Archive | May, 2012

Moving the Night with Margarita Rojo

10 May

Very few people appreciate the electrical blackouts today the way those of us who live in “deep” Cuba do.  From 9:30 PM to 11PM, Radio Marti drops their Nightly Show with the hoarse voice of Margarita Rojo.  It is a true exercise of proper fluency, immediacy, and information.  It’s a collection of subjects which develop as the island falls further into deep sleep.  In the majority of cases, Omar Lopez Montenegro and Fausto Canel accompany her as a form of diachronic support- helping her on one occasion and pricking her on the other.  What is certain is that Margarita moves forward while being herself and, through this, one can notice that her conversations can be a script, an engine, a set of notes, while a whole other thing is the intuition of grabbing the attention of the listener through the proper use of grammar by a person who feels that they own the airwaves, transmitting that magic message through radio.

I believe that very few people have had the luck of being children (natural or adopted) of three Caribbean islands at the same time: Cuba, Perto Rico, and Miami.  Margarita Rojo has become the owner of a specific way of mixing up radio in terms of entertainment, sincerity, and insularity.  Miami deserves it, as do Margarita and Cuba.  Her Nightly Show is not a tribunal nor is it a trench, a fact that is proven considering that time and time again we can enjoy the company of an author, a filmmaker, or an independent journalist.  Never is that living encyclopedia known as Rafael Garcia ‘Toledo so enjoyable as it is when the microphones are offered to different subjects than sports.  Margarita Rojo puts people on their feet, for she can chat with a political analyst, calm down a controversial guest, or turn against all other guests.

Tendencies as diverse as those assumed by the wide range of guests from Emilio Ichikawa, Roberto Bermudez or Idolidia Darias have proven to us that in order to be serious, we do not have to be hierarchical and everything is worth it in that Tower of Babel known as “radio”.  The singularity of an incidental song, the spontaneous shorts, and the obedience to her listeners constitute the perfect trinomial which allows us to keep listening to her.

As of 2009, Radio Marti changed its programming.  It started to mold it, amid absences and new acquisitions for contemporary listeners, and it was for the good.  But Margarita Rojo is still there, and in what a way, when she says: “Good evening my friends, here again…”

Charo: The Snitch

9 May

Through a method of stupidity and propaganda, Cuban television usually goes beyond us.  What to do about it, though?  We are not perfect.  However, this past Saturday April 21st, during the morning cartoons, many of us were shocked at what we saw.  It was a short cartoon for kids, with the same title as this post, and it’s origin was unknown (most likely Mexican or Spanish).

Since they did not put the initial nor the ending credits on the screen, it left it up to us to investigate where the cartoon was coming from and how it was made.  The synopsis is as follows:  a little girl, who speaks her mind without anyone asking her to, is the headache of the family.  In fact, whenever she does something which she considers could cause problems, she blames it on others.

Anything that goes missing at home.  What has been said or done in front of her, the mischievousness of her fellow students, and a rosary of denunciations which, if they do not imply any sort of penal punishment for its accusations, then they advance its precociousness as a gossip-monger snitch.

What is surprising is that the armies of former colonel Rolando Alfonso Borges, under the ideological executive of the Community Party of Cuba, missed the error.  In Cuba, any citizen can suffer a beating, an arrest, a fine, or can even be penalized for the crime of “disobedience of authority” for using the word “snitch” when referring to an informer, in other words, a civilian whose purpose is to make the job of the police and other officials from the repressive Ministry of the Interior. easy  In its different variations, snitches, informants, confidants and informers are scattered all over the place: in the factories, schools, neighborhoods, the market, the baseball stadium.  What do they denounce? Anything.  The information which they provide ranges from what is being sold to who is selling it in which neighborhood, with who the young neighbors meet up with, what is the subject spoken about during the line to buy bread, from where does the flour used to make clandestine pizza come from, which citizens do not live according to what their work should provide, and so on, and so on.

