Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Claudia's decision

Illustration: Guamá

Every day I wake up with a final decision which is generally the opposite of the day before: Am I going to bang the pot versus am I not going to bang the pot. Today, for example, I’ve decided I’m going to bang it, I don’t know if I’ll manage to keep to that until the first, or if I’ll simply go back and forth between yes and no and if I land on yes on Friday, then I’ll bang it.

And then when I land on “yes” I fall into other deeper debates: Will I bang the pot in my house? Will I go with a few jugs to the Malecon? Is a pot a weapon? Could we get a little jug band going here? Lia says we’re going to go to the Malecon and have ourselves a party and probably that’s the best option.

I could bang on a pot every day for Cuba, for permission to leave, for the prisoners, for the system, and for nothing, for the great metallic sound of “ME? NO!”: any reason and no reason sounds good to me.

I will bang the pot for all my friends who would like to bang one but don’t dare, I’ll bang it for Yoani and for Edgar, and for me and my neighbors. While banging I’ll secretly wish that the next call will be to do something like “Turn off the light.” I think I could convince even my mother to turn off the light… I haven’t been able to convince anyone to bang the pots and pans. I’ll do it really hard so it will echo and I’ll be sorry if it doesn’t reach the ears of everyone in every part of my city who is also banging.

Although maybe I will change my mind.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The true story of Placetas

Taken from the Saga: The Ciro versus State Security
Photo-montage: Lia Villares

Now, friends, I’ll tell you how I destroyed the G2 agents of Placetas.

Claudio and I arrived in Placetas in our helicopter at noon, amid the cheers and jubilation of the inhabitants who until that time had suffered under the yoke of State Security. We asked where the home of our friend Antúnez was and took ourselves over there. On seeing us, a cop from the post that G2 had located on the corner ignored my Jedi powers and asked for ID so I levitated him 40 meters off the ground (now I remember that I never brought him down); the rest of the guard fled, terrified.

We then had a nice interview with Antúnez—the poor guy was a little skinny because of the fast—and we spoke for a few hours and he gave me the names of those responsible for the houses that were falling down in Cuba; there were a few such as Raúl and Fidel Castro who appear to be brothers. I said goodbye, promising I’d fire them as soon as I got back to Havana.

On leaving his house, Surprise! There were three trucks of specialized police commanded by the G2 captain Clavo de Línea [“railway spike” meaning “short guy”], with nightsticks and other equipment. I sent Claudio to confer to avoid bloodshed but he returned with a bump and then I was pissed off. Faced with a police avalanche I pulled out the light saber and cut off 10 heads. Spike then ordered them to fire the Makarov, but we made ourselves transparent and the bullets smashed into the front of the house and one blew up the Antúnez’s radio Selena. I was pissed off again.

“Whirlwind,” I shouted, and there was silence and anticipation.

But this new plug-in wasn't working well and only a fan caught fire in the house in front. Now they returned to the attack with fierce shouts and nightsticks but I made them fly into pieces with the wide sling the palm of my hand propels. All except one: Spike.

They’d captured Claudio and were taking him in a Ministry of the Interior taxi to the Santa Clara general headquarters (in Havana the MININT cars are Audis and Mercedes but in Placetas the G2 is shit). I assembled my helicopter in a jiffy and chased him until, by one of those twists of fate, I ran out of fuel on the very same G2-land and crashed against their fiber cement slab making the whole building fly up, nearly killing Coco Fariñas whom they’d just let go after a week’s imprisonment.

When Spike came I took him by the neck to the nearest railway line to make him honor his name. I don’t know if they’ve taken him off the rail. Soon we’re going to catch up with the pair of Castro ruffians and make them work the rest of their days on a micro-brigade.

Translation of text in header: "Son, but what's that negro to you?"
Related post: What's that negro to you?

Saturday, April 25, 2009


Interview with Ciro Javier Díaz Penedo (El Ciro)

- In what year did you graduate in mathematics and where did you work?

El Ciro: In 2004 and I taught mathematics at the University as a student assistant for the last two years of my studies because it was my vocation and because of the lack of professors.

