My Island Hurts

Cuba produces passions, but also pain. I am taking the liberty of reprinting here the comments of some readers, showing how much this island in the Caribbean Sea is hurting.

Laritza Diversent

Gabriel

“I’ve met many Cubans living in Spain, and their greatest trauma was not just the loss of their home. I’m talking about a lady in her sixties who gave me music lessons when I was about 16 years old. That is, back in the decade of the 60’s. For her, the greatest trauma was that they would not let her take her family photo album out of Cuba. Nor would they let her contact her relatives who remained in Cuba, either by phone or mail.

They erased the reminders of her entire life. Those photo albums lacked any monetary value. They prohibited her from taking them only to hurt her. That nostalgia for lost photo albums has been recounted to me by several different Cubans. Memories can be more valuable than objects.”

Dora Amador

“Few people in Cuba think about the pain of being uprooted. The unspeakable trauma that leaving the country entails. That is my case. I left at age 13, I am now 61. All my life, I had no greater desire than to return to my country, which, God willing, I will, to a Free Cuba, wonderfully democratic. I know it’s not easy to achieve democratic institutions, not only in the republic, but in ourselves, respecting the diversity of ideas and the validity of elections, etc.

Being exiled is one of the most horrible sufferings that a human being can experience. You can now observe this in the case of Adrián Leiva, who died trying to enter his country, because the government would not allow it.  That is my case, too.  They will not let me enter, they will not give me permission to return to my country. Soon all this will change forever.”

Anae

“Every officer who attends those who leave Cuba has a kind of license that allows them to mistreat you, with or without words, through every proceeding. In my case it was in the final days, in one of the offices where they multiply the documents needed to finish, so as not to allow you to say goodbye to your family and friends in peace, always thinking that something is missing and “without that” you cannot go.

The lack of one simple document is fatal . . . and terrifying.  It’s enough to lose sleep over, to say a quick goodbye and turn your face as you fight back your tears. Then, while waiting for the flight, you want to leave and say you’re sorry, to calmly say that you expect to return one day, but it’s not possible. Many people have not been able to return to reconcile themselves at this moment, and perhaps that is why they carry a heavy load. Many more than those who have been able to do so … ”

Eneas

“Yes, the wounds don’t heal, there are many. I left behind mother, child, childhood friends, etc. In short, every day of your life you live with nostalgia and suffering, because many of these wounds will follow you forever. I just wish that Cuba could return to normal, where the rights of every citizen are respected, and you can live in peace and harmony. Do you see? I don’t know … ”

Modesta García

“I too left Cuba 30 years ago and haven’t returned, because I also have open wounds, and I can’t forget. There were 10 years of waiting, when the exits were closed from 1970 to 1980, without hope. I started working with the government, and since I wanted to leave the country, I was considered a CIA agent. They invented sabotage plots, they watched me, etc. I can’t count all the intrigues, sufferings, and torments. All this cooled my desire to return to Cuba.

Although they tell me that it’s different now, I know that’s not true. Recent events show that nothing has changed, that it’s business as usual. I’m not a masochist, and as soon as I set foot in the airport, the humiliations by the employees would begin. I came to this country seeking freedom; I have it, and I enjoy it, and I don’t want to be without it for even a second.

This is not to say that I feel nothing for Cuba. On the contrary, for everything that happens, I’m sorry and I’m concerned and I very much want their freedom.  But until there is freedom, I will not return. I’m not critical of those going to see their parents, siblings, children, etc., because that is human.

I am critical of those who visit the Island looking for cheap sex from unhappy girls who do it out of necessity, and of the “millionaires” who cover themselves with gold-plated jewelry, so people will believe they are wealthy and ought to be treated as celebrities. Unfortunately, these are the sad realities of travel to Cuba. I hope this nightmare ends, once and for all.”

Translated by: Tomás A.

Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta: He Continues to Stand Up to Terror

A few months ago I dedicated a post to Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta.  I made reference to his diseases and briefly mentioned all the injustices that have been committed against the independent journalist from Guantanamo who was jailed together with 74 other Cubans during the Black Spring of 2003.

