Archive | December, 2012

The Magic of the Words (Of Another)

20 Dec
Foto: Malcom

Photo: Malcom (LFR’s son)

I owe this interview to Armando Añel, who conceived it as a photograph, like a portrait drawn from the words that I say. It’s like returning to the times of the African Griots [West African historians, storytellers, singers, poets and/or musicians], when only the actions and words of those who spoke from the heart flowed from them.

Definitions 2012: Luis Felipe Rojas

NEO CLUB PRESS:  The definition is, in itself, a portrait of the person doing the defining. In its primordial essence, it reveals the personality of the one who issues it with an almost photographic fidelity. So in this new series of interviews that we propose to our readers, we will try to define our interviewees — all of them creators or animators of culture living in Miami, the city that grows, diversifies, with ever more bifurcations culturally speaking — through their definitions.

On this occasion Luis Felipe Rojas, writer, blogger and dissident Cuban newcomer to Miami, kindly responds.

NCP. Define for me please, what Miami is for you.

LFR. Is the yard where my kids play freely. It’s where I read poetry in public and walk without looking over my shoulder for the shadows that haunted me just two months ago. Miami is the Universal Bookstore where I no longer have to look at a copy of the paper from a distance, without touching it, touching the books and magazines. Miami is a sidewalk cafe, standing, and seeing Cuba walk by going to work every day. I may sound a bit nostalgic or rose-colored, but my life, as you may have noticed, is closely linked to these sensations.

NCP. Life

LFR. What, that predestined for me? Where the gods guided me or where I was putting it together piece by piece, blow by blow, behind every kiss, every handshake? I couldn’t sum up life in a long career but rather in segments broken up by hate and love, by bravery and fear of getting up everyday and doing something for me and mine. I am a peasant anchored in two or three hobbies that make up my routine: looking, listening and hoping; I think hoping has been one of my most effective resources, because I believe there is a third will that we always have something prepared.

NCP. Transcendence

LFR. Pfffff! I do not believe in that concept, I believe in the alignments of the times, in which everything is subject to a blow at the precipice. From an unknown place ’someone’ pushed a book of Borges and we discover ourselves. ’Something’ made a being like Tarantino slink between that happening you spoke of earlier. In this universal chaos, these stones of history will always surprise you. Anyone who works thinking about transcendence is fried … literally.

NCP. Mediocrity

LFR. A diabolical tool to get into the lives of others. To make things bad for their own sake.

NCP. That which never says no.

LFR. A friendship, whatever its source. Many will claim this is to be gullible, I assume that weight. Love, substantial or childish, I like to love and that has taken me more than once to the pillory, but I don’t have any remedy but to accept that I am bound to love and to my friends.

NCP. A scandal

LFR. When I wrote my first newspaper articles under my own name. When I got arrested by the police the first time in my house. When I said No publicly and others were saying Yes hanging their heads. When my daughter Brenda was born and everyone said contradictorily that she was cute… And she looked it to me, ha ha ha!

NCP. A trap

LFR. To believe I could change the world putting together a literary magazine in the early years of my youth. Surrendering myself completely to a woman who crumpled up my work and threw it in the sea and crossed the ocean.

NCP. A dog

LFR. Sulti, the first. Marshmallow, who accompanied my sleepless nights waiting for the worst to come and he was still there, faithful.

NCP. A cultural jinetero [hustler].

LFR. A mediocre person who can’t be creative or a promoter of anything, an abject being who neither does nor stops doing.

NCP. The year 2012

LFR. The year of the rabbit, not in the Chinese calendar, but by the pole jump that got me and my family from a remote village on the maps of God, like St. Germain, to this crazy Miami and space for everyone.

December 19 2012

Champions Who Die While Living

18 Dec

ImagenLate last night I learned of the death of Arnaldo Mesa, a former boxer from Holguín province who shone back in the 1980s. The digital Diario de Cuba (Cuba Daily) carried the report and it hit me in the face like a rock. Along with Ángel Espinosa, Manuel Martinez and Ricardo Diaz they formed a fearsome foursome in places where the Cuban amateur boxing showed off their best.