- What kind of relationship did you have with your students? Do you like to teach?

El Ciro: I liked very much giving classes and my relationship with my students was the best and still is.

- What exactly is the “Aval” [Certificate] and why didn’t they give it to you?

El Ciro: The Certificate we’re talking about is a qualification that expresses the opinion of the faculty that guarantees your ability to teach classes in a center of higher education and, at least in my case, those in charge of granting me the Certificate were the Young Communist League (UJC) and the Dean. When I found out (for the third time) that they weren’t going to give me the Certificate it was an insult because all of the evaluations I’d received during the time I was teaching classes were good. So I let them know this and then they informed me that I didn’t meet the political requirements to get the Certificate.

- Your students wrote letters asking that you continue to teach at the university. Was there any response to this request from the students?

El Ciro: My students wrote letters where they gave their opinion about my work; I naively thought that presenting these letters to the higher levels would correct the injustice, but it turned out that they ignored them and that the only response I received was from the leader of the Young Communist League, who argued that there were people more qualified than me for this work. Curiously, these people were Wilfredo Morales and Celia Tamara, the only members of the Young Communist League in my entire class, with much lower academic qualifications than I have and much less talent, to be honest.

- How did you learn you couldn’t teach? How did you feel? How many were in the same situation as you?

El Ciro: I tried to find work in other schools such as UCI (University of Information Sciences) and CUJAE (Jose Antonio Echeverria Polytechnic) and they received me with fanfare because of the scarcity of professors, the low salaries and the huge workload. But in the end the answer was the same: you don’t have the Certificate. That year there were five of us without the Certificate: Sergio, Hans, Yohana, Adriana and me.

- If you could work again as a university professor, would you do it?

El Ciro: I’d gladly teach classes in higher education.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Lenin's birthday

Question of the Day: Did you read Fidel’s Reflection yesterday? Perhaps the commander should have a blog, on Blogspot of course, a public site, of the people, democratic, just like he’d like. I’m convinced he would stoically accept the negative comments, insults, people who never seem to understand what he’s trying to say… this way we wouldn’t have to comment on our impressions strictly among ourselves and might add compañero Fidel to the ranks of the incipient Cuban blogosphere.

But it’s not on his Reflection that I’m going to concentrate, since nothing I read surprised me, more of the same, more of what I’ve seen for some time and it seems that I will continue to see: totalitarianism, militarization, nothing about freedom of expression, or of human rights, nothing about measures to make our lives easier, nothing about an opening.

What did surprise me, however, was the front page article (the Reflection was on the second page). I can say that this time the newspaper Granma without a doubt exceeded all my expectations, I think it even exceeded the expectations of the editorial board in the movie Brainstorm… ladies and gentlemen, when Raúl Castro speaks of dialog, of political prisoners, of human rights and civil rights (albeit in a figurative sense, of course), when President Obama lifts the sanctions, when the issue of whether Cuba will re-enter the Summit of the Americas is being analyzed; Granma gives us an exclusive: Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, an exceptional man.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I am happy that the United States lifted the sanctions and took a new political stance in regards to the Cuban government. But my chest tightens when I go out into the street and reaffirm an impression that has become a certainty in recent months: of every five cars driven on the avenues two have green license plates. My friends confirm my nervousness; besides the usual Ladas, now BMWs and Audis display the unmistakable green plates of the Ministry of the Interior. 

What’s happening? Why is it that two out of every five cars is military? Why do I see my city going "green" to ridiculous levels in less than three months? Why is it that from G and 23 to 23 and Malecón there are, besides the police, groups uniformed in olive-green circulating? Why, if Raúl Castro affirms he wants to eliminate the "Cold War,” does the Caigüirán operation keep adding “suitable” men from the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) every day? So yes: Artists, doctors, administrators, students, involved, uninvolved, professionals and everyone have received the sadly expected summons of the Military Committee to mobilize to a Military Unit for at least a month (my brother-in-law has already been called up twice). Why, if the government demands the total lifting of the embargo and supports family reunification, has Edgar Lopez been waiting two years for an exit permit to be with his wife, his mother and siblings? Why then, is there a daily operation and arrests in front of his house to force him to give up his hunger strike? Wouldn’t it be more consistent, more intelligent and even more convenient for the government to give him his white card? 

