May 2011

Again my friend Mari Carmen (arsenal of fresh anecdotes), she tells me another story, as unusual as it may seem, is so real that it hurts to tell it.

Her nephew came to her house very upset, to say that he had just come from immigration, where he had been notified that he could not be granted the requested permission to leave, because his father had been a doctor on an international mission who, three years previously, had deserted.

No matter how much the young man explained that he didn’t know the true whereabouts of his father with whom he hadn’t maintained communications, and that it was his mother–who had lived abroad almost ten years–who was inviting him, the refusal of a permission to travel was repeated. And, they added, that he would have to be separated from his workplace for at least five years before he could reapply for permission to leave.

As is generally known, workers on our beloved planet, especially those in Healthcare, must wait five years after losing their employment relationship, to aspire to travel, and in addition during this period of time, if they are male, they’re subject to the slacker law (if you don’t work you can go to jail). It appears that this type of punishment is passed from parent to child by transference. Too bad the same thing doesn’t happen with houses, cars or any other type of material benefit.

May 30 2011

Many people on my planet have been abducted by official propaganda, which goes into the same sack as all the emigration that has occurred, especially since 1959, which is classified as of economic origin.

They especially want to justify to others, as economic, the reasons why their children and close relatives have abandoned the country. As if they were ashamed that a child of the Revolution, born into it, educated at its schools, and in the embrace of a close family, would have to justify this decision to others so it won’t be questioned. And they always add the famous tagline that throughout the world many people constantly emigrate for the same reasons.

In saying this, they seem to forget that when people in other countries emigrate for economic reasons, they don’t risk losing their current jobs when they communicate their decision, their house (if they live alone), or (if they live with others) that the relatives with whom they live will have to pay the State for the share of the home that corresponds to the one who is leaving. In addition, they have to submit an inventory of all their belongings, get themselves taken off the ration card, turn in their identity card, and, of course, ask permission to leave. Also if things go wrong they can’t return, because from that point on they have absolutely nothing to do with their country of origin.

So when someone tells me that Cubans emigrate for economic reasons, they are pointing to just one aspect of the phenomenon. In my view, there are at least two reasons that produce this alarming emigration: political and economic, the latter being the effect, not the cause, of the first. There is no one who doesn’t know that our leaders, on several occasions, with no shame at all, have proclaimed that in this system politics is above economics. I don’t believe anyone is deceived by the continual parroting of this kind of euphemistic slogan.

May 24 2011

Since returning to my planet, I’ve found, among other things, the distribution of the new coffee, as well as the great number of comments that it has provoked. I wrote a post about it several days ago.

The concerns continue to rise (just like the prices of all products). Many people have exploded their coffee makers, because it seems that the substitute with which they make up the weight of the bag, blocks up the coffee pot. The situation has gotten to the point where the newspaper Granma was forced to publish a note saying how you have to brew this coffee. The truth is that popular ingenuity in action once again has rebaptized this product as Al Qaeda Coffee, because it blows up the coffee pots. 

But everyone’s greates worry is not knowing what kind of product they’re using in the mix, as already many people are allergic to certain grains. This is not just a lack of respect and ethics, it’s also very dangerous not to say on the package what kind of ingredient they’re using as a substitute.

We hope the authorities will take these factors into account and not continute to play with the health of the population. If it’s café or cafú, we still don’t know, but I would ask those who invented it: Do you drink it?

Spanish post
May 27 2011

Just a few days ago we celebrated Farmers’ Day. Its highest leader, among other things, expressed that he couldn’t continue extracting and transporting fresh milk, nor offering it to the people with such precarious hygiene.

In May 2010 I put up a post called “Hygiene Is Health”, where I inserted this photo taken from the daily Rebel Youth, because it called my attention tremendously by showing so primitive a form of distribution of fresh milk — even after a high standard of hygiene in the distribution and sales of this product had reached our country in the 1950s.

It is true that it is never too late and that to rectify is of wise men but if a simple citizen can perceive it, the ruling class has the obligation to be the first to note it, isolate it, and correct it. We cannot continue being so late in perceiving things that jump out at the sight of whomever, above all if puts the health of the populace in play.

And to think — how they fill their mouths criticizing Lady Republic, who died while she was still so young. The same which, with her defects — but also with her countless virtues — placed our country among the first of Latin America.

My respects to that lady who today would arrive at her 109th birthday. It is never too late.

Translated by: JT

May 20 2011

A few days ago I went to Santiago de Chile, a beautiful city that like her Cuban namesake city is in a depression. The difference is great, although they both speak Spanish. This is a city that from last year’s earthquake which had a magnitude of that in Haiti, suffered as much damage as that other country, plus a tsunami. However, when we went to the airport yesterday to pick up a very dear friend who came from Miami to this city just to see me, I realized (as I hadn’t when I arrived for obvious reasons), that this air terminal, which had suffered the strong shocks of the earthquake, was completely restored, as if nothing had happened. Also the rest of the capital looks bright, as clean and flowery as usual.

