November 2011

File photo

A farmer friend of mine, whose name I will keep to myself, was rather confused and astonished by an article published in the newspaper Granma on 21 October of this year, which mentioned the notable decline in the livestock herds in our fields (22,980 head as of the end of August this year) due to theft and the illegal slaughter of animals. He sent me the following verse:

Neither fat, nor skinny, nor crazy.

If you look under your bed,

you’ll find a lost cow.

It’s neither skinny nor fat,

nor running crazy.

Seek it on your patio,

or maybe in the kitchen.

In the belly of your children,

or that of your beloved wife.

There is where it should be,

since they took it away.

You raised it and cared for it

and it’s kept by the State!

Granma also noted that lack of control is the common factor. They say that the lack of personnel to check the herds in distant provinces favors disorder since there are already a number of ranchers that operate freely.

Wouldn’t it be better, as the farmer who sent me his poem said, if we first meet the necessity of bringing this food, which until 1959 was a staple of our diet, to each family’s house? According to CENCOP (Center for livestock control), there are not enough officials to check the more than 26,000 landless livestock owners. From this group comes the increased number of animals loose on the streets or grazing on improper land, exposed to accidents or provoking them, as if inviting crime.

Translated by: M. Ouellette

November 17 2011

Some months ago, innumerable messages were arriving in my email, and I imagine in yours too, about the mystic cabala of 11-11-11.

Finally the day arrived and on my planet, where extraordinary things never happen, and where material deficiencies and repression happen on a daily basis, yesterday, November 11th, in the afternoon hours, a large group of friends and acquaintances met in the apartment, very small, of the Sanchez Escobar couple.

As is custom, with open doors and an exquisite aroma of incense, we were received by Yoani and Reinaldo, our hosts.  The ones who were most on-time to the event were occupying the seats, the rest, were arriving in a constant trickle during the evening, until they were occupying the last inch of the building.

The primary objective of the gathering was to introduce Issue eleven of the magazine Voces: 11th day of the 11th month of the 11th year.

The title page of the digital magazine was dedicated to Laura Pollán, as are some of the articles and poems contained in the publication.  It was extremely moving, since among those present you could find the daughter of Laura and some of the Ladies in White.

My eyes teared up and my mind was taken very far away, to Chile, where a part of those whom I love are and I couldn’t help but remember that other Laura, whom I affectionately loved, and who also suffered as a martyr, who started when the darkness of eleven, of a bloody September, extended over the skies of her homeland.  She also died without succeeding in seeing her dream of liberty crystalize.

My respects, my affections, to both courageous women.  May God have them in Glory!

Translated by: BW

November 12 2011

These days, I have been working hard to earn a little money to be able to go shopping, not to buy food, like always, but to buy some garlands for Christmas, because each year I have to update them, because most break very easily.  I imagine that they are made that way on purpose: for a single season.

In spite of the persistent drizzle, I wanted to go, but really, I needed to distract myself a bit.  Upon arriving at the department store La Puntilla, I ran enthusiastically to the place where they sell the decorations for the holidays at the end of the year.  When I approached the garlands and checked the prices, I could do nothing less than show my amazement to the sales lady, because in previous years it always that place where I got the lights for my tree. The same ones, that in previous years I could buy for a little more than 4 CUC (Cuban Convertible Pesos, 1 CUC = 1 $US), now cost 11 and up to 14.  To my amazement, the employee gave me an explanation, that according to her she is used to giving to her clients: The problem is that we buy large packages, hence the prices, you should try to look for the ones that come in small packages, those are cheaper.  I didn’t understand anything, but also I didn’t insist on clarifying the concept, I preferred to watch an old movie repeat of Cantinflas.

I went by the shelves where the china and housewares are, and that is where I had to have intensive therapy; they had some china, square, oriental style, with a simple printed design, and they were marked 61.80 CUC.  I thought that was for a dinner service complete with Sushi, Japanese Chef, and everything! But the store clerk explained that it was the price of each plate. Immediately I understood why the employees were yawning, there wasn’t anybody buying, all the departments didn’t have any customers, and the few that went by, looked and continued on.  And this was Sunday!

