Those Who Believe in CHANGE

Photo of a Man Who is Tired of Waiting for CHANGE

The Cuban people have lived more than 50 years under a kind of cabal called the “Revolution,” based on one-party rule, lack of freedoms, and the loss of values and traditions, which have stained the cultural foundations of the nation.  After the announced retirement due to ill health of Fidel Castro and the passing of the baton to his younger brother, those in government leadership and the suffering people conceived the idea that the time had arrived for the desired CHANGE.

The new president was surprised by several labor leaders who led an entourage to his ailing brother.  These ideas were conceived to disrupt the roots of the Castros’ base, and strip them of absolute power.  This was an opportunity for the state to fulfill its role of channeling and ensuring the full and total development that the individual needs. Nothing changed. Raúl Castro made two or three stuttering interventions that plunged the nation into the expectation of CHANGE — the possibility of increasing diplomatic relations with the United States; ignoring reality he declared that the world financial crisis would not reach the islanders or their currency exchanges — all designed to buy time. The nationals are stuck in the mess, continuing to have to skirt the law in order to buy their children shoes, backpacks, snacks and milk to get them through the school day. Today their hopes are not within view, but neither have they decided to fight and reclaim their inherent rights that are being violated, as the successor Castro continues militarizing the State Council, repressing peaceful dissenters, jailing opponents, unleashing violence against defenseless women and all who raise their voice even in favor of freedom of expression.

Today I pray for those of you who believed in CHANGE, and I urge you to take seriously your civic role, to make up your mind and raise your voice to say WE WANT CHANGE.  Enough of sacrificing the family, the people and the country.

Translated by: Tomás A.

Published in: on January 28, 2010 at 11:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

Five Hotdogs Per Adult

There is a commotion in the neighborhood, and when I look out the window I see how desperate the neighbors are to get into the butcher shop, because the five hotdogs per adult have arrived.

Mothers leave insulted because once again they have to sacrifice and share with the children of the house, because there is nothing available for them. The butcher suffers the consequences because, although he is not to blame, he is the one who has to endure all sorts of complaints and insults.

Maybe this seems like fiction, but unfortunately it is stark reality, in which so far this year nothing has been allocated for children in the so-called butcher shops, where for years they haven’t sold meat.

In a country where they shout about all the kids having everything guaranteed to them and then they take away their milk at age seven when they most need it; chicken which although isn’t that nutritious is what they like most and have been taught to eat, and then they allocated the sale of chopped beef which is only seen once and one pound per person.

It is because of this and more that I ask myself:

Do the grandchildren of the members of the Council of State, without mentioning the names that we all know, have to ration what they eat, when, how and how much?

Published in: on January 28, 2010 at 1:57 am  Leave a Comment  

He Traded Randy for Alexis Valdes

Cristóbal, an old man of 70, lives in the municipality of San Miguel del Padrón. He is a loyal TV watcher of The Round Table,* an infamous cuban TV show. Because of his hearing loss Cristóbal compensates by watching the show at an extremely loud volume. Along the hall where he lives and his neighbors’ houses, the sinister voice of Randy Alonso reverberates when he tunes into the TV show. Outside, teens laugh to themselves and others make the signs to show he is crazy, endless signs and commentaries demarcating 6:00 daily

Not long ago there, Cristóbal’s nephew paid him a surprise visit from the United States, and took him along with the whole family–children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren–to Pinar del Rio for a vacation trip. When returning to Havana his nephew shopped around for needed goods for the house, and among so many gifts he bought Cristóbal a 29-inch TV set.

I recently visited Cristobal’s neighborhood, where I have relatives. That day Cristóbal called out to me happily, eager to show me his new acquisition. When I entered the room, much to my surprise;  Randy Alonso was gone along with his Round Table; instead the image of Alexis Valdés was filling the screen of that immense TV set with his program “Esta Noche Tu Night”.

I asked him, unable to containing my laughter,

“So what did you do with the other TV set, you old fart, the Panda?”

To which he promptly replied,

“I have it on my bedroom,  that one is to watch Randy, this one is to watch Yuma* things.”

*Translator’s Notes:
The Round Table: A discussion program which Fidel Castro used to appear on regularly.
“Yuma things”: Yuma means the United States.