Yesterday my friend Ritza and I went to the free municipal museum of Matta, to a beautiful exhibition of paintings, “The Return of the Worm Joseph” by Nicolas Camus Joannon. We also saw another of photography, “The World at Night,” by different artists. In addition to enjoying, enormously, these two exhibits, we toured the beautiful gardens of the house, taking advantage of the good weather to take some photos.

As we left the place, more than satisfied and smiling, we approached a few students who were at the bus stop to ask how much the fare cost. They very kindly told us that we had to buy a card and that to get it, we had to walk quite a ways since the place where they were sold was a bit far.

As they told us this I said that walking wasn’t a problem for me because I come from a planet where we have to walk a lot. One of them asked me where this planet was, and I answered: Cuba.  My friend spoke up and said, “I’m also from this planet but now I live on the other shore, in Miami.”

They laughed, said goodbye and we continued our journey. I was thinking about the anniversary of Girón, or the Bay of Pigs as it is also known, which is commemorated on this day. I was a little sad to think that at that event Cubans from both shores faced off against each other and we were all hurt.

April 18 2011

In my world, those who leave their native land become strangers even if they are winners.

Fourteen years ago Yoel Gutierrez arrived in Chile. A Cuban athlete with excellent results in national and international events, although his participation in some of them was frustrated for reasons of politics, not sports.

Time passed and Yoel was approaching the age at which an athlete must retire. He was running out of time, seeing his dreams of a championship frustrated.

He was born in 1971, the youngest of three brothers. At that time there was nothing left of the comfort his family had enjoyed when his father, a talented trumpeter, had been a member of the band of the Army of the Republic. Yoel said that his father, at the time of the triumph of the Revolution in 1959, told his wife and children, “Take care of your clothes and shoes, because in twenty years there will be nothing left in this country. He also advised them to leave the island. None of them did, and he himself never left.

At age six Yoel left his parents’ home, recruited by a coach to be a part of a special program for elite athletes. This separation, he says, marked him.

For Seoul in 1988, at the peak of his career, he missed an opportunity for an Olympic medal because the government of his island decided not to send a delegation to the games, citing lack of security.

After many competitions in several countries he decided to remain in Chile illegally, leading to many troubles. He had to sleep in several places where he was offered refuge. He did work that had nothing to do with his training in sports, but he never quailed.

One day he discovered Tomás González in whom he saw a future champion who was not receiving adequate training. Yoel offered to train him, without any salary. He suffered many misunderstandings because of his character and his methods, but finally, his efforts bore fruit: He put a Chilean athlete on the highest podium. Never before had this country had a champion: two gold medals and a world cup, as well as being proposed by the President of the country to carry the flag in London in 2012.

All this, says Tomas, he did as the Cuban coach who taught him had done: “The bronze medal is fine. Silver is recognized. The gold is the priority. If you get a quarter, why did you go?”

April 22 2011

It’s Friday of Holy Week and all of us, after having breakfast, take our backpacks to spend the day in Tunquén and return Saturday afternoon. This beautiful area is in the fifth region of Chile, whose capital is Valparaiso. It also contains an impressive landscape, with a great deal of quartz and wood, with which they build and decorate the houses in this resort that is so popular today. It is located only about an hour and thirty minutes from Santiago by car. We left early trying to avoid the traffic jam, but we got caught up in it anyway around the airport. The car was going slow and my niece, who does not like to be idle, was embroidering a tapestry, I was trying to take some pictures, but the fog and rain didn’t let me.

Halfway there we stopped for lunch in a place with typical Chilean food, Los Hornitos de Curacaví. There we tried rich corn cakes with a good Chilean wine.

On arriving, it seemed strange that we were the only diners. Minutes later, as if by magic, this vast and beautiful restaurant was almost completely full.

We rejoin the motorway and rain returned to accompany us like a faithful lover. I said nothing, but I was very scared on the entrance road to Tunquén full of sharp bends. I thought we might find ourselves on a clifftop when we arrived, but fortunately we did not. Just as we got to the house it had stopped raining and the sun was trying to peek through the clouds.

Bit by bit the weather improved. Finally the sun came out and we could take a good walk around. From there we could see the waves crashing furiously against the rocks on the beach. While taking a few pictures, I was picking up the odd rose quartz to bring back to my friends on my planet, as irrefutable proof that I had gone walking, as they say, stepping on rose quartz.

April 24 2011

Traveling around Santiago with a friend, in the subway I was very taken with seeing people sitting on the steps of the stairs in some stations, with their laptops open, absorbed in what they were doing. My friend explained to me that many of the stations had free WiFi connections.

Another thing that struck me was the cleanliness and beauty of the stations, they seemed like art galleries. But what most caught my eye were the “Subway Books”:

As a way of distributing and making books accessible, these Subway Books have more than 2,400 titles, which are available to the 29,000 or so people who circulate via the underground train every day.

