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Salve Regina

29 Sep


Picture/Luis Felipe Rojas

The chapel of Our Lady of Charity of Cobre in Antilla, Holguín looks like this, out in the open and vulnerable to the harsh weather. Facing the bay of the same name, and next to the waters where many years ago the mother of so many Cubans appeared, stands this wooden post fixed to the cement base that’s been rebuilt a few times. The lack of public concern has become general apathy: those who want to fix it have not been authorized to do so; those who have the power don’t want another place of pilgrimage on Cuban soil; others, tired of so many obstacles, do not feel like fighting against the bureaucracy and the grim looks of the official who should authorize the above mentioned reconstruction.

Now that Our Lady of Charity of Cobre travels around the country, the people of Antilla go to a run-down church, which still lacks the reconstruction permits it needs. The human hurricanes and natural disasters. There is no doubt that the salt of time and the hand that sweeps everything away have passed through these little towns of God.

I am 20 kilometers away from Barajagua, the place where the Lady of Charity first stayed, but it’s hard for me to get there, because on the way to Cueto, if you get down to that parking lot it’s difficult to get a truck back up, I have tried it a few times. I promise to take a picture of the place where the first chapel once was, when Juan Hoyos and his namesakes returned with her after going looking for salt for the miners of the copper mines in Santiago de Cuba. This month I’m planning to visit Barajagua… God and bad weather, you already know, permitting.


Picture/Luis Felipe Rojas
Translated by: Xavier Noguer

A Certain Bolaño

22 Sep

It often happens to me with good books the same thing that happens with the best dreams: when they come to me, they are here to stay.

Ernesto, a friend of a couple of friends, came from the warm city of Barcelona and brought this gift to my hands. It’s called The Unknown University, it’s the complete poetry of a complete novelist, the Chilean Roberto Bolaño, the one who surprised us all with the novel The Savage Detectives when we were just waiting for the death of a genre that deteriorated during the nineties to the point of stagnating as of late.

What happens with simple poetry is that it becomes a compass to find the right words. Bolaño’s poetry is exactly that: Ariadne’s thread in the middle of his life. The peculiarity of these almost 500 pages lies in the lack of a visible effort on the part of the author to find himself. Bolaño had a predestined route which was prose, as much in his plentiful novels (almost ten) as in his numerous short stories, and at the same time as a silent yet very visible scaffolding was erected for the seekers of novelty in new literature, he let his thoughts and the search for that other identity which is the human language, fall in poetry.

Poetry served Bolaño to cross the bridge between what is public and what is intimate. Even though some of his poems slipped into magazines and anthologies, at the end of his life, afraid it would get lost in the way, he put together, edited and corrected every page of his whole work, sometimes in prose, sometimes in the most pristine verses one could find. Here it is now, at least for us, readers from these parts of the hemisphere where books arrive several years after publication, the complete works of poetry of Roberto Bolaño, compiled in just one volume by Anagrama in 2007 and which today starts its voyage through the hands, the offices, and the benches where the readers of this island sit, to taste that unknown university that may be life or poetry

Translated by: Xavier Noguer

Rolando Against the Impunity in Guantanamo

16 Sep


Photo/Luis Felipe Rojas

I’ve been avoiding writing this post for a few months. I was afraid I might not be objective enough, being close to Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina, to sound the alert to the world. Even so, my duty towards justice and truth is more important.

This young man, a computer engineer who graduated from Havana’s university system in the nineties, is being publicly hunted down by the political police, from the headquarters of the G2. His propensity to civil disobedience, his capacity to lead some thirty activists from every corner of eastern Cuba (Banes, San Germán, Contramaestre, Songo-La Maya, Baracoa, Manatí, Moa, Velazco, Antilla) and to take them to Camagüey where Orlando Zapata Tamayo agonized, proved his worth, but has made him a target. None of the more than a hundred transitory detentions of the last couple of years has been an accident.

The repressive system of my country doesn’t need any pretexts to jail anyone. They just apply the judicial puzzle. In the last few months Rolando suffered one attack after another, from the extreme-left web site Rebelión as much as from Military Counterintelligence high officials sent from Havana to eastern Cuba, on the pretext of “stopping subversion in eastern Cuba”. From his humble cabin in Baracoa to the many places where he has had to live, everywhere he’s been trying to avoid being arrested so that his peaceful activities won’t be disturbed. He’s been leading the highest profile public protests of the last 10 months in six eastern provinces, but his philosophy has always been “More united, being united is key”.

The decision by my country’s authorities to put a police poster in every town so that if he shows up he’s to be deported to Guantanamo, proves the absolute arbitrariness of the state towards its citizens. Even so Rolando doesn’t stop. Bravery and fearlessness are the flags he raises in order to gain liberty for Cuba. He directs the underground bulletin Porvenir and is a co-author of the collective blog Cuban Palenque. From Cuban Palenque he tries to draw attention to the use of torture and arbitrary acts of the state in the eastern part of the island. Punishments and convictions for trying to leave the country, social dangerousness and contempt for authority are the legal charges which are lodged against thousands of youths from eastern Cuba, and which Rolando has denounced on countless occasions. This enrages those who hold power. His last term in jail, 24 days, was a play to punish and frighten the latest generation of Cuban freedom fighters.

Meanwhile Rolando, an incurable rebel, starts the little engines of civil disobedience, a laxative the gorillas in military garb don’t swallow easily.

Translated by: Xavier Noguer

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