April 2011

When they talked to me about an invitation to Chile to take part in a cultural exchange I was, of course, very happy. In my world, even the cat wants to travel; perhaps because it is so complicated and labyrinthine to do so? We always suppose that the fruit we aren’t allowed to eat will have the best flavour.

Of course, flavour is one thing. The troubles involved for those who need to take a flight is another. Because, in my world, you are never sure that you will be able to travel, until you are on board the plane that will take you to your destination, and it’s safely in the air.

This little trip to Chile started to develop on the 17th of January. On this date I presented the papers that were required (a mountain of them). The days passed and nobody had contacted me, so I called the department that was dealing with me and in that moment I learned that there was a detail that I had to clarify in order for them to proceed to create an essential document I would need. This was corrected and then everything was ready relatively quickly. But, as the saying goes, happiness in the house of the poor doesn’t last long.

Soon after this the application for my visa began smoothly, but the organisation that was going through this process for me, was not up to date with changes that had been made in the Chilean Consulate, despite the fact that they had been informed. As they would explain to me in due course. In the end, this misunderstanding meant I would have to do a lot more running around and make three trips to the Consulate.

Finally today, the 12th of April, we arrived. I say “we” as my sister who is also an artist has come to the same event. We were very well received and looked after and even the weather has been kind to us. There is nothing else but to enjoy our twenty days, that only took me three months to pull together and organise like a complicated jigsaw puzzle. But despite this difficulty, still in my world the cat would give his whiskers to take a little trip. I wonder why that is?

Translated by: Liz

April 13 2011

Yesterday, Sunday again, hearing on the program Memories, on the radio, that childhood song that gives its title to this post, and that marks our children, who today are over forty, I shuddered. I would say that the lyrics were a premonition for that generation.

Those children of days gone by, today’s men and women, are dispersed throughout the world. Most of them traded in that little paper boat for one of wood with oars, or an outboard motor. The more fortunate took a plane. How sad! That faithful friend who would take us sailing on the wide sea, separated loved ones and many are still unable to return. Being forced by circumstances to form their own families, far from the land that saw their birth and the places and friends with whom they shared that song.

So yesterday, when suddenly I heard the melody again in the voice on Consuelito Vidal (imitating the voice of a child), far from smiling, the nostalgia and the grief made me cry.

April 4 2011

I’ve always thought that coming to a consensus is difficult, but not impossible, if there is the will to do so.

Walking around town, little by little I’ve come to realize how difficult it can be. You just have to look around to see the proof of it. Never before have we Cubans been so divided, never before has our selfishness been so much on display.

Long ago, when the badly named Special Period started, in conversation with my women friends I said to them: I don’t worry so much about the misery we’re going to face, as I do about the miserable beings we could become. Unfortunately, life has proved me right.

If it’s so difficult for the we neighbors to agree on how to paint the facade of a building, of only three apartments, how are we ever going to come to an agreement to promote changes in the country? I believe it’s time to shed our selfishness and unite, looking for solutions that benefit all of us.

April 8 2011

I’ve always had reason for fear, especially after my children were born.

But I must confess that during my life I’ve suffered, as I recall, three strong addictions:

The Havana baseball club.

My first boyfriend.

Coca Cola.

I had to say goodbye to all three at almost the same time, after the year nineteen-fifty-nine.

My first addiction: I was a hardened fan of the Havana club. I cried, I chewed by fingernails, and when they lost a game I was spiritless, especially if it was a championship. As a little girl I went to Cerro Stadium dressed in red, like Little Red Riding Hood.

With the second one, my first boyfriend, it was the same as with the first, but in addition, he robbed me of my sleep. Even today I dream about him from time to time: I see him walking toward me, just like when he left, and I hide, because I don’t want him to see me as I am now.

With my third addiction, CocaCola, I was a compulsive consumer. It was all the same to me, the normal bottle, the familiar, or one of those machines that you dropped a coin into (5 centavos), and a cup dropped out first and then transparent soda, and then the cola. Sometimes I even cheated and removed the cup so there would be less soda and then put it back for the cola to make the taste stronger.

Years later when I went into the foreign service and met up with it again, it was like going back to see a relative. I was silly, and at a dinner I’d been invited to I ordered CocaCola, because in the half-light of the restaurant I confused it with the color of the wine. Until one day a waiter noticed and said to me, in front of everyone, Ah coke, the wine of the Americans.