During the Republican era in Cuba, in the first half of the XX century, that is how one referred to people who denounced the actions against the two consecutive dictatorships: that of Machado and Batista.  But what popular language institutes cannot be abolished by any decree.  After the rise to power of FC (I swear that I do not even want to type his name), those who assumed the dishonorable work of informing about the steps of their compatriots were still referred to as Snitches.  And even when police coercion has had countless victims, the term grew popular among people, and today it is one of the worst offenses that can ever be told to a Cuban.  The behavioral neighborhood code (even when it is homophobic) dictates to men from the moment they are just children: “neither a snitch, nor a coward”.

The popular denomination has set various meanings: drunkard, rat, trumpet, ‘guari-guari’, goat, and much more.  On the other hand, the graphic, radial, and television (in other words, institutionalized) media is not even brushed by the petal of a joke, due to severe censorship as well as through similar methods under self-censorship.

Ever since the 70’s of the past century, the cartoon image of an elderly lady-  the president of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution- sneaked into our homes.  Her name is Chuncha and, in reality, just as much as because of her design than by her meaning for each Cuban who feels as if they are being watched, this character is one of the most repulsive ones ever seen on national television.

Even then, the popular orchestra- Dan Den- dedicated a song with which time has passed through without shame or glory (it’s already known: there is always a route for a stranger), while on the other hand the native troubador Frank Delgado composed a ‘guaracha’ which served as the base for the short fiction video made by Eduardo del Llano- “Monte Rouge”.  The chorus and one of the lines goes like this:  “Turn off the microphone and quit being mysterious…despite how much you struggle, you are not the Ministry.  You are an assemblage, an amateur, and mediocre snitch.  Turn off the microphone and quite being mysterious”.

Cuba: “The authorities attack us because we talk about the issues people face” (Amnesty International)

4 May

Amnesty International published the following report regarding the situation of Luis Felipe Rojas, author of this blog, and other independent journalists who face persecution and countless obstacles for wanting reporting the reality of an island under a dictadorship.  Visit the original report here.

Cuba: “The authorities attack us because we talk about the issues people face”

For Cuban journalist and blogger Luis Felipe Rojas, posting an entry on his blog Crossing the Wire Fences or even sending an email is a daunting task.

Every time he wants to access the internet, he has to leave his house in the early hours of the morning and travel 200 kilometres from his hometown of Holguín, in eastern Cuba, to the closest cybercafé. If he is lucky, and he is not stopped at a police checkpoint on the way, he will get to a computer in about three hours.

Once there, Luis Felipe has to show ID to buy an access card and pay six US dollars to use the internet for sixty minutes – that is almost a third of a monthly local salary.

Some days he finds websites containing information considered critical of the government are blocked or messages have disappeared from his inbox.

Internet access is so highly controlled in Cuba that critics of the government have come up with creative ways to ensure their stories get out.

Sometimes that involves converting articles into digital images and sending them via SMS to a contact outside of Cuba, to type and post on Luis Felipe’s blog. He also uses text messages for posting on Twitter but the lack of internet access means that he cannot see what others say to (or about) him.

Luis Felipe is part of a growing group of journalists and government critics who are finding new ways to by-pass state control in order to disseminate information about human rights abuses taking place in Cuba.

According to a recent report by Amnesty International, independent journalists and bloggers have faced increased threats and intimidation when publishing information critical to the authorities.

The ‘Hablemos Press’ Information Centre, an unofficial news agency monitoring human rights abuses across Cuba, recently reported that from March 2011 to March 2012 inclusively, more than 75 independent journalists have been detained, some, like Caridad Caballero Batista up to 20 times.

“After the mass release of prisoners of conscience in 2011, we have seen authorities sharpening their strategy to silence dissent by harassing government critics and independent journalists with short term detentions and public acts of repudiation,” said Gerardo Ducos, Cuba expert with Amnesty International.

On 25 March, Luis Felipe was detained in a local police station for five days in order to prevent him from travelling to attend an open-air mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI.

“The authorities attack us because we talk about the issues people face – that not everybody has enough food, that public services do not always work, that there are problems with the health service,” Luis Felipe said to Amesty International.

“I have been scared many times. Scared of going to the street, of being beaten up, of being locked up for a long time and not seeing my children. But fear does not stop me. I do not think a tweet from me is going to save anybody from prison but it does save them from impunity.”