Friday, November 28, 2008

Pedro Lemebel in Havana--(just two years ago).

1. Saint Homo at Home in Hetero America. A whole cloth, with full sail: Bridal veil, shawl and scarf.
Whole milk and the whole voice. Full color: From head-to-toe turban and a pair of orange booties (Clock Work Orange gay).
Pedro Lemebel revisits Havana in late November 2006: Author of the Week at 3rd and “G” Street. (The patio of My House is nothing special).
Really promising. And the hosts know it. Hence their giggles become apparent before a one (wo)man show called Pedro Lemebel. Hence they punctually grab their spots in the front row, just in case.
The show must go homo.

2. Lord, I implore you to take my nine-year-old son, bored in front of the National TV program, to see the Magician Lemebel.
Because it was just that--waiting for a magic act. It breathed a tolerant atmosphere of sleight of hand. An especially solemn and brief reaction announced by the local media; (not loquacious, but half-assed this time):
“Lemebel Comes Home. A leftist Chilean writer. Personal friend of Gladys Marin”.*
Then I grab my son by the collar and as a gesture of resignation say:
“Let’s go”.
And we went--to a house that didn’t exist prior to the magic-maker “Potter” Lemebel.

3. In Cuba, in order to not introduce some variety, there had not been anything published by this leftist Chilean writer even though he was a personal friend of Gladys Marin: Too eccentric, outlandish, and outrageous (queer queen).
A decade ago, Pedro Lemebel had been deployed to Havana for his outlandish performance, The Mares of the Apocalypse. He apparently came without displaying any vice and left. Without penises or glories.
Now, however, the thing at the House promised to be hot. Hence the interest of old and young, including my son who barely knows how to read. Perhaps it was precisely because of that. Learn to read Lemebel.
It would be of tremendous benefit to get out of the closet that decaying Scrabble board that paralyzes us in a “straight” way. An all-inclusive methodology of “Pret-à-porter” (Harry Potter). home delivery. “Get your Lemebel at Home” during the whole Week of the Author--in fact, truncated into four evenings in November 2006.

4. Lower the curtain and the curtain rises, and there appears Pedro Lemebel with a type of screening light passing through the House and a ketch Chilean ballad. This is the perfect environment to now disclaim a civil poem. A Manifesto by its difference, written 20 years ago and read democratically under the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet in Santiago de Chile in September 1986.
It is a pamphlet of oedipal conversational verses: Howlings of Lobomel (Wolfbel) or, better yet, the cawing of a Lemebird swan. It is a drivel upside down where the myth of Cuba is as a global utopian social paradise of the Left.
Pedro Lemebel saaaaays:
"Imp not Pasolini asking for explanations. I’m not Ginsberg expelled from Cuba.
So then what? What will they do with us, comrades? Will they tie us in bundles of braids for a destiny to a Cuban AIDS quarantine asylum?
Will the future be black and white?
Will time be labored night and day without ambiguities?
Will there be a queer in one corner unbalancing the future of his new man?
Don’t you think that something would happen between us, being all alone in the Sierra? Although later I would hate it for corrupting the revolutionary morale.
My manhood was not received well by the Party because they rejected me with giggles many times.
My manhood waits patiently for the macho men to grow old because at this stage of the game, the Left drags its limp ass in Parliament.
There are so many children that are going to be born with a broken wing, and I want them to fly, comrade, so that their Revolution gives them a piece of red heaven so that they can fly”.
Closed ovation. Unanimous applauses. Wholesale hurrahs. Sphincters of all nations, open up!

5. The curtain goes up and the curtain goes down, and Pedro Lemebel disappears. In his place, behind the microphone, there emerges a flora and fauna of lecturers from the courtyard, and university scholars have arrived from the U.S.
Of course from time to time there is also talk of literature. But most of the time, of course (time is money), each of them spoke of their wits as privileged readers of Lemebel: Everyone has already read all of him, which shows how unnecessary it was beforehand to publish him here.
It chronicles the chronic Lemebel colic. One admires its Lemgay militancy. They move their uprooted politicians live before the Chilean television cameras; (Cuban television films everything off-the-record, but if a space later appears, that’s where the credit to be deferred to Lemebel is edited in). And they capture the ironies about the savoire-faire among men and the insular tropical autumn nights not very far from the domesticated house at 3rd & “G(ay)” Street.
The hosts showed their excellence as if amphibians, never losing the Andalusian giggle accomplice point from their punctual spots in the front row, while applying the urban guerilla tactic of laissez-faire. But my nine-year-old son became equally bored very soon and wanted to get out of there.
“Dad, I implore you again: Take me to see The Wizard of Oz at Cubavision”.

6. Old-time cabaret lyrics; narrative boleros; rancheras and revolutionary slogans. All shouted in sotto voce away in no time from a little clandestine radio to the tune of the “la lala” of Pedro “The Tender Bullfighter”** Lemebel.
The character in The Drag Queen of the Front (by Patriótico Manuel Rodriguez)*** is his Pedro anonymous in this short novel. The date and location of the plot takes place incisively in Santiago (Chile) in September 1986. Only now it’s not a poem concerned with civil disobedience, but the plot to assassinate General Augusto Pinochet (along with essential collateral damage that would include the presidential Mercedes limousine) with a clean bazooka shot.
In a country whose president has survived more than 600 assassination attempts, I'm afraid in the end, Bullfighter results in a naive realism. The most interesting aspect of the book is perhaps its somewhat interlinear notion of a phallus revolution. A certain innocence of the sixties is now passé. In this sense it’s an out-of-date story, a fossil remix of American toilet stall paleohistory. A script that could easily dramatize any 2:00 PM state radio soap opera broadcast.
One thing that is certain by reason or force is that old fox Roberto Bolaño**** hit the nail on the head in terms of, To publish or not to publish: That is the “gaystion”.

