Translator: BW


In these eight years that have passed since Raul Castro was designated by his brother as his successor, to take up the government of the country, this 17th of December, a date of only religious significance for the Cuban people until now, will go down in the history of our island as the most transcendent act of these last 50 years, by the announcement of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with the US.

The previous steps taken by him as president, such as the liberalization of travel, selling and buying homes and automobiles, establishing small private businesses and others, are nothing more than the return of usurped rights to citizens, by the same regime that will soon reach fifty-six years in power.

Among other fundamental factors that may have influenced the Cuban side, I consider: an economy in crisis without real hopes of improvement; little foreign investment; the exodus of young professionals and the wear and tear and aging of the adult population; among many others that are part of an endless list.  We can add to those the low price of petroleum, that has been arriving generously from Venezuela, and that could fail to turn up at any moment.

Two countries that have joined together to come to an understanding, that necessarily should continue to develop further, to get Cuba out of the economic and social abyss that it finds itself.

 Translated by: BW

19 December 2014

Among the films presented at the Festival of New Latin American Cinema, which began here on the December 4, is one entitled With You, Bread and Onions. In a recent interview on the television program Afternoon at Home, the director Juan Carlos Cremata commented that he had decided not to submit his film for judging because he does not believe in competitions like this. Nor does he believe there are good films and bad films, nor good and bad actors and directors.

If he does not believe in prizes or in what they represent, then why is he making movies? Why did he accept the “crappy housing” he was given in Nuevo Vedado which, according to “wagging tongues,” was a reward for his film Chamaco? I swear I almost had to be tied to my seat just to get through that dark, sordid tale. At least it was not a theater seat; fortunately I made the sacrifice at home, watching it from my armchair on a rented DVD.

With You, Bread and Onions, which I have not yet seen, is based on a play by Hector Quintero, though I doubt much can be expected of this film. The title recalls an old Cuban expression which gained popularity at a time when onions and bread cost only a few cents. It referred to a romance taking place in extreme poverty.

Saying this today would connote something extremely expensive, what with a pound of bread costing 10 CUP (Cuban pesos) and a half an onion at least 70 CUP, much more than the daily wage of the average worker.

So the meaning of the phrase has changed a lot, as have the social values lost during these last 54 years of survival.

 Translated by: BW

9 December 2014

To the astonishment and concern of patients, one day there appeared in the ceiling of a surgical recovery room in the old Charitable Clinic (now renamed the Miguel Enríquez Hospital by the government in honor of a Chilean doctor killed during the Pinochet dictatorship) a coiled, yellow animal or vegetable entity that was visibly growing and getting fatter. A few days later another one appeared and then another, exhausting the patience of those confined to the room.

After repeated complaints by patients and family members, two hospital employees finally arrived armed with a ladder, brushes and paint. In one fell swoop they knocked the three unidentified coiling objects from the ceiling, quickly applied a few strokes of paint to the area where the objects had appeared and then left.

No one later came to investigate the cause of these apparitions nor did anyone fumigate. Everything was simply covered up with paint.

Just a few years ago I was caring for a friend who had just had surgery and was in recovery in the Institute of Nephrology Surgical Hospital when I suddenly heard a commotion behind the drop ceiling. To my astonishment the regular patients told me with a striking calm and acceptance, “Don’t worry, ma’am. It’s just the cats chasing the rats!”

According to the United Nations, our country is among the top ten healthiest on the planet. This, as well as daily incidents of sanitation problems and lack of maintenance that affect our hospital facilities — the exception being those exclusively for top government leaders, their family members and foreign patients — demonstrate that both the visitors and the workers of this world-renowned institution, whether there as a guest or working permanently in our country, resign themselves to what the government tells them to do and don’t bother to look for anything more than that.

The patients from the same old hospital, are still waiting to be informed about the cause and origin of those unidentified coiled objects.

 Translated by: BW

1 December 2014

Upon arriving in this corner of France and reuniting with my family, whom I had not seen for seven years, I had the great pleasure of receiving a visit from the son of a very dear friend, whom I had first seen when he was born. Later on, as you might imagine, the subject of the far-off homeland came up, as well as the problems and frustrations that come with abandoning, almost against your will, the place where you were born. This is his case.

