February 2012


For the last few months, since the new apertures from the government, the city has been filled with carts selling various agricultural products. They differ from the existing agricultural markets, precisely because of the variety and presentation offered. Many people have called this progress but it is, in my humble opinion, quite the opposite.

It is true that they are solving a problem of the people, and they are themselves opting for a job that until now was practically underground, and which was almost lost — street vendor – which allows them to be self-employed and to make a living for them and their families. What’s more, in most cases these are young men and even women who did not continue their studies, perhaps due to lack of support.

This profession of peddling with carts flourished in the forties, but already by the early fifties, due to social progress, it was disappearing, giving way to establishments where what was offered was more stable and pleasant, with all these agricultural products both local fruits and imported. What we have now is that the former stores of this type are closed and vacant, and in their doorways, without any kind of hygiene, piled up in old dirty drawers, are the products, leaving the sidewalks and streets full of their red dirt, once they’ve finished selling, making the city even dirtier than it already is.

With the emergence and proliferation of supermarkets, these carts disappeared permanently from the big city, and were found only in some neighborhoods on the outskirts, but in smaller numbers.

Now, in the 21st century, in 2012, they are resurfacing as on Fenix Street. Most people consider it an achievement, as they see agricultural products and some fruits reappearing, clean and well presented, with better quality and prices than in state shops, where they sell them with soil, roots and leaves included, and where you have to be alert not to be fooled by the prices, because the weight includes all of the above waste.On the one hand, it is nice to see this new activity reappear, but on the other hand it is a sad fact that all the young labor force that could be working in a large and pleasant supermarket, with good working conditions, as required by progress, rather than having to push these carts from sunrise to sunset in different neighborhoods, and to endure nasty comments from some retrograde or official-like people, who tend to criticize, not realizing that they too are part of the same suffering people, and they are trying to defend a system that has only made us all regress.

It is said that soon the authorities will prohibit all this once again. Is there any foundation in that? Because they enrich and offer products that do not exist in the state agricultural markets. If it were not so tragic, it would be laughable. The real reason for their possible elimination is that every day, they are a public demonstration of the government’s inability to solve the most pressing problems.

February 26 2012

Those were the difficult eighties, and the stillness of the Plaza neighborhood’s House of Community Culture cracked under the onslaught of officialdom trying trying to abort a lovely project that, against all odds, Mireye Felipe and Maria Gatorna, Director and Deputy Director respectively of that institution, tried mightily to advance: a space for rock concerts.

It was a fact that this cultural event, despite the isolation and harsh prohibitions, managed to cross the impenetrable wall imposed by the senior representatives of culture in our country.

Rock, no way, it’s outrageous, and much less heavy metal! Those were the pro-government voices they had to listen to and which these two courageous women had to confront, seeking a place for the young lovers of this cultural event, where rock music could be played.

Mireya was soon transferred to another institution and Maria was left alone, boldly facing up against the old concepts and ingenuousness, with her soft, modulated voice, more suited to a faithful representative of classical music than rock, to make the Nomenklatura of the official Culture understand the benefits of these restless youth, and to create for them, there in the Communal patio, a space for them.

Bit by bit she pierced the wall of intolerance, and Maria intelligently took advantage of every little crevice, as step by step she gained ground. Thus, with courage, effort and unflagging devotion, that space became what everyone knew as Maria’s Patio. She was undoubtedly the Alma Mater who sheltered in her arms all those boys marked and rejected, by fear and official intolerance.

Today, many years later, when the courtyard disappeared as such and Maria is no longer there, a then young-rookie-of-lens-and-shutter, breaking into the world of freaks, rockers and the police became, in fact, an eyewitness. Thus, Alfredo was filling drawers and drawers with rolls and contact sheets, which distilled the faces and moments already historic. No one ever wanted to commit to publish these photographs here. Now, from France, which he has called home for some years, with his wife and daughters, Alfredo is working on a book project that will soon come to light, thus paying a tribute to Maria, the Patio and all those young people scattered around the world today , which form an important part of the Cuban cultural diaspora.

February 21 2012

My friends say I’m very passionate, very vehement and sometimes present things in a very radical way.I admit that is true, but if anything I have sinned greatly in my life, it is to put a lot of heart (like the bolero) in everything I do and to not shut my mouth in the face of what I consider unfair or wrong, without giving too much attention to the consequences. It’s another reason why I have a blog.