7. - My boy - Lemebel told my son upon granting him an autograph that he would be back next year and that we will now be a legion--that the car has to be pushed a little in order to advance. Sentenced theatrically, he winked an eye at me.
It’s a couple of years later and that parliamentary comment is incomprehensible to me even less. There was no use in asking him what he meant by that. The e-mail address that he jotted down on my copy of My Tender Bullfighter ( has only resulted in passive and evasive greetings.
Apparently the young bull in Lemebel likes to reserve his sharper letters for the hour of the final thrust.

8. Pedroly Lemebel, with his bi-casual attire and hi-tech narrator homosentimenstrual tics.
Bitchy Lemebel, casting a spell on the vampiresque family of Cuban scholars hungry for their heinous post-HIV Lemebelite blood—miracle of the 20th sicktury.
In the end, evil.
Lemebel, P: pr(l)ck. A saucer with a strong overflowing cup of something along with some quiet time to read the Chilean Donald Dick.
The words and gestures of a transchilen@ before a full house, Even though it was scandalous, the president chose not to scandalize it. All would thus be well within the canon of the twenty-first century cooltural locale (of drag queens) along with the correct dose of low-profile, plus a more diplomatic image of tolerance towards the Left International, Ltd.

9. Quoteth the condor: Nevermebel.

10. To the comfort of the great and small, this review of Lemebel is finally over with. A Clockwork Orange can cause a whole orange revolution, at least in my tropical Ukrainian cranium.
To see it live was almost a prediction of the impending bed death (and not a clean bazooka shot) of General Augusto Pinochet.
Well, therefore: Let it mebel.

Orlando Luis Pardo

Translator's notes

*Gladys del Carmen Marín Millie (July 16, 1941 – March 6, 2005) was a Chilean activist and political figure. She was Secretary-General of the Communist Party of Chile (PCCh) (1994-2002) and then president of the PCCh until her death. She was a staunch opponent of General Augusto Pinochet and filed the first lawsuit against him, in which she accused him of committing human rights violations during his seventeen-year dictatorship.

**The Tender Bullfighter is the literary English translation for Pedro Lemebel’s novel, Tengo Miedo Torero.

***Frente Patriótico Manuel Rodríguez (FPMR) was the armed wing of the Chilean Communist Party in the 1980s named for the hero of Chile’s war of independence against Spain.

****Roberto Bolaño Ávalos (April 28, 1953 — July 15, 2003) was a Chilean novelist and poet. In 1999 he won the Rómulo Gallegos Prize for his novel Los Detectives Salvajes (The Savage Detectives).

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Generation Y

Photo: Claudio Fuentes

Congratulations to Yoani Sánchez, at Generation Y, and to all her commentators and all the people who have helped, for these two extremely merited prizes.

Let the resistance continue and let us be more every day.


Prize of Reporters without Borders: GENERATION Y

PS: Now, instead of a prologue, el Comandante is going to have to write a novel.

Translator's note:
El Comandante (Fidel) criticized Yoani, although not by name, in the prologue he wrote for a book entitled, "Fidel, Bolivia and Something More".

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

They finally arrived

Monday, November 24, 2008, 11:00 am:

I came running from work to meet the social workers who take the old refrigerators. Atmosphere of madness, all the old refrigerators rolling down the stairs, they say a neighbor was on the edge of tears. I too was a little sad, it hurts to see them rolled away after nearly a half century of working without fail. My Mom’s fridge, for example, they gave it to my grandmother like a wedding present, she was born in 1919 and got married when she was 16. It’s impossible to be indifferent to its death. I understand OLPL and other friends who aren’t changing theirs, but truly for me, although I’m sad, I prefer the change. In addition, it’s expensive to get rid of them, because I’ve been told there are people out there who think it is only exchanged, but no, it’s exchanged and charged: value 260 CUC. Luckily you can pay in installments. After 50 years they realize if they don’t sell them on the installment plan they’re not going to sell them, because with what are we going to pay.
There were two guys, I don’t know where they went, who loaded the refrigerators and took them down for you for 20 pesos.

6:30 pm:
The truck with the new ones arrives, as Claudio calls them, the “Comandantes Haier.” The odyssey of bringing them up and more, and thankfully with Yoani’s camera I was able to capture all of it, most of all Claudio and Ciro, posing before starting up.
For the social workers, who didn’t get lunch, I made them coffee. They told me they hadn’t even given them a snack the whole day.

Translator’s note
The “Haier Group” is a Chinese appliance manufacturer with a contract to supply energy efficient refrigerators to Cuba.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The coming of the refrigerator (II)

Sunday November 23, 11:00 am:

Photo: The piece by Juan Suarez for the exhibition "Monstrous energy eaters."

I leave for work (yes, I also work on Sunday) and the Surveillance guy asks me where I’m going because they’re already picking up the refrigerators on the sidewalk out in front. Ciro’s at a student’s house giving a lesson, so he’s not home either.
We’ve spent this week waiting for the refrigerator, I haven’t missed any more work but many people have. Since that disastrous Friday of last week there have been people without a refrigerator until the following Friday; there weren’t any trucks so they couldn’t bring the new refrigerators. By chance we saved ourselves, because the list of those of us who were exchanging fridges was wrong and the president of the CDR wouldn’t let us get rid of them until it was fixed, and those who were fixing it stopped working, and so we were left with our old refrigerators.
I’m running to leave things at work under control and then head back home, which I make in the record time of one hour, including the ten peso cost of a car between there and here to get here faster.
When I get home a neighbor is shouting at me: Go back! Go back! They’re not going to pick them up from us today! He gave me a small attack of hysterics which fortunately passed quickly when I saw the face of the president of the CDR who has spent the last week taking meprobamate and who was on the verge of strangling somebody. She’s more exasperated than I am. In her work they give encouragement in foreign currency and if she fails she won’t get it.

