country. Very little to eat in the street, the farmers market selling very tiny potatoes, some bananas and malangas (a tuber resembling sweet potatoes),amid very fertile soil.

A fish market of chopped fish 30 kilometers from the Júcaro port. A boring museum with the stuff of Indians, Cuban independence warriors, union workers and bourgeois that soon will be another office in this poorly preserved town-museum. The headquarters of the Union that used to give battles against the masters in the republic, demolished.

Huge billboards with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez announcing a future that neither they nor their followers will be able to give to their people. Eternal silences in the nights. And the refinery, that majestic mass of human labor, that factory that 60 years ago exceeded the million sacks of sugar, became a silent ruin.

And that is only the visible part. There isn’t freedom, which is not easily measurable, because people get used to silencing their wishes of progress to avoid jail or being fired from jobs, they get used to the same newspaper, radio and television; to the same politicians, to the same useless currency. They adapted themselves to thinking about running away, very far, without home or family when they can’t take it any more: that custom is the worst thing that happened to Stewart, to Venezuela.

This is Venezuela’s mute drama. That could happen to the other Venezuela, if they don’t learn the lesson of others and vote badly or remain silence in these decisive days, in which I forget that stupidity of not meddling in the problems of people of different flags; between the solidarity for other men, and respect for the very dubious sovereignty made to protect bad governments, I choose solidarity. And I also believe, as did José Martí and Bolivar — liberator of foreign lands — that homeland is humanity.

And Venezuela pains me.

Translated by: @Hachhe

11 April 2013

Blessed are Those Who Have Friends / Angel Santiesteban

Amir, listen, I was remembering a lot of intellectuals we respected and loved who on many occasions went to my house to talk about the interviews you were doing with me because they claimed that you were going to betray me when State Security attacked me.

Today I arrived at the conclusion — once again — that those who betrayed me were them. You have always been by my side as a true brother. A warm embrace.


Ángel Santiesteban: From Butterfly to Worm

Amir Valle


Below are the [subtilted] video sequences edited for those who can’t watch it.

Angel Santiesteban Prats
From Worm to Butterfly

How a dictatorship tries to turn a prize-winning author into a criminal.

Angel Santiesteban Prats (Short story writer, novelist, blogger). Condemned to 5 years in prison for the only crime of thinking and writing differently from the official Cuban dictatorship.

With two of his books already considered classics of contemporary Cuban storytelling, Angel Santiesteban is an essential name in Cuban letters. He only had to write three books to garner the three most important literary prizes on the island in the short story genre.

UNEAC Short Story Prize 1995
Alejo Carpentier Short Story Prize 2001
The Children Nobody Wanted
Casa de las Americas Short Story Prize 2006
Blessed Are Those Who Mourn
His work, included in all the national and international anthologies of Cuban short stories, is also published outside the island.
In Spain
Angel Santiesteban
Blind Blogger
In Slovenia
In France
In Spain
At those times, when he wasn’t yet a “problem” he was seen on many cultural stages on the island.
Many foreign colleagues have asked about Angel Santiesteban’s life as a writer. These images, with other very well-known Cuban writers, speak more than a thousand words.
With his former teacher and mentor Eduardo Heras Leon, the editor Pablo Vargas, and Francisco Lopez Sacha, then president of the Writers Association of UNEAC
With the writer Reynaldo Gonzalez, winner of the 2003 National Prize in Literature
In Havana with the Cuban actress Sheila Roche, and the writers Francisco Lopez Sacha (right) and Jose Miguel Sanchez-Yoss
In Havana with the world-renowned novelist Daniel Chavarria
In Havana with the great Cuban poet Rafael Alcides
In Havana with Pedro Juan Gutierrez who, along with Leonard Padura, is the Cuban writer on the island with the greatest international renown.
In Havana with Manuel Garcia Mendez, also a winner of the Casa de las Americas prize in 1992, one of the most renowned Cuban writers in exile.
In Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, with two famous Cuban writers, Arturo Arango and Camilo Venegas (center)
With two of his true friends, Nelton Perez (back) and Guillermo Vidal (white shirt) one of the greatest Cuban writers of the 20th century.
With a great friend, the poet and novelist Rafael Viches Proenza, one of his most faithful friends.
Embracing the also ell-known writers Felix Sanchez and David Curbelo, at the Havana International Book Fair.
Here he is with some of the youngest writers of the time (early 2000s), all admirers of the works of Angel.
His first sin: Writing the reality of our country in his blog.
His second sin: Defending his right to the free expression of his ideas.
His right not to participate in an electoral system that doesn’t represent him.
His right to freely express his political thoughts.
His right to freely choose his human and social relations. Here with Gorki Aguila, of the rock group “Porno para Ricardo.”
His third sin: To join in friendship and social activism with other activists of peaceful change in Cuba.
With the director of the independent Estado de Sats project, Antonio Rodiles, another voice that makes the dictatorship tremble.
With Eliecer Avila, one of the most lucid critics of the Cuban dictatorship.
With writer and journalist Luis Felipe Rojas Rosabel, another writer who bravely challenges the dictatorship.
To silence his voice, first they sent plainclothes agents to attack him.
And so this.
Months later they arrested him and beat him so much the shirt he was wearing looked like this. November 2012.
One of the political police agents, so-called “Camilo,” threatened him with death.
On this occasion the same agent told him: “The five years in prison you’re going to get isn’t enough? And this happened when the court still hadn’t deliberated at rigged trial.
How could this henchman of the dictatorship know the sentence, if supposedly Cuban justice is independent of the police, as the defenders of the dictator Raul Castro claim?
Angel Santiesteban Prats. Don’t send a Cuban writer to prison!

Angel Santiesteban should not go to prison. Speak up!

