April 2013


On Thursday night I was watching a program of Latino film that the TV on my planet aired. I never watch it, because of the poor quality of most of the movies and topics chosen, but this one interested me. I was amazed that they showed the Chilean film “NO” on a medium as important as this. This movie was seen on the big screen in one of the recent festivals, but that was barely any exposure. In the movie it shows how a pragmatic dictator, Pinochet, agreed to face a plebiscite on his continuation in power, and even more astonishing, that he acted in conformance with the popular vote.

It was very interesting to be able to see how they undertook the NO advertising campaign despite attacks from the right. What was smart about the campaign  was the making of the advertising “spots” advocating for future and optimistic Chile, without wallowing in the tragic events that followed the military coup, even against opinions of some of the participants of this campaign. They presented the “No” campaign with intelligence and freshness and finally managed to convince the majority.

Another detail that caught my eye was being able to hear throughout the shooting of the film that both proposals, the YES and NO, were granted the same amount of minutes in television space. Something that stands out when we just observed the media manipulation and centralization of Chavismo in Venezuela in the recent election campaign and subsequent voting, not to mention the denial of the opposition’s request for a recount of 100%.

I believe that despite taking into account, and never forgetting that it was Pinochet and the harm he did to his opponents, we have to recognize that in the end, the  dictator obeyed the will expressed in the NO of the Chilean people. I think this is a fact to consider.

Sometimes on television in our country, which is characterized by an ideological monopoly, or “it’s in the details,” or simply someone wishes to escape it.I would greatly like them to continue showing films like this one, which show the two sides of the same coin. In my humble opinion it takes the same courage to say NO as to act on it.

28 April 2013

Advertisements

Colorful Butterflies kindergarten

“Today day care centers celebrate their fifty-second anniversary. These institutions continue fulfilling and improving their mission so that work in education might be more profound and efficient…”

So begins an article published in Juventud Rebelde on April 10 of this year. It goes on to provide a brief history of how the first such institutions began in our country in the early 1960s. It reminded me of how I first got involved in this work through the direct request from a friend.

For a year I did “volunteer work” by myself in a big space in which they provided me with abundant and varied material, making fabric dolls as well as various articles for the home. These would later be auctioned in a raffle which took place on property owned by the Ministry of Foreign Commerce. The goal was to raise funds for a day care center on the ninth floor of a building on 23rd Street where a lot of women worked.

Finally, a year later they were able to bring the project to fruition as a result of many important donations from companies who had entered into negotiations with the ministry as well as my own modest contribution. I also remember actively participating in the decoration of center’s facility.

What I noticed was how this article ignored some of the real reasons for the deterioration and subsequent closure of many of these centers, whose construction had been such a noble goal.

A couple of years ago I was having a conversation with the director of Colorful Butterfles, a kindergarten next door to my house which my two sons attended. I asked her about the visible neglect of the center, and she told me it was due to low enrollment. After reading the article in Juventud Rebelde, it occurred to me that this was perhaps one of many causes, the main one being the lack of resources provided to the these institutions in addition to neglect and lack of maintenance.

“At the moment there are 45,000 applications pending and 46 institutions in the country have been closed — 40 in the capital alone — all for construction problems.”

This is how it was stated in one of the paragraphs from the article in question. We should, therefore, hold the government responsible for the current state of these buildings, which were built in great haste and in excess by people who had no experience in this kind of work to fulfill the usual quotas, not to mention the failure to provide stable funding for their subsequent maintenance.

Additionally, the ever more apparent lack of personnel qualified to work with children has led parents to take their children to private homes which, until a very short time ago, functioned in a kind of clandestine limbo. There is an ever increasing number of self-employed workers who take up this work now that they have a license to do it.

In the face of the importance and magnitude of the problem, since families don’t have sufficient resources to leave their children in private day care, due to poor salaries and not possessing another type of stable source of income, the government has implemented a new type of plan: “Educate your child”, that is being developed in some communities, offering guidance to the family to stimulate and adequately look after the little one, with the objective of achieving integral development and preparation for the start of the child’s school life.  We hope that this plan, like many other before it, will not languish on the road. Ladies and Gentlemen, love must be attended to!

 Translated by: Unknown, BW

22 April 2013

A couple of years ago I wrote about an event I learned of from someone very close to and emotionally attached to it, about how two Cubans who had fought on opposite sides at the Bay of Pigs, this sad military conflict between brothers, with the passing of time had reunited outside our territory, one as a member of Brigade 2506. and the other as a pilot at Playa Girón, as the event is called in Cuba.  By then both of them were exiles.

These two Cubans melted in a forgiving embrace in Miami and one of them, years later, died in the arms of the other. This is the reason that I decided to re-post fragments of this story because I find it so touching. Some of the offspring of both protagonists live now in Florida.

“One night, during one of the usual occasions when they would get together, as they were all seated at the table having a delicious Creole meal, the pilot became ill and excused himself to go to the bathroom.  A few minutes later, the host ran to the bathroom after hearing a noise.  When he got there, the pilot was on the floor. He gently held the pilot in his arms and watched him die.”