They say it’s coming tomorrow.

(to be continued)

Monday, November 24, 2008

The caviar of the left

Photo: Claudio Fuentes Madan

The other day Ciro and Gorki gave an interview to an Italian communist. They didn’t know he was a communist, of course. But all the same they gave it to him because they were giving interviews to the whole world despite my advice not to do it, because it’s not easy to be giving an interview to the security services, when what they want is for you to rot in prison and there you are, nicely answering questions.
According to Ciro’s version, Gorki was upset when the journalist told him that there were many things he should be thankful to the Revolution for, while he didn’t get upset because he wanted to get information out of him. According to Gorki’s version, Ciro got upset when the journalist said that the dissidents were all getting money from the U.S. government, while he had remained calm so that he could listen and know what he was thinking. Both versions agree that it was lucky I wasn’t there, because had I been I would have sabotaged the interview, with the usual expulsion from my house of Compañero European Communist Journalist.
I can converse with Cuban communists, in fact I do it often because I know a few (my mother-in-law, for example). We don’t last long, either of us, but I can listen to some of their arguments and refute them and try to convince them.
But with the Europeans, Americans, or anyone in the developed Western world, I can’t. I even have patience with young Latin Americans, because I believe they’ve been brainwashed, just like us, and to top it all off they’re living in Cuba as if this was a paradise, while in their countries they sell this government as the model for the solution to all their problems… I only hope it doesn’t become a reality, for the sake of their children.
It makes me want to vomit when a Spaniard or a Frenchman or an Italian tells me that the Cuban Revolution is the bastion of the perfect society in this capitalist world where the selfishness blah blah blah… earning $5,000 a month and vacationing in Varadero, really democracy makes no sense!
Once at Claudio’s, an American about 50 told me that he felt very good that Cubans didn’t have the right to buy cars. “Why would you want a car if you don’t have to travel very far to get to work? Back in the U.S. I don’t have a car and I don’t feel the need to travel very far.”
The part about not traveling very far for work wasn’t clear to me, where would he have gotten such a statistic? But I left it and didn’t refute it. Why? The best thing was when his 15-year-old fiancée arrived. I had to ask her what she thought about the fact that her boyfriend was never going to buy her a car.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The "cursed" matter of money

Photo: Lia Villares

Reinaldo Escobar wrote an excellent article, "The bones of money," where, among other things, he mentions the fortune that Castro received from all kinds of sources to make his revolution. However, every time we talk about dissidents, independent journalists, or political parties in Cuba, money never fails to stick in the throat like a damn fish bone. Why?
It makes no difference to me if they send them money or not, I even believe they should get more: to make banners, to put up more posters, to be able to create a clandestine network layered with anti-Castro signs, to set up a traveling press, to create local dissident intranet radio stations, to bribe security oficials and get them to change sides, to print 11 millon copies of the Vaerla Project, in short, in order to do what’s happening.
What I am curious about, for example, is the salary of Randy, I love to know how much they pay him for facing the consequences in such a brutal way. How much did Taladrid earn the week devoted to speaking live and in person on Absurd Table about the private correspondence of Marta Beatriz Roque?
I wonder that people, including many of my friends whom I consider intelligent and capable, with very coherent political ideas, make such a face when it comes to the money of the opposition. Wouldn’t it be better to ask ourselves how much they pay the guy who took a photo of Marta’s refrigerator, or those who have 24 hour a day Internet access at home so they can sabotage the resistence on the web, or those who listen in on the other ends of our telephones? Why do the the television national news journalists have cars, cell phones, houses, where does all that come from? Why do they pay them so well and the rest of us so badly? Why does Eusebio Leal have antique shops in Europe and, incidently, who made him Mr. Fuedal Lord-in-Chief of Old Havana?
I remember once, because of some international scandal about the bank account of el Comandante, that we had to endure several days of Absurd Table, where they explained in detail the precarious economic situation of Castro. The popular joke was that we should collect a dollar per person and give him the money… and even so we’re preoccupied with the money those on our side have. It seems incredible.

Translator’s notes:
Reinaldo Escobar is an independent Cuban journalist.
The Varela Project is a citizen’s petition to the Cuban government to enact democratic political reforms.
Randy Alonso is director and host of the television talk show “Mesa Redonda” (Roundtable). “Absurd Table” is a play on words.
Marta Beatriz Roque is a Cuban economist and political dissident.
Reinaldo Taladrid is a government-employed Cuban journalist.
Eusebio Leal is the Havana City Historian and holds a large number of political and culutral posts, including Deputy to the National Assembly.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Two civil societies: one wearing green and one wearing colors

