June 2012

Today, Friday, we woke without electricity. Regular television viewers said yesterday’s late-night news program had reported that a large area of one town, Plaza, would be impacted by maintenance work from 8:00 AM until 5:00 PM. This has been going on for several weeks.

Since I had not heard about this, I called 18888, the magic phone number for reporting such instances. A weary voice came on, repeating over and over in monotone, “Outages due to repairs.”

Of course! Those impacted are us, the ordinary citizens, especially those who pay excessive sums of money in license fees and taxes for their nascent private businesses. No one is compensated. They stopped doing that here half a century ago.

In the very early hours of the morning a truck with a crane, a repair truck and ten men arrived at the corner of Forty-first Street and Conill B in the Nuevo Vedado neighborhood. Eight of the men spent nearly the entire time sitting on the pavement while the other two were perched on the pole. Later it occurred to me that the two climbers themselves were sufficient; all the others were just there as cheerleaders.

Forty-first Street was closed to traffic from Avenue 24 to Avenue 26, with cables laid out all along it. The neighbors – some resigned, some indignant – contemplated the spectacle from their balconies.

The delay is such that we have still not determined if they are sculpting the pole or decorating it. Since we are such an artistic powerhouse, it is quite possible they are turning it into a work of art, given the time invested in repairing the thing. So, now, to whom does one submit a claim? Who is responsible for the resulting losses and nuisance? No one, of course. Just like the complaints made to the famous telephone number in question, all protests fall on deaf ears.

It is now a little past five in the afternoon (the promised hour of completion). Traffic and electrical service have now been restored. Perfect timing.

If this is efficiency and productivity, God himself should come and see!

June 29 2012

“+0000000000 Today 6:48

From mobile phones compradetodo.com (buyeverything.com)

Call as soon as possible to 07 2043145

For recharge of minutes balance via Internet,

If you do not call back today the charge will be returned

to the purchaser.

In case of fraud, the line will be cancelled.”

As soon as I saw this same message twice, I called the number in question and the voice of the woman who took care of me repeated that I had received a recharge. I asked for how much, as I was not expecting one, and she did not want to say.

Thereupon she asked my name, the number of my identification card, my cell phone number and the address of my house. I gave her all these facts believing that they were necessary and she immediately asked me the name of the person who was doing the recharge. I asked her if this was an interrogation, to which, a bit irritated, she responded that she had only asked three questions. Since she insisted on the name of the possible benefactor, I answered that it could be one of my two sons or my aunt. Then she told me: “say a man’s name”. I mentioned those of my sons and she said: “Those are not it… (This reply means that she knows the name)… when you know the name, call us. In the meantime, your recharge will be here. Have no fear”. The message in question has been repeated, as of now, five times.

This whole conversation, as well as its very tone, at first appeared to me to be in jest and immediately thereafter, a lack of respect and even a violation of the client’s right to privacy.

I state this so that anyone who might generously recharge my telephone, be they family or friend, may know just how tightly our telephony is controlled. This appears to be a new “Service to the client” of the Cubacel Enterprise.

Translated by: Maria Montoto

June 28 2012

Site manager’s note:  If you recharge the bloggers’ cellphones (a WONDERFUL thing to do) it’s a good idea to send them an email with whatever name you used when you recharged it and the amount… otherwise it may not always be credited to them. If there’s no email on their Spanish blogs … email us (translatingcuba … at… gmail…) and we’ll try to get in touch with them.  I will also put this information and the emails we have for the bloggers on the “How to Recharge Bloggers’ Phones” page.

On the Radio Rebelde program Memorias they reiterate it, over and over, every Sunday between each and every musical number. It is a type of slogan, a political cliche, about the difficulties our blockaded and besieged island suffered in the 1960s, along with all the vicissitudes and the thousands of kilometers the regime’s officials had to travel, time and again, to obtain the vinyl disks on which to record our music. This is something they say so that we do not forget.

