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After reading Haroldo Dilla’s excellent article in Cubaencuentro I feel compelled to say something on this 160th anniversary of the birth of José Martí.

The earliest memory I have of Martí is from 1953 when I was barely 6 years old and Bohemia magazine had his portrait on the cover.  I asked my father, “Who is this guy?” and that was when I got the most painful scolding of my entire life.

I’m not as fervent about Martí as my father would have wanted, but I still believe to this day that no other Cuban surpasses him. The officially-sponsored events about “the balance of the world” that quote him out of context to attack us, making him the intellectual author of so many atrocities, have not dented the respect I have for him. But much time has passed and we are in the 21st century, so it’s absurd to want to understand our world in the light of the 19th.

I have the impression that Our Martí would not have liked that they are using him for all the things they use him for, but I imagine him today with that smile just caught in a blurry photo, looking at us with his barely disguised superiority (“for the common people, their little bit of common music…”).

If your spirit is watching us you will have no choice but to feel sorry for us.

pupila-dilatadaWe’ve all had at some time the experience of checking the changes in our visual perception after our pupils dilate. In a dark room where we can’t even see our hands in front our face when we enter, bit by bit we come to distinguish the environment as our eyes become accustomed to the absence of light.

So we are in Cuba in relation to those little flashes of freedom that emerge from some of the measures taken by our leaders. The most recent has been allowing us to watch the Venezuelan channel TELESUR. My colleague Michel Suarez reflected on this in Diario de Cuba, when he spoke about the this new pinhole in the dark. In the comments on his article there was no lack of those who, after ingesting huge gulps of the Coca Cola of forgetting, seemed not to understand the happiness that one drop of water brings to the thirsty, the photo of a country landscape when locked in a cell, an Internet connection at a speed of 56 kw/s in a Havana hotel…

So much time in the darkness has sharpened our vision and it will be this acuity that will allow us to find a way out, and I am not speaking of escape but of a bloodless and civilized solution.

Our rulers, or those “satraps usurping power” as my friend Ramón González prefers to say, will be in Chile now showing themselves off as democrats; who knows if they will promote, there, the ratification of the U.N. Human Rights Covenants now being demanded with such vehemence by Cuban civil society; who knows if, in February, when Raúl Castro is inaugurated for his second term, he will announce the deepening of this “reforms” and now someone will be able to buy a new car at a dealership, and the self-employed will be able to import raw materials, and the land leases will be extended for the current beneficiaries, or any other apparently minor detail.

Here we are, not blindfolded, but with our pupils dilated, detecting the pinholes.

images-machaditoOnce again Mr. Jose Ramon Machado Ventura addressed the issue of the speed of “the transformations” driven by Raul Castro, warning that these processes are distorted from the outside by voices “paid by the empire” who demand more rapid progress naively believing that they are going to lead to capitalism.

On this occasion Cuba’s first vice president had the audacity to add that Cubans enjoy freedom of expression because “the people are constantly stating their views and opinions without any type of coercion.” According to the version published in the newspaper Granma, “Cubans talk on the street, on the block, at the meetings of the CDR [Committee for the Defense of the Revolution] and the FMC [Cuban Women’s Federation]; and if they are students they freely express themselves in the systematic interchanges in the student organizations, and everyone is heard.”

The second Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party forgot the detail that the freedom of expression of a nation is not measured by the examples he mentions, but by the access people have to the media. On the other hand, to affirm that there is no type of coercion for offering views and opinions is to deny the existence of the repudiation rallies, of State Security’s taking note of who on the block and in the workplace dares to push the limits of what can be openly criticized.

It is true that people are increasingly less afraid, but that is not a credit to the executioners but rather to the victims.  To say that people express themselves freely is like saying that the number of people who drink milk at breakfast is three times the number who receive it on the ration book, or that in Cuba no one is barefoot, or that the number of people with cellphones is already equal to those with land lines, data that may be true but that are not the results of the achievements of the system, but rather a victory of the citizens who find alternative paths to earn a living and better their standard of living.

The so-called measures of perfecting or updating the model are not steps towards capitalism although they do, indeed, deviate substantially from what we once described as Socialism. In proportion to their ceasing to resemble that deceiving egalitarian utopia, people feel better. The aged leaders can disguise as continuity what is clearly a dismantling, but life will have the last word. Perhaps by then “they” will no longer be among us, or no longer occupy their current positions; and then the blame for the final collapse will fall on the new wolves of their own litter, who today applaud them and who tomorrow will tear them to pieces without pity.

21 January 2013

imigra251

Notice in Immigration and Travel Office window – See below for translation.