I read Granma and I watch television, the news and whatever official publication falls into my hands. Although sometimes they annoy me, I prefer to spend an unpleasant moment to find out what they are saying and to try, in a naïve way, to guess the intentions behind each title.
The other day, for example, I almost fell into the trap of a title in Granma: “Cuban civil society denounces the blockade,” or something like that, I don’t remember exactly. When I read “civil society,” I instantly said, very excited, “They’re talking about Civil Society in Granma!”
How naïve! I finished the article reluctantly, not remembering at all what it was about; what I do remember was that the “Cuban civil society” mentioned in Granma was formed, initially, by Felipe Pérez Roque, followed by Miguel Barnet and other writers and functionaries of the leading cultural institutions of the country, that is to say, the main governmental organizations; because at this point everyone knows that in Cuba, a high official in Culture is the same as a high official in State Security, and that their immediate superior undoubtedly works for military intelligence. There was even a time when nearly all our minsters were military, without any evasiveness or lies.
Now it seems they aren’t, now they call it civil society, because the green uniform has long since ceased to be compulsory.
Why? I wonder if it might be, perhaps, that they’re afraid our people actually know that a true civil society exists, that they also form a part of it, and that it has no rights, or almost none. It doesn’t even have the right to know what its rights are. Or maybe I ask myself why our leaders feel the need to steal the name of the opposition. Could it be, perhaps, that they fear the terms “opposition” and “civil society,” which encompass so many people who couldn’t talk about politicians, about dissidents, because civil society is enormous and so great, destined to continue growing while our government ignores it, meanwhile shamelessly stealing its name.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The arrival of the refrigerator

Chronicle of an absurd day (incomplete but will be continued)

Thursday, 9 pm

The president of my CDR, whom I’ve already said is the best, shouts at me that the fridges will come tomorrow. What time? Who knows.
I go down to try to find out what she knows, I have work in the morning and then I have another job in the evening until ten at night that I don’t like to miss.
The owner of the house must be present, if they’re not there another person can buy it but then that person will be the debtor.
According to the Cuban government I’m the housewife, so I can’t go to work because the debtor is my mother and she can’t come either because she’s waiting for her refrigerator too, at least the owner of the house must be there. Besides, what mysterious reason would keep a housewife from not being there to receive her refrigerator, particularly when the one she has hasn’t kept things cold in the summer for years?
My neighbors advise me to go to work in the morning, because the refrigerators always arrive late, I decide to sacrifice my night job, call the boss, etc. etc. etc.
Claudio’s digital camera is broken, a call to Orlando to see if he will lend me his, it’s complicated; Lía’s incommunicado; Yoani will lend me hers but Ciro isn’t here to go get it.
I go to bed.

Friday, 7:15 in the morning

I’m leaving for work; the phone rings, it’s the president of my CDR, saying that I’d better not go to work, they called her and they’re coming at nine.
Call the other boss, Ciro worried. Two colleagues tell me they spent THREE DAYS waiting for their refrigerators. I hang up the phone, not happy with this information.


Nothing at all, all the neighbors walk around like zombies waiting, no one went to work. Expectation.
Claudio arrives, says that he can do it with his analog camera, but developing and scanning will delay it. He doesn’t even have the damn camera with him, try to convince him to go get it, to wake up Lía to ask if she can bring it over, to call Yoani. Wait.


Lia's mother refuses to wake her, nobody wants to go to Yoani’s, the laziness already begins.
I’m leafing through the phone book looking for a charitable soul who lives nearby and wants to lend me a camera.


Relaxed atmosphere, Claudio doesn’t stop making jokes. Says now we must prepare ourselves psychologically for them to take the Russian refrigerator at 6:00 pm in the evening and to bring the other at midnight, with luck.


Lía is still sleeping


I go to the movies.
At the exit I see some trucks, I run home, in fact they are bringing fridges, but not mine.
It seems they’ll bring it tomorrow.

Saturday, 8:45

Now they say they’ll come between 9:00 and 9:30.


Those who handle the trucks are some farmers, it seems they’ve gone home and won’t return today. Maybe they’ll come on Monday.


Suspended the practice of PPR for obvious reasons, suspended also Gorki’s birthday party.
I have no mail.
I can’t post.
Lía is still sleeping (it’s incredible).
I stop here to be continued when the day finally comes that they bring the refrigerator…

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

About the saga of The Ciro versus State Security

Prisoner number 6

Yesterday I captured a G-2 agent, and I have him locked up in the wardrobe at home The guy got off his Suzuki to buy a shaved ice and I put him in a big sack for policemen made in China that they sell in the shop on Carlos III Street at three for a dollar. At first he kicked up a little fuss but then he calmed down and apologized. I demand a ransom of 40 CUC for his early release, or maybe they’d like to have 6 heros: 5 prisoners of the Empire and one prisoner of Ciro.
At night, without any problems, he ate the ground ‘soy meat’ I cooked for him and the dogs, but today in the morning he said he was on a hunger strike and started to cry. Since I don’t want him to die on me, I’m going to buy him a pound of beef for lunch so he’ll feel right at home.
They have ten days to deliver the ransom but if they don’t he’ll go to the dogs who spend the day scratching at the door of the wardrobe to get in and eat him up, as you already know.

P.D. To the 40 CUC ransom, add the papers you stole from me.