This Cuban is not resigned to remaining in forced exile. Life has played him some dirty tricks, so he is undocumented here. They cannot repatriate him, as he would like, because Cuban authorities repeatedly refuse him entry. The last time he was in Cuba, he remained in prison for four months for refusing to leave the country.

This man, who is still young, has two names and a head, so he never stops thinking about the misery to which his homeland is subjected. He has dedicated his free time — which unfortunately is all that he can do since he does not have papers and can work only sporadically — to investigating Cuban issues in-depth.

I was truly impressed when he showed me photos, articles and a wealth of details, to which we Cubans on the island do not have access, regarding the strange accident in which Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero were killed.

For this reason I am uploading the video that my friend provided for your consideration.

Site manager’s note: This video is not subtitled but here is a summary of the contents: The person speaking, a friend of Rebeca’s, is Israel Alejandro Cabezas González. He has put together the evidence he shows in the video, with regards to the death of Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero in a car crash. He believes that the photo of the car — driven by the Spaniard Carromero — was “fixed,” that is altered, and as a point of comparison he offers a photo that appeared in the Spanish press. He says that the official report of the crash was prepared to match the “fixed” photos.

Using Google maps he shows where the crash occurred, and the little collection of houses located 2 km before the crash. He believes that the “operation” was planned there and that the “supposed ambulances” were already waiting there.

The farmer speaking in he video says he was biking from the nearby town to the rice fields where he works, the entrance to which is directly across from the crash site. While he was biking a car passed him and he saw the dust cloud, based on which Alejandro estimates he’s about 1 km (half a mile) from the crash. By the time of the crash he was just meters away and arrived there in 2 to 3 minutes. He said people were already there taking each of the 4 men out of the car.

The person speaking in English is Jan Modig, the Swede who was in the car. He says, “The second memory I have is that I found myself in some sort of ambulance,” which means it wasn’t an ambulance… it was ‘sort of an ambulance’. Alejandro also says the foreigners were saying “why did you do this to us?” and he believes it was a huge premeditated operation to kill them.

He says they took “the Swede” and Carromero (the Spaniard who was driving) away separately and they didn’t know what happened to Oswaldo Paya. Paya was sitting where he received the direct impact from the crash, but that he served as a sort of ‘airbag’ for Harold Cepero who ultimately also died. Alejandro says that since they were being hit from behind everyone was wearing their seatbelts [the official version is that they were not] and that Harold was alive after the crash; he had a very small fracture of the femur.

When they arrived at the hospital — Alejandro goes on  to say — State Security kicked the regular doctors out of the hospital and brought in “G2″ military doctors, and that he hopes Cepero’s body was not cremated because he did not die of natural causes.

Alejandro’s personal version of what happened was that somebody who was G2 (State Security) infiltrated Carromero and Modig’s visit and told G2 where they were going. G2 followed them from Havana and also there were more G2 agents waiting for them in the collection of houses, where everything was prepared, including the ambulances and doctors.

Translated and video summary by Unstated and BW and Chabeli

January 4 2013

There is not much that is new in the new immigration law. Nonetheless, it has raised expectations among a wide swath of the population: retirees, homemakers, students who have not gotten past the ninth grade, the unemployed and the elderly, to cite a few.

In one paragraph, the much-publicized law mentions that medical technicians are also subject to the burden of having to wait three years from the date of a passport request or the extension of an existing passport without regard for the time they have been out of the workforce. This measure not only discourages the prospects for travel, but — and to me this is the greater danger — it also discourages the desire of people to continue with their studies. Once they have completed the ninth grade, many abandon the classroom for good.

This has been going on for many years with respect to university careers. Many quit before graduating, or simply never begin their studies in the hope of being able to travel someday. The same thing is happening is less specialized fields of study. This is leading and will continue to lead to an even greater lowering of the country’s educational and technical standards, which have already been significantly eroded.

Logically speaking, it remains to be seen whether or not those fortunate enough to be granted a long-awaited passport will be approved for a visa by the countries they hope to visit. In this way the Cuban government, like Pontius Pilate, can wash its hands of the matter, placing the blame on others as usual.

Ladies and gentlemen, make no mistake. This new emigration law seems more like a new, more-sophisticated Mariel, but one that is organized and controlled by the state.

 Translated by BW and Unstated

October 25 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

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

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