July 2012

Photo from the book of O. Matussiere

A friend who works in a place where it is very well-known told me that he along with his co-workers, are puzzled because there are Immigration Offices, where only black people work there, and that calling attention to this and looking into it, they could only learn that by resolution, the order was given, because the rate of Afro-Cubans in these offices was very low. Now this happened some years ago with the Communist Party.

As Maximo Gomez said well, referring to us Cubans: we fall short or we go too far. This is not just a new form of racism. This time, affecting whites, Chinese and mixed race, who are also important members of our society.

How long will we keep repeating the same mistakes? To get a job or not should depend on the ability to do the work implied, not the skin color of the aspirant. It’s shameful that with more than half a century of proclaiming “equality” we still mark this type of difference which only serves to further deepen inequality.

July 27 2012

Yesterday, around for in the afternoon, the coffin with the body of Oswaldo Payá arrived at the Chapel of the Savior of the World Parish, on Peñón street in the municipality of Cerro, after having completed the formalities of forensic medicine.

The old 19th century church, recently restores, was literally packed. Some of those attending remained outside because there was no room inside, despite the many extra chairs arranged for.

On its arrival the coffin, blessed before entering the sacred enclosure, was greeted with chants which accompanied it until it was placed before the altar. Then the crowd erupted in loud applause, which continued for about ten minutes.

Family, friends and many of those present stayed to keep a vigil over him and wait for the mass to be celebrated at 8:00 in the evening, dedicated to Oswaldo Payá, a person much loved by his community.

This morning Cardinal Jaime Ortega celebrated mass in the parish in memory of Payá, praising the magnitude of his qualities as a human being, religious person, and civic citizen.

The procession left the church accompanied by a large number of religious, laypeople, friends, acquaintances, and admirers of the deceased, as well as the foreign press and a good representation of the diplomatic corps, as well as excited and curious people.

Just after half past ten the hearse arrived at Colón Cemetery, followed by private, diplomatic and rental cars, their occupants descending from them, to join the large group of us who had been waiting there since the early morning hours, forming a crowd that was over a thousand people. All walked quietly behind the car, to the chapel where there was a prayer for the dead and another blessing.

Talking with some friends who had been at the Mass at Cerro, I learned that on leaving towards the avenue, there were some shouts of freedom, freedom, and according to what I was told there was pushing and some shoving and arrests were made including of Antonio Rodiles and his wife and Coco Fariñas.

For the rest, the whole ceremony and internment was accompanied by religious chants, moments of silence, a lot of sun, a lot of heat, and a lot of respect for the deceased. In all, some eight hundred of us stayed until the end of the ceremony.

State security agents with their Suzuki bikes stood idly by, under the shade of the laurels. Others moved among us. Everything transpired in apparent peace and normality.

July 24 2012

Sign placed outside a state office in Ayestarán

Yesterday, after nearly a month, I finally resolved the mysterious business of my cell phone account having been recharged which, it seems, had caused great anxiety for a certain commercial enterprise which really seems more like a bureau of investigation.

You might recall my telling you that one fine day I received a small gift on my mobile in a tone as threatening as it was puzzling.

In this message, which in the end was sent to me eighteen times at half hour intervals, I was told that I had to call a certain number in order to activate the above mentioned credit. As I said before, when I called, they put me through an interrogation in which I had to give my first and last names, home address, cell phone number (the same one to which they had been sending the message), the number on my identity card and, best of all, the name of the person who had recharged the account – something which, as I mentioned, I ignored. The young woman assisting me the first time did not want to tell me the amount of the credit or who had recharged the account. She would only tell me that it was a man. Playing along, I gave her the names of my sons but she said it was someone else. She added that not only would the credit be put on hold until I provided this information but that the money that had been added to the account would have to refunded.

As I had no desire to lose this money, I called back the next day and fortunately got operator #_ (who was much more pleasant than the one without a name). To help me, she told me the account had been recharged by someone in Miami and that the name of the person started with the letter B. I told her that I had no idea who that could be and that those messages were annoying me. Then, very politely, she told me she would refund the money and that I would no longer receive those little messages that were annoying me so.

Time passed and “the eagle crossed over the sea.” As I do not have internet and can only go online when they do me the favor of giving me a few hours, it took some time to access my account to find the pertinent information so that I could receive this prize.

On Monday I finally found out who Mr. B was. I called the mysterious number and proceeded to give them the information. They advised me, however, that the gentleman had paid with a credit card, that they would have to investigate and that, if there had been fraud, I would have to return the money. As you can see, they lied to me for almost a month when they told me that they would return the funds to Mr. B.

It is clear that, at no point, were they going to refund the gentleman his money. It was all just a threat. Please tell me if this modus operandi is appropriate for a commercial enterprise whose primary objective is generating hard currency.

July 19 2012

I found out from national press and radio reports that the government of Namibia will send to “my planet” nothing more and nothing less than one hundred fifty animals for the national zoo, which is located on the outskirts of our capital city. These include elephants, lions, tigers, panthers, great apes and many other species which will be shipped by land and sea at the end of October.

Lately the newspaper Juventud Rebelde has been printing in the Letters to the Editor section a lot of letters from citizens expressing their dismay and disgust over the serious state of neglect in which the animals and facilities of the emblematic Avenida 26 Zoo in Nuevo Vedado have been left. I myself have also written about this in my blog.

This is happening in a park that is the city’s most central and accessible thanks to the favorable location it enjoys. Hundreds of visitors come here daily not so much to see the tired and hungry animals but to purchase the candies for sale in its well-stocked kiosks.

