Malcom, the Generous Hand / Luis Felipe Rojas

It’s Monday the 19th, and it is the first day of school in the United States for my son Malcom. They have placed him in an excellent educational center. It is a preview of our lives here, but at the same time it somehow also connects with what we left behind. No one asked us for our party affiliation, and there was not a single director who demanded to see our proof of social integration. This is a sharp contrast, which we will be grateful for the rest of our lives.

What makes me the happiest about this course, which he has continued 90 miles from his first home, is that he doesn’t not have to lift his hand and put his thumb on his forehead and say that he wants to be like someone. In Cuba, when told, all students must repeat at the top of their lungs “Pioneers for Communism!”, and “We Will be like Che Guevara!” Here, they want him to be like himself, what they wish to see in his attitude is his capacity to demonstrate his talent and physical and intellectual abilities. This morning, he raised his hand to offer it in friendship to dozens of children from three continents. He made some cartoon drawings and excitedly brought them home. It was a new day, with no necessities to read him a manual about heroes chosen by a few, nor will they ask him to praise what he does not want.

A tricolor soccer ball rolled and  bounced off the ground and the steps of my son walked towards the field like someone searching for the world, with strength, with reasons and with desires of being the man who had his dreams interrupted a few years ago, but who stars again now as a simple schoolboy who will offer his generous hand and not a scream, a kick, or a slogan.

Translated by Raul G.

20 November 2012

Rodiles, Targeted by the Regime / Luis Felipe Rojas

Two opposite dynamics have had to change their actions in order to prevail: government repression and the peaceful opposition. Everyday Cubans have taken up arms with new technologies, they have supported each other with the scarce glimmers left behind by the inefficient Constitution of the Republic, while the oppressors have had to beat them out on the street without consideration, leaving themselves to be photographed by anonymous citizens and assimilating the political cost before international public opinion.

The recent temporary detentions, beatings and interrogations against a large number of Cuban dissidents have revealed two important aspects between non-conformist citizens and guarantors of the old Stalinist power. The victims protested in front of an important department of the Ministry of the Interior in the Cuban capital. On one hand, it has been proven that the intensity of the beatings against them is the same, while the dissidents have combined the most useful of diffusion tools to spread their message, and their membership has been increasing.

In the scuffle which State Security started this past 10th of November, there was a well-known writer, various lawyers (three of whom were detained and taken to dungeons), a scholar, a blogger known to the entire world, five former political prisoners from the group of the 75 (The Black Spring of 2003), the 2010 Sakharov Award Recipient, various human rights activists, and Antonio G. Rodiles, the director of the independently produced TV show Estado de Sats, which was recently nominated for an Emmy.

In other words, the group of detainees represented a large range of social disagreement happening right now.

Rodiles…the new repressive wave.

At this point in time, many ask themselves why the aggressions against Antonio Rodiles. What did the prudent political police officials find in this restless intellectual? The Citizen Demand for a Another Cuba could have gone by as just another initiative, but the restrictive claws of the high ranks of the Military’s Counter-Intelligence do not want to take any more chances.

The Citizens’ Demand for Another Cuba, which demands that the government ratify the covenants it signed at the UN in 2008 and “immediately put the legal and political guarantees in practice,” in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, has gained the support of diverse sectors of the dissidence in Cuba. In this manner, with each passing day more Cubans in and out of the island are supporting it — a detail which rapidly gains support.

Rodiles, a young intellectual, devised a way to report and shed light on the most diverse of thoughts and anti-Castro activism through filmed interviews in his home. The “televised programs” of Estado de Sats are filmed and edited in a beautiful, yet simple, fashion, without any technological gadgets and as soon as they are uploaded onto channels for massive diffusion such as YouTube, they quickly receive much attention throughout the entire national geography.

Yoani Sánchez… stepping it up to another level.

In the video of the arrest this past 7th of November, one can see precious details of the brutal repression, and there are two aspects which should not be forgotten if one wants to know the current Cuban reality. The first is that, once again, an anonymous citizen filmed high-ranking soldiers during an operation. The second factor is that the repressive actions are being accompanied by a face, and in that sense, the blogger Yoani Sanchez carries a fundamental weight.

Known for her brief writings in the most popular blog in the Spanish-speaking world, Yoani has been the protagonist of courses and workshops about the tools of the modern technological world, and of citizen empowerment.

