July 2010

Lately, there is a lot of talk about savings.  However, that verb is specifically reserved for the inferior people of my planet, not for the native leaders.

Less than a year and a half ago, an apartment building for the workers of Tecnoazucar was finalized, here on Nuevo Vedado street at 41 and Conill B.  Logically, a wall was constructed with a very narrow entrance (the entrances here are very narrow).  But anyway, they put colonial roof-tiles on the building (that has nothing to do with alignment, it’s just the trend now).

This morning I heard the loud noise of a large hammer. I looked towards the direction of the sound and I figured that they had been tearing down the old wall for a while. Apparently, the person who is moving in does not like the previous design, and since it surely does not cost them anything, then it doesn’t matter.

This whole situation, which is constantly repeated at such levels, is sharply different from the situation of the ordinary Cuban citizens.

On 2nd street, between Ayestaran and Ayuntamiento, there is a woman who lives with her son, both with serious health problems.  A small porch (of a former business) and a small room is what they call home.  Through lots of sacrifices they were able to purchase the materials and ultimately were able to build another small room on the roof area.  Eventually, someone was bothered by this and they denounced them.  As is logical, they didn’t have any papers for the cement nor for any of the other materials.  So the authorities decided to demolish everything.  The worst part of this, and the most painful part, was that it seemed like there was a Committee of the Revolution party going on.  There were so many people clustered over there just watching what was happening, while no one did absolutely anything about it.  I arrived at my sister’s house, who lives nearby, at that very moment, and a friend of mine told me what was happening as she ran towards the scene.

The saddest part about all of this is that on that same block, on the opposite sidewalk, a party member who had been given the house of someone who fled the country, was remodeling his property, almost at the same exact time that this was happening, while he used and abused all sorts of important materials.  However, nobody denounced this man.

Translated by Raul G.

Another celebration, more evidence of lack of spontaneity which we have all become so accustomed to.

As always, many expectations were created, especially for those who continue to refuse to accept the cruel reality.  My grandma would always say, “The worst blind man is he who does not want to see”.

The event took place very early in the morning, almost at sunrise.  The person who most used, or abused, speech was an alien from our sister republic, later the maximum chief of the party in the province, and the closing act was done by someone whose name reminds us of two disastrous personalities of my small planet.

It was expected.  What was the point of the second one talking if the first one has already said everything.  Nothing people, I have said it in other occasions, this is just like a bad marriage under the church: Until death do us part.

Translated by Raul G.

Patch-work of Valle de Viñales.

Thanks be to God who gave me the gift and my family who helped me to cultivate it, aside from being a teacher, I learned many practical things for life.

The year 1959 arrived, and with it, great changes. I lost my job as a substitute teacher but soon afterwards I started working at the Department of Foreign Trade, where I stayed for fifteen years.  Later on I worked at a branch of Foreign Relations and, when I couldn’t take it anymore, I realized it was time to go home and do what I loved and had been doing for free my whole life: arts and crafts.  I was already a member of the Association of Artisans and Artists (ACAA) and that is how my professional life started.

My first works were on cold ceramics, later on embossing copper, but this aggressive material destroyed my hands and it was affecting my health, so I had to stop, even though I liked it so much.  So I started working on patch-work, that is what I have been working on since 1998.  This work has allowed me to have some expositions inside and outside of the country.

The pieces, which I have shown on my posts lately, and which a dear friend has explicitly asked for, are totally handmade.  I have specialized in faces and believe me, it entertains me, keeps my mind fresh, my spirit calm and overall it brings food to my table, because even though I have family outside the country, they don’t send me any help,  first, because they can’t afford to and second, because I never ask.  I feel much happier supporting myself with the work I do with my own hands, and not being a burden on anybody.  I rather wish I was able to send them something that would make them happy.  Also, with this and other techniques I manufacture cushions, bags, angels, table runners and small cases for eyeglasses, cell phones, etc, which I call fast food because they’re cheap and as soon as I sell them I run to the nearest store to buy food.  As you can see, a little bit of everything.

Translated by: Angelica Betancourt

Here in my small planet, it hasn’t exactly been the wind which has taken everything–or almost everything–away. It seems to be the work of a crazed tornado. And what remains is in such a poor state that it is nearly unsalvageable.

