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Monthly Archives: June 2011

The Locusts of Miami

I would almost dare to ask the regular readers of this blog, to leave it this time. To not read a post not directed to them: a post that is not directed at democrats, the quick-witted, the open-minded. It is not for the readers who do credit to this space, or for those for whom nearly a year I have written texts with high pretensions (false modestly doesn’t prevent me from saying so), where I have reviewed every sentence, ever metaphor, every idea with obsessive rigor.

This time, it’s different. I am driven by a clear and unambiguous response. And a  rather temperamental response, to not out of tune with my unredeemed Latin character.

A few months ago there appeared in this space a response addressed to the agents of State Security of my country. To the hounds of power who tried to blackmail me, using all the methods at their disposal to stop me from writing from my house at Parada 204 with all the passion of one who knows himself to be free.

Now I respond to the other repressors, the other hounds… although these are powerless. I dedicate these words to the poor troglodytes who roam the magnificent city that is Miami, and that in spite of them, in spite of their bold efforts, does not suffer the least stain or loss of status as a mythical city.

Where does this come from? Well, due to certain publications in this blog, (first, Blockade vs. Embargo: Reason Hijacked; then Uncomfortable Freedoms; and finally, Another Stretch of the Sea Between Us), and after my television appearances in recent days opposing the proposal of Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart to revive the restrictions on travel and remittances from the Bush years, some of these Cro-Magnons have readied themselves and dedicated anonymous telephone calls to me and sent me emails with their feverish irritations, their subtle tones of offense, because “I have dared” to not go along with them.

Very well.

In the first place: I did not confront the government of my country, the servile wretches who sustain it, and every kind of adversity that this implies in Cuba, because my life lacked excitement. In other words: It was not a cause chosen by rebellious inner adrenaline that said, one fine day, “My goodness, my life is very calm, let’s go look for problems.”

I faced it head on, without mincing words, because I will not allow anyone to restrict my individual freedoms. Because I will not permit a bunch of idiots (“Locusts” the great Oriana Fallaci called them) to put locks on my freedom of expression. And above all–forgive me readers of my other texts: I tried to divert you right at the beginning–because apart from intellectual pretensions, I have the balls necessary to say what I think when I’m asked.

Unlike you, poor bitter locusts; you do not realize that you lose more followers every day, every day you make less sense to them; instead you are dying, day after day, out of fear, even in this country of freedom.

Yes, I repeat: you are dying of fear. When the light turns red you think, “Horrors! A Communist stoplight!” When a shadow appears at your side, “A Communist is following me, I’m being stalked by a Communist!” And when you run out of arguments and have nothing to say, you are like babbling babies repeating the same word over and over, “Communists! Communists!” with trembling jaws and a shameful lack of strength.

No, poor devils, you are not this great nation. This nation is so rich, so vast, unique, among other reasons because it has also sheltered you, who think yourself great democrats, but democrats in a totalitarian style, “If you think like me, bravo; if you don’t think like me, enemy.”

Do you realize, Manichean locusts, drivers of bankrupt steamrollers, do you realize that you have no fucking idea of what democracy means? Do you realize that you repeat the word and in your mouths it sounds hollow, empty, because in your infinite ignorance you don’t know that a Utopian named Rosa Luxemburg said something so simple and convincing like, “Freedom, freedom is essentially those who don’t think like us”?

And you will find out, as if no one has already told you: the only thing that separates you from your presumed enemies, the only thing that divides you from the darkest functionaries of the Ministry of the Interior, do you know what it is? A strip of sea. Ninety miles. You throw the bones of the dissidents in jail just like they do. They, there, will throw your offensive slogans, star in your incendiary marches. In some modern idiom your most recurring slur — Communist — should rhyme with their most recurring slur — Mercenary.

And do you know what else most differentiates you, Locusts of Miami, from those repressors for whom, even more than hate, you feel a lethal fear? It is this: unlike your “colleagues” of State Security, as opposed to Party officials on the Island, and the infinite gamete of dictatorial hounds who populate it, you don’t have one iota of power. The share you had in decades past, thank God — really: thanks be to God — has long since slipped through your hands. You exercise your right to protest, to shout your slogan — Communist! Communist! — and everyone else exercises their right to laugh at you, and to ignore you.

It is the price of living in a country that exceeds them, poor devils. A country that has not known dictators, and when the bitter name McCarthy appeared in its History, it was erased without mercy so that it would never be reborn. Indeed, note the fact: the darkest man in American democratic history, Joseph McCarthy, today detested, reflected something in you: he accused Charles Chaplin, Raymond Chandler, Dalton Trumbo, of being traitors, communists.