That brief video of an Immigration official, lacking arguments, notifying her that she had no Exit Permit for leaving Cuba, went around the world. Yoani was inaugurating the sessions of cyber-victims, promoting (nearly online) her outrage. Without a doubt, the strategists of the Cuban Intelligence fell in the trap of a haughtiness which they did not need and with which they cast blame on themselves.

The husband of the dissident blogger, journalist Reinaldo Escobar, being pushed by a mass of braggarts with lynching licenses was another episode for which he and Yoani supplied the architecture. Escobar challenged a notable operation and posted himself, like a neighborhood kid on a central street of the capital, to await his ‘opponent’ and this time turned the screw: the accredited media outlets in Havana filmed and projected the images of these government sponsored repressive acts against a defenseless citizen to the world. Once again, Yoani Sanchez was pulling the strings, and moving the chess pieces.

When a well-known independent journalist revealed his ties to the political police, Cuban television let loose its machinery of propaganda and aired a series of documentaries titled “Cuba’s Reasons,” where they exhibited photos, videos, and other testimonies about the Civic Resistance. As a response, the author of Generation Y took it to another level and created an improvised television studio in her house. She started to publish interviews with members of civil society which she put in the series known as “Citizen’s Reasons,” revealing the freshest of faces and thoughts of those confronting the old military dictatorship.

They seem like small skirmishes, but with her actions Yoani Sanchez has received the same amount of praise outside of Cuba as slanders published by former president Fidel Castro, as well as an acceptance among the important actors of the Cuban opposition, acknowledging that she has opened a crack, a path paved by legitimate appropriations of civic tools which have always been there but which the dictatorship has criminalized.

The act of a citizen publishing the face of repression in Cuba from his/her cell phone arms the arguments against the regime’s henchmen. It is not an invention of the famed blogger, but it was she who put it in practice, which consecrates her in the history of the Civic Resistance on the island.

Translated by Raul G.

12 November 2012

In Search of Hope / Luis Felipe Rojas

Steps towards collapse. Do they tell the true story of that project of a nation usurped and which they have named Cuba? Cuba says, time of election or voting? Do they tell the story of unknown faces, of that dreamt Cuba in the simplest of grasps. Do we all count, says the state gibberish. “We all count?” asks the anonymous soldier of everyday life.

Translated by Raul G.

8 November 2012

Violator and Ousted / Luis Felipe Rojas

The whirlwind of corruption, the lack of ethics and the indiscipline have shaken the foundations of the police unit of San German, in Holguin. Another neighborhood bloodhound has been victim of its own bite, originally trained to demolish any form of human vestige. This time, the ousted person is First Lieutenant Eduardo Gomez Quinones who, until the moment of his removal, worked as Second Chief of the Police Unit of San German, Holguin. The mentioned soldier was surprised when caught forcing his 15 year old stepdaughter to take part in lewd games. He was taken to trial now and locked up in the dungeons of the Instructional Police Unit, waiting a sentence no less than 20 years, according to the penal code. Just a few weeks ago, his wife surprised him at night, which brought forth a family scandal and then came the detention. It would have been just another piece of news, but Lieutenant Quinones has been considered one of the most violent police officers of this area in a long time, according to the testimonies of various citizens.

Eduardo Gomez Quinones, an impetuous young police agent, rapidly ascended from a Patrol Guard to Functionary of Public Order and from there to Second in Charge of the local police barracks. Last February, on this blog I denounced the beating he gave to the prisoner Ramiro Hernandez Batista. In addition to fracturing one of his legs and one of his arms, the prisoner was imprisoned under charges of disobedience and resistance of arrest. At that time, the wife of the mentioned police, who worked as the Director of Commerce in that area was substituted of her charge a few weeks later due to inefficiencies in her job. However, this functionary continued getting away with his crimes. A source close to the family assured that the minor had a personal diary where she had mentioned the death threats, the morbid scenes, the sexual obligations which she was subjected to, and all the details between the first and last time. Other sources have indicated that Eduardo Quinones was under investigation also because of corruption, which has not been confirmed due to the secrecy in which the case has been sealed.