Disinformation is a black hole in the brain of the people. Yesterday coming out of a movie a friend told me it was good to lift the sanctions on travel, but that Obama should also lift restrictions on computers... when I said they had already been lifted he almost fainted: he had just argued that in Cuba there was no Internet because the embargo. With eyes wide and a face full of disappointment, he replied: But that’s not what they said!

I asked in a post: “Are we on Red Alert"? But the sad thing is it seems we carry on.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A little music

Photo: Claudio Fuentes Madan

When I was 18 I heard for the first time, on the Malecon and of course a capella, “The Cable” by the Cuban rapper Maykel Extremo. Now it has come into my hands through a flash drive and I find it very moving: I copied it, so as not to lose to anonymity the best summary of Cuban reality that I’ve heard in my lifetime.

I say I find catharsis in this blog but without a doubt he’s the one who was grounded in the truth; I post it here for you to enjoy.


Here is an excerpt of the rap translated into English. Please click over to the Spanish language site for all the lyrics.

It’s getting complicated, the flow is getting ugly
Se está complicando, poniéndose feo el picheo

Street walking for the bullies, dancing for the guitar plucking
Callejeo pa’los gua’o, changaneo pa’l punteo

The grain, the head taking out, the neck pulling out by the roots
Sacadera de beta, de chaveta, arrancadera de cuello

If the chain is good and if it is facing you
Si la cadena está buena y está a la careta

They hand you the oars, they stick the irons in you
Te pasan los remos, te meten los hierros

The houses: I pawn the motorcycle for you, you eat your girlfriend,
Las casas: te empeño la moto, cómete a la jeva,

Later, I take it out on the dogs
Después se lo saco a los perros

It doesn’t matter, the scorching of the stone the things I lose are forgotten
Total, de pedrusco el requeme se olvidan las cosas que pierdo,

I leave you the face for later, to throw it in your face with it
Te dejo la cara pa’luego, pa’echarte con ella

To enter into shamelessness when my stones run out
Pa’entrar en descaro cuando se me acaben las piedras

In Monte & Cienfuegos dicks of two canes and three canes
En pinchas de Monte y Cienfuegos de a dos cañas, y a tres cañas

And in Reina the lesbians get close to each other delightfully while fishing
Y en Reina por pesca se pegan sabroso las lesbias,

Transvestites, faggots and cocksuckers have turned 23rd regal
Trasvestis, maricones y pingueros tienen a 23 regia

Metals guard the ass, it is known
Los metales cuidan el culo, se sabe

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Literary views

Photo taken from the blog of Zoé Valdés

I’m in a house waiting for a friend and there are two books on the table: The Daily Nothing and The Pain of the Dollar, both by Zoé Valdés. I haven’t read the second one so I grab it and start to browse at random. I wonder whose books they are and ask people indoors and out, but nobody seems to be the owner. At a certain point a foreigner enters, looks with dismay at the literature and exclaims, “But who reads this horror!”

I look surprised and it only occurs to me to ask timidly, “Why?” I expect him to talk to me about literature, to say that he doesn’t like Zoé, one man’s meat is another man’s poison, no? I even imagine an interesting literary conversation and plan to confess that I haven’t read The Pain of the Dollar but that I really liked The Daily Nothing… but my imagination, however fertile it may be, is taken over by reality. He looks at me and I know, by his expression, that he thinks I don’t know who the author is, so he dedicates five minutes of his time to explain to me:

“This writer is the worst of the ‘international anti-Cuba campaign,’ etc. etc. etc., very active and, he adds disgustedly, she has been very successful in France.

I keep quiet, waiting for the next blow, for one second I wonder if maybe I am delirious, maybe Randy Alonso disguises himself as a tourist midday before going on the Round Table TV show. But I persevere and craft my response, even though it depresses me a little to have these discussions with the free citizens of Europe. I wait for him to pause in his speech just to say:

“I think the position of Zoé Valdés is against the government but not against the Cuban people which is not the same.”

