March 2012


According to our official narrators, the Antonio Maceo Plaza in Santiago de Cuba, like the streets of this city, was full of “believers and nonbelievers,” who attended the Mass and receiving of the Holy Father respectively. All the time Cuban radio and television was emphasizing how this was also true for the public figures, repeating over and over like a slogan: Believers and nonbelievers. Would not it be better to say “non-Catholics and Catholics” or “Catholics and people in general”?

I am sure that among the crowds gathered in the plaza, which arrived so “civic” and well-organized, has all ideologies, especially when dealing with a people who profess such diverse beliefs and religions: Catholic, Protestant, Christian, Buddhist, Santeros and others.

It is conceivable then, that during all these years Cuban plazas have been filled with crowds of believers in the Revolution and non-believers in it who, because they belong to workplaces or schools, they have been “motivated” to attend — disciplined and “civicly” — these concentrations. If it is valid for one, it is valid also for the other. At least I think so.

To speak of civicism in a country where the double standard is almost an institution, seems to me too inappropriate. This is inculcated in our children from the early age at which they start school: “My darling don’t go and tell the teacher what we talk about at home,” or “my child, don’t ever tell your little friends that you ate meat today.” Are people who repeatedly lie to survive and also reject their family and friends who are disaffected with the regime, so as not to be singled out, “civic”?

Is it, perhaps, civic to hang our national flat from windows, balconies and power lines on dates such as September 28, August 13, and others that have nothing to do with the significance of the flag, and to leave it in these places for days, exposed to the sun, the night, the rain and the wind. Is that “civicism”?

We must have a little more care and respect for the intelligence of others, to indiscriminately use certain and determined terms in media with such a wide reach as television, that so greatly influences the population. These should be used to educate, and to spread culture, never to confuse.

Photo AFP

March 28 2012

The visit of Benedict XVI has raised a number of disputes and derogatory comments by one portion of the population. In fact they have been seen in different neighborhoods of the city tearing down and scribbling over the posters alluding to the visit, something that did not happen with John Paul II, who created so many expectations of hope and made the Plaza vibrate with spontaneous shouts of freedom, that not even the presence of the always feared security agents infiltrated there, could silence.

I think all this reaction has been motivated by statements from the spokesman for the Vatican and the Catholic Church in our country, that the Pope thought of meeting with Fidel (who is no longer head of state) and not with the Ladies in White or any other representative of the emerging Cuban civil society, because of his busy schedule.

However, today these views began to change somewhat due to the recent remarks of His Holiness, during the course of his trip to Mexico, when he said that Communism has been shown to be a failure, and that only the Church could be capable of leading Cuba through non-traumatic changes. I am in complete agreement with this. No one wants for our people, tired and worn out by the slow and daily suffering of these past fifty-two years, a solution that involves bringing more grief and misery to those we already have.

I think the Church has the opportunity to play the role it has played so timidly, and once and for all to stand at the side of the suffering Cuban people. It is an opportunity that the highest hierarchy has to take on the role of Pastor of this scattered, hurt and skeptical flock, helping it to find and rescue the true path, which is none other than the deprivation of freedom for more than half a century .

March 25 2012

Hearing a journalist talking on the shortwave radio about the upcoming Pope’s presence in Cuba, he referred to it using the word “tour”. This gave me much to think about, because the church has taken very good care to emphasize that the visit of Benedict XVI to our country is a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Charity of Cobre. So far so good, but what has bothered the general population, and many believers like me in particular, is the fact that the spokesman for his Holiness has publicly expressed a desire to meet with Fidel Castro.

If he is really coming as a pilgrim to the Virgin, I do not understand what he needs to meet with Fidel Castro, who is no longer the president of this country, and according to what I’ve understood, has been excommunicated by the Catholic Church itself. I understand that the Pope, as the head of the Vatican, would meet with Raul, as they are both heads of state, but why with Fidel and not with the Ladies in White?

If the church is apolitical, as is so much proclaimed, why give a mass for the health and quick recovery of the man who has plunged this people into the most cruel darkness, and they never called for any masses in the church for Zapata Tamayo or Laura Pollan?

This visit seems far from that previous visit by John Paul II, in January 1998, which created so many expectations of hope and spontaneously mobilized the Cuban people, without previous calls in workplaces and schools. To the point where, when the Government realized the great number of people moved by the presence of the Pope, to not be outdone, they then organized public calls at the last minute, for a reception that, in fact, was already spontaneously assured by the population itself.

I remember, at that time, the infectious enthusiasm that moved us. I particularly enjoyed it a great deal, with the presence in our house in those days of Father Jose Conrad, with whom we went on foot and full of enthusiasm to the Plaza, to attend the mass. At that time I put on my balcony for the first time in over forty years, a flag: that of the Vatican, to the astonishment of my neighbors, for whom in spite of their constant “invitations” I had never put a Cuban flag, which I do have and keep with love, to put it back waving from my balcony when my country again is free.