When Hitler and Stalin were murdering thousands of people many said: “Why are we criticized for not speaking up, if democracy is precisely this: having the right to be silent or to scream?
This is the response of cowards.
This justification makes us cowards and opportunists when, taking shelter in this democratic right, we allow the crime to continue… this makes those who remain silent accomplices to the crime.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Nobel Prize for Literature 1970

Translated by: @hachhe

February 8 2013

Blessed Are Those Who Have Friends II / Angel Santiesteban

Dear Regina,

Having you and Alcides by my side is a luxury that a few mortals can have. You are a friendship treasure I keep jealously. Thanks for asking for justice, I only ask that, that is all I need to remain free; but the Court answers through the voice of the State security. Here — as you well know — the vast majority obeys to remain in their positions.

Thanks for this proof of friendship. I know that offering thanks is sometimes annoying, but it is the brightest way I find to tell you that I love you too.




Translated by @hachhe

February 9 2013

The Sad Centenary of Virgilio Pinera Part III / Angel Santiesteban #Cuba

Most intellectuals and readers agree the first book that managed to provide deep insights about the writer’s life was Virgilio Piñera en persona (Virgilio Piñera in person), an excellent compilation prepared by the critic and researcher Carlos Espinosa. It started to build the pedestal to the work of theintellectual Virgilio. In these pages his family, friends and colleagues speak, and we are able to delve into the soul of the poet.

The book, as we read it, breaks down the dark parallels that remain hidden in the memories of the readers, allowing us to unveil that secret and mysterious universe of the writer’s life.

Since the beginning of the “revolution” he was harassed by machismo and then, by homophobia and envy, that which socialism knows best how to harvest. A morning in 1962, as always, he went out to buy bread with two of his friends. At the entrance to the store, a soldier, suspecting they were threeeffeminates, sent them as delinquents to the police station in Guanabo, and later they were transported in a truck full of prostitutes, pimps and homosexuals, to the Castillo del Principe. At the first chance he called Guillermo Cabrera Infante, and at once Guillermo contacted Carlos Franqui, who in turn suggested talking with Edith García Buchaca, who had some pull in the arts and who was the wife of Carlos Rafael Rodriguez.

Trip to Hell

That night Virgilio remained imprisoned at the Príncipe, in all he was there for more than thirty hours in that hell surrounded by common prisoners. His friends were waiting for his release at Guillermo Cabrera’s house, when he arrived, worn out and battered, without sleep, he started to sob. That night after confirming he had a lot of “fear” – a word that would follow him for the rest of his life – he stayed in Cabrera Infante’s house. That fear later would become terror when he was called to Villa Marista, State Security’s Headquarters, where they told him that his influence on the young was damaging, therefore he was forbidden to have contact with them. From that moment he could no longer get over that state of panic that would follow him until the day of his death.

After that he didn’t want to return to his house in Guanabo. The terror of repeating those experiences was too much for him. In the 70’s came the “Five Grey Years, as they would later be called, but at that moment it was known as “el pavonato” — “the showing-off years” — in honor of that sinister person who managed the arts through revolutionary homophobia, directly controlled by Fidel Castro himself, the homophobe-in-chief. The entire system came down hard on all artists to accomplish what that generation would call: the instruments.

State Security accomplishes its goal: forbidding his creativity

In a letter from 1977, when he was almost 65 years old, he said:

(…) “What it is, dear, is that I don’t have a desire to write, about anything nor to anyone. My life is at an end, I’ve fought a lot, and I’m tired of fighting. I let myself go, that’s all. The days are like drops of water (…) nothing to do with the Theatre. Reading very little (…) no magazines at all. Total literary misinformation (…) tell them that I don’t write to them because I’ve severed my communication with the outside world (…) And that’s what life had in store for me. Death is all that remains, and contemplating old photos of youthful times (…) about this Proust already said it all in the time retrouvé, in that mortal and immortal dance in the house of the prince of Guermantes. Tell them that some days ago the last serving tray (blue) from those wonderful days in the house in Guanabo broke. I think now, and I’m certain that that truly was the life. I thought (how naive!) that we would live there until the end of our days, and there we would grow old with dignity and peace, with the rhythmic cadence you feel when the days remaining are so pleasurable that they cover you with a protective shroud of vitality. But all of that crashed, in the same manner as the sound of the trumpets which are said to mark the final judgement.”

These words from Virgilio encapsulate his absolute censorship, the sadness that ailed him, all the cultural works we lost as a nation. The creative energy of that generation was held hostage against the sacrificial wall. At that time it was impossible to find a work by Virgilio in any bookstore. It was completely prohibited. They hoped to make him a forgotten writer, erase him from Cuban literature. He suffered relentlessly during all of those years, through the months, days and hours, minute by minute, without being able to appease the pain caused by those who defamed him.

He did not accept any ethical compromise

Abilio Estévez says that the first thing he found out about Virgilio was that everything to him was profane except for literature, and he kept that moral without reproach. Virgilio taught him the writer’s code of ethics, the importance of writing well, and not to be partisan (in an economic or political sense). He demonstrated how important freedom is to a writer, and that freedom meant, above all, to be true to oneself.

And knowing this, he abandoned that censored existence. What those who persecuted him did not know is what he one day said to Abilio: “I’m immortal.” The news of his death was reported, ironically, in the newspaper Rebellious Youth, and the news was released after his burial, likely to avoid any type of gathering of intellectuals and admirers to pay homage.

One time he said to his nephew “How unjust they’ve been with me.” Not being allowed to publish or introduce his works was his worse punishment. Now, those who censored him are punished through the publication of his complete works. Some, particularly those from the 70s, will certainly say that’s enough because they conform with the few who never dreamed.

In contrast, my generation wants everything, not just for us, but also for the Cuban people: we want the freedom and dignity that Virgilio Piñera needed to be able to breathe and create.

Translated by: Enrique, @Hachhe, Marina Villa

September 25 2012

Diary of a Desperado. Our Angel of the Cuban Narrative. / Angel Santiesteban #Cuba #FreeSantiesteban

By Daniel Morales

The writer Angel Santiesteban-Prats has been sentenced to five years in prison by the gang of assassins that, for more than 50 years, dominates every living creature that lives in the beauty and always Faithful Island of Cuba.

