Kill, Already, If You Are Going to Kill / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

25 11 2014

Cuban State Security — that is, the Castroist assassins of the State — just as in Havana, have not ceased from monitoring and stigmatizing me for even one minute since I have been in the US.

It is the sole legacy of a dictatorship that from its inception disintegrated our nation in an irreversible manner.

But we Cubans are free. But we Cubans do not fear Evil. Castro has no more Cubans left. And now we are going to relaunch another country, another Cuba with no traces of Castroism, be it on the Island or in some other spot. There are plans. It is enough to merely awaken the political imagination, to break the bonds of our thinking that the dictatorship is the dictatorship.

And the page of Castroism will remain congealed as a sort of North Korea of the Caribbean, barbaric, abusive, unnecessary.

There will be another Havana, Brothers and Sisters.

Our children will be handsome, gorgeous and free. Never will they know the horror of so many generations destroyed by the person of Fidel and his blackmailed and salaried agents, as well as those already thirsting for lives that are whole, and the hopes of living them. Castroism is a criminal habit.

A Cuba will come that manifests permanent values: Good, Beauty, Truth, Kindness, Love — that which comes easily, which is common, which is natural.

If the assassins of visionaries do not permit me to arrive alive on that shore, there will be another Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo who will love all free Cuban men and women as much as I love them.

Castroism’s crimes are numbered.

Cubansummatum est!

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

14 November 2014





CUBA IN SPLINTERS in MIAMI BOOK FAIR

23 11 2014

Imagine a country sequestered by a national narrative that leaves no space for dissent or even for disappointment.

Imagine the consequences for imagination in such a closed environment, aggravated by a mass media monopoly that occupies every channel of information, opinion, criticism and legitimation.

Imagine language itself as a prison, with grammar reduced to inertia, with syntax subjected to socialization and desire doomed to discipline, where beauty is suspected of being subversive, the whole vocabulary becoming a kind of vocubalary that makes superfluous any censorship because self-control is now constitutional.

Is fiction feasible under such pressure, between the Revolution and the deep red sea? But, isn’t fiction fostered best under the most despotic rhetoric? Creativity as resistance. Danger as the measure of all things. Literature understood as limiterature.

In the early 90’s, Fidel Castro and his Special Period in Peacetime threatened the Island with the so-called Option Zero: namely, concentration camps to survive local famine as the European Iron Curtain fell and Cuba found itself naked in a post-Cold War Era.

Paradoxically, this meant tons of fresh air for Cuban writing. Please, don’t laugh if you think it’s ridiculous but alas, yes, for the first time since 1959, our authors could publish their books abroad, skipping the need for official permission. Besides, the government’s Non-Governmental Organizations allowed writers to collect honorariums and copyright fees in hard currency, while prodigious privileges were being distributed according to the cultural politics of the “rule of loyalty”: to rent a house, to have access to the internet, to import a car, to own a passport with an exit permit.

Yet, despite the more ample margins for tolerance in terms of content, confrontational voices were still coerced, blackmailed, fired from their jobs, marginalized, stigmatized, beaten, jailed and forced to choose between silence or exile.

In fact, at the beginning of the 2000’s or Years Zero, maybe as guarantee of the original Option Zero, our literary field attained both tokens of totalitarianism: silence and exile. Thus, it was about time for a generation to start from zero.

Generations, of course, do not exist at all. In the case of Generation Year Zero, the 11 outlaws included in CUBA IN SPLINTERS (an anthology of new Cuban narrative translated by Hillary Gulley for O/R Books in New York 2014), behave like okupas or squatters or rather like textrrorists. Provocation as the distinctive trademark of a dysfunctional generation that, out of apathy and almost aphasia, are focusing their fiction on the black holes of memory and tradition, digging into the uncomfortable and the unpleasant, cannibalizing our cannon, escaping from correctness, reappropriating political scenarios to disrupt their logic, a bet on horror instead of heroes,épater le proletaire, vengeance as a fine art, yet from bad painting to worse writing, insisting on a scatological esthetics far from all Cuban stereotypes expected both by conventional readers and foreign editors.