In 1897 Cuban cinema took its first baby steps. Along with its appearance, the first posters were born, then handmade on small printing presses, and photography was also developing. Then movie theaters quickly started appearing, receiving us on their doorsteps with flashy posters or photographs, which gave us an idea what was going to be projected inside. It was a clear invitation to enter. Cinemania was happily taking hold of most of us.

In 1959, we already had more than one hundred thirty movie houses, many of them very modern and comfortable, like the Warner Theater (later called Radiocentro, now renamed Yara), the America (also a live theater), Acapulco, Riviera, Los Angeles, Payret, Miramar, La Rampa, etc. etc. etc. All this, to the delight of about a million people who lived in the capital at that time. We also had three modern drive-ins. Moviegoers had to run to see the more than four weekly releases that were shown.

Half a century later, with almost two million people, only a dozen theaters are operating, most of them in an advanced state of disrepair. Neglect turned many of them into ruins, others have become shelters for various families. Each year, except for the month of the Film Festival, there are fewer options – the films shown are old and many of them have already been seen on television. The wind can still take away what little remains, if nothing is done to stop it.

Translated by: Joe Malda and Tomás A.

Clipping from the newspaper Juventude Rebele (Rebel Youth), July 18, 2010.

I have always longed for, among the dates and traditions that were amputated by decree, Epiphany, the Day of the Three Kings. I used to feel equally happy to give as to receive. It was, in short, a very special day for children and adults.

Now, reading this article from the press of my planet, the following questions come to me:

Whose were the hands, then, that erased from the children’s calendar the day of January 6?

Whose hands signed the order to say that children over three couldn’t have jam?

Were they the same hands that also signed the regulation that only children under seven had the right to receive a daily liter of milk?

I refuse to believe that José Martí also have had something to do with it.

A few months ago, a friend, who was going to travel abroad, surprised me by offering to take whatever I wanted to my granddaughters.  It was a unique opportunity, but he caught me at a time when I did not have any money. I then had to use my imagination. I began to go through my drawers where I keep my things in the hopes of fashioning something, given my available means, which would be lasting and above all, something that the girls would like.

It was then that I remembered the beautiful drawings that they send me and I decided, that based on the drawings, I would come up with a story, made up of patchwork squares that would later become a quilt. This would be accompanied by a story.

That is how I came up with the idea of the story that I now transcribe below.

Grandmother with a big heart.

In a small country, long and green like a lizard, lives a grandmother that has a big heart because she constantly feeds it with pieces of love, from her other hearts, which are far away, very far away and dispersed, like the stars.

Since the distance is enormous and one can only get there by air she prays to God that he lend her a pair of angel’s wings, just so that her big heart can fly, fly, fly and finally arrive at the different countries where her other hearts are located.

As she passes by the castle where the Princess is, the Princess gives her a kiss on each cheek and invites her to follow the path until she finds herself on the beach with a Little Blue Whale who will take her on his back to the moon itself.

On the way, she makes a stop to pick flowers to fill an old wheelbarrow that she will take as a gift.  She will then be able to give out daisies, tulips and violets to her three granddaughters.

On her travels she runs into Mr. Radiant Sun and she gets closer to him in order to feel his heat. She is careful not to get too close so that she does not burn her brilliant wings so that she can continue to fly, fly, fly until she reaches her destination and is able to reunite with all of the hearts, to make her own heart bigger and stronger.

Once all are together, they will reunite under the shade of a large tree and from there, they will send messages of love to all the other countries, leaving room in the wide branches to hang more hearts.

Translated by: Amante de una Cuba Libre

In the popular slang of my little planet, this is what we call the Identity Card (DNI).

This slang has been adopted by the police. Almost all the members who make up this repressive body have been imported from the eastern provinces; in general, people in the capital refuse to participate in this work. The police are almost always characterized by the low educational level and equally low stature, where normally it could be resolved with just one, well that’s one way to reduce the unemployment numbers.

Yesterday was one of those days when it took all morning, or all afternoon, to settle a little matter that really shouldn’t have taken more than hour, as they brag in the propaganda posters in these offices: Rectifying a mistake, even if it’s their fault, as for any other kind of issue, means you begin by standing in line. Soon a voice emerging from somewhere over there says, “Number three.” You go into a little office, where they ask you what you’ve come about, your name, et cetera, which they dump into a computer. Then they send you out again to wait, until they call your name. After a great deal of time has gone by, another voice from the back of beyond calls your name and takes you to another office where you are asked the same questions all over again. Then they take your old card, three photos, two stamps at 5 pesos each, and tell you to go down to the end of the hall and wait to be called. I was with my sister who is physically disabled, which no one seemed to notice despite its being completely obvious, since she can hardly walk on her own.