From the beginning of 2011 to the date, other inherent agents have been sentenced to military discipline because of Abuse of Power in San German: Captain Vladimir Aldana Rodriguez (Chief of the Unit), First Lieutenant Alexander La O (Chief of Sector), and Lieutenant Jerson Blanco (Chief of Sector). All of these were demoted and are serving a sentence in penitentiaries of the province. In addition, Lieutenant Manuel Gonzalez, up to just a few months ago, had substituted Aldana Rodriguez as Chief of the Unit. Quinones, on his part, had substituted Manuel Gonzalez as 2nd Chief of Unit. The opinion of the locals is that as long as appalling actions such as these by the police keep occurring, then they will keep persecuting independent sellers, unemployed youths, dissidents and non-conformists.

The Cuba I’m Leaving Behind / Luis Felipe Rojas

Today, my family and I are leaving for exile in the United States. After many years of penury, mistreatment, arbitrary detentions and police harassment — in fact, even against those who make up my home, as well — I am leaving. I know that leaving constitutes a calamity from which few ever recover from, but I can’t find another solution, at the moment, for the problems and sufferings my two children and my loving wife Exilda are facing.

Before leaving, I want to thank all those who, from different parts of the world, have expressed concern for me. To all my readers and all those who have left comments on my posts — Thank you! Without those messages of solidarity, it would have been impossible for me to continue onward.

Since I had little — or no — internet connectivity, I usually received the comments on my posts months after they were published, when someone would dedicate a few minutes to “download” them onto a USB drive, then read them to me as messages, as true letters mailed to me, and that would convert me into a privileged person who is loved and who often received messages.

In other words, my sincere thanks from this side of the transparent frontier. This time, no more words. I just want everyone to see the Cuba I’m leaving behind today.

October 25, 2012

Hypocrisy, Fear…Both Things

I walk for the freedom of Cuba. Cuba Democracy NOW!

I have lost count of the times I have heard the phrase “I am not interested in politics”. Often, it is young Cubans who say it.

It’s legitimate that we may not be interested in politics, especially if one has lived most of their life under a totalitarian system where even the flight of a pigeon is linked to politics.

Those of us who were born after 1959 were practically converted into robots. Our capacity of thought was reduced to “Pioneers for communism, we will be like Che” or “Country or Death, we will Win”. In sum, it was a bunch of slogans which bordered dementia.

I respect young Cubans who come from the island and are not interested in politics, it is their right.

But, I feel that it is something completely hypocritical to see those same people who are not interested in politics form a scandal when some US congressman or woman proposes a law to restrict something that has to do with Cuba, or when they want to modify the discredited “Cuban Adjustment Act”, a law which so many Hispanics and people of other ethnic groups long for.

The majority of those who take shelter in the “Cuban Adjustment Act” leave the island because of economic problems and not because they stood up against the ruthless regime which enslaves the country. In fact, upon obtaining US residency, one of the first things many Cubans think of is in returning to their homeland to take a look over the shoulders of their own country. Those who act in such a manner are the oddest political refugees which humanity has ever seen.

In the last 9 months, Cuba has lost two important figures of the peaceful opposition. Their deaths have left lots of doubts up in the air. They were both recipients of the “Sakharov” Award. First Laura Pollan, leader of the Ladies in White, in a case of “dengue” and a few weeks ago the president of Christian Liberation Movement, Oswaldo Paya Sardinas, after a suspicious “car accident”.

Those who have confronted the dictatorship know of what those who are at the service of the intelligence apparatus are capable of doing when any person who wants change for Cuba and who wants to destroy their totalitarian power stands in their way.

I feel shame when I hear Cubans who live in freedom say: “I am not interested in politics”, and it is not even because of the phrase itself, really, but instead it is because of the hypocrisy which hangs on those words. It is true that many are not interested in talking bad about the regime, about condemning its crimes, denouncing every violent act against the people, yet they do say things about the politicians of the country which has given us refuge whenever they try to pass some law against the dictatorship and, in one way or another, affect their interests.

It is possible that Cuba will change very soon. It is also possible that everything will continue the same, or worse, especially for those who confront the power of the Communist machinery from the inside. But every Cuban has the responsibility of taking action for the destiny of our nation.

There is no such thing as good or bad hypocrisy, just like there is no such thing as good or bad fear. It has been proven: every country which has chosen hypocrisy and fear as their shield has ended in ruins or in shackles. It is time to put an end to harmful fear and subtle hypocrisy.

Translated by Raul G.

