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.

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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.

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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

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