Wendy War

25 07 2014


Grown in Exercises of Death, Wendy Guerra (Taken from her blog HABÁNAME)

I have death as white and truth far away… – Don’t give me your fresh roses; I am terrible for roses. Give me the ocean…Dulce María Loynaz

Death, solicitous and vigilant followed me until my fall. It was my companion – solicitous and loving - Rafaela Chacón Nardi

Dreadful voice in funeral I mourn, that flies from the seas of my homeland to the beaches of Iberia; sadly confused the wind delays it; the sweet song in my throat freezes and shadows of pain cover my mind. Ah, that suffering voice, that America denotes with its pity and on these beaches the ocean casts, “He died,” is uttered, “the ardent patriot…” “He died”, repeated “the Cuban troubador.” And a sad echo moans in the distance, “the sublime singer from Niagara died!” - Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda

I carry the subject of death very badly. I bow before death with too much grief. Just by peering at a roof I can fall overwhelmed by fear.

This week I wake with the memory of those who have passed on. My parents, my friends, my poets, my personal saints.

The soul, the body, the emptiness, the abandonment or slipstream that our most beloved dead leave, fight within me with severe injuries.

This week the world’s newspapers talk about death, confinement, the hunger strikes in my country. My head and my body are trapped in a bird cage that is the act of dying.

For many cultures it is a cycle that is closed to open other cycles that are clear and bright. This is the way I should see it, as death to me appears to be the end of everything. But death weighs me down and casts me toward a powerful darkness.

It always appeared normal to me that someone would decide to die rather that live indefinitely with an incurable illness. Always, even when the dilemma of euthanasia touched me closely. I looked at the still living body of my mother, looked at her face and closed myself off from any possibility other than finding a miracle or unearthing a hope. I convinced myself that in the care of the body that still flutters before us, hope lives.

The cage of life opens.

I mishandle death but one must confront it. Six Marches back, I had surrendered before my mother on the day of her death.

Between wreaths of flowers, ritual lamenting, condolences or visits to the terminally ill I am rendered defenseless.

I do not support the death penalty. I regret each day of a hunger strike.

In my adolescence I dreamed of the same firing squad. I could not see the faces. I heard the gun shot and saw the gray walls full of bullet holes. The nightmare recurred for years.

I am well aware. We have called it so much that we should not be surprised when it appears. Every day, from a very young age, we repeated that phrase in which we had to choose between homeland or death. We swore to be like a man who had already died, and in that death we placed all of the energy of our growth. “Pioneers for communism, we will be like El Che.”

The busts, the hymns, the patriots, the names of long lost heroes and martyrs that our schools had. Every October the flowers in the ocean for Camilo.

We made long lines to see coffins of the dead arriving from wars distant to the island.

We are a culture that has not prepared itself for death, but which names it easily. We do not celebrate the day of the dead as a Mexican could, but we mention it daily like a mantra, staring it in the face like a permanent possibility.

In the 80s, during the events that took place in Granada, we listened to the official narrative of a false sacrifice. Its protagonists, lost in a place far away from the homeland, died fighting wrapped in an enormous Cuban flag. Such a strong image that still overwhelms us. Even though life and the homeland are for me a very real presence, luminous, fertile, continuous and above all everlasting, they are imposed upon us constantly in contrast with death.

Many slogans have a context, but our emphasis on suffocation, in the “no exit,” has welded us to an immobility that leads to DEATH.

“Homeland or death, we will overcome.”

“Whoever attempts to take over Cuba will collect the dust of its soil drenched in blood if they do not perish in the struggle.”

“Our dead lifting up their arms will still know how to defend it.”

“Even after death we are useful”

“Everyone will cry,’”it will be better to drown at sea than to betray the glory that has been lived.’”

At nine years old I imagined “drowning at sea” as the action of pulling a lever that would trigger a huge whirlpool that would drag us to the very bottom of the ocean. My mother would explain that this was a metaphor, but I kept on seeing myself at the bottom, with everything and homeland.

At the Malecon, between the U.S Interests Section in Cuba and our everyday lives, waves a sea of black flags.

A number of our friends lost their parents in the wars in Africa.

The family farewells on the shore, those goodbyes that guaranteed the possibiity of a voyage, marked the 90s during the exodus of the balseros [rafters].