On June 29 I visited Caridad Caballero Batista in Holguin to see how she was doing after the violent moments she experienced along with Mariblanca Avila, Reina Luisa, and her family in Banes on Saturday June 26.  A call from Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta from a hospital in Guantanamo surprised us both.  He told us that the officials who took him to the doctor allowed him to make one telephone call and that is why he chose to call Holguin to testify to what he was living through in that place where he was taken a few weeks ago as a result of the changes of prisons for some political prisoners after the negotiations between Raul Castro and Jaime Ortega.

We were barely able to record the conversation with an old and beat-up voice recorder.  Cari told him that his conversation would be recorded so that he could say everything he desired.

We transcribed the call because the sound lacked quality due to all the interruptions of the telephone lines:

I was transferred to a polyclinic here in the municipality of Salvador so that I could be attended by a orthopedic specialist to see if they could finally all agree on what it is that I have in my cervical zone.  There are no records of X-Rays, no clinical exams, no information even on all my previous jailings in this same prison in Guantanamo [he is referring to clinical documents that every previously interned patient is supposed to have].  Nothing shows up, so tomorrow I am going to be taken again to the polyclinic, the same way a terrorist is escorted somewhere [here he is referring to the security measures they take with political prisoners from the cause of the 75 who are moved around with handcuffs and chains and lots of security officials around them].  I think that Bin Laden would be treated with much better conditions than myself.  I was completely surrounded by State Security as if I was some sort of assassin.”

“Really, my health situation is worrisome.  It’s been 15 days that I have had diarrhea, and I repeat, my sugar level has dropped, I have constant hypoglycemia, the water here generally is really not potable, even that the people drink.  The situation gets worse because I am under special rules.  I continue denouncing the strict and inhumane regime that is imposed in Cuban jails.”

This is the other Guantanamo that nobody talks about.  The Guantanamo of the other side, the one here in my province, the place where I was born.  It is not the North-American enclave.  This Guantanamo is the one the Cuban government does not mention.

The 26th was the official day designated by the UN as International Day of Awareness Against Torture, and the Cuban government only very briefly mentioned it.

I continue saying that Juan Carlos, here or anywhere else, will continue to stand up against terror.  They must know that Juan Carlos has suffered a lot because, disgracefully, it has not just been the blows dealt him by military officials during these 7 years of prison, but also the brutal pain of a father who lost his only daughter, who lost a friend, and a brother, practically right next to him, Orlando Zapata Tamyo.  (Orlando Zapata, before being transferred on December 2, 2009 to the jail in Camaguey was in the provincial prison of Holguin together with Juan Carlos Herrera, and even though they kept them in separate cells, they discretely managed to communicate between themselves thanks to other prisoners who would pass on their messages.)

“They are using methods of psychological torture and physical torture as well, because being here in my province does not mean anything when my family can only visit me once every 3 months and once every 4 months for the conjugal pavilion.

But then I ask myself, and I ask the government:  “Will they manage to get Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta on his knees?” Nobody will be able to.  And for being like that, he may very well be the next victim.

“I have already lived here for 5 sad years, totally isolated like a savage beast. What I am doing is calling out to the CPJ, the Committee for the Protection of Journalists, to Reporters Without Borders, to Amnesty International, to anyone and everyone who can help.  I’m not asking for my freedom because I never should have come to this prison in the first place, I should have never have been a prisoner, not even for a minute, because I have committed no crime.  I have not attacked any military barracks, I have not attacked a single soldier, I haven’t done anything, I have just written down the truth, I have spoken the truth since 1988, more than half of my life doing this.  I will be here defending this grand thing that is democracy and freedom, even if I continue imprisoned.”

Translated by Raul G.


To comment on this article please visit:

Luis Felipe’s Blog: Crossing the Barbed Wire.

Mario Alberto Pérez Aguilera

Placetas, July 2, 2010

Though held at Nieves Morejón prison since 1999, he began his activism within the ranks of the Pedro Luis Boitel Political Prisoners and suffered severe repercussions for his steadfastness in prisons, taking part in numerous hunger strikes to the point of risking his life. The repressive and harassing practices against Mario Alberto have raged from late July 2004, when his body protected me from police brutality in the dark Cienfuegos prison of Ariza. It was during a family visit to which he came, along with my sister Bertha, my wife Yris, and two small children: Mariangel, age 2, Bertha’s granddaughter,  and Yris’s son Yediel, age 9. The family meeting was interrupted by a fierce punch in my face followed by a brutal beating from which only Mariangel, asleep on a table, escaped.</p>

Lying on the ground bleeding from my face and neck, two handcuffs pulled my arms in opposite directions with the clear purpose of butchering me. A wooden bench had hit my face and only the timely and courageous intervention of Mario Alberto, who threw himself on me, protected me from receiving a hard blow against my back. They had to justify the abuse, especially the kick they gave little Yediel, so they arrested Mario, accusing him of attacking authority and he was only able to leave the cells of the Cienfuegos police station, to which they had taken him, due to the firm decision of Bertha and Yris to stay outside until he was released. But the police didn’t release him without threats: “We’re going to let you go now, but don’t forget, you’ll pay dearly for this.”