After that, ooh la la! I started drinking wine and I loved it, but just as I was getting used to it, my diplomatic time ended and I returned to my planet and have never seen it since.

Moral: Try not to acquire addictions, they enslave you, I can promise you, and even if you wage a pitched battle against them, and achieve victory, you will always get hurt. Especially if they are the same kind as my second.

April 10 2011

To honor honors, said the Apostle of our independence. But this maxim doesn’t always fit reality.

Listening to the news on the shortwave, I am stunned to find out that the Venezuelan dictator has been awarded, in an Argentine university, a prize for the freedom of expression. Thanks to him, who has taken the free press of his country hostage, who — under whatever pretext — has closed down radio and television stations, and keeps journalists in jail. What irony! Unless they’re now calling “freedom of expression” of shameless language, insulting, lacking in ethics and decent diction. What’s more, the prize acceptance speech was edited, due to his prohibiting the press from transmitting it live.

Of course, if you know some of the characters that have preceded him in this honor, you will know that the prize is not very prestigious. In this light, it’s conceivable that to honor does not always honor.

March 31 2011

More than twenty years have past, and still, when I see desperate people looking for where they sell non-rationed eggs, I remember that time when my youngest son and I were alone.  I opened the refrigerator and realized that there was only one egg left, and it was the only source of protein that we had.  Fortunately, I had a couple of onions left and the bread was was still free.

“Look,” I said to my son, who was then eight years old (it had already been a year since he was entitled to a milk ration) and the dollar was illegal, “we are going to make a omelette with sliced onions, cut it in half, and we will each put it on a half a piece of bread and with a little oil on top, see! a nice snack.”

At that moment, my niece arrived with her boyfriend, and she enters telling me: “Aunty, we starving!  The university’s lunch was inedible!”

I didn’t say anything. I beat that egg desperately, hoping that it would grow.  I made the omelette with onions, and split it into four parts.  I placed each portion on a piece of bread, topping each one with a piece of lettuce.  I set the table with a tablecloth, napkins, and utensils, as if it were some big dinner.  I made some lemonade and called to them.

“Bon appetit!” I told them, “At least we are all here together and have food to share.” We were all laughing really hard.

Translated by: Anonymous

April 6 2011


Lately on my planet, whenever friends get together the conversation revolves around the past. Why is this? Nothing pleasant is ever said in the present tense. We must always conjugate the imperfect indicative form of the verb, ending in “aba” or “ía,” i.e. comía, bebía, salía, bailaba, ganaba, viajaba, disfrutaba, etc. (used to eat, used to drink, used to go out, used to dance, used to earn, used to travel, used to enjoy…)

Especially when speaking about common acquaintances, we try very hard to avoid hurt feelings, since in many cases we don’t know whether we have lost touch because they have simply left our planet or they have gone far away.

If the talk turns to food, things really get ugly. You can’t give anyone recipes anymore. You have to say: if you have this, you put it in, or you substitute this for something else; all in all it has gotten extremely difficult to follow the book made so popular by Nitza Villapol — the cooking show hostess from the ’50s.

Even I, with my love of cooking, find myself having to constantly come up with solutions and substitute ingredients, or incorporate new ones instead of the usual ones. Thankfully my mom was a dietician and taught me a host of kitchen tricks. She suffered greatly seeing our gastronomy, an essential part of our identity, slowly disappear and in its place atrocities pop up, such as “orange steak” — a dish made by boiling orange peel to resemble meat — or “ground beef” made from ground-up plantain peel.

But our yearning gets the better of us when we begin to remember those spectacular Havana restaurants, each with its own wonderful specialties. Or when we would hit the road and all of a sudden someone would say, “Let’s go to the ‘Congo’, and eat sausage!” or, “Why don’t we get ourselves over to ‘La Dominicana,’ eat some delicious croquettes, and keep driving?” Then maybe we would stop by the “Rincón Criollo” or “Rancho Luna” and really get our fill.

Let’s see now, with the new paladares — private restaurants — popping up, whether they will be able to keep themselves stocked and regain, in part, our once-respected cuisine, which has nothing to do with caldosa (stew), and those croquettes whose ingredients are strictly secret and are commonly known as “aviators” because of the way they stick to the roof of your mouth. Hopefully soon we will be able to conjugate verbs in all their forms and tenses and not only the past imperfect.

March 30 2011

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