July 30, 2014
Posted by Rebeca Monzo under Rebeca Monzo
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After having had to find out on my own — and wearing out the soles of my shoes in the process — what and where the registrar’s office for my area was in order to request a certificate that, in addition to other documents, was required to have the deed to my house certified, I finally found it. The premises, located on one of the most intricate and disrupted streets of Old Havana, were dark and unventilated. The very precarious furniture caught my eye. There was only one telephone, secured with a lock like those used on suitcases to prevent employees from making calls.
Luckily for me I had kept an old copy of the document in question. Otherwise, according to the employee — who treated me very politely, by the way — I would have had to look through those massive books, their bindings unglued and held together with string, under the same employee’s watchful eye, something which would have taken me all day. The books themselves were not particularly old but bore the hallmarks of long-term abuse.
Having completed the application, I then had to wait two weeks to pick up the document at the Courthouse. Imagine my surprise when on the appointed date I was allowed to go up to the office in question only after going through the annoyance of being forced to leave my purse and my belongings in a cubicle on the ground floor.
I did this under strong protest since I have never understood and still do not understand why one must leave one’s most personal articles in the hands of strangers. I let my displeasure be known, telling them that the same mistrust they displayed towards their customers — or users, as they like to call us — by making us turn over our purses, I felt towards them, adding that the only fair thing to do would be for them to provide a checklist of the belongings inside our bags so that we could confirm that nothing was missing when we later picked them up. Apparently, they did not like this idea.
I finally went up to the office where they had told me to go, but it turned out that the person who was supposed to give me the document had not yet arrived due to personal problems, so they suggested I take “a little stroll” and come back later. I spent the time taking photos of dilapidated buildings adjacent to the court.
By the time I returned, the employee in question had finally arrived, but the document that she was supposed to give me on the designated date was still not ready, so I had to wait in the office for almost two hours for her to prepare it.
During that time I witnessed situations that, as an outsider, should not have transpired in my presence. A pleasant one was when a worker from another department came to make an appointment to do some volunteer work the following day, but none of the five employees there took note of him.
Similarly, I witnessed the distasteful and loud protests of a woman claiming her son was still being held in detention in spite of her having paid his bail two days earlier. In a loud voice she threatened officials both present and absent and said that, if her problem was not resolved immediately, she would throw herself from the fifth floor window and those present would be responsible for her death.
Once they had handed me the document with its duly approved seals and relevant stamps, I headed downstairs as soon as I could and, in what was not a complete surprise, saw the woman who was having the problem with her son.
She was downstairs in the reception area, lying on the floor, very pale and barely breathing as the custodian and other employees were trying to revive her by providing first aid. Apparently, the pressure had been too much for her.
28 July 2014
July 22, 2014
The daughter of a Mexican mother and German father, Frida Kahlo was born in Coyoacán, Mexico on July 7, 1910.
She attended the Escuela Normal de Maestros and graduated from the Escuela Nacional Preparatoria. She dreamed of becoming a doctor until a terrible accident destroyed her body, forcing her to lay in bed for many months and receive painful treatments, causing her to stop studying medicine.
In the midst of her dramatic convalescence, her iron will and attachment to life led her to become extensively self-taught in the arts and the mysteries of painting. She became an artist and took advantage of her knowledge to teach classes at the Escuela de Artes Plásticas in spite of her physical limitations.
Her first exhibitions demonstrated her talent, which she continued to develop and which culminated in a magnificent work, turning her into one of the most famous painters of her type worldwide.
She impressed upon her work all the pain, feeling, and sensitivity that characterized her life. The memory of Frida is inextricably linked to the great muralist Diego Rivera, who was her husband, lover, confidant, and greatest critic and admirer. In spite of a tempestuous marital relationship, art united them until the end of her life, on July 13, 1954.
This month, Mexico pays homage to those who hold a seat of honor in the plastic arts of the 20th century. I am also joining in this commemoration since Frida was a source of inspiration and presence in my patchwork art.
Frida Kahlo narrated her life through painted images. The painting of this great artist is like no one else’s. As Diego Rivera, her husband, pointed out one day, she “is the only example of the history of art, of someone who tore open her breast and heart to tell the biological truth of what she feels in them.”
Most of her work is unknown; it is held in private collections and by friends. The value of it grows each day.
Translated by: M. Ouellette
21 July 2014
July 17, 2014
For several days now I have not published a post, despite my desires to do so and the nagging thought that it wasn’t getting done.