Less than a year later, and in the presence of his young son Cristian, a Macarot revolver in the hands of a soldier discharged its fury of lead against his body. Mario, after being jailed in another murky criminal proceeding, had been acquitted on proving his innocence and, and above all because of a 50 day hunger strike, but the repression persisted; they returned to punish him for the same event, and after exhausting every avenue of appeal he chose evasion, ending up captured, shot and beaten nearly to death. In those moments, barely having recovered from serious kidney, liver and cardiovascular problems, he was hovering between life and death in Agüica prison. He did not ask to be released, no. Mario asked for a basic right assumed in any civilized country. He demanded that the authorities give him prompt and specialized medical attention and that they put an end to the inhumane maximum security and punishment that he’d suffered for more than four years, in clear violation of the country’s own penitentiary regulations.

He is dying, his sister Yris knows, everyone feels it, even though the Agüica jailers hide his condition. Will the same thing that happened to Zapata happen to him? Only God knows, and the criminals, far from responding to his just demands, confine him nearly dead in the dark cells of Agüica prison. The death of Mario is very possible if one takes into account the systematic brutality applied against him and the difficulty with which he has recovered from a previous hunger strike. Meanwhile the regime and the Cardinal continue calling for calm and are sowing expectations on all sides, with little or no basis in reality, given the complete lack of goodwill on the part of the government.

Minutes of the First Convivencia Contest 2010

First Convivencia Literary Contest 2010

Minutes of the Jury

Prize in the Essay category:

Utopia, Challenges and Difficulties in Today’s Cuba. By Dimas Castellanos Marti, of Bayamo, who lives in Havana

Unanimously and in one of the most difficult discussions that taken by this jury, it emerged as the decision in the prize for a creative essay that addresses the current Cuban reality. For the complete and comprehensive analysis of different phenomena in our society and having found the strings that weave the emerging civil society of the island. The successful use of historical profiles and a language reminiscent of teaching that helps make the essay readable in a single sitting without a too heavy burden of academic language.

Prize in the Audiovisual Script category:

When the Other World Ends. By Henry Constantín Ferreiro, de Camagüey

Unanimously, this jury has awarded this work for its attractive dash and daring, with an excellent rhythm that effectively combines real-life scenes with elements of fiction, without losing credibility. This aesthetic combination gives the project its documentary aspect, formidable values and an anti-hieratic tone. The jury took into account the potential of this script to be produced, it has enough aperture to give freedom to the filmmakers. It retrieves a figure of our literature that has been pushed to the limit of its scriptural and social existence.

Prize in the Story category:

The Exit. By Francis Sánchez Rodríguez, de Ciego de Ávila

Unanimously and with the excellence and narrative art and the ability to overwhelm readers with a clean and modern prose, this book of stories has been highlighted by the jury among the others submitted. This collection shows the mastery of a mature writer and clearly has also penetrated in the chords of poetry. The different planes in which the narrative moves drink from the best part of the best Latin American prose, but it is not indebted to it, rather autonomous and very personal.

Prize in the Poetry category:

This is not a poetic art… By Pedro Lázaro Martínez Martínez, of Pinar del Río.

By a majority, the jury found this collection rewarding its renewal, approaching a performance. For its fluid and diverse poetics and because it is never out of tune, despite the dissimilar subject matter it addresses. For both the freshness and depth of his verse: versatile and greatly organic. Because the dialog established respects the sacred spaces of the reader, with an almost architectural precision, allowing a commendable connectivity among the articles that shape the notebook, resulting in a symphony-book.

