January 2012

My friend lives in a beautiful apartment building from the 1950s, on Línea street.  This morning, like aways, she prepared to leave for work, when suddenly, the washbasin that had heroically resisted the pounding of 50+ years of survival, had given way to the implacable advance of the years, and a crack had finally caused it to burst.

That same afternoon, when she arrived at the office, she started the arduous task of finding a plumber, who in addition to knowledge of his profession, would give his word and come to repair the breakdown.  After two days of making multiple calls to different telephone numbers recommended by neighbors and friends, she finally found one who promised to go without fail that same afternoon, to see if he could take a look at it.   Actually, the man lived up to his word and turned up for the appointment.  The judgment was finally declared to be a malfunction of the washbasin.  That is where the oddyssey began.

The first thing he did was to look into different chains of stores with a hardware department to learn which one to go to and not lose time and gasoline, that is really $1.15 CUC per liter, although that’s not what I’m talking about now.  After going around to the best stores fruitlessly in the city, finally he found it in Roseland, at half the price of the same thing that he had see in Palco days before, and couldn’t buy because it was excessively expensive.

Happy about the discovery, she arrived at the store with measurements recommended by the experienced plumber.  The happiness ended there.  The salesperson that was in the department in question, told her — after greeting her “good afternoon”, and finding out what the client would like — that she couldn’t help her because today she was lacking many workers.

Before many requests and pleas from the possible buyer, the employee, with a very bad character, decided to call another sales assistant so that he could work on the issue. The first thing that this person did, was to talk with my friend about the annotated measurements that she brought, telling her that they didn’t exist, but at her insistence, visibly contradicted, she agreed to go down to the warehouse, but at that moment, it created a tremendous discussion between the two employees, where the person who just recently arrived told the bad tempered worker from the department: I’m going to have to kick your A-S-S.

My friend, horrified but turning a deaf ear, told the boy, Go on, I’m going to give you $2 if you help me, to which this swift guy answered, if you want me to help you give me $5, now you know, madam, one hand washes the other, and two hands wash the face.

Note:  the facts are true and if someone from the Roseland store, is, by chance, reading this post, he knows that what is related here is absolutely truthful.

 Translated by: BW

January 30 2012

Oil painting by Caridad Monzo

Man loves liberty, even is his soul doesn’t know it, and will push for it and flee from where it is not.

A village is made up of men who resist, and men who push: of accommodation, which captures, and justice, which rebels: of arrogance which subjects and depresses, and of decorum, which does not deprive pride of its position, nor cede its own: of the rights and opinions of all its children which comprise a people, and not of the rights and opinions of a single class of its children.

To all our Cuban brothers and sisters wherever you may be.

January 28 2012

A new and beautiful restaurant in Nuevo Vedado, located on 35th street between La Torre and 24th Street.  One Day, its owner, a native of India, like the Genoan Admiral, discovered this little island and stayed, enchanted by her, came from over there to meet and fall in love with a beautiful creole woman.

Once married, the couple decided to travel and settle in London. The marriage didn’t last very long. Then he decided to return to the island and, again, felt struck by lightning for the love of another native.

Now the new couple decided to open an Indian restaurant, in one of the beautiful houses of this neighborhood. The decorating, elegant and totally of the style of the country of origin of the owner, has a mysterious air and coziness.  As I am very curious and I like this gastronomic trend, I visited them with exploratory objectives. I asked for the menu and could confirm a great variety of plates, with a lamb base, beef, shrimp, and pork.  The curry, its essential ingredient, almonds, and exotic spices are the stars in all of the offerings.

The prices, a little high for our pocketbook, but understanding they can’t be cheaper, due to everything they include in their dried fruit confection, something excessively expensive in our country.  I think that for the diplomatic corps and business owners, in a very nice place and suitable for meeting for a nice working lunch or dinner, or simply to enjoy it with their respective family and friends.  Something new and different.  This undoubtedly gives color and attractiveness to the neighborhood, creates new employment and generates for others many services, that allows so many other people to better their economic status.

Now what it really needs is not to take one step backwards, on the contrary, continue giving free rein to new modalities of private business, demonstrating success and the energy of a small private business, that is, definitively, what is working best in our beloved planet.

As soon as my pocketbook permits or some visitor from far away invites me, I will select this place, to be able to speak to you with knowledge about the source of the quality of their culinary offerings.

 Translated by: BW

Spanish post
January 25 2012

Much has been spoken about on our media about racism and it continues. Really, on my beloved planet, I have never experienced extreme cases of this social phenomenon.  Since my childhood, I was accustomed to my house being visited by black, white, and Chinese people, all gathering with our family.  I had very beloved little black friends and an adopted grandmother of this color.  She was a large woman, wide, and with a full-moon smile, who we called Grandma Mercedes.  They taught us from an early age to love and respect her.  When she arrived, my brother and I hung around her neck, competing for her first kisses.  My little friends, seeing me so white and blond, were very surprised, but they couldn’t figure out the mystery of these advanced genetics.  She was, until her death, the best friend of our family.

