December 2012


Hello, everyone!

I am writing from the French town of St. Louis to let you know that I arrived safely and that the reunion with my granddaughters could not have been better. The morning after my arrival was magnificent. That night, after everyone had gone to bed except my older granddaughter and me, I tried to send some messages by Gmail, but simply could not. Frustrated, I decided to go to bed. It was already after midnight and, since I did not want to wake anyone up, I did not turn on the lights. I did not know the house well, so in the dark I tried to find the hallway that led to the bedrooms. The stairs were confusing, but I managed to climb some twenty steps only to collide with some Chinese carvings adorning the landing. The racket was so loud that it woke everyone up. I kept going but immediately knew that I had somehow injured my right hand.

In trying to protect my head with my arm during the fall, I fractured my ulna. Therefore, not only did I wake everyone up, but they had to take me to the hospital emergency room at Mulhouse, where I had to have a surgical intervention.

The care at the hospital was wonderful. As fate would have it, I had to make use of an insurance policy for which I was never happy about paying perhaps because it gave me a sense of foreboding. Thanks to my granddaughter, Isabel, I was able to write these few lines with her serving as my secretary since it will not be possible for me to use my right hand for a while.

December 23 2012

If there is one thing that motivates Cubans and leads them to make fatal decisions it is the prospect of travel, whether it be to “escape” the island or simply to visit other countries, often without regard for the means or the cost.

I am one of those people who likes to do things in due course and without forcing an issue, especially when it involves getting on a plane or having surgery. In the last two instances I make all the arrangements and take all the precautions that I can, but I realize the final result is in God’s hands.

It has been seven years since I have been able to visit my sons and granddaughters. I last saw the two youngest when one two years old and the other was two months old. On that occasion acquiring the necessary travel documents was complicated in the extreme and the exit visa was six months late in arriving. I was going to an exhibition of my work at the City Hall in Elba, but when I got there, everyone was on vacation and I had to “swallow my losses.” Fortunately, thanks to some friends, I was able to sell enough to pay for my plane ticket.

Finally, after much effort my sons made arrangements for me to travel this year. They organized an exhibition of my work at a friend’s gallery. This is where it all started. Since I have been an “independent” artist and member of the ACAA (Cuban Association of Artisan Artists) for several years, I have the option of making travel arrangements through that organization, which I did this time as well as on previous occasions.

As often happens, things were delayed a bit, and there were some mistakes and setbacks, but finally everything was resolved. The last document to be processed was the application for an entry visa to France, my destination. This step turned out to be the most hassle-free. As always these “scuffles” were resolved, and I ended up feeling surprised and satisfied, but mentally exhausted.

The day I went to the French embassy to pick up my visa, some images came to mind that I translated into words and wrote down quickly on a paper napkin that I was carrying in my purse. As I did this, I thought about those individuals who packed their suitcases, thinking about a family reunion and speedy return – something I never managed to accomplish – but who decided to stay. No wonder we Cubans are looked upon as though we have the word “immigrant” tattooed across our foreheads.

I submit for your consideration, dear readers, these few lines, “begging your forgiveness,” especially from my friend, the blogger Ana Luisa Rubio, who is a real poet, and a good one, too! I am merely a teacher, artisan, blogger, tweeter and, as you can see here, a bit audacious.

“Visa sin Divisa”*

Happiness took a trip,
packing its bags
with its newest garments.

Do not forget
the golden sandals,
or the rose, or the nightingale,
or the thrush that was singing
perched atop the TV antenna.

Do not the forget any
of the many things that nourish me
because the visa has now come
to my old solitude.

Translator’s note: Literally, “visa without hard currency.” The writer employs an internal rhyme in the title.

December 17 2012

It was a beautiful day, rather warm. The sea perfectly calm, reflecting the blue of a cloudless sky.

We got up early, thinking to avoid the usual police cordon. We saw no signs of it. We assumed they were watching us, that they were all around, but on this occasion they didn’t make themselves visible.

The booth of Cuban Voices was dedicated to technology.

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The rudimentary and the modern lent a hand.

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We were satisfied with the work done.

There were very original performances, like that of El Sexto.

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Title: Resistance
Series: My Body
Author: Danilo Maldonado
Materials: Flesh and Bone
Dimensions: Variable

In the next post I’ll offer more details and photos.

It was a beautiful afternoon, tranquil, with good attendance and especially with the presence of many children. Estado de Sats occurred in a relaxed and enthusiastic atmosphere.

December 11 2012

I

The National Theatre of Cuba half-opened three of it numerous doors (always closed), with access to its main and older hall, the Avellaneda, to receive the large crowd that crowded together in the entrances and adjacent areas, up until the early hours, to finally attend the concert which was held under the auspices of the United Nations, the Federation of Cuban women, and other institutions:  NO TO VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN.

The crowd congregated there, the majority young people, started to worry and show its discontent, due to the delay and slowness with which, almost “drop by drop”, they permitted entry into the hall.

SAY

The social lack of discipline, expressed in pushes, nudges, and shouts, on the part of the young people, students and primarily South Americans, who together with the natives of Cuba, made their way without any type of consideration for others, trying to pass through the narrow gap left by the half-opened doors, now going against the very spirit of the concert.

Evidently, the administration of the cultural complex favored this situation, with its mistaken policy of “closed doors”, not to mention that the concert started 20 minutes later than the planned starting time.

After the presentation and performance of our singers Rocy and Feliu, as well as a brilliant performance by the instrumentalists Calzadilla and Garcia, piano and flutist respectively, an “intermission” of thirty minutes was allowed for preparing the stage and equipment, with a view to presenting the main figure of the show: Julieta Venegas, excellent singer, instrumentalist, and composer, greatly followed and admired by the international and Cuban public.