The fragmentary as a splintered strategy to express the inexpressible, fractals versus fossils. A diary of dystopia as the cynical symptom to dynamize and dynamite our State establishment, dealing with a decubanized Cubanness not as scandalous as scoundrelous. I’m afraid that in this bible of the barbaric, quod scripsi, is crisis.

And the 11 trouble-makers of CUBA IN SPLINTERS by O/R Books have plenty of experience in this, since during the last decade they were the editors of the Cuban clandestine boom of independent digital magazines, like Cacharros(s)33 y un TercioDesLizLa Caja de la ChinaThe Revolution PostVoces, among other conflictive documents.

Let’s recognize that almost another dozen of writers could have been included in this literary warfront of new narrative: Lizabel Mónica, Osdany Morales, Jamila Medina, Ainsley Negrín, Abel Fernández-Larrea, Arnaldo Muñoz Viquillón, Legna Rodríguez, and Evelyn Pérez, for example. It is very likely that this anthology of newrrative is the portrait of a family that never was.

The communicating vessels between these short-stories are not bridges, but short-circuits: the tension among each fiction hopefully will produce a fertile friction that will render fractions of sense and nonsense, a bit of idiocy after so much ideology, from the Berlin Wall to the wall of the Florida Strait, from Fidel’s bodyguards to sex for sale at a regional train station; snob Buddhism and socialist zombies; cannabis cubensis so the mind can emigrate before our body crosses the claustrophobic line of the horizon; Habaniroshima, mon amour, the cenotaph city like tears in the ruins of a rheumatic Revolution; remake and collage, plagiarism taken to the paroxysm; who knows if poetry for the pariahs of the Cuban holocastro. It is also very likely that this anthology of newrrative is the portrait of a family meant never to be.

Del clarín, escuchad el silencio, as these 11 anti-national hymns turn out to be hyper-nationalistic histories, as no Cuban can truly escape from Cuba. Fidelity has given way to fatality. So, let it read. Or at least, let it rip these many Cubas in splinters. Unrest in peace.

Original in English

23 November 2014





Castroniria / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

14 11 2014

Castroneirics: Is there Cuban literature after the Revolution?

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

This story started long before the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, on January 1st1959. In the beginning it was not the Word, but the War. And in the war Fidelity is the utmost value, its betrayal usually paid with death, whether civil or political, from culture to corpses without much transition.

In March 1956, Alberto Bayo, who soon was to become a Cuban revolutionary commander, while training Castro’s little army in Mexico, wrote the first traceable record of Fideliterature, where Castro is compared with a “lighthouse than gleams airs of freedom”, and as one of our “great locos that pursue Glory to sow a beautiful fruit in History.”

Indeed, many charismatic leaders have been called “locos” by our national tradition, which despises common sense and praises maddened social actors, as much as it disregards conventionalism in order to foster improvisation.

Months later, Ernesto Ché Guevara himself depicted Fidel as a “blazing prophet of the dawn.” And then an avalanche of verses came pouring upon his epical guerrilla, from the Ecuadorian Elías Cedeño Jerves, who sees him as an eagle-in-chief flying over the mountains of Sierra Maestra (although those birds are inexistent on the Island), to Cuban Carilda Oliver Labra, who focuses her gratefulness to the “male groin” under Castro’s green-olive uniform (thus settling the basis for Latin American Machismo-Leninism).

Local Nicolas Guillen and Chilean Pablo Neruda, Pura del Prado (that was to become one of the most emblematic poets of Miami), Argentinean Julio Cortazar, and, of course, the rapport-reporter Herbert Matthews from the New York Times, who, as Anthony DePalma has revealed in a recent book, was “the man who invented Fidel” as a Western literary hero in a continent prone to Robin Hoods that could expiate the guilt of superiority of the United States.

The “farmer´s morning almond”, a “sun in every corner”, the “purest rose of the Caribbean” with his “warm forehead”, “thriving arms” and “sweet smile”, were among the miraculous metaphors of a time when kitsch was considered correct as long as the people could repeat it.

The Cuban troubadour Carlos Puebla sang contagiously that “fun is over, ‘cause commander is here to put a stop”, equating chaos and capitalism, while order and austerity were the new undeniable values. Puerto Rican singer Daniel Santos reached the climax with his guaracha: if Fidel is to be a communist, put my name on that list, for I do agree with him (just before fleeing from Cuba in the 1959 itself, as did many ephemeral enthusiastic whose artworks remained behind as incessant icons.