Prize in Photography:

Impotence. By Ángel Martínez Capote, of Pinar del Río

Unanimously, the jury believes that this photographic triptych contains a bold sequence that builds to a crescendo. It reviews not only the realism and metaphor but also — successfully — the montage. To the eye of the photographer’s is added the expertise of framing and pressing the shutter at the exact perfect moment.

Meeting in Pinar del Rio, together with the Board of Convivencia, June 29, 2010.

The Jury: (in alphabetical order)

Reinaldo Escobar Casas
Maikel Iglesias Rodríguez
Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo
Yoani Sánchez Cordero
Ángel Santiesteban Prats

The Words of Dagoberto Valdés at the Awards Ceremony for the First Literary Contest of the Magazine Convivencia

By Dagoberto Valdés

arreglada 2.jpg

Dear Prize Winners, Ladies and Gentleman of the Jury, Friends:

Coexistence Magazine, less than three years old, begins the journey of literary and artistic competitions, next to the wall of a family that has given us a home without borders. After three years spanning the distances, we could mimic the famous poet Fray Luis de León who paid dearly for translating the Song of Songs [during the Inquisition, and when he returned to the classroom after four years in prison, he began his lecture with]: “As we were saying yesterday.”

This is another night of resurrection. We know. Today we can’t fail to recognize the legacy of those Stained-Glass Contests that over more than a decade appreciated and promoted the Cuban literary creation. Then from our original Cathedral, and now from this cathedral of palm fronds of all those who rebuild the national civic fabric.

Any resurrection emerges from some previous life, undoubtedly, but it also opens the door to a new life. This is a small crack for the light of civil society in Cuba. May the multiple chinks in the door that illuminate the interior of the island be joined together. An aperture for humanistic creation and academic skill. Another way to serve the soul of a nation. An homage to those who offer their lives, as martyrs, for her and for us, like Zapata, like Fariñas, and others.

If a Contest has the future of its jury or of its prize winners, that of Coexistence already lives in the greater fullness from its seed. Thanks to those who believed and trusted and sent fragments of their spirit and their letters.  Thanks to those who discerned the finest and offered their time in this exercise that is always threatened. A stellar jury, with Santiesteban as an angel of continuity with his “Libertad de la Luz,” of three years ago when we plowed indoors; Yoani, Pardo and Reinaldo like the innovation of these times of sowing in the open air, Maikel presiding over them in the love of weaving coexistence for the future vintage in the national home.

But first, now, there are signs of pain hovering over the Cuban house and, in its gestation, flutter the oasis of life, like this. We know, however, that the last word is Life. The course of civic formation of the Coexistence Gatherings today finish their third year, and in this small contest inaugural could be other seeds of the harvest to come.

It is near.

Thank you very much.

My Island Hurts

Cuba produces passions, but also pain. I am taking the liberty of reprinting here the comments of some readers, showing how much this island in the Caribbean Sea is hurting.

Laritza Diversent

Gabriel

“I’ve met many Cubans living in Spain, and their greatest trauma was not just the loss of their home. I’m talking about a lady in her sixties who gave me music lessons when I was about 16 years old. That is, back in the decade of the 60’s. For her, the greatest trauma was that they would not let her take her family photo album out of Cuba. Nor would they let her contact her relatives who remained in Cuba, either by phone or mail.

They erased the reminders of her entire life. Those photo albums lacked any monetary value. They prohibited her from taking them only to hurt her. That nostalgia for lost photo albums has been recounted to me by several different Cubans. Memories can be more valuable than objects.”

Dora Amador

“Few people in Cuba think about the pain of being uprooted. The unspeakable trauma that leaving the country entails. That is my case. I left at age 13, I am now 61. All my life, I had no greater desire than to return to my country, which, God willing, I will, to a Free Cuba, wonderfully democratic. I know it’s not easy to achieve democratic institutions, not only in the republic, but in ourselves, respecting the diversity of ideas and the validity of elections, etc.

Being exiled is one of the most horrible sufferings that a human being can experience. You can now observe this in the case of Adrián Leiva, who died trying to enter his country, because the government would not allow it.  That is my case, too.  They will not let me enter, they will not give me permission to return to my country. Soon all this will change forever.”

Anae

“Every officer who attends those who leave Cuba has a kind of license that allows them to mistreat you, with or without words, through every proceeding. In my case it was in the final days, in one of the offices where they multiply the documents needed to finish, so as not to allow you to say goodbye to your family and friends in peace, always thinking that something is missing and “without that” you cannot go.

