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Miami. Image taken from the internet 

Another absence breakdown in my old blog, once again abandoned for more demanding reasons: obligations I could not postpone, having to do with work, as happens to individuals whose income is dependent on their jobs, and a brief (very brief!) one-week trip to Miami, because I needed to finish several articles and a presentation at an event.

I could not relate how rushed my trip to the “endearing monster” was, though my Cuban friends in Miami assured me that I was not in the US, but “in Miami,” which feels the same but is not. And indeed, one feels so encircled by Cuban surroundings in Miami that –if not for such a difference in the setting–it would seem you haven’t left Havana.

I visited Radio and TV Marti, I was on various shows of their causes, I met some of the journalists, commentators and friends who were just voices on the phone up to then, and I reunited with colleagues, journalists and bloggers and other émigrés, like Luis Felipe and his wife, whom I was able to hug.

I was at Cubanet for a very short while, where I also felt welcomed by colleagues in the writing profession; I met again with my friend Hugo Landa, whom I had met in Stockholm in 2013. I spent a very enjoyable time with all of them.

I laughed and cried, when I was in Miami, overwhelmed by the emotions of long gatherings with cousins I grew up with, who left Cuba recently, and with very dear friends, one of whom I hadn’t seen in 20 years. I also had the privilege to visit my father’s favorite brother, his playmate as a child and a friend in their youth, who left Cuba for good 52 years ago and they never saw each other again.

It was at once moving and wonderful to see that over half a century of barbarism and separation imposed by the Cuban political power have not been able to erase the love between us. They wished to divide us and have only managed to multiply us beyond the Florida Straight. While it is true that it’s come at a high cost, the hatred has failed.

I haven’t been able to answer the question “how is Miami?” frequently asked by relatives and friends on my return to Cuba. Miami is indescribable, at least for me. It’s not my cradle and will never be my home, it is true, but in that city the energy and strength of the people of this Island vibrate, the people who have made Miami grow and contributed to its prosperity, with their tremendous capacity for work, so it will no longer be alien to me.

Miami surrounded me with sincere affection, I was not an intruder nor an outsider, and maybe that’s why I don’t know–nor can, nor want–to define it.

Just two words come to my lips when someone asks my impression of her: love and hope. That is what Miami means to me.

Translated by Norma Whiting

7 July 2014

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About the previous post, which -as expected- elicited many well and ill-intentioned comments, I noticed one in particular, a reader commenting about what used to be our digital magazine Consenso, which the commentator himself referred to as having opened a Cuban window on the world. I happen to agree with him and, as part of the management group and the editorial board of that magazine, I thank him for the memories and the praise.

But the truth is that his comment inspired me to search through those articles that were published at the time in Consenso, among which I found one from my friend and colleague Reinaldo Escobar relating to the subject of the debate: money. Because, though some were biased in reading my post and tried to twist the meaning of what I said, attributing it to my personally attacking those “who did not like14ymedio.com”, when read correctly, it shows that what I attack is the vice of envy, questioning other’s finances, exactly the same matter that Reinaldo Escobar discussed in Consenso in 2007. Contrary to my habit of not posting here articles I have not authored, I reproduce it today, with the previous authorization of the writer. You be the judge about its worth, and I hope you enjoy it.

Money Bristles

Reinaldo Escobar

It seems almost superfluous to explain that any political activity generates costs, from the essential existence of a professional staff, dedicated to party work on a full time basis, to the development and dissemination of documents, including trips involving transportation, food and lodging outside the cities where they reside; organizing seminars, meetings or press conferences, or simply connecting to the Internet. Can you think how it would be possible to carry out politics without these things?

There isn’t the slightest possibility for an entity in the nascent Cuban civil society to establish anything like a lucrative business to cover the costs of political work. There are no cafeterias, rental rooms, bicycle repair shops or birthday clown entertainers willing or able to meet those expenses. Not even one of the leaders of the internal opposition has his own resources, family assets from before the revolution, or has jewelry to sell or an inheritance to enjoy; most of them do not receive a salary, they are unemployed. However they engage in politics in a professional manner, they secure their own transportation and stays away from home, they undertake conferences, print documents, receive and send emails. Where does the money come from?

