Archive | July, 2011

Dreamer and Disconnected

31 Jul

Photo: Luis Felipe Rojas

I was able to hear, via a  radio show being transmitted from Miami, the reading of an article by a Cuban writer named Eduardo del Llano.  It was a perfect sonata defending the right of Cuban workers and dissidents to strike.  “Why not?”, asked del Llano.  I was greatly impressed by the light and fresh prose of the excellent humorist and I really wanted to be able to re-read that specific work.  I wanted to see those blunt words on my lap top (which, of course, has no internet connection) so I could reply to him in regards to two phrases that didn’t sound right to me, and congratulate him regardless.  I sent a friend of mine so that he could download the mentioned article, while dodging the cyber-informers, but he called me from his province with fatal news.  There were connection problems.  “There is no internet access to that blog from my work place”, he assured.

When I tried to do it on my own, a blue logo popped up and told me: “Internet Explorer cannot display this web site”, and immediately another sign followed it which amicably suggested: “You can try the following- Diagnose connection problems”.  And it went on like that forever, that sign which haunts me like a childhood ghost and which props up for certain pages and names, like a sharp weapon of the Cuban cyber-police:  “Internet Explorer cannot display this web site” or “You are using an outdated version of FireFox, try again with an updated one”.  I swear I would try it if it weren’t for the fact that 6.00 CUC or 150 Cuban pesos only allows me 60 minutes on the internet.

Not too long ago, my uncle asked me if Facebook was an epidemic created by the Yankees (Americans), and I really just wanted to laugh.  But I didn’t want to miss the morning coffee and I asked him why he was asking that.  According to him, he had read a Cuban newspaper where they hurled countless insults against “that Facebook thing”.  I also did not laugh because I am not a masochist, because, I admit it, sometimes I’m not that much of a good Cuban, like the manuals say, to laugh at all my misfortunes.

A friend of mine from the university who now works at a weekly provincial newspaper was recently complaining about having lost contact with other friends on Facebook.  His ideological chiefs in Havana had prohibited the use of this virtual tool for those working for the state-run press.  According to him, he had no way of replying to attacks made on the local healthcare and the health care of Cuba in general.   When he complained, they responded by stating that it was an order from above, suggesting names like Ramiro Valdes, Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, Rolando Alfonso Borges, or some other information capo from the Central Committee.

It was many months ago when I lost my Facebook friends, that I cannot follow them from a cybercafe with the occasional internet card given to me by other internet surfers or tourists who have decided to join me in solidarity.  I have not been able to upload images of that Cuba which the regime allows me to photograph, or to write 200-word screams from a crazy man from his island-prison.

On Twitter, and with the modest re-charges which friends have provided me, I have been able to spit out a couple of letters every once in a while.

Synopsis of a Report Detailing the first Semester of 2011 in 5 Cuban Provinces

20 Jul

Photo by Jose W. Camejo

*This report was born here, where the accredited Cuban agencies never visit and where the orders of the General (‘the streets belonging to the revolutionaries‘) are upheld through beatings, detainments, and prison bars.  With the political and economic crisis plaguing the country, the Cuban government has implemented new measures which go directly against the lives of Cubans.  This situation has given rise to massive discontent against the government’s politics.  However, the current context has been planned by the governmental authorities who have held a tight grip on the half a century long political model.

The solution of the militants has been the increased repression within society in order to avoid the accumulation of open criticism which would endanger the stability of the country.  This is why the government has applied a heightened level of repression against independent civil society, and as consequence there are more detainments of multiple dissidents, beatings of protestors in the streets, acts of mob repudiation,  threats against the relatives of dissidents, restrictions of movement for activists within the national territory, deportations, harassment of activists, and forced house arrests in order to impede public civic activities in the streets.

The outcome of this abusive system has brought the death of another dissident, this time in a public park during the month of May.  His name was Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia.  This death was even mentioned through the very own words of General Raul Castro when he came out on television and authorized the repression against those who do not agree with socialism.

It is not dismissible, and we warn, with time, that there will be other possible victims of Castro’s system.  The mob repudiation attacks continues as a practice of the government implemented in order to try and frighten the human rights activists and the opposition.  These actions constitute a highly dangerous factor, for it endangers the lives of civilians and defenseless people, among them children, women, and the elderly.

These photos are the most recent proof.  It occurred on Sunday, July 17th.  Various women went to the sanctuary of El Cobre to attend mass.  Upon concluding mass, the women carried out a silent march through the streets with their gladiolus in hand.  Such an act scared the regime so much that beatings were indiscriminately carried out against the women.  This time they were not detained and taken to a police unit because they had to be taken to the hospital first.

Photos taken by Jose W. Camejo


*Translator’s note:  The ‘report’ Luis Felipe mentions is the mid-annual report of human rights abuses and repression which have occurred in Cuba for 2011, and which has been published on the blog of the Eastern Democratic Alliance, “El Palenque“.  In the report, one can notice the increase of violence and attacks against the Cuban people during 2011.  