In the summer of 1961, with his Browning pistol resting like a peace-pipe on a table of the Cuban National Library, Fidel Castro himself had to frame the limits of our intellectual illusions: “Within the Revolution, everything; against the Revolution, nothing”.

While abolishing fundamental freedoms, Fidel declared himself to be enemy of any cult to his own personality. Soviet-like monuments were carefully avoided, so we have little to say about fidelistics in Cuban statuary. But the cultural politics imposed socialist realism as the best approach to beauty. Many artists were censored for life, erased from dictionaries and catalogs. Castro as a literary character showed up here and there, in pamphlet paragraphs where he could be heard in the Revolution Square applauded by workers, or raising his machete in a sugarcane field.

One exemption is the deconstructive documentary “Coffea Arábiga”, filmed in 1968 by Nicolas Guillen Landrian, nephew of the Nicolas Guillen that was President of the Union of Writers. There, the image of an over-acting Fidel during a speech in Havana University Hill is followed by a soundtrack of the then forbidden Beatles: The Fool on the Hill, with captions emphasizing that he “sees the sun going down and the world spinning around.”

The bufo theatre was abolished very early, to assure no impersonations of a funny Fidel on stage, whose solemnness was consecrated by Article 144 of Cuban Criminal Law, which punishes with up to 3 years in jail the crime of “aggravated contempt” to his public figure.

Skipping over the seventies of obscene ostracism for all artists considered conflictive, and also over the centralized eighties and the balkanization of the nineties, we can concentrate in the Cuban representations of Fidel in the so-called years zero or 2000’s.

For example, Bernardo Navarro Tomás, now residing in New York, appropriates pop and retro banner design to re-narrate Fidel’s biographical milestones, where terror seems just a commercial masquerade.

Street artist Danilo Maldonado Machado, El Sexto, in Havana, bets on bad-painting with explosive collages and nightmarish splashes, including slogans in the lips of a Castro that reminds us of a Minotaur in his labyrinth. These dialogue boxes are his citizen response to decades of monologue with the trademark of Fidel. Just as his own skin is used now as a dissident canvas tattooed with two recent martyrs of Cuban civil society: Laura Pollán and Oswaldo Payá.

Yanoski Mora became famous when he was arrested for selling to tourists a portrait of Fidel crowned with feathers like a Native American chief, a reproduction of a photo of Castro in 1959 with Oklahoma Creek Indians. He later refused to be interviewed or show his oil original. He had learned this esthetics lesson from the political police: the international left is allowed to depict Castro’s decadence (for example, Ecuadorian Oswaldo Guayasamín), but Cubans should not cope with His Holy Image, unless it is to portray the virtues of the retired leader.

A painter awarded the National Visual Arts Prize, Pedro Pablo Oliva, created oneiric landscapes where “Big Grandpa” leads smiling crowds that question themselves through text-boxes. Despite his international prestige, this exhibition of Oliva was doomed to take place only in his private studio in Pinar del Rio province, under the close surveillance of the authorities.

Anyway, during the 10th Biennial for Visual Arts 2009, the exhibit State of Exception included the installation of a carnival machine designed by Nancy Martínez: “A sequence of one,” which offered to winning players a series of plush dolls of Fidel Castro, from the young warrior to the convalescent old man.

The hinge between visual arts and writing came in the extreme style of Juan Abreu, exiled in Barcelona, who is updating in his website the evolution of a mural called “El super-ensartaje” (super-threading), where the historic alpha-males of Cuban Revolution are exposed in a homo-pornographic orgy. The complementary literary aggression is a trilogy, where the mummy of LoverCommander, toppled by a Coup de Etat, is exhibited in a cage, kept alive by drugs and condemned to listen for eternity the marathon of his own speeches, being fornicated by a character that travels from the future only to satisfy his Fidelist fantasy.

Not far from the Revolution Square, where he lives, Jorge Enrique Lage, as part of the fiction writers of Generation Year Zero, has turned Fidel into a Superhero with many Hollywood tics, in his short-story for the anthology “Cuba in Splinters” by O/R Books, New York 2014. Fidel, as a character by Argentinean Jorge Luis Borges, discovers the power of freezing time. He can now wander free of security and wonder what kind of country he has really created, in intense instants for reflection upon his long-lasting loneliness in power.