That sentence was so expected by Angel himself, like for all of us who, with him, have suffered the process that the repressive officials of the Castro Brothers’ regime have subjected the renowned writer to for the last two years.

And we couldn’t expect more from some criminals who, with the argument of a mulatto sergeant called Batista had inculcated us (that was one of the poor words used in every era by all sides in conflicts, while they were subjecting plenty of innocent victims to the heavy political speech of our prosperous republic) with liberties established by a Utopian constitution, approved since the decades of the ’40s of the last century, and they burst in, with their effective American submachine-guns, their stinky Galician berets, their lousy beards, their filthy long hair, and their hands stained with the blood of thousands of countrymen, in the lives of all the Cubans living and unborn.

Years later that bloodied wheel took Angel and me, when all those feudal lords, from an Spanish lineage of the Galicia region: stinking, full of brute people, ugly, filthy, fat, angry, racist, envious, boring, miserable, resentful, abusive, treacherous, cowardly (the part of Spain the sons of bitches dispute the Iberian throne with the Basque. I apologize to all Galician and Basque that are trying to feign, unsuccessfully, being evil doers, as their cultural fate inevitably has marked them) caught us in a dynasty whose cruelty is still ignored by all world institutions responsible for ensuring the life and dignity of the human beings who inhabit this, our only planet.

We are as Angel called us, The Children that Nobody Wanted, the victims, the serfs of the soil, the slaves, the offspring destined to satisfy the demands of the sons of a filthy Galician officer with the last name Castro, who came to the Island of Cuba with the satanic Valeriano Weyler, and who, imbued with the early fascist spirit of the Mallorcan bastard, initiated his illegitimate sons in the task of converting, as they did their Biran plantation, our mulatto island in a concentration camp worst than the perpetrated by the German Nazis.

Agony, death, grief, hunger, persecution, harassment, torture, suffering, chiefly that: a lot of suffering, I was trying to explain to my American son in my poor English or my profuse Spanish, when he asked me in the midst of his juvenile happiness in winning a tennis match, what I remembered about my youth when I was about the same age as his wonderful 14 years. I dared not recommend him my ineffective novel La Casa del Sol Naciente (The House of the Rising Sun), because Andy was so happy, he looked so beautiful in his happiness, that I found distasteful spoiling his perfect adolescence with horrors of my 30 years of agony on the Devil’s Island.

The capricious massacres of the modern island tyrants that still suffered by all the heretics who dare to defy, intellectually, the ignominious propaganda system that supports the Regime that rules the Island of Cuba, will be an stigmata that will hang over all the “intellectuals” who remain motionless and/or commit to that shit, who maintain, trembling and soft during their humiliating existence, showing off a category that doesn’t belong to them.

I think that Miguel Correa was the one who showed me in the beginning of my prolific exile on a clear night in his apartment in New Jersey on the banks of the Hudson River, under the influence of good wine and excellent marijuana, a copy of an essay about transgressions of his great friend Reinaldo Arenas. In the essay Arenas outlined the thesis that every artist is a transgressor, a kind of dissident, a heretic, that the great works are characterized by the break with the environment that contributed to it, or even fed it.

The extraordinary narrative work of my brother Angel does exactly that, there isn’t even one of his texts that I hadn’t read with a deep exaltation of all my feelings. His stories have a unique intensity in the Cuban narrative, only commensurate with the Stories of Lino Novas Calvo, but above all with the short North American narrative, which despite so many sorrows, has been the most influential for us.

The American writers are very interested in reality, or rather violence, sometimes very cruel, with which reality hits the human being.

From Poe or maybe from Melville, via Twain and all those geniuses of the so-called lost generation: Fitzgerald, Dos Pasos, Hemingway, Faulkner and Steinbeck, to the authors of dirty realism, who choose meticulously with their minimalist style those “real”pictures that allow them to create an unceasing chain of emotional impacts, that in most cases are enough to overwhelm the reader so much that he ends up hating the writer.

Authors like Charles Bukowski, Raymond Carver, the amazing Chuck Palahniuk, are some of the narrators who, like Angel, including those never published the Devil’s Island: Pedro Juan Gutiérrez and also our generational brother Amir Valle, set up an agonizing battle with their readers, a sentimental struggle where there are swarms of sublime traitors, vulnerable pedophiles, attractive homosexuals, mournful swains, romantic whores, the good cop, the happy alcoholic or the zombie drug addict.

All of them are writers who dare to teach us the colossal quantity of shit that the human being is able to produce, on our pathetic way to the death, in our stupid fight to survive this hell that we have to suffer.

But Angel’s narratives have something different from all these famous authors I mentioned, who despite their teaching us about the stinking part of our lives, despite their characters sharing that common hell, they don’t resign themselves to this wretched life they have to bear, and that’s why they reveal themselves; not in the way of the 19th century romantic heroes, who were looking for a glorious transcendence or a symbolic condition, eminence, no, nothing of Hollywood films with vigilante gunmen, or Japanese movies with samurais whose codes pretend an unlikely exaltation of the man.

The heroes of Angel Santiesteban-Prats make us fall in love with their extraordinary individual little flashes of light, adjusted to a certain narrative situation; those daily flashes that you and I are able to produce in the face of the injustice we find every day, e.g. in our work place, in our prison cell, in our homes, or in the neighborhood where we live.

Angel doesn’t want to be bad, he resigns himself to that satanic generational condition. That’s why he always gives a chance to all his characters; he doesn’t justify them but elevates them to an essential category, the human one. He doesn’t conceive that anybody could be so perverse as to not deserve love or a decent death, even when that death comes for a reason that the character doesn’t believe, doesn’t understand, and that in every case is foreign to him, indifferent, let’s say obligatory.

One writes as one can, and if sincere, as one is. To read the stories of my brother Angel makes me feel so nostalgic for those of us who know him in person, it’s like his image emerges from the text to give us a hug, to irradiate us, as no other writer of our lost generation, that sense of belonging to so strange a paradise, so hard to find in a world filled with so much false egomania, so much evil envy, as the world of art and literature of the Cuban Revolution.