But I’m left with the phrase on the tip of my tongue, he ends his sermon, turns his back and leaves. He assumes so many things that he doesn’t even think he needs to wait to see my reaction, so convinced is he that I have nothing to say, that I haven’t read Zoé Valdés (the books might well have been mine), that I’m unaware of the concept of “anti-Cuba campaign,” that I don’t read, that I’m not capable of commenting on politics, or society or literature.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The end does not justify the means (second part)

Photo: Claudio Fuentes Madan

Hi A...:

First of all: Can you explain to me what this idea is that I’ll tell you to go to hell for an indefinite period? I imagine it’s an encrypted metaphor (I’ve forgotten the code and maybe I’ve lost a bit of my sense of humor) because I refuse to think that you’ve reached a similar conclusion after reading my blog, now I’m worried, I think you’ve inspired me and I will dedicate a post to your email, if you allow me of course, I won’t put your name, clearly, I don’t want you to have problems because of me.

About Antúnez, I know the same as you, that he’s gone a month without eating and is asking for freedom for the political prisoners and that they let a boy out of the punishment cell, they wanted to do an interview for the blog but it wasn’t possible… What an exaggeration! The truth is that you don’t owe me any explanation, if you are afraid or not, this doesn’t matter to me, for example I have a tremendous fear of dogs. As for your ideological outlook (ha ha ha) that is already old, since we’ve known each other we have thought differently and more than once we’ve argued or (to be more honest) I’ve argued with you, and I even remember one time when you scolded me for making a joke about Fifo and the mosquitoes that I don’t remember, but it was very funny.

Now that I want us to talk, I hope you don’t take it wrong what I’m going to say, the first is I don’t give a fig that you’re a Fidelista or communist (the difference from him: you haven’t killed anyone, no one is in prison because of you, you haven’t censored any book, you haven’t repressed or repudiated, so for me everything is OK). But that you live in the news, the truth is it’s because you want to, I have no antenna, now I have a blog, and for many years we have been looking at reality through different eyes, why, I don’t know, but I’m sure of something: the newscaster doesn’t exist and you don’t need to verify it on the Internet or on foreign television and you know it.

Freedom of expression is not a need for Cuban society, it’s a right of every citizen of the world; democracy, I don’t know if it’s a path to a perfect society, but it's at least the possibility that every citizen can, and have the right to, try to build it. To me it’s all the same if I have money or not, I know that to them, to those sick old men with power in whom you have Faith, it matters, however, I not only have no money, but I have no right to have it or even to say that I don’t have it. Is your father a colonel? Mine was too (I think). Since when is Cuba divided into worms and snitches? Who is the intellectual author of the new status? (New is a parable, it’s 50 years old.) Why are you afraid they’ll lock up your family for snitching and I’m afraid of them blackmailing, extorting and threatening mine… who’s to blame for that today, you and me who aren’t even 26-years-old, we exchange this strange correspondence that we can’t make heads or tails of?... Who says that you and I have to hate each other?

For me, I put the group above, below, it should be already, the group on top, retire, they’re too old and have done enough damage to all of us. Why don’t they do it. Why do they lie? Because they are sick with power, because we don’t matter to them, not you, not me, not your father nor mine, not your friends from childhood, nor mine from the dissent, nor the people who don’t care about politics, nor those who die in the raft, nor those who live in the tenements, not the poor, not the rich, not the bosses, not the prostitutes, not the kids nor the old people, no one matters… so that: if we aren’t important to them do us the favor of leaving. Even if someone else comes and can’t fix this chaos either, at least we have hope that another will come and little by little, we will get out of this disgrace that our country has become.