The Cuban government’s answer to this question is that the money comes from the US, be it Florida exiles, independent foundations, or the American government itself, which, if there ever was any doubt, has just approved an $80 million budget to this effect. It is known that some EU or Latin American countries also contribute, but it is clear that, according to the official interpretation of the facts, this last source of funds is, when all is said and done, from the US, by way of an extensive and tangled pathway.

Perhaps the most interesting question is not where the money comes from, but under what conditions it is received.

José Martí raised funds for Cuban independence from selfless Tampa cigars manufacturers, but also from wealthy American, Mexican and Cuban philanthropists. There used to be a picture at the Museum of the Revolution, long ago removed, where Fidel Castro was seen sitting at a table in front of a mountain (a small mountain) of dollars. The photo was taken in New York, while raising funds to buy the yacht Granma, plus weapons for the 82 revolutionaries. Were these donations subject to any conditions? Of course they were! The funds were donated, in the first case, to end the humiliating Spanish colony and in the second, on condition to overthrow Batista’s dictatorship. There is no evidence, not even hallway gossip, giving the impression that the money was used for the personal benefit of the apostle [as Cubans call Jose Marti], who always wore the same threadbare black suit, or on luxuries of the foremost leader, who, it is rumored, did not cross his legs in public so none could see the holes on the soles of his shoes.

The triumphant Cuban revolution received lots of aid from the Soviet Union and other socialist countries, and I am speaking just of what is euphemistically called “fair trade between poor and developed countries”. I’m talking about ships full of weapons and other war supplies, about college scholarships, technology transfer, collaboration of police intelligence, even of space travel, which would have never happened if Cuba had not complied with the condition of becoming the first socialist country in the Western Hemisphere. It is a historical fact that when Che Guevara traveled to China, a joint communique was issued on completion of his trip, as is the custom, in which the Chinese, bragging with sincerity, objected to the qualification of “disinterested” made by the Cubans about the support the Asian giant was giving the small island.

In those early years, parallel to the subsidy of the revolution, the financing of the counterrevolution began. It is well documented that at least between 1959 and 1965 almost all the opposition activities were directly funded by the CIA, the Pentagon, and the US State Department. The central characters themselves have stated so, and all of them justified this financing, so obviously stipulated by the fact that the government of Fidel Castro was supported by Communist powers.

Today, Cuban dissidents are imprisoned when it is shown, or when there is a conviction, that they have received money from the US. That was, in every case, the heaviest accusations resulting in disproportionate sentences to which the 75 of the Black Spring of 2003 were subjected. This went as far as to include in the same boat journalists receiving payment in exchange for articles in foreign newspapers. It led, among other consequences, to new divisions among the internal opposition: those not receiving money and receiving it through the U.S. Interests Section, and those who did not receive funds from the US, but from independent institutions in Europe and Latin America.

What almost no one asks is where the money comes from today to publish all those costly national and provincial newspapers, organs of the Communist Party, of the Union of Young Communists, or the Central Cuban Workers Union. How were the open forums financed all this time, the militant marches, the whole material base of the “Battle of Ideas”, the campaigns for the rescue of the five combatants of the Interior Ministry, jailed in the United States, the trips abroad, the foreign guests at political events, billboards on highways, t-shirts with slogans, or the little flags.

Would it be possible to pay all that with the monthly member contributions to these organizations, which isn’t even enough to pay the salaries of thousands of professional cadres scattered throughout the whole country, in every province, in every municipality, occupying premises that do not pay rent, where water and electricity are consumed, where there are phones and secretaries, gas-guzzling cars that include a chauffeur?