To the narrators of my malevolent generation, our angel was Santiesteban: that big guy, cheerful, that I remember more than 6 feet tall, strong, with fat cheeks, so extremely humble as Amir says, that he used to appear on his fast German bike with an unbearable shyness to share with us some colossal perfect stories. We couldn’t envy him; his greatness was so sublime, so essential to Cuban literature, that we had to chill out, let it be, limit ourselves to crumpling up all the pages that we had drafted with so much effort in order to create our literature.

But he loved us so much that he needed us for living, one day not so long ago, he told me that without our presence there, without his dead brothers, murdered or emigrated from the Devil’s Island, without our fraternal literary competitions, without all those intense national meetings, it would be very hard for him to write the same texts, follow the thread, maybe without knowing, of the Greek masters who founded our occidental and superior culture.

Angel Santiesteban has chosen one of the ways that, unfortunately, we Cubans have suffered since our uncertain national foundation; I mean the category of martyr. Perhaps the beauty of our island is so out of proportion that it encourages perfection, to the extraordinary human condition, and it is the fact that the ugly “reality” produced by our countrymen contrasts so much with that nature, that provokes the extreme conflicts that our national conscience suffers.

I won’t ask for continental or Latin American solidarity for Angel’s freedom, because we Cubans have become accustomed, in these 50 years, to the solitude, to the neglected clamor in the desert, to the slights of all our brothers of the race. We are, as someone baptized us well, the “Jews of the Caribbean.” Hanging over our heads an unexplained curse, irrational, incomprehensible, that despite everything makes us invincible, like the scorned people of Israel, who face a crowd of satanic souls who appeal, with their Islamism, for the extermination of their human dignity.

But here we have those who, showing off their embarrassing membership in UNEAC (the Cuban Writers and Artists Union), thanks to the repressive system that enslaves us now have an excellent opportunity to redeem their guilt of being accomplices, actively or passively, of a regime that has surpassed all the horror of our national history with its evil. To redeem their guilt by going down in history with an act of courage, of intellectual honesty, signing or showing their rejection of the medieval regime ruling the Island of Cuba, which is trying to silence with five years in jail one of most extraordinary writers of our culture. Imagine that thanks to the modernity of the Internet there is a once-in-a-lifetime choice to be against an act like the assassination of the poet Placido or the liberation of the narrator Carlos Montenegro.

You, Cuban notaries, until now official typists for the Castros, here it is a unique personal option, redemptive. Given that your mediocre works are not going to surpass the colossal transcendental works of Heredia, of Martí, of Varela, of Villaverde, of Lezama, of Eliseo di Ego, of Lino, of Labrador Ruiz, of Cabrera Infante, of Lidia, of the madness of Virgilio Piñera, of Rafael Almanza, of Reinaldo Arenas, of Carlos Victoria, of Benítez Rojo, or of Amir Valle, I urge you to sign a repudiation statement against the false sentence given to the Cuban writer Angel Santiesteban-Prats, an act that would guarantee you, like that Dreyfus thing did for Solas and his followers, that so wished-for transcendence that you chase trembling and crouched down in a corner of the Cuban tragedy.

Here is the link to the intellectual Cuban posterity:



Lets see if you have the guts to sign this document; urging you is your friend, or foe:

Daniel Morales

Translated by: @Hachhe

December 16 2012

Discovery or Invention? / Fernando Damaso

Painting by Abela

It’s a widely accepted truth that America was discovered by Christopher Columbus, but there are still a few who confer that honor on Vikings, a Chinese sailor or Americo Vespucio. The question is: Was America indeed discovered or isn’t it more of a European invention? First things first. America as such did not exist before the discovery. Therefore, it could not have been discovered because it was something that did not really exist. What was then called the East Indies, New Spain, the New World and in the end America, was simply a geographic space occupied (or unoccupied) by different ethnic groups that were fighting among themselves for survival. The more developed cultures (Aztec, Mayan and Incan) were occupying only parts of this territory, and usually made raids to their neighbor’s region looking for food and slaves with which they could solve their problems and extend their dominance. It was a spectrum of towns without a common denominator.The Europeans who came after Columbus, astonished by the unknown, could not help but to make classifications based on their concepts and knowledge, and described it orally and in writing in a comprehensible way for their peers. They gave a name to this amalgam of lands and peoples, putting everything in one bag and avoiding the larger differences. After that, but not before, this geographic piece of the world became known as America and was a benchmark in the same way,for example,that Asia and Africapreviouslywere.

This newly invented geographical entity needed some attributes to distinguish it from the Old World, and so it naturally was described as being savage, exuberant, rich, sensual, violent, etc. America dazzled Europe and the hungry and needy, the adventurers, attended America as the wasp to the honeycomb, and with sword and musket shots, they molded it to the form and likeness of those who invented it. The more advanced culture, as always, crushed the more backward ones and even though they also took nourishment from them they finally did away with them as determinant entities in aparticular historical epoch. From this process the invented entity (America) was nourished to become through the time in a reality.

The same happened with every single one of its peoples, including the Cuban people, which previously did not exist either. It was composed of a handful of Arauco Indians, who had arrived from different areas and were simply living a piece of earth, which no one knew for certain what to call. Most of the credit for inventing Cuba belongsmainlyto José Martí, although Europeans and other individuals first spread the seeds. He was the one who, putting together the rubble spread along the years, gave form and content to this nationality establishing, in the same way his ancestors had done with America, its attributes.

Martí, an enormous idealist, invented a country from a few men and based his dream of an ideal republic which was inaccessible to common mortals, since there the traumatic frustration that always went and still goes with Cubans for not attaining the high goals set by the Apostle — as Cubans call Marti. To Martí’s pretensions, Cuba should be a country of supermen and heroes, and not one of citizens. This is easy to prove if we go through our past and recent history: Hatuey, Guamá, Céspedes, Agramonte, Maceo, Martí, Gómez, Mella, Villena, Chibás, Echeverría, Frank País, Camilo and others, Cuba’s fate was to become a lighthouse to America and the world. A hard task continued, and that without knowing took us to really believe we were something more important than what we truly are: an elongated drop of land with spots on the map of the world.

