Sunday, December 27, 2009

A New Year and Some Small Vacations

Photo: Claudio Fuentes Madan

Happy Holidays! Thank you all for reading me, for translating me, for the solidarity you have brought me in difficult times—which are the hardest and in which one is most alone. To all who share this virtual space I wish you a beautiful year and a good one, and above all a year of change, that change that we are waiting for. Hopefully in 2010 Octavo Cerco will no longer be a cry for freedom without freedom, and will become one of freedom in freedom.

I am going to take a little vacation until the first of the year; I leave you with a sign representative of the Christmas spirit here in Havana.


Note: The blogger Luis Felipe has been freed after his arrest. I hope for the rest of the year the Blogosphere can sleep peacefully—it’s a pain that State Security doesn’t take vacations, they need one!

Friday, December 25, 2009


Tree by Lia Villares

A mix of nostalgia and joy comes over me each time the end of the year approaches; it might seem sentimental, but I am one of those who adores Christmas. Perhaps the origin is in the absence of Christmas decorations in which I live, in the lack of joy and in many senses the cultural apathy that my country brings to this world holiday.

We couldn’t even celebrate the turn of the century, as Fidel was in his mathematical stage and decided that the new century began in 2001, not in the zero year. A single man deprived 11 million of the changing millennium. The following year, of course, no one would celebrate the new XXI century, it was ridiculous.

A group of friends and I refuse to accept December 24 as just another day. For almost ten years we have gotten together to eat and carry on as normal, a united family of close friends. It has become impossible not to notice that we are fewer every twelve months: a decade ago we were fifteen, this year we will be seven and we already know that two of those will not be here the next 24th.

I will keep waiting—missing the absent—for the day when we are once again fifteen. The turn of the century I will leave to my grandchildren; to them I will entrust the task of celebrating it in the name of their grandmother, who lived when time was edited by one man.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Open Letter to Fernando Rojas

Fernando Rojas: I am writing to you with the intent to offer advice. Let us say that from my 26 years, I have decided today to serve for a few moments as your mother, or your conscience, however you would like to interpret it. So I write this to Fernando Rojas, the man, and not the Vice Minister of Culture, to whom, perhaps, more than once in your childhood, your mother said, “Fernandito, to the girls, it is not done.”

They say—and you know what weight is given to the third person plural in Havana—that during the infamous meeting that you had with the artists of the performance group, OmniZonaFranca, one of the justifications offered for banishing the Festival of Poetry Without End from Cuban institutions, was that the boys were meeting with the blogger Yoani Sanchez. The resolutions and laws that your ministry has promulgated to limit the entry of citizens to establishments and activities are not known to me, but it is not about the laws that I wish to speak, because in the waters of the law, Rojas, your ministry has not bathed for a very long time.

What worries me is your threat, “If Yoani Sanchez comes, I myself will meet her with a stick.” Serious words, Fernando, for a man. But even more serious for a Vice Minister who—according to comments from the “cultured” corridors—aspires to lose the prefix “vice”. However, this is not a reprimand, rather it is a call to sanity, civility, intelligence. I remember that, for these duties, the government has the paramilitaries, the rapid response brigades, and as a last resort, the CIM (Military Counterintelligence); it does not seem advisable to me that a staff member take these tasks on himself, much less announce it in advance as, leaked through the Internet, it might reach inappropriate ears.

Considering that everyone knows Yoani Sanchez is a writer and you are the Vice Minister of Culture, I would say that an atmosphere of terror doesn’t agree with you, and that the image of your delivering a beating is regrettable and unfortunate.

On the other hand, I could be mistaken and your vice may be nothing more than an alibi, in which case you would belong to one of the above mentioned organizations whose job it is to beat civilians. In that case your sin would probably be the indiscretion, because after publicly threatening to attack the physical integrity of a citizen, it is hard to believe, Fernando, that you are only an official in the Ministry of Culture.

Sincerely, Claudia Cadelo De Nevi

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Photo taken from Generation Y

Every time they say on the news, “Response of the people fighting the activities of a small counterrevolutionary group,” she calls me, terrified.  I explain that not all the abuses and humiliations carried out in the streets by the paramilitaries are directed against my person—I would not have the physical capacity to write this—but she doesn’t understand: a mother’s love is like that.

In the ‘80s she wasn’t in Cuba, when she came they told her but she didn’t believe it.  She eventually ended up recalling the stories of the repudiation rallies as we remember the ancient fables, real but not lived, subject to materialist skepticism: seeing is believing.

But materialism was abandoned; in the midst of the Special Period* she discovered that Faith can avoid the madness and vitamin deficiency.  The Party meetings were transformed into spiritualist meetings, Yoga classes, and classes in healing by the laying on of hands.  One day she realized, at times the inanimate world is more transparent and clear than that conscience language that leads nowhere.  She gained one faith but lost another: she no longer believes in humans, in anything.

On Friday, December 11, she saw for the first time, on the evening news, what I have baptized as The Horde and its survivors: The Women in White in the midst of a mob of women deformed by hate.  A choppy sea, and in the middle, a small white boat barely afloat: the return to animality, to the law of the jungle, violence as a first recourse, the supreme exaltation of infinite human stupidity.

She was in shock for about three hours.  I made a few black jokes—I know she likes them—but she didn’t react.  I thought everything had died in her but I was wrong, I’ll never know how much humanism is still left in her, at that moment I was sure she had lost it.  She looks out the window and understands nothing, wonders “who” and the only answer that comes to mind is, “everyone.”  From now on, I know, her loneliness will be immeasurable, the price of having been disappointed too, too many times.

*Translator's note:  The so-called "Special Period" was the very difficult time after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of its subsidies for Cuba.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Outrage*

I can’t stop for a second wondering what I would do if someone blocked the door of my house to take away a piece of my room, but I can’t find an answer. I try to imagine what my friends in Pinar del Rio are feeling, but I can’t.

There are simply moments when the outrage and abuse become indescribable.

Protest of Karina Galvez from Convivencia[Coexistence]:

Today I am remembering the expropriated of Cuba in 1959 and 1960. To see the property you have worked for over years and years fall into the hands of those who have no right, I know it must have been very hard. But it is one thing to know it and quite another to live it.
The words of the school director where I work, brought back memories of my student days: “Karina, get your things and we will go in a minute to the Director.” The true motive never crossed my mind. I was even more surprised when the gentleman who was waiting for me was the Municipal Director for Education in Pinar del Rio and he was going to take me to my house because the Municipal Housing Authority had asked him to bring me for some “formalities.” All completely unusual. I asked, amazed, alarmed, but he told me nothing.

Text message from Dagoberto Valdes:

- Confiscated Karina's patio. They are opening doors to build a Cimex store next door, because they have been awarded the patio.
- The noise starts again. They are laying the foundations to build a block wall. Noise at night, psychological torture.
- Chief tells workers that the block wall has to be finished tonight.

