Archive | December, 2011

Trains Toward Disaster

31 Dec

In the life of a Cuban, every promise made by the government seems destined to become a permanent mockery.

When I see the faces of the highest ranking functionaries, even if I try very hard, I cannot picture them in the most common of places.  Machado Ventura in a 3 day-long line to purchase a train ticket to travel to Ciego de Avila? Esteba Lazo traveling 36 hours between Matanzas and Santiago de Cuba?  Although these descriptions have elements of a tragic comedy piece, it would be good to have them live these realities  which happen to us, the most common of mortals, happen to them, the same chosen ones as always.

Sometimes just a few examples are enough.  The train which covers the Antilla-Holguin route and which continues towards Las Tunas to return that same afternoon to the same spot is one of the jewels amid the Cuban bestiary.  Since the Oliver Bridge (just a few kilometers away from the Antilla station) is broken, travelers must take a bus towards the neighborhood of Antillita, but if it has only so much as rained and there have been morning tracks, the driver drops off the passengers a kilometer and a half away from the cars.  The traveler must then agonizingly and difficultly walk the entire way, carrying all sorts of baggage, all through their own means.   Sometimes a rural farm worker yokes his ox with a wagon and helps the traveler travel across, through mud, for the price of 3 Cuban pesos.  And the authorities? Good.  There I’ve seen doctors, soldiers, political science specialists.  Never members of the municipal government.

When the national route trains arrive to Camaguey, the train attendees rush the passengers amid heavy bags and seated persons in the hallway to warn that the train has arrived.   They tell the people to open their eyes and guard their baggage.  Though it occurs less frequently, the thieves like to climb aboard the train, put bags on the wagons they see through the windows, snatch necklaces and commence with the art of stealing.  There is a police station in the area but very little has been done about it.

In the intermediary stations en route to Havana they only sell a dozen tickets by reservation, booked 1 week in advance.  This method of travel consists of a long line, which lasts a couple of days, and all interested passengers must write down their names in long lists.  Even then, if one wishes to travel to the capital of the country you only have to offer 100 or 150 pesos and when the day comes to board the train you’ll have your ticket in hand.  It can also be done while boarding without a ticket and buying it at the same price from government officials.  If, on the contrary, one does not have sufficient money, then you have to go through the difficult situation of having to sit in the empty seats which start getting filled by their owners as the train stops in their respective posts.  And I assure you that despite all these hassles before reaching your final destination, you will see how there always were dozens of empty seats which are property of inspectors, employees, and superintendents.

I have explained these examples without adorning them with the filth, the insects, and the pestilent sanitation services with which the government awards “low-class” citizens- nearly 90 percent of the Cubans who inhabit this island.

Neither a Poet or a Cuban

27 Dec

It is the determination of the literary colonels of the Cuban Book Institute.  Five years ago, they officially ceased inviting me to artistic events, competitions, and public readings.  An edict, coming from the ditches of Villa Marista and aimed at cultural institutes, has automatically excluded me from any sort of intellectual debate.  Still, to this day, no one has showed me an official document which prohibits cultural promoters from including me in the learned spaces of my generation.  I know it is just a whisper, a card slid under the table.  There a dozens of my friends and acquaintances which have already been visited by the “colleagues of Security”.  Almost none of them have been tactically pressured, but they consider the warnings to be like yellow cards, and just like in soccer, some have challenged the referee and have reached for the red card.

The latest beauty of the list of prohibitions is that of “The Island in Verses: 100 Cuban Poets”, published by La Luz, 2011.  Each anthology is an authoritarian exercise, I know.  In just an instant, I have been left out of hundreds of bards which one day I believed I was part of.  Luis Yussef and Yanier Echavarria have understood, for the good of their poetic discrimination, that despite the fact that I was born after 1970 and before 1988, I do not count with sufficient literary quality to be ranked in the list.  I would say, in reference to the host Jorge Luis Sanchez Gras, that I am not a third world poet in the era of postmodernism.  I am not, according to the violation of the Hermanos Sainz Association, a human being who seeks change and not utopia.