Headlines from my childhood: attacks, sabotages, threats, epidemics. Our parents were paying eternally for a day to come for the Militias of Territorial Troops that would defend us.

The popular tunnels, the rifle ranges, the war reserves. Special Period in Times of Peace. Evacuation plan. Trenches. Air Sirens. “Every Cuban should learn to shoot and to shoot well.” Military preparation as a subject and a military concentration at the end of our university years were essential for being able to earn your degree. In short, the daily possibility of a war, of death. The speeches partially revealed its imminence, which at the time we felt to be very close, at our side. Death has been a small sheet that unites us or separates us.

A guaguanco permeates the air and says that death is calling us. Some torn boleros prefer death in their endings. How many marvelous songs, classics that we will not forget even in death, speak of death.

I ask myself why the hell I just can’t get used to its presence.

In the news and analysis these days death is mentioned as a possible solution. Is it over death that we should constuct the fullness of life? Hunger becomes death and death is part of a hunger that brings about in us emptiness, weakness, mourning.

I want to learn how to transform life from life itself.

I just can’t get used to death. In the cemeteries, where I can go visit a majority of my loved ones, I seek and take communion with life which opens before me underneath the angels and marble cracks. I should greet death normally, but I cannot remain calm in front of it. I love the manner in which Tomas Gutierrez Alea recreated death, relating it with our everyday life, traversing around with her presence.

Today I think of my mother Oya, so attached to Iku, divinity of death. I look toward the street. I keep thinking that Oya fosters the seasons, the strong winds and hurricanes, the lightning strikes and sparks. She symbolizes a violent and rash temperament and lives at the door of the cemeteries. She represents the intensity of gloomy sentiments, the world of the dead. She is the complete reincarnation of ancestors, the lack of memory and feeling of regret in women. The flag, the skirts, and the cloths of Oya are a combination of all the colors…except black.

I ask Oya to help me understand death, because it stalks us, and now runs at our pace. We have invoked it many times, named it, have alluded to it, and now that it is before us and presents itself, what to do? Those who have called it should receive it.

Now, what face are we going to put on death?

 Translated by: Marlena Papavaritis and anonymous.

To Castro’s Victims in the 13-de-Marzo Tugboat / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

18 07 2014

15 July 2014

Fury and Delirium / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

11 07 2014

The Books on the Cuban Death by Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

There is a literary genre more popular than the rest of Cuban literature, which, by the way, has become a dying phenomenon since a few decades ago.

That genre is the “books on death,” the books written by the serial killers in the island (who spread to Latin America), as if they were perverse characters from an ideological thriller called the Revolution.

Today, 15 years late, I felt the spontaneous urge to read one of the vital and monumental works on Cuban deaths: “The Fury and the Delirium” (Tusquets, 1999), by the killer son of killers and earning wages from killers Jorge Masetti, whose destiny to become a depressing or best-selling star I ignore, but whose prose I will always admire for its morbid monstrosity.

This grotesque genre has no limits, which is why it is superior to all those who can publish the self-censured Cuban writers. It combines an odd Oedipus with the Macho-Chief (or the Mafia in Chief) with a frigidity that, so as not to be recognized as suicidal, becomes criminal.

On the one hand, the horror (more than fury) of failing the totalitarian state. On the other hand, the disaster (more than delirium) in which the narrator’s life is summed up, turning in circles like a shark thirsty for blood, in exchange for some kind of feeling for his sterile and devalued life. Without worth or meaning. Death as a moral.

In this line of reasoning, whoever is capable of killing, is good and beautiful and was right. Those who let themselves be killed are fragile and ugly and out of place and because of that they left the world.

These serial killers act out of a solipsistic atrocity, but not for a moment do they cease having contact with the rest of the world. And this is where the vulgar genre shines for its sinister sincerity: there are no politics, or art, or sport, or disease, or accident, or fame, or frontiers, or nations, or history, or memory, or identity, or anything that isn’t agreed upon a priori by the heroes of pure action, by the pre-political slaughters in this case the international Castroism (whatever the sign is: Castroism is the pluribus unum of our time).

Jorge Masetti thus narrates from the dark holes that we Cubans, like a lost nation, never suspect that without works like these. In this book we endlessly hear the idle chatter of power. We spy the parliamentary halls of the evil ministries, who voluntarily administer mass murder. We intuit the insidious intelligence, that traces the puppet show that is our biography of citizens who serve as props, as grim. We realize unspeakable things in “The Fury and the Delirium” and its agonizing analyses. Things that are literally unspeakable.

