To write and post this is not easy for me, it takes time, concentration, strength, and other things, and even more if writing is not your line of work. Especially when you want to say something, but there are so many things to do in your daily life, like work, or do the things you need to do to meet your needs and even your wants, things that don’t come with a salary. Because even though there are some who believe that if you openly criticize the government the money “falls from the Empire,” that’s not the case.
However, it’s very flattering to read something you wrote, published on the web, and to see, each time, the increase in the number of comments from those who cheer you on. And the others, well the fact that they took the trouble, that’s good, isn’t it? Many make me laugh. Even when they’re confused and think it’s Claudia and not La Salamandra who wrote, it doesn’t bother me. It’s good that they congratulate her, after all, she’s the owner of the blog, right?
But best of all is to be near to something that makes you feel alive in this half dead space, at times immobile and pulverized, to be able to help or support people full of bravery and courage, to say and do what they think, even when you think you aren’t as bold as they are and are only anonymous and invisible, you feel a little bit further from the stupidity.
There are also moments of thrilling joy to know you’ve advanced another step on the road to pushing back, a little more, the line that censors and segregates those who are tired of shutting up and waiting. After having lived, seen, read or heard something that you know exceeds the limits of the suppression of civil liberties, that they try to crush through threats and intimidation, you can no longer be complacent when people manage to join together, whether close friends or not, to show the injustice. They demonstrate this when someone is indicted, imprisoned, labeled a dissident lackey or simply can’t publish a book, because of the way they dress, sing, write, feel, or think with all their human rights.
I regret that I can’t be closer, physically, to the many people who provide support with their comments, although they are greatly appreciated. You could, from supposed anonymity or not, better feel this vibration, and each time would be stronger, when we must move that boundary, as it becomes more asphyxiating, but also pushed back further.
I never knew if the people who put this poster at the entrance of their houses were sufficiently aware to understand that it is not a metaphor. Their houses were Fidel’s and, furthermore, all of our houses are the Revolution’s, because everything around us belongs to that abstract concept. In Cuba, we’ve opted for the old Greek philosophy, everything is made from a single substance and this, in turn, is the origin of all things. Western history is divided by the year zero, before and after Christ; Cuban history is divided by the year 59, before the Revolution nothing, after the Revolution everything.
It surprises me to think that there be people, even within Cuba, who claim that it’s very difficult to evict a family from their home. I will not relate the stories of others because I had the misfortune to deal with the eviction brigade when I was 20 years old.
My father lived in the house of my maternal grandmother, my grandmother decided to put the house in my name as a sort of last act of lucidity. When my father died, I came into my house, which was logical. However, a person close to my father and with a little power thought this wasn’t good, that the right thing was for the house to go to her. At that very moment she started a battle that I knew nothing about, her first blow coming from an unexpected direction: in my absence, she started taking out the toilet, the sink, the wiring for the lights and the pipeline for the gas (why even mention the other things that were in the house); she passed off false accusations that I signed the Varela Project petition (which I didn’t sign because I didn’t see a copy); the subsequent mini-repudiation-meeting-visit of members of the soldiers’ association; the prolonged lack of a registered address; people noted as temporary residents in my house whom I’d never seen; denunciations for receiving illicit rents; and, the finishing touch, the terrible “eviction.”
I'm not going to tell the whole story because it's not worth the trouble. She couldn't throw me out thanks to my father, who, even though he was dead, I mentioned because, evidently, by legal means they were going to kick me out of my house.
Nevertheless, it would make sense to go to Old Havana and contact all the people who in these last years have been evicted from their homes so that the historic center can be adapted for the tourists; or to ask the neighbors of Vedado, near 11th and K, why MININT doesn’t allow them either to exchange their houses or to leave them, as an inheritance, to someone in their family.
I don’t know if the singer, Bárbara Grave de Peralta, was finally evicted or not, I sincerely hope not. But I would also like to say that her case was neither unique nor isolated, rather it’s one more example of what happens daily on this ideal island. I hope that her complaint and the solidarity that her situation may have awakened helps her somehow, and my best wishes go out to her.
On the 7:30 AM news, selected people from different ministries are invited to present criteria, explain situations, propose solutions, etc. This morning one of them was talking about transportation. The truth is that I started to watch it incredulously, I went through laughter and anger, I drew my conclusions and ended up turning off the TV.