There are substantial differences between being discovered and being invented: what already exists is discovered, has content and shape, a breathing body living by itself; what doesn’t exist is invented. To our common misfortune, America and Cuba are simple inventions, with the burden that means: to believe ourselves the center of the world and the main cause of its movement. This shared lie was and still is used by our leaders, wherever they are, to support their political career and to be eternally in the power, representing our genetic disease.

Translated by: @Hachhe and Unstated

October 14 2012

Two Fall Events / Rafael Leon Rodriguez

Taken from: lapupilainsomne.wordpress.com

Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías won the Venezuelan elections as was expected, but only by 10 percentage points; translated to voters figure is assumed he will have to govern with an opposition that showed support from the 45% of the electorate: six million one hundred and fifty thousand electors against approximately seven million four hundred thousand Chavistas. And the 20% of the citizens able to vote didn’t do so.

In the previous election in 2006 the opposition got the 37% of the votes. This means either these are the last elections won by Chávez or these were the last Venezuelan elections at all. Anyway the totalitarian formula is always win-win and the so called XXI Century Socialism won’t be the exception.

Two days before these elections, in Granma Province, the trial was held against the Spanish citizen Ángel Francisco Carromero Barrios, charged with murder while he was driving his vehicle on the public way. Carromero who was driving the car that crashed last July 22 when Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero lost their lives, remains under arrest until the sentence. Scarce or none information of the trial was known by the Cuban people, only reports from some who tried to get near and weren’t allowed, including Payá Sardiñas’ children. Others were detained to keep them away.

Both events, close in time, have something in common, a thread, which is the lack of information or disinformation with which the officials despise their citizens. Nobody knows the details of the trial against Carromero as no one knew the characteristic of the Venezuelan opposition’s proposal. In Cuba we only heard Chavez’s speeches in his political campaign. Not the ones of the opposition leader, Capriles. The conspirators of silence didn’t give details of the resolution adopted by the Council of the American Christian Democratic Organization (ODCA), on August 31st and September 1st in Chile, where an investigation of the deaths of Payá and Harold Cepero was asked of the competent organization the United Nations, with the support of the four Cuban organizations of the ODCA. Not by chance do totalitarian regimes understand freedom of the press as a contradiction of the democratic system, as for them the information is nothing more than a tool for control and repression.

Translated by: @Hachhe

October 16 2012

Forward Flight / Rafael Leon Rodriguez

Picture from: lapupilainsomne.wordpress.com

In recent days Havana has stood out as venue of countless events, most of them of an international nature and assorted disciplines. International Labiofam Congress 2012; International Law Congress 2012; VII Course on Tools of Control and Prevention Against Administrative Corruption; Orthopedics Congress 2012; Nanosciencie and Nanotechnolgy IV International Seminar, among others. The titles themselves give a feeling of development and resolution in the diversity of subjects and plans for the future. How far from the daily Cuban society! It seems like another Cuba, a virtual one, that only exist for a privileged group, the palace court and company guests.

Nothing to do with the real Cuba, which despite being an small country with 11.2 million inhabitants has the fifth largest prison population in the world in relation to the number of individuals. The one where each citizen’s share of the national debt is valued at six thousand dollars, owed to a group that includes Paris, Russia, China, and who knows how many more countries, whom the Cuban government owes, on balance, the ballpark figure of sixty billion dollars.

The country that is aging at such a pace that it is predicted that by 2035 a third of its population will be over 60 years old. The one where the workers earn miserable salaries not exceeding twenty dollars a month on average, in a dollarized economy. The one where retired men and women are forced to survive through all kinds of tricks to eat and dress badly. The one with a two million person diaspora that grows exorbitantly. The impoverished Cuba that has been exhausted of wealth along with its dreams and hope.

The heirs of the new class seem to behave as if in forward flight, to ignore the sad reality of this island anchored in the past. Convinced of the powers and privileges inherent to their lineage, they flaunt plans, capacities and projects. Meanwhile, the gap continues to widen between them and the majority of citizens, who trapped in the trick of a single party system and the negation of their fundamental human rights, as set out in the United Nations Covenants on civil and political rights and on economic, social and cultural rights, confirm that there can’t be any communion with the oppression.

Translated by: @hachhe

October 2 2012

Spaceman Solo / Dora Leonor Mesa

The dancer dances surrounded by cords. He is lonely. Amid ropes, some chairs also take up the insufficient space. In front of the man, the spectators watch. Mozart’s music sounds different inside the show. The dancer wears white; he moves, suffers each gesture he makes. Desperate he raises a woman’s hand in the auditorium and take her into stage. They dance.

The woman follows the steps a few moments but it’s not enough. The artist sits her in a chair. And in that way he acts with other audience members. They dance. Each companion becomes part of his pain and performance; though he goes on dancing alone. The music ends.

“I’m cold, cold, cold,” the interpreter exclaims. Now on the stage are many people but no one helps. The guests on stage doubt. What’s going on? Should they help the artist? Except for the ropes, nothing moves. They are the stage and the obstacles of the dance.

“They arrest an artist as in a fugitive criminal hunt.”

This perfomance has other aims: To emotionally disturb other creators, friends and their families? To tear to pieces the beauty of the world of art and communication?

Orlando Luis Pardo was recently detained in a cell for several hours. It’s not enough being a photographer to capture the talent of the Cuban blogger’s images. I look for the picture “A newspaper seller.” It takes the breath away of the most unwary. The seller could be from Haiti, Ethiopia or Somalia, but no; he is Cuban. Yes, from Cuba; that exemplar island in education, health, beaches. It’s a shame the photograph makes him doubt.

“Is he really Cuban, that man of the picture, black, clown or poor; or all at once?”

The image of that person wearing rags and newspaper disturbs each onlooker.