In this book, finally, is the nation’s inner voice, its unlivable novel, its intimate and intimidating corpse-like groan. And thanks to this genre we understand, much more than the author (who only thinks he created catharsis), that we Cubans who are still alive are always complicit or at fault, because at some dead point in our lives we have been forgiven by State Security.

On more than one level, and of this Jorge Masetti is perfectly aware, he who survives is a traitor. His options are now simple (perhaps he already chose in these 15 years of delay in my re-reading): insanity or holiness.

After the Cuban Revolution, death will again become meaningless. Castroism has, well, a role to endlessly fulfill: dose the evil that men freely do unto other men, and if possible, precipitate the evil hand of God, his fury is brittle for those who are still alive with so many enemies intermixed.

Translated by: Bianca Martinez

7 July 2014

Street Sense / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

8 07 2014

COWBOY POET Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

It’s called  Street Sense,  which is sort of like El Sentido de la Calle in Spanish, which is a much better title than any Cuban magazine or newspaper has got; and that obviously includes the ones published abroad.

It comes out fortnightly in Washington D.C., which isn’t just the capital of the empire, but it’s also North America’s Homelessness Central. I have never seen so many homeless as I have here. Mostly, they are in the subway stations, where they take up residence according to some kind of timetable, and where, according to Wikipedia,  they have the world’s longest escalators. But I also see them out in the open, exposed to the dreadfully cold springtime rain. And, before that, out in the worst of this city’s infinite winter.

You never come across the same homeless people, not even if you pass by the same place two thousand times. They have either moved, or they have died. No other possibility.

Many of these humble homeless guys get published in Street Sense. Those of them who have not been eaten up by hate, crime or illness. Those who have retained enough mental clarity and nobility of spirit. Those who are trying, as best they can, to get back into the machine that once vomited them out, or who were crushed by it, possibly because they tried to resist the hypocritical mediocrity which comes with any kind of success.

I have kept one of those newspapers dating from the month of March 2013. That was the month and year in which I arrived, stunned by the sleepless early mornings of Washington D.C., in the mercenary luxury of the Hotel Dupont. I had just got off a Megabus when I bought it from a street vendor who turned out to be an author published on page 9. A roofless poet, like me. Who had nothing else apart from his words. Like me. A shabby-looking old boy, who had a proud and absolutely not despondent appearance. The opposite of me. He was outside Union Station. He thought I looked like a friend, and he came over to me. He said:

“I’m published here. Wanna buy it?”

It was true. It turned out his name, or literary pseudonym, was Chris Shaw, The Cowboy Poet. My colleague’s poem, which was illustrated with ice crystals, was called The End of Winter. And that’s what it’s still called, I presume. My poet and promoter was afraid of winter. In barely 11 single word verses, and in spite of the opinions of the global warming experts, Shaw complained alas I fear it will be back!

A very terrible poem, which was appropriate, just as awful as the return of another winter at the end of the following year, 2013, although DC didn’t experience then the murky version it had gone through in 2012.  The one I largely missed. When I had to put up overnight in a homeless shelter, I was able to feel in my bones the sense of the street in Shaw’s poetry. Or next to the unbearably thick walls of a subway station, it’s possible to cover yourself with the newspapers you couldn’t sell. Apart from me, nobody bought one, while we were both waiting for them to come and collect just me (because in March 2013 I was a Cuban counter-revolutionary from Cuba and I qualified for a visa and a temporary residence permit).

I paid the two dollars which is the amount recommended on the first page. I then discovered that the majority of the contributors to Street Sense sign their articles as Vendors. They are vendors of these desperate printed sheets. They sell their poor words, printed in a newspaper, just as others do at every level all over the United States, but these people sell them for a negligible ridiculous amount: the amount which is their hope, which nearly got a second chance. Nearly.

Now I am someone without a home. And, more than that, without a country. I know that one day I am going to decide to sell these sheets to strangers going into or out of railway stations. El sentido de la calle in the United States of Nothing America.

I came from Cuba without wanting to, swept away by too many people being bumped off while the world looked on, and consumed, in secret, by love. The academy of the left filled me with friendly disgust. I was bored by earning money. The right wing is a delusion of the academy. But I am never going to go back to my island, the island that we love, which is intact in our most personal and most aggressive imagination.

