May 2014

University students of the ’30’s.

Much is said and published through the media in our country about the “achievements” obtained for the Cuban woman after the Revolution. But never is a word said about the social, political, and economic advantages achieved by our feminine population before the year 1959 in the last century.

For that we are going to refer to some very revealing information from the “1953 Population and Electoral Census,” the last one carried out during the Republic, published and edited by P. Fernández y Cía.  These censuses were carried out approximately every ten years.

Total population of the country: 5,829,029 (2,985,156 males and 2,843,874 females).

School attendance between ages 5 and 24:  (428,334 males and 411,861 females).

Last grade passed: Baccalaureate (High School) 88,562 (54,121 males and 34,441 females). University 53,464 (35,967 males and 17,497 females). There was an average of 3.8 universities per 1,000 residents.  Cuba occupied first place in Latin America along with Argentina, Mexico and Uruguay.

As interesting information we can say that in the year 1940 everyone who involved in the teaching profession was certified, a unique condition among all the countries of Latin America.

Our country then had one of the lowest levels of illiteracy in our continent:  23.6% (41.7% rural and 11.8% urban).

In addition, we can point out that Cuba in 1918 became the first country in Latin America to recognize the right of couples in conflict to divorce.  We must also add that in the Constitution of 1940 is recognized, for the first time in Latin America, a woman’s right to vote, equality of the sexes, the right of a woman to work, the right to open a bank account, and to get a passport, besides granting her authority over her children.

Of the economically active population in 1953, 22% were female, in addition to a work force in professional fields where 16% were women and 3% men.

As can clearly be seen in these statistics, women’s participation was increasingly present.

For this it is good to note that in the same way that the participation of the “weaker sex” was becoming more active in the life of the country, they were implementing home courier services such as the delivery of milk, bread, mineral water, food, pharmaceutical products, dry cleaning, laundry, etc., which relieved the woman extraordinarily in her domestic work, enabling her to dedicate more time to the attention of the home and the education of her children.

I believe, without fear of equivocation, that we can assure that already the Cuban woman had become liberated in the Republican era, and her equality of civil, social, political and employment rights was on the rise.

Translated by mlk.

27 May 2014

A friend told me the following story about having to serve as a witness in the respective marriages of two of her friends, a Cuban brother and sister, to two unknown foreigners “recommended” to them by others who have already gone down this tortuous path:

The first wedding was between the sister and a foreigner; the second between her brother and an even older foreigner. Out of a sense of solidarity my friend, who was a witness and participant in both instances, also became involved in “set design” for both events. This included arranging for more than fifty photos portraying the wedding festivities, which meant having to assemble a tremendous array of “scenery and props.”

Since the bride and groom belong to a religion that does not allow alcohol (though apparently it does not prohibit lying), they had to find empty beer cans and fill them with water. They also had to buy two sponge cakes, cover them with some homemade meringue, put the toy “bride and groom” on top and decorate the wedding table before taking the photographs that would be presented as evidence.

She also tells me that the siblings did not have two houses in which to take family photos so, when they staged the second wedding, they were forced to borrow some of the neighbors’ furniture to decorate the living room. The also had to change pictures and accessories in the bedroom to make it appear as though it was two different houses.

In addition to all these theatrics (May is Theater Month), she told me about the fortune the sister and brother had to pay to the international notary office, which is well aware of the tricks people play and even offers “suggestions” to their clients.

Besides the “tidy sum” (all in CUC and dollars) they have to keep paying to the two respective foreigners who lent their services, there is the risk that the foreign embassy in question will not “swallow” this gimmick and might deny them their much sought-after visas.

This is but one of the many schemes employed by most of the Cubans who aspire to “escape” through a third country. They risk an enormous amount of money — almost always the proceeds from the sale of their homes — and in the worst cases their lives, to achieve the ultimate goal of setting foot at any cost on “enemy territory.” They will continue doing this until the Cuban Adjustment Act is rescinded, the prospect of which has now become an ongoing national rumor.

21 May 2014

Meeting someone through the social networks can bring us very agreeable surprise or, on occasions, the complete opposite. I’ve had the good fortune of establishing very good relationships and contracts through my blog, Twitter and Facebook, despite my restricted Internet access.

One of the most faithful followers during these almost five years since I opened “Through the eye of the needle” is a marvelous Cuban woman who has lived in Puerto Rico since the early seventies, who not only brings me support, but who has also also confided in me, and on sending me an invitation to meet in person, hosted me in her house.

During the years of contact through the social networks, we have identified — greatly coinciding in our opinions — an issue that brings us strongly together.

My brief stay on the beautiful “Enchanted Island” — in addition to my stay with her and her lovely family in Palmas del Mar, where they live — put me in touch with many personalities in the areas of arts and literature, in this paradise, and I participated as a guest artist in a bit “Meet the Chefs” Forest Fundraising Auction, haled every year to promote and finance the care of the native forest of this blessed place. At this event I was honored to donate one of my patchworks, coincidentally titled “Forest.”

Time, the “cruel enemy,” went too fast, as usually happens when we are enjoying something so much. I had to leave my new friends of this marvelous island and head home full of lovely images, much love, appreciation and great desires to return, still hearing in my ears the lovely song of their “coquís.”

18 May 2014

In spite of its title, the subject of this post is not historical but rather “hysterical.”

They once tried unsuccessfully to change the name of Carlos III Avenue to Salvador Allende Avenue, going so far as to remove the statue of the Spanish king who lent his name to this important Havana artery, which begins at Belascoaín Street and ends at Independence Avenue (also known as Rancho Boyeros Avenue). An important market named after the famous avenue is located here. Built in the 1950s, it later became a shopping mall made up of a collection of small stores.

Upon returning to “my planet,” I went looking for some items that are becoming difficult to find in the hard currency stores, figuring I could probably find them here. While going about my task, I suddenly noticed a married couple talking loudly with the obvious intention of being overheard. They were debating the subject of food shortages. A group of people quickly began forming around them, made up of those who happened to be there at the time. The wife, a woman of advanced years, began directing her comments to the youngest of those present.

“Do you have a dentures?” she asked them, to which those being queried answered affirmatively. Then, turning once again to the larger group, she said, “Well, considering how old you all seem to be, I imagine they stopped giving you milk when you were six and quite possibly none of you has ever chomped down on a good steak.”

13 May 2014