Political work involves disbursements, be it from the opposition or the government. If the party in power has at its disposal boxes of public funds to cover expenses and those in the opposition, besides not having even legal recognition, also don’t have, literally, a place to drop dead, what is the recommendation? To let the government do whatever it wants without offering the slightest resistance, or to limit the action only to within earshot, without even a megaphone to amplify it?

The only option the members of the opposition on the island have been cornered into, in order to be able to exercise their specific political tendency, is that of accepting financing from whomever offers it, unless they are OK with being a “family faction” without the least echo in society. This is part of the deliberate intention on the part of the government to disallow any alternative of political change in Cuba. This intention stretches from a long series of die-hard slogans (socialism or death, we are ready to shed the last drop of blood, the Island will sink in the sea first…) to the modification of the constitution to enact the immobility of the system. The harder it is to dissent, the better for the government. If the material and legal obstacles aren’t enough, if fear of going to jail is not enough, that’s where the ethical scruples (prejudices?) come in, preventing decent people from accepting funds that automatically turn them into mercenaries of the imperialism.

Ideally, the Cuban media should not be the party’s fiefdom, but a public space for all political persuasions; with the state budget partially allocated to fund the work of civil society and of political parties duly registered under the law. If the state, instead of distributing all these funds and resources in an impartial manner, funds that proceed from the working class, monopolizes them only for the favored party, it loses its moral right to ask where the opposition’s money comes from. Additionally, it should not deny anyone the possibility of becoming a disinterested donor or a calculating investor. The state should protect those citizens who have a political proposal, the right to defend it and have it compete publicly and on equal terms, without being forced to sell their souls to the devil.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Posted 9 June 2014 by Miriam Celaya

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As expected, the birth of the new site 14ymedio.com attracted immediate attacks from the servers of the Cuban regime. A few hours after the media’s first appearance, it was redirected by official cyber-hosts to a dedicated page (oh, the satrapy’s supreme homage!), not to the disqualification of counterrevolutionary journalistic medium as such, but to its “insignificant” manager, the multi-award-winning — and multi-abominated — Yoani Sánchez-Cordero, evil among the worst.

Interestingly, the essence of the invectives against Yoani the terrific is not the legitimacy of exercising the right to free opinion, of creating an information media to and from Cuba, or of the desire that the media become, in addition to a source of diffusion, an enterprise producing income to Yoani and her associates, paying for her collaborators, promoting independent journalism and creating sources of employment. “The chicken in a chicken and rice meal”, as the ever soporific Lázaro Barredo might say, who had been director of the libelous “Granma” for a brief period, but who has currently disappeared from the public scene. It is about questioning what capital this blogger has available to fund such an enterprise, whether or not she deserved the awards she has received, and about the nature of her fabulous emoluments, which, in the imaginary collective of her embittered detractors is close to half a million dollars.

However, what is truly amazing is that there are some petty characters in the internal dissent (and even more conspicuous, characters of “the external”), who have joined the same chant, thus indicating that the perverse nature of the olive green autocrats has soaked into the conscience of Cubans beyond suspected limits, also poisoning a sector of those who call themselves – and indeed are — enemies of the Cuban dictatorship.

This virulence has reached such magnitude that it instills pity. How mediocre can an individual be who even feels threatened in the presence of the mere presumption of the success of others? Why must the prosperity or the awards and recognitions received by others be a cause for concern, especially when those “others” not only were and are our fellows in the cause, but at times have opened space and have shared with us their fortunes and misfortunes? What dark Cuban trait deprives us at times of the greatness of rejoicing in the victory of others?

In recent days I have been a witness to, not surprisingly, attacks launched on the new newspaper 14ymedio.com from our own “trenches” as if we were their worst enemies. Fortunately, many more words of praise and encouragement have been sent from the most diverse points, than the sour bile generated by the ever resentful.

