29 10 2010


Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

There is a month in the world when I watch a Cuba film. I watch it in a paleolithic format, on VHS, the only one that preserved the greys from the actual film, without the high contrasts of digital copies. A Cuban film from the ’70s and, as such, a Cuban film fanatically censored in its time. (Even its director denied it in his interviews, but the Cuban Film Insitute (ICAIC) which must publicly ask forgiveness — and not just for this case — if it wants to continue to exist in a forthcoming Cuba that is about to be announced.)

The month is November. The film, of course, is by Humberto Solas, the Cuban director who must be our best filmmaker, the most sensible and subtle, with the least politically propagandistic potential (a defective tic of Titón), until the Syndrome of Historical-Novelistic Blockbuster Productions seduced and shot him. Cuban history and literature are bad company for the cinema, with millions of pesos but in national currency (only of numismatic interest).

I am speaking, almost as on another November day, of the film One Day in November that never premiered in 1972. In fact, despite its occasional posthumous exhibitions, technically A Day in November still hasn’t been released. What’s more, I have no faith that it ever will be released. This black hole protects it from the bureaucracy and the populous.

Lucía, a name we drag out from Lezama Lima (perhaps because of the alliteration of the L), echoes better here than in the three Lucias of some years back, in the prodigious decade of the ’60s. But this beautiful Lucia is much more of a daydreamer, and much less to do with the argument. Eslinda Núñez laughs. She “oozes” womanhood, oozes the scent of a woman. She floats, smokes, fornicates (the sex scene is marvellous despite being prudish and perversely picked at by who knows what National Filmhookers Award).

The lead actor neither acts nor leads. In fact, it was an amateur. A handsome man the intuitive eye of Humberto Solas fell in love with, but later repented through the hallways (love on the Island is forgetful since before the verses of Jose Marti). For me, a perfect fool, precious. Almost a chauffeur moving between the real actors, presenting us with a proletarian Cuba that seem European while he waits for his end. He dies, eats nothing. And the autumn climate is like nothing in Cuba for decades. And the memories stirred up by the underground war. And a childhood of sand. And the sound that picks up more of the noise of the neighborhood than of the narrative’s dialog. And the pines (someone will have to explain the Cuban Revolution’s aversion to pines, which we are all aware of but don’t understand). And again, Eslinda Núñez, Eslinda forever, Eslinda superstar, cold as neon, delineated, lips from a Japanese brush, transparent skin, and a streak of asphalt running through her hair, in a skirt (where the skirt was totally a declaration of eroticism), an Eslinda Never, who I have been waiting for since 1972, sitting on a park bench to offer her the adolescent phosphorus of my heart.

I see the Havana sea and I see the Matanzas see. I was one in November 1972. But I remember everything better than the cretinism that gathers in the buses that are the movie theaters of today. This is a Cuban film of socialist solitude. It wasn’t enough with the enthusiasm to build a better society. The sadness remains. It is as catchy as a slogan. Meanwhile more free, meanwhile more repressed, meanwhile younger and frolicking with Anglo music (still banned, then), worse. Nothing consoles us. Everyone is sad (it is a verse from Virgilio Piñera). And that sadness is lost between one end and another of the propaganda narrative of a Revolution wanting to be a carnival, where “the unnameable feast” of Lezama Lima, is crowned with the following verses from the same stanza: “A drumroll of courtship and reigning newts. The calm sea and bird-free air, sweet horror the birth of the city barely remembered. The grapes and the snail of writing contemplate the parade of prisoners in their sinisterly-limited promenades, painted ephebes in their distant noise, withered angels behind the brief flutes sounding their chains.” (To be born here is an unnameable fiasco?)

November after November (my father liked a Yankee film that I think was called Sweet November), I sit in front of the VHS video and pray that the cassette hasn’t worn out or been overcome by mold, dust or oblivion. I press Play. Almost always after midnight, like now, and let these scenes run of a world lost, but never rotten in my imagination. The same themes, but faded, soft, and yet hyper-real. The music is by Leo Brouwer and the whole universe. The shabby little shirts, the correction as the last glimmer of civility. As of the revolutionaries of that time (because it implicitly assumes that every being on the screen has to be) were shipwrecked, still hoping to find a safe harbor. As if life, paused for a moment by the frenzy of the Revolution, was about to begin for real.

