June 2011


To sweeten tense afternoons a little.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups of flour.

3 eggs.

3 tablespoons of margarine, butter, or vegetable oil.

1 teaspoon of baking powder.

1 teaspoon of salt.

1 tablespoon of sugar.

3 tablespoons of dry wine.

Pieces of guava already cut-up.

Directions:

In a mixing bowl, put the flour together with the salt, sugar, and baking powder.  Combine all the dry ingredients and add 3 tablespoons of margarine, cutting them with a pastry tool or two knives until you’ve made small lumps.

Then, make a hole in the middle and add 3 whole eggs, mixing them with the dry ingredients with a fork.  Little by little, add a little dry wine and mix squeezing with the fingers until it is completely mixed together.  Cover and let it rest a while.

Take small portions of the mass and rolling them out with a rolling pin until they are thin, fill them with little pieces of guava.  Seal the empanada wetting the boarders and with a fork mark around the outsides, pinching them softly, so that they don’t explode when they are fried.

Put them in well-heated oil, moderating the heat once in a while so that it doesn’t get too hot.

Makes around 12 empanadillas.  Serve with a soft drink or tea.

Translated by: BW

June 24 2011

For my granddaughter Isabel.

In the neighborhood of Vedado, there was a prestigious store where they prepared food for delivery to homes (gourmet service).  After some years of abandonment, in the year 1966, in the same place, a beautiful English-style red cake restaurant was opened, called The Little Rabbit (El Conejito), where they sold all kinds of dishes exquisitely ready-made from the meat of this little animal.  Soon the cozy and handsome local place was celebrated for the quality of its offerings and its friendly environment.

Getting a reservation for it became an arduous task.  The only way to get one was to call by telephone looking for an available opening.  Sometimes, you could spend all day and not succeed in getting connected, because there were hundreds of calls taking place almost in unison.  There were some who were lucky and got ahold of them right away, but they were in the minority.  Others spent up to two days trying, and when finally they got a time, they called on precisely the same day that they couldn’t go, or that they didn’t want to eat rabbit.  Although those cases were the most rare, because it was so scarce that food any day was good and if, by chance, you were sick, it didn’t matter, you wouldn’t eat but bring a bag, and throw the rations in a little sack, to bring home like a trophy and share with the rest of the family, since the reservation that you had secured was for a table for two.

I tell you this, because your great-grandmother lived in another neighborhood, in a very beautiful house with a lovely garden, where the principal decoration was a pretty white rabbit with red crystal eyes.  It was so well made that the little animal seemed real.  Everyone that passed by in front of the house, stopped a few seconds looking at it as if they were waiting, for any moment, for the rabbit to jump. But it seemed to be a happy thing, enjoying its inertia in the green grass.

One day, your great-grandmother heard a discussion at the wrought iron grille door at the entrance to the house, and when she went out to see what had happened, she saw a man and a woman arguing vehemently.  As soon as they noticed her presence, without wanting it, they involved her in the discussion, the man asking her the following question: “Lady, do you believe that woman should behave like that with me, when I only wanted to make a joke?” “I don’t understand,” Mama Nene answered.  Then the angry woman intervened, “Look, this man here, my husband, told me: put on your elegant black dress; I am going to take you to the Little Rabbit.  And look where he brought me?”

Don’t put it like that, my mom said.  He only wanted to play a joke.  “Listen lady, what joke are you speaking about, he made me hurry to wash and iron the only elegant dress that fit me.  You don’t do that to anyone, much less to me that has to whip up a dish every day to put on the table!”

My mom, embarrassed by what just happened and feeling a little to blame for being the owner of the controversial little rabbit, told them to sit on the porch and brought them each a little cup of steaming hot coffee.  Now more calm, the couple were sent off apologizing and thankful for the attentiveness given out by the owner of the house.

Years later, someone tried to steal the rabbit and broke it trying to dig it up, fleeing without accomplishing his objective, and leaving it damaged in the garden.  My mother moved it to a corner of the patio, and since then it has been forgotten waiting to be repaired.  The same has happened to the famous restaurant that has turned into a low-class one.  Both rabbits can say, they shared almost the same luck.

 Translated by: BW

June 21 2011

My grandfather Jose with my uncle and some friends.

Every day, the signs of aging and social deterioration are more obvious. The discussions in a raised voice on a busy street, the shouts from balcony to balcony, the pushes on the city buses, and the fights in the lines mark our daily lives, being those of a more advanced age, the more vulnerable target of these actions.