19 September 2012

Nicaro, the Shadow of Yesterday / Luis Felipe Rojas

More than two decades have passed since that TV series of pro-Castro propaganda, produced by the studies of the (then) Channel 6. The plot only showed the supposed exploitation into which North American executives submerged Cuban workers of the Eastern nickel factory, located in the exotic “Lengua de Pajaro” (‘Bird Tongue’). Only then the workers rebelled against the employers. Exclusively, in that era the unions argued against their superiors. The soap opera had a “happy ending” of nationalizing the factory and the creation of a truly socialist company. But, what has happened since then?

Other than the information about the imminent shut down of the factory, very little has been said of the inefficiency and failures in the system of nickel ore extraction. The media, as a state secret, has tightly shut their safe box and has said nothing about the existing mineral poverty. The emission of gases and other toxic substances have turned Nicaro and Moa into real walking hospitals. I don’t have the exact statistic (only the health authorities know that) but carcinogenic symptoms, and lung and liver disease due to drinking water are very common in that place, just to cite a few examples of what is being most commented on among the locals.

One face of the brand new socialist company which is not published at all, is the destitution forced upon the locals of Nicaro, due to the necessity of resources and a nearly total decadence of the municipal structures en Mayari. With richness in its entrails, it is, however, a town which depends on the government of its capital municipality. A couple of blocks of buildings that seem like just that: blocks and not dignified homes, they are buildings of a 60′s Soviet style of the past century, it is the housing richness which was inherited by those who, for five decades, made up the socialist ranks.

The statistics are sometimes difficult to hide and recent data released by the Assembly of Popular Power in Mayari warn of the high level of juvenile delinquency in the area, due to (according to the specialists) the lack of recreational options left for youths. For more than twenty years, the corporation supposedly guaranteed offering homes for their workers, but with the passing of time those who began their working life during the 60′s and 70′s started to enter retirement, and now it is easy to see the disconnection: a series of marginal neighborhoods which are under harassment time and time again by inspectors of the Municipal Housing Procurement Unit and other supervising organizations.

In the year 2009, Kevin Vega Rios, a worker of that factory sent me his concerns. He is a citizen of a marginal neighborhood, with no supporting documents, and was practically forced to abandon his home. He was fined various times until, due to his ailments and the countless denunciations to the independent press, they stopped the threats against his small family. There are other cases like his. There is a more hidden face, which even with the definitive close of the factory will not come to light. They will not even be part of the best investigative journalism. We expect that what is coming, when they start to tear down the scaffolds and the rust of nearly one century of existence, the frameworks of human capital will also be abolished, the essence of a small town which once believed itself to be happy, prosperous and efficient.

Translated by Raul G.

15 September 2012

Cuban Voices Magazine, The Voice / Luis Felipe Rojas

This past Friday, September 7th, I returned to that joyful encounter among friends. I attended the presentation of the 16th edition of the Cuban Voices Magazine, dedicated this time as a tribute to Oswaldo Paya Sardinas. With a forward by Orlando Luis Pardo, the dossier is filled with signatures of essayists like Rafael Rojas, Manuel Cuesta Morua and Mijail Bonito as the main ones. But as in each edition of the magazine, there are other analysts, others artists, like Yoani Sanchez, Miriam Celaya and Enrique del Risco.

Voices has become one voice, because its publications are polyphonic and inclusive of other points of view. Paya, now, as in life, did not deserve less. The testimonies of Rosa Maria (his daughter) and Ofelia (his widow) form part of the outline of the remembrance of that image, which little by little, sooner or later, will pass from an immediate tragedy to an example of a friend “who has left”.

This was an opportunity for me to re-connect with the strings of that culture of being which they try to whisk away from us under an official mandate. Ever since the time of my literary rows, I have not shared a night with Polina Svietsova, a Camagueyan-Slav who, years later, transformed into the narrative pulse of the island. Also present was Yanier Hechavarría Palao, a poet from the interior Cuban provinces, from a little town known as Bijaru. Yanier was there to cheer us up with his presence and to share his texts which now appear in Cuban Voices. I hugged my friend Nilo Julian, an indispensable part of Omni-Zona Franca, who without fear, offered illustration for our first edition of the extinct Bifronte Magazine.

I spent some time with the Twitter user and friend of the freedom cause @maritovoz, Pastor Mario Lleonart, but there was more: artists, writers, independent journalists, everyday people who didn’t want to miss a good time in this Havana which everyone talks bad about nearly all the time. That’s what these 16 editions of Cuban Voices have been for, to unite the voices, to listen to the choir: to hear each other, all of us.