My dear Cubans, I am not going to return, even in the event of God or Google restoring democracy there, whether it is with or without the destruction of the corpses of the dictators. I would find it impossible to see my home without me in it, or my mother left to die alone on the hundred year old boards of 125 Fonts and Beales, or my loves dying of my indifference and desperation, although never because I have forgotten, to realise back in Cuba that the United States was an acceptable nightmare and that Cuban exile is an evanescent eternity, and to then live in my ever-present homelessness, in my arrogant foolishness as a free healthy man in the only city I understood while I was alive, and also after that, when I died spitting fuck-words in the face of the tyranny in power: Havana.

Because that’s all totalitarianism is: a sick relay race. And, you know what? I am going to hold onto the baton, because it suits my hatred, or my crime, or my sickness. I am not going to pass it on to any other Cuban. I’m sorry, but you people and me are no longer contemporaries.

Translated by GH

2 July 2014

My Father, Jennifer and Me / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

16 06 2014

We both fell in love at the same time with the same girl, who wasn’t my mother, in front of an Elektron-216 black-and-white TV, on an afternoon in the seventies in Lawton, another of those lost words that no one in the world would think are Cuba, except Cubans.

She died on screen, Jennifer. But before, she ran with him, Oliver, through the unknown streets of a miracle called The United States. And they both were beautiful and free like love, and so tender and irascible, immortals.  And they ate snow and threw snowballs at each other’s heads. And neither of them had ever heard of Fidel or the Revolution.

My father had just retired. He’s been a gray bureaucrat in a nationalized industry dealing with the importing of polymers. Of the Lili Dolls of Havana Plastics. His successive offices, like his checked shirts, smelled of nicotine and that salvific smile that didn’t belong for a single minute to his environment.

I’ve said before that he was called Dionisio Manuel, but if now and again I don’t repeat his double name, we run the risk that it will disappear before its time from my memory of late exile, of fugitive props, gossiping in the face of totalitarianism itself only to take refuge in sight of those snowy mansions and hockey stadiums and phrases Made in English, in a country that wasn’t so much a homeland, but rather an open space in which to die meekly in front of strangers without the least fuss.

American movies were our consolation against Communism. Our rope made of sheets to climb down from heaven. I was the son of his old age (when I was born he was 53). He saved for me, intact, his collection from the fifties of Life, National Geographic, Reader’s Digest, and a huge maze of pocket-books which my father apparently stole, one by one, from the Jose Marti National Library (picket-books).

These books and magazines, this dead language called English, were our secret promise that there would be a survival, a future without fidelities, a history without hypocrisy, a no-place where we would both fall in love with the same girl, who wasn’t my mother, but nor was she inside the Elektron-216 black-and-white TV, but rather in an illusion of the phonetic fossil called The United States.

Well, I came here now. I have run among the hockey stadiums. I have laughed along the rivers. I have eaten snow (another way to eat the white, the trash, the emptiness). I have, I as well, a love to run with toward the abyss, with political death stepping on our heels and our parents.

For Dionisio Manuel time ran out long before B2 5-year multiple-entry visas to the USA, which now are not denied to anyone in Havana, except my mother, who in any event at age 78 will no longer have much of a girl for someone to fall in love with.

It’s Father’s Day and I am doubly orphaned. And happy. Fundamentally happy.

Even Sundays, bit by bit, begin to resemble the Sundays of our indigent infant imaginations. Hopefully, soon we’ll both be free and beautiful and tender and irascible and immortal and never will have heard of Fidel or the Revolution.

15 June 2014

Speech of OLPL in Kenney Auditorium, Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, Washington DC, 16 Mayo 2014

17 05 2014

As a Cuban from the Island —and all Cubans are, no matter how far and how much time has passed since we left or were expelled from the Island—, as a critical intellectual —that is, a writer and photographer who believes in the beauty of truth, even when nobody listened— and also as a Cuban from the exile, of course —because all Cubans are as well, no matter if we still live inside the Island, where we are “inxiles”—, it’s a privilege and a great honor to be invited here to share my experiences and my vision with you today.

