“Intellectuals in Defense of Humanity” Annoy Families of Cubans Working in Venezuela

23 Feb

As the world shouts itself hoarse over what’s happening in Venezuela, the Cuban Network of Intellectuals, Artists and Social Movements in Defense of Humanity assures us that this is nothing more than a ruse of the “fascist right” and they’ve launched a tirade in very bad taste from the site “Segunda cita” (Second Quote), belonging to singer-songwriter Silvio Rodríguez (the worst taste yet).

Making it all worse is that this Network (hopefully not of the Wasps*) totally ignores mothers, daughters, sisters, loved ones, gossipy neighbors and relatives of another ilk who are in suspense for their loved ones in Venezuela. The brave and harmless Cuban workers (for example doctors or the sports instructors of the “Blas Roca” contingent) are trapped in the midst of violence and despair because they’ve been momentarily caught in their flip-flops between Caracaibo and Corralillo, or in the flow of laptop parts between the state of Lara and the town of Majibacoa, in Las Tunas. Their families in Cuban are screaming blue murder and now these intellectuals have come to “fuck it all up,” as a young Guantanameran has written to her boyfriend working as a nurse in Caracas.

“Finally, we call on international solidarity to squelch any attempt to impose violence in a country which is advancing firmly toward a society of justice, equality and peace,” concludes this letter from the “professionals of simulation**”, among whom are poets fighting for their literary event, historians praying to God not to take away their European fellowships, and musicians who aspire to give a concert in the hills of Caracas to put a sound track to the fists of the National Guard and the truncheons wielded by the brave boys of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN).

Translator’s notes:

*A reference to the Wasp Network of Cuban spies stationed in the United States.

** A sarcastic reference to those who “simulate”… or pretend to believe… so as not to lose their perks.

Spanish post
22 February 2014

Cooperation with the Cuban Artist / Luis Felipe Rojas

10 Feb

Jose Kozer, (taken at the site of “Una Belleza Nueva”)

“Two Cuban filmmakers seeking financial support to complete a documentary on the Cuban poet, José Kozer” stated an article published by the site Café Fuerte (Strong Coffee).

The documentary titled Me, Japanese “Seeks to reflect the personality and work of Kozer, one of the most prolific American authors and simultaneously to explore his identity and his status as an exile,” stated the editor of the site in Miami.

“Kozer, 73 and of Hebrew origin, went into exile in 1960. For three decades he worked as a Professor of Hispanic literature at Queen College of New York and is now retired, living in Hallandale, Florida. He has published more than 50 books of poetry and has written more than nine thousand poems. Last year, he received the Ibero-American Poetry Pablo Neruda Award, awarded by the National Council for Culture and the Arts (CNCA) of Chile.” We, the lovers of poetry and words which put together the world, will collaborate in the project (so say I).

Two youngsters, Magdiel Aspillaga and Malena Barrios already have several hours of interviews with Kozer and several of his associates. They intend to raise $ 5,000 to address the process of post-production, including editing, sound, final mix, music and color correction. It’s hoped that the documentary will be 45 minutes to one hour in both English and Spanish.

“Aspillaga, 34, has live in the United States since 2008 and has made two films of fiction, Vedado and Neuralgia. Barrios, 30, has worked as a screenwriter and Assistant Director. Writer Joaquín Badajoz is also one of the producers of the tape,” concludes Cafe Fuerte while detailing the fundraising projects.

Translated by: Carolina Rojas

28 January 2014

A Literature Against the Gallows / Luis Felipe Rojas

5 Jan

Newspaper accounts written by different independent groups of the private sector in Cuba do not supply the images that emerge from the histories, essays and poems produced by the experience of being imprisoned under the Castro dictatorship in the 54 years that it has been in power. From José Martí to Carlos Montenegro; from Pablo de la Torriente Brau to Ernesto Díaz and Huber Matos, there exists a testimonial chain that’s hard to break.

Rafael Saumell provides continuity to Cuba’s imprisonment history and narrates the process in an essay which maps out what it means to be behind bars, inside the moats and the horrors of imprisonment in the island, seen through the eyes of extraordinary authors who wrote about their own personal experiences. From Manzano, Martí, De la Torriente, Montenegro, Díaz…to the present day.

How much of your own experience is there in “La cárcel letrada” (Betania, 2013), how much of your own frayed skin can we find in the book and what did you get out of writing it?

