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.