Translator: Espirituana

On my planet almost everything is difficult to obtain , but one of the most difficult is information – no small thing! It is said that information is power, so you can imagine how weak is our power.

The sale of short-wave radios is prohibited. They are not to be found in any home appliance store.  If you ask, they will just say that they have not come, as if talking of an unexpected visit.

I myself own one that a friend kindly gave me a few years ago. With it, I can find radio stations from other countries, but Radio Martí* – impossible!, at least in Havana. I know that some friends outside the capital manage to pick up the signal. Here, when you find it, it comes accompanied by the tac tac of the interference, which can leave you deaf or an idiot. I have tried hard to disregard the noise, but it’s impossible – the headache you get prevents it. I would like to be able to listen at least to the news, which ultimately is the most important thing. But it is precisely about that, about preventing you from hearing them, so that the truth broadcast by our media will prevail, being the only source of information.

But there is a way you can listen to Radio Martí when there is rain, thunder or lightning. Then, as soon as the storm starts I run to turn on my radio. Sure enough, I manage to hear it, but also under a stressful state of panic of being hit by a bolt of lightning that would be attracted by my dear little device’s waves. When its programming started some years ago , I could hear it perfectly on an old radio on which I would tune to Radio Rebelde*, and physically turning it from one side to the other I would finally manage to have its signal prevail, and it would accompany me in my workshop during my long work hours. So much so that I acquired an addiction to its programs, but like all my previous ones – Coca Cola and cherry bonbons – I was forced to give it up, with the inherent consequences and suffering that, for a while, accompany those who quit a bad habit. Now I am afraid that if I am able to overcome my fear, I will become addicted to thunder and lightning.

* Translator’s Note: Radio Martí is a US government-financed radio station broadcasting to Cuba. Radio Rebelde is  a Cuban government station.

Translated by: Espirituana

October 6 2011


Once more a phrase comes to mind, that famous one of Generalissimo Máximo Gómez, the Dominican who fought in our wars of independence, when he said in reference to us Cubans that we either didn’t get there or went too far.

The authorities on our planet seem to have gone overboard in the media regarding the honors paid to the recently deceased Julio Casas Regueiro*. I am not going to speak of his numerous military merits, as I am ignorant in that matter, and I do not question them.  I am only saying that, as I see it, there has been some exaggeration.

The death occurred last Friday, September 3rd, and today, Wednesday the 7th, the media are still covering the topic in depth. Even the newspaper Granma, which I don’t usually buy but today I did, as I was startled to see it all in black. The first thought that came to my mind was: Good heavens, it seems like my planet has also run out of red ink! The truth is that if our emotions keep rising, we may soon have an issue totally in black, like a by now obsolete sheet of carbon paper.

*Translator’s note: Julio Casas Regueiro was previously Deputy Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces in charge of Economic Activity. When Raul Castro succeeded Fidel Castro as head of state, he replaced Raul as Minister of Defense, the post he held at the time of his death, along with that of Vice-President of the Council of State.

Translated by: Espirituana

September 7 2011

On Wednesday, September 28th, the newspaper Granma published on its front page an editorial titled: New Injustice of the United States against the Five Heroes.

René González, one of the five Cuban spies jailed in the US, will be released this coming October 7th after having served and suffered in its totality the brutal and unjust sentence imposed on him, says the newspaper.

That is the first manipulation. What the editorial does not say is that the sentence includes the three years of supervised release, which logically must be served in the territory where the crime was committed. That would actually be the TOTALITY of the sentence.

It is logical that Judge Joan A. Lenard, of the Southern District of Florida, denied the motion filed by René, in which he requested his return to Cuba to join his wife and daughters.

The Judge’s decision in no way constitutes a deliberate additional reprisal, as the editorial states.

It is not moral in our country to speak of abusive treatment, solitary confinement and extended periods of psychological torture, precisely here, where prison sentences of up to twenty-five years have been imposed on people whose only crime has been to express their ideas publicly. Let us recall the so-called Black Spring, when seventy-five independent journalists were unjustly imprisoned after surprise raids of their residences in which typewriters, pens, papers and other personal effects were impounded as weapons. Neither should we forget the three adolescents who were executed after an expedited summary trial, for attempting to hijack a boat in the bay of Havana, without having inflicted any abuse or injury to its occupants.

To speak of inhuman treatment applied to these five heroes, when they have enjoyed hygienic cells, clean clothes, computers, visits from their families and the occasional famous actor, and have even played chess matches on the Internet with young people here on the island, seems like a mockery. I think we should stop throwing rocks at our neighbor, knowing, as we do, that our house is made of glass.

Translated by: Espirituana

September 29 2011

Waiting during recess.