This time, I say with all respect and sincerity, I will see the Mass on television. Not because I consider myself a bad devotee. I am a Catholic at heart, but I’m not blind in my faith. I hate to be manipulated by anyone or anything. I believe in God, I am a devotee of Our Lady of Charity, but a few years ago I stopped going to church. I go only on very specific occasions: a christening, a wedding. I did not like that call to which I referred at the beginning of this paper and therefore I decided to keep my distance. But I think that this visit can leave a positive balance: it all depends now on His Holiness Benedict XVI and the public attitude afterwards.

March 21 2012

A little over two years, I decided to write and express my opinions freely, I opened a weblog (blog), knowing, as I have stated on previous occasions, that this could bring me many difficulties. Then as now I accept it.

I had the alternative of doing it anonymously, or openly with my photo, my name and my two surnames. I decided on the latter option, because it seemed to me the more civic. This does not mean I’m criticizing in any way those who have taken the step under a pseudonym. It is well-known that there is a single employer in my country, and people who have opted for the latter see the need to do so, because their work is their only support. I, fortunately, am involved in the art world, and this has been my way of life for many years.

Everything moved forward with apparent tranquility, and so far no one had interfered in my life. As is public knowledge, the inhabitants of my planet don’t have Internet and we have to avail ourselves of subterfuge, and especially very good friends, to be able to put our posts on the net.

Everything was in apparent tranquility, and so far no one had interfered in my life. As is public knowledge, the people of my planet we do not have Internet and we have to avail ourselves of subterfuge and above all very good friends, in order to place our posts on the net.

On the site where usually sent them everything seemed normal, but when I checked my blog, I noted with regret that what I thought was published was not. At first glance I thought it might be a technical failure on my part, since I am no expert in these matters, but on starting to investigate I came to some conclusions, and realized that I hadn’t made any errors, but simply someone had been given the task of interfering in my publications.

I feel truly sorry for the people who lend themselves to this. History is passing them by and they’re not paying attention. What explanation can they some day give their children, for having been paid to undertake such petty things? They are wasting the opportunity to stand up as citizens and assume a civic posture, which would require, for them and for others, the inevitable right to speak up and express themselves freely, as befits any human being who respects himself.

Don’t worry, however much they try to harass and silence our voices, there is always a plan B, that we can undertake so that they can not be silenced.

I repeat my thanks to all those friends, from whatever part of the world, who don’t just read up but who also help us so that our opinions continue to emerge into the public light.

Spanish post
March 15 2012

With great exaltation and emotion I read the Open Letter by Antonio Rodiles published on the digital site Diario de Cuba.

Every word he wrote, every phrase, hit my heart like a closed fist. In all these sad years of Revolution I have never read a document so civic, so virile, so brave.

My congratulations and absolute solidarity with this compañero, who, without losing the sanity, education and civility that characterize him, has known how, with the greatest transparency, to unmask the regime that, for more than half a century, has kept our people in the cruelest isolation and sought to deprive us of knowledge.

March 14 2012

Cuban women were in the vanguard among the first in liberating themselves in Latin America

I was born into a matriarchy: All my family were teachers and pedagogues or, like my grandmother, a court clerk. My mom was very young when she graduated and began working immediately. First in rural schools and after accumulating experience, in the city. She was widowed when my sister and I were still girls. She remarried years later and divorced where her marriage had lost its reason for being. We always did fine thanks to her work and she was a wonderful mother and a very worthy woman.

In Cuba at that time women were working, studying, voting, earning college degrees, driving cars and even smoking. Some, like my aunt, were active in politics. This was never a reason to abandon their husbands and children. Everyone’s lives were governed by schedules that were respected. There were also many facilities that allowed women to work outside the home: food could be ordered, as could products from the drug store, by telephone and delivered to the home. The buses ran on time and frequently, there were laundries, dry cleaners and many other services that eased the chores. That was the normal course of development, which was abruptly interrupted in the year fifty-nine.

Now, we, their heirs, are “liberated” and what we have achieved it to make our lives a mathematical equation: They multiplied our challenges and tasks, they subtracted the pay, and even divided the family.

And so, on March 8 I want to congratulate all the emancipated and liberated women and above all those who, despite verything, have been able to maintain regular and close ties with their families.

March 10 2012

Last Saturday* in Estado de Sats the theme was cultural interchange between the island and the rest of the world, and specifically with the United States.

The panel was composed of: Miriam Celaya, Julio Ariaga, Charles Barclay, assistant chief of the United States Interest Section, and as moderator, Antonio Rodiles. Alexis Jardines was unable to attend but sent a video from abroad, that was screened before starting the debate.

As is usual in these convocations, the house had a good audience.

The most contentious issue was precisely why the cultural exchange produces so much more from our side over there, then from them to us. Especially if you consider that those who come through these exchanges are, in the vast majority, American intellectuals or artists, not Cuban-Americans as we would hope, because those are the ones who can tell us first hand about their experiences in exile.

