Archive by Author

Being a dissident and a practitioner of Santeria, a difficult path

24 May

The first Cuban vice-president, Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez visited the headquarters of the Cultural Yoruba Association of Cuba this past Monday, days after the Department of State published a document in regards to religious freedom, which alleges that there have been some advances as far as Cuba’s approach in these matters.

While the second-in-line of the Cuban government was saying goodbye to the babalaos– the Santeria priests- of the official association, throughout the streets of Cuba other Santeria leaders are looked down upon for not joining the organization run by the Office of Religious Affairs, for abiding by other rules, for carrying weapons to carry out animal sacrifices and even for being dissidents, a charge which turns out to be  quite heavy to bear.

Click the link for a full report published on “Marti Noticias”, penned by Luis Felipe Rojas.

Eastern Democratic Alliance (ADO) joins “The Path of the People”

13 May

Rolando Rodríquez Lobaina (Coordinator of ADO) with Rosa María Payá, of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL)

In a cordial encounter sustained in the capital of the nation, dissident leader Rosa Maria Paya signed an agreement with the General Coordinator of the Eastern Democratic Alliance (ADO), Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina, to work together in the promotion of the project, “The Path of the People”.

The idea of working in unity ratifies the intention of various civil organizations in the island to work in favor of democracy and of favorable changes for the people.

“It’s the perfect moment to take important steps that will help the Cuban people to chose new instruments to demand the rights they deserve”, affirmed Lobaina.

The Eastern activist also added in his discourse: “The Path of the People should be taken to everyone, and all other organizations in and out of Cuba that stand up against totalitarianism should support this initiative, an initiative open to everyone”.

Finally, ADO’s coordinator concluded by saying: “The first step which we Cubans should take is to dismantle the law system which restrains the freedoms of all citizens.  Taking this as a starting point, we can then sit to debate about the destiny of the nation, with respect and tolerance”.

 Report by Isael Poveda Silva, Director of independent news agency ADOPRESS.

San German, the Story of a Baseball Accident

15 Jan

I witnessed this during the past Provincial Baseball Series in Holguin province.  The teams San German and Calixto Garcia (Buenaventura) were playing against each other.  I was trying to get a shot of some of the players when I came across this situation and snapped these shots instead, a blow with the ball, one of the most common in baseball, a straight pitch right to the head.

**All photos by Luis Felipe Rojas

The Seat of Rosa Parks

3 Jan

Photo: Raul Garcia

The city of Miami surprised me. Many of its buses pay tribute to someone who is a symbol of defending civil rights in this country. On my daily comings and goings through its neighborhoods, I found that detail. Right behind the bus driver’s seat, there is a small plaque with the details. Miami does it, and so have other cities in the United States, as one day will be done in Cuba with some similar actions.

The fact that Rosa Parks decided, on that afternoon of 1955, not to give up her seat to a white person, ignited the spark among her fellow citizens, leading to known events like the public transport strike in Montgomery. It was a gesture, a pro-active action, an act of non-cooperation, doing. Just like a few women decided to take to the streets of Cuba in 2003, dressed in white and with a flower in hand, or how a group of men have said: “I do not cooperate with the dictatorship”. It is these citizen gestures which turn on the motor of grand human actions.

After so much blood has been shed on the island, years of unjust imprisonment, arbitrary detentions, beatings and harassment against political activists and their families, will the definitive spark be ignited? Everything seems to indicate that it will, although sometimes we may lose hope or think that the dictatorship which has governed us for 54 years is eternal. When Laura Pollan screamed in front of the guards: “We are not afraid of you”, when Marta Diaz Rondon and Caridad Caballero shouted at the top of their lungs: “My house is not a prison”, or when Iris Perez Aguilera protested in a small town of Cuba’s interior in front of a radio station because it was only reporting part of the truth, they too were also paying tribute to Rosa Parks. They are also like her. And although they did not have the immediate protection and coverage which the humble lady from Alabama had, there is still the hope that one day they will be acknowledged for their gestures of reasonable rebellion. Against brute force, reason stands firm, Rosa said it: “Freedom is not free”.

Berta Soler. Photo by: Luis Felipe Rojas

The Grub of Poetry

3 Jan

A long time ago, when we were happy and believed that we could fix the world by debating about baseball, poetry and politics (much time has passed since then), we found the Sancti Spiritus-Santiago de Cuba based poet, Reinaldo Garcia Blanco, who reminded us of the time when Christmas was rationed, with his poem “Very long eulogy” which conjured images of those ‘Bulgarian onions and some Rene Barbier Rosada wine’. Years later, they gave me this same wine as a welcome present to this poetic site known as Miami. The wine, the books, and friendship are a tribute to Reinaldo, Marta Maria Montejo, Rafael Vilches, Carlos Esquivel and many others who believe in the strength of words when some believe in the strength of physical blows and stonings at night. 2013 could be the year of uniting poetry and life, of finally getting fed up with so much silence and so much screaming. I leave you with a fragment of the poem which moved us that one time:

“From Left to Right”

‘With the stare of an angel, there is a woman with a mustache. It’s Frida Khalo, and her hand lies over the shoulder of Trotsky (who brings an apple towards his face), and then there is a Doric column (now it’s in sepia but during the photo it was red). Then there is a man with a firefly on his hand and a tobacco on his mouth (he makes circles of light so we can see in this darkness) and it seems as if he’s giving his back to a girl called Greta Garbo (she is playing with a kite and the hand which comes out of nowhere to snatch the toy from her belongs to Salvador Dali). Towards the back, there is a sign which reads “Proletariats of the world, Unite”. Towards the far right one man adds with a paintbrush: “Last warning”. My memory fails me, but I would bet it was Pablo Picasso. Others follow him, and it seems that they are Russian, Chechnyans, or Quakers…God knows. On the table, there are Bulgarian onions and some “Rene Barbiera Rosado” wines. The girl and the old man are Maria Kodama and Jorge Luis Borges. The one getting down from the cross is Jesus. The one with the Second World War nurse outfit is Isadora Duncan and the one with the faint stair holding a Beatles CD in his hand is Mao Zedong.’

Final Present of 2012

3 Jan


To finish, Garrincha sends out this final present, which makes you want to stay and celebrate.  Thanks to everyone who did the nearly impossible to allow us to be here.  Happy New Year and best vibes for 2013.

Those Black People

3 Dec
Logo reads: "In Cuba, being black is a problem.  But being a black dissidents is a tragedy.  Freedom for all Now!"

Logo reads: “In Cuba, being black is a problem. But being a black dissidents is a tragedy. Freedom for all Now!”

Who threw the chalk? The black guy! You have the nose of a negro.  But, honey, you’re not that black.  Why don’t you smooth down those “curls” so you won’t look so black? Hey, mulatto, you really made those kids of yours ahead of time.  Big-lipped negro.  We black people are only good as musicians or boxers.  Do you remember that Santisteban was the only white boxer of the national selection for a long time?  Hey, lower your voice, this sounds like a house full of niggers.  Man, today I’ve worked more than a slave (black, of course).  Come here, what’s your name? The police approached me and says: “look, nigger, if it weren’t for the Revolution you’d still be cutting sugar cane in San German”.  And in that neighborhood there are a lot of black people.  Oh, they’re black, but they are good people.  These, and thousands of other comments also cast a shadow over being Cuban.  We are patriots, we fight in “a quarter of land”, but we stay quiet before such grotesque and racist expressions such as these, and more… sometimes we repeat them as if nothing happened inside.  We should think about this sometime.

And, about that…who threw the chalk? That black guy.