The lack of one simple document is fatal . . . and terrifying.  It’s enough to lose sleep over, to say a quick goodbye and turn your face as you fight back your tears. Then, while waiting for the flight, you want to leave and say you’re sorry, to calmly say that you expect to return one day, but it’s not possible. Many people have not been able to return to reconcile themselves at this moment, and perhaps that is why they carry a heavy load. Many more than those who have been able to do so … ”

Eneas

“Yes, the wounds don’t heal, there are many. I left behind mother, child, childhood friends, etc. In short, every day of your life you live with nostalgia and suffering, because many of these wounds will follow you forever. I just wish that Cuba could return to normal, where the rights of every citizen are respected, and you can live in peace and harmony. Do you see? I don’t know … ”

Modesta García

“I too left Cuba 30 years ago and haven’t returned, because I also have open wounds, and I can’t forget. There were 10 years of waiting, when the exits were closed from 1970 to 1980, without hope. I started working with the government, and since I wanted to leave the country, I was considered a CIA agent. They invented sabotage plots, they watched me, etc. I can’t count all the intrigues, sufferings, and torments. All this cooled my desire to return to Cuba.

Although they tell me that it’s different now, I know that’s not true. Recent events show that nothing has changed, that it’s business as usual. I’m not a masochist, and as soon as I set foot in the airport, the humiliations by the employees would begin. I came to this country seeking freedom; I have it, and I enjoy it, and I don’t want to be without it for even a second.

This is not to say that I feel nothing for Cuba. On the contrary, for everything that happens, I’m sorry and I’m concerned and I very much want their freedom.  But until there is freedom, I will not return. I’m not critical of those going to see their parents, siblings, children, etc., because that is human.

I am critical of those who visit the Island looking for cheap sex from unhappy girls who do it out of necessity, and of the “millionaires” who cover themselves with gold-plated jewelry, so people will believe they are wealthy and ought to be treated as celebrities. Unfortunately, these are the sad realities of travel to Cuba. I hope this nightmare ends, once and for all.”

Translated by: Tomás A.

Emulating Nostradamus

These days the hysteria on my planet, has spread like wildfire, especially for those fans of the television*.

There are a few who have called me on the phone or have told me personally, about the impending war looming. I have tried in my way, to calm nerves and assure them that the danger is slight, but there are no indications that it is about to be triggered in any immediate way.

It is true that there are many tensions created, with the proliferation of nuclear weapons, with the incident perpetrated by North Korea against its neighbor to the south, Iran’s insistence, despite sanctions, to develop nuclear energy, the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, and so on. But from there, to simply make people nervous based on hardly any information, is another matter.

It could be that the internal problems of my planet: food, transportation, health, education, water, electricity, hygiene, freedom of speech and travel are minimized or disappear in the face of the danger of a third world war ? Or is it that we have not realized yet that Nostradamus has been reincarnated, this time as a native of my planet.

*Translator’s note: Fidel Castro has recently been asserting, in his “Reflections” column in Cuba’s daily paper, that there will be a global nuclear war before the end of the World Cup in South Africa.

Damages

In a case of total amnesia, my PC remembers nothing of what I had on its hard drive because a virus duplicated all the archives until it broke the machine. In a normal country, this wouldn’t be so serious, but in mine the results are catastrophic. I lost all the texts I’ve written for the blog; I lost all my photographs… my photos!!!, my addresses and letters, but on I go, looking at my reality through bifocals.

Yris Made It to Colón

My wife Yris left early this morning, as always with a cell phone ready with a message of arrest or detention*. Our brother Blas Fortun accompanied her as far as the station and stayed there with her until he saw her leave in a rental truck headed to Santa Clara. As always, on the few occasions when we don’t travel together, I waited with cell phone in hand for the damned message. This time, fortunately, it didn’t come, and when I called her phone she was already at the home of our dear sister Idania Yánez.

She told me how painful it was to pass by the Provincial Hospital without be able to inquire about Coco Fariñas for fear of being arrested there and not be able to continue the journey.Much less would they let her know about her brother on hunger strike. She did not ask permission to exercise this legitimate right, she was going, or more accurately she could go, as far as Colón thanks to her determination not to abide by orders that limit her rights and movement. She could go because call to alert the public that was put out hours earlier left the repressors no other option. And that decision not to accept impositions, to be consistent with what we believe and what we are fighting for is a very important and significant form of non-cooperation with the repression, a way to say I, also, am resisting.

