January 2013

Although far from my beloved planet, I keep up with what is happening there thanks to the internet, which here in this corner of France, as in almost every other country, is available to all, which is not the case back home, where only the most privileged have free access to it.

This small city of 20,000 inhabitants has everything any human being would need to live — heated homes, well-paved roads and excellent traffic signals, clean streets and sidewalks, a system for sorting out the trash generated in the course of daily life, schools, churches, stores, restaurants, parks, supermarkets and museums. Most notably the state and the citizenry also pay a great deal of attention to protected ecological zones, the preservation and care of plants and wildlife, and to city rules and regulations. It has, in other words, everything that a human being needs for a good and healthy existence.

Being with this very important part of my family, I cannot get out of my mind how ironic it is that my small island is being punished — as though all the exhaustion and suffering that has built up for more than half a century were not enough — by an epidemic that had been eradicated since the 19th century.

Today, I carefully observed citizens and neighbors taking their own trash to locations near their homes, where all this material was sorted into separate containers to be later recycled and repurposed as new commodities. Even children know about and take part in this activity. In their homes and in their schools they are educated and informed about the importance of this civic activity. They are also taught respect for community property and the need to abide by rules and regulations. All this made me embarrassed for my country, which until 1959 was at the  forefront in Latin America with respect to hygiene and public health. This was also true in many other areas, where we ranked at or near the top, not only in the region, but also in relation to some European countries.

As it began to snow, the picturesque landscape of Alsatian buildings — some very old ones mixed with modern ones, all built according to regulations and respectful of an architectural sensibility that does not disrupt the harmony of the surroundings — took on a new enchantment as it became cloaked in white.

Returning from out stroll, we walked along Allée des Platanes, between the villages of Blotzheim and Altkirsch, which had been planted with trees on both sides of the roadway during the reign of Napoleon III. I could not help thinking about my neighbors in Havana, Carmelo and Felipe, who had not left a single tree standing on our street. Here is but one example of the differences in culture and education.

January 21 2013

When I was a child, I heard my grandmother talk about the hard times of cholera, and of how her family had escaped from this terrible disease. That was all I knew of this plaque, pure history.

And it turns out that now, in the 21st century, in “my beloved planet”, that terrible word is mentioned again. After those stories told by his grandmother María, I again heard about this pandemic when I enjoyed reading the famous novel by García Márquez: Love in the Time of Cholera, passionately losing myself in his unforgettable character Florentino Ariza.

I was surprised, it’s true, that for so many years we had weathered the danger of such a plague, because our beloved island is increasingly sinking into more precarious hygienic conditions die to the apathy and neglect in all sectors, in all social spheres. Thanks to our relentless sun, we have survived some diseases.

I have written a great deal in my blog, about the lack of hygiene and cleanliness in public places, among them, unfortunately, polyclinics and hospitals, as well as cafes and stalls, State and private (some), selling light and not so light food for public consumption, especially for those who do not have hard currency and are forced to go to them.

I avoid at all costs, and so I tell anyone whom I can within my power, not to consume these drinks made with flavored powders, because the lack of safe drinking water is very common, especially in places like Old Havana, where there are the largest number of tourists and local visitors.

Another of the reasons I resist, when the impertinent fumigation brigades, try to break into my house when they want to fill it with smoke from burning oil, is that time has shown that it is completely ineffective in liquidating the famous mosquito, while the hygiene of the environment and the city are so precarious.

Now, more worryingly, and in what must be emphasized to the authorities and the population in general, is the need to maintain the highest possible hygiene in our homes and our environment, so that this outbreak of cholera does not become endemic as has its other relative, dengue fever.

January 18 2013


Last night, with a temperature below zero, but with the warmth of our enthusiasm, Tito and I undertook the route from France to Basel, Switzerland, in search of a new Cuban corner.

At Rümenlibachweg Street # 9 4052, in Basel, we found a cozy restaurant on the corner called El Cubanito, a bar-café. This cozy place was opened, after great effort on sacrifice, on December 29, 2012.

Its owner and hostess, a beautiful and friendly Cuban is proud, and rightly so the end result of her sacrifice.

When we arrived, and the place was already full, and musicians ready to begin: Dianelis, the singer, Jorge El Guajiro, on guitar and Coco on percussion, vibrated with Cuban music in the new place.

Already more Cubans were arriving as the night wore on, some young, some not so young, in a good wave that filled the room.

Dianelis, with her wonderful voice was giving us an overview of Cuban rhythms, offering a very special entertainment and her Besamé Mucho. They were soon joined by imitating the sound of the base in his throat, Alcides Toirac. They also incorporated the sounds of other Cubans present, playing keys and maraca.

We spent an amazing night and were among the last to leave when the place closed.

