August 2011

That’s how the lyrics go of a great song by Willy Chirino, the great pinareño (referring to the Isle of Pines) composer, very well-known among us, in spite of the fact that on our beloved planet it’s prohibited to play his work in the media.

It seems that the final judgment is on its way for all of the tyrants. Mr. Gaddafi has but a few hours to face his.

Who was to say that a man, who is despised as a human being, now has a bounty of a few million dollars on his head. I wouldn’t want to be in his skin. He’s probably hiding, like his neighbor in Iraq, until they find him in a cave, seeking refuge. I think that this guy, wherever he goes, sooner or later will be found and justice will be served for the multitude of deaths caused by his obsession to maintain power no matter the cost.

I want to extend my sincere condolences to the Libyan people, for deaths on both sides, since all have been victims of tyranny. My wish is that peace, supported by a government elected by the people, will come to them so that they may recuperate from the horrors of a civil war.

Translation by Ya Viene Llegando

August 26 2011

From some few years back, it has been unleashed on the city, I’m not sure if it has in the country, I don’t have the data, but I submit that it is expanding here like a epidemic, it may have arrived in other provinces: the taste for columns.  To someone to whom it occurred to begin and copy them, mimicking those that were used a lot in the architecture of the 30s and 40s, and that in some cases, for certain more modern constructions of the colonial style were a big hit.  Also it the same thing has happened with Spanish tile and Jaimanitas stone.

I am in total agreement with the aforementioned construction and styles of those ages, they look very nice, always and when they are placed appropriately.  But what is unforgivable is that to be in style they use them in houses and facades of the 1950s, that are characterized by designs of clean straight lines and curves, but they have nothing to do with the famous columns, and in doing so they succeed in just destroying their architecture.  There doesn’t seem to be anyone putting a stop to this.  I don’t know why those famous community architects are silent about it, or those who have to authorize those remodeling projects, who permit a similar atrocity, uglifying the city that was characterized by its beautiful architecture more each time.

Here I have some bad examples:

A building from the 1950s, whose first floor and common areas of the yard have been closed and converted with the unusual columns and tiles that have nothing to do with the rest of the building, similar to the painting.  The La Timba Neighborhood, Plaza.  It was a beautiful apartment building before this capricious transformation.

Three story building, from the 1950s, whose first floor was remodeled as well, without taking into account the original architecture.  Nuevo Vedado, Plaza.

I think that who is truly guilty are the authorities who are named precisely to guide and authorize or not, these changes to the outside of these buildings.  Please, folks, let’s not continue uglifying our city or treating it like our enemy.

Translated by: BW

August 17 2011

Menu from 1963. Text: INRA National Park, Zapata Peninsula, Cafeteria De La Boca, Cook's Recommendations

The Cuban Film, Affinidades (Affinities), by Jorge Perogurría and Vladimir Cruz, awakened my interest, which is why I decided to to rent it for this weekend, because I still was able to remember the two of them in Fresa y Chocolate (Strawberry and Chocolate).

For me, I am not a critic of movies nor much else, although as a movie fan, it was like watching a tourist postcard, printed and flat.

All of the action takes place in the beautiful setting of Cienaga de Zapata (it just suffers from this). A quartet composed of two Cuban men, one ordinary technician and another high-ranking official, a Cuban women, wife or girlfriend of the first, and a Spanish investor, who apparently had an intimate and business relationship with the official of Aguas Habana.

As soon as they arrive in a small boat that makes this journey towards the Tesoro Lagoon, where a touristy area is found, the crossed looks start, a childish omen of what is to come.

From the disguised waiter, with extreme imposed kindness, who constantly winks at the official, the use of curse words out of context, the excessive fervor of the investor (the only great acting), played by the Spanish actress Cuca Esribano, up to the incomprehensible and excessive innocence that fades away like magic, of the wife, woman, or girlfriend of the ordinary technician, who throws her into the ring of the boss’s appetites to ensure his job, before the impending layoffs which will take affect in the workplace.