The thing about the cigars, the truth is I don’t try to smash anything in the face of anybody. Nevertheless, in those moments in the MININT he must have had some fantasies about smashing one in mine. I already told you, the hate is theirs and when they leave, there won’t be hatred. No one is going to kill anyone with a machete, because those who shoot right and left are them and the truth is that I believe that for the people here, “Fatherland or Death” makes them sick to their stomachs. Miraculously, among all the bad things our society suffers, a healthy apathy frees it of the stupid need of believing the protagonists of history and the messiahs of the construction of The New Man. Luckily for everyone, ideology is in its death throes.

OK, enough of all that, send me a small photo, less than 100k, behave yourself and navigate by proxy, I have it on good authority that they monitor the Internet closely there.

I love you much, take care,

PS: When you come I’ll give you a pile of documents about communism, they’re excellent, about Eastern Europe, very serious and historical, I have one on the history of Marxism as a philosophy that is super good, a stack of things that weren’t in ‘Philosophy and Society,” for fun, because they’re nothing to write home about.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The end does NOT justify the means (Part One)

Despite these long fifty years of people divided between “snitches” and “worms,” today I feel a little less segregated, a little more free of epithets, very young and among the young who, like me, are tired of the ideological line that separates us. This strange sensation of reconciliation I owe to a friend who, from abroad (he’s on a mission), has sent me a beautiful email. I asked his permission to publish our correspondence and he agreed; he even told me to publish his name: he doesn’t think anything would happen but I do, so I will not do it. I prefer to leave out his identity and even the name of the country where he’s now working.

The two emails are a bit long, so I’ve decided to publish them in two parts: I am putting my answer in the next entry.

Photo: Claudio Fuentes Madan

Hi Clau!

How are you? I was very glad to find you on Facebook, coincidence or not. Browsing your profile and your blog I learned a few things not covered in Granma and Juventud Rebelde, of course: About Antúnez (no idea who he is or what he wants), about Ciro and Claudio being arrested, and a couple more. Well, without beating around the bush: I owe you an explanation. You probably don’t want to hear it (read it) but nonetheless I feel I owe it to you.

I want to start by saying I’m not afraid. This might have several causes. One is, of course, that I live on the news. International: “War in Iraq, war in Afghanistan, war in Palestine…” National: “We won all the medals, broke all the records, tourism is increasing.” Summary: “If it weren’t for the blockade, everything would be perfect, the rest of the world is completely fucked.” I live on disinformation because in addition, I admit, the rest isn’t that important to me (I’m the egotistical type, even if I don’t like to admit it and I try to hide it when I’m with my friends). Only my scientific dramas and spending time with colleagues. The second reason is my father. As he once told a guy I know there: “To punch out the son of a colonel in this country is worth 20 years." A mixed-up palestino [a person from eastern Cuba] can look back for every kind of problem and complication in his life, and so I walk there and I keep on going as if I were Bruce Willis in “Unbreakable.” What I do have, I already told you, is disinformation.

Part of the explanation: Even in the disinformation I know that the twisted majority of things in Cuba are fucked. Still and all, I’m a Red, but why? The explanation I give you is this (if I’m not fooling myself): I believe that our problems, rather than democracy and free expression, need huge amounts of money to be solved, so I keep working and behave myself like a good boy, the people who lead (those way way up there, not the band of corrupt middlemen) are going to gradually resolve things, including my current work and and the place where I will work in the future, I find this motivation: I suppose that it will be a place where they will make things that matter in the world, and that earn money. Maybe it’s all a castle in the sky and in the end everything will be shit like so many other things, but for the moment I trust it. Still and all this doesn’t justify the fucking censorship they impose on everyone, that we only learn a small fraction of the things that happen, inside and outside, and that they block your blog and block Generation Y, and all the other things.

Another part of the explanation: suppose everything falls and the transition happens. How will we avoid becoming like Haiti? Another: Don’t you yourself (this is half joking, half serious) want to put out a cigar in someone’s face while calling him “communist”? In reality, you, no, nor the rest of the reasonable people whom we know, or don’t know. But do you answer also for those who aren’t reasonable? What will prevent that, in a hypothetical initial chaos, they won’t kill me with a machete, my mother, my brother, my father and my grandmother, for being the “family of an informer”? When I say this I’m not exaggerating (naturally I am a big exaggerator but I’m trying not to be one now).