I have been talking to the TV for a while now; it has become a private hobby. It's my way of establishing a genuine squabble with the status quo: they talk and I answer, it's a lot of fun. The only one I don't talk to is Randy*, because that would be stooping too low.
So the guy was very clear, even speaking in an unofficial capacity. By coincidence, he takes the same bus I take and at the same time. However, incomprehensible paradox, he has no problems getting on, is never late, and the bus is half empty. I decided that perhaps he took it going in the opposite direction to mine, otherwise, I would have to assume that he and I live in parallel worlds: in my world, the P4, if it comes, is packed and sometimes I cannot get on; in his, the Vedado-Beach route is a pleasant tour.
But that was not all, he then did some weird figuring. Apparently, the number of passengers using public transportation has increased by 50% across Cuba thanks to an increase in vehicles (we do not know what percentage represented the previous calculations, nor the date used to mark the difference between the two). Later, he said that in Ciudad-Habana there was an increase of 48%. He did not say how much it had increased for the rest of Cuba, so I wondered what was represented by that 50 on a national level if we remove Havana.
He confessed, dismayed, that, incomprehensibly, and in spite of the increase in buses and conditions, inter-provincial travel had declined. Perhaps the analysts were so overwhelmed with the numbers that they forgot that fares for those buses almost tripled, and traveling from the provinces to Havana is very complicated if you do not make clear exactly why you are going, for how long, and where you will be staying.
He saved the best for his very comprehensive closing, concluding that people arrive late at work because they do not plan well (this is not a joke, I'm quoting him verbatim) and he wisely advised us to take action (I guess that such ineptitude does not correspond with this people).
You have to have a real stone face to say this on open Cuban television. Frankly, I hope he gets a car soon, and that they give him a promotion and another task, even if it's a more obscure one than this, at least that way we would be liberated from his absurd morning reprimands.
* Translator's note: Cuban 'journalist' Randy Alonso, hosts the nightly "Round Table" program.
Photo: "Civic Ghosts,” Performance Group Omni-Zona Franca, 2003, La Habana.
I still believe, and always will believe, that “Boring Home” was a victory over censorship, and I like to think even over State Security, because for the first time they couldn’t take their clubs to the “strange kids.” But I don’t think I should get carried way by the euphoria of an event that doesn’t imply a change in government policy towards those of us who are different: we dream of change, we hope one day to have the freedom to think, to choose, to say, to work and to dissent.
Orlando continues to receive calls, this time they say they will not forget him, and even that they are going to kick his face in that earliest opportunity. Yoani continues living in the state of siege they’ve installed at her building, where two muscular weight-lifting types pass their days with two objectives: to intimidate her and her entire family and, incidentally, the entire neighborhood, and to report on her activities. Gorki received information through a supportive neighbor that Security has ordered them to report on his every move. And finally, demonstrating their filthy techniques, they have called in the husband of Miriam Celaya of the blog Sin Evasion [Without Evasion]. Not only have they interrogated a person who has never dissented, at least not publicly, but they have threatened him: his work, his family, his children. And I know of others who have been intimidated in these last few months, but they’ve preferred to consider it a random act and haven’t reported it, which I think is a mistake, because with this government and all, I believe, we've crossed the Rubicon.
And not only have we crossed our own Rubicon, but we’ve dragged our friends and families across with us, despite our best efforts not to. As Miriam said, “Just a sample of this despicable and sordid system, with a total disregard for family values, the true face of Cuban socialism.”
Notwithstanding all these things, we continue to be different (the government’s teaching falls on deaf ears with us). We continue our blogger meetings, which even more than a blogger journey, seem to me now to be a blogging-cultural journey, if such a thing exists. We look at documentary photographs and last week, amid the preparations for the not-boring release of Boring Home, the artists of Omni-Zona Franca honored our space with the premiere of one of their documentaries. I have chosen photos of them to lighten, a bit, the sadness out of this post.
Photo: "Three hours of speech," Performance of the group Omni-Zona Franca, 2004, Santiago de Cuba.
It turns out he’s taken up his Reflections again. But this time with a force that tries to keeps up a chatter with the United States. In one form or another he always draws on topics that question the approach of the government of a country that it seems he once vowed, in secret or not, to make “war” on until the end of his days.