Solidarity in Generation Y

*El Atropello [The Outrage]: The latest disc of The Aldeanos

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Among the poetry, laughter, music, coffee and tea, on the afternoon of Monday, December 15, I was at the opening of the Poetry Without End Festival.  I could not, thanks to institutional censorship, be at the House of Culture in Alamar, where the readings normally happen.  However, the house of David, one of the members of the group Omni Zona-Franca, hosted the poets and the fans of poetry.

Micro Diez in Alamar might seem horrible at first glance; there are places in Havana from where it is very difficult to exchange one house for another: Alamar and El Reparto Eléctrico.  But today I left with the absolute certainty that, at bottom, Alamar is not so bad.  What it lacks in aesthetics the town makes up for by the creativity and solidarity of neighbors.

I could be happy every day of my life to take the P11 bus just for the readings of the poet Manual González Busto, and to dream for a half hour that I am Giselle, the Dutch muse to whom he directs his letters; to hear Francis Sánchez and aspire to understand his verses about the history of Ciego de Ávila, to shout, “I love love!” in the chorus of David and to close my eyes when Amaury Pacheco plays the bells.

But above all these things, in the end I can’t deny that to read under the lamplight is incredible; I want to live in a neighborhood where the neighbors, when they are called to participate in a repudiation rally, oppose it, where they discuss and argue with the delegation about their reasons for refusing, as David’s neighbors did that evening.  This is the Cuba in which I want to live, which I refuse to stop imagining, the Cuba that one day—without any doubt—not only will commit itself to poetry, but to all the other freedoms, perhaps more profane, to which I aspire as a human being.

Uniformed nights

Text: La Salamandra Blanca

To go to the Film Festival, or simply to walk along 23rd Street lately, is to be surprised by the ever-increasing presence of military personnel. They are not only police, now they are accompanied by young men dressed in guard uniforms, or in olive green. Possibly cadets or boys mobilized in the Military General Service?

I find out about some incidents through the comments of friends and acquaintances: repudiation rallies, the cancellation of cultural events, even those promoted on television such as the Poetry Without End Festival, celebrated for some years in Alamar. To top it off, they tell me about the offensive and humiliating shouts. Citizens have even been hit as a part of the response by authority, uniformed or not, to silence civic demonstrations.

But beyond what they tell me, this weekend I could, in just two nights, verify close-up and with my own eyes incidents that would shock any passerby.

One of them happened at the entrance to La Rampa movie theater and ended with the cancellation of the film Antichrist, eagerly awaited by so many. Every night, in their zeal to control the entry of the crowd, they schedule some few police along with the military mentioned above. This Friday, a shoving match erupted between them and the public, with everyone more worked up than on previous nights: Aggressive face-offs, laughter on seeing how one agent, unable to dominate the crowd, goes red in the face, somebody falls down, even a few flip-flops are lost on the ground. Finding there are not enough of them, they call for reinforcements to try to control the crowd and another nearby patrol car comes with a great number of guards of all types.

For unknown reasons, they take a boy of about 20 over to the patrol car and search his bag. Some friends respectfully demand that they explain why they’re doing it, that they must say where and why they are taking him, and in addition someone nearby asks for the name and number of the officer. They are joined by more people, even younger, demanding to know the cause of the detention. Many of them start shouting at the police that it is an abuse of power, a violation of the constitution, it is abuse they shout. A young man from the Interior Ministry asks who shouts such a thing to show him what abuse is; I’m perplexed at such a stupid swaggering warning.

The official, a man of about 40 or so, seems like he was very bothered by the course of what was taking shape in this part of the street. He changes and I see him say something to the detained young man in an aggressive manner, in his face you can see only anger, the young man answers something and the same policeman attacks him, pushes him forcefully, almost beating him, into the patrol car and takes him away. The friends ask the group gathered around to march together to where they suppose him to have been taken, to demand the young man’s rights. In the end it petered out, and as I said, the film was not shown that night.

The following day, rather late, leaving the theater and walking along 23rd and G to return home, I am amazed to see the wall recently lined with stones to prevent people from sitting and meeting there. But right at the edge of the street is something even more surprising. There are five cops, one of them with a guitar in his hand, which seems very strange, because his face shows no thought of entertaining us with a tune. It turned out that he wanted to confiscate it from one of the boys of a group around him. After being there nearly half an hour hearing the pleas and complaints grow, they called for a patrol car that ended up taking the guitar and its owner to the local police station.

It’s incredible to see how something as innocent as playing a guitar on the corner where part of the youth of Havana gather, is a criminal act, and even more that they assume the right to confiscate the object of amusement for these boys. That something so innocent as sitting on a wall and playing songs in the street could threaten authority is something to worry about. What will they do? Will they confiscate all the guitars of those who while away their nights, and those of others in the city? Will they constantly provoke the impotence of some and the challenge of many and shout in their faces the abuse of power they are constantly committing?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Human Rights

I didn’t want to write today, not knowing how to start a post about the tenth of December. I don’t know how to express, in this blog, that human rights have lost their meaning in my country. We have forgotten everything implicit in these two words and we are left with what experience has knocked into us year after year: fear and paranoia.

I ended up thinking that a priori those are the only two rights we have left. Of all the others that could exist, half have been forgotten and the others banned, with amounts to about the same thing.

When I go out in the street and see those who in some way exercise their little bit of power—officials, police, bureaucrats, doctors, teachers, journalists—and see them trample the rights of their fellow citizens and even their own rights at times, I wonder if they know what they’re doing, if they have a conscience. Maybe my theory is naïve, but I sense that after 50 years of absolutism we have completely forgotten the meaning of things like The Rule of Law, Justice, Human Rights. They sound like science fiction… Right to what?

So, for most of my neighbors this is a morning like any other, some of my friends are harassed by the police, others visited by State Security, with any luck none will be beaten for taking an photo in the wrong place, the Festival of Cinema will run its course and no one will ask themselves why, to see a movie at the Chaplin theater, they have to pass through a military cordon.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Afraid, late, but sure

Someone sent me these photos through someone else; they are of Juan Juan Almeida walking down Quinta Avenue with his sign, “Democracy.” Even though they are from the back, it’s a good example of how information works in Cuba: an ordinary citizen manages to take hidden photos without having his camera seized, and the photos pass from hand to hand (from flash drive to flash drive) with the event that the photographer saw until, more than two weeks later, someone gives them to me.

I hope the photos and videos come to me, even if a month late, of what happened in the Karl Marx theater during the sale of tickets for the Lucas Award ceremonies.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Letters to the President, a documentary by Petr Lom

Among the great deal of information reproduced on USB flash memory sticks, lately there has been a certain tendency towards documentaries that demystify dictatorships. I received an excellent one about letters written by Iranians to President Ahmadinejad. Millions of people express their needs, doubts, disappointments and miseries on a piece of paper, hoping that this super powerful man will give them a moment and deal with their problems.