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Translated by Raul G.

10 September 2012

From Pieces of the Island Blog: Testimony from Ladies in White

More Testimonies from House Raid Victims: “I was threatened that If I don’t Leave the Ladies in White, They’d Kill Us All” (Read this blog!)

After the brutal house raid which occurred in the home of Lady in White Glisedis Pina Gonzalez in Holguin this past Saturday August 18th, all the detainees have been released.  Three of these activists have shared their testimonies with this blog, offering details of the harassment and threats they endured while being held in police units under the hands of State Security and the political police:

Rosa María Naranjo Nieves
Lady in White

“The mobs of State Security agents broke into the home (…) one officer, in charge of matters with minors, grabbed a 14 year old and arrested her, nearly stripping her of her clothes.  Our response was to protest because of this, and he beat all of us.  Those women who were not hit inside, they were later beat outside by the mobs.  In my case, they punched me on my back and pulled my hair.  They then twisted my arm and shoved me into a police vehicle, which took me to the Instructional Unit of Pedernales.  That was on Saturday, August 18th, in the afternoon and I was held till the morning of Monday, August 20th.

On Saturday night, while I was in the cell, I started to get dizzy and desires to vomit.  I told the guards I felt bad so they took my blood pressure, which was on 210 with 120- very high.  They told me they did not have the medicines to take care of my blood pressure but later ended up giving me something and it went down slightly.  When I had it on 170, they shoved me into the dungeon again”.

Danay Mendiola
Lady in White

“A MININT (Ministry of the Interior) agent whose name I did not get, beat us and applied immobilization locks on us.  They took us in police vehicles.  In the Unit, they beat us more.  They mistreated us, insulted us.  We were taken to the Pedernales Unit and kept there from Saturday to Monday.  We screamed slogans like “Down with hunger”, “Long live Human Rights”, and “Freedom for all political prisoners”.  They mistreated us, we were hungry, and I feel very weak.  In fact, my throat is in pain.  But we are going to keep fighting.  The more repression they carry out against us, the more strength we obtain to continue in the struggle.

A State Security agent known as ‘Chacman’- from Holguin- went to see me in my cell on Monday night and he told me that if we (referring to the Ladies in White) continued to be active, then he, and others, were going to kill us, because we are ‘counter-revolutionaries’.  He asked me what I gained with doing what I do.  I told him the only purpose was for the freedom of Cuba, and that if they keep repressing us, we were going to get more strength.  We are under total threats, every single Lady in White from Holguin province.

Chacman threatened me again, saying that if I did not leave the Ladies in White, he was going to kill us all, little by little, and slowly.  This happened on Monday.  He went to my cell to tell me this”.

Alexei Jiménez Almarades
Independent journalist

“I am the husband of Lady in White Eleiny Villamonte Cardozo.  I had left my wife in the Glisedis’ house that afternoon, and when I returned to pick her up, I noticed that the entire entrance of the house was surrounded by mobs, organized by State Security.  A minor was accompanying me- my wife’s 16 year old female cousin.  The mobs violently rushed at us.  What was interesting, though, was that State Security alleged that the mobs were everyday neighbors, but it is obvious that this mobs were manipulated and sent by the counter-intelligence Department of Holguin.

I was aggressively attacked, they hit me on my arms, on my ribs, and I thank God that I was wearing a helmet for my bicycle.  They grabbed sticks and hit me with them, but the helmet protected me.

Afterward, once the women were detained, I directed myself to the State Security Unit at around 12 AM to demand them that they release all the detainees.  The agent known as ‘The Polish’ came out.  He quickly called a police car and they detained me.  Once detained, I remained in protest and on hunger strike, demanding freedom for the detained activists”.

From “Pieces of the Island” (English) / “Pedazos de la Isla” (Spanish)

Translating Cuba readers:  Pedazos/Pieces is a must-read blog; it reports news from Cuba in real-time, much of it reported out by telephone from activists on the island, focusing on eastern Cuba — the Oriente.

25 August 2012

Three Crosses Over Julian Assange / Luis Felipe Rojas

As incredible as it may seem, Julian Assange is (in his own way) a cyber-dissident.  In some way or another, he enjoyed the benefits of democracy, he was born in it, he grew tired of what he said were its errors, and turned against it.  But, what would have happened if amid the thousands of cables he filtered to the press there were those which spoke of the abuses of power in governments such as those of China, North Korea and Cuba, or the connections between Venezuela and the populist fleet of ALBA?

