Archive | June, 2012

Citizen Insomnia

24 Jun

As I write this post, the “#FestivalCLIC” (or ‘Click Festival’) is underway in Havana- a citizen intention to try and channel information between Cubans in the island.  May Cuba connect to the world, and the world connect to Cuba, or as the graffiti-artist El Sexto says: “Gimme Cable”, alluding to the lack of connectivity.

I was not able to assist this event in Havana due to transportation inefficiency and other atmospheric pressures.  I would have liked to comment about alternative publications which I have felt very close to within the past couple of years.

For some weeks now, a restless cyber-activist has been drowning our phones with messages which contain news and reports about the most current happenings in regards to Cuba.  His name is Alfredo Viso, and he is a former Cuban political prisoner who now resides in New Jersey.

Through an option provided by Cubacel (somewhat similar to ‘SMS to Cuba’), Viso created an account with which he communicates with us, and at the same time, we can respond to him through an SMS for the price of 0.9 cents CUC.  We could not do it any other way.  Another very interesting resource is a service which allows you to leave a voice message in a mailbox.  It’s free and lasts 1 minute.  From Cuba, one can call the number: 11914388003514, after the signal we identify ourselves, we leave a message, and if necessary, we dial again, identify yourself again, and continue your denouncement.  From there, numerous friends take on the task of distributing it throughout the internet.

What happens is that, even with his hyper-activity, Alfredo Viso cannot do it all.  He needs other hands to join him in solidarity to send us all news about Cuba.  That’s what he is asking, that the solidarity multiply itself towards the inside.  “May the initiatives rain down”, he told me the other night through a message of 140 characters.

The mentioned “Click Festival” has already been accused of being an antecedent of an invasion of the island:  the same old resentments, the same arguments.  A few days ago, they had prohibited Viso the possibility of continuing to send message from his cell phone to Cuba, so he was doing it from his computer.

The same machinery of censorship, the same mower of new ideas, the same nineteenth-century argument of feeling that we are going to be invaded, used to leave citizens out of place and later sentence them with the accustomed impunity.


18 Jun

Original post sent by Luis Felipe Rojas through his cell phone

It’s a real jewel of journalism, worthy of being stored in any historical archive.  It appeared on the “Personal Issues” section of the classified ads of the weekly Ahora newspaper, published in the province of Holguin.  Out of the three ads which appeared last Saturday, June 2nd, these two caught my attention:

“The Clinical-Surgical Lucia Iniguez Hospital offers positions of Security Agents and protection.  Prequisites: have a mid-superior level or have passed twelfth grade, having had taken rehabilitation courses and having adequate experience, must be physically and mentally fit, have political, moral, and social conduct in accordance with the revolutionary process.  Salary: 283 pesos and additional salary payment of up to $84.90. Visit the Department of Human Resources and speak with Santiago Dominguez Fajardo”

“The Meat Company of Holguin seeks a Chief of Quality Control.  Salary: $425.00 plus additional payment of $200.00.  Prerequisites: graduate from related superior level with specialty in Industrial Engineering, Chemical Engineering, of possessing License of Dietary Sciences.  The company follows the system of payment for the completion of the job in a certain time, and 4 kilos of bones and a set of personal hygiene products are given monthly, sanitary clothes and annually, in addition to personal transportation.  Call 42-2705, extensions 121 and 118″.

The first outlined phrase refers to the political apartheid which thousands of Cubans who have no communist affiliation suffer…but for such plentiful earnings! In that sense, anyone can keep a moral conduct “in accordance with the revolutionary principles”.  The second bold phrase is quite frightening.  With so much hunger in certain African countries and we still use a surplus of food to stimulate Security Agents! There is no such case.  There is no doubt that the suggestions are unique, there surely will be better ones,  but these could not have gone by unmentioned and I wanted to share it with you all.  The section is in charge of someone who is said to be called Graciela Guerra B and her email is

Note:I have published this through my phone, I send it to a friend (as an image) who has internet access, he sends it through email to another friend outside of Cuba who receives it, converts it to a Word document, and later publishes it on my blog with the photos I have also sent from my cell phone. 

Today, I asked those who help me to do so in this way.  So that those who follow and read me know that on this side, from within the barbed wires, connecting to the internet continues to be a fantasy, regardless if there is a cable or not.

That’s why I spend many days without publishing anything and I can never directly respond to messages sent to me, to those emails which saturate my electronic mailbox, and the hundreds of friend requests I have on Facebook which a friend of mine updates once a month.  This is yet another way of accessing the internet, without internet. 