Once when I worked in radio, I came up with a phrase that the director, now in Mexico, really loved. I said, on that occasion: Passion inflames the heart, fanaticism clouds reason. I still think so, but let’s get to the subject I’m concerned about:

Recently they’ve started, on a TV program with a big audience, to promote, on the occasion of the Book Fair, some cases of very attractive small kitchen booklets, which they will sell at the Pavilion Cuba for Valentine’s Day. From that moment I resolved to go there to buy them, though certainly I don’t like to go to that site: La Cabaña, a place of dark memories, not to mention that it seems a prison-like framework for encouraging reading. Remember, it was a dark prison and place where much blood was shed, not to mention that the Book Fair there seems more gastronomic than literary.

Finally we, Fernando (whose blog is “Marmalade“) and I, went there about ten in the morning and got tickets for which we had to pay three Cuban pesos and went up, almost running, the dirty ramp looking for the place where we found books from long ago, those abounding in political themes, but nothing of interest to us.

Hence our first unpleasant experience: you can not enter the room with bags or backpacks. I handed my bag to Fernando, who did not enter so that I could do so. When ) asked about the cookbooks, I said one of those n charge of that room said they had not arrived.  How could that be, if their sale was announced on TV today? Madam, and you believe everything they say on TV? You’re mistaken, it’s just that I worked in the media, no, I don’t believe a single word. The only true thing they say is the date, like in the newspaper Granma. I didn’t find what I was looking for, but there were some children’s stories with very beautiful illustrations, and thinking of my grandchildren, I selected a few.

I walked up to the cashier with my little booty in hand, and they do not want to accept payment in CUC. How is it possible if you live in this country with the two currencies and for the most necessary things you have to acquire them with that? The answer was a gesture with eyes staring at the ceiling.

I went down the ramp disappointed, very angry and went to the first support staff of the place to express my complaints, asking them if they would pass it along to their superiors.

I left that dirty and unkempt Pavilion, where the gardens are in danger of extinction as are the stairs leading to it, all carved by neglect, thinking how it is possible, in the heart of Vedado, in an area of hotels and tourism, to have that great venue in such a state of deterioration. So ended my only foray into the media-promoted Fair.

February 15 2012

Ingredients:

6 eggs

1 – 1/2 cup sugar

1 – 1/2 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 – 1/2 teaspoon salt

6 teaspoons of water

1 teaspoon vanilla

Procedure:

Turn the oven to 325 degrees F.

Lightly grease a Pyrex 13 x 9 x 2 inches or so.

Separate the egg whites from the yolks. Sift flour with baking powder and salt.

Beat egg whites until stiff, adding sugar gradually. Add the yolks one by one and then the dry ingredients alternately with water, folding it together. Pour into pan and bake about 40 minutes.

Soak the panetela with strawberry syrup and cover with the fruit jam or cherries. If you have it at your fingertips guava jam is also delicious. Place a decorative ribbon around the edges of it.

This can be a good present for gift giving to your partner and makes the table look appropriate to this day.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

February 13 2012

As much work we go through, this is how much they want us to rip out by the roots all dates, customs and traditions, we Cubans manage not to get carried away by so many obstacles and against all odds and we celebrate, in a country where there are good few things that deserve it.

But the fact remains that the to be alive, and even more to be in love, gives us enough energy to overcome so many difficulties, and each of us celebrates in our own way this and other dates.

The new businesses, especially restaurants, have breathed renewing air into the neighborhood, already a little saddened by the absence of the youth who have emigrated. The gleaming owners seem to have shaken off the old socialist vices, that so permeated and did much to undermine the State locales where to be served food: sending two to fill the empty seats at a table for four, sending one to complete a table, etc. etc. These depressing phrases can never be repeated, because the private restaurants have brought back the intimacy, quality and good taste that once took precedence in this business.

Today I passed by La Casa restaurant to investigate and I was delighted to see the special offers for Valentine’s Day: the tab of 25.00 CUC per person, includes welcome cocktail, appetizer of home-based salmon rolls stuffed with fruit and cream sour, croquettes, ceviche, fried taro, squid and shrimp with garlic and onions. The main course to choose from: turkey with apples and plums, thin fillets a la fine herbs, fish fillets with seafood sauce. All dishes come with white rice, black beans and salad, a glass of wine, a special dessert for lovers (those who aren’t shouldn’t eat it, just in case) and coffee. All this plus entertainment with live music.

It is true that these prices are only within reach of a few, but I’m sure there will be other offers for less healthy pockets. The point of all this is that there is a possibility, and especially the right to choose. Those who can not access these nice places, may choose to what the State has on offer, much improved, due to the challenge posed by the private sector. Also a special dinner at home would not be bad. Nothing extraordinary, with what we have at hand, the important thing is to set a nice table with flowers and candles and to share it with your loved one. Gentlemen, practice the use of customs and rights that were almost forgotten!