The Ciro.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Without connection

I’ve been left without an Internet connection, the friend who lent me her account is gone and I’m left with nothing. The public places are very expensive and I can’t afford it on a regular basis. I will try to post at least every two days, thanks to a friend who will publish me from abroad. I won’t think of stopping this blog under any circumstances so if I miss a few days don’t worry, I’ll return for sure, and not like the Five Heroes.
My love to everyone and I’m sorry I won’t be able to read your comments as much and won’t always be able to respond. However, getting me to quit the blog will take a lot more than leaving me without a connection; I already anticipated this day and am prepared to continue posting. The good thing about having been born in Cuba is that one always finds a back channel, the good thing about not having been born in Cuba is that you can’t find it because you don’t need to look for it.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Reading This is Not a Country, by Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, I grieve. Those things that sometimes we do not mention (nor look at in our brains, the doors forbidden) in order not to lose Faith, the only thing that we know that you cannot lose. For days I’ve been listening to Machado Ventura to see if I can manage to laugh, and I can’t. I think I'm walking backwards. My sense of humor suffered from the disappearance of coma-andante,* thank God I have my pictures on file, classics by others.
I have even recorded in my mind the closing words of Raul's speech on the first of January that I saw the tail end of: to work hard. It must be cruel to ask such a thing of the Cuban people. That we work more? And when are they going to pay us? How much longer can this last?
All the bibliography needed to unlearn the un-history learned: Castro the Deceitful, by Sergi Raffi; After Fidel, by someone from the CIA whose name I don’t remember; How Night Fell, by Huber Matos. All the documentaries of all the possible falls of all the totalitarian systems in history, to feed the Faith. The distant memories of ‘94, my father telling me his truth and me with big eyes, wondering why people are pouring into the sea. The quasi-94 since then, the cigarette boats, the dead, those missing in the sea and the disappeared whom it is better to believe are in the sea… as I said to an Argentine friend some years ago: we at least have lists; you, not even that.
I don’t think about my friends who gave birth: taking antidepressants and living on soy mince so the baby eats; working until eight and half months pregnant, because they lost their maternity license – imagine it, my girl, with that contract how you are going to deliver; with three children living crammed together; fleeing to race to leave for any country, without succeeding, the youth thrown into the sewer of the toilet of our big shots; or erasing their minds until they no longer know who they are, like a Cuban friend who recently came from Argentina and grabbed a Cuban history book from off the top of my table and after a bit said: Look pal, I’m studying your history.
I am more afraid of finding myself alone in this hell than I am of State Security, and we even have our brains so well washed that I wonder whether or not I signed the Varela Project,** and I see all around me the same doubt, the same fear, looking for the same justifications, that if I am not Christian, if I do not believe that… in the end. Luckily it only lasted a short time and I signed, and absolutely, I think I passed to a new mental state: I sign anything, everything for the cause, as we say a bit in jest, a bit seriously.

Translator's notes:
* A reference to a song by Porno Para Ricardo
** The Varela Project started in 1998 to collect 10,000 signatures which, under Cuban law, is the threshold for citizens to propose new laws. The petition called for democratic reforms. More information can be found on the web.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My fans of the G2

Photo: Claudio Fuentes Madan

The Saga: The Ciro versus The State Security

Well, as everyone knows, there’s a G2 guy who says with pride he’s my personal biographer, but that being insufficient, I have a girl in the classroom who has revealed to me she’s the one who watches me directly for MININT; the most curious of all being that both boast of their assigned mission. As you can see, spying on The Ciro is something that seems to score them points in the military show business, I suppose they are like the rising little stars of the G2 because they deal with someone as important as ME.
In any case, I think it’s insufficient to have only two baby-spies-in-training in charge of my case. I demand that they immediately open a department under the auspices of Section 81.352 to manage Operation The Dreadful Ciro. The department must have 10 computers, a fax, Internet (broadband) and fixed cameras in the bathroom of my house to accurately count the number of times a week I jack off.

Signed: The Ciro

PS I recall that they have not returned my papers, OK… they continue being cocksuckers, I’m going to start distributing my songs to the world.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Interview with Claudio Fuentes Madan

Photos: Claudio Fuentes Madan

Well, Claudio, I don’t have a camera and you have taken the photos, most of the time without permission and under threat (like you have no computer and work on mine which is fucked), you’ve become the official photographer and almost the only one for my blog, so I decided to interview you. Of course you are a tremendous artist but if I didn’t need your photos maybe I wouldn’t interview you.

- Let’s see, tell me how you stopped being a biology professor at age 25 and changed your life radically to become a painter, and later a photographer.

Well, thanks to a strange nervous depression that even today I haven’t yet fully discovered the causes of, I began, from a strange viewpoint of my inner world, to need to forget thoughts and emotions that were not agreeable and to avoid questions about myself that seemed like they would never have an answer. I tried to create spaces that were opposite in a certain way to what was happening to me. However, inevitably, starting from there, this strange inner world state, I added a surrounding reality, also an enemy in many respects, but over all because I couldn’t avoid it, many nights I simply couldn’t sleep for thinking about things and at some point I started to do them, and the capacity of vibration this gives is so beautiful and indescribable that today I don’t want to be an artist, I want to be a bohemian.

- What are your views and your impressions on the plastic arts in Cuba today? Do you feel a part of any movement or trend?

We are in a dark era, many artists have been from the beginning of this shit, and not only do they fail to produce work, but also they part ways with their teachings. A state corrupted plastic arts, for shit, pressure, money, possibilities, therefore an insincere and ultimately mediocre plastic arts. In addition, the plastic arts cannot exist when Cuba doesn’t exist. What exists is the software of Fidel Castro, and some of my friends and I want to believe that we are still a rebel pixel.

I’m inserted in my own arterial pressure, spitting blood through my ideas, my photos, my glance and each of my pores to the daily stupidity, created by you know who and followed by another whom you know.

- What do you think of the Cuban intellectual?

That like always, the intellectuals in the top tier today must remain in the sewers believing firmly in a tomorrow. The statistic of those of the top tier must be around three, I remember today that Bulgakov, in The Master and Margarita, said that Christ reminded him of Pontius Pilate whose greatest sin was cowardice, thus is demonstrated the arrogant absence of balls.

- Some artists have criticized your unconditional intellectual and moral support toward PPR [Porno Para Ricardo, a rock band]. Could you explain a little why you feel so committed to the group and why you're criticized for it?