The most poisonous reviews, of course, come from the most mediocre subjects. Some of these consider themselves “journalists”, perhaps in response to some magical genetic inheritance, though not necessarily from qualifications or pedigree, or because they feel they have exclusive rights of “antiquity”. If the latter were true, then we would have to recognize the special rights of the political power of the regime that has been exerting them for over 55 years in Cuba.

Also not missing in this sui generis repudiation meeting are certain top dogs inflamed with messianic aspirations, those who always know how, when, and where things should be done, and who cannot conceive, much less tolerate, something that is as healthy as it is helpful for the development of freedom which is simply called competition.

There are those who claim that competition, in order to be healthy, must have fair opportunities, which remedies the disastrous (and false) vulgar egalitarianism imposed by the Castros, whose deplorable consequences we know so well. They are clueless, despite living on “information” that such a thing as “equality” does not exist in any part of the world, and that one has to go out and seek the “opportunities”, such as wealth, they have to be conquered, creating them by intellect and efforts, because they do not fall from heaven, like divine grace, on anyone’s shoulders. And when one reaches them, there is absolutely no obligation to share them. In fact, it is morally harmful to do so.

Believe it or not, there are individuals from the Cuban dissidence who — in tune with the government itself — consider others’ successes as an obstacle to their own fulfillment, and, in the licentiousness of their personal frustration, they take hold of what action they deem appropriate, including complaints and catharsis about the hardships of the “un-rewarded” or the “unfunded for professional performance” –what we often call a cry baby — with such resentment that it reminds us of the national motto: “I don’t want to be as well-off as the Joneses, I just want for the Joneses to be as fucked up as me.”

These kind of individuals don’t consider talent, hard work, drive, courage, will power or – let’s say it brazenly and give it its due –ambition. For them, from 14ymedio.com, there is “unfair competition”, just because Yoani Sánchez has received funding (oh, what a damn word!) and because she can count on a decent enough comfortable place to work, so she doesn’t need to use the conjugal bed as a sofa. I would consider this an advantage a bit more hygienic than a status symbol, but – of course — I understand that we don’t all think alike. What is true is that, for some of the more stubborn enemies of the Castros, comfort and money (other people’s) are as dirty as for the olive green elite itself.

However, many conveniently ignore that they have received (or are receiving) financial help — something that I sincerely admire and hope never runs out — way before 14ymedio, before someone was awarded, and certainly, before the independent Cuban blogosphere was born and developed, otherwise they could not have sustained their newspapers or magazines, a reason for having allowed payment for collaborations for some time now. And congratulations.

That’s something, for instance, that the magazine Consenso, and later Contodos (2004-2007), could never do just because they lacked financing, a reason why many of them did not collaborate with that project, since they have always worked for money, as is normal and reasonable, though there have always been romantics that do certain things for free. It is understood that nobody is obligated to do it. So what’s the problem? Why are they wearing themselves thin attacking other independent projects? Isn’t it better that we have the greatest possible number of publications in order to continue penetrating the wall of the regime’s information monopoly?

Another practice that the “pure ones” demonize is marketing. They call it “media hype” as if it were something obscene, and they talk about “inflated ego”, “lack of humility” (a special merit that they apparently believe abounds among them). Because, at the height of perfidy, Yoani Sánchez is not settling for creating a newspaper, period, but she aims to “create the best newspaper”, states a critic (or should I say a criticizer?). And the question arises, what harm is there in pursuing perfection? Why shouldn’t anyone wish to reach that goal at a healthy pace, particularly when they work so hard to that end?

Personally, as a citizen journalist, I am in the habit of believing that the better I do my job, the more my readers appreciate it, whether or not they are in agreement with my opinions. So, with every effort I undertake, I go beyond, getting close or not to a certain extent, the perfection I aim for, why settle for less? Why should this be a flaw?