Mesa was technical, aggressive and quick, and he had the punch that everybody avoided. In an edition of the former World Cup, the three (with Espinosa and Martinez) won gold medals for the country and received in exchange for an apartment or the fixing of their homes, nothing more. That and the lack of discipline, the disincentives and precariousness of life in the provinces led to misery. Years later two others emerged: Mario (Mayito) Kindelan, who dazzled the world with speed and Gerardo Doroncelé, who shone with a lesser brightness in the national pre-selection.

Espinosa could be seen until recently in any “kennel” (beer-on-tap stands) fighting to quench his thirst and frustration. Before leaving Cuba I ran into my former neighbor, Manuel Martinez Crespo, jovial, quiet, almost shy boy, but now surrendered to the struggle for looking for a life and for a chance to be able to visit his daughters, living outside the country.

Mesa could be seen until recently outside the Calixto Garcia baseball stadium, looking for alcohol, women, or for the first business available to start the day. Some time ago, Ricardito Diaz drove a Soviet make car (a Moscovich) that he rented out to tourist to drive to any point of the province, but he keeps smiling, surly, also a bit stuck on alcohol, watching the shadows of his victories fade away.

Years ago we saw an excellent documentary, Forgotten Glories, by Manuel Benito del Valle  and Darsy Ferrer about several Olympic and world medalists who died or are still living in poverty on the island. Far from the applause, medals and awards given at the hands of Fidel Castro himself, Angel Herrera and Sixto Soria, just to mention two, wear the fate of any athlete retired to the provincial life.

Before this reality stands the counterpart of those who remained outside Cuba, or those still inside who took the road of missions of sports collaboration as coaches, officials and technical staff who prepare athletes on some other continent. Mesa’s case is one among many, it’s enough to look around any city to see this glory who was now reselling sundries, renting their car from twenty years ago or crouched, waiting for the opportunity pick up the first coin of the day.

December 18 2012

Zona Franca: The Free Zone, the Honest Hand

15 Dec

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Now that the Endless Poetry Festival has passed its first hours without any considerable and visible repression, I want to make my contribution to this urban tribe that has taken the streets for themselves. From Miami I read in front of a camera to insert our voices and faces among their and we were one, yet diverse.

The photo you see with this post was taken in 2006 in the city of Holguin, the boys of Omni-Zona Franca were making an alternative tour of the provinces and one afternoon we went on a spree to see the oldest house in the city, made of adobe and straw, we sat on the ground in a park and counted cars and beautiful girls passing by. We read, we said many things, but the poetry that filled the air that day was an act of tolerance that continues today.

In some ways those of us who are in this photo (from left to right) have taken different directions and postures towards life, however poetry has saved us from the exclusion and hatred, from the lies and the unreasonableness of believing ourselves superior beings, so we have a kind of truth which raises us above others:

David D’Omni continues his music and his art against evil spells, he is in Havana-New-York-Berlin-Alamar, he has his left hand on the poet and essayist Ronel Gonzalez who digs a well every week to drink better water in the Holguin God gave us. Behind them there is a gentleman whose name I never learned and next to him is Hendrix, a film student in that city. Luis Eligio with his energy covers my back, as I looked like I was going to shoot up into nothingness

Michael Hernandez was about to go live in Texas and never write poetry, somehow this is a funeral ceremony. Amaury, not looking at camera, seems to be entertaining some mischief just before being frozen forever in that image that united us for a second.

Poetry saves. Does poetry save? Well, we already know, now: “Love your rhythm, rhyme your actions, Poetry is you!”

December 14 2012

Faces of Repression in Cuba

15 Dec

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Individual with mental retardation, used as a member of the Rapid Response Brigades in San Germán, Holguín. Responsible: MININT Delegate Grognier Gallardo Parra.

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Lt. Yazmanis Suárez Ramírez, “Confrontation” official in San Germán, Holguín.

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Victor Zamora, unlicensed self-employed. Member of the Rapid Response Brigades in San Germán, Holguín.

November 12 2012

After the Hurricane: Cheap Rum and a Concert for Comfort…

15 Dec

1354168808_ron-buenoThe television news shows the agony of the victims of Hurricane Sandy and the Culture Department of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) is determined to offer its parishioners some entertainment … a force of ridicule.