In the independent digital magazine The Revolution Evening Post, episode 4, in a list of 21 points to approach a 21st-century literature on the Island, the first provocation deals with the figure of Fidel, or rather with his abnormal absence in a context with a well-established genre of the Latin American Dictator Novel, from the times of “Facundo” in 1845, to “Mister President” and “The Great Burundún Burundá is Dead”, to “I, the Supreme” and “The Autumn of the Patriarch”, to “The Perón Novel” and “The Feast of the Goat” a decade ago. The Cuban exemption could be “Reasons of State” by Alejo Carpentier in 1974, where he prefers to caricature a collage of foreign dictators, to avoid suspicions from the active readers of Castro’s State Security.

At least three other writers of Generation Year Zero push the limits of Castro’s world as will and representation.

Jorge Alberto Aguiar Diaz in “Fefita and the Berlin Wall,” explores two desperate lovers that cloister themselves out of a country devoured by crisis. Fidel follows their acts as an unavoidable voice in every TV set of a city in ruins, inhabited ruins that in his novel “The Surveilled Party” Antonio Jose Ponte believes resemble the body of the premier, and moreover, that they were artificially imposed by him to resemble in turn the promised US invasion that never was.

In my novel in progress “Alaska”, on which I work as a Visiting Fellow of the International Writers Project, fiction is understood as filling in the gaps of crucial pacts where Fidel Castro and other political, entrepreneurial, exiled and religious elites become criminal complicit of contemporary historical deeds.

Ahmel Echevarría in his censored novel “Training Days”, later published in Prague, uses a Fidel-like homeless person as witness of a funeral procession at Revolution Square. This old and shrewd urban prowler has wanted all of his life to be a writer, and even dares to give a lot of advice to the narrator named after Ahmel, denoting a Lucifer-like lucidity: Fidel as a fatuous Faust. It was Gabriel Garcia Marquez who stated that his friend Fidel was an extraordinary writer, but without the chance ever to write, given his many official duties. Dreams are the remaining realm of former revolutionaries. Guillermo Rosales, a 1993 suicide that destroyed most of his novels, in “Boarding Home” boasts of being an “absolute exile”, only to succumb every night to the nightmares of Castroism. His self-referential protagonist cannot get rid of the oneiric omniscient omnipresence of Fidel. The author himself is a kind of schizoid Fidel. His mental disease has literally and literarily immortalized Fidel, to the point that the director of the Cuban Book Institute recognized in private that “as long as those dreams remain in the book, it can never be published while Fidel lives”.

In the late 80’s, Heberto Padilla and Reinaldo Arenas came upon the same image in their novels “Heroes Are Grazing in My Garden” and “The Color of Summer”, respectively: to contemplate their lost homeland from the air, flying in a helicopter with Fidel Castro, who keeps describing the reality below only to please himself.

Arenas’ trip is a sarcastic series of bloody events that barely hide Castro’s homosexuality: as in Juan Abreu’s Super-Threading. On the contrary, the flight of Padilla embodies the Oedipus complex that Cuban intellectuals suffer since 1961, when a despotic pistol incriminated them for being so complaining and so little committed to the social process.

A similar edipic syndrome drove Norberto Fuentes, a former militiaman and secret agent of the Cuban Ministry of the Interior, now exiled in USA, to write in advance “The Autobiography of Fidel Castro”, in an interpretation of the personality of a man “much more intelligent” than his auto-biographer and former ex collaborator, and to whom the author renders his bitter-sweet admiration, verging in an unconfessed homoerotism towards the patriarch.

In this trend we can classify most books of Fidel’s defectors, although they are not fiction in principle, but it’s obvious their efforts —generally failed— to restore a certain human condition to the myth: a hitman like Jorge Masetti in “Furor and delirium”, a foreign diplomat like Jorge Edwards in “Persona non grata”, Cuban scientists like Hilda Molina in “My Truth” (2010) and Armando Rodríguez in “The robots of Fidel Castro” (2011), and even his personal bodyguards like Juan Reinaldo Sánchez in “The hidden life of Fidel Castro” (2014).

