December 2010

My wishes for 2011, for you and my loved ones:

Good health.

May we not lack work.

To love and be loved.

And above all, freedom so we may enjoy these gifts.

Cristina was all busy preparing the leg of pork she had struggled for, after putting up with an excruciating line.  She jealously guarded a secret family recipe.

Christmas Eve arrived and Cristina presented the dish that she was so proud of, together with the usual black beans and white rice. Everyone loved the roast. “My friend, please tell me what your secret is,” and “Why do you cut off the stump from the leg? Does it have anything to do with the recipe?”

“Look, I’m not going to share the recipe, but don’t take it personally, but about the little stump, the truth is that I don’t know why it is done that way, my mother did it like that and she says that’s how my grandmother did it. Better we should ask her.”

Days later when they went to grandma’s house, the famous little leg and its amputation came up in the conversation.

Faced with the unusual question, the grandmother, who was very old already but who has perfect memory, responded with an angelic smile and declared, “My girl, there is no mystery here! What happened was that the oven in my kitchen was very small so we had to cut the leg so it would fit. What I don’t understand is why you and your mom still do the same, even though you have larger ovens!”

Translated by Rick Schwag

December 25, 2010

Today, on the night before Christmas Eve, the farmers markets are full of people looking for pork, yuca, and vegetables, trying to put together, as best as possible, tomorrow’s dinner.

When I came back from the market with heavy bags (that I had to take there, since, there aren’t any), two pretty, young girls were walking ahead of   me, talking loudly about the topic of the moment: the January lay-offs, what people here are calling the month of terror. One was telling the other about the injustice of laying of, now, the great number of people who are going to be unemployed. The other said, emphasizing: “As always it’s going to get out of hand for those who are left, who are going to have to do the work of of the two or three people who’ve been fired from their department, for the same salary.”

“Imagine,” said the other, “It’s not our fault they inflated the payroll, so they could tell the world that there’s no unemployment on our planet. So now, not only do I have to type, clean the bathrooms, hand out the papers and update the bulletin board — how wonderful! — and all this for a salary that isn’t enough to begin with. AND, I have to do it on Christmas Eve and New Years! Already those guidelines* are making me feel bad, really bad!

OK my friend, now you know, take it easy and Merry Christmas!

*Translator’s note: This post contains a play on words that is not directly translatable.  “Linimentos” (used in the original title) means “liniments” — that is ointments. “Lineamientos” means “guidelines.”  The Guidelines (Lineamientos) for the 6th Communist Party Congress have been released, and the pun in the text is based on the fact that Cubans are apparently pronouncing “lineamientos” as “linimentos.”

Translated by Rick Schwag

This photo is for all of you, my readers.  It is a shot of Mitsukuso, my cat, finally accepting to pose for a card.  Believe me, it was not easy to convince him.  I guess he is very similar to me.

clip image0044

clip image0064

My sincerest wishes of happiness and prosperity for all of you.

Translated by Raul G.

Spanish post
December 23 2010

At the end of the eighties, my son Alfredo, who had recently taken up photography, got a camera. He walked through the whole city, observing and pressing the shutter without stopping.

This is one of the many images he took then, in Reina Street, and to me it seems prophetic.

Slogan on kiosk: Shoot and shoot straight.

These are images I have taken recently in the same street.

clip image0063

clip image0082

Everything indicates that they’ve improved their aim.

The discourse is once again repeated.  The criticisms start to dissolve, without any first names or last names, but implying all of us, or all of us except a certain few.  In sum, the same situation as always.

Hearing all the latest calls for austerity, the reading of the Guidelines, the imminent unemployment rate, etc., reminded me of something Cicero, the grand philosopher, once said:

“The budget should balance itself.  Treasure should be re-stocked.  Public debt should be reduced.  Arrogance among those who take on important public roles should be moderated and controlled.  And foreign aid to other countries should be eliminated in order to save Rome from bankruptcy.  The people must once again learn how to work, as opposed to living at the expense of the State.”

Year 55 B.C.

