July 2011


It was a very fashionable refrain when we were kids.  Right now, it again seems to occupy the foreground in the media of our planet: rescue the railroad right of ways, rescue agriculture, rescue the sugar industry, rescue the fishing fleet, rescue urban transport, rescue the dry cleaners, rescue the hair salons, rescue the bovine cattle, rescue the milk industry, rescue the food service, rescue the family doctor’s houses, rescue light industry, rescue the henequen plant, rescue, rescue, rescue.

The more I try to strain my memory, I can’t locate in which previous government it was that all this came down from, but I know we already spent 52 years with it.  Why now, in the year 2011, is it that our leaders are informed of this and that everything I mentioned has to be rescued.  Where were they (if they are the same ones), who didn’t realize that everything has deteriorated rapidly?  With that mentality of always blaming imperialism for all of our problems, I don’t believe that we can move even a single step forward.  If we continue giving time after time, implementing guidelines, studying even the most hidden places in the country and waiting for the proper implementation of these, the time will come when now there is nothing left to do.  Well then we will go heads down, muttering the chorus goes like this:  “R&R Cigar, R&R Barrel, the cars go fast, when there was a railroad.

Translated by: BW

July 20 2011

In my stroll around the neighborhood, camera in hand and absorbed in my thoughts, I sensed the voice of a man walking beside me talking to himself. I can’t bear to look at him — not even if he’s that old — I thought. When his eyes met mine, taken by surprise, he said to me, “Don’t think I’m crazy, it’s that the most unusual thing just happened to me.”

He told me that for some time he had been suffering from some problems that he blamed on the age, but a doctor friend of his, after taking a peek, told him that what he had to do was go to a dentist, that is was almost certain that his health problems stemmed from the poor condition of his mouth. He added that because of this, he decided to go to the dentist’s clinic and there he saw a doctor, who told him he needed several extractions to be done urgently. That same day, he had four. The doctor gave him an appointment for the next week, to recuperate a little and continue with other things. When the date of the appointment came, he went back to polyclinic and on leaving it, continued his story. But this time things did not turn out as he thought. After having to wait a couple of hours, because the office was full, the doctor told him she could not see him because they had run out of gloves, and to call occasionally to see if they had arrived, as if the gloves traveling alone, he said.

Without giving it much thought, he went back to his friend the doctor, and asked if he could get him some from the hospital where he worked, and he got a package with twelve pairs. Very happy, he hugged the treasure and went back to the clinic to see the doctor. Look, I brought you a few pairs of gloves. He started to get a little more heated as he told me that she refused to accept the gift, arguing that this was not enough for all patients she had to see, and if she cared for him and not others, it could turn out to be a problem for her. He said that even though he insisted and argued, the doctor reiterated her refusal, so he left, feeling defeated and crushed. That’s why you caught me talking to myself, ‘he reiterated.

Thinking about it, it brought to mind misery loves company, and I dared to tell him that I had also experienced a similar situation in the polyclinic that served the area where I live. On one occasion, I told him, I had gone to see a doctor recommended to me by a friend, to get a filling. The doctor told me to wait in her cubicle, while right before my eyes she attended a patient with an oral infection. When she finished with him she told me to sit down and washed her gloved hands in the little sink there. When I saw that, I got up as if I were operated by a spring and said, “I’m so sorry, doctor, I just remembered I left the pressure cooker in the stove, I’ll come back another day.”

She’s still waiting for me!

If Kafka were alive now, here on my beloved planet, he would still be, I’m sure, I great writer of novels of manners.

July 27 2011

The Nuevo Vedado neighborhood is excited. In the blink of an eye, four new restaurants have sprung up, very well put together, and a few cafes, not to mention a number of improvised timbiriches — small kiosks — where their offer various products doubtfully handled.

