March 2010

This was said many years ago, when I was a child. We were proud of being the world’s sugar bowl. All this is now ancient history. There it lay, preserved along with the memory of a Republic, which if it was not perfect, at least we could be proud of it, because it was still very young, and it was located in a very good place in our hemisphere. True, some things needed to be changed, and others improved, but we had one of the most advanced constitutions of the time, so much so that ours was even a model for the UN charter.

Sadly, today in our country the sugar consumed by the population has been rationed for many years. We lost our factories, and the few that are still functioning fail to produce enough to meet the scant international commitments. Many mills were demolished and others serve as museums, where they show foreigners how sugar was made. Something like Greece displaying the ruins of the Parthenon.

But we are daring, so much so that we have now sent Cuban sugar technicians, with their tremendous experience, to advise Haiti on its harvest. I wonder where these specialists were as our industry languished almost to death. Will they be able to accomplish in that country what they were unable to do in our own land? That is a question that the Haitians will be able to respond to only with the passage of time; we already suspect the answer.

Translated by: Tomás A.


This morning, on the shortwave radio, I heard the news of the march that was called by the very Cuban Gloria Estefan in support of the Ladies in White, on the famous Calle Ocho. By all accounts it was a success. Cubans from here and from there giving their support and coalescing around one ideal: freedom for Cuba.

I would very much like to know all or some of the names of the artists who participated in that march, and I would be very pleased to compare them to those who have come here to sing in the Plaza of the Revolution, thinking that they are supporting us.

Everything that is done to unite our people and its diaspora is always welcome. We Cubans are one, wherever we are. Personally, whenever I hear of the triumph of a compatriot, wherever they are, I am filled with pride.

I want to thank Gloria and all those who have not forgotten those of us on this side of the pond enduring, fighting, or simply waiting. For you and for those Cubans who read my words, and who are scattered in the farthest corners of the world, a fraternal embrace.

Translated by: Tomás A.

“The individual himself is the guardian and governor of his own interests, his physical and moral health; society should not interfere in human behavior that does no harm to other members of society. The consequences of society’s intervention in the life of the individual are disastrous; and even more disastrous when such intervention is directed at uniformity, destroying individuality, which is one of the elements of its present and future well-being. Man must choose the habits best suited to his character, his tastes, his opinions, and not mold himself completely to custom, carried along by the multitude.”

Later it continues:

“The press is rightly regarded as the material representation of progress.  Freedom of the press is a means of obtaining civil and political liberties, because instructing the masses lifts the thick veil of ignorance, and makes known to people their rights which they can demand.”

Excerpts from a lecture read by Ignacio Agramante Anthe Saturday session held on February 22, 1862 (University of Havana Archive, Sabatinales Academy, 42, File 8).

Draw your own conclusions.

So began the lyrics of a very nice song that was popular in our country in the forties, by a Spanish group whose name escapes me now. I was a child then and I loved listening to the absurdity of the lyrics. It told of a Baroness who left her palace to go on vacation, leaving her steward in charge of the property. Every so often they communicated by phone and he told her what had gone on in the palace.

These days my country reminds me of that song. Events are triggered one after another, and the long list of calamities seems endless, but according to the radio, TV, and the print press, the only places there are problems are beyond our borders. The only thing that has made news is the earthquake measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale, in the east, particularly in Santiago de Cuba, where people unaccustomed to these natural events fled their homes in fear, to occupy the parks and green areas. But it seems that it’s the only thing that deserves media coverage. I heard of a lady who upon hearing the news cried, “Noooooo! At last something is moving in Cuba.”

No, this time it is not the singer who defined an era in the forties and fifties, enchanting all of Paris, New York and other great cities with her performances, of whom I was and am a loyal fan.

Nor is it that in Cuba there is snow, but what has happened is that, internationally, the protest against the cruel death of Zapata has turned into a giant snowball, getting ever larger, gathering unusual force, and growing more and more every day.

To sully the name of an absent person, without the slightest respect or consideration, is a filthy thing that stains not the object of such aggression, but rather the person who attempts the attack. “He who does not have the courage to sacrifice himself,” said the Apostle, “should at least have the decency to remain quiet before those whom they slaughter.”

It is time now for the enraged people, to end once and for all, these spontaneous acts of repudiation and take a civic posture in these situations, and leave in peace these ladies who quietly, dressed in white, and armed only with a gladiola, walk in silence through the streets of our cities, asking for the release of their loved ones who are imprisoned for disagreeing with the regime.

Some writers and artists who move in political circles, and the politicians themselves, have a small tendency to confuse a people, a nation, a society, with its leaders. These individuals, when they say Cuba, are almost never referring to those of us who live here, enduring and fighting day-to-day, trying on our own, to resolve the greatest variety of problems, from getting to and from work, putting food on our tables, finding an extra bread roll for our children so they can have a snack at school, even searching the neighborhood high and low for a roll of toilet paper.

Recently I read the comments of a famous Latin American writer, whom I shall not name out of respect, more than anything, for his age, where he said that people look at Cuba through a magnifying glass and so all its problems are magnified. In my humble opinion, I believe the opposite, that people look at Cuba through the reverse side of the magnifying glass, with the result that all its problems seem distant and intangible.

Obviously, committed to a party or an ideology, they seem to forget that in a healthy nation all parties, ideologies and creeds coexist and that absolutely everyone enjoys rights and responsibilities, without discrimination or exclusion based on race, creed or political participation. It seems to me, with all due respect, that the person who is isn’t paying attention is the author of these statements.

What follows that I am going to tell you is not a figment of someone’s imagination, nor a tale from Pepito, simply it is what happened to my cousin last week when she tried to get bus tickets for a trip to the interior of the country. I transcribe it her exactly as she told it to me.

It turns out that on Monday of last week I went to La Coubre ticket office here in Old Havana to get TWO tickets from my usual trip to the town in the interior where my family lives. There they have a system where you come in the morning, wait in your respective line, ask for the tickets, you leave a card and you come back in the afternoon, collect the tickets, pay and off you go…

I went through those steps but I left my card from CUJAE (City University “José Antonio Echeverría”) because I didn’t want to leave my identity card. The card from CUJAE is a magnetic card with all the data: the name of the institution, and under a bar code my name and my identity card number.

Imagine my surprise when I received the tickets in the afternoon they both had been made out in the name of José Antonio Echeverría.

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