Thanks to all those who helped her. They are, as my fellow Cubans would say, the steps towards freedom that our people are taking.

*Translator’s note: Many Cubans such as Yris enter text messages into their cell phones “ready to send” so that with the touch of a single key they can alert someone if they are arrested or detained, before their cell phone is confiscated.

The Foreignization of Cubans

Sandy Olivera is a young Cuban who, two years ago, emigrated as a political refugee to the United States. His girlfriend remained on this side of the sea. A week ago, he returned to Cuba to marry her.

The formalization of the marriage took place in the Specialized Notary at 23rd and J, in Vedado, Plaza de la Revolución District, in Havana. To marry, as mandated by law, he had to pay 525 CUC and 100 national currency in stamps. To make matters worse the notary, without blinking, asked for a gift of 5 CUC.

The Cuban government treated Sandy as if he were a foreigner. Has residing in the United States become one of the legally established reasons for losing Cuban citizenship?

The Constitution of the Republic states that when a person acquires foreign citizenship, Cuban citizenship will be lost. It further declares that the law establishes the procedure for the formalization of the loss of citizenship and the authorities who will decide.

This means that the fact of acquiring other citizenship does not by itself imply the loss of Cuban citizenship. For this to happen, the government authorities have to decide. In fact, Cubans with U.S. citizenship must enter the island with a Cuban passport. That is, as citizens of the socialist state.

In practice there is dual citizenship. What happens is that the government recognizes only the Cuban citizenship, ignoring that newly acquired. That is not Sandy’s case. He has not taken any steps to become a U.S. citizen, and therefore has not lost his status as a Cuban citizen.

As evidenced by the fact that he paid 220 CUC for permission to enter the country, as decided by the Cuban authorities. He entered Cuba as a Cuban citizen, yet within the island, he had to pay for services received in freely convertible currency as if he were a foreigner.

This is the “rule of law” so defended by the Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez. A State that, in Article 41 of its Magna Carta recognizes that “all citizens enjoy equal rights and are subject to equal duties,” but that discriminates against those living in other parts of the world.

Cubans living abroad are not foreigners. It is understood that the “socialist state subsidizes the services that the population receives” and that those living abroad have greater purchasing power than those living on the island. But the factual situations do not justify the government violating constitutional rights.

Laritza Diversent

Translated by: Tomás A.

Cuba and Its System of Exclusion (II)

Cubans are outcasts in their own land. Both those who reside in the country, as well as those living abroad. The latter are doubly discriminated against. They cannot invest in the economy because they are citizens of the State, yet when they return to the country they are treated as foreigners.

Law No. 77, “On foreign investment,” provides that a foreign investor is “a natural person or legal entity with a foreign domicile and foreign capital, who becomes a shareholder of a joint venture, or participates in a company with totally foreign capital, or is named as a party in the contracts of an international economic association.”

Under the rules of this legislation, Cubans residing permanently abroad shoddily have no obstacle to investing in the economy of their homeland. They have a foreign domicile and foreign capital. So what stops them?

Article 32 of the Cuban constitution establishes that Cubans cannot be deprived of the citizenship, except for legally established causes. Nor can they be deprived of the right to change this. Dual citizenship is not permitted. Consequently, when another citizenship is acquired, Cuban citizenship is lost. The law establishes the process to follow to formalize the loss of citizenship and the authorities authorized to decide it.

The causes of losing and recovering citizenship before the 1992 constitutional reform were specific and were contained in the text of the “Supreme Charter of the State.” Now they have lost legal significance and should be regulated by law.

Taking into account the increase in Cuban emigration, one might think that the goal of reform was to eliminate citizenship. On the contrary, the measures taken by the government tend to retain it.

Conveniently for the authorities, they have not formulated the law that regulates the particulars of the analysis. The practice is to require all Cubans to enter the country with the passport that qualifies them as a national. It is not that they allow dual citizenship for them, with respect to nationals, only Cuban citizenship is available. By virtue of this, they cannot invest in the national economy.

However, within the territory they lose their rights as nationals.  They are required to pay for all services in hard currency, as if they were foreigners. Far from being a privilege, this provision violates the constitutional and fundamental rights of Cubans.