The new paladares, private restaurants with this name — meaning “palate” — born of popular ingenuity — and, like almost everything that becomes popular on my planet, came from a Brazilian soap opera broadcast on TV. Thus arose the paladar, to differentiate these first restaurants — which started up more than 15 years ago — from those of the State. Of the original, few remain. Now, with the new ones, there is hope of an opening, something more serious and fundamental than previously, the fever seems to have spread like a pandemic. In the background, lies the unspoken: to retake the truncated capitalism of fifty-two years previous. Their new owners proudly call the “Restaurants” with a capital “R.”

All this is very good, healthy, and brings new color to the neighborhood, the city and the country. The question that comes to mind is the following: Will there be enough demand for everything that is in offer?

In my travels, this Saturday at noon, camera in hand, I visited three of the new premises, as well as the already renowned La Casa. What most caught my attention was that they were all empty. Their respective owners very kindly showed me the facilities and allowed me to take photos.

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The Garden of Miracles

Everyone comments that the prices are too high, but they have their logic: The products and supplies are not sold to their owners at wholesale prices, as they should be. They have to shop at the hard currency stores and in the expensive farmers markets, to get everything to produce their menus. They also have to pay inflated taxes, plus the salaries and social security for their employees, the electricity at a very high price per kilowatt, and also have to keep the inspectors content so they don’t become too fastidious.

In any event, something is gained and the lost appetite of citizens for private property is restored, without the absolute dependence on State paternalism that has already caused so much damage. Let us continue, therefore, playing at capitalism.

July 16 2011

A friend from Spain sent me a package in the mail, on July 6th, containing medicines, two cell phones, one for myself and the other one for another person, with their corresponding chargers, three flash drives, and some office supplies.

The package arrived in less than fifteen days. When I was notified of its arrival, I went to pick it up to the Ministry of Communications facilities. At the moment that the package was handed to me, the employee noticed that outside of the box protected by a transparent plastic from the TransVal Company, was a loose cell phone battery. After we opened it up to look at its content, we saw that the two cell phones declared on the original invoice were missing. Only the batteries were left (botched robbery) whose models corresponded to the different brands, and the empty box of one of them.

The box arrived with an expected note saying: Unfortunately your shipment arrived at our services with damages to its packaging. 

I immediately went to make my claim to the Technical Department of the Postal Zone Six for Services to the Population. There, they also charged me $25.00 pesos. I don’t know if that was because of my mismanagement or what.

It is assumed that the mail is inviolable, and especially when the contents have been declared to the pertinent authorities. How is it possible that accidentally all packages, including mail, even a simple magazine from a foreign university, get here damaged, and come along with the obviously expected note?

Right there, an employee, very kindly, informed me that if I wanted to, I could go to Calle 100 and Boyeros, where all the packages arrive before they are processed by the Ministry of Communications, but the problem was that they did not serve the public there. This seemed a joke to me, but the woman told me this very seriously.

I decided to write a letter, to explain this story with every detail, and send it to the Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth) Newspaper, which has a section called Acknowledgment of Receipt, where they use to receive and publish this type of complaint. What turns out to be ridiculous and deplorable is the botch of the robbery.

Translated by: Nina

July 23 2011

Rebellious Hash (recipe)

Ingredients:

1 roll of Our Delight minced turkey, 16 ounces, from Wichita, USA

1 box of 1-1/2 ounces of Sierra Harvest Raisins, USA

One large onion from the expensive farmers market because in the cheap one they almost never have it.

2 cloves of garlic.

1 green pepper.

2 Tablespoons of sunflower oil from the foreign currency stores.

1 teaspoon salt.

2 tablespoons, tomato puree.

1 Cup chopped vegetables.

4 finely chopped cilantro leaves.

Process:

Heat the pan and add the finely chopped onion, don’t brown it, cook until just transparent, add finely chopped garlic (don’t crush as you will lose the juice). Finally add the pepper.

Now add the contents of the mixed turkey roll to the pan, stir to coat with the seasonings and add salt and white pepper (if you have it), to taste.

