Rebeca Monzo, 25 July 2015 — The majority of Cuban emigrants, those of the last three decades, seem to leave with the remains of their umbilical cords hanging from their bodies.

They barely arrive, be it as wet foots or dry, by raft or by plane, and just start settling in, but that they start asking their families who stayed on the island for medicines, Vita Nova tomato sauce, dry wine and other silly things. They don’t seem to realize they’ve arrived in another country, which they themselves chose to start a new life, and they try to continue depending on their families and friends with scant resources, those they left behind.

Nor have they given any thought to the first emigrants from the sixties and seventies, who were forced to put their whole lives into one suitcase, and start from zero to open the way, alone, without any contact with those they left behind, an era when it was absolutely prohibited to have any kind of contact with those who decided to live in a country where they spoke another language.

Emigrants of today seem to forget that medicine is scarce here and, in addition, if you can find it you have to pay in CUC on the black market where it’s available, or acquire it for hard currency in the few pharmacies that exist in the city at astronomical prices. I think it would be very convenient for everyone to assume with responsibility and bravey the decisions made, and to detach themselves from the remains of this appendage to which they are still attached, that limits their growth.

Rebeca Monzo, 27 July 2015 — One of the most annoying problems in our country, as far as services and treatment of the public is concerned, is the humiliation to which we are subjected on a daily basis. This is especially true for women. We are required to leave our handbags, with all our personal belongings inside, in bins set aside for this purpose at the entrances of every store and commercial establishment, even though many of them have no security. This has led to instances of theft, for which the victims receive no compensation.

A few days ago a friend of mine went into a shoe department — located on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street in Miramar — that was practically outside the shopping complex to which it belonged. Under the circumstances and keeping in mind that she was only looking for footwear, she went inside with her handbag. As soon as an employee noticed this, she told my friend she must leave and deposit the handbag in a bin. My friend replied that she did not see why this was necessary since there was only one of each brand and model number of shoe on display and that she, as anyone could see, had two legs and two feet. Given the employee’s insistence, my friend asked to speak to the manager of the department to explain the situation.

The manager came over and my friend tried to reason with him, offering the same rationale she had given to the employee. He replied with a logic very “a la socialista” that it was his understanding that someone could steal a shoe — one of a certain color, size and model number — then go to another store that carried the same shoe, also on display, with exactly the same features but for the other foot, thus completing the pair. Something completely implausible!

My friend stood there stunned by this explanation and decided to leave the store immediately lest she contract the idiocy virus so common in these places. But before doing so, she let it be known to both the employee and her boss that she, like many others, were fully aware that the majority of such thefts were, unfortunately, inside jobs.

In the old days, during the capitalist period, there was a saying that became famous precisely because it was so sensible: “The client is always right.” Now under socialism the customer is unfortunately treated like a potential criminal.

Don’t say you didn’t hear me!

Don’t say you didn’t see me!

Here I am!

Tamal-ize yourself!

The sight of this sexagenarian pushing his cart through this lovely neighborhood so full of hills — from Calzada de Boyeros to 23rd Street, his head covered with a big balsa hat to protect himself from the harshness of our scorching sun — aroused my admiration.

On one occasion I noticed he was particularly happy and asked him why. With a smile on his face he replied, “My tamales have finally gone international!”

“A Cuban from Miami bought fifty tamales from me (one for each star in the American flag) to freeze and take back with him,” he explained.

“You are going to be famous, Pepe, though you are already the best in Nuevo Vedado,” I said.

’I am the only one in Nuevo Vedado,” he replied.

Early Saturday I found out through a neighbor that Pepe had just died of a heart attack.

Never more will we hear his cheerful cries. He was a fixture of one of those urban street scenes so evocative of a bygone era, which fills both those of us from here and those of us from there with nostalgia

Rebeca Monzo, 13 July 2015

Rebeca Monzo, 7 July 2015 — The conversations and approaches plagued by enormous pauses with “our neighbor across the street” continue. As far as all Cubans, or rather the people, know this started on a very significant date on our religious calendar, December 17 of last year, Saint Lazarus Day, but I believe, and I don’t think I’m mistaken, in reality it began long before.