The letters end up in a kind of ministry, called “The Center for Processing Presidential Letters,” the ultimate bureaucracy. They are divided into two large groups by the processors: letters written by women and those written by men. Far from trying to create a governmental infrastructure that would improve the quality of life for citizens, an insufficient ministry swallows millions of pieces of paper to strengthen people’s illusion of the Savior-Leader and to continue reinforcing the foundation of a personality cult. Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad does not read the letters and people don’t believe the answers: some thousands of young people took to the streets of Teheran to pressure their supposed benefactor to recognize that he didn’t win the election and should resign as president.

The grand Messiahs of political power believe in nothing but themselves: we, “the masses”, cannot be the masters of our own fate, we don’t have the capacity to build our own lives, we must wait for the brilliant future they promise us, which unfortunately never comes. “Letters to the President” reminded me of the letters my neighbors would write, when I was a little girl, with their demands to the Party Central Committee. It’s been a long time since anyone has written anything,; it seems that here in Cuba we have stopped believing in our “Processing Center.”

Saturday, December 5, 2009


I hope the day will come soon when street demonstrations in Cuba are normal and are not accompanied by a Revolutionary Conga *, the latter I consider essential.

The demonstrations here and the Blog Action here.

*Revolutionary Congo: Caribbean Repudiation Rally. See an example here.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


Photo: Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

I met Regina when she opened the door of her home to me at 11:00 at night. I was on a mission: fix the computer of her husband, the writer Rafael Alcides. I was planning to reformat and reinstall Windows, but the system had a defective 5G disk, the CD drive wasn’t working, and the external ports didn’t recognize anything. All this left me no choice but to hang up my gloves and pass the “dead thing” to Ciro. We finished at 5:00 in the morning.

The long hours I spent lying on the floor among cables and pieces of the motherboard gave me a chance to get to know the whole family. I remember it as a marvelous evening and I hope it is repeated without the part about the broken machine.

Alcides and Regina do not have a telephone. Every time I want to talk to them I have to travel back in time and remember the little house in Nueva Vedado still doesn’t have a telecommunications cable. One of these day I will send them a telegram, just to try it.

Regina wanted to open a blog. With the Wordpress offline server she has learned in the academy how to hang a header, publish entries, and insert photos and links. La Mala Letra (Bad Writing), her blog, finally saw the light of cyberspace on November 11. Here is is a small paragraph from the blog of a woman who, without internet, without even a telephone, has found a way to express herself in Web 2.0.

“Some time ago the idea came to me to write, but the perception of being nobody, of having opinions that were irrelevant save to my family and friends, and above all, of having no power to influence events, kept me from doing it, again and again. But I decided to see signs in everything, and in that sense the article-essay “Why I blog” by Andrew Sullivan, has become a kind of enlightenment. As I live in Cuba it makes me smile to read that Sullivan updates his blog several times a day. With a great deal of optimism, I can do it twice a week. I have never visited a blog in person, I was introduced to the Internet live six months ago, and in such a fleeting way, that I run the risk of doing more of the same, but if I understand right, it doesn’t matter: if I help someone and someone helps me, I am making friends, or at least readers.”

Photo: Vallin classes at the academy

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A comic based on real events

Translator's note: For technical reasons I can't figure out, the cartoon can be seen clearly on the Spanish site but not on this site.

>>Days earlier...

I challenge Agent Rodney to a duel, a verbal duel.

>>And here are the new masters of the area

If he shows up we're going to plaster him.

Just like his wife.

Come on, what are we waiting for.

>>20 November, 5:00pm 23 and G

Can someone tell me what this girl is filming.

I am Rodney.
And I am too.

Here I am waiting for Rodney.
It seems there are a lot of Rodneys in Cuba.

>>Time passes and another Geely car passes from the evil

Don't let them escape!!!

>>And also the ridiculous people come all loaded with insults.

Viva Fidel, Said Raul!!!!
They think they are the most free people in Cuba.
What was it we used to shout, Ah! Yes for the Revolution.

>>And meanwhile, they take them and put them in cars and take them to places far from this state sponsored pack of hounds.

What a pity, what an impoverished country, too bad.

Shut up, cunt!!!

>>The abducted, beaten and missing
These people don't get tired of beating us.




I'm always where the news is.

Twitter in their faces

No comment.

Newspaper text: 1987: 29th Year of the Revolution. Now we are going to build socialism

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Democracy is in every box

Some time ago the two actors, Reinaldo Escobar and Carlos Verdecia, presented Democracy is in Every Box in one of the Blogger Journeys, now transformed into a Blogger Academy.

The first man was the victim of a massive repudiation rally this month; I am beginning to imagine that it was a part of the war game exercises – Bastion 2009. Meanwhile, the second man, nearly a year ago, “jumped the puddle” to breathe less tainted air and walk on streets that have no master.

Now, by chance, I find the video onYouTube, and despite all the water under the bridge since its premiere at Yoani’s house, I do not have the slightest doubt: Democracy is in every box, in every kilobyte that manages to enter this island.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Goodbye to shampoo

Photo: Claudio Fuentes Madan

I have, as they say, “thankful” hair. I do not use conditioner, I use any kind of dye, and my costs for shampoo don’t exceed 2 CUCs. So far, every brand has worked perfectly: Sedal, Four Seasons, Natural, or Cosas de Botica are the national brands, and the cheapest, though they are always sold in CUCs. For a long time now, we have had to pay in hard currency—which never shows up in our wages—to wash our heads.

Last month it started to get complicated. For some mysterious reason the quality of the shampoo is in the toilet, I wash my head and it feels like wire. My friends said the same thing, it’s as if we were suddenly forced to buy “hard”, and quite expensive.

The comments stun me, an apocalyptic atmosphere catches me off-guard. While products constantly become more expensive and of lower quality, people speculate about the growing scarcity—if that’s even possible—the Daily Paranoia: there will be more power outages, all the imported products will disappear from the stores, rationing will end, the CUC will fall or rise (this bola*, or rumor, is the most unstable of all), they are creating new rapid-response brigades**, etc.

The worst thing is how little I care, I’m tired of the premise, “it can always get worse.” At times I question how much worse we can imagine our reality, how much worse our horrible social conditions can get. We don’t earn a decent wage, we applaud with adoring faces and scream like a primitive horde, we bear up under political propaganda, don’t dissent, live with double standards, don’t think, don’t talk, are suspicious, snitch, don’t write, don’t take to the streets, eat badly, can’t fix our houses, don’t travel and don’t wash our hair; and that’s not enough bad news? Things are going to get dark?

*Bola (ball): Rumor. Speculation circulating by word of mouth and trying to "guess" economic, political or social measures in the immediate future, most often in contradiction with the information given in the mass media.