Who Wrote to the Commander?

2 Jun

In a prison just outside of Moscow, the passing hours were shattering the head of the Soviet dissident Alexander Bukosky.  The white walls.  The cold.  The flies on the roof.  The prisoners came and went with thousands of complaints and denouncements of violations which the guards were subjecting them to, and he could not last much longer by himself.  One day, it occurred to him to recommend two prisoners to write to the district committee, and if they did not respond, to write two, four, or ten more times per week until they paid attention.  One morning, one of the superiors nearly begged him to not recommend them to write any more letters because they had no way of processing so many complaints.  I am bringing up this story, so luxuriously described in the ‘Wind Blows Again’, in relation to what appeared this past Sunday, May 27th in the “Acknowledgment of Receipt” section of the “Rebel Youth” newspaper.

‘Acknowledgement of Receipt ’ has become a species of social catharsis in our country and Jose Alejandro Rodriguez knows this, as do the bureaucrats and the indolent, as well as the population.  Many times the complaints do not go any further than just being published there, but the myth has began to move forward and nothing can detain it.  People know that if they appear there is a responsibility which surges.  Eliecer Palma Pupo, a worker from the Transportation Base of the Urbano Noris Central, of San German, believed in that, wrote to them, and on December 17th 2011, his complaint appeared on the newspaper.  He and various other drivers had not been paid the stimulus of the previous period and he was already working during a new season and they were not paying him what they owed.  He told Rodriguez, the journalist, of the situation in which he had to drive back and forth, here and there, and all the other tasks he had to complete numerous times.  A few months later they paid him his dues, but a few days ago, one of the chiefs of the sugar production group AZCUBA mailed justifications and evasive answers to the “Receipt” section of the paper…

Jose Alejandro has once again responded to them and taken up the case, apparently annoyed by the dryness of the technocrat who did not assure that the event, with reprimands and supposed propositions of disciplinary measures against three supposed culprits, will not happen again.  I have wanted to point out the opinion he expressed in one of the paragraphs: “The response of an institution to a public complaint made by a group of workers during one period should never stay below the expectations which are created by the denouncement.  What is essential is the analysis derived from the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ of the offense.  If we had all of these elements, and the organizational measures which are taken, then we could say that an error like this will not be repeated“.

Every day, thousands of letters from desperate Cubans fill the post offices of the island.  Apparently, the sender’s pretensions are to have them published in order to solve injustices which human misery has plunged them into, and later, if they are not resolved, so that at least the army of useless functionaries will not go unpunished.  Now, it does not matter if we write to the Commander- instead, it matters who does, because sooner or later they will all respond to a *Fuenteovejuna, sir!

*Translator’s note: Fuenteovejuna– is a Spanish play from 1619, based on the events which took place in the village of Fuenteovejuna, Spain, in 1476, when a commander mistreated numerous villagers. In response, the ‘peasants’ came together and killed that commander. When the king’s men rode into the village to ask who had committed the murder, the villagers responded by saying: “Fuenteovejuna did it”.

End of the Championships, End of the Soap Opera

1 Jun

This article was written by Luis Felipe Rojas and published on Diario de Cuba on May 29th, 2012.  To read the original publication click here

It is May twenty-ninth, the dawn creeps up and brings the end of baseball season with a new champion: Ciego de Avila.  Amid the euphoria which caused this tight closing against the giants of the Industriales, the deficiencies of the national pastime were brought to light.

Cuban baseball has been suffering for some time now from an ill which needs a complete cure, so that the passion which can be seen in the provincial stadiums and during international events could crystallize.

Out in the field, during the last few days of the season, when the eight best teams are playing, we can still witness running and batting mistakes, technical-tactical errors, players who do not know how to bunt the ball, and many other aspects which should have been learned during young ages.  Clearly, these factors demonstrate the low level of competitiveness which this sport finds itself in.

What is not learned in the base…

Nearly all athletes, specialists, and fans agree in that their are economic difficulties and lack of attention for the social sport in Cuba.  “It seems”, says Jorge during an illustrious Sports Debate in the city of Holguin, “that we have returned to the ‘championship-ism’ of the 1980’s”.  Like him, others believe that without strong institutional support for the infant-juvenile leagues, there will not be good baseball for a while.

“It’s not enough”, adds Jorge, “to give it all to the established finalists, considering that this has been lacking from the moment the sport was begun”.