The Cuban government has not been at all moderate in its internal language for us and its acolytes, nor in the exaggerated requests for compensation from the United States government, in exchange for practically nothing in return. And who, if not the island’s government itself, is going to compensate the people of Cuba for those 56 years of expropriations, interventions, occupations of buildings, the deterioration of the country and family separations, without even counting the number of dead lying in the depths of the Florida Straits for trying to escape the island in precarious craft, during almost five decades of a prohibition on emigration by safe means?

While the government decided to turn the page on certain questions, and leave off using some of the aggressive language against the United States in the media, slowness will continue to mark the official path, without considering that the truth is huge and in a hurry, it is the Cuban people who have endured hardships, scarcities of every kind and beatings, like those that continue to fall on the peaceful Cuban opposition, the most recent example of these practices being last Sunday when Antonio Rodiles headed alone and quietly to Santa Rita Church in Miramar to join with the Ladies in White and to offer them his moral support.

Rebeca Monzo, 27 June 2015 — Strolling through the streets of Havana, it is odd to see the profusion of American symbols on clothing, flags, decals, handbags and other items.

While walking in the vicinity of Yara cinema in Vedado recently, I happened to notice with some amazement a cart selling slushies. Such carts are not allowed to park for more than a minute. They must be in constant motion or risk getting a fine, a stupid rule since it requires customers to run along behind the vendor. At any rate, this same cart was sporting two American flags of considerable size on both its front sides. Too bad I did not have a camera to capture the image.

Young people of both sexes often wear shirts, tights and shorts with the design of this flag. Even infants are dressed in baby clothes decorated with the Stars and Stripes, which incidentally, is a rather attractive design.

Our media outlets never tire of highlighting news stories by criticizing and even misinforming the Cuban people about events in the U.S., which are often similar to events happening in our own backyard but which are never discussed. To think of all the “incitement of hatred” over the years against this country, with which the government now wants to reestablish relations because it finds itself “with a noose around its neck” economically.

The only thing all this negative propaganda has managed to achieve is a result opposite of what was intended, as more and more people of all ages — especially young people — prefer to risk their lives fleeing the country by crossing the Florida Straits in flimsy boats.

Similarly, an ever-growing number of Cuban doctors now use medical missions in other countries as a springboard to the United States. The children and relatives of senior leaders are also following this path, though they make the journey to the same destination by plane, demonstrating once again that the forbidden never loses its allure.

From: Vera Pravdova [mailto:verap@enet.cu]

Sent: Thursday, June 18, 2015, 4:56 p.m.

To: abetancourt@cubarte.cult.cu

Re: A very good article! (forwarded Tuesday night)

Hello friends:

I’m forwarding you these two articles (Alpizar, Ravsberg) with the intention of distributing them to as many people as possible, since we should immediately demand the enforcement of laws protecting plants and animals, the urgent creation of new laws in this area, and the imposition of severe punishments on all violators.

Vera

Colleagues, can anyone disagree with the ideas expressed in this article? Unfortunately, there are no laws in our country protecting animals from abuse, as there are in other countries.

Consider why:

In the countries where such laws exist there are parliaments. Parliaments legislate, making the laws. And parliaments are composed of deputies.

Those deputies were chosen in elections and have commitments to those who elected them. These laws exist because the deputies proposed and approved them, and thus the officials are obligated to abide by them. These laws exist because the deputies in those countries know that they must fulfill their commitments to the voters.

Having commitments to voters does not mean that they are only accountable for their promises. The elected members, above all, have to respond to the concerns and demands of the voters, even in an electoral system such as ours, where there are no pre-election promises.

Because they were elected and have commitments to their constituents, those deputies don’t wait around until some minister or official proposes a law to approve it, as happens in our system (I say “approve” speaking of us, because I don’t remember any case where our deputies have rejected a proposal by the government, as does happen in other countries).