In this kind of situation, yes, I am afraid.

To summarize: I don’t think that in the near future I’ll come to think like you, but as far as I’m concerned, you are first, whether you are Red or Blue, because you are my friend, and because even though we only see each other once every 200 years, putting up with me is complicated (maybe not as much as I think, but still, it’s complicated). I’m also happy to have in you and your blog, at least for the months they keep me here, a site where I can balance what I read in other places.

I repeat to you what I once said: you are free to kick me out of your house whenever you want. I will accept it without the least resentment. Only I would be very sad if you decided to do it permanently, but in any case it would be because I am inappropriate by nature.

A big kiss and I love you much,


Monday, April 13, 2009


This blog is my support, in it I find a catharsis, one day yes and one no, and I release a little bit of what sticks in my throat. The other day a girl, a teacher like me, asked me very seriously what I was trying to achieve with my blog. We were at a party and I could see her skepticism, her doubt, her paranoia and her distrust… she was my mirror, she was me two years ago: I remember living literally in 1984, I didn’t believe anything, I didn’t believe in anyone, everyone was State Security, the dissident movement was a branch of MININT in my eyes, no one was sincere and I was completely alone in the world.

I have no solutions, I said, I have no political aspirations, I have no party, I belong to no institution, and in addition I don’t believe I lack anything I need to exercise my rights, no one represents me; nor do I consider it necessary to dress up my social critiques and my political opinions in avant-garde artistic concepts: my blog is not art nor does it try to be, it’s a simple blog, like millions of blogs out there. I defend my right to express what I think and to criticize what I believe is bad, my right to think differently and, therefore, the rights of others to think differently too. I think that in my country civil liberties are not respected and I say it, I think there is no democracy and I say that too. I don’t wait for it to be enough: I am one more who is tired and now, I’m not responsible for what the government has done nor, thankfully, is the “Better Future” written in my eyes. Not only do I not have the responsibility or the obligation, but I don’t want them: what I ask is freedom for those who have better projects, more democratic, more free, less exclusive and where there is respect for human rights that is better than what we have been living with so far.

She told me that many democratic countries aren’t exactly a model for Cuba to follow, I don’t doubt it, that much is clear. Although a democratic society would not be a perfect society, but because of that we shouldn’t assume a totalitarian one is either, no doubt. On the other hand, I can’t help thinking that in these fifty years there have been many people with political aspirations who unfortunately ended up throwing their vocations into the latrine of a prison for common criminals.

I’m sorry to disappoint all those who look to this blog for the answer for the “Perfect Cuba,” only to find here my little cry that one day we can say, “Plural Cuba,” “Cuba with Rights,” “Cuba with Independent Citizens,” and “Cuba with Democracy.”

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The dilemma of the cockroach Martina

Photo: Lía Villares
Text: La Salamandra Blanca

These days, I am reminded of the dilemma of Martina, the little cockroach, a story we all grew up with, where she wonders, ‘with the little money I have, what will I buy myself?’ In this country this question is so recurrent but, though the answer is usually evident, one can still become delirious with the idea of buying what are considered ‘luxuries’.

Our connection with this story arose in a conversation with some friends, intelligent people, with hopes and dreams of careers. Sadly however I realize the horrible feeling of disappointment that envelops them. They have come to an age where, after years of studying and preparing for a career, they cannot find work to put into practice what they’ve learned and to get the paltry salary that won’t even cover the barest essentials month by month. This is the challenge of trying to be strong living in this country. This comes from the generation upon generation of need that we inherit from our parents such that almost no one does anything with their wages but seek the scarcities, which in our day and age should be a given, which for many this means a house barely livable.

Once in a while, with a lot of effort, one manages to save some money, thanks to work generally considered as coming from ‘on the side’, because legally you may only have one job. Now they face that eternal debate, what to spend it on. It is the little cockroach Martina’s quandary, what to do with the few coins she has; should she use to make her house a home, or will there come a time when she can rent a bigger place where she has privacy and is able to breathe? There are so many of us that live in a multi-generational household that is falling down around us; a proper space to live is at a premium.