That is a cross which Assange must carry, a question he must answer.  The diplomatic cables in which they speak of Chinese cyber-dissidents locked away in the dungeons of Canton, the complaints of Western diplomats in regards to the poor handling in Caracas, Quito or Buenos Aires shine in their absence.

The government of Havana reproduces information of European newspapers, but does not publish any analysis over cases of Cuban journalists.  Up to the moment, there are no official opinions with respect to this.  If Assange would have snuck into the British Embassy in Havana, the mild Fifth Avenue would have already seen the deployment of mobs of repudiation and the assault troops of the extinct Colonel Tony de la Guardia would have assaulted the embassy with physical blows.  As said in Cuban terms: A different rooster would have crowed.

The images which the sole television programming of Cuba lets us see show dozens of demonstrators (apparently Ecuadorians in London) asking for the respect of freedom of expression.  In that instant, Julian, the exile, steps out to the balcony to defy the American government, salutes his sympathizers and appears in numerous channels which some uninformed people like us were able to see.

Even with the diplomatic jams which have taken place, Julian Assange enjoys a promotional health which many would like.  What does not convince me of the Assange affair are the interests of the cursed triad: Moscow-Havana-Quito.  We must have to wait for the end of the soap opera, to see what will happen.

Translated by Raul G.


Trash / Luis Felipe Rojas

Jacqueline Rush Lee, ‘Slice Trio: Volumes Series’, 2001. (JACQUELINERUSHLEE.COM)

This article- written by Luis Felipe Rojas Rosabal- was published on the digital newspaper “Diario de Cuba” on August 23rd, 2012.

Every so often I cleanse my soul and body. Better said: I cleanse the area around my body, because I can’t cleanse my soul any more. I organize the room where I write in a bit, I read, I drink something, and I sleep.

Recently, I started to pile up the books which I will definitely not re-read, or which I won’t read at all because after I bought them I discovered that I didn’t like them or because I am partially anti-conceptual, anti-theoretical. There are essays which I can’t read past the first few pages, ever. I am a chaotic being who can play at others essays but not my own. That, I hope, is a fortune…for possible readers.

I was re-reading and throwing some out when I found myself with no other option than to give some to others. I cleaned the shelf and my memory, and then I received a message from #OLPL: “Where do you cross Linea and 19th? In which Havana-Valkyrie crossing?”

I was stupefied. The linguistic branches of #OLPL tend to be mangroves within themselves, so I asked him again and he told me that he was quoting one of my verses. I jumped from a jump, I woke up with my eyes open, I rose up, and I nearly fell down.

The Book of the Dead

A Havana-esque and urban guy, a laboratory and library street rat, was quoting me at around 11 PM when CUBACEL opened the doors to the slaves and allowed them to use their phones for 10 cents per message; but I didn’t call. Instead, I turned to the book ‘Songs of Bad Living‘. It’s a ball of paper, which the Loynaz Editions (operating out of Pinar del Rio) gave me as a prize for my insolence of believing myself to be a poet and launching myself in a competition, which has already left four dead, including myself.

On the cover, there appear three people as the jury. One is the poet Alberto Acosta Perez, who suddenly died a few months ago; and the other two are Holguin native George Riveron (who crossed the oceans of the Antilles, stepped on Mexican soil, and got lost in that other Havana which never becomes smaller, that Miami which everyone wants to touch with the sole of their shoes). George is the other deceased in the official lists, because until the day he comes back tame and begging for forgiveness, he won’t stop being a deserter. For the bandit-hunters of the MINREX, he is a disgraceful being who betrayed their trust in a letter, a permission of freedom for some weeks.

The other deceased person on the official lists is Jorge Luis Arcos — recidivist, dissident, sketched, and sheltered in his Argentine den. Arcos, without a crossbow and some good ammunition, will not return to Havana. His punishment is double for having left and augmenting the editors council of the disappeared magazine “Encounter of Cuban Culture“.

A few years ago, publishing anything on “Encounter” was a sacrilege, according to the Ministry Council. The Central Committee would “pull your ears for it” and so too would the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, with a committee in every block against those who publish, read and traffic the magazine. Arcos, after the official insults of the ‘La Jiribilla‘, managed to make it out of the public light unharmed. Of course, him by one side and his head by the other.