It’s puzzling to see how on our television, daily, idyllic images are presented about the care of senior citizens.  Nevertheless, go out to the street and observe: you will surely see in some of the parks and vacant lots of the city at early hours of the morning, small groups of elderly and others not so old, doing exercises in the open air, guided by a teacher.  But it is no less certain, that you will also observe many elderly people (perhaps some of those mentioned before), seated on the benches on the sidewalk or at the exits of the stores and agricultural markets, offering, with a certain timidness and embarrassment, cigarette packets (of inferior quality), plastic bags (of short supply in the stores), handmade candy, and the well-known paper cones of peanuts.  They don’t have to shout loudly to announce what they are selling, everyone that passes at their side knows that they are selling things to survive.

The majority of these people have passed, exceedingly, the age of retirement, without being able to save some money for their retirement, during their long working life.  Others continue to carry out their hard work, because the pensions they receive hardly will suffice for one daily meal.

In the hospitals, shops, bus stops, and other places, they have to line up like any citizen.  They don’t enjoy any special discount in any of the public services nor any other social advantage.  Many live alone, because their children and grandchildren have emigrated.  Where is that well-publicized attention to the elderly?

Happy Father’s Day to everyone!

Translated by: BW

Spanish post
June 18 2011

Photo : A. Betancourt Monzo

Paternalism. Social doctrine in which the relationship of the employer and his employees is similar to the ones existing between family members. That’s the entry for this word on the Larousse dictionary.

Lately the national TV news, the same one I try to avoid if at all possible because I can not relax when I see it for more than two minutes, is covering the Party assemblies that are happening all over the island. I turned on the TV trying to find something interesting to watch and because I couldn’t find anything, I briefly watched the coverage of one of these assemblies. This one in particular was happening in the Santa Clara province. One of the participants said very seriously, that if the cows gave milk every day it was because they ate every day. Because I had turned the TV on when the assembly was already in session for a while I couldn’t appreciate if it was a joke or not. At this point one of the members at the table, fat neck and a guayabera shirt, said, putting a lot of emphasis on his statement, that we have to put an end to the paternalism.

And I asked to myself: Who imposed the paternalism as a system in our country? Whom did they ask for permission for to apply it?

This is the grocery store where you are enrolled to be a customer.

This is the ration card that you have to use to purchase.

This is the quota of food you are allowed to buy.

This is the medical center that you have to go when you need attention.

This is the doctor assigned to you.

This is the doctor’s office where you have to go as a patient.

This is the daycare your son has to go to.

This is the school assigned to him.

This is the teacher that will teach him.

These are the college careers that you can choose from.

This is the career that your son must study.

And on, and on, the list could be interminable. Without counting the many years that toys and clothing were assigned to you depending which group’s turn it was to buy and depending also at which store your coupons were assigned.

Translated by Adrian Rodriguez

June 20 2011

“The conceited villager believes the entire world is his village.”  In another paragraph taken from Our America he wrote, “The presumptuous man believes that the earth was made to serve as his pedestal, because he happens to have a facile pen or colorful speech.”

Writer, philosopher, poet, politician, organizer of the Cuban Revolutionary Party, Freemason. Recognized and venerated as an Apostle of Independence, by the majority of Cubans.

Also organizer of the necessary war (1895), he fell in Dos Ríos, shot down by the Spanish army under the command of Colonel Jiménez Sandoval. His companion succeeded in fleeing and informing Máximo Gómez of the fall in combat of Martí.

His death in Dos Ríos, left everyone with some mysteries that were lost until our time.  Had Martí been more useful alive than dead? The mystery of the lost pages of his Dairy of the Haitian Cape of Dos Ríos has never been disclosed.

It was almost an act of suicide to have faced the Spanish troops alone, without any previous military experience.  A thing of fate, or perhaps he felt obligated to do it.  This will never be known with certainty.

Translated by: BW

May 18 2011

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The very first time I sat at front of a PC, around six years ago, I thought that it was the end for me. It doesn’t matter how many times Alfredo, my son, told me, “It won’t break so easily,” I was so afraid every time I touched any key thinking that all of a sudden everything will be dark and a catastrophe will happen.

I am not a brave person, neither am I a coward, but a very cautious person indeed. The problem is that on my planet, when something breaks, it is for ever and ever, there’s no way to fix it, it is broken for life, moreover when involves equipment of such scarce technology.

Finally, with practice and perseverance I’ve been learning a little bit, enough to communicate with the outside world (where my family and friends are) and, even making a blog!

I am telling you all this, because recently someone gave me a cell phone as a gift and immediately I got a crash course on how to use it. This is the reason why I beg you to forgive me, due to the fact as you’ve probably already noticed, I just met this helpful little blue bird, which on countless occasions helped to save the physical integrity of my fellow colleagues who share with me my planet.

I hope you forgive my rookie skills twittering. I promise to work hard not to make any more mistakes, and avoid one more time being bitten by underdevelopment.

Translated by: Adrian Rodriguez

June 13 2011

Photo courtesy of Peter

Last Friday, I had to leave to run some errands, all in Havana Vieja (old Havana) and fortunately in the same area.