A feeling of nostalgia and longing for our homeland and family, and of joy, was the atmosphere that reigned in the particular room.

January 13 2013

Three years ago, when I decided to open up a blog, giving my real name and my surname, I began timidly to write. I remember my first post was to describe the year-end party, to which had been invited in Centro Habana. That was something amazing, I could only describe it as a wild west.

Now, on my third anniversary, I thought I would post something happy, cheerful, or at least entertaining, because after many adventures, and years of separation, I finally came back to visit my family in this beautiful  Alsatian city called Saint Louis, in France on the border with Switzerland and Germany, where just crossing a bridge, investing about twenty minutes, you can find yourself in either of these two countries, without anyone along the way asking you for your identity card.

But, like the drunk has one idea while the winemaker has another… even though I hadn’t had even a sip of the excellent and famous wine produced in this region. I had a misstep: je me suis trompe, et puis tombe (I put my foot wrong and fell) downstairs.

So I ask my faithful and patient followers, as well as my regular commentators, to forgive me for having neglected my blog a bit, but I just started writing, although with difficulties, with my right hand, whose fingers, no longer inflamed, thank God, were free of the cast that still immobilizes my arm.

From my heart, I hope that you have happily begun this year 2013, in which I have asked, as the most precious gift, after health, of course, the liberation of our beloved captive country captive. A big hug!

January 11 2013

Upon arriving in this corner of France and reuniting with my family, whom I had not seen for seven years, I had the great pleasure of receiving a visit from the son of a very dear friend, whom I had first seen when he was born. Later on, as you might imagine, the subject of the far-off homeland came up, as well as the problems and frustrations that come with abandoning, almost against your will, the place where you were born. This is his case.

This Cuban is not resigned to remaining in forced exile. Life has played him some dirty tricks, so he is undocumented here. They cannot repatriate him, as he would like, because Cuban authorities repeatedly refuse him entry. The last time he was in Cuba, he remained in prison for four months for refusing to leave the country.

This man, who is still young, has two names and a head, so he never stops thinking about the misery to which his homeland is subjected. He has dedicated his free time — which unfortunately is all that he can do since he does not have papers and can work only sporadically — to investigating Cuban issues in-depth.

I was truly impressed when he showed me photos, articles and a wealth of details, to which we Cubans on the island do not have access, regarding the strange accident in which Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero were killed.

For this reason I am uploading the video that my friend provided for your consideration.

Site manager’s note: This video is not subtitled but here is a summary of the contents: The person speaking, a friend of Rebeca’s, is Israel Alejandro Cabezas González. He has put together the evidence he shows in the video, with regards to the death of Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero in a car crash. He believes that the photo of the car — driven by the Spaniard Carromero — was “fixed,” that is altered, and as a point of comparison he offers a photo that appeared in the Spanish press. He says that the official report of the crash was prepared to match the “fixed” photos.

Using Google maps he shows where the crash occurred, and the little collection of houses located 2 km before the crash. He believes that the “operation” was planned there and that the “supposed ambulances” were already waiting there.

The farmer speaking in he video says he was biking from the nearby town to the rice fields where he works, the entrance to which is directly across from the crash site. While he was biking a car passed him and he saw the dust cloud, based on which Alejandro estimates he’s about 1 km (half a mile) from the crash. By the time of the crash he was just meters away and arrived there in 2 to 3 minutes. He said people were already there taking each of the 4 men out of the car.

The person speaking in English is Jan Modig, the Swede who was in the car. He says, “The second memory I have is that I found myself in some sort of ambulance,” which means it wasn’t an ambulance… it was ‘sort of an ambulance’. Alejandro also says the foreigners were saying “why did you do this to us?” and he believes it was a huge premeditated operation to kill them.

He says they took “the Swede” and Carromero (the Spaniard who was driving) away separately and they didn’t know what happened to Oswaldo Paya. Paya was sitting where he received the direct impact from the crash, but that he served as a sort of ‘airbag’ for Harold Cepero who ultimately also died. Alejandro says that since they were being hit from behind everyone was wearing their seatbelts [the official version is that they were not] and that Harold was alive after the crash; he had a very small fracture of the femur.

When they arrived at the hospital — Alejandro goes on  to say — State Security kicked the regular doctors out of the hospital and brought in “G2” military doctors, and that he hopes Cepero’s body was not cremated because he did not die of natural causes.

Alejandro’s personal version of what happened was that somebody who was G2 (State Security) infiltrated Carromero and Modig’s visit and told G2 where they were going. G2 followed them from Havana and also there were more G2 agents waiting for them in the collection of houses, where everything was prepared, including the ambulances and doctors.

Translated and video summary by Unstated and BW and Chabeli

January 4 2013