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.

As I am better with the needle and the brush than with words, today I would like, in my blog, to give a gift to all the women who read me as well as to those who don’t know I exist. Above all, to the Haitian and Chilean women who in these moments must redouble their efforts to take care of their children and their homes, or simply what is left of them. And, most especially to this Dominican mother who, after taking care of her baby, will give the milk from her breasts to those infants in Haiti left without their mothers.

Habanera , patch-work, by Rebeca

View of Calzada and C

Surely almost all my readers have eaten boiled eggs sometime in their life. This now, is not a new recipe. It is simply that when a good rain falls here, you have to get out the boats.

Younger people comment that the Vedado is always flooded but that’s not true. Those who say that are younger than fifty years old.

Vedado is a neighborhood very well laid out architecturally, its design largely follows the French architect Forrestier. It has always been one of the most admired residential areas for its layout and its magnificent buildings. Even today, tourists admire its beauty. What happens is that the abandonment and neglect of almost half a century have made the sewer system, certainly never renewed, partially obstructed due to construction of a large hotel adjacent to the Riviera for which they did not use appropriate building materials. I refer primarily to the aggregates, which were washed away by rain. The construction of the hotel took years, and sediment was deposited on the walls of the sewers. The same thing happened with the small apartments, built in the vicinity.

Can you imagine a capitalist making a big investment in a high-rise apartment whose garages and surrounding streets were flooded? Impossible, right? Nobody would buy a single apartment. This argument is so simple that it shuts up anyone who says that Vedado was always flooded.

This post wasn’t sent on the 25th due to technical and other difficulties. I apologise.

When days dawn like on this Feb. 24th, cloudy, threatening rain, the sun barely peeking through, everyone usually says the day is sad. At least that is what I’ve always heard since I’ve had awareness. But today there are several reasons to support it.

The early news, on shortwave, was of the death of Tamayo, a prisoner of conscience, after nearly ninety days on hunger strike, and that the Cuban authorities had left him to die, and that only yesterday, because of the imminence of death, was he taken to hospital where his mother barely managed to see him alive. The tremulous voice of this broken woman on the airwaves, I shuddered: Her son was cruelly neglected and left to die serving an unjust sentence of 25 years for contempt. Inconceivable that in the 21st century there are such offenses to justify the imprisonment of a human being, young and full of life, and condemn him to this slow death only to defend his ideas. What they are going to say of this, the Church, the European Parliament, the OEA, this myriad of institutions and leaders, who in cases less dramatic, but foreign to this island, demonstrate without delay. The least the family and friends of this young man, who just lost his life languishing in Cuban jails in subhuman conditions, can expect is that those voices rise up, and denounce to the world what is happening right now in our country.

Moreover, today is also the anniversary of the destruction in international airspace of planes belonging to Brothers to the Rescue. That solitary event that is mourned once again by Cubans here and in the diaspora.

I remembered that even in the worst moments in the history of our country acts such as these were not under the complicity of silence. When the young Julio Antonio Mella declared a hunger strike during the dictatorship of Machado, the Cuban press covered the news day by day and the impact was huge inside and outside our borders, and it meant that the life of another young man was saved. Few people know what happened here today. In the street everyone followed the same daily routine as always: gray, neutral, sullen, just like the day. Today that “Shout of Baire,” commemorating the beginning of the War of Independence on this day in 1895, was drowned out by the silence.

Translated by Araby

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