There are several references in the book’s introduction as to how much of me there is in La cárcel letrada.  If you read through those first few pages you will find that the main idea was to intellectualize my experience as a political prisoner within the context of national culture: who preceded me, how they expressed their experiences, what they said and what they denounced. I chose authors and writings that I felt were meaningful, considering that they were representative of different historical eras, several political regimes and varied literary styles. I did not exclude the common prisoner because I was a witness to it in the prisons of Guanajay and in Combinado del Este. I did not live together with them, but I met a lot of inmates who were part of that sector of the prison system. In that aspect, I followed the examples offered by Carlos Montenegro and Pablo de la Torriente Brau. At the same time, I researched, read and analyzed their writings and learned many concepts related to certain literary theories and philosophical principles. I adapted them to the study of each work and author while maintaining a dialogue with my ancestors in slavery and imprisonment.  In this fashion, I tried to carry out a catharsis using the academic essay as a tool and linked the continuity of our political tragedy from the colonial era, the time of the Cuban Republic and the period after 1959.

In addition to being locked up, driven into exile and death, the Castro dictatorship has produced a sub-genre which has been denominated ‘prison literature’. Do you think it will transcend as a style and why?

Prison literature (poetry, story, novel, theater, film, documentary if we refer to Conducta Impropia and Nadie escuchaba, for example), exists although it does not reach the majority of its natural audience (the Cubans who reside in the island) for reasons we all know.  Those of us who write about these matters know we are writing for the future, that is, any fate that our work will meet will be tied to the intensity and the quality of the political changes that may come.  In the meanwhile, in the areas of publishing and academia, lectures and conference circles we are part of the “immense minority” as Juan Ramón Jimenez would say.  For that reason, the work we do will continue to amass and gather dust in the bookshelves until its time comes.  I see it as a sort of unearthing, an illumination of shadows, a hullabaloo and the airing of clean and dirty laundry coming out of the closet, every voice free and liberated. The declassification and the opening of police files, the judicial archives and prison files will be necessary and inevitable.  Moreover, for those events to take place, we first have to uncork the bottle, there has to be a real opening …otherwise the pot and pan will be half covered, only lukewarm. A half truth is a total lie.

What inspires you to keep writing?

What inspires me are: the literary vocation I discovered in my youth; the personal, mental and physiological need that forces me to read a private journal, or sit at a computer in order to thread the ideas that emanate from me; the opinions that I want to share with others; the emotional zeal that I have for literature in general and from which I continue and will continue to learn. I write because I have no other choice but to obey my nature and do what it dictates to me.  Besides, it does not compel me to commit crimes, unless someone ironically says about my work: “he committed a triple crime by writing an essay, a story and a novel.”  Since May 9, 1988 when I left (and I did not abandon) my country, I have all the freedom in the world to write, without fear of censure or fear from a reader who could report and denounce my “counter-revolutionary” writings to the police.  I do not depend on any business or institutional subsidy. I am financially independent and therefore I have earned my intellectual freedom to write what I want and as I see fit.  I am solely responsible for the failures or recognitions of my profession.

What is your connection with Cuba, with Cubans, with the current Cuban literature?

I still have very good contact with Cubans and Cuban literature writers in the four corners of the planet.  I read Tyrians and Trojans alike; I don’t discriminate against authors because they have political beliefs different from mine.  If I took to read only those who agree with my point of view, I would probably only read what I myself wrote and that, of course, is narcissism, egocentricity; it is anti-democratic and unjust, naturally.  I read other Cuban authors because it is my vocation, my duty and because real charity begins at home.  Furthermore, as far as arts and literature, we are at a much higher level and quality of life, we are so much more advanced than the country governed by the “revolutionary government.”

Any advance on what you are cooking up for the future?

As far as any advances, here is what I am planning: a play, a collection of exchange letters and memoires of the entertainment world when I worked as scriptwriter for radio and T.V. programs.  Unless my health fails, I will be very busy with those projects, in addition to the education of my children and grandchildren, the unending nurturing of my relationship with my wife, with my family, with my friends.  Of minor importance is the fact that the economic base for those plans is rooted in my job as Spanish Professor in a Texan university: “I have earned my keep/let there be poetry.”

25 November 2013

Poetry That Does Not Reject Words / Luis Felipe Rojas

4 Jan

I’m fed up with poetry that doesn’t speak, that doesn’t shake you up, that doesn’t give you that punch in the face that we expect from every book. In the end this is the literature of a kind of sado-masochism to which we’ve been accustomed. However, Joaquín Gálvez showed up on December 6 at the regular group at Cafe Demetrio in Coral Gables, with a handful of poems which are a benediction.