He complains that they’ve imposed an economic blockade on us for more than 50 years and it really seems that everything he does is designed to provoke them more and more to want to keep it. We know it would be convenient for him because the Blockade has come to bear the blame for creating hunger and scarcity, and served to justify the general blockade that we have inside the country that has produced many of our disasters.
The Reflections of Thursday, February 5th, “The contradictions between the politics of Obama and his ethics,” is formulaic, with approximately 14 questions to consider about the president. Once again he tries to remind him and, also clearly, us, about every bad thing the government of this country historically has done to Cuba and the rest of the world. Almost a full page asks if Obama is right or fair, this and that, and all that he, the Grand Maestro of ethics, wants to debate and call into question in the eyes of others.
And what is fair and right here, when will he engage in self-examination and see himself as we, the ones below, the ones on foot, see him? Or is it that his ego even now doesn’t allow it?
Doesn’t he realize that we’re no longer interested in knowing any more about what the president of the United States does or doesn’t say or do, but in what they have done here, in this country, he and his government, and what they are doing or will do to resolve what really concerns us? He writes of protecting Humanity from the deterioration of the climate, but doesn’t talk about the part of Humanity that lives in this country and the pure deterioration, through no fault of the climate precisely.
Why isn’t it the role of the great sacred figure, internationally important, questioning the dignity of others, and always referring to his interest in Humanity, to publicly reflect every day, asking those questions that he says have “no easy answers.” Above all about what we want to know, have, change and see here.
What did he do for us in 50 years of absolute power? And I ask you, please talk about more than the usual, agrarian reform, literacy campaign, “free” medicine and education, that is all water under the bridge. We live now in other times, other needs, another way of thinking and of life, we are OTHERS, I mean new, different, distinct. Enough of only living in the memory of disasters overcome and resolved by the Revolution, which soon ceased to be revolutionary.
He commits no sin, he says, modestly presenting his ideas. But he doesn’t allow anyone else to express theirs, also free and modestly (unless it’s to criticize the United States), much less if it’s to question anything in this county and very much less if it’s to make it public, because he imposes censorship, or here comes the tattletale without any ethical issues and almost ubiquitous powers and a cell phone designed to make an urgent call to the police, and having freedom of expression (even if you’re wearing in a suit) is only a dream turned into a nightmare where you wake up in jail, or at least with a warning and a fine.
I could pen some reflections with the title: The contradictions between Fidel’s politics and his ethics. Where I would also ask the Maestro his own question: “Is it right to promise a reconciliation of such contradictory and antagonistic interests without transgressing ethics?”
When I put the title on my post yesterday, I didn’t yet know whether it would be my last supper, or censorship’s. But I did it because I liked it and because, above all, I wished it would be their last supper.
We never managed to agree if we should take the cameras, if they would take everything from us (security already has, thanks to us, two 2gig-flash drives, and two of Ciro’s unreleased songs) I sincerely pass on giving them anything else. Claudio always took everything, fortunately.
The trauma of the protestdrome and Ciro’s and Gorki’s arrests, I went prepared: two Cuban pesos for the bus and the identity card in the pocket of my worst pants, sneakers for running, and a box of cigarettes that I swore in vain not to report in case of an interrogation, so they would not blackmail me with my vice.
But events always overcome me, last night I wasn’t afraid but today at noon I felt I was about to ask someone for a nylon bag to breathe into, like I have seen people do in the movies. However, I got to Old Havana—I don’t give more details in the interest of modesty—I can only feel that I am a true victim of this body that refuses to obey me and doesn’t respect my decisions.
We got on the bus after going around the block because the surveillance operation was impressive. The arrival at La Cabaña could be compared to landing on Saturn, I remember I said as a joke, Welcome to Octavo Cerco, but I don’t think the others could hear me either. It occurred to us, nothing more, and nothing less than to go by the Morro to pass the time. As Yoani later said, we went into the mousetrap.
The passage in and out of El Morro doesn’t leave room to stand upright, narrow and medieval, with tiny windows at waist height; it was, undoubtedly, the worst that could happen to us. But just like that, crazy and innocent, we went in. From the other side we saw the operatives; guys with earphones in their ears went by us and looked us in the eyes. Much too late we realized we had to get out of there, but at that point Ciro, Gorki and Claudio decided it would be better to have some ice cream, it doesn’t matter how big the operation: if there’s strawberry ice cream at three Cuban pesos, let the police be calm, because there is hunger, indeed.