I don’t know. When Eslinda and Esteban cross their bodies, I can’t give any more. When Lucia and Bello join hands after running among the heated rocks of a fjord, Orlando Luis begins to cry delicately. Someone has to do it in the midst of so much viciousness and aridity. Let them mock now, the ever ready chauvinists vigilantes of the web (the guarding of Lagarde and his lameguards). Who screamed (only I heard them) that the mercenaries have no memory and no right to the tissue fine pages of the Ration Book. And who’s fucked, of course. Because my pain is the only patrimony that no one could communalize.

One Day in November deserves a remake. A remake shot in exile, you understand (the original was also shot from the exile of a disconcerting urbanist, modernist Cuba). A movie that doesn’t repeat faces, merely discovers them. Whose characters perhaps don’t have to repeat the parliaments of 1972, but simply look them in the face (another virtue of Humberto Solás) to know that time is running and it is desperate to continue being in the same scene already obscene, anguished that everyone is so simple and yet always goes backwards, and remembers as well those faces we abandoned in a Cuban apartment to go grow old nowhere in particular.

No film critic could understand what it’s about. No profane spectator or erudite audience would agree with me. No wanker in dark room would leave off accosting bodies for this film in black-and-white whose original celluloid is perhaps already fermented (like half the ICAIC archive in the former studios of Cubanacan). This column, then, is private. A secret with the essence of sandalwood that only you know what it knows.

LAGE in Diaro De Cuba

28 10 2010


28 10 2010


25 10 2010


Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Sunday after Sunday the Kent dinosaurs occupy the stage of the National Theater, on one side of the deserted Plaza of the Revolution, in the already classic Cafe Cantante.

Thirty Cuban pesos a person. The place is cheap. It’s dark and air-conditioned: two more reasons than required to relapse, since it’s not easy to find a place to hide in Cuba, not even for a couple of hours.

So here we are, compelled by the sparse reality of another tedious afternoon in the country. We went and bought beer in hard currency. Glugglugglug yeast and hi’s and hugs and kisses on the lips at the first opportunity. We all dig you very much babe… and we paste our brains to the speakers until our memories go plfff and so we are no longer surviving in this lapsed Cuba of the zero years, we’re no longer emptying out the post-two-thousand-nada riffraff, but we are also dinosaurs of this twentieth century nailed like a psychedelic chord in our hearts.

Oh, yeah…!

It’s a miracle that these fifties still have so much energy. They move the atmosphere in an imitation of the aces of the sixties and seventies and a little but more. But even there we hear the drunken chatter of that sacred language, English. From the nineties to today we’re not interested in heavy metal or even alternative. Sundays are spent with the music of rock. Ladies and gentlemen, freakies of every stripe and pattern and social class: the time machine is a musical discovery of our resurrected Revolution. And, for the first time in the world socialist system: it works…! Fuck!

The fauna dance like crazy. Everyone alternating between the areíto — the sweet dances of our native non-forbears — and arockarito. Everyone flirts with everyone within the limits of the sub-hippangos of our materialist machismo. We are not but we pretend to be a commune. Sometimes and ephemeral bureaucrat usurps the Kents’ microphone and shrieks – ridiculous, laughable: the civil official gives life to the Young Communist Union and other organizations la Peña supports or allows: pushing on us the idea that without the institution a space such as this would be impossible; finally quoting a cultural slogan in the name of the Premier or his Rockvolution.

We don’t know or care about your Marxistoid rant. We don’t hear, we don’t spit. We leave him under the state because at the end of the day he earns his salary, and it’s obvious that the poor thing doesn’t even know the taste of what he utters. He must be a businessman who traffics in rum or something metabolically more beautiful and exciting. A hypocrite who takes advantage of each historical context. A nothing of the masses. In any case, this man is nuts. (Good) luck that we’re nodding and looking for a pair of sad eyes to fall in love with for the umpteenth time. Behind blue eyes.