But it is the members of the program themselves who seem to have a faulty memory. They repeatedly forget to play Cuban music performed by the likes of Olga Guillot, Celia Cruz, Magie Carlés, Willy Chirino, to name but a few, who are banned from the radio for the simple fact of having gone into exile. There is also the sad case of Ernesto Lecuona, whose name went unspoken on our radios for many years because of statements he made in the years immediately after the triumph of the Revolution when he was on tour outside the country. He was only rehabilitated in the 1990s after receiving tributes from around the world for his genius as a composer.

Since we are talking about not forgetting, what seems to have been forgotten are the revolutionary purges to which a countless number of our artists, musicians, comedians and acrobats from radio and television – all of the highest professional caliber – were subjected merely for the act of political dissent.

I would suggest that the program Memorias start taking heavy doses of Fitina* or eating foods rich in phosphorous to help jog its memory. They then might not come up with lame excuses like the one they gave me when I insisted they play music by the great Olga Guillot, putting forth the argument that they did not have records by this wonderful Cuban singer because all of them have been damaged.

It would be great if someone, who had a collection of some of the numbers performed by this glory of Cuba, could send it to the broadcasters to see if it might jog their memory.

*Translator’s note: A dietary supplement advertised as a memory booster.

June 26 2012

Right now the Click Festival is wrapping up, enlivened by the music of the group Omni Zona Franca, after three days of intense theoretical exchanges about technology.

In the morning was kid-Click, dedicated to children and teens, especially for these little dwarfs we love so much to enjoy it, forced as they are to accompany us on so many of our activities.

Later, after a pause for refreshment, the critics analyzed the festival and the challenges for the next edition, with the participation of all those present who wanted to express their ideas.

Following that was the awarding of prizes for the technology and #FesitvalCLIC twitter contests.

The first was awarded the blogger Ernest Camué with a laptop and the second to the owner of the blog Crossing the Barbed Wire — Luis Felipe Rojas — with a $100 CUC recharge on his mobile phone.

June 23 2012

Sprinkled with enthusiasm and soaked in technology, from early this morning, despite the inclement weather, bloggers, alternative journalists, twitterers, as well as the usual comrades from State Security who don’t come inside but who watch over us from the sidewalk in front and both corners, we arrived at the familiar site of Estado de Sats. This three-day festival is sponsored by Estado de Sats, the Blogger Academy, and EBE of Spain.

With wide coverage by the international press: the BBC from London, Reuters and AP, the main room and the surrounding areas were packed with an audience that came from different provinces, despite the well-known transportation problems made worse by the weather. Starting at 9:00 in the morning, the presentation and detailing of the program: Background on similar events in Cuba and other countries, as well as the multimedia presentation by Mr. José Luis Antúnez (EBE).

Then, with a brief presentation by each of the members of the first panel, Yoani Sánchez, Eliécer Avila, Pastor Mario Barroso and myself, where each of us told of our experiences using Twitter, the challenges of brevity and the immediacy of the message, and how the use of this tool has influenced our lives.

At 1:30 in the middle of the day there was a break to raid the fridge, take group photos and have a short rest.

Right now the discussion is about a future bill of rights for Cuban internauts and the panel includes lawyers and the blogger Regina Coyula. They are also addressing the theme of digital publications in Cuba today, with regards to scope and limits.

Tomorrow, June 22, at the same time, the Festival will continue, and at 8:30 in the evening the BBC documentary “How Did Facebook Change the Arab World?” will be shown.

June 21 2012

Antonio, Manuel, Wilfredo, Reinaldo, Elizardo

This morning, Saturday, June 16, Estado de Sats again hosted an interesting debate regarding a Citizen Demand for Another Cuba, and the United Nations Covenants on Human Rights, printed copies of which were handed out to everyone in attendance.

The panel consisted of Elizardo Sánchez Santa Cruz, Reinaldo Escobar, Wilfredo Vallín and Manuel Cuesta Morua, with Anthony Rodiles, the usual moderator and host.