Laritza Diversent

What they Don’t Tell Us about the Matamoros Trio

Fifty years ago, on May 10, 1960, the Matamoros Trio, headed by Siro Rodriguez, Rafael Cueto, and Miguel Matamoros, performed in public for the last time.  They bid their farewells on the program called Partagas Thursdays, one of the most popular Cuban TV shows at the time.

According to the Colombian investigator, Walter G. Magaña, “the silence which the Matamoros Trio was subdued in was not accidental.  We must remember that on January 1, 1959, the movement headed by Fidel Castro had displaced the president Fulgencio Batista, and during that time period the leader of the Cuban revolution announced Cuba’s integration into communism (a year later, in 1961, he announced it to the world during the ONU)- a move which Miguel Matamoros was never supportive of.  Therefore, in order to not musically represent a communist country before international eyes, he opted for silence”.

Magaña then continues detailing:  “Everyone was aware of the sympathy that Batista felt for the Trio, thanks to all their compositions previously made against the politics of the dictator Gerardo Machado.  In the 50’s, when Miguel Matamoros returned to the structure of the Trio with very irregular activity, Congress granted them economic help so their members could live decently, according to Jose Pardo Llada, the Cuban journalist who lived in Cali (and passed away in 2009).”

If such statements are accurate, the interpreters of “Son de la loma“, “El que siembra su maiz“, and “La mujer de Antonio“, along with many other famous songs, did not sympathize with the bearded revolution.  In fact, most of them came from Oriente province, just like them.

But that anti-communism, or anti-fidelism, is not exposed to the public today in Cuba.  The songs of the Matamoros Trio, just like those of Ignacio Piñeiro, Benny More, Bola de Nieve, and other great Cuban musicians, are among the most covered songs in the world.  And the cultural authorities prefer to ignore it and just skip the page.

Political disagreements aside, in Cuba the Trio from Santiago is still very much venerated.  Recently, in order to commemorate the 85 years since its beginning on May 8, 1925, in the Trio’s native city, Santiago de Cuba, Cafe Matamoros was reopened.  Every two years that large city is host to the International “Matamoroson” Festival.  The latest edition, in 2009, commemorated the 115th anniversary of the birth of Miguel Matamoros.

The version of “Lagrimas Negras” (‘Black Tears’) which Bebo Valdes and Diego El Cigala interpreted is well known in the five continents.  But perhaps very few know that the woman who inspired this song was not Cuban.

In 1930, during a tour in the Dominican Republic, the Matamoros Trio witnessed an unexpected hurricane.  The devastation was tremendous and the death toll was up in the thousands.  The musicians returned to Santiago de Cuba in a Cuban military plane that had transported doctors and medicines to the Dominican Republic as humanitarian aid.

Impacted by the disaster, Miguel Matamoros first composed “El Trio y el Ciclon” (‘The Trio and the Hurricane’), and a few days after, “Lagrimas Negras”.  The lyrics to this song were inspired by a lady that he saw crying uncontrollably in Santo Domingo.  Her husband had abandoned her and between sobs she would utter that she did not care if she died because that man had been the love of her life.

Miguel Matamoros (1894-1971) was not only a talented composer and innovative musician, but also a chronicler of his era.

It’s noted that in June 1929, the Basque doctor Fernando Asuero (San Sebastian; 1887-1942) arrived in Cuba. He had become a media hit in Spain, Portugal, France, Argentina, and Mexico, among other countries, for having discovered a method to cure certain kinds of paralysis by pinching a nerve known as the “trigeminal.”

That “therapy” did not cure anyone on the island.  But the volume of information about the doctor and his miraculous cures served as inspiration for Matamoros to write “El Paralitico” (‘The Paralytic’).

The Paralytic is an original and catchy son.  But its lyrics aren’t as brutal as the “Cocainomana”, a song which Silvio Rodriguez made an excellent cover of.

Ivan Garcia

Photo: jaramij, Flickr

Translated by Raul G.

Cuba and Its System of Exclusion (I)

It is fair to acknowledge that foreign investment in Cuba brings benefits to the economy. But by itself it is not the solution for confronting the overwhelming problems.

Law No. 77 was adopted in 1995 to provide security and guarantees to foreign investors, and from this to achieve economic recovery. So stated the Cuban Parliament, in the introduction of this statutory provision.