There are the perennial little characters halfway between pathetic and pathological. The one who imitates Michael Jackson. The one who imitates one (or all three ) of the Bee Gees. And the fingernails that are neither Oz nor Ozzy, but rather the wizard Mogly who is an imitation of Tina Turner, drinking a little rough and unfortunately crowing that she is the owner of la Peña de los Kents, who no one can touch on the dance floor or in the delirium, who calls for security with a Cuban oath. And to top that, the call of truth, and the chubby goonies appear, each with their security school diploma and everything is fucked. Peace, Love and Freedom and will go out with the recycled paper in the toilet where many go to kill the desire for anything.

October 24, 2010. It’s not the first time these guys behave like what they are. Gory gorillas. I’ve seen them push people around on the stage. They have to justify their muscles and don’t understand. The Kents keep on playing as if nothing happened. The Kents don’t understand either. It seems they want to preserve their little piece of Cuba at any cost, a lot of work that costs them the contract, when none among them would defend the State, among other etceteras justifying the island lack of solidarity.


They pull them outside. And Tina Turner denounces them without proof. Or persuades them they have to talk (so typical of our organs of state security, the converse with you to convert you). And outside there they inform the young people they’re expelled from the jangling Cafe.

It all crashes down like a speeded-up tragedy. The bulky-non-identified are Counterintelligence (a word that always hits me as the opposite of intelligence, as the brute barbarism in this case beardless). You can tell them by their ridiculous haircuts and their rayon shirts. Following the confrontation with the guys and the girls taking the most uncivil initiative (they’re the Senoritas in White): assaulting the microphones to denounce the arbitrary expulsion, for the rest, lying.

Of course they turn off the audio and push them. Then get entangled in the cable and later say they were the ones who broke it. The Kents almost applaud. The guitarist, Dagoberto Pedraja, remembers the mother of a girl three decades younger than him, who didn’t know he know her but is very touched, because yeah, they know each other well before. Other Kents argue that the shit pulled by their fans has nothing to do with them, that’s what always happens with capitalism and go ahead, get them out of there, they asked for it. What began as the despotic disparagement of the Cuban false Tina turner, is now a marathon of bullying in the time of the Kents. The victims are guilty of inconveniencing their attackers. In reality, Cuba digs though never its own grave.

Some unknown takes out the American flag filled with enthusiasm for a great American band and we all tremble then to keep time with an American Band. It’s chaos. It’s too much. They call a patrol call. Point the finger of accusations. Those expelled in the first round are joined by those with the flag. The basement has me trapped. A cry remembers that Lucius Walker was also an American, and the yuma flag itself should not constitute a sin. The thing smells of politics. The police start their ritual: handcuffing and heading off to the Station at Zapata and C.

Left behind is the peanut gallery. They put on recorded music. The Kents are massively pissed off but they don’t have the balls to carry on, heads bowed to the Administration in the form of MININT. None of the public protest too much. Another shout that hopefully Human Rights will be heard (I heard but I am not Human Rights).

I know the guy handcuffed and walk behind the patrol car, but when I get there the cheeky lightbulb-saving receptionist comes on like the usual bitch (now, in the light of day, I could revise the text but she was, in effect, a bitch, and I could pull out my ID card or get the hell out of there). After-the-fact question: Why are the cops so ugly? Is it the bad lighting that makes them look cadaverous?

The truth is, ignoring the condition of the agent of public order, the officer lies to me almost with love. They haven’t arrived. They aren’t here. I go out to the Geely at top speed. I have to wait. (Wait for what if they aren’t here?) They will come soon! Pinocchio-Cape-Boy glares at me and I cross Zapata street and call the bloggers on the phone and think about twittering, as if I can disburden myself of the fact that my friend seems to have disappeared.

But that’s it. In a bit my friend appears in the lobby at the station at Zapata and C, around the time they shoot off the canon. Yes! he was there! Wanting to sue the receptionist for Non-Acceptability or perjury. They passed his  ID info over the radio and he came back clean, no record (and if he’d been dirty, then what? How many times in Cuba can they make you pay for the same crime? Or is blackmail perpetual?).

We get out of there fast. I can feel the paranoia and don’t want any more of it. It was nothing. Not even a fine. A mistake: the horror always is. At least they didn’t shoot us dead in a ditch, which the Minister could justify now as a Music example.

I don’t accuse the Kents, I excise them. They are left with their poor Peña and the threats of his henchmen who aren’t going to let us come any more (you’ve got to see this, compay! Look at the oven that’s not for more prisoners). We leave them there with their complicit Made in Kentucky covers. Eating their Cafe Cantante excuse Sunday after Sunday, at one side of the deserted Plaza of the Revolution.