I think that they can’t forgive me for deciding to be a groupie, I think the majority of Cuban self-proclaimed intellectuals are given the luxury of giving opinions when in reality they’re not permitted to relaxedly listen to both the lyrics and the music of PPR, when I have discussed it in private circles the majority can cite two, three, four themes and their arguments don’t have an intelligent analysis, and they know almost nothing about the reading levels that I bring. Therefore there are two principal reasons, one, ignorance, two the intrinsic capacity, since to me a single number was enough. A third possible cause, could be perhaps the fear of not saying what they think so as not to face future complications. There’s a lot of intellectual sanctimony.

- I understand that your mother kicked you out of the house when she learned about your relationship with the group. Where are you living? What do you think of her attitude? Do you feel abandoned?

I can’t ask my mother to share my ideas, I understand the reasons for what she did although I don’t share the drastic rupture of our relationship. I know that one day everything will be clarified and forgiven by both sides. Certainly my mother along with other mothers and families have not wanted, have not been able or have not had time to form a new political culture and pry out information about it. A mother also sees the possibility, many times, of strange and macabre ways, she thinks she’s done the right thing, she’s been consistent and it isn’t yet the time to talk about these things. Tomorrow I will start living in the house of a friend, I have been living with my girlfriend, who is no longer my girlfriend, who took me in, in every sense. I am not abandoned, thanks to this I am surrounded very closely by people whom I admire and we like each other.

- What Cuban artists and foreign do you count among your teachers?

Such a list would be very long and pedantic, thankfully humanity relies on artists, philosophers, writers, poets, beggars, alcoholics, prostitutes etc. who impact with magnificent bursts in the minds of certain people, and these are the sensibilities creating a continuous wave throughout history. Some time ago a very important teacher, who could not imagine that she was an important reference point for me, said: from the worst teacher, one learns.

- You’ve had a series of collage paintings for some years now, called 13, which is a bit mystical and political. Could you explain?

These collage paintings don’t all include the number 13 in their composition, those that have the number pertain to a numerological joke that I invented because I felt like it and that is 50 percent prophetic. I assumed just for the hell of it, taking into account that for many cultures and religions thirteen is a fatal number, that Fidel, a symbol of misfortune, was born a 13. Thirteen is half of the 26th of July. Divide 13 by four plus 9, therefore, for karmic reasons that I invented, our bearded one, as you put it, should fall into disgrace, according to my calculations, in the 49th year of the Revolution, which corresponds to 2008, not allowing it to reach the round number of 50 years in power. Sadly, this joke of prediction does not address the terrible successor of the same lineage. But at least, on this date, our man suffered one of the most famous intestinal rackets, an internal bursting that ambiguously isolated him.

One of the objectives of this explanation, I confess, is hidden and is to increase the interest in these pictures and so to raise their price. I never thought I could benefit with infantile treachery from the misfortune of others.

- Why did you stop painting?

The answer is as personal as it is extensive in the sense of a good public speaker. I do not pretend to explain everything that invaded me in the manner of a magnificently poignant photograph... almost never can we choose which obsessions we are going to be authentic victims of.

- Are you going to emigrate? What did you feel after the departure of Leandro, your colleague and your friend who has influenced your work?

I consider that my political and economic culture are still limited and in spite of this, when I compare what I have learned in these last years, I believe that we live in a country of the blind and with this news I don’t feel anything good. Inevitably when you start to awaken, you realize that each one of your analyses makes you a slave of responsibility, so in this obligatory way you are going to suffer certain things on that path and the gain is that you have a guide. Apparently it’s a path of no return whose clothes are constantly basted-together convictions. Many people considered intellectual figures, artists and principal politicians, if they have something with a new impact it’s their emigration, and in addition, they haven’t left a structure of responsible substitutes for the function they had. This analysis is far from being a judgment, I also understand that in the history of a country, five, ten or twenty years is nothing, but for an individual it’s their whole life and it’s very clear that they could foresee that there were no perspectives for this country. Once in a photography course Enrique Pineda Barnet told us the definition of a pessimist: a well-informed optimist.

As for Leandro I still do not have full awareness of how we are going to mark this separation but from the first minute of his departure, I knew that we both were suffering. Simply, Leandro is irreplaceable, the most famous one of my life, too spectacular, a genius of feelings.

- What do you think of blogs?

In general I don’t think that full political democracy exists in any country, the Internet is a vehicle with great democratic possibilities and yet, inevitably, everything is subject to manipulations, because we have the worst of those interests, that are unconscious, that sometimes are not very clear. Today I see the blogs as a fount of more reliable information because they pass through the filter of individual subjectivity and independence.

- Tell me what you're doing now and what your plans are for the future.

I am planning a series of portraits that support and at the same time surpass a series I did with Leandro with ham, lettuce and peas. Also we are in the first stage of making audio-visuals of a documentary and fictional character, with deep subversive components. It’s time to put art ahead of politics, and not politics ahead of art.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Thieves of G2

Photos: Claudio Fuentes Madán

The Saga: Ciro vs. State Security

The damn thieves of G2 (State Security) have not returned the papers they "temporarily" seized from me two months ago when I was arrested in the Protest Plaza. They were the lyrics of a song that I did about Che, but which I don't remember well. When I went to the station at 21st & C to ask whether state security would return my papers or if they stole them forever, they asked:

- "What were the names of the officers who arrested you?"

(How in the hell am I supposed to know who arrested me if they all use fake names?! I answered anyway):

- "One said he was Rodney and the other said he was Oscar."

Obviously nobody there knew who they were.

What worries me most is that if G2 is going to add music to my song themselves, it will be ugly because they're very pro-Che and know nothing about music.