Yoani and Reinaldo went ahead, the security guys couldn’t keep up with them. I stayed behind with the hungry guys, prize included, a strawberry ice cream that Ciro placed in my hands in the middle of my: “but what are you doing, we have to get out of here now!”
So the tunnel found me in a phase worthy of an André Bretón paragraph, while I attacked the cone with my teeth. The agent said in my presence: Yes, affirmative, they’re leaving, there are about five… and another one behind Orlando would confirm the information. Ciro, always with his fire-proof sense of humor went down a corridor and jumped a low wall so the security guy would do the same, and indeed, he did so.
When we reached the esplanade there was no one there except two friends who were supposed to be incognito and couldn’t greet us, however, as soon as they saw us coming they ran over, happy to see us, and surreptitiousness went, without a doubt, to hell. Everything else for me continues to seem indescribable, like when Gorki came out of the court proceedings at La Playa.
We sat on the esplanade in slow motion, an Argentine writer arrived and I breathed out: if there is even one foreign writer at least they won’t kick us. But suddenly the journalists started to come out, the security agents settled themselves behind some cars 50 meters away, Yoani pulled out a paper, folded it and then opened it again and began to read. Orlando took my cigarette (he doesn’t smoke), more press appeared, writers appeared, a lot, lots of young people, young press from the fair, Orlando’s friends, photographers. Slowly they came down from the fair and stood around, I didn’t know how many we were, I don’t care, it was many more than we ever would have thought. When Yoani finished reading we applauded, we took out a few copies on CD, Reinaldo stated there were others scattered throughout the fair, some media technician young women who had joined the group applauded and shouted, yes… everything worked out.
Of course, Orlando’s book is already dedicated to his mother, who suffered so much under the horrible and mediocre strategies of state security. So I dedicate this day to Herberto Padilla and Virgilio Piñeira, to the first for losing his sanity, for remaining all alone on the esplanade, and to the other one for raising his hand and interrupting Fidel’s speech “Words to Intellectuals” and for having had the great courage to say: “What I’m feeling is great fear”.
Apologies for not having photos of the moment, but only one camera and five bloggers require true acts of altruism.
I reproduce the text of Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo in lunes de postrevolución [Mondays Post-Revolution] on the eve of the biggest day of the infamous censored International Book Fair.
The Domestic Detectives Text: Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo
It could have been a title from Roberto Bolaño, the dead universal Chilean. A guy who doesn’t fit entirely within the staff of the XVIII International Havana Book Fair, within the “moral” walls of the recycled firing squad pits of the Fortress of San Carlos de La Cabaña (February 12th to 22nd, headquarters of the event).
And, indeed, our domestic detectives, no less savage than those of Bolaño, call me on the phone every hour to terrorize my septuagenarian emphysema-stricken mother. They are young men and hide behind a public telephone to practice their prophylactic syntax of: “To the wall!” If your son comes to the Fair on Monday we are going to hang him, they say, and then hang up.
Hours earlier, Michelle Bachelet had inaugurated the Fair. She gave a light and lightly democratic speech in her blue dress. The Chilean president spoke of a “culture of death” that devoured her homeland in the long-and-extended “17 years of authoritarianism” (the geography seems predisposed).
Barely 17 hours later my telephone was receiving the anonymous telephone calls and my gmail overflowed with revolutionary violence against the Enemy of the People. Read: me.
They are individual emails with apocryphal IDs. Blows, a desire to deform my face, kicks in the ass, if I dare to attend the Book Fair on Monday, February 16th, and there launch, freelance, (in the voice of the philologist Yoani Sánchez, Generation Y blogger) an author’s edition of my book of stories, Boring Home: a work expelled to shouts from the State publisher Cuban Letters, perhaps for not quite fitting in with the program. There will be a kind of graffiti on the other side of the Wall. Nothing intervening or interfering publicly. Nothing of acting civil in the middle of the zoo fairground. Just a group of friends and a willing audience, sitting on the public lawn to talk of writing and censorship in Cuba. With luck, also to plot strategies for revitalization and dynamitation of the sleepy Cuban cultural canon of the two thousand or zero years (my generation has named itself: Year Zero).