The Registry Offices on my planet have become human concentrations or people’s saunas.  The long lines overflow to the outside of the building, most of them ending on the street, sidewalks and curbs, where those who aspire to be assisted hang around, waiting for the hoped-for moment. At lunch time, the office is closed and everyone must leave and wait outside. It should be noted that so far none of these sites has a computerized database.

None of them provides enough seats to accommodate everyone; insufficient ventilation is guaranteed. Of course, there is an exception that confirms the rule: the Central Havana Registry – perhaps the only one that works well, based on my personal experience.

I think I have visited almost all of them in the capital, including the one in Santiago de las Vegas, which like all of their species are located in houses and apartments, abandoned for several decades by their former owners and later by the State, which took possession of them without giving them any maintenance in all these years (including cleaning them).

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Here there were once seats

The people who work there do not enjoy appropriate working conditions and generally display a very bad temper. They do their work as if they were doing a great favor to the applicant, even making an effort so that it will not go unnoticed. This forces many users to arrive at the place bearing some small gift. If not, sit down and wait! In the end, whether they do their work well or badly, they will receive the same meager salary.

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Here is where there once was lighting and there was also an air conditioner.

After waiting for more than three hours to be helped, I was able to notice one of the possible causes of the delay: the long silicone nails, green and with small raised flowers, of the employee who took care of the applications. It was to be expected that she would take more than twenty minutes with each short four-line form to be filled out, in addition to the innumerable times that she would leave her work station for just a moment, to go deal with some small matter in another department, and not taking into account the friends who are allowed to go first, cutting into the line.

I was finally provided with a copy of my application on a recycled piece of paper, written exactly on the previously printed side, almost illegible, but even so I left the place relieved, and even happy to have been able to file my application.

Translated by: Espirituana

September 25 2011

Yesterday in a conversation among friends, fed up with such serious topics as the layoffs of more than one million workers and wanting to lighten up the conversation a little, we ended up telling anecdotes that, although sounding like jokes, are pure reality and make us laugh by being so absurd in themselves.

Look, Marta was telling me, I had to see it to believe it.  It turns out that on G Street, after they furiously decimated the busts and statues of the Cuban presidents from the republican era, not taking into account that they are part of our history, there was a statue that became famous, because when it was knocked down, the shoes remained on the pedestal, and for this reason it continues to draw many visitors. However, it’s not that statue that I want to talk about, but the one they made of Salvador Allende, with a colossal out-of-proportion raised arm with the hand pointing to the horizon (in this case the sea).

Well, my friend continued, someone noticed that the hand could be unscrewed and separated from the rest of the bust, and he removed it as a joke. It was lost for several days until one night it was rejoined with the rest of the sculpture. Then, occasionally someone would remove it again, and days later it would reappear as if by magic. For that reason they had to assign a guard to the bust.

Like with John Lennon’s!, said Wilfre. It’s a fact that now there is a person assigned to guard the Chilean president twenty-four hours a day. The same thing happens with the most famous of the Beatles. The caretaker keeps the eyeglasses in his pocket and puts them on the now popular bronze figure when someone wants to take his picture next to it.  Once the picture is taken, he puts them away again, until the next occasion.

One thing I am sure of, I told those who were present, is that neither of these two guards is going to be laid off with these new labor readjustments. And wouldn’t it be more economical, interrupted Verónica, if they put contact lenses on the subject statue?

Translated by: Espirituana

January 16 2011

The evening was cool. Since the early hours we were preparing for what would happen that afternoon. We were to pick up the poet and Regina in order to go together to the Dutch ambassador’s residence, where there would be a reception to present the Prince Claus award officially to Yoani Sánchez.

Upon arriving at the appointed place, we were able to observe that there was already a large group of bloggers on the corner of the residence, waiting for the hour stated on the invitation. A mysterious white pickup truck with darkened windows was parked right in front of the place. On the other corner, a cyclist on his motorcycle, with his helmet on and not moving, seemed to have turned into a sculpture. There was also a couple who pretended to be checking an address. None of them were moving.

Among the last to arrive were Coco Fariñas, Father José Conrado and Dagoberto Valdés. After exchanging greetings, the whole group of us headed for the site of the event. Fortunately no one bothered us. But, since we knew what it was all about, before we went in we directed a big smile towards the parked white pickup, as well as the couple that was not moving from its place and the motorcyclist.

The ceremony was truly moving. We were all there to support and accompany Yoani. She, with the wise and simple words that are her hallmark, gave thanks for the well-deserved award. With great applause, the award ceremony was closed. Then a varied and delicious buffet was served. We had a truly charming evening.

Translated by: Espirituana

January 8 2011

The underground parking at the Old Plaza when it was being torn down.

Again today, as I walked around Old Havana, taking care of problems and taking pictures, I was struck by the innumerable signs that have been put up showing before and after.