However, it would not be just to say that- marginalization aside- I do not enjoy the selection which did make it to the list.  Among those 100 Cuban poets which I can say are part of my generation, are some which kept me up at night reading, those which I applauded during an afternoon of youth in the Gulf of Guacanayabo or under the shades of an Eastern beach.  Though I keep writing in isolation from San German and hover through the city of Holguin like a ghost, I still celebrate my mention in the other anthology: the one which includes the excluded and marginalized.  The ones who have been prohibited from publishing in our own country- Cuba- are more than a hundred and if we count those around the world, maybe even thousands.

As a writer and a mutilated artist (because of a military decree), I have no other option but to continue writing for me.  There is no editor waiting for me.  I have all the time in the world, even to read the island ‘one verse at a time’.

Adrift on Firm Land

20 Dec

Photo by: Luis Felipe Rojas

He worked for years in the Urbano Noris sugar plant.  He complied with all of the daily chores required by his job.  He was useful.  And efficient.  But today, he is another one of the many Cubans floating adrift.

Humberto Hernandez Palma lives in San German and worked in the Urbano Noris central for quite some time, but now he has been faced with something very difficult.  He is sick.  He has gone through the medical commission in his region three times in just one year.  During the first occasion- he told me- they diagnosed him with “table one”, which means that he is completely limited in his physical strength.  However, the provincial medical commission refused to recognize that measure and handed him a report which stated he had “median limitation of physical force”.

He sought answers within what he thought was fair- the National Medical Commission- but in November, the National Commission responded that they denied his request for medical leave.  He tried to find some answers in the sugarcane production plant Urbano Noris but there they also told him that he does not meet the necessary prerequisites to have a medical leave on the grounds of health problems.  During recent times he has also started to suffer from serious heart conditions (cardiopathy).

They then sent Humberto to the Labor and Social Security Department of the municipality to obtain 60 percent of the salary in one year, to later end up unemployed and with serious difficulties to buy all the medicines he would need to take care of his heart condition.  He is another Cuban who, amid sugarcane and some light smoke, has ended up floating adrift with his horizon plagued by countless dark clouds.


18 Dec

Photo by: Luis Felipe Rojas

52-year-old Irma Caceres, who has worked for decades in a storage business located in the municipality of San German (Holguin province) has been denied of her right to retire due to illness.

According to the medical documents she submitted, Irma suffers from arterial hypertension, obesity, two hernias, chronic sciatica, degenerative osteoarthritis, and circulatory deficiency.

“Even then”, Irma tells me, “the medical group which examined me last month refused to give me medical leave due to illness, alleging that even with those ailments I still did not fulfill the necessary requirements”.

Mrs. Caceres explained to me that the only solution that the “specialists” offered her was that the head of the business should relocate her to another job.  The victim claims that she has ousted all resources and tried all methods to prove that her health will not allow her to even work in another place, but she has grown tired because no one is tending to her case.

The 26 years which Irma Caceres has served in that business have served her for nothing because with all the ailments she is suffering from, it has become evident that she will become one of the many workers who make up the list of the “unemployed”.

What has happened, she tells me, “is the new practice of the State applied in order to do away with us without having to pay us retirement.  It leaves us floating adrift, for there is nowhere to look”.

Selling peanuts

A House Is Not A Jail Cell

12 Dec

Photo: Luis Felipe Rojas

They were all arrested because they didn’t want to stay inside their house. Cuba is not a jail cell. The house is not a jail cell.

12 December 2011

It’s Not Because of Repairs…

11 Dec

I’m not making fixes to my blog, not even in my dreams do I imagine changes that occurred to me when I could see my barbed wire online for a few minutes.

I am not publishing because I have no way to connect to the Internet, but better times will come.

December 9 2011

“Paloma, Palomita”

2 Dec

Today, December 2nd, is my daughter Brenda’s third birthday.  Time flies!