The interesting debate was marked by concise and interesting presentations. Using the words of the panelists themselves, with their synthesis and content, I offer for your consideration:

The audience overflowing the room into the garden.

Manual Cuesta Morua: “Citizens are the base of legitimacy for States.”

Elizardo Sánchez: “I hope that this initiative comes to fruition.”

Reinaldo Escobar: “The country is violating every right enunciated in the Constitution.”

Dr. Wilfredo Vallín: “International law prevails over domestic law of a country.”

“There are exceptions to the letter of the pacts, and the State can use such exceptions; however, there cannot be exceptions that fundamentally change the spirit and intentions of such pacts.”

Antonio Rodiles: “Hopefully the covenants are a kind of road map.”

Again, as usual, an ever growing heterogeneous audience filled the large room and the surrounding gardens.

June 18 2012

He was known as tall, dark and handsome and he boasted of it and of the “power” which he had enjoyed for a long time, not so much in his own right, but by that which the powerful godfathers would make possible.

Always dressed in camouflage and carrying a rifle on his shoulder, even during the Special Period, he got out of his jeep and unloaded the game he had obtained that day: a deer, partridges, and some other unfortunate animal that fell under the fire authorized by his weapon.  He never shared his booty with a neighbor, for he was enemies with all.  At the slightest disturbance created by any neighbor, he would leave his apartment in the worst of all his handsome stances and brandish his fist, without considering the consequences of fighting over the disturbance.  This earned him the nickname Marshall Bigdick.

Once, he badly beat up a young doctor who was trying to calm the cries of the baby in his arms, which became the trigger that made bad mood of the handsome hunk explode.  They were taken to a police station and the assailant only remained a few hours in detention, because his powerful backers immediately went to release him.  His victim was admitted to the hospital as a result of the beating, but then had to swap housing due to the constant threats from the thug and the impunity with which he acted.

After the passage of several years and various other incidents, the abuser is now a man of a certain age. His reputation has faded now that two of his godfathers have died, and although one is still alive, he is by now quite old.

No more than three days ago the guy had the nerve to barge into the home of his next door neighbor, accompanied by two workers from the gas company, under the pretext that there was a leak in her house.

The husband of the owner blocked his way, saying that, without proper authorization, he could not enter their house, much less excavate in their garden. He pushed the husband aside and ordered the men to begin work.

Summoning strength from who knows where (as I was later told), the wife of the assaulted man grabbed the guy by his shirt, pushed him against the wall and slapped him around a couple of times. She is a quite small and delicate woman. As a result the police showed up, after receiving a call from another neighbor, and took everyone to the police station.

The thug was fined for breaking and entering, and a restraining order was placed against him.

After learning the details of the dispute, the entire neighborhood has new respect and admiration for this fragile woman, who was able to stand up to the handsome guy in a way no man had, up to that point, ever dared to do, possibly more out of fear of his godfathers than of him.

Any similarity with actual persons, living or dead, is not, I assure you, purely coincidental.

 Translated by: Rafael Gómez and Anonymous

June 13 2012

Patchwork by R. Monzo

Much is publicized, even by the United Nations, about Cuba being one of the countries where less violence exists.  It is true that we do not have wars or drug trafficking.  But what is undeniable, in spite of the fact that the national press does not speak of it, is the domestic violence, like other kinds of violence carried out, due to many reasons.

Recently there occurred a lamentably bloody event, among members of a sector that is supposed to be cultured and refined. The media have not reported anything about it, but now it is popular knowledge, the crime perpetrated by one of the most outstanding musicians of the Philharmonic Orchestra, a young cellist, ranked among the best in the country.

Rumor has it that she had been a victim, like so many other musicians of the despotism with which the Director General of the Amadeo Roldan Complex, Mr. Chorens used to treat them.  It seems that the straw that broke the camel’s back was the denial of a trip abroad, highly anticipated by this virtuoso of strings.  Expressing her indignation on learning of the refusal, she made public among his companions, the vengeance that he was going to perpetrate:  I am going to hurt him where it hurts most, she said.

