The writer Orlando Luis Pardo (OLP), 34-years-old, is like a box with buttons. You press a button and out comes a stream of ideas. OLP is bursting with talent. He has published several books of stories. He has a pair of blogs, among the best being done in this 21st century Cuba. He’s a high-flying photographer and a few weeks ago I attended an astonishing performance where OLP presented one of his formidable poems.
He’s a quiet type and excessively paranoid. As is usually the case with any person born under an abnormal regime, where everything is suspicious and criminal. Orlando Luis doesn’t remember the exact moment he started his personal intifada against the sinister machinery of Castro’s power.
It is likely that it happened when the “mystery” croquettes disappeared; one never knew what they were made of. Perhaps that slimy grey mass with its tiny red-colored bits inside, at the end of the ’80s, was the point of departure for his personal rebellion.
Because Orland Luis has publicly confessed that he ate tons of the popular croquettes. And their disappearance, along with the tasty yogurt and the Russian jams, in the hard years of the Special Period, may have sparked OLP’s serious contradictions with a regime closed lock stock and barrel to disparate opinions.
In 1993, with the daily 16 hour black outs, more mystery meat and soy hamburger, Orlando escaped the madness by reading like one possessed and pouring out his undeniable talent in poetry and prose on some old invoice forms from some business on which he could only write on one side.
In addition to real hunger, OLP was far beyond the cojones of Papa State. He still remembers, of course, his first blue jeans, and the day he tried Coca-Cola. Like one who brings a valuable treasure, a sailor friend of the family appeared with a bottle of the soft drink wrapped in gift paper.
The whole family sat down to celebrate the even around an old table, long and rectangular, of dark mahogany. The father took the first shot. Then, the bottle was passed around and everyone took a sip. Only one. Like something sacred, they saved the bottle of Coca-Cola in the old Philco refrigerator. OLP remembers that it lasted nearly a week; after dinner everyone took a tiny sip.
So much spiritual and material misery turned him into a skeptic about Fidel Castro’s Real Socialism. Today he is one of the best voices among young Cuban writers. With his fears and doubts on his back, with the red lantern of paranoia always lit, with his overflowing imagination OLP fires his missiles from the neighborhood of his birth, Lawton.
He does not know how to change the status quo. He only knows how to be a free man. Getting good with himself. Being happy in the dark and starless early mornings with his girlfriend, while waiting for the P-2 bus that will take them home. And believe me, he is getting there.