Archive for May, 2008

Doves behind bars

One regular reader recommends ignoring the distracting little demons in the comments section, who come from the UCI and other official websites where the brown-shirts of this regime are trained to boycott the debate that has been started up by the bloggers from Cuba.  In my opinion, that would be the wisest stance: continue as if such madmen didn’t exist, because it wastes our time when we respond to their provocations, and they distort the true meaning of what’s being discussed.  For example, I haven’t said anything in this space that glorifies Posada Carriles or praises the prison that the Guantánamo Naval base has become.  Neither the author nor the commenters who have had the generous good will to take part in the debate have expressed hatred towards Muslims.  Those who have posted here have simply written, above all else, about that which affects Cuba and Cubans, that which we live and suffer with daily, that which we want to improve, that which we hope for; and so it’s not worth the trouble to attend to insults that never amount to anything more than a pathetic demonstration of impotence: the Internet is a sort of infernal invention, that escapes official controls.

Someone wisely pointed out that that the writings of two of the most rabid brown-shirts on this site constitute proof of the educational crisis en Cuba: insults. dirty words, offenses to women, ignorance of history, attachment to the servile indoctrination.  Can’t they recall the lines of the poem ‘Yoke and Star’ from the Apostle*, that reads  …But the man who imitates the ox without shame/ will turn into an ox, and as a subdued brute/ begin the universal ascension once more/?  I can’t help feeling at least a little thankful for how much they read me, but I am also comforted by the knowledge that they are a small portion of the youth of Cuba.  I’ve really enjoyed it when, in open, public spaces, in concerts by anti-establishment musicians—those furthest from the temporary limits on the generation to which they belong—hundreds of youths, carried by an irrepressible enthusiasm and by an enormous anxiety for their future, have sung together “Freedom!, freedom!, freedom!”  And it’s known that one doesn’t ask for what one has.  The sensation of this desire shared and multiplied in every voice and in every young face is one of the most beautiful experiences possible in a country gripped by one of the longest dictatorships in history.

It’s clear that each person’s desires are in direct correspondence with their spirit.  Here we have a couple of little pigeons (doves behind bars today, tomorrow who knows) irresponsibly preparing to fan the flames of hatred, while hundreds and thousands of others invoke the magic word: Freedom.  So let us be free, at least in our virtual space, and also generous: let the little monsters make their mischief, we’ll act like we don’t see them.  In the end, we voluntarily participate in this dialogue while they are obligated to do it…  Otherwise they wouldn’t win the right to go to Campismo Popular* next vacation.

Translator’s notes:
“The Apostle” (of the Cuban Republic) refers to the poet José Martí.
Campismo Popular is a state-sponsored resort system in Cuba.

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My Problem Isn't With China

I have read the comments posted to my blog entry “China Apologist” with much interest, and I’m pleased by the level of information shared by some readers.  One always learns something from those more informed.  Nevertheless, I feel impelled to participate in the debate, since—as usually happens—the theme of the post is no more than the beginning of a drifting that gradually takes us to an unexpected labyrinth, and sometimes (almost always) leads to a situation where some participants end up attributing to the blogger suggestions which were never included in the original text. And I say this in response to the comment from one dear reader who, begging to differ with me on the issue that here in Cuba they make us “take in China by the bucketful,” responds by pointing out that outside of Cuba there are bucketsful of “anti-China” sentiment.  These attacks have missed the point in one sense or another.   That doesn’t seem bad to me, opinions are important and discussion is healthy; but does my dear reader believe that, because there’s an intense campaign against China outside of Cuba, inside Cuba we have to kindly devote hours of our squalid prime-time programming to Chinese culture, the beauty of its society, and the achievements of its economy?  At least the rest of the world has the option to change the channel a couple times, with many more possibilities of encountering some program that meets or comes close to meeting their expectations.  That’s not the case here.  In what lies, then, the discrepancy?  Could it be the fact that in Cuba the national economy is being mortgaged to China and, still, nobody knows how and when the debt is going to be paid—does this, which is the source of my worry and that of many other Cubans, have a relation to those bucketsful of anti-China sentiment?  I don’t think so.  We should not skim past our arguments so quickly.

On the other hand, if the Dalai Lama were “bad,” it wouldn’t make the Chinese invasion of Tibet “good.”  What an oversimplification!  That’s something like maintaining that, since Batista was bad, Castro is good; a pseudo-argument (sophistry, rather) that is still used in Cuba by the government—although with limited success, considering that the Batista dictatorship lasted scarcely a few years and the Castro regime has thus far frozen a half-century, just to compare them in the simple, but devastating, temporal aspect of the matter.

With regards to the march of countless Chinese in Berlin that is mentioned in the commentaries, that doesn’t seem so impressive to me either: there are Chinese people, and lots of them; and—besides—there have been uncountable marches organized in support of disgraceful ideologies and regimes or causes of dubious justice (recall the lavish marches of Hitler’s SS, the marches in support of Ceaucescu in Romania, of Stalin in the USSR, of Pinochet in Chile, of Franco in Spain, of Chávez in Venezuela, the Marches of the Combatants in Cuba, and many other marches), which casts doubt on the integrity of the marchers’ motives, and even the sincerity of their commitment.  Cubans living both on and off the Island know very well that marches are not a reliable indicator.  For decades we have trained ourselves in marching here in Cuba to the point that later, in many cases, we end up marching right out of the country.