All these events, with the passing of years and the frustrations suffered by each other, have made us reflect about how much we were manipulated and how much history has been distorted. For decades, they tried to “sow” in us a false sense of hatred and resentment, which even if it did exist at some point, was dissipated with our everyday lives, with the disenchantment, and especially with the sad experience of having fought for a “future” that never came, watching ourselves forced to separate from our families and friends, an issue that ultimately has been the most painful, in the balance of all that has happened.

“Many years had to go by, many confrontations, disagreements, misunderstandings and defamation campaigns, so that finally two Cubans who no one should have ever converted into enemies were united forever in an embrace.  Two twists of the same flag.”

Translator: Post quoted was translated by Hank.

17 April 2013

That big red brick chimney always caught my eye. As a girl it seemed immense to me. I imagined goblins living there. It aroused great fascination, especially since it was on a route we had to take — leading to the “scary” iron bridge over the Almendares River, which occasionally would open up like a giant wolf’s jaws to allow yachts to pass through — when we went to visit Aunt Cuca in Miramar. It was always one of my favorite walking paths.

With the passage of time and the sudden takeover the country by incarnate deities, these fantasies and dreams of childhood were abruptly ripped out by their roots in order to make way for a “new reality.” The dream-like tower remained, but it no longer sent out smoke signals. Little by little it came to seem more lifeless. My make-believe creatures disappeared along with the gray puffs that no longer billowed from its long neck. The bridge stopped opening; there were no more yachts. Little by little rust covered the iron structure. We were no longer able to visit my aunt either; she had gone to live far away.

Many years have passed since I felt motivated to overcome my fear of crossing the aged bridge. My old red-bricked friend is still there, mute and inert, towering over its continually decaying surroundings.

After learning a few days ago that it had been converted to a restaurant bar, I was motivated to go see it again. I brought along my Nikon to try to get some photos, hoping also to get the back story from some of the neighbors. Luckily, I found one cleaning the street. When he saw the camera in my hand, he approached me, thinking I was a tourist. After I identified myself, he told me the history of the place. He was born and raised there, so he knew all the details.

“What happened was that, after the factory was abandoned at the beginning of the 1960s, a man moved into the base of the chimney. He later got married but after a few years the marriage ended. Since neither of them had any other options, they divided the space, with her living in one part and him in the other. They were ’sharing’ the space like this until a young man came along with a little wine and offered them two apartments in exchange for the big chimney.”

After interviewing some of his friends who knew about this unusual investment, I found out that, given the new opportunities for acquiring licenses to open businesses, three young friends, who were familiar with the place and its history, decided to pool the resources. They “talked to the former couple” and offered them what they so desperately needed.

The first thing they did was restore the chimney, returning it to its former glory and preserving the original painted sign with the name of “old” cooking oil factory, El Cocinero. At the entrance there is now a well-tended garden where antique objects from the factory itself are exhibited like sculptures. A large bell at the gate greets you. A circular staircase rising two floors inside leads you to the roof and a pleasant bohemian bar where a wide variety of tapas and drinks will guarantee you an enchanting and “offbeat” evening. Everything in the hard currency of CUCs, of course. The restaurant has not yet opened.

15 April 2013

Building for sale.

I was having a conversation recently at a friend’s house about new private businesses, doctors being given permission to travel, the prices and shortages of food, and other issues currently affecting our Cuban planet. One of those present mentioned that she was very concerned about the crisis in Europe, unconsciously repeating what she had been told on television, radio and in the press.

I said that I had just returned from Spain and that in fact this is the only thing that the people and the media there were talking about. When they did this in my presence, I asked them to please “not talk about the rope in the house of the hanged man.”

Indeed, there is a serious crisis in Spain and other European countries, caused perhaps  by a housing bubble — among other things — which led people to spend much more than they could really afford, but which is in no way comparable to our situation, which has lasted for more than half a century. I personally visited many European cities and nowhere did I observe anyone who was badly dressed, wandering from place to place through streets that were not impeccably clean and pothole-free, in search of a store with toilet paper or toothpaste for sale, much less in “foreign money,” or at least not in a currency in which salaries and benefits are paid.

As I told my friend who is so worried about the crisis in Europe, this does not even take into account the high cost of having gone through a revolution, whose specific goal was to improve the quality of life for the population, but which has resulted in the deterioration and destruction of its cities and inhabitants. Nor does it take into account the high price of familial separation, nor of the ever greater exodus of young people in search of social and economic freedom — the very people for whom all this sacrifice was supposedly made — not to mention the corruption that has dominated and continues to dominate the entire country, apparently “at will.”

The upshot is that now, among other signs of a “new capitalism,” there is a contagious frenzy for selling large and beautiful buildings, which were confiscated from their original owners and family members and subsequently handed over to people of “revolutionary merit.” Their descendants are now asking astronomical prices for them, as though they were an inheritance resulting from some familial sacrifice. There are other crazy things happening, like buying out someone, whose home was once the big brick smokestack of the now abandoned El Cocinero cooking oil factory, so that a private investor can turn it into a restaurant, cafe and bar.

At any rate, these and other questions — quite discomforting, to be sure — cause us to reflect on the fact that the sacrifices made over all these years for “socialism” have served only to bring us back to where we started. There is, however, an additional grim reality. In spite of the enormous moral and material deterioration, which we “carry in our ribs” along with a great many lost years, we have in the end returned to a capitalism, but without capital.

8 April 2013