Translated by Zoquetote

Published in: on January 21, 2010 at 2:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

Double Standards

In Cuba, sadly, moral duplicity is among the qualities of many of those who live here. On the block where my house is located, the head of the CDR* holds a tenured position, and not only that, she wasn’t chosen by the neighbors, a vast majority of whom have already emigrated to other countries or moved; rather, her assignment comes from higher up. I’m almost sure that it was decided by Section 21*. It is undoubtedly so, because she doesn’t live in that house, she’s only there in the day; at night she sleeps in another house she has in the Cerro neighborhood, otherwise she would not pass long hours of the day and different seasons of the year in the same place, resting her bosom on the balcony, with her head drooping, dangling off the hook like the receiver of a battered payphone.

This lady who strikes fear in so many around this neighbourhood, goes by the name of Digna Rosa Iván García. She’s a primary school teacher, retired, now earning her masters in surveilling all of us who are working towards freedom and all those of us who are trying to get by, in which she has some experience, I suppose, since her husband Tomás León, or “Tomasito” as he’s known, fixes Tico-made cars on the street, illegally, and he also does some business in spare parts for these modern cars, most of which you need convertible pesos to get hold of.

This Christmas Digna was putting up her eldest granddaughter and her daughter-in-law, whose home is in Miami. Digna has it that her granddaughter works for Channel 41 and it wouldn’t surprise me because her eldest son is a producer, going back years, for ICRT*. His name is José León and there are so many well known Cuban artists there that perhaps for that reason his daughter works for what the Cuban government calls the most repudiated, feared and subversive TV station.

What inspires me to write this post is just that this woman, so offensive and so critical of others, celebrated Christmas in a Santa Claus hat; all her guests wore red clothes and her balcony, or, better said, her podium, was decorated with red balloons. And when the clock struck 12 midnight, sparklers in hand, they didn’t say “Hurrah for the 52nd Anniversary of the Triumph of the Revolution” but “Merry Christmas.” This provocation led the entire neighbourhood to let slip certain remarks which aren’t so far from the reality. She criticises neighbours in the North and look how she imitates them at every opportunity, they said. Which leads me to say, there you have it, a living example of double standards.

*CDR: Committee for the Defense of the Revolution
*ICRT: Instituto Cubano de Radio y Television (Cuban Institute of Radio and Television)
*Section 21: Department for Dealing with Enemies of State Security

The pigeon in the picture is reading How to Shit on Humans in 12 Lessons

Translated by RSP

Published in: on January 13, 2010 at 10:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bloody Canine Murder

Aunt Aida, as everyone in my house would say, was an old lady of 82, tall, thin, sweet, and very devoted to her family. She was the older sister of my brother’s grandmother but as they were orphaned from very young she was dedicated to raising her two younger sisters and helped care for the nieces, nephews and grandchildren she, in turn, being the mother of two out-of-wedlock children.

Sadly, Aida underwent surgery at various times for a hip fracture and later to change the prosthesis, requiring repeated doses of anesthesia which left her with mental gaps. Her daughter, who lived in the residential area of Old Havana, took her into her home to spend the Christmas season and at four in the afternoon on December 16–coincidentally the eve of St. Lazarus who is venerated as the saint of dogs and the elderly–when she was arriving home from work she honked for her husband to open the garage doors for her car. He forgot to close the front door of the house and the old lady in her delirium stuck her head out, an opportunity two Rottweilers took advantage of to attack her and bite her face to the point of butchering it to the bone.

The neighbors, alarmed and terrified, could nothing. Only her bloodcurdling screams could be heard because the panic and surprise were indescribable, her daughter fell upon those beasts but couldn’t make them stop and ran for the police who charged in, pistol in hand, and shot each animal, killing them and ending the destruction.

Today her daughter is interned in a psychiatric center and her grandchildren, traveling on business, still know nothing. The official press isn’t aware of it, however in many of the streets of Havana people know by common gossip and in different versions, where there are photos that have leaked from the Department of Technical Investigations (DTI) of the Ministry of the Interior that illustrate the bloody canine murder.

For my part, with overwhelming pain for the loss of Aunt Aida, I want to break the silence and share such a freak occurrence with the readers of my blog, paying tribute to her memory through this digital window.

Published in: on January 13, 2010 at 7:56 pm  Leave a Comment