It’s enough to approach a debate among Cubans to realize, close-up and in stark relief, a fatal tendency towards polarization: if you don’t like the Chinese it’s because you like the Americans; if the Chinese are a terrible influence, then the Americans are too (or even worse); or, the Chinese are bad, the Americans are good….  Etc. etc., on and on until infinity.  But, as it happens, I do not propose anything in particular in favor or against “Chinese things” or the Chinese people, and the same is true regarding the American people and “American things”.  I only said, and maintain, that in the mass media on the Island, a strong pro-China campaign is being orchestrated and that doesn’t seem good to me, which doesn’t imply that an anti-China campaign should be organized.  The historical antecedents of this type of propaganda in the last 50 years indicate to us the real possibility of certain commitments to China in the highest spheres of government, and remember, also, that historically the Cuban people end up being the eternal payer of promises, the debtor of commitments that we didn’t contract and about which we were never consulted.   Russia (ex USSR) is the quintessential example that shows us to what dangerous extremes our political commitments have brought us—don’t forget the delicate missile crisis, which brought us to the brink of a nuclear war when almost nobody in Cuba knew how lethal it might turn out to combine Russian warheads in our territory with the arrogance and vanity of Castro.  But then there was the commitment to Angola, with its pointless loss of more than two thousand Cubans, not counting its effect on the economy and on the psychosocial panorama of the country, and our commitments to the guerrillas in more than one country in Latin America or Africa.  More recently, the commitment to Venezuela arose, leading to the immediate and massive diversion of Cuban health and education professionals (with the consequent reduction in the quality of those two important social services), with the resulting reintroduction of epidemics of dengue fever in the country, a sickness that had been eradicated from our territory long ago; a commitment, finally, that reached the point of a suggestion on the part of a senior leader of the revolution, such as Carlos Lage, that Cuba had not one, but two presidents: Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez.  And still, someone believes that we shouldn’t be worried about the buckets of China that they’re pushing on us?  Of what concern to me are the Beijing Olympics, the “injustices” of the BBC, and the economic setback of the U.S. in Iraq against the risk of mortgaging my country for the remainder of this century?  I’ve had almost half a century of mortgaged life, I don’t want any more.

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I don’t care

For several days, the official Cuban newspapers have been coming out without the recurring (and sometimes even risible) “reflections” of Compañero F*.  It’s known that, owing to a lack of real information or medical news, these reflections have been the most useful indicator of the state of health (pardon the ridiculous idea) of the most celebrated Cuban dictator.  Judging by what is “reflected” by F and the form of its expression, most Cubans on the Island—or at least most of those with the patience to read it—inferred to what extent el compañerito* was “working”, what measure of lucidity remained to him, or if he had some connection, however remote, with Cuban reality.  There were plenty who speculated whether this or that fragment hadn’t been written by F, or whether there was an able imitator who was writing the reflections, because F wasn’t even in a condition to dictate them.  And so, paradoxically, the reflections section in the Granma newspaper had become a sort of pastime for a wide sector of the population.  A game of divination and mystical ciphers that managed to become more entertaining than the crossword puzzle in that emaciated centenarian of a weekly magazine, Bohemia.

And now the reflections aren’t coming out and the people are making a thousand conjectures: that F is dying, that he has two months to live, that he is “connected” to life-support and that they will disconnect him on the 26th of July, and thousands more comments in the same morbid style.  The flights of the imagination are only comparable to the comedy series Futurama, where only the heads of the people, carefully preserved under glass hoods, are speaking and sharing their opinions.  As always occurs in these cases of total absence of any signs, the curious ones come to us, the disobedient ones, in order to find out if we know something about F because it is supposed that “we are more informed”. But no.  We don’t know anything about the subject either.  Including some of us–like me–who don’t have even the slightest interest in knowing anything about him.  I honestly don’t care.  In my psyche F is now in the past; even to the point where I have erased from my machine whatever information or photographs refer to that person.  I’m not even going to put his photo on this post.  I recently threw out the issues of the newspaper Granma in which it published his proclamation of July 31, 2006, his recent “resignation”, and other journalistic trinkets that I’ve been collecting and putting away like curiosities.  I’d rather not amass evidence of the death-rattles of a disgraceful dictatorship.  I have suffered enough of it all my life.  He and all that he has done to my life is past, and I am living completely in the present, with my face to the future.  So, I hope that no one asks me any more questions about Mr. F:  no one lives behind that door in my memory any longer.

May 10, 2008

Translator’s note:
The nicknames “Compañero F” and “el compañerito” refer to Fidel Castro.

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by Eva Gonzalez, Havana

Last May 7th, at the same time that the Ortega y Gasset awards were being presented in Spain, we were also having a party here in Havana.  The fact that Yoani Sánchez–justly honored for her blog, but unjustly and arbitrarily prohibited from leaving Cuba by the authorities–couldn’t be present to receive her award at the big ceremony in Madrid didn’t prevent her friends from getting together with her to celebrate in a joyful “informal ceremony” that was, moreover, a meeting of individuals united in their determination to open up civic spaces in Cuban society.

There Yoani read the words that she would have pronounced at the official ceremony, a very brief statement, intelligent and sincere like Yoani herself. And we congratulated ourselves for this recognition of her efforts, in spite of the absurd prohibition.  There were also jokes, laughs, empathy, and many plans made between those who are working on desdecuba.com, and our Pinareño friends from the magazine Convivencia, which is headed by Dagoberto Valdés.   Other friends were with us at this beautiful Havana afternoon.  It was a luminous afternoon and joyful for all, because we knew that the light is carried within, and is immune to whatever switches the government might wish to flick to put us out.

May 8, 2008

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