It is curious that certain people often parasitize on the opinions of others and present them as their own (which in itself is unfair, and even fraudulent), people who lack education, training or qualification — academic or self-taught — people who “decorate” with lies or hype the information given to them, who make up non-existent people in interviews they publish and limit their relative success in the overwhelming mediocrity (even more) of those around them – which, de facto, melds them into mediocre individuals — might seek to establish themselves as champions of honesty and virtue as well

And, since excessive vanity inevitably leads to the ridiculous, the sorrowful orphans lie or misrepresent reality: 14ymedio.com has never claimed to be the first independent digital medium in Cuba, or declared itself “anti-Castro” (or “anti” anything, but rather, “pro” rights, although it seems that the same is not equal), which is why, from the opposite ends, Yoani is accused of falling into “ambiguities” because there is always some moron who, despite lacking his own projects, feels he has the right to issue guidelines about what the projects of others should and must be.

And, finally, to finish off so much Castro-socialist drivel, designed for those masterfully defined as “perfect Latin-American idiots” by three academics a lot wiser than I am, let’s leave, once and for all, the eternal posture of the mentally herniated poor little victims, who will have to be fed and subsidized forever. Neither Yoani Sánchez nor 14ymedio.com, nor absolutely anyone else, other than the same individuals, are responsible for their own lack of success or of “financiers” to overcome their woes.

The formula for prosperity, dear idiots of this island village, is not to wait for generous patrons to appear, but to have something to offer. You should not have to sit down and wait for some bored mogul to want to “do justice” and throw you a financial bone.

Perhaps the wailing crew of the day should use the energy they employ in lamentations to work more efficiently and creatively. Incidentally, it would not be a bad idea for them to get up to date with the present. Don’t feel put out, none of that! These are only a few suggestions. That said, be adventurous, take risks. I am referring, in particular, to financial and professional risks, so don’t come back again with the morsel that this one or that one was taken prisoner, or that they take their lives into their own hands “on the street”, because that is a risk that all of we Cubans take, from the daredevil who establishes a political party or who writes independently to the poor devil who steals three pounds of meat from a warehouse. This is another one of our best entrenched myths. In Cuba, jail does not depend on anybody’s merits, but on the whim of the satrapy.

And if someone chooses to be personally offended by this post, know that I can’t be bothered with such tackle, but I respect all your conscious choices. If I have not mentioned names, is not to evade confrontation, but because I will not give them a single hit or a smidgen of brain cells, to a debate that, in addition, would be useless. We know that some people are hopeless. Time is usually a wise judge. Also know that making enemies does not move me, but false expectations are not believable: I pick my enemies. I don’t know if the recipients of this post are at the height of the conflict or in the process of getting there. At any rate, I wish you much success.

Published June 2nd, 2014, by Miriam Celaya
Translated by Norma Whiting

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1398445396_etecsa

Photo from the Internet

According to a recent official statement by Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba (ETECSA) [Cuban Telephone Company], the technical difficulties in messaging service and other cell phone problems are due to errors in miscalculating demand.

It is the system’s universal principle to come up with an inverse explanation to every difficulty, which could be interpreted as follows: it is not really the inability of the only telephone company in Cuba, but that there are too many users. That is, we are more addicted to communication than officials imagined.

Since this past March 3rd, when the new cell phone e-mail access system (nauta.cu) went into effect, considerable delays were experienced in SMS access, as well as additional service outages. Now the Central Director of Mobile Services, Hilda María Arias, stated that for over a year they carried out research and completed investment processes required for this service, however, they “did not calculate the fast pace for its demand in this short period of time”, and, due to transmitting of data, “more network resources are being used”, which has slowed e-mail, SMS reception, and cell phone service

Of course, while this official explains that steps are being taken to counteract the difficulties, the solution must come from an increase in forecast investments.

ETECSA, as we know, is the name of the communications monopoly in Cuba, controlled by military business leaders, who have now committed to expand services through new base stations that expand possibilities for Internet access, transfer the balance between cell phones and extend the expiration date of cellular lines.