It is true that the World Cup robbed part of my attention, but that was not what impeded my writing. Rather, it was all the tasks that were piling up in relation to an upcoming exhibition of my works. Preparing for this event takes a lot of effort and dedication, as does the negotiating required to obtain adequate materials.
Even so, with all due respect, I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on the recent visit of Dr. Margaret Chan, General Director of the World Health Organization, and the statements she delivered in the University of Havana’s Grand Hall, during the unsuitably named magisterial conference. Dr. Chan expressed that, thanks to the Cuban government, our people do not eat junk food. She also praised the work of our public health.
I really do not comprehend how these people, who occupy such relevant posts in the United Nations (UN), take at face value the reports provided by totalitarian regimes, without taking the trouble to check the facts through other means and compare other data.
Most of us know that these people are hosted in our country by high-level officials, and that they are taken over and over to the same places, which obviously are set up for such purposes, e.g.: a certain floor of Almejeiras Hospital, the Biotechnology department, and the La Castellana special school for differentiated teaching, among others. In addition, the visitors are customarily taken down 5th Avenue in Miramar, and they never stop at locations that aren’t set up for these political purposes.
How is it possible that the supreme body that oversees all of these organizations — the UN — has yet to take the trouble to look into these matters more deeply?
Translated By: Alicia Barraqué Ellison
15 July 2014
July 5, 2014
My aunt is one of the many thousands of Cubans who never tires of thanking that nation that welcomed her and permitted her to safeguard the security of her adolescent son, giving her the opportunity to work and forge a better and more secure future.
Even so, since her prolonged exile, which began in 1961, she does not let a single day go by without thinking of that marvelous land where she was born, studied and had a beautiful family and which she never intended to abandon until she found herself forced to do it.
Within days she will turn 99 years old and still she keeps dreaming of returning to a free Cuba, although she is now aware that those who will enjoy that forthcoming moment are going to be her grandchildren.
Happy July 4th to the nation and people of the United States of America.
Translated by mlk.
4 July 2014
July 1, 2014
Map of the Ringling Complex.
I still remember with much fondness the circuses of my childhood, but above all the marvelous and spectacular Ringling Brothers, that would arrive in our country in December — in the early days encamping in the old Sports Palace on Paseo and Primera streets, facing the sea — and later, towards the end of the 1950s, in the then-resplendent Sports City.
Carmen, punctual as is her wont, came to get me at 5am so that we could go together to the meeting place from which the bus would depart that would take us from Miami to Sarasota. We were the first to arrive, even before the bus, because we are both like that, super-careful in meeting our commitments. Little by little the other tourists began arriving until the full group was assembled.
The tour guide was a “cubanaza*”- very amusing and active, with a great love of the arts – who specializes in putting together these types of excursions, all with a cultural purpose. And so, between storytelling, laughs and songs – including interesting raffles of books and small paintings created by some of the tour participants, among whom were writers, a poet and even a painter – we made this long trip which turned out to be most pleasant.
Arriving in Sarasota, the tour personnel provided us with ID wristbands and maps of this lovely place, so that each person could choose their companions and where to begin their journey through this grand cultural complex, a major attraction and pride of this city, which has been converted from the mansion, art gallery, theater and other property that belonged to the family of John and Mable Ringling, which they bequeathed as a heritage legacy, and which since 2000 has been under the guardianship of Florida State University.
Everything, absolutely everything, impressed me because of its grandeur and splendor, but what most amazed me, owing to its magnitude and level of detail, was the impressive scale model of the great circus industry that gave life to this family empire, whose spectacles I enjoyed every winter in my beloved Havana, up until 1959.
The family mansion, called “Cad ´Zan” by its owners — which in the Venetian dialect means “John’s house” — was built by the architect Dwight James Baum in 1924, in the Venetian baroque style, impressive for its luxury and excellent state of preservation.
Another great attraction is the Museum of Art which displays collections of the most famous European painters: El Greco, Rubens, Velázquez, Veronese, Gainsborough, and other great masters. The building is surrounded by splendid gardens, where the sculptures look to be enjoying the marvelous surroundings. We also visited the Asolo Theater, built in 1798, dismantled and transported from Italy to be added to the Ringling complex in 1948, becoming the only 18th century theater in the United States of America.
We returned well into the evening, satisfied and exhausted from so much walking and enjoyment of this well-organized and enjoyable excursion to one of the most interesting corners of this beautiful State of Florida.
*Translator’s note: “Cubanaza(o)” can be said to be a sort of “super Cuban” – someone who is almost a caricature of the Cuban style of speech, mannerisms, attitudes, etc. The term as used by a fellow Cuban to refer to another is often – as in this case – one of endearment.
Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison
16 May 2014