Translator’s note
Rapid Response Brigades: Organized bands of people dressed as ordinary citizens who respond rapidly, and attack, anyone showing any sign of dissent in public.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

DSI and the visitors

Photo: Claudio Fuentes Madan

I remember the visitors of Pantaleon and can’t help but find a connection between the new pursuits of the security services and the name of the novel by Mario Vargas Llosa, Captain Pantoja and the Special Service. In less than two weeks almost all my friends have been “visited.” The “meetings” have varied in their degree of formality – not by their legality since the organs of State Security are not ruled by the legislation in force for the rest of us mortals – and range from the Official Citatation without previous explanation, passing through the kidnapping, and arriving at the disconcerting message, “Do me a favor, tell him to drop by.”

Luckily my friends are taking it in stride, some even with a tremendous sense of humor. They have received messages of all kinds, but among the most pathetic are these two:

- Good night. Tell your friends to be quiet, you can go now.
- What Vallín the lawyer teachers at the Blogger Academy is all a lie. (We’re finishing Greek philosophy, the last two classes have been about Aristotle.)

I find the situation of the intelligence service painful: fighting with a group of young people who devote themselves to study, painting or writing must be disappointing enough. I suppose that when they graduated they believed they would save the country from external aggressors, protect society from organized crime and fight against social and governmental corruption. How sad it must be to look back and see that the only thing so much force has been good for is to reprimand and harass kids! How they must envy their security service counterparts around the world, dismantling criminal networks and saving civilians; while they, year after year, scrub the hands of power without managing to remove the damp red spot that covers their face and clothes.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Who is behind Rodney?

Photo and text: Claudio Fuentes Madan

I have, at this very moment, enormous doubts about what shape my words should take to recount and testify about what happened last Friday, November 20, 2009, at the already hot corner of 23rd and G. I wanted to record, journalistically, through the lens of my video camera a verbal duel. It was supposed to be and was proposed to be, more than anything else, the beginning of a totally peaceful conversation between two people: REINALDO ESCOBAR and AGENT RODNEY. The meeting was intended to clarify a case of abuse and violence that happened two weeks earlier, carried out by agents of the ever more covert and surreptitious State Security, against Yoani Sanchez, wife of a person who at least attempted an ethical meeting for the exchange of words and opinions of various kinds.

The doubts that accompany my words come also with fears that will dilute and control said words, with the sole desire of avoiding the self-censorship which would prevent the reader from absorbing the modest truth gathered in by my senses. I was a citizen who participated in an activity that was transformed into an odd festival of trolls. Even when they tried to petrify me with threats disguised as sweet tips for a future of dark freedoms, the young man warning me that I was going to get arrested, and even asking me if I was quite ready for this. Fears that would only cease to be a burden to the extent that one denounces every violation of the most elemental rights of oneself and others. I thought of the old saying, “He who holds the leg is as guilty as he who kills the cow,” knowing I needed to avoid holding the leg, and much less giving a sidelong shy kiss to the butcher, his spotless apron stained with blood. And now, to the point; I am always at risk of boring people with my extensive flourishes.

I was arrested while filming the detention of Silvio Benitez (who remained at the side of Reinaldo Escobar the whole time, as they were being crushed by the frenzied horde). In the final moments of the event as I was inside the car taking me to the police station, they seized the memory card from my video camera. It contained all the images I had taken as an historical documentary of the facts. Still, today, the 22nd, they have not returned it to me, violating with impunity the UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

It seems that they do not know that the Cuban government claims itself a magnificent signer of the declaration, so I suspect that either Raul Castro has not properly informed his subordinates to enforce the above in full, or they are completely crushing us with this marvelous clause, without mercy, with total impunity, and shitting on the idea. An odd way to proceed.

I include the notification on the part of the officer or agent who handled my case, “Your images will be returned,” although in the final moments I was informed that the memory card had momentarily gone astray, they asked for my vote of confidence and said I would be advised by telephone regarding its return. I will wait for the promised event and my patience, necessarily, is infinite, although it is often tinged with cautious sarcasms.

On reaching the police station they explained to me that I was detained there only and exclusively to protect me from the reaction of the impassioned people, in open battle against a minority group of people who want to ask to converse on equal terms. Reinaldo Escobar and the few friends who were with him until the end, were cataloged by the group of trolls disguised as The People, as mercenaries, worms, counterrevolutionaries etc. What strange sector of The People is this? Who mix up an act of political questioning with the deafening carrying on of carnival characters with their fancy outfits and props, and even a band playing popular music? A group designed to quench the sound that the cameras and audio equipment need to record, and as a body to confuse the purpose of the event with their presence in the viewfinders. So that the foreign press as well as the official and independent press who, with the same objective in common, all have the need and the right to record the facts. Such a calumny against the concept of The People, as well as against that other group, which we may call ourselves, those without a group, those who for thinking and expressing themselves differently must be, for the moment, excluded from all acceptance and respect, and yet who irredeemably form part of this total contradiction that is Cuba.

What the law enforcement officials and police have decided to call THE PEOPLE, is not, I believe, a representation of all of it. Nor do I believe that the real Cuban people have a tradition of behaving in this way. I must report that at no time did I feel that this mob was on the point of violating my physical integrity, even though some people were punched, severely pushed and mobbed. At the police station we shared glances and handshakes although they prohibited us from talking and deprived us of our cell phones. These prohibitionary measures, applied to “protected persons” from among a mass so extreme in their conduct, I don’t think to be organically related to the sullen treatment of us, as victims, in that unit. It is really too bad that I lost the images captured by my lens, which would show this to the fullest. Hopefully other cameras have material that will reveal part of what happened.

While the whole mob surrounded and nearly asphyxiated Reinaldo Escobar and friends who clung precariously to each other for their mutual protection, we could see a group of the National Revolutionary Police, stationed across the street in small groups of two, three, four and even larger numbers, contemplating the obvious brawl of cries and aggression without taking part. It seems a reading of the previous orders included turning a blind eye to the sector of The People who are specifically expecting their help, and that the repressive forces will be forgiven an act equally repressive, with a total inability to listen before making violent determinations and forming opinions. The portion of The People who commit an atrocity will not be punished or reprimanded, rather what they do is justified: unfortunate but necessary. As in the eighties with the migrants leaving through the Port of Mariel, The People incited by everyone knows who, launched their repudiation rallies, egg-throwing parties, workplace exclusions and beatings at those who decided to leave, while our law enforcement never issued any kind of citation against this kind of action nor called for wisdom and respect.

On Friday, like Claudia Cadelo and many others, I met the wave of terror, saw how dear is the cost of freedom of thought and its direct organic expression. I have known, also, individuals having, though it is a minimum of power when protected by natural justice, the power of knowing oneself is not alone, of having something to say and of being disposed to say it by whatever media or channel possible. Today I have reaffirmed, more than ever, that every decision or idea has the highest price and whether you like it nor, you have to pay in one currency or another. Life always wins out over us, even when one contemplates within it a variety of successes.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Terror

Photo: AP

The street taken over by hundreds, not what I expected at all. I knew that at any moment they would cease to be individuals and turn into a machine of repression. Silvia and I filmed from inside a car, at some point I leave her with the camera away from the eye of the hurricane and return to 23rd and G. I am very scared. Claudio, camera in hand, is mixing with the international press. I see almost all my colleagues from the academy—students and professors. I give Reinaldo a kiss, he makes a joke about the television cameras, he and I, but I can’t laugh. I want to say, “We have to run!” But I keep quiet, I’m in the irrational world, what little sanity I have left controls my impulses.