Stirring up editorial trash

The question, in verses, of #OLPL has to do with Havana cartography, because Linea and 19th Street never cross each other without the legs of a woman, a Valkyrie, at least in El Vedado, and it’s true. I didn’t write those quarrels looking at Havana to cross the streets or the inactive traffic lights of the 90′s, that century of horror.

The poem “Lessons of Terror” has a fragment which reads: “…I don’t want anyone to take me by the arms/ pushing my back against that wall which is Saturday night/ where I don’t know which woman to kiss/ if the Valkyrie of Linea and 19th, or the black girl with the money/ one awakes like that, asking how many ways of betraying for the money we stole as children…”

But what #OLPL has is “Obverse of the Beloved Beast“, from April Editions, 2004 (and which appeared in 2006), and later disappeared during the middle of that year due to an official decree (without decreeing). The Havana cartography which #OLPL demands are due to the fact that those streets never cross each other, just like those of us, the dead of that book, will not cross: Alberto Acosta, Jorge L. Arcos, George Riveron, and me, a deceased person according to the official media, by decree of colonels which, at that time, commanded and prowled through the Cuban Book Institute and the Ministry of Culture: Abel Prieto, Iroel Sanchez and Fernando Leon Jacomino.

They will see, or not see, how I have passed from dead by official standards to being officially published due to a decree which no one has signed but which has made it possible for “Obverse…” to be distributed even in the lost bookstores of Eastern Cuban towns. They, who for decades made irreversible scars with their scalpels and cotter pins on books, records and theatrical plays, now spread a shadow which they will have to share with us, the ignoble dead who cross each other in a Havana, a Cuba, a street which goes beyond the consonance of being or not being on Linea and 19th.

Translated by Raul G.

The Path Depends on Ourselves / Pablo Pacheco Avila

Me with my wife and son

The most important month of the calendar for me is July.  Firstly, it is when my only son was born and second, it was the month that I left Cuba.

Life, without one choosing, imposes change on us.  Many times, these changes are too rough to handle, like crosses hanging over our backs, but human willpower is limitless.

Just a few hours ago, it was the second anniversary of my arrival to Spain, and the first of arriving to the United States.  I remember that I told my family after talking on the phone with Cardinal Jaime Ortega in the provincial prison of Ciego de Avila, “We have to pack our bags, without even thinking of returning, at least as long as the same ones who are forcing me to leave are in power”.

Fifteen or twenty minutes before boarding the plane with my wife and son in a semi-empty terminal of the “Jose Marti” Havana Airport, I felt the strongest of emotions I had ever felt.  I found some of my partners in cause and their families.  A nightmare of more than 7 years was ending, but most of all, it was the illusion of discovering a path with lots and lots of expectations of living in a foreign land.

Time flies.  It goes by so fast that sometimes we do not even notice.  Yesterday, I was being consumed in a prison cell of high severity in Cuba, and today, right now, I enjoy freedom in this country which has always lent a helping hand to Cubans.

Now, I look back at the past and I laugh, although with a mixture of pain- it is inevitable after everything we lived- but I thank God for all the good and bad things he has given me.

Many of my brothers have found the path, while for others it has been more difficult, but I am certain that each one of them will find that route of happiness and prosperity.

Those who are no longer with us will always be remembered with love and respect, especially Orlando Zapata Tamayo, our martyr.  Zapata was the climax which opened up the iron bars which, during years, kept us in inhumane conditions for simply thinking differently.  His sacrifice caught the attention of the free world, that world which sometimes, because of complicity and other times because of ingenuity, was on the side of those who oppress, on the side of those who have ruined an entire nation.  Of course, the political and economic interests have surpassed human rights, the rights of a people to live in freedom, prosperity, and of living like human beings.

Those who decided to continue the struggle from the inside and said no to exile deserve an outstanding position in the history of Cuba.  Not all of us have the valor of living with the Sword of Damocles hanging over heads.  Supporting them from here is more than a duty, it’s an obligation.

Right now, I dry my eyes off and do so with a bittersweet emotion.  I live free, alongside my lovely wife and my rebel son.  I can see my mother everyday and my two brothers frequently.  That, for me, is more than enough to be happy.  However, pain does invade my heart each night.  Cuba is still a slave.  Those in power continue ruining it, and whats hurts me the most is seeing how people decide to take refuge in fear and double-standards to just end up enslaved.