Indeed, if this promise is fulfilled, this would be good news for those of us who are addicted to information and communication. In any case, to justify the current service difficulties after one year of researching the project, and knowing the huge demand for cellular service among Cubans, despite its high cost, seems more than mere miscalculation.

Translated by Norma Whiting

25 April 2014

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Arrogance is a personality trait impossible to hide for those who suffer from it. In fact, it becomes more obvious when an arrogant individual tries to cover his proverbial petulance under a cloak of feigned humility. The worst of such a subject, however, is his histrionic ability that allows him to deceive considerable groups of people, particularly those who desperately need someone to speak “for them” or those who, quite the opposite, enjoy the blessing of authority.

In the case of Cuba, where freedom of speech, of the press, of information and of association are among the major shortages of this society, it is not difficult that, from time to time, some savior may appear self-proclaiming to be “the spokesperson for Cubans” which–it’s obvious–betrays immeasurable insolence, not only because it lacks the allocation of powers, but because it previously assumes an often repeated lie that, for some chumps, has become the truth: Cubans have no voice. Allow me, Mr. Arrogant and his troupe, to correct your mistake: Cuba’s Cubans do have a voice, what they lack is the means to be heard, not to mention the great number of deaf people in the world.

But, of course, a shining hero will always appear–usually with credentials and even with a pedigree–who, from his infinite wisdom, will quickly delve into the deeper intricacies of the Cuban reality and will be the only one capable to interpret it objectively because he, balanced and fair, “is not at the end of the spectrum”. Interestingly, these specimens proliferate virulently among accredited foreign journalists on the Island.

Since I don’t wish to be absolute, I suppose that there are those who are humble and even respectful of Cubans and of our reality, only I have never had the privilege of meeting them. It may be my bad luck, but, that said, to practice journalism in Cuba armed with credentials of a major media outlet and with the relative safety that your work will be published and–very important–duly financially rewarded, seems to have a hallucinogenic effect on some of them.

Such is the case of quasi-Cubanologist Fernando Ravsberg, to whom I will refer as “R” as an abbreviation, a journalist recently fallen from grace with his (ex) employer, the BBC, who has written a plaintive post following his clash with the powerful medium and, oh, surprise! after many years of working as a correspondent in Cuba and having collected his earnings has found that “he does not share their editorial judgment” as stated in his personal blog, Cartas Desde Cuba. R, inexplicably, took longer to find out the editorial standards of the BBC than to get acquainted with the intimacies of such a controversial society as that of Cuba. (more…)

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Mass demonstrations in Venezuela. Image taken from Internet

The news agencies don’t have a moment’s rest these days: a satrap in Ukraine has been overthrown through demonstrations and street protests amid the harsh winter, people stand on long lines to see with their own eyes the pomp and pageantry in which the ex-ruler, an ally of Russia, lived.

In Venezuela, student demonstrations continue, supported by opposition leaders finally came together to confront the Maduro government. In Ecuador, the opposition has just delivered a commendable blow to the government authorities by winning an unquestionable majority vote during local elections this Sunday February 23rd in important places like Quito and Guayaquil, putting the brakes on the rampant President of the “citizens’ revolution.”

The world is moving at breakneck speed, changing scenarios and uncovering new players, while we in Cuba remain in the political Jurassic era, with a government of dinosaurs perpetuated in power.

Judging by the official Cuban press, external reality does not seem to exist, so the “events” may be a gray “syndicate” congress in a country where no syndicates exist, a few “reforms” that do not reform anything, or whatever is dictated by a government that misgoverns a colony of ants that spends its days striving for sustenance, untouched by the joy of the liberated, ignorant of the will and courage of the opponents of Nicolas Maduro, the civility of Ecuadorians who opted for the polls to control the excessive power ambitions of a thug vested as president, and of everything that happens in the world beyond the reefs of a damned Island.

Venezuela hits us especially close, because of its shameless sponsorship by the Cuban dictatorship, obsolete and ruined, extending its evil shadow over a nation rich in natural and human resources. Fortunately for them and for us, Venezuela is not a country of zombies. Nevertheless, it causes sadness and apprehension all at once to see evidence that other peoples are capable of what we are not.

