Archive | September, 2013

Another Birthday for Malcom / Luis Felipe Rojas

23 Sep

Today is Malcom’s birthday and we went to a nearby bank to change the coins and notes that he and Brenda had been saving for a while in a glass container. It’s not a “knob” (jar) as we say in Cuba. Or it is but with an electronic lock that allows it to count the savings. It’s like a miniature bank. In the bank we are tax-free, but they don’t change it, that dependence has ceased to be.

They do it at a supermarket, and I feel strange writing these words new for me. Malcom and the girl who smilingly helps him complete the transaction. I’m left out for the first time. Malcom receives an envelope with the amount accumulated.

This is a different Malcom-birthday. We even go to an Office Max because he’s going nuts for a Tablet (the cheap one, eh?) and we’re going to buy it. The clerk settles me in the line and two ladies clutch their purses between their arms and hips. A boy fidgets for a bit until Malcom comes and they talk. He has come for his iPad.

The clerk asks me for my ID and related things. Surprisingly, I don’t have to participate in the transaction because the almost teenage clerk and my barely 10-year-old son understand each other wonderfully and my inadequate English would only get in the way of this just created relationship. They’ve become pals in the store (so to speak), the girl wishes a long life (to the device) and that the boy will enjoy it.

We have a new lodger. We don’t talk for two hours because it’s hard, today, to pull him away from the wonder.

23 September 2013

Where is Robertico? / Luis Felipe Rojas

17 Sep

Photo: Luis Felipe Rojas

This is the question many are asking after the events at the “Protestdrome,” where the Cuban musician Roberto Carcassés let loose with good things.

The first thing that happens in these cases is a silence that is scary … the repressed and repressor (for different reasons). Although they haven’t taken physical measures, Robertico knows what the tools of torture are. They’ve just told him that he would not be performing any more for a while. But he knows with what pliers they’ll tie his jaw shut, what is the substance they smear on you so you stink for a thousand miles and not even some of your colleagues in your own band will come by the house.

It happened recently to the painter Pedro Pablo Oliva, it has happened to a lesser or greater extent to Pablo Milanes, Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, Ana Luisa Rubio, Rafael Alcides and Antonio José Ponte. Maria Elena Cruz Varela and Carilda Oliver fared no better; Antón Arrufat, Fausto Canel, Marcos Miranda, Cundo Bermúdez and Reinaldo Arenas lived a hell of  full of thorns when in their way they also said, like Robertico: “I want / remember that I always want.”

There is a big distance between the poems for which José Mario went to labor camps and this timba-with-swing where it seemed the leader of the Interactive musical group was going to dedicate it to the 4 remaining spies imprisoned in the United States … or five because Ana Belen Montes is imprisoned due to the inexperience of Castro’s intelligence apparatus.

This time it is not a documentary like PM, a magazine like Diaspora, the  troubadour intimacy of Pedro Luis Ferrer or the rawness of Lichi Diego, informing against himself (and the family, partners and all the rest divided). The last straw came under the Mount of Flags (hehehehehe, so great that) with the United States Interest Section in the background, presided over by the freed spy and the story of the yellow strips. Fiesta and dance, the best of the Communist youth danced and shouted against President Obama and the killjoy Robertico was seen with the tight note, the peg leg, the red flag, the witchcraft and the creole tripe.

A few weeks ago the poet Rafael Vilches was expelled from a cultural institution for joining up with the disaffected with the government. Angel Santiesteban receives a prize for a novel in prison, the PEN Writers in Cuba continues to operate even though squeezed into Johny Feble’s house, and Alina Guzman Tamayo continues offering some really good performances from Alamar, without the help of anyone, according to what I’ve been told.

Robertico will appear and those of us who love the irredeemably crazy music that he makes with Interactive (or without the partners) will sing: “I want / remember I always want.”

16 September 2013

Useless? Without Virtue?

3 Sep

Photo: LFelipe Rojas

An event has shaken the forums on Cuba and Cubans lately. The trips abroad of some Cuban opponents of the regime has focused attention on the tendency of we Cubans to be who we are: passionate, extremists, relaxed, dazzling, contemptuous, in short, human. But there are three women in particular I want to talk about: Yoani Sánchez, Berta Soler, and Rosa María Payá. Each one stretched the cord until it broke, from one side and the other, of Tyrians and Trojans.

In order of appearance, the linguistic slip and use (perhaps incorrect) of irony in a battlefield (the media) where gaps of misunderstanding are not allowed, unless for the use of their own machinations, painted with the first scandal the multi-award winning girl from Factor Street. All the posts she wrote over five years, taken together, didn’t generate the flood of comments as great as her 15 seconds of “fame,” and that’s bad… but it’s good. If anyone really doubted that Yoani could grab the attention of the world, they were as wrong as she was.The verbal stumbling had the same company of cheers and repudiation. We all learned the lesson, she not to again trade her communication tools, we to demonstrate once again our propensity for intolerance, and Europe and Washington to serve as a clear path to show themselves exquisite hosts.

For her part, Rosa María Payá is in, probably, the most delicate moment in her political career, Cuba doesn’t know it. Even the Human Rights activists don’t know, the Independent Civil Society (not forgetting that the opposition is not exclusively in Havana… far from it) and the contacts with the movement she hurriedly inherited (the Christian Liberation Movement) have not taken a couple of trips from the capital of the country. But the strength with which she has led the fight to denounce the death of her father, Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, and the activist Harold Cepero Escalante, had demonstrated the fiber she is made of, seasoned with three ingredients very dangerous for her adversaries: clarity of thought, ease of communication, and a clinging to the truth that could put the Castro regime in a position as delicate as that it faced three years ago with the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo.

Berta Soler Fernandez brings the experience of a decade plotting strategic actions, reckless and brave against a repressive machine that went down in the annals of the twentieth century and has taken the lead in the twenty-first. Seconding the peerless Laura Pollán was a difficult test, but she took it on with ease in ten years of the struggle with the Ladies in White. Steering the mythical and effective female group, working as a team and gaining their blind trust was the final exam, conquered cum laudem. Berta Soler has deployed her agenda on the old continent as one who knows every word, every phrase the political prisoners whispered in her ear, the spirit of Pollán and the Ladies in White who continued protesting in Havana as long as she represents them. Soler has flatly denied having political ambitions, she has focused on Human Rights and with simplicity and bravery continues to support her ideals.

Three voices, three women called to tell the story and they are narrating it in a tone of voice that anyone of us would wish.

22 March 2013