Of course this is not a call for a boycott. To the contrary, they are more than welcome. To charge your face when you come in but not to kick your ass on the way out. To be or not to be: that is the Kentsion!


22 10 2010


22 10 2010

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Of course, there are players. They are high performance soldiers. Who pays the piper calls the tune. For these are the country’s professionals.

And there they go, to an Intercontinental Cup on the other side of the world. In indignant single file. Without their captain, Frederich Cepeda (or the veteran pitcher Pedro Luis Lazo). There to fight for the coveted medals on Cuban Television News (the gold always dedicated by discipline to el Comandante). And there they stay together in a kind of concentration hotel. Under they eye of a certain doctor* who monitors everything.

Champion compañeros: they go to bed early, like good kids in uniform (Plan pajama** for ball players). Zero solitary walks. Zero late arrivals. Zero making love to a female enemy of the Revolution (not to mention a man). You already know, in the distance the monitoring must be almost vile.

In fact, it’s really vile what Cuba’s leadership is doing to the stars of Cuba.

They all leave. Sports policy practically expels them (there is a poverty of intelligence in The Cuban Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation, INDER). There is no option left for those who know the future is not exhausted by our National Baseball Series. And to top it off the bosses are so small-minded that the players are treated as “traitors” and nobody on the island (nor on the Cuba baseball team) jumps to defend the athletes from the stupidity of those bureaucratic — more than ideological — idiots (it’s known today that the “Pineapple” might well be called mafia).

I can’t stop feeling sorry for these players. For Pedro Luis Lazo, victimizer and later victim of the Industriales, the team of my soul. For Frederich Cepeda***, who has made indecent declarations of “Sorry, nothing happened here.” For the rest of the Cuban team that travels beheaded and in panic to Taiwan, instead of standing at 3 and 2 to finish the democratization of our supposedly amateur league (or failing that, shutting it down). They risk ridicule to play under pressure and other times they’ve lost concentration and lost like apprentices (the hatred follows you from the podium).

I never follow international championships. It’s obscene to look at the bench and see so many faces so far from the nobel spirit of baseball. So many cops with mobile phones with roaming direct to the Head of State in Havana. So many flags and banners in the stands. So much secrecy among the speakers who don’t say a single word (and not even they know whether it is a cautious accomplice or a criminal asshole).

I’m sorry. The sport is so not worth it (for this nothing they lose the pleasure of life: and this is the most totalitarian triumph our State). Please, finish reading this column… or go out and bat some garbage for the next blog…

Translator’s notes:

*One of Fidel Castro’s sons, Antonio Castro Soto del Valle, an orthopedic surgeon, is the team physician for Cuba’s baseball team.
** “Plan pajama” is Cuban slang that refers to someone once in power now demoted to a low level job.
*** Why Cepeda was “benched” at home and not allowed to go to Taiwan with the team remains a mystery.


22 10 2010

MIEDOS Y MIERDOS, originally uploaded by orlandoluispardolazo.



16 10 2010

Our Vargas Llosa who art in Nobel…

13 10 2010

Some words about the most recent Nobel Prize winner in Literature and the reaction literally in chains from the little Island of the Begrudger…

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

I came to Mario Vargas Llosa early in the 90´s (quite late in my life), thanks to a mention of him in a short story written by Senel Paz, which Paz later adapted for the script of the Oscar-nominated Cuban film Strawberry and Chocolate.

Dramaturgically, even within the script, all the chatter about Cuban censorship always seemed ridiculously old-fashioned to me, a sign more of ignorance than intolerance. Not on the part of Senel Paz, of course, but by our nationalized cultural establishment. A system that at the turning of the new century, and new millennium, still revolves upon the same political sins from back in the ‘70s.

I am referring not only to the fiction narrative of Vargas Llosa, which now would be perfectly digestible for local Cuban publishers (a narrative that goes from breathtakingly brilliant to conservative without ever taking on the tone of a pamphlet), but also to his thoughtful prose, his exquisite essays that mortify most the Marxist mediocrity of our island proletariat and could never be branded as “reactionary” or “rightest” (not forgetting that the reactionary right, in addition to the disasters it shares with the “leftist revolutionaries,” has also played its worthy role in contemporary history).