And this remits to the women that loved Fidel and decades later decided to tell it, as in “Havana Dreams: A Story of a Cuban Family,” by the actress Naty Revuelta, who was his adulterous lover and mother of a girl named not Castro but Fernández who, when grown-up, fled disguised from Cuba only to predictably write “Castro’s Daughter”. Just as his exiled sister Juanita Castro released “Fidel and Raul, my brothers,” in a delayed 2009. The most passionate of the —let’s say— bed-sellers is “Dear Fidel” by German-American Marita Lorenz, who claims to have been drugged and forced to abort by Cuban State Security, and yet she returned as a CIA agent to poison Fidel, only for him to discover the plot and fetch her his Browning with this challenge: it’s loaded, shoot me, I won’t die, no one can kill me, I’m immortal (a startling spell that has lasted for over 55 years now).

Cuban novelist Zoé Valdés, sent to Paris in diplomatic mission, where she defected in the early 90s, deals in a prosaic way with Castro, making a cartoon out of his character and calling him Super-XL Size, according to the dimensions of his —you guess what— testicles. Furthermore, her compilation of political articles could not avoid a Castrocentric vision, even to criticize his communist dictatorship to its last foundations: so “The Fiction Fidel” was her choice for a title.

In fact, pornopolitics seems to be our artistic reaction to the sequestering of the Cuban body within the homogeneous masses in front of the uniformed unique leader. No places for pleasure are legal on the Island since 1959. And while many were being stigmatized and even expelled from their jobs for hiding a lascivious paper or a hot hard drive, Fidel could afford a 1-week 7-page interview with Playboy, and return reinforced in his convictions to persecute capitalist degradation in our people.

Wendy Guerra, in her novel “I Was Never A First Lady” appeals to the nostalgia of her demented mother to recover the merciful monstrosity of the Number One Man in the golden years of the Revolution, a system devoid of first ladies since the revolution itself was the eternally virgin bride. Then, she also explores the first days without Fidel, when an emergency surgery almost kills him in July 2006. Wendy Guerra seizes the sinister silence or the deadly deafness of those meaningful minutes that opened the post-Castrozoic Era in Havana, while Miami yelled with histrionic hysteria.

In many ways Fidel seemed shielded by women’s wombs. The poet Reina María Rodríguez, in her now disregarded unconfessed crush on Castro, made it clear: “There is only one way to care about him. We have grown up beside him as if he were a tall tree”. No wonder why the official propaganda compares him to a centenary Caguairán tree, as his health looks more and more deteriorated in each sporadic appearance —or apparition— in national TV.

About his magnicide on the Island (quite common in a number of foreign best-sellers and videogames) the dystopia in progress “Alter Cuba” by Raul Aguiar is so far the best effort to reshape a Planet Cuba where Castro vanishes from our history before leaving a noticeable trace. About filming a fictitious Fidel, only in 2008 the local movie “Kangamba” timidly showed his shoulders with their emblematic epaulet. And then in “Memories of Overdevelopment” by Miguel Coyula, we have him all over as pop reference and reincarnated in a stout walking stick called Fiddle, which is humble enough as to dialogue after half a century of monologue.

When Soviet communism collapsed, the Cuban troubadour Pedro Luis Ferrer released a series of songs full of good humor that provoked the anger of the censors. One of them reminds of the “Big Grandpa” paintings of Pedro Pablo Oliva, since it’s called precisely “Grandpa Paco”: “grandpa built our house with lots of sacrifice, but the least move now needs his approval, as grandpa still keeps his old weapons ready to make himself obeyed”. The apotheosis was the underground punk band from Havana, Porno Para Ricardo. Paying the price of going to jail more than once, their front man Gorky composed the paroxysmal provocation called “Commander”, where he offensively mocks Grandpa —again from politics to pornophilia— whose official newspaper by the way has been called Granma from the beginning.

Once the fear of fictionalizing Fidel is over, I’m afraid that it will be too late for a fiction to be fully meaningful about him. Besides, it’s more than likely that Cuban literature as such will find itself in difficulties to be appreciated beyond the straitjackets of socialism or its symbolic undermining. Both market avidity abroad and the lack of local readers will pose a formidable barrier to avoid any experimental estrangements and thus to remain stuck to the stereotypes of what Cuban writing and arts in general should look like.