If these signs were meant only for people under forty and with little culture, I would understand. But they seem to have forgotten that there are still some of us who are over fifty years old and, furthermore, who were born in this city.

Since I was a little girl I often visited Old Havana, because my stepfather, who was the best of fathers to me, would frequently take me to visit his clients. I went up and down Obispo and O’Reilly Streets innumerable times. The former was full of elegant shops with exclusive gifts, tailor shops, jewelery stores ans large pharmacies, as well as banks, restaurants and cafeterias. All of those businesses had owners, so they were beautifully decorated, well-lit and clean. it was a pleasure to stroll around those streets. O’Reilly was more a street of big banks and stores. There was a store, Potín, where they had delicious sandwiches made with chicken and asparagus tips, as well as french pastries, chocolates and bonbons in beautiful gift boxes or sold by weight. Of that pleasant store all that remains is its name inscribed in the granite of the floor at the entrance of the miserable and dark rat-hole it has become. So, why isn’t in that place a before and after sign, as in many other businesses, which for the most part have disappeared and in whose place small parks have been improvised. It is true that the Old Plaza’s restoration is almost finished. The only thing missing is the beautiful art-nouveau hotel that, when the revolution triumphed, was converted (like almost all the other buildings around) into tenements and later into ruins, its beautiful front being miraculously saved.

There is a huge sign in the middle of the Plaza that reads Lest we forget and it shows some ruins and earthmoving. This dug-out earth was a big underground parking garage above which there was a park. In the seventies some smarty decided there was no need for it and it was torn down. Many years later, in its place they built a park with a big fountain. In the old days, all the buildings around the square had been stores and businesses very well-tended to by their owners.

Now, after many years, they have realized that there is a lack of parking space in the historic center. Why don’t they add, on the huge sign, in the area where the ruins are shown, a label with dates that says during.

Translated by Espirituana

For those who don’t know him, Pepito is the mischievous and smart boy whom we make responsible for all those things we would like but don’t dare to express, either because of modesty or cowardice. He has an equivalent in Spain, where he is called Jaimito, and I imagine each country has its own.

Today as I was returning from taking food to Margarita, a little abandoned dog that some of us neighbors care for, I was observing the silence in which some people walk. With their body bent, as if carrying the load of their sorrows. It is possible that they may also do it in order to look down, because the sidewalks and streets are full of potholes and gaps. I thought then that, long ago, when you went for a walk in the neighborhood, there were several people who would call out to you and ask you to come closer, and would tell you, in a low voice, the most recent of Pepito’s stories. I have confirmed that for some years now, one doesn’t hear any talk of this spoiled child, and if someone mentions him, the story is too old by now.

On my planet, the political joke has always been the thermometer with which the social temperature is measured. Through it, all the situations and opinions about the government and its leaders have been recreated. So it is very striking that there are no new stories about Pepito. Could it be that he also left? Maybe on a raft, because I doubt very much that Immigration would have granted the famous exit permit to this emblematic boy,

Translated by: Espirituana

It is very regrettable, but there it is, quite the fashion.

Many years ago, when the inaptly named Special Period* started, I commented to my friends, in the get-togethers we used to have at my house: the worst thing about all this material decline is that it carries within itself the germ of moral decline.

Many years have gone by, and the inhabitants of my planet, increasingly accustomed to pretending in public, have by now assimilated it as something natural.

Scarcely a week ago, by pure coincidence, because it is not my custom, I turned on the TV at noon. They were showing a program where, at that moment, they were interviewing a Cuban actress who was very famous in the fifties, and later, without any explanation, disappeared from the TV screen. I am referring to Conchita Brando. An actress of very high caliber – singer, comedienne, dramatic actress, very good comic actress – in each of her many facets.

I was very happy to see her and at the same time it saddened me. At her eighty-seven years, she looked animated, jovial, but sad, like someone suddenly extracted from the darkest ostracism. She had been kept away from television, without any explanation, during more than a quarter century.

Many years ago, at the wedding of a mutual friend’s daughter, I spent the whole evening talking with Conchita, and she told me, as if complaining, that she could not understand why no one would call her for work, that she felt very well and was able to play roles appropriate for her age. She was still a very vital and beautiful woman.

On the TV program I mentioned, there were some interviews on the street, where they would ask passers-by about this actress. It was very painful for me to see how people would lie with impunity. Young people in their twenties, who I am sure never heard of her, and men and women whose faces reflected falsehood, would say shamelessly: we love to see her work, she is very good at any role she plays, etc.

I felt indignant. Far from being flattering to her, to me it was a mockery and a lack of respect to play these comments knowing that they were false. And I felt sorry for these people who, without any shame, are willing to pretend publicly.

*Translator’s note: The years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the withdrawal of its economic support for Cuba, with its devastating effects on the economy, was baptized: “A Special Period in a Time of Peace.”

Translated by: Espirituana


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