There, in the final waiting room, we stayed nearly four hours. Each time I approached an employee to explain the physical condition of my sister, they told me her card still had not arrived. It was as if to get from the little office at the entrance to the last room of the building, the paperwork had to make an inter-provincial journey on the back of a turtle.

Finally, after checking the new card, and correcting the accent which was missing from her last name, they had taken my poor sister’s ten osteoarthritic fingerprints twice, which is twenty prints as if to say, AY! We left there at noon, happy, despite the ordeal, to have had issued a new and correct carné di dá.

Edith Piaf

July 14th, the anniversary of the taking of the Bastille.  My little homage to France. A portrait in patch-work created by me.

Recently, two Spanish filmmakers I know, commented to me that every time they talk in the street to some native of my planet they comment to them about “the media campaign” of the European Union against our country, and when the filmmakers ask them what this campaign consist of, simply no one is able to explain. I remarked to them, that in general here on my planet, it’s like this. People repeat incessantly what the media manipulate and call news, based on the headlines, but from there to being able to give the details, is a long way! It’s the same whether it’s the Cuban Adjustment Act, the sick people who died in Mazorra mental hospital, or the recent and much-lauded release of the dissidents of the Black Spring, and on and on and on.

With my ears once again glued to the shortwave I heard some news that made me jump to attention. Ingrid Betancourt had withdrawn a demand she’d made to her country to pay her a million dollars. Was it ingratitude or bad memory, I wondered. As far as I know, it was the government of her country itself that freed her from the guerrilla terrorists, who held her hostage for years. To err is human, I have no doubt!

And another thing, here I go again, about the Arizona law. It’s good that the Latin American countries show solidarity when something is wrong in a neighbor’s house, but what strikes me is, no one ever said anything about it when on my planet they go after the native-born from different provinces for being in the capital of all Cubans illegally. There are none so blind as he that will not see!

A couple coming towards me were talking loudly about how nervous they are thinking about the impending war that is looming. I couldn’t help but speak to them, apologizing for having overheard. To reassure them I commented that surely the ones who were really nervous were their respective grandmothers and moms, thinking of the daily war to be waged in the kitchen to put some food on the table.

Fine, that’s enough for now, I’ll say goodbye because I just heard news of the 6.5 earthquake in central Chile (near Temuco), and in truth, what is trembling now is my heart. Remember that I have people very dear to me in that country.

The sad news came through short wave radio during early hours.  After a very fruitful life and at the age of 87, one of the most beautiful voices of our country has left us.  She was silenced for those of us who still live here for more than half a century.

Like I’ve said before, I requested her songs numerous times in the Sunday morning show known as “Memories of Rebel Radio”.  They never fulfilled my requests, they always used the most outrageous excuses.  They became accomplices of an absurd censorship that should have never existed.  Perhaps now that she has passed away, and that her declarations don’t pose a threat to the ideology of ‘the “New Man,” now those of us who knew who she was will have the luck to once again hear her interpretation of “Campanitas de Cristal” (‘Crystal Bells’), which, together with many other songs, became unique when sung by her beautiful voice.

May God keep you in Glory, Olga.

Translator’s Note:  “Bolero” is a genre which hails from Cuba, it is a ballad, a love song.

Translated by Raul G.

Yesterday was a day of many emotions. From the early hours the largest theaters in the capital were completely full. The young and sweaty faces of those present, decorated with the colors of their teams, eagerly awaiting the start of the last game of the Series, to gaze in full color on the gigantic screen. Homemade flags and other original handicrafts were waving in the tight space. It was a great party, above all for the youth of Cuba.

A close game where both teams showed their wonderful skills and greatness. Each team had a fantastic goalkeeper, finally Casilla showed who was the best in the world, and together with to the goal by Inhiesta, it ended with a resounding victory for Spain, making Queen Sofía herself jump for joy.

I hope that very soon, in our little planet Cuba, we can enjoy baseball games in the same way, on a large screen in full color in the Big Leagues, because that is the sport that is the true passion of all of us natives who live here.

Translated by: MarcosD in NYC

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