Archive | September, 2012

Nicaro, the Shadow of Yesterday

19 Sep

More than two decades have passed since that TV series of pro-Castro propaganda, produced by the studies of the (then) Channel 6. The plot only showed the supposed exploitation into which North American executives submerged Cuban workers of the Eastern nickel factory, located in the exotic “Lengua de Pajaro” (‘Bird Tongue’). Only then the workers rebelled against the employers. Exclusively, in that era the unions argued against their superiors. The soap opera had a “happy ending” of nationalizing the factory and the creation of a truly socialist company. But, what has happened since then?

Other than the information about the imminent shut down of the factory, very little has been said of the inefficiency and failures in the system of nickel ore extraction. The media, as a state secret, has tightly shut their safe box and has said nothing about the existing mineral poverty. The emission of gases and other toxic substances have turned Nicaro and Moa into real walking hospitals. I don’t have the exact statistic (only the health authorities know that) but carcinogenic symptoms, and lung and liver disease due to drinking water are very common in that place, just to cite a few examples of what is being most commented on among the locals.

One face of the brand new socialist company which is not published at all, is the destitution forced upon the locals of Nicaro, due to the necessity of resources and a nearly total decadence of the municipal structures en Mayari. With richness in its entrails, it is, however, a town which depends on the government of its capital municipality. A couple of blocks of buildings that seem like just that: blocks and not dignified homes, they are buildings of a 60′s Soviet style of the past century, it is the housing richness which was inherited by those who, for five decades, made up the socialist ranks.

The statistics are sometimes difficult to hide and recent data released by the Assembly of Popular Power in Mayari warn of the high level of juvenile delinquency in the area, due to (according to the specialists) the lack of recreational options left for youths. For more than twenty years, the corporation supposedly guaranteed offering homes for their workers, but with the passing of time those who began their working life during the 60′s and 70′s started to enter retirement, and now it is easy to see the disconnection: a series of marginal neighborhoods which are under harassment time and time again by inspectors of the Municipal Housing Procurement Unit and other supervising organizations.

In the year 2009, Kevin Vega Rios, a worker of that factory sent me his concerns. He is a citizen of a marginal neighborhood, with no supporting documents, and was practically forced to abandon his home. He was fined various times until, due to his ailments and the countless denunciations to the independent press, they stopped the threats against his small family. There are other cases like his. There is a more hidden face, which even with the definitive close of the factory will not come to light. They will not even be part of the best investigative journalism. We expect that what is coming, when they start to tear down the scaffolds and the rust of nearly one century of existence, the frameworks of human capital will also be abolished, the essence of a small town which once believed itself to be happy, prosperous and efficient.


Cuban Voices Magazine, The Voice

12 Sep

This past Friday, September 7th, I returned to that joyful encounter among friends. I assisted the presentation of the 16th edition of the Cuban Voices Magazine, dedicated this time as a tribute to Oswaldo Paya Sardinas. With a forward by Orlando Luis Pardo, the dossier is filled with signatures of essayists like Rafael Rojas, Manuel Cuesta Morua and Mijail Bonito as the main ones. But as in each edition of the magazine, there are other analysts, others artists, like Yoani Sanchez, Miriam Celaya and Enrique del Risco.

Voices has become one voice, because its publications are polyphonic and inclusive of other points of view. Paya, now, as in life, did not deserve less. The testimonies of Rosa Maria (the daughter) and Ofelia (the widow) form part of the outline of the remembrance of that image, which little by little, sooner or later, will pass from an immediate tragedy to an example of a friend “who has left”.

This was an opportunity for me to re-connect with the strings of that culture of being which they try to whisk away from us under an official mandate. Ever since the time of my literary rows, I have not shared a night with Polina Svietsova, a Camagueyan-Slav who, years later,transformed into the narrative pulse of the island. Also present was Yanier Hechavarría Palao, a poet from the interior Cuban provinces, from a little town known as Bijaru. Yanier was there to cheer us up with his presence and to share his texts which now appear in Cuban Voices. I hugged my friend Nilo Julian, an indispensible part of Omni-Zona Franca, who without fear, offered illustration for our first edition of the extinct Bifronte Magazine.

I spent some time with the Twitter user and friend of the freedom cause @maritovoz, Pastor Mario Lleonart, but there was more: artists, writers, independent journalists, everyday people who didn’t want to miss a good time in this Havana which everyone talks bad about nearly all the time. That’s what these 16 editions of Cuban Voices have been for, to unite the voices, to listen to the choir, for that: to hear each other, all of us.