There was discrimination, it’s true, but, in general, not on the part of people, rather it was an official matter, but not rooted in the human feeling.  It includes, also on the part of the black people who produced this same contradiction but in the inverse, because in their clubs and societies, white people were not admitted.  I have a friend that suffered these divisions in her own experience. Her father, an elegant black chauffeur of a well-known magnate, married a Spanish woman.  Then my friend couldn’t frequent the clubs for her race, since in those days they didn’t allow her mother to enter because she was white, in a time when good girls were always accompanied by their parents.  Also, she couldn’t go to places for whites-only.  Anyway, this seemed like a thing from the very distant past.

The year 1959 arrived and, by decree, they threw out all of these restrictions, but only by decree.  Now, by citing three examples, more exist, I demonstrate the flip side of the coin:

In the year, 1963, when the elect Lucero of the Havana Carnival came out, between the finalists there wasn’t a single black woman, or even a mulata.  The revolutionary panel of judges noticed this mistake and took out a beautiful white girl and in her place brought up to the podium a beautiful mulata, but with a strong juvenile acne that made her face ugly, precisely for which she was ruled out.

On the other hand, it is well-known, that when our country prepared the possible cosmonauts to fly in the soviet spacecrafts, they selected two candidates: one black and one white.  To be honest, people who were involved at that time told us, in this mission, the second candidate was better prepared and met more of the criteria, but the official choice leaned toward the first candidate. Everyone knows the end of this story.

But, many years have passed, we are in the 21st century, and last week, the son of my friend, was just discriminated against by a teacher from his school, due to his pearly-white skin. There was a municipal-level competition, and the teacher, in the face of uncertainty about whether one of proposed candidates would fail, named a third, the needy kid, a genius, one of those that departed from the norm.  Now then, the day arrived, the three were introduced, accompanied by their respective mothers in front of the teacher that waited in the old Havana Institute, the place where they were to meet.  As no student missed the appointment, she preferred to select the little black child so as not be questioned, leaving the other child surprised and frustrated. I don’t need to tell you, rightly, what my friend told the teacher. Tell me if I am mistaken that this isn’t any more than reverse racism.

Translated by: BW

January 18 2012

It is prohibited to enter to throw out trash. Sorry for the trouble.

Now that we have spent half a century VOTING* garbage, doesn’t it seem like time for containers that are appropriate, adequate, accessible to the population and located in all neighborhoods, in order to be able to THROW OUT the garbage properly? It’s up the voters to demand it of the mayor*, wait, I meant the delegate*.

This sign is located on the park fence at a work site on 41st Street between 26th Ave. and Conill B, Nuevo Vedado.

Translator’s note:
This post derives from the fact that “B” and “V” sound the same in Spanish and that the word for “vote” is “votar” and the word for “to throw out” is “botar.” The sign painter has misspelled “botar.” The line with the “mayor” vs. the “delegate” is a reference to the fact that under the Castro regime, cities no longer have mayors, but they do have delegates to the National Assembly of People’s Power. (And apologies for a note that is longer than the post!)

January 21 2012

The media here spends its life talking about the number of foreign doctors who are trained in our country who then go on to serve the needy in their respective countries. That, of course, is not entirely true. I have known, here in my neighborhood, a ton of students from Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia, who rent apartments and who travel by car, using private services of course, almost always from the same people who rent housing to them. Some even host their families on vacation, or travel to spend time with their parents. All this implies a personal expense that makes one think about how much they need the scholarships they receive, awarded from here, which are supposed to be only for the poorest people in Latin American.

I know couples who rent together, I suppose to feel less alone, and also to divide the expenses. There are those who buy pets, almost always pedigree puppies, and who then take them home with them once they graduate here on our planet. At home they establish private practices, with financial support from their families, which they can afford because they saved money while enjoying the scholarship.

I even visited a couple of brothers once, whose parents have businesses in their home country, and they confessed to me that they managed to get the scholarship by joining a leftist party, with which they’d previously never had any association, because otherwise they could never hope to get it, and when they returned home they would break their ties with it, to avoid commitments and to establish themselves in the private sector.

All this is a lot to think about, as it implies taking away opportunities from those who are truly needy. But the fact that the scholarship is granted based on membership in a leftist party shows its political character.

January 15 2012

From its very beginnings, in this neighborhood of Nuevo Vedada, it opened its chrysalis, a small but well-stocked shop: The Butterfly, on 41st Street between Conill B and 24th. It was famous in its heyday, among other things because they filmed some scenes there of a very popular move among us: The Birds Shooting the Shotgun.

With the passage of time, this shop went through innumerable transformations, so many that different administrators have passed through it. Bit by bit the famous butterfly lost its quality, up to the present day without its precious pollen, which allowed it to soar.