Translated by: BW

November 7 2011

Yesterday was payday for retired people and active workers who collect their pay by debit card. The wandering to and fro by people of various ages, in search of a Cadeca (a place where money can be exchanged), a bank that doesn’t have long queues (lines) or for an ATM that works, arouses disgust and some heated remarks between the neighbors of our neighborhood. It should be noted that the payments to retired people don’t happen at the end of the month as was custom some time ago. One fine day in one blow, they changed them to the first few days of the following month, bringing with it the agony of being without a penny extended, therefore, a couple of days more.

But this was not the case for my neighbor, who still works, and collects her pay by debit card. She was very needy the same as the vast majority of people collecting, even more so because she had to make a payment that had a due date. She went in search of an ATM and that’s where here odyssey began. The one at the Ministry of Transport was broken, the one at the Cadeca didn’t have any cash, the same thing happened at the Bank of the Ministry of Agriculture, finally, she went through all of the ATMs and banks in the neighborhood, and couldn’t get cash at any of them, because the only same was working and had available funds, but had a long line that wasn’t moving. She joined that very line and a little while later she overheard a conversation between two people.

One, an older person said to a young person: I don’t know what’s going on, I just went by the agricultural market of the YLW (Youth Labor Army) and they didn’t have anything, nor did the one on Tulipán, nevertheless, the self-employed individuals in their trucks have everything. How is it that the State is not able to supply their farmers markets and but the self-employed can!

The young person, without getting upset, answered: Lady, you yourself just answered your own question, because the State, as you rightly said, is not capable, at least that is what it has demonstrated so far.

The woman, without answering back, moved in the line to move away a little from the young person. Meanwhile, the rest continued complaining to each other about the slow way that they advanced. Finally, my neighbor, abandoned the line protesting without being able to achieve her objective, walking to her house frustrated and indignant, to use a word that is so in style.

Note: the photo had to be taken from far away, because the guard at the Cadeca at Panorama and Tulipán wouldn’t let me get close with camera in hand, he told me that I couldn’t take photos there, and I told him that he should show me documentation of the prohibition, and he answered that it didn’t exist, but that it is forbidden.

Translated by: BW

November 7 2011

Archive photo

On my planet much has been spoken about bad things or criminal acts, where one can see children involved, happening elsewhere in the world, excluding in fact, with this phrase, any allusion to our own children.

However, these reports do not appear to have taken into account that which has been so much insisted upon by international organizations dedicated to the physical and mental health of children: keeping them at a distance from  politics and certainly not using them for political ends.

It seems that the director of La Colmenita — the Beehive — has ignored this precept; the group’s program on a tour of the United States includes a work called Abracadabra, where these child actors are utilized for ultimately political objectives.

If they continue down this direction on their artistic path, soon the innocent little bees will end up becoming wasps. I don’t believe that the children deserve to pass through this unpleasant metamorphosis.

Translated by: BW

October 20 2011

Mayonnaise and ketchup that made it through the "blockade"

On my planet more than fifteen days ago the media was bombarding you at all hours and at every moment with The Five Heroes, The Criminal Blockade, and the battle-hardened and invincible people who are our athletes.  From all this, of course, the most refreshing thing is to spend time watching the Pan American games, but pushing the mute button on the  television, because ladies and gentlemen, to listen to our sportscasters, is like reading the newspaper Granma, holding your breath.

In every moment, still on the sports news, they obligatorily introduce the same old topics, or make reference to them.  In truth, nobody can stand it, We could say that the indoctrination is “up until the soup“*, if it wasn’t that this tasty dish disappeared a long time ago from our tables.  Our sportscasters are better known as political commissioners.  That entails a visible lack of seriousness and professionalism: they are simply intolerable.