She went to the house of the Director, knowing that the director’s mother would be there alone, and finished her off with a blade, repeatedly stabbing her until she died.

This is only one example of the many acts of violence that are practiced daily in our country, and about which the media never report.

There is a lot of contained hatred and frustration, any incident can be the trigger to make them explode with the same fury as a volcano expelling the lava contained in its interior.  No one talks about it.  The worst is that like everything kept hidden, no one is careful, especially not foreigners, who are sold the line about the safest tourist destination.

As long as the press is not free and transparent, we are going to be believe that we are living in a true paradise.  I do not like the “police blotter,” but I also do not agree with hiding the news, that one way or another affects us all.  Nor am I going to become a spokesman for the same, but this event has upset the artistic sector and still nothing has been published about it.

Translated by mlk

June 10 2012

Last Monday I managed to get off unscathed and in one piece from a Route 27 bus, between stops, at 17th and D, thanks to the kindness of the driver, who decided to give me a chance, opening the doors of the bus there.

I took F Street and headed toward Linea. With horror I could observe how destroyed the area is and the number of improvised shacks there, in what in other times used to be the garages and front porches of the old family residences, displaying without the slightest embarrassment architectural cellulite and scoliosis, diseases which almost all new buildings or renovations suffer today. Unfortunately, that day I had not brought my camera, which I had left at home charging. The heat was exhausting and the sweat rolled down my eyelashes, causing me to glimpse as through a veil all those architectural horrors that I was walking toward.

When I finally reached Linea Street, which shimmered like the desert because of the intense sun, I thought I was hallucinating when I saw in the middle of the sidewalk a huge Santa Claus in plain month of June. At first I thought it was a performance, because we are still in Biennial, but there was no audience. As I approached, I saw that it was an advertising gimmick of an unsuccessful street vendor, to attract attention.

Finally I reached the large building where the friend I was going to visit lives.  As usual, the main elevator was out of service, leaving only the freight elevator running. Both are ancient Otises from the fifties. I got into this thing alone, which I don’t like to do, and pushed the button for the 19th floor.  All was going fine until it stopped on the 10th floor, to pick up a young woman with a little girl about two years old. She punched 13 and, having barely risen one floor, we became stuck between 11th and 12th.

Never before had I been trapped in an elevator, although many times I had thought that it could happen to me. I kept calm, following the example of serenity and peace that the little girl gave us. I knew that the presence of that little angel would bring us luck. I gave my cell phone (which happened to be charged) to the young woman, so she could call the manager, because she lives in that building, and knows its intricacies. Immediately we heard the voices of those coming to our rescue. We put on the emergency (break) and got to work, listening to the instructions that came from outside, to find the famous lever and the black button that had to be pushed, so that they could open from the outside. As soon as we accomplished that, they opened the door to that floor and we saw that indeed we had stopped between two floors. Thanks to the fact that the small window in the door was broken, a little air came in to us.

Naturally, they got the little girl out first. The young woman jumped and almost fractured her ankle in the fall. I, who suffer from vertigo, looked sideways at the dark hollow of two handwidths or so wide that was lost in the void and told myself: “Don’t look down, you have to get out.” Any which way, since all residents of the building have been putting up iron gates to protect themselves, adding an uncalculated weight to the property, taking advantage of this architectural error, stretching first my arms and then my legs, I grabbed the bars of the door to the apartment closest to me, like a spider, to get out and let myself fall onto the landing of the service stairwell, to the applause of all who were watching the maneuver.

Fortunately, there was a happy ending. But once I had calmed down, from the 19th floor, observing the beautiful view, I started thinking that with all the gates that all of the neighbors have added around the exits from the elevators, the day there is a fire it will be very difficult to evacuate them.

Translated by: Maria Montoto and others

June 6 2012