To my right is a human wall and a woman gesticulating, the horizon doesn’t exist. I know, in an instant they will fall on us from above, there are four hundred and I’m terrified. I move to the back, I can’t help it. The press is concentrated around Reinaldo, the air is unbreathable. One of my classmates tells me, “Go over there, there are the cameras,” I tell her, “Don’t go, they will run over us.” I think, for a second, to run over to the Riviera, my head’s going a mile a minute… I fled, what horror. I get back on my feet, I can’t find my phone, the avalanche passes by me screaming, “Fidel! Fidel!” dragging everyone along. Suddenly there are a few guys behind me, screaming lasciviously, “This is a good day!”

On one corner, Lía, Vallín and Iván have survived The Wave. She grabs her laptop while the others are both reflecting some kind of calmness, “They’re not afraid!” I think. Later they told me that they were afraid, I hope some day to manage to control myself like they do.

Unfortunately, right now I can’t find myself in that place, I’m trembling, I grab onto Lía. Stop a taxi and get in, sending some Tweets, I tell the driver I am going to Nuevo Vedado. He crosses G and I ask him to return. We double back to F and drive onto the Avenue going to 21st, a Human Torrent is moving from left to right, I have never seen anything more extraordinary: there are screams, punches, groups, police, hysterical people, students and some cordons of State Security running from one side to the other. The traffic is diverted by plainclothes types, a bicyclist in front of us is pushed up the street by a security officer shouting, “Out of the way! Out of the way! Clear off!”

I call Yoani, this is out of control, I’m coming over there, I’m convinced they are all unconscious already and we will spend the night calling the stations and going around to the hospitals. I imagine Reinaldo thrown out on the street and those savages coming down on him. The taxi driver is shocked and pulls out his cell phone and takes a few pictures.

When I get there Reinaldo had already called, I can’t believe it but I keep quiet. I go in the door and find out, they are telling the truth: they’re living a miracle. Today the government has intentionally put the lives of people in danger. From this moment I charge the organs of State Security and Raúl Castro with responsibility for anything that happens to those who, today, after having been dragged by a mob, beaten, interrogated and detained, have finally returned to their homes.*

- Marleny Gonzalez
- Yoan Hernandez
- Yadaimí Dominguez
- Frank Paz
- Wilfredo Vallin
- Eugenio Leal
- Pastor Manuel
- Ivan Garcia
- Silvio Benítez
- Jose Alberto Alvarez Bravo
- Lilia Hernandez Castañer
- Lianelis Villares

Today I was a coward and I will always reproach myself, today I discovered TERROR.

* I am missing some names of people who either I do not know or could not see, I promise to update the list as soon as possible.

Note: We have a fairly complete video of what happened, is very large and I have not been able to load it. Tomorrow I will try again.

Here is the video:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Yoani Sanchez and Barack Obama: Questions and Answers

President Barack Obama in Generation Y: Thank you for this opportunity to exchange views with you and your readers in Cuba and around the world and congratulations on receiving the Maria Moore Cabot Prize award from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism for coverage of Latin America that furthers inter-American understanding. You richly deserve the award. I was disappointed you were denied the ability to travel to receive the award in person.

Your blog provides the world a unique window into the realities of daily life in Cuba. It is telling that the Internet has provided you and other courageous Cuban bloggers with an outlet to express yourself so freely, and I applaud your collective efforts to empower fellow Cubans to express themselves through the use of technology. The government and people of the United States join all of you in looking forward to the day all Cubans can freely express themselves in public without fear and without reprisals.

Read the entire interview here.

The Stool

Photo: Claudio Fuentes Madan

I’ve never participated in a youth meeting, much less a Communist Party youth meeting. However, I can imagine the faces, the atmosphere, the air and the speeches of many of those present. From the time I was born, just about my whole family went from group meeting to group meeting.

By the time the posters saying “The Party is Immortal” were posted all over the city, the militants started to call their meetings, “The Immortal.” I used to hear phrases like, “I can’t see you this afternoon, The Immortal are meeting.” Looking at the faces of the people, one could deduce that this was the most boring thing in the universe, I supposed something like a high school assembly multiplied by a million.

One of those card-carrying friends of immortality, back around the time of Elian, was still raising her hand and spewing her “constructive criticisms from within” – I know she had already abandoned the long road to Eternity. That day, as was customary at the time, they were talking about the boy’s case. My friend raised her hand:

“When the Comandante talks about Elian’s school he mentions his desk. Hasn’t anyone noticed that Elian sits at a table? Why can’t we correct the Comandante’s mistake on this and on many other things?”

Compañera, you know that if Fidel says stool… I say STOOL!”

The meeting ended without serious consequences, but from that time on that man has been popularly known within the Party core as “The Stool.”

Monday, November 16, 2009

Poor cows

He greeted me at the door saying, “You have to see this! Cows with their heads in air conditioning because they give more milk!” Of course I understood nothing. “What cows? What milk? What air conditioning?” To top it off the three products are not familiar to me: I never see cows, I rarely drink milk, and air conditioning is one of the things I hope to have before I’m forty.

It was some archive footage from the sixties. Fidel Castro seemed to have discovered that if the cows had their heads in air conditioning while the rest of their bodies were in the ambient temperature… they would give more milk.

I could hardly believe it, I realized the craziness of the Round Table* had begun thirty years before I was born. The delirium was an everyday thing since 1959 and the experiment, above and beyond the human race, had also disturbed the animal kingdom.

Translator’s note:
*Round Table is a Cuban television talk show where Fidel used to drop in regularly before his illness and talk, sometimes for hours, about… well the things Fidel talked about, things like air conditioned cows.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

This comic is not fiction.

And meanwhile, the march was beginning...
Help me Lunes, the security agents are attacking us.
I can't, they have me trapped.
Those fuckers. They've overpowered us and are forcing us into their cars.
I am tweeting, I am tweeting.
Respect our constitutional rights! Identify yourselves!

They're arresting us.
HELP!! This is a kidnapping.
Don't you touch him.
Get in the car!!
They're counterrevolutionaries.

This is a mistake. Release Yoani.
Pardo, don't record!
Those are my glasses.
We are all Yoani Sanchez!!

And they pushed our heads to the floor.
Inside the car of the security agents.
And they hit us and they squeezed our necks.
Tell Yoani to shut up!!
Agent Rodney sickened us in the patrol car.
Claudia turn off the phone!!

No more violence, I'm just a blogger.