The ropes that surround the best Cuban bloggers, male or female — very soon any blogger — resemble those of the work “Spaceman Solo” by choreographer Narciso Medina. Ropes with their own names: Harassment, Suspicion, Humiliation. Caustic spiderwebs, omnipresent to cause an immense loneliness; to paralyze the artist regardless the occupation: photographer, writer, sportsman. It’s the same.

Those ropes want to silence — especially — the humans with inspiration, a stunning gift that Nature deals at random.

The signs show that there is so much nervousness in the government’s highest spheres. There is no money, no youth, no magic wand effective to show how Generation Y broke the dike. On the contrary, the Blogger Academy discovers the recipe to forge talents. It does not even have to get close to the potential “abductees”. A cloud of infectious blogger air. Infection that in the end expands as a virus or a bacteria: invading a living creature and multiplying in him. Immediately, the change.

The bloggers Orlando Pardo, Yoani Sánchez, Luis Felipe Rojas, Wilfredo Vallín and many other lucid people are a problem. Their work is in the net of nets. To top it off, with a boomerang effect behind the detractors. Talent, communication and technology. The end of loneliness.

Translated by: @Hachhe

September 14 2012

The Sad Centenary of Virgilio Pinera – Part II / Angel Santiesteban

As in the great circus, this year, on the centenary of the birth of the great writer, the “official culture” of the island has fired the warning shot that tells the contestants that the fight has begun. The regime has raised the vestiges of censorship that still remained on the famous intellectual, whom they made suffer in life until he became a gloomy shadow that crossed the city sky. They have published his works, along with dozens of comments that fill books without letting his fears and censors come to the surface. All the things that made him suffer, and all those who persecuted him, never showed up even in the marginal notes.

The question is how much Virgilio didn’t write thinking it wasn’t worth the trouble or that it would bring possible punishments. How many marvelous absurdities was literature deprived of by the gendarmes of the official culture.

On many occasions he showed his fear. A fear which, like a cancer, took over his battered body. And those who turned their backs on him, who fled from his greeting thinking him prejudicial to their official acceptance, now fill sheets with flatteries, now no one avoids him, no one is capable of seeing themselves as miserable beings forced by circumstances to be such cowards.

As in a play, they try to lower and raise the curtain and start over, to create and recreate his inventions, and collect the praise that is given now. So it will be with all those who in their time were drowned, alienated, cast out of the intellectual word such as Cabrera Infante, Reinaldo Arenas, Carlos Montenegro, Guillermo Rosales, Lidia Cabrera, Enrique Labrador Ruiz, Lino Novas Calvo, Carlos Victoria, among other essentials Cuban writers.

Sugar-coating history

As one of the his best biographers told me, “now every one wants to be his friend,” cluttering pages with the intention of getting into the best part of the cultural history and, by the way, collecting some pocket-money, and if possible sharing his memory in some cultural festival abroad. And of course, still remaining silent about his reality during all the years of the revolutionary period: his worst nightmare.

The Cuban dictatorship, with the support of some intellectuals who accept the proposed carnival — whenever it brings them some benefit — trying to erase the censor’s hand, his arm wielding the whip over Virgilio’s delicate body and defenseless soul. It is as if the past had been performed by others, as if all these apologists had no part or fault in all the poet’s suffering.
On repeated occasions Piñera accepted being “afraid,” an uneasiness he suffered in his spirit and in his work, and that wherever he is, still demands to be vindicated, demands justice for such great sadness that they caused him.

Translated by @Hachhe

September 15 2012

The Non-Aligned Summit / Rafael Leon Rodriguez

Picture downloaded from actualidad-solidaria.blogspot.com

In August the sixteenth summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) came to an end in Teheran, the capital city of Iran — the country which now assumes the presidency of the organization. The Syrian crisis and the Iranian nuclear program dominated the meeting’s agenda. The movement has lost some of its purpose since the end of the Cold War. During the last decade of the 20th century, however, it seems that the flexibility of its members political views has actually allowed it to retain some relevance in the international arena. It has never been clear that leaders of some of the founding member countries understood what non-alignment meant.

Cuba participated in the first summit conference in Belgrade from September 1 to September 6, 1961, along with 27 other states, as a full member. On May 30 of the following year Comandante Fidel Castro approved Operation Anadir, which allowed the former Soviet Union to install nuclear bases in Cuba with missiles directed towards the United States — an action that brought the world to the brink of annihilation. It is reported that, on the night of October 26, 1962, in the midst of the Caribbean Missile Crisis, the Cuban leader sent a letter to then-Premier Nikita Krushchev suggesting that he launch a first-strike nuclear attack on the United States. The letter, which has never been fully released, has been the subject of various interpretations. Underlying it, however, is an awful intent — to launch a third and final world war.

After the crisis Cuba continued its membership in the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries. It later allowed the installation of a Soviet signals intelligence station at Lourdes as well as a contingent of military personnel. It seems that among the most important concerns of NAM’s founding members is support for so-called national independence movements.  The Cuban dictatorship excelled in this regard at the sacrifice of their people, to get thanks for the real and material solidarity offered, and to turn a blind eye to their past history of military commitments with the ex-Soviets. It’s the politics of ambiguity and the half-truths of regimes of this nature to always justify the means for the ultimate end: to remain in power at all costs.

Translated by: @Hachhe

September 11 2012

No Secrets / Regina Coyula

Last week a reader wrote me worried for my security after reading my name in the Diario de Cubaamong the working team for the citizen initiative For Another Cuba. I want to tell to my dear virtual friend and others that share her concern, that it’s a shared choice to do this in the most transparent way, in the end it’s about ratifying some pacts that would consolidate Cubans’ rights as full citizens. It’s good to remember, the government has already taken the first step by signing these pacts four years ago.

I don’t feel any risk working on this initiative, but if I’m wrong, it would confirm the exhaustion of more than a half century of order and command; it would confirm the need for a democratic opening in my country, and the need that we Cubans finally be allowed to enter the XXI century.