What matters is that Mario Vargas Llosa survived the powerful prejudices against his “eternal candidacy” at the Academy in Stockholm, until now when he was awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature. Halleluja for the man from Arequipa! Ave, Vargas Llosa: those of us who are going to read you again, salute you…

Beyond his own Peruvian presidential episode (just another chapter of the Latin American soap opera, or perhaps the Ladino American one); setting aside his jealous punch in the face dealt to Gabriel Garcia Marquez in February 1976; discounting his ingenuous illusions of one or another sign with the Cuban Revolution (ingenious intellectuals are converts by definition); Vargas Llosa has been a gallant gladiator. An inveterate polemist against all odds. A humanist heretic against the fires the ideological inquisition. A light in times of blackouts. A committed writer save with the idiotic notion of the “committed writer.” An incorruptible comrade, despite other complicit comrades. An old-fashioned liberal, despite the neoliberals. A man of revolutionary rhetoric who one day just said No, in order to preserve the independence of his social criticism.

And this is not a note of praise commissioned by any kind of editorial board. This is not a note of praise at all.

The conceptual wasteland inhabited by Cuban writers today, leaves us, paradoxically, in a terrific talkative freedom. In the middle of the desert, we must drink from any source, faithful or contaminated; and therefore such a radical relativism makes us hedonistic and ahistorical, a perfect pasture for plurality. In the middle of the barbed wire fence of impertinent permissions about what to write or what to omit, we soon discovered that we are all alone, abandoned by our own stinginess, like the guild that shouldn’t bite the ministerial hand that feeds it (Oedipal complex with our paternalist State). Amidst the paralyzing fear that exhausts us more than a best-seller from noir genre, here and now we Cubans could be already writing our truth, each one with his stubborn or trembling voice (I prefer the recombination of speeches rather than a single style), but we don´t. We knew how to kick our own way out with words, but, too much startled, we simply did not dare to play the star. So that Nobel Prize in Literature for a compatriot was cut forever in 1980 with a phone call from Sweden, that bumped into Alejo Carpentier just deceased (novelistically he had passed away two diplomatic decades before).

So, despite the opinion of a surprised Mario Vargas Llosa himself, personally I hope that he has not been given this maximum laurel “only for his literary work,” but also for his political views put into black and white with a keen clarity, with ethic and aesthetic reasoning, without concessions to any toppled Utopia nor market tyranny, for the sake of a vision of the end of the world which, however, did not yield to defeatism, much less to despotism. Latin America owes a great deal to Vargas Llosa, as the illusion of that bunch of modern states that our continent finally never was: at times from strongman rule to civil cretinism, from the barbarian force to a foolish vulgarity (Cuba always as a canon of all things). And this Peruvian, citizen not of Spain but of the planet, has been critically understanding with a sparse reality that breathes with more vitality within his writing than outside of it.

Moreover, the Nobel Prize, like all civilized activity, is and should be, also, political (though not politicized). Literature is too important to be left in the hands of the literati.

Finally, I apologize for the Paleolithic perversions that have been published about Mario Vargas Llosa by the imprisoned press in my country. If I do not start a petition against such newspapers, it is only not to expose the shameful lack of solidarity among Cuban intellectuals, and also because the professional press deserves, more and more every day and with every text, less attention after the e-mergence of our independent blogosphere despite the island´s limited access internet.

But let the rest of the world copy this “loud and clear” (to use the martial vocabulary of our functionaries or, better yet, of Vargas Llosa’s own character, Pantaleon): this 2010 Nobel is as much ours as the official Cuban enthusiasm (and not only symbolic support) for the previous Nobels of Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1982) and Jose Saramago (1998). Besides, this prize belongs to a working man with a future and not to an icon from the past. And the Cuban Revolution now seems to bitterly envy this.

Mario Vargas Llosa resisted and eventually his words have become much more significant and deserve more respect (as they are more respectful) than the perishable populist blah blah blah of so many Latin America leaders. And the Cuban Revolution will never forgive him for this.


VOCES 3 With Everything By Cuba

13 10 2010

VOCES 3 con todos por Cuba, originally uploaded by orlandoluispardolazo.

Poster de Rolando Pulido.