Rebeca Monzo, 19 May 2015 — The year was 1985. I was still working at a state agency, like everyone in our country, and there was talk in the Cuban media about an “enemy” radio broadcast that had been named, improperly, Radio Martí. This generated fierce government propaganda against it, above all, for having baptized it with the name of the “Apostle,” (as Cubans call José Martí) which the Cuban misgovernment feels it owns absolutely.

As could be expected, like all human beings we relish forbidden fruit, especially in the case of a source of information whose censorship is imposed by a totalitarian regime. My curiosity grew and I gave myself the task of finding a formula for reaching it.

Availing myself of an old shortwave radio I had been given (its sale in stores was forbidden), I succeeded, crossing the dial from one extreme to the other over and over again, finding the outlawed station right next to the famous Radio Rebelde (Rebel Radio), which inflicted intolerable interference on Radio Martí. But in my persistence I managed to discover that, by gently moving the device to one side or the other, I could capture quite clearly the forbidden voice.

From that glorious moment, my life changed. I became aware of what was happening inside and outside our borders. But above all, I was happy to leave behind the manipulative official rhetoric.

Because it was very difficult for me not to occasionally drop a controversial comment at my then workplace, influenced of course by this new source of information, I soon found myself in the administration’s spotlight. So in 1986 I decided to quit my office job and devote myself entirely to my artistic work as a way of life.

Imagine my surprise and excitement when one day, as I was working in my studio with my ear glued to my favorite radio station, listening to an interview they were doing about an SIP (Inter American Press Association) event, I heard the unmistakable voice of a much-beloved family member, whom I had not had any contact with for 26 years. Despite the difficulties and intolerable interference, I became a faithful follower of this radio station, which opened a new window to the world of information.

My sincere congratulations on your 30th anniversary of this great collective work, which over the years has made a recognized and valuable contribution, after providing information to all Cuban citizens, because even though it does not reach many, those who do manage to connect are responsible for disseminating it, changing the single view provided by the island’s official media.

Rebeca Monzo, 4 June 2015 — One evening at the beginning of the “Special Period,” when I was meeting with friends at home, I told them to drink lemongrass tea, because coffee would now become scarce: “What I most regret is not the wretched goods that will be coming, but what wretches we are going to become,” speaking in general terms of course.

Unfortunately this has happened, and on a gradually increasing scale we have thievery, deception, fraud, double standards, and many other social vices.

Right now corruption cases on the island are alarming, at all levels: stealing and selling exam answers and graduation certificates, selling jobs, falsifying payrolls, and many others. Not to mention joint ventures, where the scams and their dividends reach into the millions.

One that now has my attention is particularly painful, involving medications, because it plays dirty with the health of the population.

The daily Granma published a complaint on Friday May 29th, on page 11 (national edition) in the Letters section, from Yasser Huete, a citizen from Artemisa, who asserts that tubes of Tolnaftato (an anti-fungal skin cream) from the Roberto Escudero Laboratories, located at 20th of May Street, in Cerro, Havana, are more than 50% filled with air.

He claims that he ran a test by buying two tubes and emptying one of them, then weighing it, and the resulting difference was 48.6 grams, when the weight printed on the tube is 100 grams. He went to the pharmacy where he had bought them to complain, and the employee who waited on him said they had already received several complaints like this from other citizens involving the same laboratory, which means, according to the affected chronic patient who made the complaint, that he has to “do more with less.”

From the time we were little, our grandparents and parents gave us spoonfuls of honey to cure our coughs, or anointed our minor injuries with a dab, or simply put it on our lips, chapped by the cold or a high fever. Its curative properties came down to us from our ancestors for hundreds of years.

This natural substance has been used as a culinary sweetener since ancient times in many countries, and also appreciated for its curative qualities. Treatment with honey is known as apitherapy and replenishes energy, increases physical vigor, and strengthens people weakened by illness or because of ongoing stress.