I ask myself- now who are we going to blame?

Translated by Raul G.


We experience a lot of emotions these days. I don’t know if by tradition, or by contamination, because although the authorities on my planet don’t want this, it underlies the atmosphere and enters into our hearts.

Yesterday I was running errands in Old Havana, which I consider to be an oasis in our urban desert. What called my attention was to see that, unlike in other years, neither the streets nor the shops were decorated. Christmas trees could be seen while walking past the fancy restaurants and hotels, almost  hidden from the eyes of passersby. As if the city was embarrassed by dressing up. It bothered me, because indeed this was the only part of the capital where we could breathe the Christmas air. Someone told me that was due to a decree that established a ban on these ornaments. I am not sure, but there is something to this, because  it would be precisely the historic center that would show off the beautiful decorations and lights of this season.

I think it is a mistake repeated ad nauseam, to prohibit these expressions of joy, since the population increasingly manages to decorate houses and gardens, despite the lack of resources. This has become a challenge. I, from my blog, join all those souls who keep alive the spirit of Christmas and raise the toast that one day soon, all Cubans can join in an embrace of love and forgiveness.

Merry Christmas!

Translated by ricote

Tonight and throughout the night to go on any street and you will see the number of people walking or crawling with heavy weights, and despite the bitter cold, they head to the shrine of El Rincón. Many are walking, others are in rented or private cars, most come in buses, whose lines, fortunately, the state has foreseen to keep orderly on this day, in order to avoid disturbances.

It is always impressive to see how many people imbued with faith, continue the tradition that for half a century the mainstream media has tried to overlook.

To all who profess faith in this holy miracle, and for those who bear his name, I wish that all your requests may be met. Happy day to all Lazaruses!

For those of you who aren’t aware, the International Artisan Fair (FIART) is the most important exhibition on our planet, with artists-artisans exhibiting their creations and exposing them to the world once a year.

Pierced ostrich eggs.

As always, despite the distance and the cold that’s been hitting us lately, the event was very well attended. We were surprised to see during mid-week days and during working hours, the number of people in line to get tickets, mostly young people of working age. The reason for the long lines could also be that there is only a small ticket booth staffed by a single person selling admissions.


This year, as almost always, metalworking is the star attraction. Many stands, including those of Peru, Mexico, Brazil exhibit very attractive silver work. The Cuban metalworkers also show their beautiful creations. There is a lot of handcrafted furniture in the largest rooms. Meanwhile, the weavers and dollmakers are crowded for lack of space.

Doll in yute fibers.

The public that attends this event comes mostly to look, because the prices, although a little lower this year, are in CUC and this greatly diminishes the opportunity to acquire anything. But still, the fair is very popular because there are few other options for entertainment.

In many countries in Latin America they call a small child “guagua.” But I understand that in the Canaries, the same as on our planet (surely the term came with us from there), a guagua is a bus, with the characteristic that those here are always full of people.

Today, Regina and I headed out early to ride one of these famous buses.

It was a lot of work to get on board. Once inside, we were packed in like sardines, and the man who collects the fares (substituting for the farebox), was in a hurry to charge us. This person is something new, recently introduced as a result of an article that came out in the paper saying that sixty percent of the total fare revenue is lost. It occurred to me to ask why, if they have replaced the fare boxes, they don’t do away with these busybodies who take up so much room and annoy the passengers, who can barely squeeze past them into the bus. He didn’t give me any explanation.

Again, speaking to him, I commented on the few guaguas in circulation, given how congested the stops are. He replied that there are few guaguas, and what happens is that there are a lot of people on the street. There was nothing for me to say to this, I January there will be many more people in the street when one million two hundred thousand people are laid off. A funny guy interrupted and said that those people are going to have to get licenses to be self-employed thieves. I replied that the TRD stores (hard-currency stores) already have those particular licenses. The silence was deadly. The journey continued with the usual pushing and shoving. Well what can I say? I got on the bus with jeans and a jacket, and nearly had to get off dressed like a Hawaiian!
December 14 2010

Next Page »