Well, that lack of power you suffer today, that lack of determination, that having nothing more to do than to shout, “Communist! Communist!”; that lack resonance you must feel–I feel sorry for you–to live in a nation where freedom overwhelms you.

At times you would wish for a few hours of repression. Right? In your darkest dreams and desires you have come to yearn for a single day, barely twenty-four hours, of total impunity for stoning the houses of those who say things that offend your tender ears; to lynch–like the Castro mobs against the Ladies in White–your enemies, while singing the usual nervous chorus: “Communist! Communist!”

Let me tell you something else, ludicrous locusts: the dialectic wasn’t a Marxist fantasy. The dialectic is a social evolution, and it is this which every day crushes you more. The evolution of freethinkers like me, like my friends on the Island, like so many honest and educated exiles, true democrats whom I have met in just the six months that I have been here. The evolution of those of us who don’t work for the sake of hatred, but for love of Liberty. And do you know why, poor headless ones? Because the alternative it so follow the doctrine of a presumed enemy of yours: That Che Guevara whom you detest so much, but who said the ultimate thing  by which all of you are unknowingly guided: “The only sentiment stronger than love of liberty, is hatred for those who would deny it to us.”

Because you know what? I make you a gift of this hatred, Miami Locusts. Cubans of today, those of us who haven’t resigned ourselves to the snake’s nest that the government of our country has become, prefer to work for the sake of love of liberty, rather than because of hatred for those who repress us. Hatred is a bad fuel, only useful to jump-start broken steamrollers, not to move broken-dictatorship ideas.

And as an individual being who knew freedom in Cuba–where to be so is a thing of heretics–who knows freedom in the United States, and who will know freedom wherever I go, I say in Spanish of course:

I do not support the embargo that offers such an excellent excuse to the ruffians of the Island to justify their excesses; I hate the division of families, of friends, and it’s all the same to me if it is because of those who administer the Island like their own land, or if it is because of a congressman who believes in the right to tell me that seeing my mother once every three years is enough, and doesn’t understand the sweet favor he does to the Cuban satraps, dividing us more every day. And I don’t sympathize with Luis Posada Carriles, as I don’t sympathize with anyone who defends his beliefs through shedding the blood of innocent people.

Period.

From an honorable exile, from this Florida I have already learned to love, with humility, as a second homeland; from the same earth that welcomed Félix Varela, Martí, Heredia, persecuted and repressed Cubans; from this Miami that slanderers of my Island have tried to distort–with your invaluable help, of course: what would the Cuban defamation apparatus be without your collaboration, dear locusts; and from colorful, festive Miami, hybrid between the best of the Latinos and the spirit of the Land of Lincoln, I, a recent arrival with much to say and much to learn, dedicate my sovereign indifference.

At the end of the day, no matter how much racket you make flapping your arrogant insect wings, it will not be more audible.

June 27 2011

 

CNN’s Havana

When the documentary was close to its end, I discovered an unbelievable sensation deep inside of me: the “destination” Claudia Palacios was proposing was absolutely unknown to me and made me feel the urge to visit it.  CNN, through one of its reporters of spectacular beauty and proven professionalism, had just managed to make a Cuban who has only been out of his country for 6 months, hardly recognize Havana, and see himself tangled in a unrepresentative trap and the superficiality of the ample report to the point where he could accept the reality its author was proposing: yes, Havana is a place of enchantment in a paradise which had to be visited.

So different was the city that the ineffable journalist presented to me some days earlier, on the segment “Destinations CNN,” with a Havana I had visited dozens of times throughout my life, as a Cuban, and whose intricacies I knew like the palm of my hand.

The gray antecedent of this unfortunate material came from a Spanish television show.  It was called “Spanish in the World”, and also filmed a sweetened, graceful, smiling Havana, which no doubt exists, but as an epidermal make-up which those inside know is empty and incomplete.

But the miscalculations of Claudia Palacios, the incisive interviewer of public figures, the journalist who knows her profession well enough to be able to assume that “speaking without knowing” is understandable in tourists interested in vacationing, not in communication professionals, seemed mildly scandalous to me.

Let’s say: to present Havana as a festive, tropical city, a city of clandestine cigars and people who serve you, is not exact.  To only present Havana as a city of never-ending festivities, of happy and dancing Cubans, of mojitos and rental cars, without later delving into the refinements, inside the veins under the social skin, is a journalistic misfortune.  And by this, I know I am not saying anything new to the talented reporter, which makes it worse.