The children’s theater company ’The Beehive’ even made it to the cities of Holguin and Banes and although they brought their stories, games and songs we still see those affected by the cyclone making miracles cooking on wood stoves, looking for something to eat for the day or stuck in long lines for the paperwork to get materials to repair their shattered homes.

The popular pop duo Buena Fe (Good Faith) arrived in a Santiago de Cuba devastated by the October storm and now the scourge of the cholera epidemic and had no other remedy than escape, offered by a little music and the cheapest alcohol, and the enjoyment of a show that this time wouldn’t cost them a penny. But how much enjoyment is there in crowded conditions, destruction and despair?

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Source: EFE

November 29 2012

Attack on Antunez in Placetas

15 Dec
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Jorge Luis Garcia Perez “Antunez” – Photo by Tracey Eaton

Democratic Cuban Directorate, Miami, December 3, 2012. In the city of Placetas Jorge Luis Garcia Perez “Antunez” reported that at noon he was traveling on his bicycle to his home, and at the intersection of South 5th Street at the corner of West 6th, a police car came behind him, toward the place where he was riding. On turning on his bike toward a street to the right, he followed his instinct for self-preservation, the cop car managed only to brush him from behind, and the police, visibly nervous, ask him for his identity card and detained him.

“Looking back I realize that had this attack of the cop car against me taken place next to the little bridge there that I would have fallen and broken my neck, it would have killed me. This worries me greatly considering the number of threats that I am receiving from the police; the threats I received in Camagüey when I was arrested, they were going to kill me, they would not allow me to continue to promote activities in the streets. Death threats recently in the province of Holguín when I was arrested. That hatred and that viciousness that the military doesn’t hide when they confront me,” complained Antunez.

December 4 2012

Repression, Poverty and Other Cuban Truths Arrive at the DVD Market

12 Dec

In just thirteen minutes of history human rights activists told how they were attacked by political police officers and men in plain clothes. The reason? Castro graffiti on the streets, and posters hanging from roofs.

Without meaning to justify themselves, young dissidents explain how they have been surprised that when these signs appear they are held responsible for them and that they come from the increasingly discontented population of the whole country.

The independent visual experimentation group, Palenque Vision, of the Eastern Democratic Alliance, has released from the tangled Guantanamera geography a documentary produced by themselves and directed by Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina. The material, entitled "For Cuba, Freedom", is supported by a simple narrative, without makeup, profusion of visual effects or complicated editing.

This same group recently produced an amusing video shot with  a hidden camera showing delegates to an assembly prior to municipal elections of the People’s Power in Baracoa, Guantanamo, last September, where the revolutionary leaders fall into a deep sleep to the rhythm of harangues.

Right now the Cuban documentary is found in small viewings in intellectual circles, the few spaces for exhibitions and festivals, and the rich environment of everyday life underground. Alternative distribution routes are growing — from citizen to citizen — enriching the immediate reality.

The proliferation of flash memory, the use and popularization of something as useful as the home DVD player, and the release by the Cuban government of patents for reproducing and selling audiovisual products on the part of the self-employed, have enlarged Cuban viewers’ opportunities over the last five years.

The American television series that propaganda apparatus on the island do not allow to be releases, materials from Cuban athletes living abroad, telenovelas, historical films, action adventure (all produced by capitalists), go from house to house, in cutting edge technological devices or the almost obsolete CDs.

Amid this avalanche also coming into homes are materials showing Cuban government repression or closeups denouncing the misery in which the country finds itself.

The documentaries of Vision Palenque join the materials coming out of film schools and independent experimental groups, which have produced debates as such as Citizens’ Reasons and State of Sats (Estado de Sats) and reports such as those from Let’s Talk Press (Hablemos Press) and other independent news agencies .

This is a good sign for the health of the Cuban documentary.

BARACOA BARACOA BARACOA


December 6 2012

Paya in Miami, in Cuba

11 Dec

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On Friday night, December 7 was a good opportunity to inaugurate the Oswaldo “Payá Sardiñas” Circle of Democratic Thought. In the evening I gave a reading of the most recent paper from the Cuban Christian Liberation Movement, and had the opportunity to publicly express myself on the current Cuban situation, speaking from my own experience.