Make a celebration where it suits you, but above all be assures those who don’t want to won’t be forced to, just to fill an empty space. Most important, no doubt, is that you and your partner spend an afternoon or a night to remember and salute the representation of Saint Valentine of this wonderful feeling we all call love.

Why the propaganda for La Casa restaurant? Because they are my lifelong friends, because they are great impresarios, hardworking, sacrificing the privacy of their home, have eighteen years as business owners, and when most people were afraid, they threw themselves into the ring with a tremendous love and undertook the project.

Happy Saint Valentine’s Day!

February 12 2012

On Friday I got up very willing, had four errands to run and fortunately, they were all close to home.

The first was to go to a specialty pharmacy, where one could buy the prescribed medicine. Arriving there about 10.30 am, what was my surprise to see everyone in a white coat sitting on the curb of the sidewalk, conversing lazily, but some other people who seemed to be waiting. On seeing the doors of the establishment in question closed, I asked, addressing one of white-coated ones, what’s going on?

Very dismissive, barely glancing at me, he replied: The pharmacy will be closed at least one hour, because they just fumigate. Protesting quietly, knowing the futility of it, I moved on to the Bank of Credit, my next stop. Upon arriving and noting that there was no line, surprised, I asked the doorman. “It’s that there is no electricity throughout the area,” he said gently.

Determined to resolve some of the planned errands, I directed my steps to the offices of the courier Aerovaradero, near the area, to investigate a package sent from Miami, which has been lost for two months.

After queuing for nearly an hour, just for information, they sent me inside and made me wait another twenty minutes while I watched the employees in their coming and going, living it up and joking with each other and discussing their personal affairs. I left upset because they wouldn’t give me any details.

Then I dropped by the fruit and vegetable stand, which faces the Polyclinic, to buy a product that I needed. I waited more than thirty minutes for the employee’s arrival, whom I was informed had gone to lunch couple of hours ago.

The sign placed in front of the stand says it’s open to the public from 9 am. to 5 pm. Nowhere did it say anything about lunch time. I left there, you can imagine how.

Also, on my way home I saw the reason for the lack of electricity: the tree murderers, forgive me, the personal who chop them off, saw in hand, was destroying the entire grove on Tulipan street.

At the time those verses of the mournful stanzas of November 27 came to mind, and paraphrasing them I recited to myself: The corpses of trees which, one day, were the ornaments of my country.

I returned home as swiftly as I could. I swear, never have I felt so happy to get inside. That popular maxim was ratified once again: Getting off on the wrong foot.

February 7 2012

El Ciro con su sombrero

Ciro with his hat

Con Antonio Rodiles

Me with Antonio Rodiles

Con Gorki y Fernando, titlar de Mermelada

With Gorki Aguila and Fernando Damaso - blogger of "Marmalade"

El sexto y su nuevo look

El Sexto and his new look

Orlando Luis de juglar pixelero

Orlando Luis the Pixel Minstrel

Pais de pixeles,muestra de fotos seleccionadas

Country of Pixels, sample of selected photos

February 6 2012

I’s lovely blue wrapper bodes well for what’s inside, but it’s not so, nor is it about the title of that famous song. What concerns us today is a scam, that is spreading through all the establishments in the neighborhood, and perhaps others, and comes factory sealed: Turquino Gourmet coffee, a packet of 250 grams, price 3.60 CUC.

Several people have already been victims of this deception. The first two cases were two doctors at the 19th of April Polyclinic in Plaza: both received it as gifts from their patients, two separate packages of Turquino coffee, probably bought at the kiosk that sells in convertible pesos just in front of that health center.

Another three cases are my acquaintances in the neighborhood, who bought it in the establishments Di tú and La Mariposa, also found to be falsified. Inside is a strange mix, odorless, brownish, that looked nothing like ground coffee.

Even a friend brought me a gift package in this cute blue container, and seeing the expression on my face, she immediately explained: The coffee is the greatest, although the package says Turquino, what’s inside is Serrano, from the local seller, who explained when I bought it. She said that at the time she “resolved” it, the only packages they had in the factory were those of Turquino. Brew it with confidence because I tried it and it’s really good.

For half a century we hear the same rhetoric: the New Man, exemplary workers, Revolutionary integrity, the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution surveillance, respect the people, uncorrupted inspectors, and so forth.

Gentlemen, as long as there are two currencies and the state pay poverty wages, in a peso devalued twenty-four times, when the basic necessities must be purchased in a currency in which they don’t pay you your salary nor your retirement, as long as the verb “resolve” is synonymous with stealing, you can not stop talking about the crime.

Until the system does not change, we will continue singing the same song: Blue, tinted blue.

February 3 2012

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