By Silvia C.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Return to the everyday

Photo: Claudio Fuentes Madan

The days pass and everything will return to how it was. Yoani is still on crutches and Orlando refuses to see a doctor, yet the streets are again looking like the streets of my city. The Havana of secret fears, the poor whom nobody wants to see, repressing and corrupting police, feline Security, people without Faith, decadent art.

Once again, the minutes of freedom are counted in the hour and a half showing of Chaplin during the Polish cinema series. My friend comes to me again to ask for the updated version of Voces Cubanas. People talk about the economic situation and they argue, with a sidelong glance, about the failed policy of the government.

I take the bus and see the children of the Interior Ministry, I don’t think they’re even 18 yet, with the same apathetic faces as everyone else. I can’t help wondering to what extent they share the irrationality of the parents. I smile every time the protagonists of small scale social indiscipline (on the P4 bus we are the majority by far), give the driver our fares rather than throwing the money in the farebox, a slap in the face to all those televisions commercials that say we don’t have to give the poor driver anything: Everything is for Papa State, Lord Absolute.

I sit back again and look at the people around me. Tired and sweaty returning to their homes, some boys in front of me explain how to connect computers to the web, I remember it in case I need it some day: divide the cable, then join the first one with the sixth and the second with the fourth. I imagine them saving some citizens from undocumented kidnappers who say they are the supreme power. Something tells me that not too much is lacking for us to get to this point, where citizen solidarity will flourish on this little island.

Monday, November 9, 2009

I prefer victim to executioner

Photo: Fotos Desde Cuba

I didn’t want to write, my paranoia was telling me that I had to wait until I was in my right mind again. These last 48 hours I have been irritable, hateful, hysterical, sympathetic, maternal and filled with homicidal instincts… I have wanted to kill and I have wanted to save. I have been grateful to the police for protecting me from State Security and have wanted to destroy this body that responds to the demands of strangers. I have wanted to be in Yoani’s body and suffer the pain, I have felt deserving of the punches or worthy of leading the way to Doomsday. I have imagined myself capable of boring holes in the heads of those who beat Yoani and Orlando, but not me, on Friday, and have wondered why. I have forgiven and have turned around and condemned.

I have felt the guilt and the blame, I have wondered so many things that I don’t have time to answer myself. I have tried to reconstruct the facts two millions times but I think the gaps are getting worse. I don’t remember Tweeting from the patrol car, I don’t know if the first Tweet was when I was fervently clutching Yoani’s waist or when I saw her legs sticking out of the black State Security car. I don’t remember if I called, did not call, who I called. I can’t even recall the face of the Security agent who was next to me. What I do know is that I was resisting the urge to vomit the whole time, I regret not have sprayed all the coffee I had in my stomach all over my oppressor… at the time I was trying to seem strong.

A writer friend told me: You have to wait, every time you write it will unfold, there is nothing you can hide. She’s right, it doesn’t matter if they know: the brutality confuses me, the abuse makes me want to cry, the injustice stuns me, and these last hours I have had to fight a deep Hatred that wants to subsume me.

A single image frees me, I imagine the dialog between the bearded vulture and his son:

“Papa, what did they teach you in the academy?”
“They taught me to hit really hard without leaving marks.”

Then I run out of fury and irritation, because a profession so mean and despicable awakens no feeling in me.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Violence against nonviolence

Friday at the Blogger Academy, we finished the class on Cuban culture with Miriam. Relaxed atmosphere: the Tainos and their myths. Before leaving Ivan told me, “See you at five-thirty.” We had found out from friends we knew that Aldo, Luis Eligio, Amaury and other young people were going to walk today from 23rd and G Street to L Street, with signs against violence. A civic march in a country where public spirit has been kidnapped by totalitarianism, where power has grown old and the ultimate death rattles of a collapsing system are a blind response, pure temper tantrum.

We stayed, Orlando Luis (Pardo Lazo), his girlfriend, Yoani and I, cleaning up until it was time for the march. We left the house nervous, but convinced that we wouldn’t be alone. By G Street Orlando was making jokes that I don’t remember but I was falling out laughing. A man was masturbating in broad daylight in Zapata, Havana looked the same as always.

The bus stop for the P11 was full, at 27th and G, the only corner from where you can catch something to take you to Alamar. The car appeared from nowhere, a yellow plate, a new Chinese model: money for repression. “Let’s go in comfort,” Yoani said to me jokingly, and the guys got out with faces that were not pleasant, it must be sad to be a thug. We refused to get in the car, there were three of them and they threatened us:

“Get in the car, now.”
“Let us see your documents, or bring a policeman.”

Orlando had his cell phone in his hand. “Pardo, don’t record,” said the one in the orange shirt, and I got my cell out. Nobody noticed me, I sent the first Tweet… In less than three minutes a patrol car came up with a couple of cops—a woman and a man—completely dumbstruck by the scene. The carried out their orders almost in slow motion, the woman told me:

“Don’t resist.”

“They are undocumented,” it occurred to me to enlighten her.

Yoani was clinging to a bush, I was clinging to her waist, and the woman was pulling me by the leg. They had already dragged Orlando off, outside my field of vision. A man at the bus-stop looked on with an expression of terror, people didn’t say a single word. The officer, very young, got me in an armlock that immobilized me. I could have kicked a little but I was too astonished at seeing Yoani’s legs sticking out the rear window of the State Security car.

They shoved me into the patrol car while I was screaming, “Yoani! Yoani!” But I realized that no one could hear me, everything was hermetically sealed, Orlando’s girlfriend was struggling with the police, Yoani’s body was being pushed headfirst into the car, and Orlando’s telephone flew out through the window… I sent the second Tweet hoping someone would be able to understand it with my terrible typing. The girl cop got in the patrol car and said to me:

“Why did you resist? We don’t want to hit you.”

“You almost ripped my shirt,” said the other PNR (National Revolutionary Police), meanwhile putting Orlando’s girlfriend in the car.

They looked embarrassed, for a moment I thought they were going to apologize:

“Do you have your identity cards on you,” she said, almost sweetly, and passed us Orlando’s phone which wouldn’t stop ringing.

Unfortunately, the one in the orange shirt got in and shut the door. He sat next to me. The police fell silent and started the dialogue.

“Claudia, turn off the telephone.”

“Forget it.”

“How disgusting,” said Orlando’s girlfriend.

The rest was pure insult, a surrealistic rage.

“Your name is not going to go down in history,” he said.

“I don't care, you don’t even have a name. When I get out of the car I'm going back to G Street."

“Then it will be worse.”

“Your threats are your fear. That’s their purpose.”


Stepping foot on the corner by Yoani's house made me dizzy, but there was no light in the building. I couldn't get anyone's cell, and I was losing my balance. The the first call came, with a 00 international prefix, and I knew nothing had been in vain, even if we had all been arrested and the march suspended. When, later, I saw the video that Ciro brought me, I knew for certain: They lost; it's the countdown.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The character Tabo, 2009

They are rebroadcasting “His Own War” on television and to me it feels like I am watching an alien movie, about a country where people talk and move as in my country, but a different place. Like a Ray Bradbury novel, where the alien beings are exactly like us except for some small details, because they are us but in another time and space. Maybe it could also be compared to a show on the Discovery Channel where they explain to us that homo sapiens has civilized the world twice, a documentary that delves into the details of a civilization of those homo sapiens who once, before natural disaster X, occupied the world where we now live, millions of years later.