I hope that my words can give voice to the countless alternative voices that exist and resist in my country. These are real men and women who cannot live normal lives in their birthplace, since their whole existence is disrupted day by day —and decade after decade— by the perverse nature of a regime never elected by my people, by the propaganda machinery and the impunity of the political police, in a despotic version of socialism that, as in any totalitarian State, starts by abolishing private property, only to end up destroying private life as such, harassing citizens whether or not they become aware of the power of the powerless and decide to bear witness to their own reality. Indeed, the concept of citizen itself is officially obsolete inside Cuba, since the term is used exclusively by the authorities when the police carry out a detention or when a tribunal opens a trial. So, if they call you “ciudadano” (citizen), then you know you are lost even if you are innocent or, worse —as in a Kafka novel—, even if you don’t have any idea of what you are guilty of. Therefore, perhaps the crime is the social process itself.

On the one hand, I speak here quite confident, after so many walls that seemed would never fall and yet they did fall in the last 25 years. On the other hand, I also speak so very worried in front of other walls that should have been brought down already and still have not been. I’m particularly concerned about the new walls that many governments seem to be building, in a battle that may well be developing in perfect peace, little by little, corroding the basis of democracy on our planet, by the use of democratic disguises that hide the intentions of the system, until it’s too late for the people to react and get rid of the oppressors.

The Cuban people might have suffered this process twice:

1. Not only after the military takeover of January 1st 1959, but before the victory of the so-called Revolution, the confidence of a whole nation was betrayed by secret agendas that involved the hegemonic potencies of the Cold War world back then, plus the never-ending hunger for power of Fidel Castro and his closest followers. Believe it or not, many of those men —those who were not devoured by the rage of a Revolution so similar to Saturn, who eats his own children— those men are still alive and in absolute control in Cuba now, although they are not mentioned in the manipulative billboards of the CubaNow campaign that this month is being displayed in the stations of Washington DC metro. This gerontocracy is an elite so cynical as to call themselves “the historical generation”. Or maybe they are just being transparent, since it’s really impossible that history will forget or forgive this generation created in the image and likeliness of the Maximum Leader. Thus, despite the previous dictatorship, in 1959 Cuba lost a democratic republic with a then recent Constitution that even today would be considered a paradigm in the recognition of differences within unity.

2. In the 21st century itself, in this 2014 that looked like science-fiction for the teenagers that we were in the late 80’s, a Transition is now taking place in my country, but not from Law to Law —as in the Spanish democratization model— but from Dictator to Dictator, in the Caribbean style, including a dynastic tradition of blood: from the original Castro to his brother Raul; then, when he steps down most likely after 2018, to his daughter Mariela (now Deputy in the National Assembly of People’s Power) or to his son Alejandro (a high-ranked intelligence officer, the much feared tropical version of Vladimir Putin and other autocrats of the kind), or to both. Indeed, since its independence from Europe centuries ago, Latin America is a region devastated by criminal caudillos that call themselves Liberators, Saviors, and ultimately Fathers of our homeland. So, 55 years after the enthusiasm of a Revolution, just when the light at the end of the tunnel is a growing illusion in the soul of my nation —inside and outside the Island—, once again a secret operation is on its way to abort our hopes to be free.

However, nowadays an emerging civic society is peacefully struggling in Cuba, face to face against such a transition from Communism to State Capitalism, a strategy for the system’s survival that relies on the populist regimes of the region, on geopolitical globalization, and on the irresponsible greed for profits of both foreign and, most sadly, Cuban investors living abroad, the majority in the United States, now under an administration that, like European Union, seems more than willing to “normalize” the relations with an “abnormal” regime, disregarding the violations of human rights in Cuba, as part of a time left behind long ago. Thus ensuring, by the way, a fossil future for all Cubans wherever we may live. The rationale here appears to be that, if democracies cannot prevail over the enemies of freedom, then it’s better to make an alliance and, preferably, to do business with them. In free nations maybe nobody conceives a Cold War II scenario, but the rationale of totalitarianism is totally different for sure.

Please, allow me to re-write the famous poem of Allen Ginsberg: America, you’ve given them all and now you’re nothing… I wouldn’t like to be the spokesman of bad news for the Western world, but next time we take a close look at the politic equilibrium in our hemisphere, for example, we might be surprised that it will be too late to react and get rid of the oppressors.

Dear friends: since I became an independent blogger and journalist in Cuba, I was told, by the former Minister of Culture, Abel Prieto, and the former director of the Cuban Book Institute, Iroel Sanchez, that I will never publish again in my country. They were both removed from their positions later (Saturn’s law), but the unholy war of the Castros against critical intellectuals goes on and on.

