July 2015


Rebeca Monzo, 25 July 2015 — The majority of Cuban emigrants, those of the last three decades, seem to leave with the remains of their umbilical cords hanging from their bodies.

They barely arrive, be it as wet foots or dry, by raft or by plane, and just start settling in, but that they start asking their families who stayed on the island for medicines, Vita Nova tomato sauce, dry wine and other silly things. They don’t seem to realize they’ve arrived in another country, which they themselves chose to start a new life, and they try to continue depending on their families and friends with scant resources, those they left behind.

Nor have they given any thought to the first emigrants from the sixties and seventies, who were forced to put their whole lives into one suitcase, and start from zero to open the way, alone, without any contact with those they left behind, an era when it was absolutely prohibited to have any kind of contact with those who decided to live in a country where they spoke another language.

Emigrants of today seem to forget that medicine is scarce here and, in addition, if you can find it you have to pay in CUC on the black market where it’s available, or acquire it for hard currency in the few pharmacies that exist in the city at astronomical prices. I think it would be very convenient for everyone to assume with responsibility and bravey the decisions made, and to detach themselves from the remains of this appendage to which they are still attached, that limits their growth.

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Rebeca Monzo, 27 July 2015 — One of the most annoying problems in our country, as far as services and treatment of the public is concerned, is the humiliation to which we are subjected on a daily basis. This is especially true for women. We are required to leave our handbags, with all our personal belongings inside, in bins set aside for this purpose at the entrances of every store and commercial establishment, even though many of them have no security. This has led to instances of theft, for which the victims receive no compensation.

A few days ago a friend of mine went into a shoe department — located on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street in Miramar — that was practically outside the shopping complex to which it belonged. Under the circumstances and keeping in mind that she was only looking for footwear, she went inside with her handbag. As soon as an employee noticed this, she told my friend she must leave and deposit the handbag in a bin. My friend replied that she did not see why this was necessary since there was only one of each brand and model number of shoe on display and that she, as anyone could see, had two legs and two feet. Given the employee’s insistence, my friend asked to speak to the manager of the department to explain the situation.

The manager came over and my friend tried to reason with him, offering the same rationale she had given to the employee. He replied with a logic very “a la socialista” that it was his understanding that someone could steal a shoe — one of a certain color, size and model number — then go to another store that carried the same shoe, also on display, with exactly the same features but for the other foot, thus completing the pair. Something completely implausible!

My friend stood there stunned by this explanation and decided to leave the store immediately lest she contract the idiocy virus so common in these places. But before doing so, she let it be known to both the employee and her boss that she, like many others, were fully aware that the majority of such thefts were, unfortunately, inside jobs.

In the old days, during the capitalist period, there was a saying that became famous precisely because it was so sensible: “The client is always right.” Now under socialism the customer is unfortunately treated like a potential criminal.

Don’t say you didn’t hear me!

Don’t say you didn’t see me!

Here I am!

Tamal-ize yourself!

The sight of this sexagenarian pushing his cart through this lovely neighborhood so full of hills — from Calzada de Boyeros to 23rd Street, his head covered with a big balsa hat to protect himself from the harshness of our scorching sun — aroused my admiration.

On one occasion I noticed he was particularly happy and asked him why. With a smile on his face he replied, “My tamales have finally gone international!”

“A Cuban from Miami bought fifty tamales from me (one for each star in the American flag) to freeze and take back with him,” he explained.

“You are going to be famous, Pepe, though you are already the best in Nuevo Vedado,” I said.

’I am the only one in Nuevo Vedado,” he replied.

Early Saturday I found out through a neighbor that Pepe had just died of a heart attack.

Never more will we hear his cheerful cries. He was a fixture of one of those urban street scenes so evocative of a bygone era, which fills both those of us from here and those of us from there with nostalgia

Rebeca Monzo, 13 July 2015

Rebeca Monzo, 7 July 2015 — The conversations and approaches plagued by enormous pauses with “our neighbor across the street” continue. As far as all Cubans, or rather the people, know this started on a very significant date on our religious calendar, December 17 of last year, Saint Lazarus Day, but I believe, and I don’t think I’m mistaken, in reality it began long before.

The Cuban government has not been at all moderate in its internal language for us and its acolytes, nor in the exaggerated requests for compensation from the United States government, in exchange for practically nothing in return. And who, if not the island’s government itself, is going to compensate the people of Cuba for those 56 years of expropriations, interventions, occupations of buildings, the deterioration of the country and family separations, without even counting the number of dead lying in the depths of the Florida Straits for trying to escape the island in precarious craft, during almost five decades of a prohibition on emigration by safe means?

While the government decided to turn the page on certain questions, and leave off using some of the aggressive language against the United States in the media, slowness will continue to mark the official path, without considering that the truth is huge and in a hurry, it is the Cuban people who have endured hardships, scarcities of every kind and beatings, like those that continue to fall on the peaceful Cuban opposition, the most recent example of these practices being last Sunday when Antonio Rodiles headed alone and quietly to Santa Rita Church in Miramar to join with the Ladies in White and to offer them his moral support.