In it the National Assembly also said that through foreign investment Cuba could get (among other objectives) increased production efficiency, improved quality of products and services offered, and reduced costs.

Fifteen years after this law was passed, it’s worth asking: Did it enhance the welfare of the Cuban people? Which services was Parliament referring to — those received by foreigners or those offered to the general population?  And regarding the latter, some comments.

Inadequate wages discourage citizens, mainly young people, from working with the State. How does the government solve the problem of labor abstinence, which forced it to increase the retirement age? By imposing four-year prison sentences for social dangerousness.

This leads to another problem, that of illegalities. The low purchasing power of thousands of families causes them to live outside the state regulations, in order to cope with the ongoing crisis.

What is the solution to this other conflict? The deployment of police operatives to catch those who are engaged in individual economic activity red-handed. Isn’t it easier to legalize the status of people who opt to live independently of state handouts?

Why doesn’t the Cuban government encourage profitable activities by citizens? Just as with  foreign investment, the individual economic initiative of Cubans results in increased productivity, the creation of new jobs, etc..

In principle, one of the reasons underlying the exclusion of Cubans from national economic affairs was the social egalitarianism that socialism attempted but never attained.

To try to guarantee one right, others were violated. A supposed social equality justified the government acting contrary to constitutional dictates, and led to an institutionalized form of segregation, based on national origin.

Cuba needs a law of investment, not exclusion. In its 15-year existence, Law 77 has only brought economic apartheid. It is not fair that only the individual capital of foreigners has value in the Cuban economy.

Laritza Diversent

Translated by: Tomás A.

Being a Journalist is Almost Impossible in Cuba / Ivan Garcia

Being a journalist in Cuba is like performing black magic.  Investigating a story or getting reliable data is like trying to catch hold of a mirage.  With a faltering voice, people whisper information to you that there is no way of confirming.  I will give examples.

Having some drinks one hot night on the balcony of his house, an employee told me all about a dark, corrupt plot between the government and a foreigner at the firm where he works.

The following morning, now sober, I asked him if he would let me publish his story.  He was frightened.  “Please, remember that this business is my livelihood. If you write about this, I will be the first suspect, so, definitely no,” he told me.

It also happens with people who phone you to supposedly give valuable information. After agreeing to an appointment, in a park or central location in the city, what happens next seems like a mediocre espionage film.

The subject wears dark glasses and makes you walk three blocks. “Now bend, sit on a bench, stand, buy a Granma newspaper and wait in the coffee shop on the corner,” he’ll tell you wearily and automatically to your back.

Then, after he has vomited up his story, it seems so fantastic, it makes you laugh out loud. A pure conspiracy theory. “If you want me to write a line of this, you have to give me something more than just storytelling,” I say incredulously.

He promises to get videos. I haven’t heard from him again. It has a bad smell. Perhaps because of an agent of the political police. Once, a woman who worked as a maid of a famous person told me about the extravagant and wasteful life style of her master.

When I say that I would quote her using another name, she panics. “If the police question me, I’ll say you invented all this,” she says indignantly. Others think that a journalist is a blank check. “If I tell you what I know, how much would you pay me?”, they inquire with a greedy look.

And there are people for whom all legal options have been closed and they resort to dissident or independent journalists, to provide them a greater impact for their cases.

Sometimes they are navel-gazing. The story might be trivial. Such as creole squatters, evicted to live in empty houses. Or someone who wants to accuse the head of the union of their factory, who has been granted, by favoritism, a microbrigade apartment (built by the workers). The man thinks he deserved it instead.

At the other end of the scale of obstacles to working as a reporter in Cuba are the government agencies. Any request for data raises suspicion. I phone an office, to find out what percentage of whites and blacks there are on the island. The questioning begins: Who are you? Why would you want this data? Who authorized it?

In March this year, I went to Cardenas, the home of Elian Gonzalez, the former child rafter, now a military school cadet. I tried to interview him, and then I was hounded with questions. One of his guards said I had to get a paper signed by a member of the Communist Party Central Committee, or by the first party secretary in Matanzas or Havana.

Everything is too difficult in Cuba. Eating breakfast, lunch and dinner. Arranging a house. Transferring by bus around the city. But being a journalist is almost impossible. Still, I try.

Iván García

Translated by: CIMF