While I talk here, the Havanan novelist Angel Santiesteban languishes a 5-year sentence for a common crime announced to him —by State Security agents— as a punishment for his opinion columns in his blog: Los hijos que nadie quiso /The Children Nobody Wanted.

While I talk here, a journalist from the free-lance agency Hablemos Press / Let’s Talk Press, Calixto Ramon Martinez was kept many months in prison for reporting an outbreak of cholera in Cuba, which still constitutes a serious health risk there, even for tourists, a fact that the Cuban government refuses to recognize in its due importance. Finally he was released without any explanation, documentation of his case, or at least an attempt to give him an apology or indemnify him.

While I talk here, a Catholic Afrocuban young mother and her husband, both peaceful pro-democracy activists, Sonia Garro and Ramon Alejandro Muñoz, have been for two years and two months in several Cuban prisons, subject to physical abuse and isolation periods, just because they protested when they were forbidden to attend the Holy Mass of the Pope Benedict XVI in the Revolution Square of Havana city, in March 2012. Hundreds of human rights activists were then arrested, including me, kidnapped for three days with my girlfriend, apparently accused of attempting to take counter-revolutionary photographs of His Holiness with the Heroic Guerrilla Ernesto Che Guevara behind him, in the façade of the mysterious Ministry of Interior where the mass took place.

While I talk here, an American citizen under contract by USAID, Alan Gross, is being held hostage since December 2009 in a Cuban jail, serving a 15-year sentence for charges that included espionage. A Jew himself, he was just helping the Cuban Jewish community to have a ready access to the internet, since the right to independent information is not recognized by my government. In fact, it constitutes a major crime: enemy propaganda, diffusion of negative news, among other brutalities of our actual Penal Code. This was a miserable mafia message thrown to the fair-play face of America: mind your own business, do not dare to try to help the Cuban civic society or you will pay a dirty price too.

Besides, dozens of well-known terrorists have found safe haven to grow old in Cuba and take care of their families and their fortunes, after a whole life devoted to international delinquency, including USA fugitives, ex CIA agents and hit-men associated with dictators and paramilitary bands worldwide.

To put an end to this very limited list —which cannot explain the thousands of death penalties by firing squad nor the untold number of Cubans dead in the Florida Straits trying to escape from our proletarian paradise— on July 22nd 2012, a car with two Cubans and two foreigners was intercepted in a remote province of Cuba. The two foreigners, young politicians from Spain and Swede, were beaten, taken away from the scene, drugged in a hospital, incarcerated, and threatened with death if they did not accept —in a public video shown by Cuban TV— that they just had had a car crash.

The two Cubans were assassinated, God knows if after one of those private “revolutionary trials” on the spot, so frequent at the beginning of the Revolution, on the very highway that remained closed to car traffic for over an hour. Their names were —their names are and will always be— Harold Cepero and Oswaldo Payá. Payá was the leader and is the founder of the Christian Liberation Movement. He won the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought from the European Parliament in 2002. He was a dear friend to Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel. And certainly he was the main candidate to conduct a true Transition to Democracy in Cuba, and maybe he could have turned into the first president of the free Cuba that is to come. A liberated Cuba that our government is indeed delaying thanks to deaths like these and that of Laura Pollan, the leader and founder of the Ladies in White Movement, also a winner of the Sakharov Prize from the European Parliament, in 2005.

The family of Oswaldo Payá is now looking for solidarity to open an independent investigation upon this extrajudicial killings, where Harold Cepero was cruelly considered just a “collateral damage” to the murderers paid by La Habana (maybe they were not even Cubans, so that’s easier to make them disappear now).

In the middle of all this tragedy, I kept writing and taking pictures out of the ruins and the splendor of my beloved and lost La Habana. In the middle of all this pain, hypocrisy coming from my neighbors and relatives and even from the hierarchy of the Cuban church, many have kept informing the world about our unreal reality. Surrounded by a lot of apathy, but also with the pleasure of staying to work for the well-being of the only spot on the planet that we can call our home. Surrounded by hatred and hopelessness, I hopelessly fell in love there, with someone more courageous and with much more peace in her heart to struggle for freedom in my homeland, after half a century of civil apartheid, military impunity, lack of solidarity from the international community, and a massive anthropological damage that has turned Cuba into a post-national country that only cares about escaping from itself, and where disappointment is paving the way to defeat for those of us who still cherish hope.