More than a year ago, due to several attempts to rob it and break its shop windows, they decided to put in alarms. But unlike in other countries, where an efficient security service responds to these devices, these alarms go off over and over the whole night and early morning, interrupting the sleep and tranquility of the neighbors, without anyone coming to shut them off. To the point where it’s become something like the boy who cried wolf. Nobody pays any attention, though of course the noise continues to disturb the neighborhood.

A couple of days ago the shop was cordoned off and in the custody of the police. Late at night a couple of thieves managed to cut the bars and break the glass in the door, ignoring the alarm siren, and getting in and stealing three flat-screen TVs. But what they apparently took using their heads, they broke using their feet. Tired of carrying the valuable and heavy cargo on their shoulders, on arriving at Boyeros Avenue they saw some police, and afraid of being apprehended, they left the boxes in the middle of the street and fled.

The violated store was then closed for several days, with the consequent annoyance to the neighbors, who came there looking for some critical things that are only offered in this area at that store.

We hope from now on that the administration will take note of what happened and make appropriate arrangements, so that the alarm will be properly attended to and it won’t continue uselessly annoying the residents of the area, without bringing any protection to the establishment. Otherwise, the story of the boy and the wolf will repeat itself, and when the little animal actually appears everyone will ignore it, just like now, not to mention the collateral damage occasioned to the ears of the neighborhood.

January 12 2012

A  couple of days ago I was at home with two friends and, as usual, we returned to the “single topic.” On this occasion we were analyzing what the changes — what is happening now — could be called: the right to buy and sell cars, the right to buy and sell houses, licenses to open barber shops and beauty salons.

We came to the conclusion that the only thing that could call itself a change lately, was the way the new laws they are passing come to terms with, as the absolutely normal beings that they are, people with different inclinations and sexual practices.

As for the rest, it’s not about changing anything, but simple reestablishing the rights that have been violated by the same regime that now appears to be kindly awarding them to us. Rights that were torn from us for half a century, and that they now would have us believe are changes that don’t exist.

It’s said that many others will come at the end of the year [2011] including possibly travel and emigration related ones. Wouldn’t it be easier and much more fair to lift all the prohibitions they themselves established? Respecting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Cuba is a signatory, would be a good start. All the rest seem to me to be palliative, bandages, that seek to heal the great wounds caused by the system itself.

In my view, this all could be a smokescreen to hide the great economic, social and moral crisis into which they’ve sunk the country. Meanwhile the people are excited about legalizing the purchase and sales of homes and cares, which should have never been illegal, just outside the law. Immersed the hassle of red tape, the lines, the taxes you have to pay, and so on, no one has time to think about the fact that they don’t have any food to put on the table. Meanwhile, the farmers markets and shops are empty, and the civil records offices are packed.

Despair grows in the population, and the leaders are struggling to make us believe in changes and improvements, but the fact is that to date, these new laws have not led to major improvements in the standard of living of citizens.

November 19 2011

1 – 1/2 cups sifted flour.

1 egg (white and yolk).

4 tablespoons of butter.

1/4 cup of warm fresh milk.

1/2 teaspoon of salt.

1 teaspoon baking powder.

1/3 cup grated yellow cheese.

Nutmeg to taste.

Into a bowl, pour the flour, salt, baking powder, nutmeg and butter, and the butter in with a pastry cutter or two knives until it makes small lumps. Add the grated cheese, alternately with the milk.

It will be a very thick dough (if necessary add a little more flour).

Heat oil in a deep enough pan on the stove and when it’s hot, drop the dough in from a spoon, taking care to keep it in ball shapes. Turn with spatula so that they stay little rounds. When golden brown remove them and put them on a paper towel to absorb excess fat. Serve hot as a side dish or a starter. They are very tasty.

Makes about twenty fritters.

Here on my planet they are a bit expensive, as what you already know, but according to my grandmother to a great pleasure.

January 7 2012

From very early, with no call other than faith and devotion, the faithful and believers began to congregate at the main entrance to the Havana Zoo, a place where the Virgin, who came from San Juan Bosco Church in the Santa Catalina neighborhood, would enter through the esplanade at the main entrance, stopping there to be received by the pastor of the Church of Perpetual Help.

Once she was there doves were released and people said “Vivas” for Cuba and for Her, before the procession continued on through 26th and Kohly Avenues to 41st Street where they finally congregated in front of the church, where they were already expecting Cardinal Jaime Ortega and other members of the priesthood. The Cardinal pronounced a homily of welcome in the gardens of the church, due to the large audience receiving him there, among it some members of State Security, easily recognizable by those who are already accustomed to seeing them at all public events, where their task is to avoid any kind of demonstration separate from that previously established.

In the simple act of welcome that presided over the homily, we heard the soulful voice of Lynn Milanes singing La Bayamesa, accompanied by a guitarist. The act then continued with a parade of all those present through the gardens of the church to approach the Virgin and leave offerings. For the rest of this week the Virgin will continue her tour of the distant parishes and churches of this neighborhood.

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November 30 2011

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