But they do not know if they will ever again be able to save money so they cannot chose whether to spend it on a more expensive rent or to fix up the house they already have so that they can leave it to their children, improving it from the previous generation and bettering it for future ones. And so it continues, the impossible choice of changing the worn-down windows, the old bath or the dilapidated kitchen, or buying a new mattress to finally have a good night’s sleep with your partner, or lying awake at night weighing the decision and desire to become parents.

At least for Martina, the answer seems simple, whereas ours has larger implications; can it be that people still believe that in Cuba this is only an economic issue, that is a small item on a long list of problems where people can take matters into their own hands? But it begs the question; what is the economy of a country but a consequence of the politics of the government?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A strange case of amnesia?

Photo: Claudio Fuentes Madan

It seems that some official journalists, the organizers of cultural events within Cuba, the ministers, the representatives of institutions, and even “compañero” Fidel, are afflicted by a strange evil. This already has the stink of an epidemic and it’s said it doesn’t even have a cure. Their most obvious symptom is the inability to pronounce one name: Yoani Sánchez.

From “misguided sheep”, “cocky”, up to the latest, “The girl blogger is very famous,” as Abel Prieto said of the intervention of Yoani Sánchez in Tania Bruguera’s performance, this is how they refer to her. Could it be that officialdom doesn’t have the ability to pronounce names with Y? Is this a technique of State Security to reduce the importance of the phenomenon Generation Y? It seems that Security has not taken into account that they could be putting Ministers and Government in an uncomfortable situation: either they are completely uninformed or they have amnesia.

It’s a pity that the Minister of Culture not only can’t remember the name of Yoani Sánchez, but also has forgotten those of everyone who spoke at this microphone on Sunday, March 29 at 8pm. I refer to the artists and non-artists (like me) and to those outside the culture (according to an official notice from the organizers of the biennial), to those whom they don’t even manage to identify (at best they refer to the dove).

Another interesting thing in the statements of Abel Prieto:

"... took the microphone to make a speech against the revolution. She said the Internet was a crack in the censorship in Cuba."

Then he adds below:

"What she has created is something we consider important: creating an appropriate climate for the reception of this kind of art…”

Is it only my impression or is there really ambiguity in his words?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Security Route

Photo: Claudio Fuentes Madan

Every day, several times a day, they knock on my door, different representatives of the Department of Public Health. I used to always allow them to come in and they would check the whole house, taking down in a notebook in detail the number of drains, of pitchers, buckets, flower vases and anything else that could possibly be used to hold water.

Over time, it began to bother me more and more, the invasion of four different people on the same day coming to my home and writing down the exact same information as those before, day after day… for years. So one morning, a couple of years ago, I decided no more commotion, not one more time. Now I am ready; I dictate to them, from the landing outside my door: 5 drains, two pitchers, 3 water buckets, a Haier fridge. I am not hiding water, I do not have a tank. When they come and threaten me with fines (which has only happened twice) I stubbornly tell them that every day I let 5 different people in my home, that it is not good for me, not safe for me etc, and this seems to calm them. They must also have to suffer these strangers in their homes as well. When they want to check and see if there are bugs, I tell them I'm perfectly capable of recognizing an outbreak and I even tell them I make sure to put the poison for mosquito larvae in all the funnels and behind the refrigerator.

Months later I discovered, with my impulsive, “Not one more time” comment, that I’d made one of those wise decisions not reached by consensus but taken by people in response to stories: thieves disguise themselves and assault people who open their doors and allow them in; the Mosquito Boys (as we like to call them), doing their military service, note down everything that you have in order to report you to the police later, especially if they find something subversive (books, magazines etc.). In 2003, under Operation Window, the majority of computers that were seized came from reports made by the Department of Public Health.

I have no idea of the veracity of these comments, but if State Security wants to inventory the contents of our homes, let them come with orders if, in any case, they have the manpower to spare for this (maybe so, but they have no budget to do it nationally).