We, Cubans, do need your help now, please, to overcome all the frustration that is extending its roots in a people that has been traditionally noble, friendly, truthful, hard-working, brave, fond of freedom and also full of joy.

Dear friends: I won’t be the spokesman of bad news for this session, but let’s not forget for a minute that the oppressors are active out there, and they have an incisive instinct for self-preservation. Allow me to finish by re-writing the Cuban repressed and finally exiled poet Heberto Padilla, with his “Prayer for the end of the century” / “Oración para el fin de siglo”: Nosotros, hijos y nietos de terroristas melancólicos y de científicos supersticiosos, sabemos que en el día de hoy está el error que alguien habrá de condenar mañana. We, children and grandchildren of melancholy terrorists and superstitious scientists, we do know that deep in today lies the error that someone shall condemn tomorrow.

Contrary to the famous and infamous speech of Fidel Castro in 1953 —“La Historia me absolverá” (History will absolve me) —, the world may absolve them, it doesn’t matter. History will condemn them anyway.

Thank you very much.

Note: The speech was written and delivered in English.

GABO RELOADED / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

11 05 2014

Of García Márquez and other Demons
By Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Prolific, brilliant, celebrity, provocateur, agent, incisive, insidious, one of the last intellectual icons of the Latin American left has died: Gabriel García Márquez, el Gabo.

His claim on immortality is supported by a Nobel Prize, which owed a lot to the Latin American literary “Boom” of the 1960’-1970s which in turn owes a lot to that totalitarian regime still called “the Cuban Revolution.”

In the early 1980’s Cuban adolescents read and loved García Márquez. In Castro’s Cuba, García Márquez’s books held a mirror up to  Cuba’s “official culture,” dictated by Fidel Castro, that also reflected  the Soviet Union and its Socialist Realism. Castro was obsessed with his control of the island’s cultural affairs, and even the best Cuban writers of the time were forced to imitate the worse of Soviet propaganda, stopped writing, such as poet Dulce María Loynaz, playwright René Ariza, and the novelist Reinaldo Arenas, jailed or fled in exile such as Heberto Padilla, Lydia Cabrera, and Guillermo Cabrera Infante. There were many others.

In his 1982 Nobel Prize speech, García Márquez courageously recounted the repression of Latin America’s military dictatorships, civil wars that led to genocides, and the state terror that killed hundreds of thousands and forced millions to leave for Europe and the United States.

I was in secondary school at the time.  I had read One Hundred Years of Solitude, and like many other young Cubans considered Gabo the most important writer in the Spanish language of all times.

As my generation grew up and began to express our own truths, it became our turn to be repressed. (I haven’t been able to work or publish in Cuba since 2008, when I created a blog Lunes de Post-Revolución.) In 2003 during the Black Spring, when three young Cubans were shot and 75 political dissidents were arrested and sentenced to 28 years in prison, García Márquez took notice of this other face of his friend Fidel Castro.

When writer Susan Sontag asked him about it, García Márquez answered: “I can no longer calculate the number of prisoners, dissidents and conspirators whom I have silently helped to get out of jail or emigrate from Cuba during the last 20 years.  Many of them do not even know that I helped, but it is enough that some know and my conscience is at peace.”

The word “but” is quite a dangerous monosyllable for anyone living under a monolithic ideology. In Cuba, Fidel Castro’s speeches are baroque rhetoric incarnated; he could speak for hours. Only for García Márquez was there an intellectual hidden in his speeches-in-chief. García Márquez fell in love in the time of the Revolution and got lost in its totalitarian translation for the free world.
Gabo had to believe that the crimes of Castroism were justified by “historical necessity,” Fidel’s wisdom, and other Marxist or “magical” categories. Otherwise, his fidelity over more than five decades cannot be understood. Nor can the considerable time he spent in Cuba, enjoying the mansion and other privileges he was provided, while ignoring the plight of Cubans —repressed writers included— all around him.

After half a century of solitude and without much sense of solidarity with pro-democracy and human-rights activists in Cuba, Gabo has died, and now there’s no one left with his intellectual firepower to provide cover for the Leader Maximum.

Editor’s note: Original post is in English

10 May 2014


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