Let it simmer on low for about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally and cover to keep it from drying out.

Serves four people if accompanied by white rice and fried plantains.

Serve with a salad of avocado or whatever is available that day at the farmer’s market.

Bon appetit! Buen provecho!

July 13 2011

Young woman selling peanuts.

Circulating in the media these days is a United Nations report on Latin American women. In it concerns are expressed about domestic violence, equality with regards to work opportunities, and the liberation of the gender.

To my way of thinking, little has been achieved in this regard in my country since the forties, when Cuban women had an active and important participation in our society: philosophers, teachers, doctors in teaching, medical and writers marked the forefront of a gender that increasingly occupied a more prominent place in society of those times.

In real life, the Cuban woman today, is far from having been liberated: all the intentions have not come to pass, they are, as we would say, a dead letter. On the contrary, women’s obligations and difficulties have increased. A strong economy is one of the principle pillars on which true liberation rests.

The lack of paying jobs along, where people can live decently, without having to undertake extracurricular tasks to augment a bit their squalid salaries, the lack of conditions in the home and in the social sphere that ease domestic chores (which currently waste a great deal of time), plus all the difficulties of travel, buying food and other necessities, means that the Cuban woman carries on her shoulders almost the entire weight of the home: she is in charge of making the family meals, taking and picking up the children from their schools or daycare, overseeing their homework, caring for elderly relatives living with the family, caring for her husband, in-laws and other relatives.

She does not have time to look after herself, her health, she has to depend on the ration book to obtain monthly feminine supplies, and she faces menopause lacking vitamins, creams and medications to help her through this difficult stage.

The best jobs continue to be the almost exclusive patrimony of men. This, not to mention that in our country precisely because of the above, the vast majority of marriages fail, which lamentably puts us in the top position with regards to statistics of divorce. The majority of our women are divorced or separated, facing all the work of the home alone. These frustrations and accumulated stresses carry within them a contained violence, that for any casual reason can serve as a detonator for domestic violence, where one can be the victim or victimizer.

We can’t speak of women’s liberation until society is structured and run in such a way that the conditions actually exist to be able to count on the necessary facilities needed to meet obligations outside of work, without it causing a deterioration in the personal or in the family.

July 9 2011

(This story is fiction, based on reality)

My friend was finishing transferring to his flash memory, the last poems that, like all, had left his heart exhausted.  Each time that he put the last period on one, he said that it was like having given birth.  It is clear that this hadn’t happened out of his own experience, this sublime pain, but being the older son, he was the witness of the birth, one by one, of his fifteen siblings, and he could appreciate in the sweaty face of his mother, how painful it was.

Meanwhile, in the other bedroom, his wife hastily put in the suitcase everything that she understood was strictly necessary.  After returning, because she knew return was inevitable, they would come loaded with gifts, books, and glory, things that weigh a lot and that would make the overweight fees very costly.

Whatever the case, his slovenly appearance urgently needed fixing, a product of none other than the extreme necessity brought by the passing years, leaving for the last moment the fixing of his teeth.  They paid dearly and in the black market economy so that it would be done well.  He knew that upon arriving at the town where his books wold be launched he would be obliged to smile and say some words of thanks.

The outbound trip was good, because really he didn’t bring more than the clothes he was wearing and a change for his arrival.  His wife, friend, confidant, lover and editor, did the same, so that the luggage would be very light.

After a very tiring plane trip, they took the train.  In Groñolo, the destination of both, a massive reception awaited them, with a band, regional dances, and streamers.  Meanwhile, from the sky, an airship let mountains of confetti fall from the sky. It looked like it was snowing in the middle of summer.