With the Weight of Life

14 Jul

In this case, it has to do with one of the gravest problems of humanity.  The art of transporting a bit of precious liquid home faces a path just as winding as the search for El Dorado.  In a small provincial village like San German, the lack of water and poor diets and access to food is the greatest challenge.

I made this documentary a few years before the local aqueduct was constructed.  The old men who fetched the water at that time still do so today.

People are supposed to receive water from the pipes but due to electrical deficiencies, an infinite amount of leakages, and horrible planning among the schedules of those who put the water, it seems like wagons (used to fetch the water) will never stop existing in this region.

Monguito, Rafael, Mauro and other water-carriers assured us at the time that with the new aqueduct it would all be better.  Geronimo, the diligent one, confessed to me that even if his profession became extinct, he knew that it would benefit the entire town.

I was really moved by these men who gave up so much time to put up with the state inspectors, functionaries, and police officers who constantly demanded one paper or another from them to make sure that the horses they were riding were theirs, that they were paying the taxes attached to traveling, and other state regulations.  Even with that said, they persisted beyond the interests of a few bucks a month.

I filmed this documentary with the same precariousness I filmed previous ones.  And now it has been confirmed that the scarcity of water is also mixed with other bureaucratic inefficiencies which we all know are traits of the state functionaries.

Time to Drink Coffee?

10 Jul

Photo:  Luis Felipe Rojas

On this Sunday morning, I savor a good cup of coffee given to me by good friends who have offered me a safe place to stay while my wife informs me that police officials are looking for me back in San German.  I will share some opinions with you all about how the history of coffee has changed in my country.

As a child I was raised by my Grandmother Maria, who would send me off to school, along with my other cousins,after a good cup of coffee and a piece of buttered bread, cheese, or some sort of meat that may have been left over from the previous night.

Now, the Cuban government has once again promoted coffee mixed with “substitutes” as the only way of drinking the dark liquid which is so popular amongst Cuban families.  During these days I can’t help but remember the beginnings of the 1980’s when coffee was sold in grains in Cuba.  Every fifteen days a truck would distribute some rationed ounces of this coffee which people would take home, toast it, and grind it.  But that is history, a past which will not return for now to the island.

Drinking pure coffee over here these days is just as dangerous as killing a cow to eat its meat.  Traveling from one town to another with grains of coffee in your backpack constitutes taking part in “illegal business”.  If an inspector or a police officer catches you, the fine for “illegality” given to you can never be absolved.  I know people who get headaches if they don’t at least drink one small cup of coffee per day.  I have even met people who toast plantains as a substitute for coffee.

For those who didn’t know, in Holguin there was a coffee toaster in the center of the city, near the provincial Pediatric Hospital.  The smoke which would spread throughout the surroundings was overwhelming, it was a toxic and bothersome residue whenever the white beans were being toasted, which happened often.

As far as I have understood, the International Coffee Organization recently stated that coffee which has been mixed more than 5% should not be considered coffee.  This is pretty alarming for us if we take into consideration the little chart which is stamped on the envelope of rationed coffee which says that is has been mixed 50%.

On Cuban television, as well as in provincial newspapers, the same defenders of the same misdemeanors as always have come out.  In the “Ahora” newspaper of Holguin someone explained how to prepare coffee in the coffee machine, as if it was the same thing as trying to figure out how to set up a computer or how to move around in a space shuttle.  The article made allusions to a few weeks ago when various of these coffee packs exploded.  An official from a provincial company in Havana even went on to say that before such a measure was taken, the coffee has been mixed even more than 50%, forgetting to cite that this information was never announced to the people.

According to the misinformation services, just as much as the TV or the written media, we Cubans should agree on each measure taken without protesting.  And, a very interesting fact according these same services- each action that is taken is in favor of the people.

We mustn’t be surprised if tomorrow they announce that rice will be sold mixed with some other sort of substitute.

Cuban Women: Three Cases to Think About

2 Jul

I made this documentary some time ago, and had to film it with one small photographic camera that I had at the time.

If you follow the film to the end you will see pieces of the lives of three women in eastern Cuba.

I wanted to get into the homes of these women who still live in the countryside and do not have the benefits of country life with nearby river water and the mountain breezes. They live in a dark corner of the province. In no man’s land.

Clearly this is not a total image of Cuban women, I wouldn’t dare to try that because I couldn’t do so much.

It just interests me to show what that amateur documentary maker has been able to do with a workforce of only two, my wife Exilda and me… because although you may not believe it, we too have “rearranged our workforce” and “reduced the payroll.”

I hope the vision of these women sparks some opinion in you, because this is the reason for the “Barbed Wire.”

June 30 2011