I look back again and I thank God and all those who have lent me a hand.  I have to look towards the future, for in the past one cannot dwell, and the future is unpredictable, while the present is magnificent for me, for I have what I have dreamed of in life.

Translated by Raul G.

17 July 2012

Summing It Up / Luis Felipe Rojas

I’ve been meaning to complete this request for a while. Anier, who lives in Pennsylvania, asked me to do it, and his father asked him to ask me. His ‘old man’ wanted to see the signs, how the modern self-employed sell their things. I know their are wonders, there are very professional people who have truly created ingenious things, simulating the neon and colored stars for the nocturnal hours, but I was able to snap these photos during the daytime in the city of Holguin. The new store owners advertise themselves this way. These are not idealized photos of today’s brightness. They were made by chance so that my friend from Pennsylvania and his father can have a selection of what they asked me for.

Sign reads “Watchmaker; Digital or Analog Calculators, Change of Batteries”

Everything is re-sold: coffee, sodas, pastries, varied salads and the best creole food. On the corners of ‘Luz and Caballero’ and Jose Antonio Cardet streets, they sell a delicious pork stew- in my opinion the best in all the area; though I don’t know how they are doing it now with all the elevated taxes and new sanitary regulations for handling food.

I took these photos so that I could pass by here a year from now and see just how far Cuban persistence has gone. For that moment, I would like to see that the landscape has changed. I’d like to see a forest of signs announcing services which have been falsely lent or prohibited from us for decades. I want to be optimistic and think that small businesses will flourish in Cuba. I have taken these photos so that the illusion won’t blind me. I cross my fingers so that I do not have another deception.

Sign reads: “The Brothers’, Restaurant and Bar”
Sign Reads: “Cuban Kitchen”
Sign reads: “Cafeteria, Milk and Coffee… Pastries”
Signs read: “Ice Cream”. Back letters say: “Jewelry”

Translated by Raul G.

6 August 2012

Harassed Humorist / Luis Felipe Rojas

Once again, I must turn to the only possible method I have from San German, Holguin to publish my post. Like so many other times, I send my post from my cellphone to someone’s email, who later re-sends it to my friends, who then publish it on my blog, which is not called “Crossing the Barbed Wires” for no reason:

Gabriel as “Mongo Sierra”, together with one of the actresses from the show “Let me Tell You”

Harassed Humorist

Censorship and fear of freedom has once again knocked on the door of Cuban art. The logic of governmental repression aims its weapons at those who, in an either restrained or open manner, use their artistic manifestations to criticize and shed light upon the things which those in power try to hide from eyes of citizens. Now, it’s the turn of the university professor and comedian Gabriel Dario Guerra Gonzalez, who claimed to feel harassed and bothered by the national police in the municipality of Pilon, in Granma province. Guerra Gonzalez assured to “Crossing the Barbed Wires” that during the months of January and July he has had two searches of his home without any charges against him, and he added that on July 12th, after the latest search, the officials forced him to sign an Official Warning Notice, after telling him that the objective of the search was to see if he had clandestinely obtained beef in his home.

“On the first occasion”, he pointed out, “my son’s laptop was searched and taken to a technology expert, supposedly because of using it to falsify money. They returned it and apologized, but the damage to my personal image is already done”. Dario Guerra is also a specialist in recreation in the “Marea de Portillo” Tourist Spot, located in the mentioned mountainous locality of the Cuban East. In addition to being an Assistant Professor of Cuban Theater, he also has a work contract with the Provincial Music Center of Bayamo. He has written scripts for Cuban television and he has participated in the comedy show “Let me Tell You”, where he has interpreted both feminine and masculine characters such as the peasant, Mongo Sierra. His uni-personal works deal with themes as incandescent as the economic situation of the country and the bravery of Cubans who manage to surpass everyday obstacles, said some sources who were interviewed, and that could very well be the origin of the current issues being placed before him by the authorities. Two other humorists interviewed, who have asked to not be named, assured that Gabriel Guerra fills up all the local venues where he presents himself with his comedy and ideas, under the rural Mongo Sierra character and that he had never been bothered before.

Gabriel Guerra Gonzalez has a book of rhymes published under “Bayamo Editions”, he is author of various stories, and is a renowned writer of poems and children’s books.

Translated by Raul G.

20 July 2012