Was it necessary or essential to present the most cruel Havana of all, of nocturnal thugs, the galloping corruption or the semi-juvenile prostitution? I wasn’t even asking for that, as a spectator of a coverage that evidently didn’t try for depth or questioning.  I know the profiles and perspectives in which  journalists sometimes focus our work.

But to affirm that behind the plans of “economic reactivation” undertaken by Raul Castro’s government, Havana had bloomed in a spectacular way, seems to me to be a conscious falsification of the truth, and that, in all its essence, is a crime of “lese journalism.”

Didn’t the smooth Claudia Palacios visit the barracks where hundreds of Habaneros or Orientales stack themselves, people who come from any part of Cuba or those born in the capital, without potable water, between cracked walls and grime stamped on the ceilings? Why was the reporter content with following the tour of La Habana Vieja (Old Havana) offered to her by a designated guide from Havana Tour, and not stepping out of the script of that tropical Virgil, not going down the pestilential streets that haven’t been repaired by the Historian’s Office, which are very close to those places she filmed? Perhaps the informed journalist is unaware of the usage of nations like Cuba, where those guides are faithful people chosen by and for the State Security, people who know precisely what they can and cannot show?

Perhaps Claudia Palacios didn’t see the private businesses with repeated products, fried flour patties, breads filled with spreads made from indecipherable ingredients, because of the lack of viable source materials that would allow them to grow as true business men?  In that city she described as a Paradise made up of sea water and smiling people, didn’t she see the sweat running down the skin, the anguish of hunger, the buses crowded with irritable people, didn’t she see uncertainty, a little bit of indifference and a lot of hopelessness?  Perhaps the beautiful Palacios doesn’t know that in that city whose growth in  tourism she praised no end, attributing it among other reasons to the festive nature of Cubans, that a cohort of adolescents sell their bodies to repugnant tourists for barely a decent dinner or a letter of invitation to another country?

I find it impossible to grant credibility to the reporter of a leading world news chain, who doesn’t know that an immense percentage of Habaneros cannot visit those luxurious restaurants she showed in her documentary, and that for Habaneros and Cubans in general the fascinating Valle de Viñales remains  of those places like Varadero, Cayo Coco, and the Hemingway Marina, that have been prohibited to Cubans due to the economic inaccessibility.

Evidently the objective of “Destinations: Havana” was simply marketing.  It was to sell a destination, and nothing more.  But I ask myself how far can journalistic ethics and decency permit, how far is it lawful to accept a manipulation of realities, showing only half the face of a city so complex as is Havana only because your work load is this and not that.

I ask myself: if all of a sudden the series “Destinations” thought it necessary to recommend Teheran, would Claudia Palacios step on Iranian soil concentrating only on showing the Tomb of Cyrus, the friezes of Persepolis Palace, or address with silk gloves the obedience of its feminine population, without delving into the whys, without diving under the surface, as her journalistic responsibility requires?

I think that aside from pink-skinned Europeans with desires to spend their savings well (I will always remember the words of an Italian in his sixties who said, in front of me, while he caressed the rear of a very young mulata accompanying him:”What would we be without Cuba!”). Aside from the brainless tourists from half the world, and aside from the representatives-implementers of a system like the one my native country suffers from today, nobody else could have enjoyed the “Destinations” filmed by Claudia Palacios.

Not even the people of the city where she took her images. Unfortunately those cannot give their opinion, because they live in one of the few countries where watching CNN is prohibited outside of some hotels, where cable TV doesn’t exist in each home, and so they will not be able to watch the fair mantle of the surreal circus attraction with which the journalist has shown them to the world.

Right this second I still ask myself if I ever truly got to know my Havana.  I think that along with that Havana told by Dulce Maria Loynaz in her memoirs, along with the delinquent Havana of Pedro Juan Gutierrez, or the eternal nocturnal and sinful Havana of Cabrera Infante, we can now start to include the Havana of the beautiful Claudia Palacios.  I wouldn’t know how to distinguish which of these belongs more to fiction.

Translated by: Angelica Morales

June 23 2011

 

Global Bestiary

I. A Happy World

China, North Korea and Cuba, in that order, are the three happiest nations on the planet. In the “Top Five” they are followed by Iran in the 4th position, and Venezuela, number 5.

The most agonizingly unhappy of all countries is the United States, which scored just three points out of 100 in the “happiness scale.” Rather, “The American Empire.” So the land of Lincoln is called by the authors and publishers of this survey: Central Television of North Korea, which announced its lovely results during a recent visit of the illustrious Kim-Jong-Il to Beijing.