Signed: El Ciro

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Roundtable

Photos: Claudio Fuentes Madan

I went through a radical period with the television show Roundtable and with television in general between the ages of 15 and 20. At the slightest decibel that my ears could pick up, I became hysterical and desperately searched for the radio or television that was the source of my discomfort to turn it off immediately. One day, my intolerance even overcame my terror and I shut off my father’s TV when he was watching a march for Elián that I had just escaped from after 7 hours of trying, futilely, to flee He was so surprised he didn’t say a thing to me, while I shouted: Today, NO! Just today, I can’t stand it!

But luckily that period passed, always with the help of Fidel Castro’s mental deterioration, to the point where I became a fan of his speeches, but that was later.

My grandmother spent five years with senile dementia, I could write 100 posts of the hell we lived through in the hospitals, at home, with the family doctor that does not exist, with the meprobamate and other medicines from the black market… in short, an odyssey. But before getting too maudlin, my grandmother, a very practical woman from the lower class in Luyanó with a primary education, came to the conclusion that she had never been so hungry as after the triumph of the Revolution and, ironically, called the United States, The Brutal and Disheveled North that Oppresses Us, to dishonor my mother and father, militants in the Communist Party of Cuba (fortunately my mother has recovered from her ideological rut). But she was getting old, could barely hear, she couldn’t go out and the only thing she could do was to watch television. After a few months she began to change. I couldn’t speak ill of the government in front of her, she quoted the TV moderator Randy, gave examples from the “Battle of Ideas” and didn’t understand that for my mother and me, who spent the day working, we never had money for anything.

The squabbles started in a house where politics was no longer taboo after the politics-infused divorce of my parents. My grandmother, who still clung to a bit of reality, decided to swear off watching TV because she sensed that she could no longer judge well and that they were brainwashing her: she preferred boredom to engaging in discussions with my mother and me.

Yes yes yes yes yes yes, Commander

We came to be among the few fans. We waited for six in the evening to watch the show, and if there was a special appearance by our Commander in Chief, all the better. Even my radical friends, like me in adolescence, came and sat in front of the television, to see me start with the tears when it began and also laughing at the end, if not as fanatical, at least lowering the level of intolerance almost to zero.

I once met a Spaniard, a fighter against Franco, who told me that when he came to Cuba he caught a taxi from the airport to downtown and the driver was listening to the Roundtable on the radio. The topic: the queens of pots. The tourist, intrigues, asked the taxi driver how he managed to get a station from Miami in a State taxi, thinking it was a satirical program. The poor man had to stop the taxi in the middle of Boyeros because he was overcome with a fit of hysterical laughter, while explaining to the tourist that it wasn’t a parody, that it was Him, speaking live and direct to all of Cuba. The Spaniard didn’t believe him, until he saw for himself on television what seemed completely impossible.

When he told me about it he said: Listen, Claudia, this guy doesn’t have more than a year left, it’s impossible.

Unfortunately, the anecdote is already more than three years old.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

University for All

Photo: Claudio Fuentes Madan

It seems they got bored that university was only for revolutionaries, probably because of statistical evidence, and now it’s not about revolutionaries, but about taro and its vegetable stand in the classrooms of all the university headquarters in the country. I sneaked in in that bundle, and I’m finally undertaking a career recognized by the Ministry of Education, where they do not ask me the names of the five heroes of the empire: Batman, Elastic Lass, Spiderman, Superman and… I’m always missing one.
Since there are not enough books to go around, we have classes once a week, which is not enough to go over all the content, so there is a web of guides, scanned books and summaries that people hand around and that way we start to fill in with some indolence the spaces under the list of objectives and contents that, normally, we should master. Those who don’t have the ability to print, make photocopies or have access to a computer, have a very hard time compiling all the info.
Just the same, we should not complain, we have classes. Personally, I prefer to study alone, so that before I only went to school to air my doubts. Now, having given up, I decided that I prefer to present myself at an exam with my doubts rather than with my teachers’ explanations, and I should mention that I don’t have any emergent teacher, but all of them are over 50 years old.
Since I like philosophy a lot, it is where I have most doubts. In spite of an overdose of Marxism-Leninism, which now they call Philosophy and Society, but it’s all the same, I get excited as an opponent (I have an idealist-pseudo bourgeois streak according to my books).
Two sets of categories exist in Marxism that are conceptually opposite but that simultaneously interact, I did not understand the pair happenstance-necessity, I did not understand the the concept that happenstance could reside in Marxist ideology. So I go to school with my doubt. I arrive, raise my hand after a while so I won’t make a bad impression and I blow out the super question to the prof, who jovially responds:
Let’s see, Claudia, look, it’s very simple, the need is, for instance, when you need to fix up your house with construction materials that you don’t have, then one morning you go out and find yourself with a truck full of materials in front of your house, and it doesn’t belong to anyone, that is the happenstance that meets your need, do you understand?
Since I am a respectful student, I said: more or less, prof.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Government Confrontation

Photo: Lía Villares

Once again the government launches a campaign for people to take the law into their own hands and to adopt predetermined behaviors to stop that which they think is wrong. Once more it feeds the hatred between us so that we consume each other like cannibals, while they wash their hands of any responsibility. This is no longer about why the black market, the illegalities and the delinquencies in Cuba have grown astronomically, it is just about ending them… and who should do away with them? Us. A campaign of the greatest absurdity in a country where no one lives on their state salary, and I say state because of course there are many people who work hard and survive through illegal work.