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Jokes in the Mathematics Department

Photo: Claudio Fuentes Madan

This comes to me via .cu. In addition to being funny, I think it’s an example of what happens when, at the University of Havana, subjects like the Reflections of Compañero Fidel go hand in hand with the specialty.


Last week I bought a product that cost $158. I gave the cashier $200 and looked in my pocket for $8 to avoid receiving more change. The cashier took the money and looked at the cash register, apparently without knowing what to do. I tried to explain that she had to give me $50 change, but she wasn’t convinced and called the manager for help. She had tears in her eyes while trying to explain it to the manager and she apparently still did not understand.

Why am I telling you this?

Because I noticed the evolution of mathematics teaching since 1950, which was as follows:

1. Teaching Math in 1950:
A cutter of firewood sells a cart of firewood for $100.00. The production cost of the firewood equals 4/5 of the price of the sale. What is the profit ?

2. Teaching Math in 1970:
A cutter of firewood sells a cart of firewood for $100.00. The production cost of the firewood equals 80% of the price of the sale. What is the profit ?

3. Teaching Math in 1980:
A cutter of firewood sells a cart of firewood for $100.00. The production cost of the firewood $80.00. What is the profit ?

4. Teaching Math in 1990:
A cutter of firewood sells a cart of firewood for $100.00. The production cost of the firewood $80.00. Choose the correct answer, that shows the profit.
() $ 20.00 () $ 40.00 () $ 60.00 () $ 80.00 () $ 100.00

5. Teaching Math in 2000:
A cutter of firewood sells a cart of firewood for $100.00. The production cost of the firewood $80.00. The profit is $20. Is that correct?
() Yes () No

6. Teaching Math in 2008:
A cutter of firewood sells a cart of firewood for $100.00. The production cost of the firewood $80.00. If you can read, put an X in front of $20.00.
() $ 20.00 () $ 40.00 () $ 60.00 () $ 80.00 () $ 100.00

And this IS NOT A STORY.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Do not live in a lie*

Reading this *letter that Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote to the Writers' Union of the USSR, I feel a little bad because I have failed at various points in my life, at every one of his statements, which I reproduce below. But every day I try to come out a little more, to stick needles in the bubble of my fear, to feel myself more free, to become more and more independent of the system

The first is the one I like best: it’s my goal and I give a little ironic laugh every time I read it. If I apply it, I can forget altogether about graduating from the University of Havana. I remember perfectly my answer to question number 5 in Philosophy and Society II: “Describe why the Battle of Ideas represents an intellectual engine for revolutionary culture.” I wrote half a page, working it out so that the following terms didn’t appear: battle of ideas, revolutionary and revolution. I spoke about culture as an instrument of society to escape alienation and of art as I don’t know what. I got the highest grade.

  • Refrain completely from writing, signing or printing a single sentence that contains opinions distorting the truth.
  • Do not utter such phrases, not in private conversations nor in public speeches; not on your own volition nor by means of notes; not as an agitator, nor as a teacher, nor as a tutor, nor in plays.
  • Don’t show, or corroborate, or communicate, either by painting or sculpture or photography, or technically or musically, a single false thought, a single alteration of the obvious truth.
  • Do not name out loud, or in correspondence, or in an article, to please someone or to get a job or to succeed in it, authors’ judgments when you don’t fully share the opinions expressed in them, or don’t agree with what they say.
  • Refuse to attend, by force, a demonstration or rally, if it is against your free will.
  • Don’t take into your own hands, or circulate, banners or slogans that do not accord fully with the truth.
  • Don’t raise your hand to vote in favor of proposals which you do not sincerely support; don’t vote, either openly or secretly, for people you consider unworthy or suspicious.
  • Don’t participate in assemblies where you suspect they will submit certain proposals for discussion in a coercive and misleading way.
  • Instantly leave any meeting, assembly, conference, show or film, in which the presenter emits only lies, ideological nonsense, or shameless propaganda.
  • Do not subscribe or buy a single issue of magazines or newspapers in which the information has been gathered falsely or facts are fundamentally faked.