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Constructed in 1927, when the exploitation of its waters brought prosperity to San Miguel de los Baños in the province of Matanzas, the church of San Miguel Archangel today sees its bells muted due to structure’s precarious state. Darovic Caballero, a Cuban priest only 27, lives attentive to the almost three thousand souls in his parish. His voice brings spiritual nourishment to the faithful. He is heard loud and clear and it is understood, by virtue of his transparency, that he speaks from the heart.

Not far from the temple, the proud edifice that was once a place of pilgrimage for those who wanted to improve their health is also in ruins. Some say that the medicinal mineral spring’s bicarbonated waters — magnesium, calcium, with a touch of radioactivity and colloidal sulfur — have lost their curative powers; I haven’t had a chance to try it but I will investigate. What I could confirm was the frustration of a population that went from prosperity to abandonment.

The Archangel Michael is depicted holding a balance in one hand and a sword in the other, while under his feet, evil lies defeated. The leader of of the heavenly host still has a lot to do. How I envy people of faith!

28 November 2011

From all sides voices are heard asking the government to hurry. An editorial in the Catholic publication Espacio Laical emphasizes that the transformations must be made with the greatest possible urgency, that certain adjustments shouldn’t wait and suggests that we are already coming to the end of people’s patience. In a letter signed by L.R. Perez Gonzalez and published last Friday in the newspaper Granma, the author reflects the opinion that it is necessary to show a little more agility in making decisions and to do so as quickly as possible. He also recalls that the people are patient, revolutionary, and self-sacrificing in everything… “but we can’t trust.”

Just like in those computer games played by teenagers almost everywhere in the world, in the case of political and social transformations there is a horizontal bar marking the time left to take action. Paradoxically, if the player doesn’t go fast enough from the beginning, he will have to speed up his actions even more in the final seconds and this is frequently a source of more mistakes.

Yes, I know that it’s one thing to participate in a game where there are strict rules to follow and another to lead a nation at one’s whim, where those who govern us have imposed the rule of victory at any price and they have the power to cheat, to break promises, to disqualify opponents, and even to erase the records of the past. But time is running out and soon they will no longer be able to buy one more minute. It’s as if the sound of ticking was getting louder in all the clocks and the final pages of this 2011 calendar was more brilliant and striking. “Comrade Cronos” is demanding the floor, screaming and pounding his fist on the table.

22 November 2011

One of the few controversies we’ve seen among the supporters of the socialist system in Cuba has been the contention over moral and material stimuli. I say it can in some way be called a controversy, because in reality the defenders of moral stimuli raised their voices as if they were arguing, but they were doing it with someone whose arguments they didn’t know or simply didn’t even listen to.

“It is about creating consciousness with wealth but about creating wealth with consciousness,” the Maximum Leader said then, contradicting in some way the Marxist tendency to put the material over the spiritual, and this was how Socialist Emulation became rooted in our reality. To be a practitioner of this emulation, an advanced worker, or an accumulator of those merits that were identified with the letters A through K, constituted “the driving force of production” that managed to meet the goals and allowed the workplace to claim the Heroes of Moncada banner. At a year-end assembly each worker was given a certificate that specified the number and quality of the merits obtained, which could be presented in the coming year to support an application for domestic appliances.

These union committees were frequently held in which we had to determine if the refrigerator would be given to Karitina, who had merits A, B and C, or to Sarria, who had earned B, C, E and H, and on more than a few occasions cumbersome technical ties occurred in which we had to decide whether to give the television to the lady who had a mentally retarded child or to the one whose elderly mother had terminal cancer.

One fine day European socialism was shipwrecked, and those subsidized items stopped arriving in the country, and another fine day the economy was dollarized and “the Shopping” appeared, where there was no need to show up with a bonus certificate handed out at a union meeting, rather a wad of greenbacks had the miraculous ability to turn itself into goods and services.

People began to understand that to obtain those dollars, which later metamorphosed into Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC), you had to do the opposite of what was one required to earn merits. Then prostitutes looking for tourists returned, and the grandmother who survived a cancer that wasn’t terminal had to move into a corner of the living room because it was necessary to rent her room (the only one with a window onto the street).

Even the government understood that everything was changing and among distrust and suspicion it opened up opportunities for self-employment, where surviving the cruel laws of the marketplace required neither diplomas nor medals but rather efficiency and profitability through pure and simple competency.

That extra effort that the entrepreneur puts into her kiosk to sell more is the most important change that has occurred in Cuba in recent years. This need to be competitive is the best therapy to begin to heal the anthropological damage caused by the crazy whims of certain manufacturers of utopias.