The night of the Taíno Show, in the cabaret restaurant in the tourist center, lacks authenticity (even though it is valid in the film) with the presence, somewhat anachronistic, of Omara Portuondo singing a bland song, until the sexual apotheosis, a Pas de Quatre type, that doesn’t add anything to the film, until the final exit by car along an infinite causeway, all gives the sensation that he came from nothing and left with nothing.

The only contribution for our eyes was the marvelous natural but mutilated scenery of a marsh without crocodiles or exotic birds.

If you would like to lose an hour and thirty minutes, which is about how long this film lasts, without seeing anything interesting, then I recommend it!

Translated by: BW

August 7 2011

In the past few days, I wrote about architectural horrors, today I am going to dedicate this post to the aggressions committed against our monuments.

Walking through the neighborhood of El Vedado, as always with my little camera in hand, I stopped to look at the little park that splits the road in two.

There I was observing the state of abandonment and deterioration of the green spaces and painfully I could see it, the pillaged base of a sculpture of the famous musician Johann Strauss, covered in gold leaf (too shiny perhaps for our strong sun), donated by the Vienna Embassy to the people of Cuba.

Without any respect, the statue was mysteriously removed, under the sleepless eyes of the always alert CDR (Committee for the Defense of the Revolution), something truly incomprehensible, since the thieves would have had to have a truck at their disposal to take it away and would have made plenty of noise separating it from its pedestal

Also left there to the embarrassment of all, the stone with the dedication of the monument.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the only case, sometimes by theft, and other times by political motives, statues and parts of monument that shape the ornate history of our city have been destroyed, mutilated, and stolen.  We remember the Maine Monument whose eagle was torn out, under the pretext of replacing it with a Picasanian dove that never arrived, as well as the statue of that President of the Cuban Republic, all that was left to remember him by was his pair of shoes.  Also, they don’t have any respect for the sculptures and religious images of the Colón (Columbus) Cemetery, perhaps the most pillaged of our assets, considering by experts to be one of the most important necropolis, in design and monumental value, in the world.

I think it is the duty of all, to report these vandalisms to try to put the brakes on their impunity.

Translated by: BW

August 20 2011

For many years now, what was a very pleasurable way to spend time before 1959 — going shopping — even if just standing outside and looking in the shop windows, has become almost a punishment.

Most of us who go out to buy something for the home, are women. In genera, men detest this type of activity. Undoubtedly they prefer to submit to the Chinese torture of going to the farmer’s markets (perhaps because they have no choice), because they are the ones with the strength to carry the heavy bags full of fruits and vegetables.

My friend Magy told me that yesterday she went shopping at the department store La Epoca (fine, what was left of it), because her daughter had given her some money for her name day to buy a pair of shoes. Something that could have been very pleasant was turned into a real burden.

To enter this shop, as in all of them on my beloved planet, even in the smallest, you have to leave your bag outside. And this annoying, but they say, it’s the established custom. Of course, when you ask who established it, nobody knows the answer. The place where you leave your bags has a sign that says: Objects of value cannot be left in bags. There is no detail about what objects fall into this category. So, if you want to go in, you have no option but to leave your bag with all your personal belongings in it. For me, for example, things if value include the keys to my house, photos of my children, a little notebook, a flash memory, my cosmetics, in short, everything that I always carry.  Then, you have to become a juggler, carrying in your hands your wallet, glasses, cellphone (if you have one) and whatever objects you consider important. This is not only very bad, but it also lends itself to many things, among which is someone hiding something in your bad or removing something from it.

My friend, like everyone else, had to leave her bag in the pigeonhole, after waiting in the usual line, and then hand over her ID, which they demand despite it being a flagrant violation, carry in her hands the above mentioned objects and climb the stairs to the third floor, where the shoe shop is, because the elevators are only for the use of the employees or those with obvious disabilities.