Those deputies initiate legislation, as delegated to them by the Constitution, the supreme law of a nation, which no official, minister, or even president can ignore, upon pain of dismissal.

Our Constitution also gives to the deputies, as representatives of the people, the legislative initiative. But I have not the slightest recollection of any law that arose at the initiative of our deputies.

(But I do have infinite memories of officials at all levels violating the Constitution, without any deputy, who is sworn to defend it, ever confronting them. But I digress.)

It is simply time for us to demand that Cuban deputies exercise the legislative initiative in the National Assembly. They are required to listen to us and comply with our mandate. Just as we have the right not to vote for them if they do not carry out that for which they were elected, including initiating laws.

We have no reason to follow this or that official around trying in vain to get his attention. The official doesn’t answer to us, but to his boss. The deputy, however, does answer to us; we are the ones who elected him. We should demand this of him (which we don’t).

To begin with, we should get in touch with our deputies, who were elected by our neighborhoods, and demand that they satisfy that for which they were elected, or we will withdraw our support. It is all too common in the city for us not to know who our deputies are or how to contact them directly: they are just three names that we’ve been told to vote for (because they are all worthy).

But we, the members of UNEAC (National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba), have deputies that we know, who belong to the organization, our colleagues, who represent the intellectual sector in the National Assembly.

So in all of our meetings let us demand that these deputies fulfill what they were elected for. And let us be clear: If you do not represent us you have no reason to stand for election on our behalf.

Let us demand that the deputies who represent UNEAC propose at the next session of the National Assembly not merely the law on protection of animals that is so justly sought.

Let us also demand that they submit to the next Assembly the Film Act, the Consumer Protection Act, the amendment to the Law on Associations  . . . and many other legal instruments that our country needs urgently to create or revise.

And that they meet with us (when I say us I don’t mean only the National Council of UNEAC) before going to the National Assembly, to take note of our ideas, as people who work and think like we do, and take to the Assembly our concerns and proposals about the short and long-term future of our country.

Including, of course, the concern that many have expressed about the idea of filling Cuba with golf courses, a threat to our ecology and, in the not very long term, to our economy.

Other members of other sectors of the population should do the same with the deputies these agencies put forward for election, but that’s their business. We at UNEAC are obligated and able to work on legislative initiatives for the deputies we elect to present on behalf of our industry. Or to not re-elect them.

For now, why don’t we make a list of the current deputies put forward by UNEAC?

Let’s start there and write (everyone!) to their electronic addresses, sending our proposals, so no one can say they were unaware of them.

Let’s also push for the deputies of the arts sector to meet with us to talk face-to-face about the country’s problems.

Undoubtedly some of you smiled and thought that what I have written is pure idealism, but … does anyone have a better idea? Let’s try this. Demand that our deputies submit our ideas to the National Assembly. These are not parochial ideas, they relate to everyone.

Cordially,

Alpízar

18 June 2015

Rebeca Monzo, 22 May 2015 — A little over a year ago our friends Reinaldo and Yoani came for a visit to tell us that, finally, the long-cherished dream of starting an independent newspaper was about to be realized and to ask us if we would be interested in contributing articles.

Why such an unusual name for a newspaper? I’ll tell you: The number fourteen refers to the floor on which they live, Y stands for Yoani, who came up with the idea, and medio is a reference to communication media.*

We, along with others, enthusiastically began making our modest contribution and the dream quickly came true. On May 21, 2014 the first issue of the digital daily 14ymedio was published.

Yesterday, we all gathered at the newspaper’s headquarters: the founders, the staff and the contributors. We had a delightful evening of conversations and discussions in which the main course consisted of new suggestions and ideas to further improve 14ymedio.com.

HAPPY FIRST ANNIVERSARY!

*Translator’s note: The title is a play on words. In Spanish, 14 y medio literally means fourteen and a half. The word medio can mean either half of something or medium, as in the medium of television.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.