The Global Happiness index (also called by North Korean “journalists” Gross National Happiness) was published first in China on the Chaoxian site, and then spread from one end to the other of the Kim’s Korea, where it is presumed that a little more than 22 million died of hunger up to 1997, and which can boast a true first place in a ranking: that of the most vomit-inducing rigid dictatorships that humanity can conceive of today. The country where the physically handicapped end in concentration camps so as not to spoil the public adornment, and where turning one’s back on portrait of Kim-Il-Sung or his successor Kim-Jong-Il is considered an affront to be paid for in blood.

The great thing about this survey is that it puts everyone in his place. For me, nothing has so resembled Erasmus of Rotterdam’s “In Praise of Folly,” that magnificent text where it is the madman who speaks in the first person, and the reader mustn’t forget that the characters that are celebrated and elevated are, in truth, those insulted by the satire of the author.

Something similar is achieved by the “Gross National Happiness Index” of the North Koreans, who accept without question that the genius Kim-Il-Sung wrote 28,000 books in his lifetime. It puts everyone in his place: nicely back to front.

I am trying to figure out if the Cuban National Television , if the Round Table, fell for the temptation to show their glorious third place between the happier nations of the globe. I guess that mixed feelings of modesty very close to shame made them to keep a cautious silence.

When the United Nations rankings or the “Forbes” one place Norway, Denmark, Finland, Costa Rica and Australia as the five nations with the highest index of global happiness ( determined by their income per capita ,the estate of their educational systems, their environmental conditions, among many other indexes), and where “surprisingly” North Korea, Cuba , Venezuela and Iran do not appear anywhere, this list used by Kim-Jong-Il pretending to please his Chinese counterpart, and to please himself, has an insuperable value : it permits to mark on the world’s map where are the principal excretions of the universal geography.

II. Fundamental Rights Are Measured with a Ball

Selección de Fútbol Femenino de Irán

Iran's Female Soccer Team

Ali Kafshian, president of the Iran’s soccer federation, expressed his indignation: the sacrosanct FIFA committed a despicable act of discrimination against the Iranian athletes.

Where was the derision this time? Simple: the organization governing world football blocked the women’s team from competing in an official match against the Jordanian team for one fundamental reason: the Iranian contenders demanded to play the ninety minutes in a long red-and-white dress, a scarf covering part of their faces, and as the neck would be semi-exposed — horrors! — also a scarf to avoid any affront to Islam.

But the Islamic country forgot something: the sporting rules don’t distinguish between races and religious creeds. They don’t understand extremism disguised — it’s never been said better — as pure tradition.

The regulations of the influential international organization demand standard dress, not uniforms that hide anything or with any political or religious references. And in soccer, as in life the rules have a whiff of inviolability.

The interesting thing in the case is that nations like Iran, cruelly inflexible against western customs; societies where tourist couples can’t kiss in public at risk of going to jail and then being deported, and where alcoholic drinks are prohibited to natives and foreigners alike, angrily demand that western sport institutions modify their rules and accept religious-cultural diversity as a basic principle.

One conclusion to think about: in Iran women are stoned to death for committing adultery, and live in the only nation in the world where female sexual slavery is legal. Playing football, however, is a fundamental right the land of Ahmadinejad provides women.

III. Coffee Stories

El Café: Uno de los Emblemas de la Isla

Coffee: One of the Emblems of the Island

Shortly after a Cuban family living in Miami earns 360 million dollars selling its coffee industry to a U.S. company, the Island’s newspaper, Granma, officially announced with all its letters, that cups of coffee in the country will include fifty percent of the great darkness, and fifty percent clear grains. Half coffee, half peas.

While the business world admires the commitment, talent and future vision of the inspiring José Ángel Souto, who came to the United States in 1961 with the simple ideal of doing the one thing he knew in Cuba: selling “good coffee,” and fifty years later his children enjoy the millionaire empire created by the Pilón and Bustelo brands, the Cubans “of Cuba” suffered two agonies in one: first, the disappearance of the bodegas in this semi-vital product, indispensable for Creole breakfasts; and second: the reappearance by national decree of peas as an addition to coffee.

“The water should not be higher than the valve in the coffeemaker, the coffee cannot be compressed in the receptacle because the free space favors the hydration of the peas and it should be cooked over low heat,” Granma trained Cubans who protested, complaining not of the bad taste of the revolutionary monster, but of its danger: the coffeemakers started flying through the sky, exploding like some tropical Al-Qaeda artifacts.

And the well-loved newspaper was quick to explain, “It you read the instructions, you won’t have any accidents.” Lovely custom: in the pass, the benefactor of the Revolution, the Commander himself, spent his precious hours teaching housewives how to cook in the new pressure cookers brought from China. Now, without his High Chefness in front of the cameras, the tabloid does the rest.