If this is happening in a such a centrally located facility, seen by so much of the public, what is going on in that other gigantic park on the outskirts of the city where access is increasingly more difficult as a result of the almost non-existent mass transit system and the very expensive (from the standpoint of the average citizen’s pocket book) alternative transit system made up of old cars – rechristened “almendrones” by the public – whose fare is twenty pesos per person?

With all due respect I would advise the government of Namibia and the organizations dedicated to the protection of animals in captivity such as www.tarongafoundation.com to carefully assess the conditions in which these animals will be living before sending them off to a cruel destiny, where the majority will be condemned to die of hunger, given the country’s current inability to care for those it already has due to the scarce supplies of food and medicine in these facilities.

It would be better to keep them in their places of origin and, if it were possible to arrange with Cuban authorities, to try to grant asylum to those still alive in our two parks.

July 17 2012

As I watched the baseball games between the Cuban team (made up of professionals) and the American college students, I felt embarrassed. How exactly is it possible that our novice Cuban baseball players were not in on this game so that they could gain some experience?

On top of that, the stadium was nearly empty. There were a few young people with shirts of the same colors (possibly taken from a school), plus some older people with the faces of Party stalwarts, perhaps a Cuban family member or two, and a very small number of little American faces occupying just few seats. How is it possible that these events, which have aroused so much enthusiasm among our fans, did not fill the Latin American Stadium? It all seems to indicate that admission is selective.

How long will we go on deceiving ourselves, pitting complete professionals against boys who, for the most part, are minors. Nevertheless, in spite of having used our best pitchers, the boys gave them a run for their money.

The press quietly mentioned in passing that the second game, which had been tied six to six, was won by our team almost by accident since the young Americans, in point of fact, had played much better. They go on to justify pitting them against seasoned professionals rather than fellow amateurs because the Americans are much more experienced, having been playing since childhood. Why is this the case?

Among other reasons there are hardly any fields left on which to practice. The former Bohemia lots have been planted with banana trees and closed off because of their proximity to the Ministry of Defense (MINFAR) and the Central Committee, and a multi-family micro-brigade housing complex is being built in the ball field near the Orbay y Cerrato lumber company, to cite just a few reasons. It is also worth noting that previously – before 1959 to be exact – a professional Wilson baseball cost 1.50 pesos in the currency in which salaries are paid. It now costs several times that in hard currency (CUC) virtually out of reach for most Cubans. It is the same with gloves and bats, which makes it impossible for any boy to practice this sport.

But what in my judgement is even more unfortunate is to see how, on my planet, a sporting event is turned, through sleight of hand, into a political game.

July 8 2012

Just six months since it opened, a full house has been the common denominator for the whole half-year, for the private restaurant La Rosa Negra.

Early on Pedrito, the young owner, had to face many bureaucratic obstacles and so many others caused, unfortunately, by misunderstandings with some neighbors: that the air conditioning is noisy, that the odors penetrate the neighboring houses, that the water in their tanks is low because the restaurant’s is full. In short, the normal things that happen with any State enterprise, and that no good neighbor has dared to question until now. Why should there be this reaction against private businesses”

Fernando and Rebeca

Sadly, it is the accumulated and captive frustration, which only seems to be given free rein when it’s a private business, forgetting that it’s nothing more than a neighbor. There’s no worse splinter than from your own stick, as my grandmother used to say.

Fortunately, this young entrepreneur has managed to negotiate all these obstacles with diplomacy and intelligence and has improved every day. Not only are the conditions of the place ever more pleasant, but the menu offerings are always getting better and more varied and the prices are considerably more reasonable than most of its competitors. The Black Rose has quickly become, in one of the most successful restaurants in the capital, already a landmark.

It’s nice to see the development of private initiative, which is ultimately what drives growth. No country gets richer because it gets more millionaires, but because the middle class grows.

Many may think that personal interests lead me to write about this new restaurant. I assure you that no one pays me for this, I do it simply for the satisfaction I derive from seeing the incipient development of private enterprise. These small establishments, businesses created with great effort and against all odds in less than favorable conditions, with good taste — and capital, of course — have been gradually changing the faded and drab image of socialism as we know it. New colors, more lighting, well-cared for gardens and areas surrounding the establishment, more cleanliness, more variety and quality are the magical elements that have influenced the success of them.

If you want to know more about this restaurant you can go to its Facebook page: larosanegradelahabana.

Address: Tulipan y 24, Nuevo Vedado, La Habana, La Habana 10600

Delicious food

Happy customers

Well fed…

And a great staff!

July 15 2012

I went to the Zoological Park when the sun was still beating down.

In my tour I could see the lion sleeping or exhausted, indifferent too the proddings of a public who want to see him standing up and roaring.

I went to the fountain of my childhood, thinking I could find some water to refresh my hands.

Not only was it empty it was very badly cared for. I decided to go see Monkey Island.

The island didn’t have any monkeys and its waters were putrid.

Then I thought I’d go see the beautiful birds from different countries on exhibit in enormous cages and the peacocks that walk among the visitors; but I couldn’t because a vet was working there and I crossed the street with him and on asking he said, “There are almost no important species left and the cages are broken and rusted. The few peacocks that have survived we’ve had to put in cages so people don’t steal them.”

Disillusioned, I took the road for home; I preferred to remember those beautiful plumed creatures I had seen them many years ago. Now you can only see a single Australian species, which didn’t have a sign to tell you its name.

It’s rumored they are going to close the park now for repairs. I hope that this time it will not be simply cosmetic, and worth the trouble. It would be very sad to lose this zoo, that in its time was a architectural joy, making several generations of adults and children happy and, on its own merits, becoming an emblematic place in the city.

July 11 2012

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