Suddenly, the music stopped and the multitude of people began to chant his name and clap.  He went up to the improvised podium, with his blue suit that the mayor had sent him as a gift and started his speech.  As he was getting excited with his own words, he started to notice his tongue getting a little slipped-up:  he felt that something was moving inside of his mouth.  Relying on the serenity and grandeur that had always characterized him, he continued his address.  Then those closest to the platform stopped paying attention to his words, to stoop to pick up those little white and shiny grains, that at first they believed were falling from the sky.  When, suddenly, one of those who were present, raised up his arm into the air to show everyone his discovery:  “It’s a tooth,” he exclaimed enthusiastically, “A tooth from our great poet!”  Everyone crouched down to eagerly look for one, to take it as a souvenir. The poet, growing even bolder and without losing his composure, said, “I haven’t only come to offer the most passionate verses, projecting from my mind and heart, I also left you a little bit of myself: those teeth that you will take today as a souvenir, and that with great pleasure I will autograph, because even though acrylic, they are part of myself since what I paid was so very expensive.

The crowd, in the face of such words, acclaimed deliriously that great man that came from a small island far away, not only to deliver brilliant poems to them, but also his shiny teeth, no less, as proof of his love and friendship.

 Translated by: BW

June 27 2011

Today we celebrate the 235 year anniversary of the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, a country of immigrants and grand opportunities, so defamed by some and so dreamed about by many. I, particularly, have some critics, who say that I am pro-american, they don’t offend me.  It is true that I greatly admire that country.  But, I was born, I grew up, and I educated myself feeling proud to be Cuban.  That is contrary to others, who defame it, and they say they feel hate and resentment against it, but don’t miss the opportunity to shop in its famous stores, take their kids to Disneyland every time they can and dream that someday one of them will get a degree from one of its universities.

In any case, humbly from this, I join my space together to the happiness of the celebration.

Translated by: BW

Spanish post
July 4 2011

The rumors are growing about the explosive coffee*, some people already baptized it as the terrorist. A term regretably popular nowadays.

My friend Margarita, from el Vedado, Havana, told me that her next door neighbor in the building showed her the wounds and burns caused by the explosion of stove top coffee maker.

Her neighbor not only burned her hands when trying to remove it from the stove, but also was wounded twice, as the pot itself, because of the compressed gases, blew off the stove hitting her in the forehead and the head. She was seen at the closest medical center, where her wounds were stitched and the burns were treated. My friend said she is sure, that at least on her face,  she will keep permanently the mark of that espresso coffee.

Another friend called me and told me how, arming herself up with patience, she took an awl and using it as a reamer started to enlarge one by one the little holes of her coffeemaker, in order to make the famous coffee. She was very kind in offering her services to do the same job to mine, but I didn’t accept her helping hand at all, claiming that I preferred not to drink it, because we had spent more than fifty years trying to solve the problems of socialism in detriment to ourselves: If there’s no transportation, walk! If there’s no running water, find a river and wash up there, or wait until rains !

That’s what happen to everything.

I refuse to put glass marbles in the ground coffee in order to make it, I refuse to enlarge the holes of my coffee pot strainer, I refuse to buy and drink that product which in the package blatantly states is 50% coffee and 50% fillers!

Also recently, in a very well known TV program, whose host covers many topics, they presented a medical doctor at front of the cameras to say that coffee mixed with peas was better for your health, because it had a lesser effect on the nervous system. What really makes me nervous, is the lack of selfrespect of a physician to participate in such a game!

It already happened once, when the taro was scarce, somebody said on the small screen that  European children didn’t eat taro and you should see how healthy they were. Also in another opportunity, when citrus fruits was scarce (like right now) somebody said that the orange juice caused heartburn in the children. And so forth.

Gentlemen, let’s stop the deceptions and euphemistic names, we have to be courageous and call the things by their own name. Enough already of when it rains it pours.

*Translator’s note: Since the government has subsituted a mixture of half-peas and half-coffee for regular coffee, the coffeemakers of Cuba have been exploding on the stoves. Apparently the peas swell up and block the holes in the coffee maker and then the whole contraption blows up.

Translated by Adrian Rodriguez

Spanish post
June 30 2011

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