Honey also promotes better sleep, as well as easing indigestion. Its principal components are simple sugars, fructose and glucose, water, pollen, organic acids, enzymes and various proteins. Honey contains only small traces of the toxins emitted by industries, autos and chemical products used in agriculture. Its carriers, the bees, act as a biological filter and die if they are exposed to toxins so they do not return live to the hives.

It is a healthy stimulant, as the glucose has also been pre-digested by the bees that produce it. These simple sugars are rapidly and easily absorbed by human beings. If you use honey in place of sugar to sweeten tea or coffee, take care because of the high calorie content: a teaspoon of honey has 64 calories, while a teaspoon of granulated sugar has 46.

There are many kinds of honey. Its characteristics are determined by the type of bee and the flower it has sipped in collecting the nectar. It is always advisable to look for honey produced by beekeepers who don’t use dangerous insecticides. It is important to read the labels with its components.

Caution: Unpasteurized honey is dangerous for children because it contains a bacteria that is not harmful for teenagers and adults, but is for small children.

Use of honey as a wound dressing: applied externally, honey cures minor cuts and abrasions, because it extracts excess water from the tissues and reduces inflammation. To do this, spread the honey on the would and cover it with a sterile bandage. It is a powerful home remedy that can be combined with medicinal herbs.

Right now, honey with propolis sells in the Cuban market for 15 Cuban pesos, or almost an entire day’s wages, for a 240ml bottle. This product is highly recommended for diseases of the throat.

3 June 2015

For many years, a ferry in our country served as a practical and economic means of communication between Havana and Key West (Cayo Hueso).  It was heavily utilized by those people who travel with their automobiles, to facilitate movement to other places after arrival at the destination. This was only up to the year 1959, when everything changed dramatically.

Again, after 56 years, the exchange of travel by ferry with the United States of America has been reestablished, this time with certain limitations: people cannot come to our city accompanied by their cars and at the moment only certain people can utilize this means of transportation: Cuban citizens resident in the US and those on the island, and those Americans that qualify for cultural, sports, scientific, academic and other types of exchange.

Upon learning the news, the Cuban population has proved to be somewhat disconcerted with these limitations, because they haven’t been given any explanations in this regard. I supposed that this is due, fundamentally, to the lack of infrastructure in our ports to receive these vessels transporting automobiles, the necessary legalization of the use of American and Cuban license plates and driver’s licenses and the deficiency of supplies to deal with the rapid increase in visitors.

As a friend who works in tourism told me, recently a large cruise ship arrived and the travelers descended to visit the historic center of Old Havana and, in a flash, the supplies of bottled water and beer were exhausted.  What does the administration think about confronting this problem, an administration that right now is mired in severe shortages in the shops, markets and businesses of our capital?

As always, the opening measures seem to surprise the Government that says it is working on it “without haste but without pausing*.”  I imagine that, with the prices and salaries of our country, in spite of the ferry, many more  flimsy and clandestine boats will continue leaving, loaded with Cubans “without a visa but in a hurry.”

*Translator’s note: A phrase from a speech by Raul Castro (“sin prisas pero sin pausas”) describing the regime’s approach to “updating” the economy.

 Translated by: BW

Rebeca Monzo, 22 April 2015 — I have a friend from the old days who has a big heart, but a mouth even bigger than that vital organ. We meet a bunch of years ago when I moved to this neighborhood, and we bonded over our noble sentiments towards our fellow humans, animals and nature — despite our great differences insofar as ideas about homeland and liberty.

A few days ago she sent me, via a mutual neighborhood acquaintance, an unexpected message: “Tell Rebeca that if this time she will not vote, I myself will go get her and drag her by the hair, kicking her in the….”

Gross error, I told the messenger. Above all, I do not accept, under any circumstances, threats from anyone — but even worse, that type of message is one that only she can give to me directly, if she respects herself — and even less do I accept vulgarities. Taking advantage of the fact that the intermediary is a member of my block’s Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, I made the following remarks to her:

“I went to the polls for the last time 30 years ago now. At that time, I would take the precaution of carrying a ballpoint pen hidden in my bodice to substitute the famous pencil, and that way be sure of being able to annul the ballot. Then one day I realized that to vote was a right and not a duty. From that point on, I exercised the right to not take part in these strange suffrages.