14 November 2011

It struck me that this yacht moored at the Cienfuegos marina is the same one that workers for the magazine Cuba International toured the bay on in 1975. That was a courtesy of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) in the then province of Santa Clara*, in recognition of a special issue about the territory, prepared by a group of journalists and photographers, that was triumphantly distributed at the commemoration of the XXII anniversary of the assault on the Moncada barracks.

I could not forget that tour shared with my colleagues, now scattered throughout the world. I had told Yoani the story so many times — she wasn’t born yet — that she could repeat it in all its details: the gargantuan buffet, the open bar and, especially, the illusion that this privilege unquestionably put us momentarily above the rest of Cubans, something which we truly deserved.

It had to be the same yacht because my fantasy wanted it to be and because to board it together with my wife to relive those events in a new light was something I didn’t want to miss. So we went to an office with the suspicious name of “the operation” where we paid the fare and they gave us a receipt to give to the captain at the dock of the Jagua Hotel. A group of tourists (Canadians or French?) boarded the boat smiling, while we made our way to the best corner of the upper floor from where we could take good photos of the voyage. I remember that from there, 36 years ago now, the singer Pedro Luis Ferrar enlivened that mythical journey I made with my colleagues from the magazine.

Solicitous and gallant, the captain asked us our nationality. “I’m from Camaguey, she’s from Havana,” I said, with a touch of pride. The man maintained his smile and said something about the drinks being included in the voyage. A few minutes later he returned to say that he’d been obliged to inform headquarters that there were two Cubans on board, “and if gives me great pain to say this,” but it is absolutely forbidden and, in consequence, “we very much regret” that we would to leave the ship.

Yoani demonstrated the enormous superiority of not telling me “I told you so” and stood up, but not before spitting out to the amiable captain something that made him uncomfortable. I managed to offer up a little speech in French (my poor and mangled French) to the astonished tourists who suddenly felt themselves in the South Africa of apartheid. Once on the dock, I asked Ramiro Torres, the official from headquarters who came to enforce the order that we get off, if he knew that this had been  Communist Party’s yacht in the former province of Santa Clara, but the man was very young at that time and knew nothing of an era in which another kind of segregation predominated, one in which this humble servant was a beneficiary.


Translator’s note:
In 1976 Santa Clara province was split up into three provinces: Villa Clara, Cienfuegos and Sancti Spiritus.

7 November 2011


54…To confront racial, gender, religious belief, sexual orientation and other prejudices that can give rise to any form of discrimination or to limit the exercise of the rights of persons, among them those who occupy public office, of the masses and in defense of the Fatherland.
Taken from the base document of the First Cuban Communist Party Congress.

I have news that in this last half century they have denied no one the chance to be a member of the Communist Party, an official of the armed forces, or a member of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution for having a certain sex, race, or for being presumed to be homosexual. After the 4th Party Congress in 1991 the opening was extended to those with religious beliefs, such that Point 54 of the Base Document of the First Conference of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) has been edited obviously to permit, as of January 2012, for homosexuals, bisexuals and lesbians to join the PCC, hold responsible positions in government or to be leaders of some organization, without having to undergo the humiliation of hiding their preferences in the closet.

Other unmaskings will occur, as happened after the Fourth Congress with the believers who had disguised themselves as atheists in order to keep their red cards. But this time it will not be the crucifixes or the ikines of the god Orula that will be exposed to view, but the long-suppressed “feathers.” Then we will be able to ask Comrade Secretary General of our nucleus, even the captain of the tank squad, a question about his husband, or to comment to the union official, and also the Sector Chief of the National Revolutionary Police, how well he physically keeps his commitment.

What it does not, yet, get us, is the ability to found new parties, unless the reference to “and other” underlined in the citation from the document alludes to the prejudices and discrimination that we are subject to, those of us who do not share the ideology of the Communists. Perhaps we will no longer see our rights to participate in our own political organizations limited, and we will be able to defend the Fatherland from its true enemies?

2 November 2011

Link to Original Blog in Spanish

Please help translate

Reinaldo Escobar (1947), an independent journalist since 1989, writes from Cuba where he was born and continues to live. He received his degree in Journalism from the University of Havana in 1971 and subsequently worked for different Cuban publications. His articles can be found in various European publications, and in the digital magazines "Cuba Encuentro" and "Contodos."

Desde Aquí/From Here is a personal undertaking born from the need to write about those topics that fill my head every day but that cannot find a space in the official Cuban media.

reinaldoescobar@desdecuba.com

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