Translator: BW

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

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

For all of the obstacles that they have imposed on us in all these years, Cubans have done the impossible to preserve the most beloved family traditions: Christmas Eve.

Every 24th of December, the Cuban family or what remains of it, meets around a table, to carry out the traditional dinner, it doesn’t matter what their wealth, the essential thing is spending the night together, and starting early to participate in all the preparations, because that’s how our grandparents did it, later our parents and now it’s our turn to pass the tradition on to our children.

I remember as a little girl that marvelous day when they gave the youngest a little more freedom, because they were toiling in the preparations of that night, the older folks looked the other way in the face of our mischief.

Another of the images that comes to my mind was the going and coming of neighbors, carrying between two enormous grills, a little pig, recently roasted at the bakery.  Others, like us, did it in the house’s yard, digging a hold in the ground and piercing the unhappy pig with a spike, perhaps made with a slice of orange.

One of the things that I liked to participate in the most, and that they allowed me to do, was setting the table. I remember that I loved to make a centerpiece of poinsettias freshly cut from the garden, pity it only lasted a few hours, but they were enough to decorate our table.

The moment of truth arrived, my grandmother, when she convened the family dinner, only said “Everyone Come”, to the table and to the bed, she only called once.

I don’t know nowadays, what I liked more, if it was the pig, with the skin and the tail well toasted, or those sleeping black beans, perhaps the turrones — nougats — the one from egg yolk above all, the sweet dates, the nuts, whose shells were used to make turtles like my mother taught me, or finally, that three colored frozen cake with hard chocolate in the top, that my uncle, in his habitual exasperation tried to cut, hitting it with everything from an ax to a utility knife, which made the table shake and the plates and silverware jump. Anyway, so many pleasant memories, which today we do more simply, it always bring to mind those delicious pictures and the fond memories of faces, almost blurred by time, of those family and dear friends, who always accompanied us and whom we will never forget.

That is why, even though we are already so few, that my children and grandchildren are not with me, that many of our friends are gone, some opposite and others further, again, for the love and respect those traditions that so lovingly they taught me, to make my dinner with what I have, with what I find, but I welcome all, all!

Translated by: BW

December 23 2011

Patchwork, Rebeca

Because of the 492nd Anniversary of the Villa of Saint Christopher of Havana, between the many television programs dedicated to this celebration, Hurón Azul, of the UNEAC (Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba), presented some interviews with renowned architects and artists, where they poured out their opinions about the deteriorating image of the city, the beautiful lady coming to less.

Some of the views expressed that, effectively, at present, due to an uncontrolled profusion of little ground-floor businesses, the cast majority of them improvised, depressing small shops (a derogatory term to describe them), are not due only to the bad taste and scanty resources of the owners, but more to the total absence of control and lack of demand that they at least present a small project plan to the managers in charge of granting the licenses or permits.

Undoubtedly, this could also be caused, by the urgency of the government in offering an escape route for the population, before the massive layoffs and their growing disapproval and the hopelessness, accentuating the impossibility of the State’s ability to offer them other work alternatives.

The urgent need of the citizens to cover the basic necessities has made these stalls proliferate in an uncontrolled manner, using doorways, stair landings, gardens and even sidewalks (mostly common-use areas), in those that unfortunately abound in bad taste and precariousness, consequently contributing to making things more ugly in the already abandoned city that formerly was considered one of the most beautiful in the world, and that survives miraculously, going through half a century of indolence and abandonment, without the Cuban authorities having done the least thing to preserve this beautiful heritage inherited by the district and the republic, that is the city of Havana.

Its decadence started very early, back in the 1970s, when they closed up and plunged into total abandonment premises that belonged to local shops, bookstores, stores, and department stores, whose owners went into exile, or else those of the people who stayed were confiscated, while some were subsequently handed over by the State for housing without the necessities nor demands that the future owners undertake a minimum of effort to make them habitable. Thus they urgently tried to solve a problem that years later led to a larger one.

Now, in this new anniversary of the city, they have sounded the warning once again, before the growing fear that they are continuing to lose the architectural value that made Havana so famous.

Translated by: BW 

November 22 2011

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