Translated by @Hachhe

September 13 2012

The Assemblies to Nominate Candidates Begin / Cuban Legal Advisor, Yaremis Flores

By Yaremis Flores

The summons for the citizens to attend the nomination of candidates assemblies are already spreading around the neighborhoods. Some are attending like robots, simply to make an appearance and so as not to be “branded” in the zone.

After the candidate election process, on October 21 they will elect the delegates, who are committed to communicate the community’s opinions and difficulties to the local Assembly and Administration. They must also inform their constituents about the resolutions adopted to solve those problems or the obstacles to doing so.

In practice, the only form of communication between the delegate and his electors is the Accountability Assembly. A bitter pill that the delegate swallows -in a two and a half year term- in an accumulated series of moans and complaints. The solutions are postponed, period after period, by each predecessor in the job.

The delegate cannot count on resources to directly fulfill the voters demands. He is only a mediator, who must endure -not infrequently- the insults of the population, due to the inefficiency of his management.

Local power is almost existent. At that level, there are no verifiable results of his management. Far from solving the local problems, he does the work of monitoring, like a Police sector chief.

In this sense, the delegate is compelled by the law to inform about illegal constructions and confront legal violations in entities of his district, especially against every corruption manifestation, improper use of resources and other felonies.

He is also entitled to control and supervise the activities of the entities of his jurisdiction, regardless the level of subordination; bound to contribute to the socialist legality and the internal order.

Translated by @Hachhe

September 7 2012

The Sad Centenary of Virgilio Pinera – Part I / Angel Santiesteban

Virgilio Piñera and Fidel Castro

It has always surprised me how Cuban intellectuals, particularly the generation that lived through the seventies, which later came to be called “the five gray years,” have this bad public memory, and in general, among people they trust, they express the pain they still feel for the abuses committed against them by the functionaries faithful to Fidel Castro and his ideological and military leadership.

Many decades went by without these demons that marked them for life being exorcised, some called traitors for writing “counterrevolutionary” literature, others classified as homosexuals for being weak, along with “ideological licentiousness,” being religious, having long hair, wearing tight pants or listening to the Beatles, Nelson Ned, Cheo Feliciano, Julio Iglesias, Roberto Carlos. There was so much censorship and insanity that Kafka’s narrative began to be realistic.

They created the Military Units to Aid Production (known as UMAP*), concentration camps in the style of Stalin’s Russia. The voices of the dead from this time, who didn’t survive the torture, still call out for justice, and their souls are still waiting, impatient, for the day their names are cleared and returned spotless to their families, and their executioners pay for the injustice committed, as well as those who planned the punishment.

Many of those intellectuals who are still silent, were witnesses of those abuses, others they learned of from friends and acquaintances, all in the end were silent accomplices to evil and crime. A generation that mostly preferred to pretend they had forgotten and to continue to repeat ad nauseam compulsory slogans such as “I’m a revolutionary,” “I support the Revolution,” “I’m loyal to Fidel,’’ and to maintain that imagefearing they would suffer again what they already endured.

The executioners’ return

When the famous “War of the Emails” or I should say, “little controlled war” — when those terrible characters, visible puppets of the Cuban socialist fascism — coincidentally began to reappear in the public media, the officials of that time said it wasn’t on purpose. But in this country for more than half a century nothing happens by chance, where everything is controlled by Fidel Castro, like the great plantation he’s turned Cuban into: Birania, in honor of the name of his father’s ranch and the place of his birth, which, by the way, as part of his personality cult was turned into a museum many years ago. And, remembering his father who used to give exhaustive orders, where nobody dared to make a decision, as happens now with his brother Raul Castro who doesn’t take a single step without having consulted with the “Maximum Leader.”

The truth is that a young writer raised the alarm by email and, for the first time, the spirit of rejection was contagious. The State, seeing that the intellectual situation was running high, called to the still very disciplined elite of that generation for a meeting at the Writers and Artists Union (UNEAC). They promised, there, that these ousted officials would not return to the cultural arena, that everything that had happened was a “coincidence” and outrage of the official media censorship.

For the intellectuals who had been called together, it was enough that they’d been taken into account and they guaranteed that their executioners would not be “reactivated.” With pretty words, Fidel Castro and the Party Central Committee, that is the Party’s Department of Ideology, had no other choice than to make an official declaration, like a sea wall holding back the tsunami, that would be published in the official organ, the Granma newspaper.

And what a surprise it would be for those intellectuals that the final version published was very different from the one written at UNEAC! Some details, words, commas were erased or changed. But that generation that well learned very well to shut up, to whisper in the corridors, also let that event pass unnoticed.

Another unnoticed detail is that at that famous UNEAC meeting, the President of the Cuban Televisions Studios was summoned — a “retired” army officer who, dressed in plain clothes continued under military orders as a clerk at the whims of the Regime — and he didn’t show up because he knew that they would make him accept the blame for those mysterious appearances of the wicked on “his” television. Instead he sent another minor official who took notes of what happened, in which intellectuals demanded a retraction, an official apology from the President of the TV that would be published in the national media.

Promises gone with the wind

Weeks later, when they intellectuals present at the meeting began to inquire into public repentance, they were told it was a promise of the above mentioned President of Television and it would be given at the right moment; of course it never came. And again these intellectuals silenced their voices faced with that commitment. Of course they didn’t understand, or didn’t wish to, that they had been manipulated in the very rights of their spaces, of their work, and of their history full of ears; they were the seawall.

Meanwhile, the emails continued, and some started narrating passages of those events. The note in the newspaper wasn’t enough, they had to be other concessions, they let the blood run from their old wounds. And behind closed doors, by personal invitation to the headquarters of the Casa de las Americas, they agreed that they would expiate their sufferings. Later, far from social media, they went to the Superior Art Institute (ISA), and there like little girls they shed their long-stifled tears.

I was always waiting for one of the injured to point out the real culprit, whom we all knew was Fidel Castro, the intellectual author of all our national sufferings. But, unanimously, they all preferred to remain silent. Nobody mentioned the name of the Beast of Biran, for them was enough being allowed to expel, like volcanoes, all they had suffered, so that, satisfied, they went back to silencing their secrets and stopped being news.

