Archive | January, 2011

January with the Virgin of Charity

6 Jan

Photo: Luis Felipe Rojas

On January 2nd, under a delicate rain, we San German natives received the image of the Virgin of Charity.  For 50 years, the government and the Communist Party outlawed public processions, but now, hundreds of people were present and willing to walk down the main streets of this dusty provincial town. The children went first, followed by the image of the Virgin, and later a multitude of locals which must have numbered in the thousands.  The Virgin Mary was received amid songs and praise for peace and love as she traveled on her altar.

Without any citations, arrests, threats of lay-offs at work, and without the fear of losing 10 dollars in hard currency as part of a monthly stimulus, thousands of men, women, and children congregated to hear Father Antonio Rodriguez, who encouraged the crowd to not be fearful.  He also encouraged us to ask for whatever we wished for, because the “Virgin always concedes”, and because, as the religious song says, “a mother never gets tired of waiting,” the same way it seems that Cuba does not get tired of waiting.

After the mass, which was held out in the open, the Virgin’s urn was taken in to the temple.  The procession did not end until 12 am.  There were many mothers praying for their imprisoned or detained sons and for their sick children or husbands. There was also a special mass which blessed children and pregnant women. It was a cultural evening full of hymns, praises, and an entire astonished town which had never before witnessed such clamor.  That is what I was able to see.

There was a specific event which I cannot let pass unmentioned to you all.  When the mass concluded, the G2 official who had detained me numerous times in the dark dungeons and who prevents me from leaving my own town, Lieutenant Saul Vega, approached me to “offer his best wishes to me for the new year.”  Since I had just finished praying before the image of the sacred Virgin of Charity, I extended my hand to him and wished that the same wishes he had just made to me would multiply for him as well, as well as for all my family and the entire town.  I really do not know if he did this in order to capture me in a photo — I will keep you all informed.  But one thing I can say is that I do have photos, from that same day, of the oppressive cops who spy on dissidents.  I will share them with you all in future posts.

The visit of the Virgin has been an extraordinary event.  It was a sign of popular mobilization which has no comparison with past events in Cuban society.  It was something which the tyranny must keep in mind when their D-Day comes around.

On the 3rd of January, the functionaries from the local and provincial Communist Party Department of Religious Affairs refused to allow another procession. The drivers who took the image of the Virgin to the town of Cueto were then forced to pick up their pace, under strict orders of not waiting for anyone. This says a lot about those who wield power and who think they have the right to deny even the oldest traditions.

January 5 2011

When the Virgin Arrived at San German

5 Jan

Fotos/Luis Felipe Rojas

Photos: Luis Felipe Rojas

January 5 2011

Working for Yourself? Or Working for Everyone?

1 Jan

Photo: Luise Felipe Rojas

The regressive count has now commenced for the Cuban government.  A swarm of hungry men and women being chased down by entourages of state inspectors, and a rampant wave of people who snitch on others has launched a new massive wave against individual initiative, the primogenial production belt of any country in the modern age, the small business.  Producers of light goods, millers of animal fodder, bicycle-taxi drivers, messengers, dressmakers, and science and art tutors all enlist their marketing mechanisms: the promotion and sale of their products.

A few weeks ago when I went to Bayamo I met Mirurgia. She had arrived the night before from Cienfuegos where she bought some fabrics “at a very good price”.  With these fabrics she planned to sew clown costumes for kids, whether to sell or rent.  I took a look at these costumes and they were impeccable.  Her sister, who lives in the United States, sends her magazines with models to get inspired by, she sends her buttons and pendants, and the end products are some costumes that look as if they came out the best “first-world” stores.  I am not exaggerating.  She already has orders from Manzanillo and Santiago de Cuba.

“Now, I am alone.  But as soon as I recover an investment I made two months ago, I’ll employ two more seamstresses, each one working from their own homes.  Together, we will try to increase production.  But for now we are alone in the market,” she told me with an uplifting vibe.

Ever since he came from a Bulgaria dominated by the Soviets in the ’80s, Adrian has never been so enthusiastic about his personal business.

“I used to sell pork and lamb meat, one or two animals per week.  But every time they sell ground beef, other meats, or eggs by the rationing card, my sales go down and it just pushes everything back,” he said, while showing me his “workshop”.

“I studied wood-turning.  That’s my field.  If I put three teams to turning, that’d be much better than the animal trading business,” he points out.

Now, he has set up three bicycle-taxis.  He will paint them in about two weeks and he will rent them out to whoever wishes to use them.

Today, they rent out porches so that people can sell movies, they tear off fences and steal display counters which obstruct sidewalks, and they go to whatever extent to sell flowers, or they try to sell any other kind of merchandise by shouting out information about the product.  This is the new scene of Cuban society.  In response there is animosity, false optimism, and never before seen hope.  Many stare at all that is happening from afar, while others take the chance and join in, but for the majority, it is not an option, it is the “only” way out.

I do not think that such liberalization of productive means is the remedy of our problems.  Only freedom will get us out of half a century of failure.  But this determination of so many people makes me think, to examine everything, and to go forward without personal prejudices so I can hear these stories which circulate around me.  I hope my readers will not be bothered by a few other reports which will surely come during the first months of 2011.

Before the face of imminent or real unemployment, I ask myself: What can a country, that was known for its diverse confines of labor and desire, do?

Photo: Luis Felipe Rojas