Meanwhile, the name Souto, yesterday in Sancti Spíritus, today in Miami, will continue linked for life to the unsurpassed Pilón coffee, although it passed into the hands of a new empire (J.M. Smucker, maker of jams and marmalades), will not deprive the cupboards of exile of its excellence product: a coffee that even the alienated few — like me — who don’t succumb for the necromancer forces, captivate the senses with its perfect aroma.

To my friends on the Island, two details of the brand:

The guajiro José Ángel Souto, who died at age 91, sold coffee in the United States door-to-door, after convincing a U.S. roaster to allow him to grind his beans in their mills. His subsequent million dollar business arose, like the immense majority in this country, from nowhere. The miracles in this land have only one name: honest work. In a country of opportunities.

Finally: Today Cuba produces some 6 thousand tons of coffee a year. According to official figures. In 1960, the first digit was the same… with another zero after it: 60 thousand annual tons. And the newspaper Granma says that its share of peas in the morning cup should allow it to increase the price of coffee on the world market.

IV. Our Man in Bolivia

El Presidente de Bolivia

The Picturesque Bolivian President

First: His indigenous status was put forward as a reason for joy, even in democratic South American countries, forgetting that is not race, ethnicity or religious creed which makes a man ideal to lead his nation. In this case, it would seem that the mentality of the statesman was secondary to the exoticism that an Aymara would, for the first time, drive the destiny of the nation. I said that to a friend, a classmate at the University, and he accused me of racism.

Second: After Evo’s victory, the cheers of Chávez, Fidel Castro and one or another semi-totalitarian specimen of the continent, were heard with an unequivocal tone of their own triumph. When the populist fauna celebrates, Latin American democrats must sit down to think.

Third: The babbling president carries the same surname I do.

But today the Bolivian journalist Alfredo Rodríguez has assembled “One Hundred Phrases of Juan Evo Morales Ayma for Posterity.” More than disgust I feel shame for an unfortunate nation which, after suffering corrupt governments, suffers today the most “out there” of possible leaders.

The poet and journalist Rodríguez has not wanted to make value judgments in its compilation. Nor was it necessary he do so. He has simply joined unique phrases, startling, astounding, of the man who leads his nation and that, as he himself has repeatedly pointed out, has received honorary doctorates from ten world universities.

The text brings together delicious “Evoisms”:

– Evo the geneticist: “The chicken we eat is loaded with female hormones. Because of this, when men eat those chickens, they have deviations in their beings as men.

– Evo the democrat: “Above the law, is the political. When some jurist tells me, Evo, you are mistaken legally, what you are doing is illegal, fine, I put to him more than its being illegal. Later I tell the lawyers: If it’s illegal, you legalize it, why else did you study?”

– Evo the clairvoyant: “Fidel hasn’t been sick, he’s just been under repair. Fidel will live another 80 years.”

– Evo the linguist: “In countries like Puerto Rico and Cuba the indigenous preferred selfsuicide rather than be slaves to the Spaniards.”

– Evo the historian: “Our grandfathers (the indigenous Bolivians) historically fought against the empire: English empire, Roman empire, against all the empires, and now we take the fight to the American empire.”

– Evo the ecologist: “In this millennium it is more important to defend the rights of Mother Earth than to defend human rights.”

I feel that had he lived today, the mordant Groucho Marx would have been jealous of the humor aptitude of the presidential Bolivian. But beyond the share of laughter our many in Bolivia gives us, his position at the head of a needy country, like few political successes, confirms a terrible reality: people in our Latin America mother continue to specialize in losing, in electing tropical dictators, emptiers of the coffers, petty charlatans, and in cases like this: the most limited politicians to lead the destiny of a humble nation.

And still many are upset because an immovably large share of the civilized world continues to look at all of us Latin Americans as a regional of eternal Aymaras.

June 19 2011

 

Acknowledgment of Receipt

Closed during vacations-

Just that, my friends: well deserved vacations. At the beginning of next month “The Little Brother” is going to be one year old, and its author, administrator, and copy editor has decided to take a few weeks of sabbatical. Next Monday, after my three weeks of cyber vacations I will come back to by job and post number 80 will appear here. To those that have written concerned about my absence. Is it health problems, blog abandonment, lack of free time?  I confirm my gratitude to your concerns. I never imagine that a little personal effort as this blog could mean so much to unknown friends.

Until 4 days from now, “The Little Brother” is closed…to take a break.

Translated by A.Roy

June 16 2011

 
 
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