The municipal stadiums seem to be in post-war conditions, or like territories which have been ransacked by a plague.  In various municipalities of the Eastern provinces, the baseball parks are home to the provincial season games without the frontal net which protects spectators, as well as lack of a roof in the bleachers and deficient illumination (or none).

What can INDER offer?  Very little.  The horrid diet and the deplorable fields go against the preparation and development of the performances.  If the minimal resources are kept for the national championship, what can the baseball players of grade school levels or residents of far municipalities expect?

In provinces such as Las Tunas and Holguin, various teams play the provincial championship with players who end up returning to their homes through their own means afterward.  The transportation provided by INDER is a group of trucks in which people must board or get off in order to leave or return.  But since the conditions of lodging are horrible, many players prefer, after all, to sleep under their own roofs.

Lost Time

On occasions, the TV and Radio programs dedicated to baseball echo the fact that many people have shifted towards soccer.  Every weekend, the TV broadcasts the best of that sport: the European league in all its versions.

Baseball, a captive of an ideology, has not been able to surpass the international obstacles in which the national sport faces.  The day is still very far when they exhibit, as a final option, the League of the Caribbean, or its similar games in Venezuela or Mexico.   Meanwhile, out in the bleachers and in the homes, the public asks for blood, literally.

The official guide to baseball (2009-2010), even while compiling the statistics starting on 1959 with the euphemistic name of “Revolutionary Baseball” (alluding to the rise of power of Fidel Castro), has maintained the names of those who have decided to leave the country or stay in their foreign excursions and are now stars or once shined as professional athletes.  Jose Ariel Contreras, Alexei Ramirez, Aroldis Chapman, Livan and “El Duke” Hernandez, among others, make up the statistics:  but they would not dare show their faces on TV.

Internet, the programs stolen through parabolic antennas, or those brought by Cuban-American tourists fill up some of that space.  Under names such as “The Best Plays” or “The Best of the Best”, people record the bravery of Yunel Escobar or Kendrys Morales (or information on one of the latest deserters, Yoenis Cespedes) on CDs or USB drives.  The ghost of Major League Baseball travels under the table and finds a way to sneak into Cuban homes.

Meanwhile, the Ideological Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party seals off the floodgates so that no more baseball players can explain or commit what Marxist denomination classifies to be “ideological distractions”.  But the deep country continues the passion, and very few ever remember to refer to baseball as revolutionary.

Words VS. Actions

1 Jun

“Down with Domestic Violence”- Art by El Sexto

Violence against women within different levels of society has taken an uncommon appearance.  Amid campaigns and promotions to end this epidemic, the physical violence continues through untarnished machismo and a vulgar scorn for feminine dignity.   Even without counting the official statistics of women who are killed or beaten, every day we hear oral stories of such lamentable cases in contemporary Cuba.

We do not have a realistic or objective press which analyzes and presents these cases in a critical manner.  The social poll remains without hands nor feet.  Regardless, these appalling testimonies remain in the collective memory and in the social imagination.  During the last three months, a small provincial town such as San German has found itself caught up in four cases of murder of women (which I am not citing by name out of respect for the families), and all for motives of passion.  Physical blows on the face and on the breasts, stabbings, attacks with machetes, and psychological wounds which will never fully heal.

Currently, the physical aggressions against women range from a shove to a punch while in the loneliness of a house or out in public, as well as cases with guns or sharp objects like knives.  The motives of passion are nearly always because of supposed cheating, demands to have more accompaniment, and, only in rare cases, there has been a reverse response.  Each passing day there are less women who fight back their oppresors, as was common during past decades through the use of poisoning, death by fire, or wounds with sharp objects.

Behind the pretty words spoken on Radio and TV, we are in need of an urgent action, and we need that action to bear true intentions of healing.  The Cuban woman has been exposed to a verbal atmosphere of violence like never before.  Their conditioned leadership in the most recent martial conflicts, as well as their participation in the inflamed battles of insults against those who are different have made them different: but also excluded.  Years of coexistence in agricultural fields or in construction sites, of living side by side men under the notion that they have the same chores and rights, far from making them “equal” have made them different, but in a negative light.  When words are not enough, we must know that campaigns aren’t either.  From the coldness of the discourses we should pass into the heat of the facts.

Dawns of the sweetest love, their kindness could possibly be in extinction very soon, and it will be us, the impassive ones, who will be the only ones to blame.