I’m talking about the verses woven on Gálvez’s personal blog in his Hábitad (Neo Club Press, 2013) right now. This book is written as though fleeing from the finish line and the applause and it seems to me to be one of the primary resources. “Thief and police: they imprison you, punish you, kill you… / and in the end/ you show them that playing is the only triumph.” The passages flowing with the poetic impulses in Gálvez’s work, cleanse and light the way for those we left behind: perhaps readers.

I imagine that Hábitad undertakes the difficult course of the empty shelves, the book facing the child with his nose pressed to the glass, but it is fortunate that the time is now. Poetry is a very strong antidote for sentimental and lost souls, those who imagine that cannot live without poetry.

Joaquín Gálvez has thrown himself into the vacuum with this new book, has screamed obscenities in the midst of the concert and that is laudable. To write: “I had enemies because of the light with which I could do good,” is an act of magic in poetry itself. This tightrope of words plays with everything to weave the meaning of his life, of our lives, and is bringing light to everyone, facing the gate where we go to throw stones like on condemned to death. For this he has written his Hábitad.

4 December 2013

Detentions and Beatings for Dissidents in Guantanamo

2 Jan

Last December 24, as a reverse Christmas gift, officials of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) arrested human rights activists Yordis Garcia Fournier (Youth Movement for Democracy) and Yobel Sevila Martinez (Eastern Democratic Alliance – ADO) in the city of Guantanamo.

They told reporters from Palenque Vision that they there were brutally beaten and harassed in the presence of a high official of the so-called State Security.  I personally know Yordis as well as Yobel, I know of their humility and bravery, of the commitment they have to Cuban freedom.  In the case of Garcia Fournier, he finished a one-year and some months sentence for a supposed “insult” to authorities in 2008.  Sevila Martinez, like several members of the ADO, has an enormous string of arrests and beatings, ordered precisely by those who say “take care of the public order.”

Translated by mlk.

Note: this video is in Spanish:

27 December 2013

Premiering on Tmblr / Luis Felipe Rojas

26 Dec

Print Screen/Tmblr

Here I am with my friend and brother Joan Antoni Guerrero Vall, a blogger in Barcelona for the cause of freedom in Cuba. A thousand hugs, a thousand “miamis’ once again.

14 December 2013

Cuba Without Rights on Human Rights Day / Luis Felipe Rojas

11 Dec

The Cuban government has cracked down hard on dissidents who dared to go out on December 10th, the day when the world celebrated Human Rights Day, according to sources from the island who have posted on the social networks.

In Baracoa, Jorge Feria Jardinez and Roneidis Leyva Salas, activists with the Eastern Democratic Alliance (ADO) and the John Paul the 2nd Movement, were arrested while distributing leaflets about this issue, said Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina, ADO Coordinator, in his Twitter account (@ Lobainacuba).

On the same social network, Lobaina reported arrests, beatings, and acts of repudiation in locations around Buenaventura, with the detention of Nelson Avila Almaguer, Ramón Aguilera, Jorge Carmenate, and Nirma Peña, all four with ADO. He added that activists were stationed in front of the town’s police station demanding the release of their brothers in the cause. In the same province, but in the village of Velazco in the municipality of Gibara, paramilitary mobs in coordination with State Security and the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) attacked the house of activist Damaris García, fired tear gas, and beat and arrested peaceful activists.

Among those arrested with Damaris were Marta Alina Rodríguez Pérez, Walfrido Pérez García and Gelasio Pupo Verdecia, all from the same opposition alliance.

In the capital arrests occurred when activists, artists, and other members of the independent civil society tried to reach the headquarters of the Estado de Sats Project, led by Antonio Rodiles. According to the twitter account of Ailer María (@ ailermaria), his wife and arts coordinator of the project, they had learned of more than a dozen arrests that occurred starting on December 9th when participants in the 1st International Conference on Human Rights tried to approach the site. The venue was harassed by an act of repudiation, a military siege, and a “revolutionary act” by the well-known orchestra “Arnaldo y su talisman,” according to reports arriving from Havana. Other groups suffered persecution, harassment, and abuse at their homes.

Bertah Soler, leader of the Ladies in White and 2005 Sakharov Prize winner, was arrested along with her husband, Angel Moya Acosta, when she had summoned her members and the entire civil society to march and gather on the corner of 23rd and L, across from the Coppelia ice cream parlor. Those who made it were violently arrested and transported to remote places; Soler was taken to the village of Tarara.

On the morning of December 10th, President Raul Castro attended the funeral of South African president Nelson Mandela. He was greeted with an unanticipated “handshake” by U.S. President Barack Obama, who said in his speech: “There are leaders who support Mandela and do not tolerate dissent,” a clear allusion to the Cuban dictator and to the President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, also present at the gathering.

Translated by Tomás A.

11 December 2013

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