“Besides,” I continued, “on the day that one of those unknown candidates with a resume boasting harvests and internationalist missions, presents a credible plan against animal abuse, indiscriminate cutting down of trees, raising of wages, repair of streets and sidewalks, hygienic improvements to the city, daily garbage collection, cleanliness in hospitals and clinics, improvements to supplies and transportation, etc., then neither she nor anyone else will need to send me little messages to encourage me to visit the polls! I myself will go on my own two feet, transported by conviction and hope. Until this happens, my message to you, to her, and to the rest of society is and will be, ’Elections, for what?’”

*Translator’s Note: Likely a reference to Fidel’s “Armas para que?” (“Weapons…for What?“) speech, made shortly after the “Triumph of the Revolution” in January, 1959.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Civil society activists from other countries confronted the Cuban government’s “civil society” representatives with these signs, reading “Democracy is Respect” / Source, Internet


Rebeca Monzo, 19 April 2015 — A magnificent professor of philosophy, deceased now for some years, of whom I had the honor to be a student, would invariably begin his classes with a saying. He would assert that all of life’s wisdom could be found in a compendium of Spanish popular sayings.

In an article published in the daily Granma, on 15 april of this year — a fragment of which I reproduce below — the First Vice President of the Councils of State and of Ministers, during his visit to the city of Matanzas, urged solutions to grave problems in education. He stated, “There is a deficit of 1,086 teachers, primarily in the municipality of Cárdenas and surrounding areas, and so far in this school year, 244 requested leave of absence…”

The Minister of Education remarked that, “One of the causes of the exodus of teachers, and of the current lack of activity, is the teaching overload that the teachers remaining in the schools take on.” The First Vice President also inquired about the construction status of the schools, 43.4% of which have a rating of average or poor.

How is it possible that only six months ago — when announcements were made with great fanfare in the press, radio and television about the start of the 2014-15 school year — it was said that everything (teachers, classrooms, uniforms and books) was ready? It is obvious that there were lies then, as there have been in all spheres throughout all these years.

As a recent highlight of this string of falsehoods, the decisive blow was administered by the official delegation, organized and prepared by the regime, to represent us at the recent Civil Society Forum during the Summit of the Americas in Panama. The prefabricated members of this delegation themselves were those charged with nakedly showing themselves with their wrongdoing and the marginalized way they acted before the press and international public opinion, exposing yet another of the great lies of the regime.

 Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Image of the pro-government supporters taken from the Internet


Rebeca Monzo, 15 April 2105 — The 7th (of April) arrived.  The Summit of the Americas in Panama and, with it, the invited and participating delegations started to arrive in the Central American country.  The official Cuban delegation, one of the largest, had a good time organizing and preparing, under the optics of the totalitarian regime, making up a series of NGO officials, with the objective of making themselves look like the only Cuban civil society.

The inconceivable and unacceptable thing was to send characters well-known as loyal to the regime, pretending to make them pass as members of this civil society. Among them, just to mention the most known, was Dr. Eusebio Leal, the historian of Havana, Miguel Barnet, President of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC) and Abel Prieto, Adviser to President Raul Castro who, along with many others chosen, lended themselves to serve as bullies in the famous meetings of repudiation against the Cuban opponents, real members of nascent civil society, insulting them and even sometimes, hitting them and preventing them from leaving through the front door of where they were staying, having to remove them safely from the hotel by the kitchen and the backyard of the property.

These acts, absolutely unacceptable, have set a terrible precedent in front of governments of other countries, the international press, who have remained amazed before similar acts of marginality, vulgarity, and lack of respect to the host country.  As my friend Mary would say: “They showed their trashy ways,” confirming with their deplorable attitude what the opposition from within the island has been condemning for years.

As  if these abuses of power were not sufficient, they have tried to monopolize Jose Marti, as if he doesn’t belong equally to all of those born on this battered island.

(Image of the pro-government supporters taken from the Internet)

Translated by: BW


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