Translator: Maria Montoto

“+0000000000 Today 6:48

From mobile phones (

Call as soon as possible to 07 2043145

For recharge of minutes balance via Internet,

If you do not call back today the charge will be returned

to the purchaser.

In case of fraud, the line will be cancelled.”

As soon as I saw this same message twice, I called the number in question and the voice of the woman who took care of me repeated that I had received a recharge. I asked for how much, as I was not expecting one, and she did not want to say.

Thereupon she asked my name, the number of my identification card, my cell phone number and the address of my house. I gave her all these facts believing that they were necessary and she immediately asked me the name of the person who was doing the recharge. I asked her if this was an interrogation, to which, a bit irritated, she responded that she had only asked three questions. Since she insisted on the name of the possible benefactor, I answered that it could be one of my two sons or my aunt. Then she told me: “say a man’s name”. I mentioned those of my sons and she said: “Those are not it… (This reply means that she knows the name)… when you know the name, call us. In the meantime, your recharge will be here. Have no fear”. The message in question has been repeated, as of now, five times.

This whole conversation, as well as its very tone, at first appeared to me to be in jest and immediately thereafter, a lack of respect and even a violation of the client’s right to privacy.

I state this so that anyone who might generously recharge my telephone, be they family or friend, may know just how tightly our telephony is controlled. This appears to be a new “Service to the client” of the Cubacel Enterprise.

Translated by: Maria Montoto

June 28 2012

Site manager’s note:  If you recharge the bloggers’ cellphones (a WONDERFUL thing to do) it’s a good idea to send them an email with whatever name you used when you recharged it and the amount… otherwise it may not always be credited to them. If there’s no email on their Spanish blogs … email us (translatingcuba … at… gmail…) and we’ll try to get in touch with them.  I will also put this information and the emails we have for the bloggers on the “How to Recharge Bloggers’ Phones” page.

Last Monday I managed to get off unscathed and in one piece from a Route 27 bus, between stops, at 17th and D, thanks to the kindness of the driver, who decided to give me a chance, opening the doors of the bus there.

I took F Street and headed toward Linea. With horror I could observe how destroyed the area is and the number of improvised shacks there, in what in other times used to be the garages and front porches of the old family residences, displaying without the slightest embarrassment architectural cellulite and scoliosis, diseases which almost all new buildings or renovations suffer today. Unfortunately, that day I had not brought my camera, which I had left at home charging. The heat was exhausting and the sweat rolled down my eyelashes, causing me to glimpse as through a veil all those architectural horrors that I was walking toward.

When I finally reached Linea Street, which shimmered like the desert because of the intense sun, I thought I was hallucinating when I saw in the middle of the sidewalk a huge Santa Claus in plain month of June. At first I thought it was a performance, because we are still in Biennial, but there was no audience. As I approached, I saw that it was an advertising gimmick of an unsuccessful street vendor, to attract attention.

Finally I reached the large building where the friend I was going to visit lives.  As usual, the main elevator was out of service, leaving only the freight elevator running. Both are ancient Otises from the fifties. I got into this thing alone, which I don’t like to do, and pushed the button for the 19th floor.  All was going fine until it stopped on the 10th floor, to pick up a young woman with a little girl about two years old. She punched 13 and, having barely risen one floor, we became stuck between 11th and 12th.

Never before had I been trapped in an elevator, although many times I had thought that it could happen to me. I kept calm, following the example of serenity and peace that the little girl gave us. I knew that the presence of that little angel would bring us luck. I gave my cell phone (which happened to be charged) to the young woman, so she could call the manager, because she lives in that building, and knows its intricacies. Immediately we heard the voices of those coming to our rescue. We put on the emergency (break) and got to work, listening to the instructions that came from outside, to find the famous lever and the black button that had to be pushed, so that they could open from the outside. As soon as we accomplished that, they opened the door to that floor and we saw that indeed we had stopped between two floors. Thanks to the fact that the small window in the door was broken, a little air came in to us.