Poor Tabo today would not be proud of being a police informant, blackmailed by the PNR (National Revolutionary Police), he would be desperately looking for a way to get on a raft to flee the country before being discovered in the neighborhood. His wife who, when she wasn’t a criminal was starving and couldn’t feed her daughter, would never have asked him where the money coming in was going out to, and her disposition, far from deteriorating because of the new relationships of her partner, would have become sweeter. He could never tell her that he was with the police, because divorce would have then been a done deal.

With good luck and taking advantage of their privileged positions on both sides, our 2009 hero would find a way to have a third “business” that would let him pay off the targets* to get them to stop threatening him and, instead, to protect him. Over time he would catch, in his web of “unregistered” corruption, as many cops as criminals.

* Targets: Police

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Dove of freedom

Photo: Claudio Fuentes Madan

In elementary school they made fun of me because I wouldn’t say bad words, in sixth grade I was awarded the Beso de la Patria prize, and when we entered secondary school I fell like a kick in the chest. My discomfort wasn’t because I was a gusana, a so-called bad egg, from when I was little, it was because I thought the Beso de la Patria prize winner should be me, who had written and read so many communiqués, and also she was pretty with a Paladar restaurant and I was fat with a disgraced father.

But high school threw us together in a field of sweet potatoes, right next to each other, weeding infinite rows, playing with the gusanos and making our debut together as the Unreliable Brigade: we became friends. In three years we changed from girls to teenagers together and there wasn’t a moment between 12 and 14—through good times and bad—when she wasn’t at my side. In ninth grade, despite our good grades, we were already infamous: listening to Rock, reading “complicated” novels, and being as eccentric as possible cost us dearly, me at home and her at school.

At 14 they formed a Disciplinary Board in the classroom, some students got up and denounced her: smoking, listening to rock and roll, running away, saying improper things, meeting with antisocial elements, etc. Even though she had a 100 average, she couldn’t be first in the ranking, they relegated her to third place. That same year her family won el bombo, the immigration lottery, and they all left for the United States. It has been almost ten years since we met and even though we do not aspire to win the Beso de la Patria, nor to understand the origin of the universe, among other ambitions, we’re still friends.

She came recently and wanted to be put in touch a group from high school, those who once wanted to take her academic rights by force of an extremist ideology. My friend doesn’t care, she called for old times sake, for lost adolescence and nostalgia. However one of the girls who pointed her finger her most strongly hadn’t forgotten. For the former denouncer everything meant something else: getting off her chest the guilt of the repressor, the informer, the unjust. She apologized to the one she once vilified and I know that since that day, she breathes more easily. I am happy for both of them.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The ministry and me

This is the third time that an institution or ministry has denied me entry into a place with free access. It seems that some independent bloggers have been “unofficially” excluded from Cuban cultural events. I say “unofficially” because even though they haven’t shown me an official document with my complete name and identity card number that says: This institution denies admission to So-and-So, Such-and-Such, and What’s-Her-Face, in accordance with this law and this center has that right. They don’t have my photos and the gatekeepers don’t know my name, they don’t have a list that decrees me persona non grata.

I demand the Ministry of Culture to issue such a list, to clarify the reasons why I cannot attend concerts or participate in debates, that they show their faces and stop hiding behind the vague concept that The Institution Reserves The Right of Admission. I want Abel Prieto, the Minister of Culture, to articulate, legally, this exclusion so that I can, also legally, file a complaint with the Ministery of Culture for cultural and ideological discrimination. I want the bureaucrats to come out from behind their nameless masks and accept that the Cuban cultural policy is exclusionary and discriminatory, put their cards on the table and dot the i’s and cross the t’s, stop using the bureaucracy as a shield and the gatekeepers as babysitters. I want someone to explain to me in what human way a public institution—of the people—can reserve the right of admission and what are the conditions governing that right.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Right now in the Fresa y Chocolate Center (Update: VIDEO)

A group of people, among whom I count myself, cannot enter the debate about the Internet that is taking place this afternoon at 4 pm in the Fresa y Chocolate Center, organized by the magazine Temas [Topics]. At first we were about 10 – some independent bloggers and others I don’t know – now there are about 30 people piled against the fence.

According to the custodian, the ICAIC (Cuban Film Institute) restricted admission. Here are some photos; I’ll see if I can post more information later on.

The debate goes on, outside the door of the Fresa y Chocolate Room… however, there will be surprises.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Why purification?

Foto: Claudio Fuentes Madan

Almost all countries have a government more or less corrupt but approximately every five years it changes and also it must answer for its actions before a civil power. They have secret services charged with protecting the interests of the country against possible external interference and against corruption among their ministers and officials, among other complicated and bureaucratic things. Under no circumstances does their work involve limiting the freedom of their citizens by repressing them, screening them for their political profile, worrying about what they say or whether they meet freely with others. Instead of occupying themselves with denying permission to leave the country, or keeping citizens from attending cultural events, attacking artists and writers for their work, firing people from their jobs because of the ideology, among other “activities” that our ministries specialize in, those of less paranoid countries perform more commendable functions in accordance with the laws of the country and the work assigned to them.

Because of this, I think that for Cuba to transition to an open society from a society “with some emergency exits”, some of the people now occupying positions of power in the government could take a long vacation and dedicate themselves, for example, to offering services, which by then won’t be so difficult to get a license for.

It is obvious that this little island, for some time, has not been governed only by two old men, but by the many mid-level and high officials of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) while Central Intelligence maintains the status quo and enjoys power almost at the same level as the old-timers, but in a more surreptitious way. It’s obvious that the person who today decides that Yoani Sanchez cannot travel cannot continue to occupy decision-making positions in a plural Cuba where we will all have the same rights regardless of our ideology. A civil servant whose decisions protect corruption and crime cannot later be responsible for prosecuting social vice. To purify does not mean to discriminate nor to despise, but if the National Assembly of the People’s Power continues with the same people who today applaud and raise their hands, I don’t think that change in Cuba is going to be very successful.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

My Suzuki

Photo: Claudio Fuentes Madan

Taken from The Saga of El Ciro versus State Security

I went to visit my grandmother in Santa Fe. The old woman is 193 and she thinks it’s time to benefit her family with the assets she no longer uses. And so she let me know that she was giving me the motorbike of her nephew who left the country illegally three years ago and is not allowed to return since he was charged with desertion from the ranks of the Ministry of the Interior.