Mentioning the real culprit of the terror

In an email exchange with the writer Amir Valle, I told him the artists had spoken their minds with those functionaries who were no more than puppets, but that nobody mentioned the name of the real cause of the Evil: Fidel Castro.

I was surprised to see a file with all the collected emails, from one side and the other, and that mine wasn’t taken into account. Then several writers who were present in the meeting at UNEAC told me that wouldn’t be very “intelligent” to mention the comandante, that they must act sensibly. In other words: they could play with the chain, but never with the monkey.**

That was enough to confirm what I already knew for sure: the fear of that generation was so deeply seated, that the roots barely reached the surface. Thus, the names of those victims of UMAP, the parametrados***, the excluded, the executed (no one remembers, any more, the atrocious shooting of the writer Nelson Rodriguez Leyva, author of the marvelous book “El Regalo” (The Gift), published in 1964 with the Virgilio Piñera’s collaboration), the censored, the anguished, the tortured, like Piñera himself, Lezama Lima, Rodríguez Feo, Reinaldo Arenas, Heberto Padilla, among others who should be still expecting their compatriots, friends and colleagues to settle the debt and point out the real culprit of their personal disgraces and the national cultural ones.

The culprit of all that literary and artistic work that the established Regime of Terror had cut short by their authors’ fear, and the need to survive at any cost, a military and communist dictatorship that launched its absolute Power against any vestige of free creation.

Translator’s notes:
*UMAP — Military Units in Aid of Production, a euphemism for concentration camps for homosexuals, religious, and others considered in need to “re-education” or simply confinement.

*“You can play with the chain, but not with the monkey,” is a common Cuban expression.

***Parametrados / parametración: From the word “parameters.” Parametración 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.

Translating Cuba is in the process of translating the emails exchanged in “The little email war,” also called “The Intellectual Debate,” and they can be found here and here.

Translated by @Hachhe

September 5 2012

Executions in Alphabetical Order / Dora Leonor Mesa

It does not matter if you are superstitious or not. In Cuba anything can happen; even the most unimaginable of things.The three Parcas, the Fates, are out on recess in Cuba.

Why deny that they are interested in the Spanish alphabet to cut the threads of their canvases? What will be the next choice? Silliness??


The sudden death of the renown opponent leader in Cuba, Osvaldo Paya Sardiñas is full of enigmas. Leaving all accusations and suspicions aside, ten months before another Sakharov prize winner passed away: Laura Pollan.

Pollan, Laura, with her first surname with P. Paya, another P. A mere coincidence, if the also well-known mason opponent Gustavo Pardo weren’t finally obliged to go into exile after being pointed as a CIA agent in the last rerun of the TV show “Razones de Cuba”(Cuba’s Reasons). First aired on monday march 22 of 2011.

Such accusation, for any Cuban, is a clear death sentence by shooting.

In the Greek mythology, the Parcas are three goddesses who determined human life and destiny. Known in Latin as Parcaeand as Moiras in Greek, the Parcasassigned a part of good and evilto each person at birth, although by the own clumsiness the evil could be increased.

Melancholic maidens or severe elderly women,portrayed in art and poetry, alwayswere represented as weavers.

Clotho, the Spinner, who spins the thread of life.

Lachesis, the distributor of fortunes, decides their duration and assigns their destination to each person.

Atropos, the Inexorable, carries the feared scissors that cut the thread of life at the right moment.

Did Lachesis intervene to save the life of the mason Gustavo Pardo?

Does the Inexorable Parca Atropos have a list of Cuban dissidents whose surnames have the initial P?

Around 15:45 of 23 July 2012 a gray hearse brought the body of Oswaldo Paya Sardiñas to the entrance of a church of Cerro, in Havana. The car plate was HXX190 or HXX901 or HXX091? It’s hard to remember in the middle of the emotional hit and three hours waiting.

The Funeral was supposed to start at 8:00, then changed to 11:00. The address of the church was another dilemma solved by SMS messages sent between friends and acquaintances. It was recommended to forget the doubts and wait in the park outside the church, next to the news agencies cameras and the political police.

The hearse plate adds 1 and is an interesting number (9 + 1 = 10). The plate of the crashed car in which Para Sardiñas and other 3 companions were traveling (T 31402) also makes 1 according the numerologist criterion, those who practice the divination through graphs and numbers.

More than 400 people attended the prayer for the dead, a brief Catholic Mass in honor of the deceased. The applause of the attendees after the immense courage and activism of Paya lasted about 10 uninterrupted minutes. The priest’s voice was barely able to control the cheers and shouts of Freedom. Only when the troubled widow spoke, her voice turned the pain and anger int a respectful silence.

The National Anthem or Bayamo Anthem sang by the attendees, seemed like a scream more than a march. Paya died near Bayamo, at the east of the island.

Thereport of the UN Committee against the Torture (http://media.elnuevoherald.com/smedia/2012/06/01/11/28/ thvNr.So.84.doc )states that Cuban civil society and its families are under risk conditions. Therefore the international community must be on the alert. Also Cubans, wherever they are.

It’s time to protect the Cuban alphabet letters of the Opposition, among them, to those more common or those they bother, as the S, the V, the F.

At anytime, the three spinners change the threads and letters. Their last patch started from the end. The Parcas played with the hunger of Z from Zapata. After the feared maidens they beat to death the S of Soto Villar. Amid this net, without a doubt, are other cut threads.

Perhaps a rough day, the severe elderly women will jump to the beginning of the alphabet to sweep away whatever they find. The decisions of the Parcas can not be altered, even by the gods.

A, B, C,…F,G,..

The blind scissors are the worst part of the thread. It’s never known when and which thread will be cut.

– Cut again.

– No, it’s fine.

– I wouldn’t be so sure.

– These threads are strong

– Go on! Cut them all!

Translated by @Hachhe

August 7 2012