But no way. “The Fair has no Outside,” could now be a court ruling from some Derridean provincial named Sánchez o Rojas o Prieto. Tetric theory of deconstruction.
So, last Saturday, February 14th, after launching myself above two cops who, thanks to the photos that by chance Lia Villares (blogger of Hechizamiento Habanémico Hebdomanario) was taking moved away from me cunningly, a vice president of the Cuban Institute of the Book came and spoke to me quite clearly. People would be angered by my presentation. The edge of the Cabaña reached to the Bay Tunnel. Inside these boundaries the presentation would be aborted a priori. The physical consequences of the matter were “out of his hands.” And now. Well, thanks for listening to me, Orlando Luis. When will I again cross, like a simple citizen, the drawbridges of the fortress?
The rest of this weekend in Havana has been an exquisiteness of tranquilizers and fortune telling for the nerves and blood pressure of my 72-year-old mother: Friday to Sunday were just 72 hours of telephonic invasion and of email in the times of cholera.
While foreign poets read Mapundungun in a room with air conditioning, under the almost summery sun of Cuba (a country with pretensions to the southern hemisphere), I, as a local storyteller, cannot even savor my prose at the edge of my own colonial bastion. For me, it speaks for itself.
Perhaps this happens to me for being a loquacious narrator who doesn’t praise, but rather who chose the madness. An author with four books of prize-winning stories published legally in Cuba. Collaborator on blogs on the edge and blockaded portals. And, to make the puns worse, a name included in The Fantabulous Isle. The Cuban story in the Revolution (1959-2008), the new official anthology where Alberto Garrandés didn’t remove me in spite of the ruckus www.anti-orlandoluispardolazo.cu. Who´s afraid of Orlando Woolf?
These are the facts. The rest is a party atmosphere imported from the Chilean biblio-left. Something like the late ‘60s in a Chamamé remix version. Humming Michelle Ma Belle in an old-folks-disco straight from this insecular Brave New Havana. Utopia dense and disciplined dry.
These are the facts. The rest is that we always read that imaginary Chile, from the pages of our e-zine of irregular writing, The Revolution Evening Post, irreverently and incendariously. Another continental island that shouldn’t wash its hands now, like the protagonist of that novella titled Archipelago Cubag.
These are the facts. Tomorrow, Monday of the post-revolution February 16th of 2009, at three in the afternoon in Havana, “without fail” Cuba will be able to put its Cabaña to the gun wherever it wants (phallus of Morro included). At the risk of repeating the fossil fable of the fox and the grapes (or low-hanging mangoes), we are not interested in exposing more barbarism. We are clean people and useful to ourselves who will not be put in a putative pugilism with the dictatorship of the proletariat nor with the police.
No one at the Letras Cubanas publisher has contacted me since my book Boring Home was almost ready for printing (half a year ago): the institution rewards and punishes its deceased children. Well, thanks for listening. Maybe I can still ask for the right of literary asylum in the Chilean embassy in Santiago de Havana.
For the rest, of the launching of a bit boring case of Boring Home, I do not encourage those called to attend at the esplanade at the entrance of the concentration camping outside La Cabaña (except the experts of the political police). The book will circulate anyway. It would not be a surprise if copies were already placed in the recesses of the walls in a kind of little game in the style of “Hidden Treasure.” Our imaginary Cuba will continue to be irreverent and inflammatory. A country more potable in the middle of a permanent parapolitical paradise Made in Latinoamerica.
A new email in the inbox of everyone on cubarte.cu, but this time not from the National Council of Plastic Arts, as at the time of the exposition in the Agglutinator Space. Now they realize it’s better not to let the entire responsibility for censorship fall on a single ministry. Anyway, we all know the source of this dark claw.
Orlando has received anonymous calls all day, they even left a message with his mother: Tell him he’d better not dare to go on Monday.
Here’s the note:
I’ve heard a there’s a message circulating, by email, promoting the presentation on this coming Monday, the 16th, outside La Cabaña, of a book by Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, and that it will be presented by the infamous and counterrevolutionary blogger, Yoanni Sánchez, who is well compensated by the empire.
A few months ago a photo of Pardo Lazo also circulated, masturbating over a Cuban flag, an act that outrages all the sons of this country and of other latitudes because this is an insult to a symbol of the country. His literary work is little known, however this fact was disclosed as part of the propaganda against Cuba.