You can’t imagine my surprise when I saw that it was nothing more nor less than a Suzuki (the classic vehicle of State Security). My God! What the fuck am I going to do with this? I could not sneer at my grandmother’s gift, it might give her a heart attack, so I thanked her.

- Thanks, Grandma, I’m going to call for a truck to come and get it.
- No, my grandson, if the bike’s good, you can ride it home.

Those words reverberated in my mind. Ride a Suzuki from Santa Fe to Vedado. And if someone sees me riding there? Nonsense!

- Ride, ride – my grandma said – and then tell me how it went.
- That’s good, Grandma.
- But why are you crying sweetheart?
- From excitement, Grandma, from excitement.

I got on that bike and rode the fucking thing all the way to 5th Avenue. All the familiar faces were dying every time I turned the throttle. A police officer stuck out his hand… shit… I stopped and thought he was about to ticket me but then BOOM!, he jumped on the back

- Take me over there, I’m going to be late – he said quietly.

What the fuck, I’m on a Suzuki with a cop on the back. At the traffic light at the roundabout I hit the red light. An almendrón shared-taxi stops next to me with passengers and I hear a voice:

- Hello? You’re not with Porno Para Ricardo are you? Three kids were crowded at the window looking stunned.
- No, no, no, that’s not me – I replied.
- I think it’s him – said another.
- No, I’m not fucking him!

The light turned green and I was out of there like a bullet.

- Ah, so you are part of Porno para Ricardo. I always knew there had to be someone there who was one of us.
- Yes, well… you know… we are always infiltrating everything.
- Look, let me off here, I’m close, and good luck with your work.

He got off and left. This can’t go on. I got off the Suzuki and flagged down a truck who took it home for me.

- How much do I owe? – I asked the truck driver.
- Ah, but you are going to pay me, officer?
- You motherfucker! Take it! – and he put the bill in his pocket.

I took the Suzuki in and immediately called the CI:

- Come, come, I have something urgent I have to talk to you guys about.

They came in 2 minutes and 25 seconds, it would seem they were 50 feet away.

- Well Ciro, we’re happy that you’ve finally decided to cooperate, we want to know w…
- It’s not that. What I need is to get rid of this – I interrupted, indicating the bike. It’s a problem when they see me riding this and if it’s all the same to you maybe I’d like to exchange it for something more modest, I don’t know… a Carpati… any piece of shit.

They looked.

- Listen, you! We’re not here to deal in motorbikes. You hear me?! – one of them shouted.
- Did you say a Carpati? – the other one asked. I have a Carpati.
- But Alejandro! What do you say… Rodney!
- Hey, he’s offering to exchange paste for pearls – replied Alejandro. What do you say Rodney.
- Look Ciro, keep this thing here, tomorrow I’ll bring the Carpati and you give me the Suzuki.
- Done. And now, get out of my house!

The door closes and the phone rings: Ringggggg!

- Hello.
- Hello, I’d like to speak with Ciro please.
- This is Ciro.
- Hey, they told me they saw you today on 5th Avenue…

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Photo: Claudio Fuentes Madan

The subject of Cuba makes people prickly and leads to heated arguments where you don’t even know what you said or what the other person replied. I had an historic one recently where one of my best friends ended up shouting “Communist!” What provoked him of course was the laughter of those present, and in my case a bit of sadness, about the absurdity of the current situation. In the end we came to agreement on most points and on any mystery we didn’t manage to understand.

So, people walk around here – and I include myself in this – wearing their emotions on their sleeves, with uncontrollable pain and zero rationality. A debate among friends is entertaining but when you look out the window you see that the level of confusion is sky-high.

The disinformation and abuse of polarized political subjects in the press and on television has led to miscommunication in personal relationships; parents who don’t talk with their children, “politics” as a taboo subject at the family table, the disguised discontent of daily life.

We have a government so paternal that in order to control our movements and our freedom of expression it has even reached inside our feelings, to prevent our dialogs, to use civil confusion as a weapon, with the sole objective of maintaining its power.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Blog action

I dream that:

- Pablo Pacheco calls me from his house in Ciego de Avila and tells me he is free, as are all the other prisoners of conscience.

- Yoani takes a world tour and goes to collect all the prizes waiting for her without, of course, having to ask permission in advance.

- Porno Para Ricardo plays El Comandante in the Plaza of the Revolution.

- I enter my blog from a broadband connection in my house.

- I can communicate with all my friends in Cuba through Twitter and Facebook.

And in addition I repeat my demands of the previous blog action:

- The President of the Council of State and the Ministers of the National assembly all resign en masse.

- Formation of a Rule of Law and preparation of Free Elections with the participation of all parties.

- Purging of the Secret Service, Public Officials and the government organizations relating to the Communist Party.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The call on Saturdays

Paneque is an independent journalist among the 75 arrested during the Black Spring round-up in 2003; he was sentenced to 24 years in prison and is now at Las Mangas Prison in Bayamo. Prisoners can only make one weekly 25 minute call, on Saturday. On occasion he uses his scant time to call me, both to say hello and to dictate his posts. We post his writings on Pablo Pacheco’s blog, who shares his space with his fellow companions of the cause, which has become the Voice of some of the prisoners of conscience.

This Saturday when Paneque called me he was a little sad because he didn’t have visitors; the prison is under quarantine because of an epidemic of conjunctivitis that he himself is suffering from. His call was mainly to try to dictate a message of congratulations to the president of the United States, Barack Obama, for his recent Nobel Peace Prize. Unfortunately he was almost unable to talk to me; a person whose only function is to listen in on his telephone calls intervened because he considered the conversation counterrevolutionary.

Here is a link to the recording, on the Spanish site of this blog, of the interrupted dialog.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Photo: Claudio Fuentes Madan

Today Octavo Cerco marks a year of existence and if I could use the laptop to blow out the candles on a cake I would. Not only have I met many people whom I will love for the rest of my days, but I’ve also faced, at times, the painful task of writing without having the slightest idea how to do it. Now it’s like a vice, a challenge and a sense of freedom that delivers me from all ties and classifications: I write but I am not a writer, I report but I am not a journalist, I slip through to the network but I am not a computer expert, I criticize the government but I have no party, and I say what I please but I know I am not free.

I look at the balance of these last 12 months, and even though Ciro says that blogs don’t have birthdays I think they do, my life has taken a 180 degree turn and I have to celebrate it. But freedom is enigmatic and my cowardice, I have to admit it, has not turned to the same degree. I continue to close the windows, speak softly so strangers can’t hear me, with the same paranoia as always. However there is something good, now when I am most afraid is when I most throw myself into it, and that is something.

For the birthday I’ve received a gift: two strangers in the street stopped to talk to me about my blog. I can’t express the combination of terror and joy I felt, though I can’t adapt to the idea that people see me in the street and know that I am literally “in the thick of it”; I know in time I’ll get used to it. For now, I live in the moment, my blog is part of my life and as I said one day to Ivan when he hadn’t yet started his blog Desde la Habana: you will feel like it’s your child, you will not abandon it.