Italian, Colombian, American, British, Chilean novels. Books of essays, parapsychology, universal history, cooking, painting, etc. from the publishers Anagrama, Zeta, Seix Barral, Norma, Salamandra, just to name a few, are among the volumes that are available to users of the metro.

How do you become a member?

All children under age 18 and seniors over sixty, simply present an identity card, passport or school pass. Those over 18 school show a school ID and pay 1,000 Chilean pesos per year ($ 2.00). Once a member, you can withdraw and return books at any station, putting them in the mailbox that exists for this purpose.

Now you tell me, how a country can boast of its culture, when it has a single newspaper (of 4 pages), books are mostly political, and access to other titles is almost impossible. And the four existing television channels are not only repetitious but also work for the same owner and censor?

May 10 2011

My Grandfather in the dark suit.

He left his native Gijón on an unspecified date, because he never liked to specify this detail. His eyes showed his sadness whenever it was mentioned, because after all these years, the wounds never closed. He could still smell the maternal arms when he boarded the boat that would bring him to America.

When he stepped on Cuban soil, squeezed his eyes shut against the intense flash of sun that blinded him. Soon a gentle sea breeze will plant a smile on his face. He was excited, he told us when he saw the tops of the, trees whose leaves looked like clusters of emeralds, bow before the wind. At that moment he began to love this other mother who welcomed him. He became a man, being practically a kid, bringing messages to the Titan who, according to what he told us, was stationed in neighboring lands back in his now beloved land.

There he met a young girl’s winning smile, a daughter of Spaniards born in Cuba. I came in the belly of my mother and she came in the boat, my grandmother always told us.

Grandfather Joseph never cared much for paperwork, and much less for formalities. Therefore, he was never nationalized as a Cuban, because according to him, he carried to Spain in his mind and Cuba in his heart and to prove it was not necessary to fill out forms.

It is precisely because of this is that I, his granddaughter, am now in a quagmire trying to get the damn piece of paper showing his arrival in this, his second homeland.

“My grandfather was married here in the capital, look at the document. He personally signed it when my mother was born, here’s the certificate that proves it. He also died and was buried in his beloved Havana, you can see here the official papers. Do you think,” I asked the officer who assisted me at the Spanish embassy, “that in 1911 my grandfather met my grandmother and married her on the Internet? Or maybe my mother was conceived by artificial insemination in 1912? How is it possible that we need a record of his entry into Cuba, to demonstrate his passage through these lands?”

Our archives are damaged: After fifty-nine years many are in a total state of disrepair, losing countless documents. Nor are they digitized and this greatly complicates the search for data, not to mention that none of the people who work in these places, are interested in making the least effort, looking at such old and dilapidated books.

My grandfather was a freethinker, a bohemian, self-employed (free lance) and above all, a Spanish man who, despite loving Cuba, became a man on this earth, creating a family and dying here, he never bothered to leave papers. He left a beautiful family, great memories and stories and was the painter-sign painter par excellence in Old Havana. Sometimes when I wander through those streets I see him with his modest clothing and brushes, he liked to take them from his pockets, going with them to the barbershops, bars and taverns where he was so well known.

My grandmother said that when Caruso was in Havana, my grandfather did not miss a single event. She also told me that he went, very elegant, to see the first performance of the great singer. He went out all decked out with his straw hat. And when he returned the suit was all smeared with paint. My grandmother asked what happened, and he answered, “What do you want Maria, when I went by the Café La Marina, the owner came to meet me, and asked me to paint the sign of the restaurant that would open the next day, and even though I explained that I was going to the theater, he said that first we were the friends, and that second I could go to the second performance, and so I did it. I left a glowing sign.”

“But Joseph, did you then go all smeared with paint to the theater?”

“Maria, I went to the theater to see them, not for them to see me.”

With my mom.

That was my grandfather Joseph.

April 11 2011

Since returning to my planet, after a brief stay in the civilized world, I feel the excitement that characterizes me has diminished somewhat.

I arrived just in time to see how, over and over on television, they showed the images of the May Day parade. Cool! Those same people marched who, day after day, you run into in the street, criticizing, complaining, and even verbally attacking, who have no direct responsibility for the situation, they go like sheep to the fold (at the Plaza), marching and waving little paper flags with the national emblem, which afterwards they throw on the ground and trample shamelessly.

Yesterday afternoon, I stand at the terrace of my apartment to say goodbye to a friend, and I see my neighbors like moving like automatons to attend an accountability meeting (isn’t that the way it goes?). Those same people who spend their time with you one-on-one criticizing, complaining and wishing for the end of the regime.

Wouldn’t it be better and healthier, to take of the mask once and for all and shed the fears and decide to adopt a more civic posture?

Not doing anything against it, but doing nothing for it, would be a good start against which no law can punish you.

May 14 2011

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