But behind one more campaign it’s business as usual, the old tactic of setting us against each other, to give a neighbor the enormous responsibility of deciding who is politically correct, who lives on their salary, who is integrated into society, and above all of making whomever decides this also decide what to do about it, and what to do to themselves should they fail in this mission. To live with the pain of knowing that some day the president of my CDR [Committee for the Defense of the Revolution], whom I like so much, may knock on my door to read me the riot act, or that the council of neighbors, people whom I’m very fond of, have already been placed in the painful situation of demanding information about Ciro Diaz because he lives in my house and so they came to ask about him. The sickness of hating the vigilance, the paranoia of seeing State Security in every face and a terrorist in every civilian, the dreadful perversion of living undercover in order to eat, the PNR’s [National Revolutionary Police] fomenting of hate between Habaneros and those from other provinces, the flood of easterners coming to Havana and in turn the officials’ campaign against in-country emigration which makes the same police force send its own countrymen back to the provinces. A society based on government blackmail, which only more strongly institutionalizes people denouncing each other, abuse of power, hatred and demoralization

I’m tired of hearing about building a perfect society, I do NOT want a perfect society. Of seeing on television gross accusations of all kinds of evil against our own people, and their charging us with the responsibility to make or break our peers. Of having to hear that the vampires of illegality must be destroyed and that, with impunity, they call for civilian segregation.

That in my country the elections in the United States are more interesting than our own… sorry, what elections? That for what they call the vote here they have four meetings in the months before to explain that the vote is voluntary but… and that in addition they take good care that what they put on the ballot is... so that no one will make a mistake it’s better that… go and knock on the door of Mr. So-and-So who hasn’t come yet… I don’t know why he put that in if he knows we have to go look for him… now it has to happen because he is falling behind, it’s not easy and I didn’t like it either…

I want a government that takes responsibility for its actions and doesn’t treat its people like black and white pawns to be taken, I want the horizon of my freedom not to stop at the end of my nose, I don’t want bureaucrats telling me what I should read or when I should exchange my refrigerator or how many pounds of rice I should eat a month, all the while demanding my eternal and unconditional gratitude.

I want the witch hunt to end once and for all and that Cuba will never again under any circumstances have to experience a night of the long knives, led by the people and manipulated by the government.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

With our own means

Photo: OLPL
Text by: Ciro Díaz Penedo

As the communists fuck us we, therefore, also fuck them Today we have paid the famous 600 peso fine with 5 centavo coins (means) or about 12,000 means, the result of a collection gathered by the independent libraries and contributions from friends. They were duly counted by the “poor” workers at the Control Center for Fines in Playa. At the start we had a bit of a problem with them because they probably didn’t have much to do with the motherfuckers at the justice system and at State Security, but after one of them called the police they didn’t give us any more grief.
The officials apparently were not informed about what was going on and limited their work to their “soft” routine, asking for ID cards, writing down our names, saying not to take photos, etc… fortunately they didn't have to make the work “hard” with baton blows, breaking some cameras, and putting “tout le monde” in prison.
In the end it must be hard to be a nice cop (I’ve never known one); imagine having to comply with all kinds of stupid and unpopular orders and being the most hated person in the place. I think it would have been better if they had helped to count the means, but maybe they don’t know how to count, I don’t know.
So between the clink clink of the 12,000 means on the table, the stares of the cops and our jokes, we spent an entertaining afternoon here in the entrails of the monster.

Urban Transport

Photo: Claudio Fuentes Madan

Every day I catch the P4, several times. It makes me ill when people say the buses are good. Last week, coming from the Naútico neighborhood to Vedado at 10:30 in the morning, with the bus about to explode and even without a cold front, I had one of my moments of Pure Hatred, as I call them, which fortunately passed quickly.
I couldn’t get even a meter inside the door because I couldn’t fit (I weigh 110 pounds) and all around me everyone was sucking in their breath trying to get comfortable in the sea of humanity. An old man was always putting his hand on my butt, and when I protested loud enough for the whole bus to hear, he withdrew it without even blushing.
Those who are sitting generally never move a muscle; I am used to see elderly and disabled people trying unsuccessfully to make it to a seat, nearly four yards from the door.
But I already know that here there is no limit to the absurdity and, to take us all well beyond our limits, all the seats for the handicapped and the pregnant were already full that day. An old woman next to me was shouting to her daughter at the other end of the bus that she had already sat down, she had been given a seat; this shouted dialog was very entertaining to the woman sitting in front of us, who laughed about the situation with her husband.
On the 42 there is an old blind woman who climbs aboard and, shouting, tries futilely to reach her seat; in all the confusion her purse strap breaks and she begins hitting everyone around her with her stick while the people, who can’t even move, receive the blows and shouts; the conductor is impassive as long as they put the money in the farebox, which is now so ignored that they’ve come up with some new laws that are very harsh. Finally the little old lady disappears from my tiny field of vision, a woman says they treat us like cattle, nobody answers.
I think at the end of the ride the pressure will ease, but no, a blind man that got up from one of the seats glued to the entry door decides that it’s better to exit there since it’s closer; I succeed in telling him he won’t fit. The bus starts up and, already hysterical because he’s missed his stop, he doles out another dose of the cane. The bus driver manages to stop him, or they stop him, I don’t know, because by then everyone is roaring with laughter… meanwhile, I can hardly keep from crying.
At last I see my beloved intersection, 12th and 23rd, squeezed almost vertically up against the second door which I hope will open the exit to paradise, I hear a seated fat woman telling the bald man in front of her: That one, I don’t know what she has, she has her disability card and is always sitting, but I can’t see that she has anything…
I nearly vomit in her face and, if it weren't for the fact that I write so badly, someone would think this is an unpublished story from Kafka.