Pardo Lazo has become a puppet at the service of Yoanni and her clique.
I don’t think they would carry out this stupid activity, to do so will give them a fright like that I’ve read in the “summons,” and I’ve also had news of some disagreeable surprises they are going to find there.
I’ve read the post, “Ideas and the media” published by Karel Pérez Alejo in Bloggers Cuba, and I venture to give my humble and slightly radical (if I can put an adverb with an adjective) opinion on a taboo (?!) subject: Censorship.
I don’t like to give solutions because I believe that’s for the politicians, sociologists and specialists, but those within the national territory don’t seem to be well informed, as is well argued in the post; so I will put here what I believe will be solutions, which good, bad or in between, are not censored.
I see and note that journalists and the official organs of the press shit and piss themselves daily in the news, as Porno Para Ricardo says in its song The Journalists. I believe that the creation of an independent press is urgent, independent of the State and one whose journalists would have the free right of assembly and association, i.e., they may have their independent union, meet and organize at will and, of course, can print their newspapers and magazines to meet national demand. In this way, the journalists would not be forced to embellish their news and would be protected by a union that would defend their rights. Incidentally, we could also have an independent television channel that operates outside the ICAIC and the ICRT. In 1979, a Nobel-prize winning Polish poet had just published a clandestine editorial: Nova. And in the year 1981 the newspaper Solidarity was already circulating freely in Poland while Serbia had independent television.
If the artists no longer feel represented by the institutions (UNEAC, ICAIC, ICRT, National Council of Plastic Arts, or whatever), then they could also meet on their own and have their own organizations. If we are all so tired of being censored over and over again by the same organs of power, wouldn’t it be smarter to dispense with them and create our own? If the Cuba Gazette does not publish news that is important to artists and writers, rather than arguing with them about this omission, we could publish the news in another magazine, of equal literary quality, independent of the Gazette and from the Institute of the Book and of any other government link, because artists should feel completely free in their work and the dissemination of it.
Because these rights have to apply equally to the whole Cuban people, people who dissent from the current political party would have the right to freely organize and they would recognize different political parties. These politicians would, of course, have their campaigns and propose their ideas. The press could, at the same time, cover their activities but also denounce the abuses, illegalities and lies that they discovered at the different levels of society, including the governmental, or course.
In my little world, surrounded by water, socialism lives without freedom of the press or of expression, there is no respect for citizens’ elemental human rights, the corruption of the government and its institutions is through the roof, there are no elections, there is no right to dissent or criticize, there is a great deal of poverty, many social ills and much demoralization. For this reason and others: I don’t like socialism.
Photo: Claudio Fuentes Madan Text: La Salamandra Blanca
I read Granma last Friday the 23rd, motivated to know what he might think to write about as he returned to his reflections after a long period of silence that led to the well-known doubts and speculations about his health and even his physical existence.
He seems personally vainglorious, but subtlety so (omitting his own name), saying that the Cuban Revolution in its 50 years has outlasted eleven US presidents. After referring to Obama almost affably, he explained to everyone who might be interested, and gullible, why he has reduced the number of Reflections. He has no interest in obstructing the work of his colleagues, which given his habit of poking into everything must be very difficult for him, and difficult for us to believe. As was expected, he left up in the air a final question about the eleventh president with a typical cutting remark: “What will he do when soon the immense power he’s taken in his hands is absolutely useless to overcome the insoluble antagonistic contradictions of the system?”
He calls it a rare privilege indeed to have witnessed events for such a long time. When this hasn’t been pure coincidence, nor remotely the product of a divine gift given exclusively to him, but rather something very well planned, fought for and maintained with all the forces of arms and minds, hearty and mighty, by and for himself. Is the fact that he’s still enjoying that power today what makes it unusual? Or it is because it’s difficult to believe that we’ve endured for so long?
The thing I like most of what I’ve heard, is his mention that his colleagues shouldn’t worry about his condition or death. Just the fact that he alluded to the possibility that by the end of Obama’s term he won’t enjoy the privilege, serves as a relief to many, as if he had said he only has less than four years to live.