Several activists of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) who worked with Oswaldo in Cuba and from abroad, talked about this thinking. The idea of Paya’s working door-to-door with Cubans made it clear that any gap left in the power of a closed system must be taken advantage of by independent civil society. To one of the questions from the audience to the panelists, Antonio Diaz Sanchez, from the cause of the Black Spring 75, expressed his opinion that the MCL’s work to develop the unity of the Cuban people built on the ideas of Vaclav Havel.

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In my view the main currency of Oswaldo Paya drew on the sharpness of his own critics, his detractors in Cuba always suggested that Paya “was just collecting signatures; however, that action was one of the ways in which the MCL had the greatest connection with the people of Cuba. The decision of more than eleven thousand Cubans to express their discontent — and exposing their identity as they did so against such an oppressive regime — was only a shadow of what independent Cuban civil society could have done with a little more articulation and effectiveness.

The night was honored by the presence via telephone of Rosa Maria Paya, the daughter of Oswaldo, who spoke to those present about the different projects the MCL is still engaged in. Rosa Maria responded with clarity to a question about the investigation of the strange circumstances that killed her father and activist Harold Cepero Escalante and demonstrated that her youth and her commitment to fight for the freedom of Cuba will be a problem for the current repressive dynamics.

Family, and friends of Oswaldo Paya and a large group of former prisoners of the Cause of the Black Spring 75, three Ladies in White and some of the executive of the Cuban Democratic Directorate joined the tribute, a night whose work would have greatly pleased and encouraged the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement.

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December 8 2012

Angel Facing the Inferno

11 Dec

Con Angel el 20 de enero 2010 en la habana-cuba

With Angel on 20 January 2010 in Havana, Cuba

The Cuban government has made a comeback again. This time it has imposed a sentence of five years imprisonment on the writer Ángel Santiesteban-Prats. They have used their usual method of waiting for the weekend for the repressive action, considering that most of the media that cover Cuba take a couple of days off.

There isn’t much I have to say about Angel, only that half of Cuba has read his heartbreaking stories and that’s a lot. His stories are full of the fate of those who don’t believe in luck. Angel Santiesteban was a member of the strongly promoted group known as the “Novisimos” — the Newest — pushed into the limelight by the unparalleled Salvado Redonet. (These were artists who were born and came of age after the Revolution.) His book about the war in Angola didn’t make it into the bookstores for years after having won prizes and slept the sleep of ignored manuscripts. It is an uncomfortable book if we consider that its value lies in its anti-heroes who speak with total freedom. Now they want to imprison him on false charges, already dismissed by a court, putting back in the arena that cheerful boy who toured the island giving public lectures and offering his opinion in literary competitions.

The crime that passes like a scream on everyone’s lips is that he again became an uncomfortable person, that the Cuban Book Institute does not make a priority of addressing the claims of those who speak without restrictions and the Ministry of Culture is just one more department of Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba.

The clock is running out on us and this week we will carry forward a strong campaign for his complete freedom. Remember well, writers and artists of Cuba, Angel is a one more figure in the witch hunt that has stretched into 54 years of abuse. Let’s do something.

December 10 2012

Those Black People

3 Dec
Logo reads: "In Cuba, being black is a problem.  But being a black dissidents is a tragedy.  Freedom for all Now!"

Logo reads: “In Cuba, being black is a problem. But being a black dissidents is a tragedy. Freedom for all Now!”

Who threw the chalk? The black guy! You have the nose of a negro.  But, honey, you’re not that black.  Why don’t you smooth down those “curls” so you won’t look so black? Hey, mulatto, you really made those kids of yours ahead of time.  Big-lipped negro.  We black people are only good as musicians or boxers.  Do you remember that Santisteban was the only white boxer of the national selection for a long time?  Hey, lower your voice, this sounds like a house full of niggers.  Man, today I’ve worked more than a slave (black, of course).  Come here, what’s your name? The police approached me and says: “look, nigger, if it weren’t for the Revolution you’d still be cutting sugar cane in San German”.  And in that neighborhood there are a lot of black people.  Oh, they’re black, but they are good people.  These, and thousands of other comments also cast a shadow over being Cuban.  We are patriots, we fight in “a quarter of land”, but we stay quiet before such grotesque and racist expressions such as these, and more… sometimes we repeat them as if nothing happened inside.  We should think about this sometime.

And, about that…who threw the chalk? That black guy. 

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