With each change of program, they introduce the subject of the great triumph of Cuba in the United Nations.  What they don’t clarify is that certainly no country agrees with imposing a commercial embargo against another, simply they manipulate it as if those 186 countries that voted in favor of the lifting of the blockade, were in agreement with our domestic politics.

Likewise, all of the mutilated news that they offer us is, moreover, manipulated, leaving an information limbo for all who follow it and don’t have access to other media.  They stress the cultural embargo that the U.S. imposes on us and I ask myself, then how is that La Colmenita, Silvio Rodríguez, Pablo Milanés, Los Van Van, La Aragón and other artists and groups of the island, constantly visit that country.

Nevertheless, why don’t so many Cuban musicians of a high caliber come over from there, musicians who moreover are very well-known here in spite of the censorship,who not only are denied entry, but they also prohibit the popularization of their music on our radio and television, depriving us during more than a half century of following them and enjoying them publicly and freely, without being forced to obtain their recordings clandestinely.  We are truly, more than saturated from so much media propaganda.

Translated by: BW

* Translator’s note: “Up until the soup” means that something is seen everywhere.

October 27 2011

Foreign press photo

He who lives by the sword, perishes by the sword, this very old refrain, I’ve been hearing it said since I had use of reason.  My grandmother used to apply it constantly to people who have taken on a life of delinquency and crimes, and who finally fall into the hands of justice.

The images (the few that go by briefly on the TV in my planet) certainly are horrendous, you see Ghadafi, shot, bloody, and shoved onto the rear part of a vehicle.  Those that have an antenna have told me that those that have spread around the world are really raw, but they haven’t inspired pity, but in every case, horror.  That is owing to the fact that, without a doubt,  this tyrant was really cruel to his adversaries, in his more than 40 years of dictatorship.  After all, in these last few months, since his people came out against him and, instead of resigning and leaving (like they proposed), he insisted on staying, clinging to power and massacred everyone who dared oppose him, without feeling the least of pity for his opponents.  That’s why the awful death that destiny reserved for him, the same one that surprised him trying to flee, as do the cowards who send others to fight on their behalf, while they don’t reach the gunpowder of the battle.  Finally, his cadaver, after being on display for several days, as is the custom in these cultures, was buried in an unknown location in the desert, turning the page on one of the bloodiest chapters in Libyan history.  Again the popular Spanish refrain, becomes a fount of knowledge: He who lives by the sword, perishes by the sword.

Translated by: BW

October 28 2011

The Plaza of the Doves, acrylic on canvas, Graciela Alvarez

Eight years ago, Dr. Alexis Cantero, an eminent surgeon at Fajardo Hospital, seeing the need women had after breast cancer surgery to refocus their lives, created a project where they would be grouped in an entirely voluntary way, in order to perform occupational therapy and cultural activities work, making their disease more bearable. In addition, he actively engaged their closest relatives in the talks and lectures given by other specialists, in order to achieve a greater understanding of this disease.

On the afternoon of October 19, World Day for the Fight Against Breast Cancer, the exhibition Yes to Life was opened in the site formerly occupied by the San Jose Funeral Home, located at Infanta and Carlos III, which was closed and abandoned many years ago. It has been refurbished recently prior to reopening it as a gallery with art exhibition rooms, as part of the Cultural Complex Quinta de los Moilinos.

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Homage to Haiti, acrylic on canvas, Bertha Lemus Máscara, artisan of Estela Alfonso

The group, which started with only five women (according to what one of its founders, Mrs. Silvia Plá, who was operated on fifteen years ago told us), now has over two hundred, including some artists and artisans. They meet every two months and organize lectures, field trips, parties and exhibitions as now. Wings for Life is a nonprofit project coordinated by a physician who has made his profession a true priesthood, and who strives to further disseminate knowledge about this disease and every day to provide more support to those who suffer or survive it.

October 21 2011

Painting by H. Cata

Another Halloween on my planet, in which tricks are abundant and caramels scarce.

Congratulations to all who can celebrate it!

Translated by: lapizcero

October 31 2011