As politics was too important to be left in the hands of politicians, literature was too important to be left in the hands of intellectuals. Fidel Castro managed to impose himself for too long as a non-fictionalizable figure. Being an incontinent narrator himself, competence was considered contempt. It might be time to turn the F chapter of Cuban literature and delicately recognize our defeat. Unless, of course, some authors are willing to grab that Browning back from the summer of 1961 in the National Library, and make a statement that escapes the reactionary rationale of within/against/outside the Revolution.

[Original in English]

13 November 2014





Blogging for Freedom in Providence College / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

13 11 2014

11 November 2014





Memories of Media Death / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

13 11 2014

Memories of Overdevelopment is a Cuban film that comes from the future. And that is a lot to say in a country like ours, condemned to survive in a perpetual and precarious present time that revolves around the same dates and hallmarks of that high-contrast story still called the Revolution.

Indeed, in the beginning it was not the Word, but the Sword. And Fidel Castro swore that the sword was good. And he turned it into Swordcialism or Death, a slogan that means more to us than one thousand and one laws. Or rather, than one thousand and 959 laws. Because memories in Cuba are symbolically bound to that date. 1959: life B.C or A.C., before Castro or after Castro.Within the Revolution and against the Revolution, but no space outside the Revolution is conceivable. That’s what totalitarianism is all about: the State as an imitation of God. And in social sets so claustrophobic, Creation must be then Reaction.

Edmundo Desnoes is a lucky writer. In Cuban literature, where he is well-known but has never been well read, he put into practice the perspective of the pariah, the lucid loser in the middle of proletarian’s paradise, the vision of the victims beyond all boasting victories, the endearing delirium of the displaced. All this in a country with an official narrative that punishes those displaced with death, from the civil to the corpse. And Edmundo Desnoes was lucky enough twice, in the beginning and in the end of his own biopics in the time of the revolution.

His two novels, Memories of Underdevelopment and Memories of Development, mutated into the screenplays of two definitive Cuban films. From the sixties to the two thousands or years zero, always touching the limits of two not-so-different violences: that is, the canonical question about what Cubanness had been or was going to be.

The telescope of the first inner-exiled Sergio, pointed to the capital of all Cubans, Havana —right in front of his face back then—, after so many decades of outer exile has become another optical artifact in the post-historical hands of the second Sergio: it’s a magnifying glass now focused in detail on his daily desires, deceptions, dreams, disappointments and —again— death.

From Northtalgia to Southnesthesia, from Sergio to Sergio 2.0, from the anachronistic analogic of the black-and-white to the rainbow of digital cut-and-paste, somewhere somehow between both movies we Cubans have left behind our old illusions of identity. Life is elsewhere. Love is nowhere. Loss is everywhere. Suddenly we are all Citizen Sergio now. Our notion of a nation is deservedly denaturalized. We try to remember an early word reminiscent of a world that turned out to be too late for us. Rosebudlution. Amnesia is even less painful than anesthesia. Yet we cannot forget a single event. Fidelity fossilizes our future. Only the Revolution remains the same. There is no exile, as there is no exit to our extreme exceptionality.

Both Memories… are less recapitulation than genesis: both generate their own type of audience. In more than one way these memories are imaginary despite being testimonial, since all collective narrative is an invention: ideology as the measure of human idiocy. In both films, the private monologue in voice-off is a replica of the monstrous monologue on top of a tribune turned into tribunal turned into scaffold turned into scarcity turned into a sinister silence. As the Cuban 21st cinematographic century is inaugurated, art approaches the autistic.

In this sense, our memories imitate mute movies. Yet, it’s not only about contesting the monolithic speech, but also an escape to it, through the ethics of multiplicity, of a displaced dialogue between the minimal citizen and the maximum leader. Thus, despite esthetic differences, both Memories… are unanimous in this paranoid presence in the first case and this schizoid absence in the second case: they both attempt to express our inexpressible condition as Cubanless Cubans, whether in the trenches of war on the Island or the tender wardrobes of exile.