We left at 1:00 in the afternoon, with enough time, because the primary appointment was at 2:00.  Our old Lada refused to continue running when we were halfway up the street.  We had to move it onto the sidewalk on Carlos III and push it down the side street where they told us we could find a mechanic. There I left Fernando taking care of the problem.  I return to the avenue to look for an old communal taxi, that for 10 Cuban pesos would take me as close as possible to my destination.  All those that passed by were going to the Capital building.  Once there, I saw a bicycle taxi and I hired it.  It was the first time I had done it.

I told the driver of the vehicle that I didn’t want to him to be offended, but that until today, propelled by a great need, I had refused to use this means because I found it inhumane. I added that before 1959, on my planet I never used human traction. I had seen that it was very common in some countries of the Middle East, India, Thailand, and others, but not here.

Talking with him, about how many hours per day he did this work and what his food was like, he told me that he had had to reduce his working hours and set aside one or two days a week to take a break, because he was beginning to suffer from back and kidney pains. That he had decided that he felt so bad that money couldn’t change his health, but on the other hand he had a family to support.

Upon arriving at my destination, the street he took was blocked by some enormous tow-truck and it was blocking us from going around it. I decided to get down and walk the rest of the way so that he didn’t have to make some big detour and take me to the agreed upon place.  The young person thanked me for it, I felt relieved when I got out of the bici-taxi.

Translated by: BW

June 6 2011

Many have officially cursed the once booming Republic, now so tainted For the new generations, born with the Revolution, it is like talking about a love gone bad. Or they act like it never existed.

Whenever I can, I recommend to everyone around me, that they visit the model of Havana. There they will appreciate the advantages of having been a young, although frustrated, Republic, that with its defects, but also with its innumerable virtues, was a prodigal of modernity and an example for America. They will notice that there is a lot to be proud of, when they approach it.

Standing in front of it, and facing North, to the right they can see, colored brown, the constructions built during the colonial period; in the center, extending widely to the left and covering almost the entirety, is the color ivory which represents the Republic. While splashed here and there within that great conglomeration, there are some white points, which represent constructions of the Revolutionary period.

And in this color appears the Amejeiras Brothers Hospital, which was nearly completed by 1959, and would have been the National Bank of Cuba, whose vaults remain in the basement of what is now a medical building. And it’s the same with the Civic Plaza, now called the Plaza of the Revolution, which was also nearly finished, lacking only a few architectural details on some of the buildings.

It’s enough to visit the place where this model is housed, which without it being the intention of those who created it, represents the great lie of so much distorted history.

*Translator’s Note: The model Rebeca is referring to here is an architectural model of the City of Havana.

June 10 2011

On Wednesday, watching a popular program on television where they lit incense, candles and asked very good questions, one of the guests on being asked about the low fish consumption in our country given that we’re islanders, said calmly that the problem is not that there isn’t any but rather that people did not like eating it. Except that geography is the greatest influence on the eating habits of people.

After that the respondent (a relatively young musician), gives the impression that he doesn’t have very good information. Everything seems to indicate that none has said that living on an island, surrounded by water on all sides, where there are fish, some little, some medium, some larger and some huge, we would traditionally consume fish, a lot of it and very good.

For almost half a century on any corner in Havana and in any other province they sold fried fish, fried oysters, fried cod and countless other marine variants. In my homes it was customary, on Fridays, to eat fish: yellowtail, snapper grouper, dogfish, and so on. Also in many households there were those big wide-mouthed jars where marinade was stored. Anyone could fish sitting on the wall of the Malecon or going out on a boat. Never in my teens did I perceive any lack of fish on Cuban tables, and it was very cheap as well, more so than beef, which in those days cost thirty-five centavos for a first-rate pound. I think before giving opinions, particularly on a media like television that reaches the public, it would be healthy to be better informed. I don’t know if the interviewee had a problem with amnesia or anesthesia.

June 3 2011

Journalist: Mr. Ex-Minister, do you think it’s easier to run a restaurant than a ministry?

Ex-Minister: Don’t you believe it. The difference isn’t much, save the distances. In the restaurant those who eat come from the outside, and when they finish they leave. In a ministry those who eat are inside and they don’t leave until they retire or get the boot.

Journalist: Could you name some work you’ve done or jobs you’ve held?

Ex-Minister: Well, as you may know, I was a young militant, so I had to hoe a lot of sugar cane and coffee, you know, to get rid of the weeds. I also was a young leader and specialist in jumps, a made a lot of people jump, I remember the one who didn’t jump is a Yankee; later I was a park groundskeeper, self-taught painter, and now I run a restaurant.

Journalist: Then you are a man who has changed greatly. So we can deduce that you believe in change.

Ex-Minister: Effectively, my life has changed greatly. So I not only believe in changes, I support them!

June 1 2011

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