If we asked him the same question he asked Obama, I would like to know what he would answer. Or doesn’t he realize that he, too, has had immense power in his hands for a much longer time and he has not resolved the insoluble, antagonistic, growing contradictions of this system? Doesn’t that make him think that at this point the power that he still so severely maintains has become useless? …He could reflect on that and give us at least the slight pleasure of publishing it.
My friend the Argentine was born in Marianao. He was a writer, photographer and freak, and in 2000 he married an Argentine woman and went to Buenos Aires, where she discovered the deception: he was pure Argentine, not a poor Cuban artist.
A few years later he came to visit, but only came to my house once because a friend brought him. He told me he was very frightened of taking boteros (10 peso private taxis), because since he was a foreigner anything could happen. He also told me that he was very excited about the new Congress of the National Assembly (our very original assembly because in order to be part of it you have to be at least 80 years old and have been a communist party member since the age of 3) and assured me that there would be changes but he didn’t tell me which ones. He made allusions to our situation, thinking we didn’t have it that bad, and to prove it he told me that over there they had to save for a little while in order to buy a computer and that the workers were imbeciles because they went on strike over anything and they wore Che T-shirts for pure snobbery, without even knowing who Che really was, without knowing his ideology and his heroic career. He was sure that socialism was the best thing for a country and that Cuba was on the best path, that in spite of everything we had education and free health care and, good or bad, we could eat… I would have liked to go with him to see the documentary “Looking for you Havana” by Alina Rodríguez but by that time he wasn’t around.
When Ciro came he was critical, said he hated Porno Para Ricardo and that I was advised to be warned. Sure that I was being monitored and that it wasn’t desirable to be seen with me (he wanted to do some business in Cuba), he didn’t want to go to G Street (he’d never been and I thought he would like to see the new hang out for freaks), he didn’t even want to meet my friends. In private he risked asking me to go have a few beers with him, but I begged off saying I had a prior engagement with my boyfriend.
We said goodbye like two strangers, with the certainty that we wouldn’t meet again, because you can’t return to find someone you don’t know. I don’t miss him, but sometimes I remember him; it doesn’t hurt me that he changed so much, but it makes me sad that he no longer writes, no longer sends photos.
Photo: Claudio Fuentes Madan
Text by: La Salamandra Blanca
A few days ago Cubaencuentro published an interview with Claudio Fuentes, one of a group of post-Revolution young people. This article is a response to comments on that page and also to the comments of some friends. Some of them, the most decadent and critical opinions, say that he is poisonous, that the language is terribly rude, the terminology is homophobic, that if we expect anything good from this type of people we as a country are lost… in the end. Perhaps he has defects, as we all do, but we find in him more virtues and he awakens more affection than many who think they are better and who are bothered by his manner. He is the most sincere guy I’ve met in my life, not to say he’s not a little sly when he wants to be, but this is only in the interest of his lovely art work. With regards to the homophobic terminology, it’s a shame that it sounds that way, real Cubans know that his references are not precisely homophobic. Because this boy, in many ways, is one of the most open minded in the city, and in variety of ways, not just sexually. His photos speak to this.
He takes very good photos, though he has been able to show them in official places only a few times, but maybe it doesn’t matter, nor does it interest him, he will find where his art has value. Each time will be better, because he always seeks to learn, to understand what makes the difference. It’s a shame that everyone can’t know him personally because he is, as he himself would describe it, a charmer. Yes, I like his poison, because it’s a poisoned charm, but it’s poison only in the form of a vice that gives you the sense of being agreeably stoned. He’s like a vampire who converts others, and once you’ve passed the moment of terror and have tried it, you want more. Even just to be in his company, you always come out having learned something, and almost always laughing. Because to provoke laughter takes great talent; he can do almost anything with a joke. He manages jokes across a wide spectrum because of his intellect, which will always be less than he aspires to, because he is insatiable and never stops reading and looking for information about what interests him.
In reality, he’s a guy who’s very satisfied with life in general, although he has introspective days that hint at a possible sadness. Others could not live as he does, with very few or almost no material possessions. He could become a bitter person, or a miser, but without a doubt he never is, he’s easily generous with his friends and if he has money he shares it with no problem and always wants to help those who have none. So I don’t believe we need to let loose with the sanctimony and irritation when we read the words in the strong language he uses when he speaks with passion about something that might seem jaded. These really are attitudes typical of him, always the irreverence and the provocation, and if it’s about politics… please!