Why can Silvio go to sing in the U.S. and Willy Chirino can’t come here and do it in the land of his birth. This topic was discussed very well by Alexis Jardines, who also expressed very sharply, “Without money you can’t be an (official) revolutionary or an opponent.

Notable among the comments from the public present was that of Dr. Jeovany Jimenez, a doctor from Artemisa and author of the blog Citizen Zero, whom the government barred from the practice of medicine, for being an opponent. Right now he is on a hunger strike in Guanajay Park, demanding they return to him the right to practice medicine. Also notable was the absence of “official people”– who were invited.

The cool morning passed peacefully, despite the refreshment that the host would have liked to give the people present was apparently “sabotaged” because the empanadas that he sent for to be enjoyed with the now classic tea, were acquired by “someone” who arrived to pick them up ahead of time [supposedly on behalf of Estado de Sats], and who even paid $100 more than their total cost to the lady that makes them.

At the end of the event, on leaving the residence, some of those attending were intercepted by security agents, who were prowling around the place, right there in the street, but there were no arrests.

*Translator’s note: Rebeca’s text says Friday, but in fact the event was on Saturday.

March 7 2012

Photo from CaféFuerte

I was touched by the news in the foreign press, recently, commenting on the welcome under the American Cuban Adjustment Act of the slugger Agustín Marquetti* who, already in his old age, chose the wisest decision: “What I have left to live for will be smiling,” like the lyrics of a famous bolero.

Marquetti, a glory of Cuban baseball, became almost anonymous after his retirement. To earn a living, because his retirement was barely enough to survive, he started to operate as a taxi (under the table) the Lada car he earned with his bat. He told me that on many occasions, when he was stopped by the police who intended to fine him, they would ask for his license and identity card. He would see the shame on the faces of the cops and, apologetically, they would ask for his autograph for son.

Sometimes he would work as a driver for a beloved priest from Santiago when he came to the capital, who would stay in a home. Those were the days before the visit of Pope John Paul II. Marquetti came every day very early to pick him up, to take him where he needed to go. Leaning out the balcony, I asked the former player to come up to share coffee with us. When he saw our breakfast table, laid with coffee and bread with butter (because of the special visit), could not contain his wonder and ask the following comment: “Noooo! I can’t remember when I last saw butter.”

This moved me, because that someone who was the glory of our sport would make that comment was really to feel shame. Then the poet Guillen came to mind and I said to myself: “The master should be ashamed!”

So when I saw the news on the net, I could not but feel happy for him, his children, who finally are at his side, for a reunion with all his former teammates from the Industriales, and because our great baseball player was finally to lead a worthy life, enjoying the honors he deserves, the comfort and opportunities that were denied to him here. Congratulations friend, and success in your new venture! It is never too late if the happiness is good!

*Translator’s note: Marquetti, now 65, went to Florida to visit his son in 2010 and recently decided to stay there.  Under the Cuban Adjustment Act he was allowed to establish permanent residence. He has opened the Miami Sharks baseball academy for children in Miami.

March 2 2012

Yes, that is how they have me, and I suppose many more, the campaign against the Aedes Aegipti mosquito.  Any day at any hour they can ring insistently at your door to see if someone is home. Fortunately I live up high.

It is almost mandatory to open the doors of your home to strangers, which most likely will not wear the distinctive gray uniform of Public Health, you may see each of them only once. They come without an appointment or notice and burst in homes with their enormous and outdated oil-burning appliances, with specific guidelines to close doors and windows, to have a toxic and unbearable smoke, that so as not to leave your house alone with a stranger, you also breathe, like them, who aren’t protected with masks either. They tell you to leave your house for an hour, so that the fumigation smoke can take effect.

All this in addition to the drawbacks already mentioned, should be added that the oil they use drips all over the walls, furniture and floors, and many elderly have slipped and injured themselves as a result. There are people who have burned occasional furniture, with the flames that the aforementioned apparatus throws out behind. And you can never make a claim for damages, as well as theft, which from occasional carelessness sometimes occurs.

The fumigation campaign has been going on for more than thirty years. I ask myself: if it was effective they should have exterminated this impertinent mosquito by now. At least the environmentalists anywhere in the world protest this! Still, there continue to be dengue cases reported in the clinics in almost all neighborhoods.

Television, in its continuing campaign is blaming the people for the existence of different foci of the epidemic. The ads only show the domestic side of the problem, recommending: crushing eggshells, punching holes in soda and beer cans, covering water tanks and so on. They never blame the state for leaks in the streets, inefficient garbage collection, sewage accumulation in the potholes and the lack of widespread environmental hygiene.

After all this and more, do you think it’s fair that they come to bother you at any time, breaking into your private space to fill your home with smoke?

We continue the same old thing over and over, and on top of that we ask ourselves why things don’t get better. If this were not so ridiculous it could be an amusing quote from the book Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson.

February 29 2012

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