Just a few hours ago Yoani Sánchez and I had the ecstatic experience of being the first to file the paperwork for the new Migratory Law. To be NUMBER ONE in a line is always comforting, and especially of the place has not been bought from a professional line-holder and the line is not a mad crush because of some extraordinary event. But the most successful part of the process, which we were able to put to the test in the first minutes, was the real-time operation of the much-hyped travel and immigration reform.

Yoani Sánchez, whom the Cuban government refused the now-eliminated Exit Permit twenty times, this morning was one of the most efficient thermometers for measuring the extent of the new measures. It would be enough to read Subsection H of Article 23 of the new law to feel pessimistic; the subsection says that passports will not be granted “when for reasons of public interest, the authorized authorities decide.”

Now, they have promised us the new passport within two weeks, and everyone in the office responded with, “Yes! Of course you can travel!” leaving us only to wait to see what will happen at the window of the immigration official’s booth at the airport, when the famous blogger tries to walk through the door officially labeled “the border.”

The most significant is not that this person travels, but what it could mean, a sign that finally reality has prevailed over the absurdity, and not because of the noble will of a political authority who orders it, but because of the public reaction within the Island and the moral pressure of international public opinion has pushed in the right direction and with the necessary force.

We’ll know soon.

PS: The errors in the writing of the notice, placed in the immigration office, are not the responsibility of the author of the blog.

TRANSLATION OF THE NOTICE IN THE WINDOW

AS WE HAVE INFORMED IN THE MEDIA WE REITERATE:

In accordance with what is established in Ministry of the Interior Resolution 13, those under 18 or disabled residents in the national territory,are only required to “update” current passports that are valid and current “without any encumbrance.”

TO AVOID INCONVENIENCE AND ECONOMIC AFFECTS THAT COULD BE OCCASIONED THOSE WHO FALL INTO THE FOLLOWING CATEGORIES SHOULD DESIST FROM PRESENTING THEMSELVES AT THE BORDERS TO LEAVE THE COUNTRY:

1 – Those who have been informed by their institution that they require its authorization to travel.

2 – Those who possess fire arms that have not been deposited.

3 – Those males who from the January 1st in the year they turn 17, to December 31st in the year they turn 19, and who have been informed that they are included in the upcoming calls to Active Military Service.

4 – Other people who are described in Article 25 of Decree Law 302/2012.

14 January 2013

meme
The “Another Dawn” concert held at the America Theater on January 5 and 6 as a tribute to the maestro Meme Solís, provoked in me nostalgia, shame and awe.

Nostalgia, because the program “Alone with you,” broadcast by Radio Progresso after 10:00 at night, was one of my preferred transgressions in the years of my military service, when we violated the silent hours and the prohibition against having portable radios. Gathering around the cot of the recruit Andrés Villorín, owner of the receiver, we listened to those songs that were a balm of modernity in the closed environment of Cuban music of those times.

Shame, because in that era it seemed perfectly normal to me that Meme Solís was stripped of his right to appear in public for having committed the “unspeakable fault” of having asked to leave the country. Although unfortunate, it also seemed normal and even acceptable that his songs were banned from radio programs. When almost the entire world had forgotten him I saw him in person, for the first and last time, at the Hotel Jagua in Cienfuegos, where he played the piano some nights in the cabaret. I thought then that they were being generous to give him that opportunity.

Astonishment bit me because at the concert, where almost everyone was visibly moved, the singer’s face could be seen on the screen accompanied by figures such as Maggie Carlés, Mirta Medina, Annia Linares, Xiomara Laugart, Albita Rodríguez and other glories of Cuban music who today live outside the Island. Is a cultural thaw underway to recover from the damage caused by so many years of political intolerance? Are we on the eve of producing a tribute to Celia Cruz?

The nostalgia was shared, especially by the audience members of my generation. The shame was not made manifest, because nobody there asked Meme Solís for forgiveness for the pain he was caused. The astonishment was shown in the approving applause every time one of those banned divas appeared.

I would like Meme Solís to know that we have not forgotten him and that no one now has the arrogant intention of forgiving him for having left Cuba, rather in every case the desire to ask his forgiveness for having abandoned him to his fate.

Reinaldo Escobar

7 January 2013

For me 2013 has special connotations. I have a personal prophecy that I’ve only told my friends and that came into my head in a dream in the middle of a hangover, after the party for the arrival of the year 2000.

The dream in question was a conversation in which I was debating how comparable two dates were, one was the first of January 1959 and the other the 13th of April 2013. That’s all I could remember when I woke up and since then I have been waiting for this day.

So I leave it there. I promise not to kick myself if something happens on that day and I accept ahead of time all the jokes that will come my way when absolutely nothing happens.

31 December 2012

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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