Pity our country, Cuba, whose children choose silence and flight instead of exercising their rights against the olive green satrapy that condemns them to slavery and poverty.

Translated by Norma Whiting
24 February 2014

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Tula

The recent declaration of the birthplace of Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda (Camaguey, 1814-1873) as a National Monument on the 500th anniversary of the city’s founding, originally named Villa de Santa María del Puerto del Príncipe, (today, Camagüey) awakens in me the evocation of a special woman who has always resonated in my spirit.

Tula is that great poet who once chose the pseudonym La Peregrina to publish her poems, never imagining that over 150 years later, this obscure writer would borrow her familiar name to use as the distinctive signature of my own work. Because Tula Avellaneda was my first pseudonym as citizen journalist, a personal way to hide my identity behind the name of a Cuban for whom I have great affection, admiration and respect, as if she were a close friend. The strength of her dynamism was a kind of symbolic shield in the process of exorcism against the demons of fear. Tula is, in short, the only woman for whom I secretly keep a friendly complicity not devoid of a trace of envy.

Because, you know what? I’ve always preferred the Tulas over the Marianas. The nineteenth century was rich in extraordinary Cuban women. Most of them, however, went down in history for their relationship with the wars of independence, and in particular for their link — either maternal or marital- – to men who were the protagonists of these military contests. A few were warriors themselves, so they transcended as patriots for a nation that, unfortunately, has always rendered greater worship to violence than to poetry, love, and literature.

To date, the women warriors are “Marianas” (after the Grajales saga, enjoining her youngest son to grow up to go to war for an ever bloodthirsty Motherland), but, by the same token, they were relegated to the perfect stereotype of the patriotic stoicism that offers the glory of the memory at the same time that it strips away humanity, to such an extent that I can’t recall any portrait of Mariana Grajales where she is smiling, or at least with a kind and loving facial expression. In fact, her effigy was built more on hate for the enemy than on love of any kind.

A similar fate befell on the portraits of other famous and respectable matrons of the nineteenth-century’s patriotic altar: hieratic expressions, frowns, pursed lips. Such rigid perfection that it becomes alien and distant. Accordingly, they have been stored in our memories, but not in our hearts.

Tula, on the other hand, transcended through her human essence which ran over in her literary work and in her disobedient character which defied the conventions of her time. An intense, passionate and creative life was her personal crusade, breaking gender taboos. A single mom, passionate lover, free spirit and controversial, her tempestuous character shows through even after the majestic serenity of her portraits. She never felt sufficiently loved by those she loved — although she outperformed all — never understood by her contemporaries, she was respected and feared at the same time, and often condemned by the moral values of her time, but she prevailed over adversity and was a successful woman in a world where success was an eminently masculine scepter.

Her talent as a poet, novelist and playwright was the liberating gift of femininity sentenced to containment and censorship for women of her time. That was her way of transcending and rebelling, so her legacy goes beyond the narrow confines of her Nation and of a time, and she is remembered with pleasure and nearness. Tula was (is) beautifully imperfect, therefore credible.

Now, two hundred years after her birth, few Cubans know of her life and her work, but her house in Camagüey has been officially declared a National Monument. I don’t know whether, had she ever imagined it, Tula might feel satisfaction over such a late tribute as part of her city’s half-millennium celebration. Knowing her personal genius, I suspect that when she died she knew that she had constructed her own monument with the flair of her pen and the fiber of her peculiar nature.

Either way, I appreciate the opportunity that has led me to write this poor tribute to La Peregrina, my old and eternal spiritual friend, who scored, with her strength of character and the grace of her verse, the young soul of this fan who’s already traveling through the twenty-first century and, with much less talent but with equal passion, disobeys other taboos in the Cuba of today.

Translated by Norma Whiting

7 February 2014

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