Both films are renaissance masterpieces, out of the ruins of the Republic that was not and the Revolution that could have been. Beauty out of barbarism. Faith out of failure. We are so accustomed to Memories of Underdevelopment that we hardly feel its original estrangement, its narrative challenges, visual boldness and rhetorical risks. We are so unaccustomed to Memories of Overdevelopment that we only feel its estranged originality, its challenging narrative, bold visuality and risky rhetorics.

It sounds like a tongue-twister. And it is so: in totalitarian environments, after all speeches are sequestered, the labyrinth of a life in truth starts with freedom of language. I invite you tonight to experience our experimental existence as one continual character in the search of a discontinuous Cuba.

Original written in English

12 November 2014





OLPL Recently Arrived in the USA, Lucid, Nervous and Sad

11 11 2014

Click here for video.





Cubans, damn it! / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

7 11 2014

Total, infinite pity and shame! The teacher Odali has written Maceo (Antonio Maceo, hero of the Cuban War of Independence) with an “s” on my primary school blackboard, and I started crying. I couldn’t help it. That’s what happened. She wrote “Maseo” with her chalk and I started to cry in the middle of the classroom.

Those times were terrible and loving. The world was blue: Havana was white. My parents were living and that was a permanent certainty. Nobody got ill unless they deserved it. People laughed. Their eyes were shining, perhaps caused by tears. The Revolution still had not become fact.

I am talking about a house on the outskirts of a city on the outskirts of a country on the outskirts of a history with no outside, a history which is purely internal. Private, intimidating, and insular. There was nothing out in the open.

The week had days which were totally unconnected. Mondays, for example, were miles away from Fridays. April and October never occurred in the same year. Do you know what I’m saying? I am talking about happiness.

The looks on the faces of the dogs I had on my dirt backyard. The odour of resin which oozed out of mangas*, which I always knew were a fruit which had nothing to do with mangos. The smell given off by the tar when the sun beat on the roofs of the houses in Lawton. Neighbourhood buzz. In the US there are one-off sounds, whispers or screams, but no buzz. The counties don’t sound like that. It has something to do with the sea, with the possibility of flooding and flight. Havana sounds like seashells And seashells make that sound because they are echoing the blood circulating round in our heads.

We weren’t bothered about anything. We were immortal. So sensitive. We had marvellous music which was strictly North American. The United States, in the forbidden distance, was the homeland which was waiting for us. It is still waiting for us, far away over there, in an unimaginable memory. Because it would mean less if it were so close. In effect, now, with our US eagle passports in our hands, we are outcasts in all the world. While we seem more free, we are more condemned to float in a slave’s nothingness. We have lost our impossibility.

The sidewalks in Havana were highways. The roots of the almond trees pushed them up. The concrete they used in the fifties had a different density, they laid it with a sense of style and every section had its own personality. I knew that those sidewalks would outlive life on earth.

And then the flamboyants. And the pine trees. They were the first ones to experience the cruelty. They were dying. They cut the pines for two or three decades. The flamboyants fell sick. When the ones in the Parque de la Asunción died, I decided that if I was ever able to leave Cuba, I would never return.

I still walk in Manhattan and I am walking over a map which reflects Havana. Not like Miami, because Miami has no map, it is a whole. In Manhattan every corner has its opposite number in Havana and it’s very easy to work out where you are. Two island cities in two countries which don’t belong to them.

It’s four thirty in the morning in Rhode Island, a mobile island. There’s a new moon which doesn’t let me sleep. I’m sure I am going to spend many days without sleeping from here on out. And then I will fall over, like a pine or flamboyant, exhausted. Laid out.

“Maseo” seems much more human written with an “s” on the blackboard. But no word can make me want to cry. It’s just that I don’t see them as words. I have forgotten the instinctive reflex of reading. It’s all information here, and so you have to read it. Information is innate and it doesn’t speak to you, but to your capital.

We Cubans don’t have contemporaries. We are the only group of people who don’t have any common inclination at all. That’s our salvation. To be an ungroupable group.

I still love them. I still don’t know how to love anyone born in other perfect impersonal groups. This affection is our prison sentence. To keep loving in the Cuban way.

I love you. Do you love me?

*OLPL-provided note for the translation: Manga is a fruit similar to mango, smaller and with a lot of loose thread in its pulp. 

Translated by GH

31 October 2014








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