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