Friday, August 19, 2011
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
|Photo: Claudio Fuentes Madan|
I spent weeks debating with myself about taking a serious break from Octavo Cerco. I don’t want to be melodramatic but it is surprising how what began as an exercise in personal freedom has been transformed into a tremendous responsibility. I don’t like it to be so. Because I write because I because it keeps me grounded and not because a week has gone by since I posted.
I finished my personal debate, and have come to the basic conclusion that it’s time for a rest. Between the government, summer and the island I almost lost control last week. No way. I am going to sleep 12 hours a day, and try to stop smoking, take a break from the National News on TV and the newspaper Granma (these last two measures are an imperative for me), and I am going to finish my second story.
Meanwhile, I ask for the forgiveness and understanding of everyone (the trolls and other vermin on the network: don’t chew your fingers, it’s just a little break) and I leave you Pavimento, my first little story, published in Number 8 of Voices magazine, under the pseudonym of Dalila Douceca.
Saturday, July 2, 2011
A few weeks ago I heard on the news for the first time a detailed explanation of the water shortages we inhabitants of Havana are suffering, particularly in the central neighborhoods and of course in Vedado where I live. It even made me happy, because they’ve always treated us so badly that the mere fact of announcing a lack of drinkable water during certain hours is appreciated. In general, you wake up one day to no gas, or water, or electricity, and you don’t know why. With any luck, you discover the cause of the failure several hours later.
I prepared, obviously, for the following day and filled my reserves: buckets and plastic jars adorned my kitchen and my bath to weather, as best as possible, the absence of the vital liquid. But when the sun came up I was surprised to find water in the pipes, and by mid-morning -- don’t let anyone believe that in Cuba this comes as a surprise -- the lights went out and didn’t come back on until dawn of the following day. In the end, I don’t even regret not hearing any information about the shortages that affect us, I prefer the confusion of filling up buckets when I should be out buying candles.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Soon we'll have
according to our president
with an extension pending.
Raul said so after
meditating before the sewer
“there must be urgent changes
will two hundred years be enough?”
My uncle in Carlos III,
a descendent of slaves,
made a sure gesture,
that it itches and spreads.
“It’s difficult to predict
when the bosses will get fed up
or when a sleeping people
will become enraged."
"They will add hovels
swarming the slums
and thousands of dissidents
judged as criminals"
"From the parading tanks
they will remove the treads
and put modern tires,
the war will be on the pavement.”
A group that philosophizes
doesn’t understand so much fallacy
thus it was named
it was called copropraxia.
I drink my coffee
mixed with peas and beans
they will leave me without it
And at the end of all this
-- this poet asks --
through which sacred slot
do we shove them the ballot.
21 June 2011
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
|Photo: Lía Villares|
Last Sunday, five minutes late and remorseful for having missed the opening scene, I turned on the screen. I love it all: the music, the script, the characters and the technology they use. Can you imagine my face--it’s a shame I was alone--when instead of hearing the theme music by U2 that opens each episode, along with fast-paced editing, I find some sepia images and a Cuban cop, billy club and all, on the screen? At the same time, on the same channel, they decided to substitute for CSI a program called “In the footsteps,” a pathetic series produced by the Ministry of the Interior, all rights reserved and everything.
Beyond disappointing all the viewers--because the difference in quality between the two programs would be, lets say, the same as that between Playita 16, a rough little stretch of sand, rocks and concrete along the waterfront here in Havana, and the world-class beaches of the resorts of Varadero--they must be unaware of their own limitations. Perhaps some standard-bearer could offer a phrase from Jose Marti: “Our wine is bitter but it’s our wine.” (I’d like to offer a joke, “Our wine is bitter, they must import it.”) But humility is also an exercise of intelligence and, obviously, is one of the virtues lacking at the Interior Ministry.
Friday, June 10, 2011
I spend my nights in front of the TV. I alternate between “The Halfway House” by Guillermo Rosales and the potato harvest. At times I have the impression that my life is one of the dreams of Rosales’ character William Figueras, where he was always Fidel Castro. I change the channel obsessively but always end up at the News or the Roundtable. Between Machado Ventura saying we need to end illegal housing in reserved zones (reserved for what? I wonder) and an ad about semi-mechanized agriculture (i.e. a peasant with a yoke of oxen) I can't contain my nausea.
I have a presentiment about the doctors’ statements--the cynicism and double standards of fear--false statements about the patient’s condition, the expense accounts of the intensive care wards, the lies about a criminal past, in short, a media lynching. I imagine us so small against the wall that sometimes I can’t breathe. Every day in the street someone says to me just a little bit longer and makes a joke, it’s the only thing that gives me the strength to go on.