Naturally, they got the little girl out first. The young woman jumped and almost fractured her ankle in the fall. I, who suffer from vertigo, looked sideways at the dark hollow of two handwidths or so wide that was lost in the void and told myself: “Don’t look down, you have to get out.” Any which way, since all residents of the building have been putting up iron gates to protect themselves, adding an uncalculated weight to the property, taking advantage of this architectural error, stretching first my arms and then my legs, I grabbed the bars of the door to the apartment closest to me, like a spider, to get out and let myself fall onto the landing of the service stairwell, to the applause of all who were watching the maneuver.

Fortunately, there was a happy ending. But once I had calmed down, from the 19th floor, observing the beautiful view, I started thinking that with all the gates that all of the neighbors have added around the exits from the elevators, the day there is a fire it will be very difficult to evacuate them.

Translated by: Maria Montoto and others

June 6 2012

For some months now, they have spread like gun powder throughout the city: rumors about embezzlement, theft, deviation of resources, practices of nepotism, etcetera.

Old Havana has generated the most commentaries these days. The director of Puerto Carenas, the great construction enterprise dealing with the restoration of all the real estate in the historic center and some other buildings and monuments outside this area, is presently being investigated, according to commentary, for crimes against the economy of the State.

In other news, the La Muralla brewery, the recently appointed administrator is being detained under investigation after having had a field planted with marijuana confiscated, in the providence of Pinar del Rio. This caused the spread of the investigation to encompass the business he was administrating up to this time, situated at Muralla and San Ignacio, where other crimes on his behalf were discovered in which some of his workers were implicated, the latter of whom are also subject to investigation. Some are being detained and others are in waiting under house arrest (what we Cubans like to call “the pajama plan” — though only when it is the ’cushy’ version that is applied to high officials).

The Planetarium at the Plaza Vieja (Old Plaza) has also been investigated, due to police reports that these facilities were being offered for functions outside operating hours and administrative control, and whose dividends were ending up directly in the pockets of those implicated. There also exist strong rumors of nepotism practices on behalf of the directorship of Habaguanex. This not taking into account existing rumors as to the sale of job positions within these entities, which oscillate between $1,000 CUC and $1,500 CUC, depending on the type of job.

These rumors give much food for thought. Might it truly be as is being rumored? If so, how is it possible this has not reached the ears of the primary directors of said enterprises, when it is already public knowledge?

But sadly, this is not the only place where such criminal activity occurs. Recently on national television they showed images demonstrating the goods that were illicitly acquired by the administrator of the jam factory in the province of Matanzas; he was dismissed upon proof of illicit enrichment and deviation of resources. The president of the Havana Yoruba Society (Sociedad Yoruba de la Habana) also fell into disgrace, as we say here, for utilizing the influences inherent to his post, in order to secure trips and visas at a price of $3,000 CUC, for those privileged who were able to pay.

Apparently crime and corruption are spreading like a pandemic. It is truly very sad, even more so when, for more than 50 years, we have been hearing talk of the New Man, of revolutionary honor, of our militant Gentlemen, here on my planet, in order to occupy the post of director or administrator of an entity, you at least have to be a militant of the party and, in some cases, a member of State security.

These are the effects, those which regularly come under fire, but what of the causes? What truly are they?

A totalitarian State that monopolizes the administration of all large businesses, that pays miserable salaries, that maintains a dual currency: one with which you are paid for your work and retirement and another, that you need to acquire however you can, and with which one acquires at very high prices, all the articles of primary necessity; do you sincerely believe it can take the luxury of having, in those high positions of directorship, honest and incorruptible men? Who taught them to steal?

Everything here exposed are confidentialities and rumors that have reached me, and that have filtered drop by drop. I don’t have all of the information, that here is almost impossible, but I recall an old saying: “Cuando el río suena, es porque piedras trae.” (Literally: “When the river sounds, it’s because it’s carrying rocks.” Loosely translated: “If you hear rumors, there must be some truth to them.”)

Translated by: Maria Montoto

May 29 2012