The Spanish girl, who wants to see his shirtless photos, and trouserless photos, (don’t fixate too much on the legs but that’s not important) and take him to Spain, now you can have a look and you’ll see.
He’s an exceptional boy and a it’s a real pleasure to know him; to be counted among his friend can be, though it might sound terribly corny, one of the most important and beautiful things that could happen in your life. Thank you for letting me get to know you is something I’ve always wanted to tell him, and I still haven’t said it.
I return to the posters, I can’t help it; this one is glued to the window of “The Polynesian” restaurant in the basement of the “Habana Libre” hotel. I think it shows clearly the objectives the Cuban government has for us. It’s one of the most extreme public signs I’ve read and I think marks a new sentiment in the so-called “Battle of Ideas.” The militaristic and alarming tone of its statements make me wonder if we’re at war and against whom; where does it come from, the philosophy that tells me that I, as a citizen, must destroy, kill, annihilate, sacrifice, die, command, direct and obey. It reminds me of the documentaries I’ve seen of the 1960s where people were shouting, “To the Wall!” and Cubans were arrested by other Cubans, like scum.
Maybe it’s a little sad for all those who still hope for changes, to see that these are the new reforms that are planned; and despite its proven failure, this is still the “new man” of the Cuban Revolution.
I transcribe here the entire text of the poster, in case you can’t read it from the photo.
- The words surrender and defeat are completely erased from our revolutionary terminology. - A revolutionary must surrender to the enemy and continue to fight until death if necessary. - Every revolutionary should think, particularly when he isolated: The revolution is me! And continue the fight without waiting for guidance from others. - We will have to defend every inch of our soil. - Causing the greatest possible number of casualties on the active enemy forces is our main goal. - Keep the fighting spirit, for huge and painful sacrifices are required to win the day. - The final victory will be ours, through the difficult circumstances in which the fight takes place. - In every military and political leader of any level, in every soldier, every man in the village, there is a potential Commander-in-Chief who knows what to do, and in each particular situation each one may become his own Commander-in-Chief. - A fighter is like a powerful army and no cause will be lost. - Create the belief that people will never be ruled by any foreign power nor by the counterrevolution.
Graffiti, at 23rd and 12th, behind the Monument of the Socialist Declaration of the Revolution.
These are the last two charges that the Cuban Authorities have decided to level on Gorki Águila, leader of the band Porno Para Ricardo, only this time he was joined by the bass player, Hebert Domínguez. Now they have a fine of 30 pesos each for sexual insult, the charge pertaining to Article 1, Law Number 141 in the penal code. What this means, more or less, is that if your clothes are sexy, i.e. there are sexy drawings on your shirt or trousers, or there any sexual references on your clothes, you’re guilty of an offense (which of course includes the logo of the group).
In the case of Claudio Fuentes Madan, his crime was minor: public nuisance, which refers to the scandalous images he captures with his camera at Maxim Rock or on G Street; his fine was 20 pesos.
Although my feelings towards the organs of State Security and the authorities involved in drafting and implementing the laws are not the best, I can’t avoid at least advising them to glance at the penal code: the criminal record of Gorki has come to seem a promising curriculum vitae for a punk artist.
This is an excerpt to a version of the song, Epitaph for Vladimir Visotski by Karsmarski Jacek (Polish dissident songwriter), which includes Ciro Diaz in his latest album, The Blue Slug, that I listened to compulsively for at least two months, especially on the street with my mp3 inherited from a friend who now has an I-pod. (Download the lyrics here) (Download the recording and album cover here) The song (in summary, which runs about ten minutes) is about a desperate artist going through the circles of hell in search of an answer or death, and at the end of his journey there is only loneliness and the weight of the supreme power above himself. So I found myself at times catching the bus across Havana at 12 noon in August under the perennial sunshine and with the distressing feeling of not going anywhere, or arriving too late, or going for pleasure ... I feel that I have already arrived at the eighth enclosure (this is the finale of the song) where there is nothing, and I feel useless and empty, and I look at people without faith who walk along the street and who have so much fear that they no longer know they're afraid, and who have seen so many Roundtables and so many news broadcasts that they no longer know what belongs to reality or just to the TV screen. They cannot discern that they no longer believe, but cannot disbelieve either, and just move along past me not going anywhere.