Juliet finally appears on stage before the delirious cheers and applause from an audience which admires her and is under her spell, with over fifteen songs, many of them sung in chorus by her fans. The concert, due to delays, lasted until midnight. Around eleven many young people were leaving, very reluctantly, due to transportation difficulties if they stayed any later.

NO to violence against women.

When I was there, enjoying the wonderful show, I could not help but think about the paradox that occurred that very day in which all of the foreign press echoed the brutal attack suffered by Berenice Hector Gonzalez, which almost cost the life of this fifteen-year-old, inflicted by another teenager of nineteen years, both of Cienfuegos.

But the greatest irony of all this is that the medical certificate, irresponsibly and cowardly issued by Gustavo Aldereguía Hospital doctors in the city of Cienfuegos, who treated the victim, said that this girl barely out of childhood had suffered “minor injuries” in the attack. And her  attacker is still free today.

Just as this news is coming to be known through the media and by those who, in one way or another, enjoy Internet services, is the same exact moment in which a concert is being held “against violence against women and girls”, under the apparent indifference of its sponsors.

December 4 2012

Workshop of Rebeca

From girlhood, the happiest time of year for me was Christmas.  Maybe because the general atmosphere that surrounded that date was happiness and relaxation.  All the adults became friendlier, maybe because they received their “bonuses,” which generally equaled another month’s salary, making them more tolerant of the smallest and youngest of the family and of the neighborhood, who back then were like an extension of this.

I always observed with curiosity, but also with the naiveté of a girl, that my aunts and my mother, days before the key dates — Christmas and the day of the Three Kings — would restore old toys and dolls, cleaning them and making them new clothes, so that everything was shiny.  I remember that one of my aunts made tin soldiers, which my grandfather later took charge of painting suitably.  All this process of pouring the melted tin in the molds fascinated me, and I watched with delight.  I never associated this busy workshop with anything but another chore, in a home where everyone was very hard-working.  It was not until my cousin Ignacito, the most mischievous of us, approached me in secret and told me:  “Cousin, the parents are the Kings.  If you want to prove it, the night before stay awake like me to see my father dressed as a King, placing the toys around the Christmas tree.”

After he made this confession to me, I realized that these restored dolls and toys had become the property of other children in the neighborhood from families with fewer resources than ours.

I adored my cousin, he was my hero, and tried to follow him in all his antics.  I joined him the night before the anticipated day.  Trying to fight sleep, finally Morpheus overcame me before I could see my fantasy shattered.  But now things would not be the same, and in later years, I did not feel like leaving water and straw for the camels.  Nevertheless, I do not know for what hidden reason, I continued believing and feeding that illusion for several more years.

I grew, and with my adolescence came the year fifty-nine. The first thing that I saw vanish was that pretty family that I had always so much enjoyed: my aunts and uncles and with them my cousins.  That was a strange pain that I had never before felt, as if something was broken inside of me.  Later my friends left.  No more walks to window shop, no more scent of fresh pine in the doorways of the stores, no more garlands or toys.  All that disappeared.  I never again heard those Christmas carols and songs, not in the streets or on the radio, much less on television: they were replaced by marches or anthems.

For more than fifty years I longed to again hear a Christmas carol or song.  This never happened.  Nevertheless, this year, with the new boom in the small businesses and the ingenuity of the self-employed, we have spent the whole summer, until today, listening to the improvised ice cream carts, announcing themselves with music of carols, which evidently (because everyone has the same) have been incorporated, possibly with the music that comes with the garlands, which are sold at the currency raising shops — as we call the hard currency stores.

This has become something like that “you did not want soup, but you drink three bowls.”  Nothing, that for more than half a century was a shortage, now has become an overdose.  The only signs that it’s Christmas are those little carts and the paladares, the private restaurants.

Translated by mlk

December 8 2012

I’m sad to see the streets of the city filled with trash and red earth. The doorways of many of the old mansions and residences in the Vedado neighborhood are converted into improvised stalls which, amid the grime and decay, display all kinds of merchandise from radio batteries to clothes and the worst taste and equal quality.

Beach umbrellas, nestled in the midst of what was once a driveway, with a makeshift and wobbly table, indicate places where food is sold. You see pedestrians passing by with a decorated cake in their hands, without any kind of protective covering. Others carry, as if it were a briefcase, pigs’ heads grabbed by an ear, or a mattress in a makeshift wheelbarrow dragging on the pavement.

You can see the same images in a country town and in the Havana neighborhoods, Vedado or Neuvo Vedado. The entire city, as our writer Leonardo Padura says, has been ruralized.

But the most painful of all this is to observe the numbers of young people, still school-aged or who should be learning a skilled trade, pushing wheelbarrows uphill loaded with produce. Today I saw with a certain sadness a young man, good-natured, with a face that reflected intelligence and pain,busily pushing his cart up 25th Street, loaded with fresh, clean and well-organized products, having to stop every three or four steps to gather his strength.

That young man probably did not continue studying on perceiving that, in this other way, he could earn more than a badly paid professional. I felt sorry for him and his parents. It is a very unfortunate state of affairs, but the majority of people who have chosen self-employment are the young whose talents are being lost and the country, in the future, will not be able to count on them.

If they weren’t young they wouldn’t have the physical strength to push these heavy carts, which recall those of the colonial era, when the country had not yet been developed and the Cuban nation was being born.

Of what value are those massive calls to study in the universities, after 1959, if the conditions for reversing the fruits of this education in factories, industries, etc. were not created for the development and benefit of the nation. This unfortunately form of commerce in the colonial style is what has proliferated in our battered country, taking us backwards in development.

December 1 2012

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