Saturday, June 4, 2011
|Photo: Leandro Feal|
At night the company alternated depending on the shifts: with Mom he read stories and with Dad he played on the floor. Sometimes in the middle of the night he would wake up at the sound of lock and see one of his parents arrive home in a white coat, bike in tow. Other times they pulled him out of bed at dawn to give him a goodnight kiss, having come home after three in the morning.
One night his father didn’t come home. It was nearly dawn when they received a call from the hospital: he was dead. It’s difficult to take in mortality at seven, but even worse to know the story of an absurd death. It turned out Dad was coming home on his bicycle on 26th, while some boys, untouched by the collapse of the Cuban economy, were racing their fathers’ Ladas along the Avenue. The cars racing full speed took the life of a man who had spent the night saving lives. The death was swift.
The culprits went to trial--oh yes!-- except for one small detail: they were acquitted of all charges, keeping their drivers’ licenses and everything. Perhaps they were not only children, but their parents had been given the task of spoiling them, and took pleasure in converting them into “The Sons,” the untouchables, those who can actually trumpet their races from one end of the island to the other and never pay for anything. People call them “Daddy’s children,” and compared to them, the myth of the only child is nothing.
Monday, May 30, 2011
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
|"I'm a worm*. I'm popular." [*Fidel's term for Cubans who leave Cuba.]|
I met her in 2004, we had a mutual acquaintance, a neighbor of mine. She spent her life in clubs and at concerts, always with boys who came to collect her in a car. I liked her, she was fun. In the afternoons when she woke up sometimes she’d come and have coffee at my house. With her parents abroad, she lived without working and even though she was sometimes short of money, her nights out weren’t affected because the men paid.
Chance, that had one day put us in the same neighborhood, separated us. For years I didn’t hear from her and thought, as is common on this island, that she’d left the country. Recently we ran into each other and I discovered I was right, she lives in New York now and comes to Cuba on vacation. I don’t know what happened, Cubans find so many ways to run away from this land that I don’t even take the trouble to inquire, though the stories can be funny, but also very sad and sinister. Also, I’m a little sensitive on the topic of emigration, wondering who will be here beside me in ten years, when all my friends have left.
In the short time we shared, she told me that she worked a great deal over there, and that generally speaking, she’s considered a communist. “Communist?” I exclaimed, “You were a big fat worm. What happened to you?”
“The system in the United States,” she said, “is inhumane, here it’s better, more humane.”
I looked at her with my mouth hanging open. She doesn’t like the new country where she lives because she has to work; in Cuba she didn’t have to because she was a kept woman. How can you use politics to justify your own inability to be productive?
“I don’t agree with you,” I said, trying to contain the passion that comes over me when people come from a democracy and tell me fairy tales about the dictatorship. “Sure, a lot of people don’t work because the salary is ‘inhumane’ and no one is interested in breaking their back for nothing. But still it seems very good to me that you have to work to earn your own bread. It’s normal.”
“Cubans don’t like to work,” she replied, and then I knew that because she didn’t want to work she assumed everyone else didn’t want to either. What a capacity for generalization!
Before we parted she told me she was about to have an operation. I assumed it would be in Cuba, given what a humane government we have. You can’t even imagine my surprise when she exclaimed, “No! I’m having it over there!”
Saturday, May 21, 2011
The first thing she said when she saw me was, “I thought the state of education was bad, but now that I’ve come up against the public health system...” E. is like me, very small, but much skinnier. Before her pregnancy she weighed 89 pounds and now, at two months, she weighs 113 and her hemoglobin count is 12.5. Still, the nutritionist thinks she is underweight and has recommended “moving into a maternal home.” She gave her a copy of a diet to follow to the letter. When she showed it to me I started to laugh, but to her there was nothing funny about it.
She has to get up at seven in the morning to have breakfast and this first meal of the day includes a tablespoon of mayonnaise, whose nutritive properties are unknown to me. Throughout the day she must must meet the standard of six large spoons of rice and two ladles of beans (half at lunch and half at dinner, every day until the baby comes). Meat is not defined by quantity and she must eat a half cup of guava jam every day.
I wonder if the diet is to nurture her or to fatten her up. Probably the doctor isn’t authorized to recommend eating certain products like meat or much fish, but at least they should have the decency not to put pregnant women on diets designed to fatten turkeys to make foie gras. In response to the psychologist’s long awaited, “How do you feel?” E. answered, “Fine, but I’d feel better if I didn’t have to come to this polyclinic any more.”