Once there she saw some shoes she like and when she tried them on she told the clerk she would buy them, but she would take them in a bag without the box. She was told she had to take the box because they couldn’t allow her to leave it there because they weren’t allowed to accumulate trash, and if she didn’t want it she could throw it in the first trash can in the street. This bothered my friend, but there was nothing she could do about it.

She took the fifty CUCs her daughter had given her and when she went to pay the clerk asked for her ID card, and she said she didn’t have it as she had left it with her bag as demanded. Then the clerk asked if she knew the number by heart and she said no. Then, I’m sorry — answered the saleswoman — I can’t give them to you. My friend insisted but to no avail. She was indignant without her pair of shoes, tired and exhausted from the heat (the shop wasn’t air-conditioned) and what should have been a nice afternoon of shopping turned into a real punishment.

August 13 2011

Fifty-two years ago the woman of my story was twenty-five, full of hopes and dreams. Her heritage was humble, but her family had encouraged her to study to open a path to a better future. Food, I am told, was never lacking.

When they were surprised by the sweeping social changes, she had completed her Superior education, and recently started to work at a store on Galiano street. She earned little, but as she lived in her mother’s house, her pay was enough to help her mother and give her some extras, such as: going out for a snack at the Ten Cent with her friends, buy herself a new dress for her birthday, New Year’s and perhaps the odd occasion.

One day leaving work she came across a young man and they were both looking at each other, as if possessed by a spell. She was dressed all in white, because it was summer, and he was in an olive-green uniform with a necklace of seeds hanging around his young neck.

Soon they married and without realizing it she began to identify with the ideas of her young husband and became ever more involved in revolutionary activities. It wasn’t long before their first son came along, by then her husband wasn’t wearing green and he was working as a truck driver for a company. Their two salaries together barely covered the expenses of the three of them. One day, she told me, she got up very early and surprised her husband hastily packing a suitcase: he was thinking of leaving the country in a boat and had left a note on the fridge. How every much she begged and burst into tears, he didn’t listen, he’d decided. “I can’t take it any more!” he said.

She was left alone with her son, part of her family had already left, and many of her friends as well. She never decided to do it: she still believed that at least her son would have a better future. And she didn’t want to leave her mother behind and she loved this land.

She worked a lot of suffered many shortages, as she never heard again of the man she had loved, she was driven forward by her son and he managed to study and even got a university degree. Years later, he also left, looking for new opportunities and because he was tired — he said — of so many hardships.

So now, at seventy-seven, this poor woman goes out and stands at the entrances to the agro-markets, to sell some large bags (shopping bags) that she makes herself from recycled materials, as her meager retirement is barely enough to survive, and although her son sends her a little help now and again, he also has a family to support and doesn’t earn much. “To think I worked and sacrificed so much for a better future, and it has never come, at least not for me!”

August 10 2011

Having a profound interest prior to the openings of new restaurants (called paladares – which means “palates”) on my beloved planet and in this meal in particular, I offer you the following recipe:

Chancellor snapper filet (any similarity to a real person is a pure coincidence).

For two people:

1/2 pound of snapper filets.

1 lemon.

2 slices of garlic.

One piece of pepper.

1 tablespoon of salt.

1 cup of wheat flour.

2 cups of fine breadcrumbs.

2 eggs.

1/2 pound of ham.

1/4 pound of cheese.


Cover the filets with a mixed garlic, salt and pepper, add the lemon juice. Leave it for a while. Put it into a dish and put ham and cheese on every filet. Pass it carefully through wheat flour, coating both sides well.

Now, pass them through whipped egg until they absorb it well on both sides. Coat them with a sufficient breadcrumb, support them against the bottom of the dish to make the coating adhere.

Fry them in sufficiently warm oil. Serve them in a dish and garnish them with pieces of lemon and branches of parsley or rosemary.

This recipe has been practiced in our most famous restaurants for ages by our best chefs.

Enjoy your meal!

Translated by: Ivana Recmanová

August 4 2011

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