30 03 2012

Let’s talk about Steve Jobs, Freedom, and how an official from Cuban Intelligence can’t turn off an iPod.

Like the Cuban language itself  (impossible), like the poverty into which the imagination here has fallen, like the remains of the island culture (fortunately now Balkanized without origins or teleologies of chastity), like our insulting ignorance of the civil, like our infantilized institutions (rudeness as one of the fine arts and despotism as a measure of all things), like our pedestrian diplomacy and our governance of the stick (sticks), like Cuba itself, the State Intelligence of this forever lost country did not have to be the exception: the political police can not think well and, in consequence, act much worse. The repression of ridicule.

Let’s not get into State statistics — hundreds of cases in a few hours — that State style that while more informed with data means less significance can be shown. Let’s not get into the customary whining about you-violated-my-rights and I’m-going-to-denounce-it-internationally. Let’s not get into the biography of two Cubans who want a little more, now that they shared a hunger and thirst strike for two days in the extra-judicial jail cell, hunted like vermin at 3rd and 30th, in Miramar, handcuffed at full speed by the Geely 801 of State Security, until spit out at the Regla Police Station (some day China will have to compensate the Cuban people for the damage caused by these vehicles). Let’s not get into anything. Let’s run the memory in its absolute and desperate freedom.

I never heard shouts of “Down with Fidel.” Surely it’s a little late to topple this name in the past perfect, but nor did I hear anyone shout “Down with Raul.” Pastor, Emilio and Judit, three of the ex-occupants of the Church of La Caridad on March 13, undertook to hammer those screams from one end of the neighborhood to the other, shattering the solemnity of death of the thousand and one uniforms of I don’t know how many colors that swarmed there. They’d crossed half of Havana to get there, to find out about the old activist Corzo, but were ipso facto detained for a crime against solidarity. The station was converted into a barracks. it was obvious they were expecting military intervention (or perhaps Cuban planned one against the enemy government of the region).

They didn’t beat me (my right hand is typing still numbed by some handcuffs placed not to immobilize me to cause damage to my blood circulation: I didn’t confess it then, but it did work). I have a deal pending with one of those who kidnapped and beat Yoani Sanchez on 9 November 2009. An overwhelming man who tried to force us toward the hospital, according to him evidence that there was no damage (as if to exist in Cuba knowing that he remains on the loose not having committed was not already enough damage).

I gave my word (my word as a lying mercenary, as he graciously called me in front of his subordinated with his gray atlas complexion). He’s here now. They didn’t hit me. In fact, beyond the swagger of a Station Chief who perhaps took advantage of the incident for a promotion, I felt protected by a National Revolutionary Police (PNR) who confessed to me they had nothing to do with it, they themselves were captives of a higher official.

What that does not make them, of course, is less complicit or less violators of the police code. They never allowed me to make a phone call or to advise anyone. So I had to shout, through the free half-inch clearance between the boarded up bars, to see if some passerby would take my phone number and address. Most walked on, I guess.  But more than one noble Cuban man or woman called.  Thank you. Thank you from my heart. Someone should do that in all the prisons of the Island and the world: walk by the bars to listen and spread the cries of the disconsolate.

THEY DID NOT BEAT ME. Friday, November 6, 2009 is history. Do not hit me, anonymous official, you know everything about me and have even protected me from the Islamic fundamentalist who were targeting @OLPL with their Tweets about the criminality that flows from the Koran (like the Bible and all sacred books). DO NOT HIT ME. The open question is: Was such a mafioso act of atrocity probable? What God will protect me from the earthly wrath of State Security? What Pope on the front page with the General President or what Cardinal to whom that too large an office is left (there is only one step in the ineptitude of the heresy)?

I was imprisoned. For the first time in my life and without charges. I did not see nor will ever see, the Holy Mass that the Pope simulated simultaneously in the Plaza of the Revolution. A mass of materialistic marionettes trained to chant in Latin. Speaking with the people at street level (and renting a State SEPSA van as a taxi), I knew that the three cordons of coordinated public or in the Ministry of Interior gang (a ministry that increasingly guards its ministers badly). And of the hundreds of workplaces called to coagulate the railed cubicles of the expanse (no posters, please). And the traffic sequestered more than 24 hours in advance. And the  compulsory collection of beggars and dissidents, this wonderful mix. Still shining from those below not know why I always fill myself with a hopeful illusion.

I did not have, nor do I have yet, mobile phones or home. The slow dial-up official Internet  also vanished as if by magic (the Three Evil Kings: freedom of movement, freedom of information, freedom of expression). That little game of they-are-orders-from-above and who-pays-orders is technically a criminal irresponsibility (such as the PNR) and some day there will have to be compensation from ETECSA and CUBACEL to their respective users, cheated from above even the official contract.

I do not believe in God, but despite the absence of the divine, Good sometimes manages to inhabit Man. It’s hard to be yourself and be along and above not to have the Evil of pure fear and hatred of reality (of ourselves, a unique feature of the biosphere). I don’t believe in God but I do believe, for example, in the excommunication of the Cuban cardinal who enrolled (and muddied) his Holiness Benedict XVI in a foretold Vatican shame, such as the only two Masses of little lies in the history of mankind. The Guinness Book of World Records threatens to be the posthumous blog of the Revolution.

The apostolic retractions and little notes halfway to the Nunciatures will be of little use now. We children of Cuba are living a black day due to the presence of this success of Peter, perhaps his superior attributes already weigh more than they’re worth. His word was elsewhere. Not here and now. And it makes sense being an institution doomed to the hyper-realistic myth of transcendence.

I never knew my body could be fine without water and without food for so many (and so few) hours. From cell to cell I asked Silvia in signs who would not insist. By signs she let me know that her situation was much more insulting: a License to practice dentistry without any kind of militancy or activism (except teaching), she was imprisoned by mistake, for love, out of horror. Silvia was hiding her tears, but not her contempt for the officers (meanwhile more intimidating, more outrageous). I felt nothing but infinite sympathy.

Eventually we started to talk out loud from cell to cell. We gained courage. We remembered a prison clip from the reggaeton “Patry White The Dictator,” a super woman we both like. We agreed on what to do and to remain silent if they separated us. I asked her what she wanted for the next day. We lamented our baby cats, locked in the house in a state of involuntary starvation.

She encouraged me with her sketches of the life of Steve Jobs and asked me to take her to live in a giant Mac, a planet of silver and free creativity. I told her how humiliating it was to see our digital objects manhandled with this primitive curiosity, a primate, a violator who doesn’t understand the intimate logic of personal property (shamelessly exposing for the first time in decades the vegetable viscera of my godfather’s charm from my childhood).

I assumed they were copying our house keys (or they were using them to conduct an illegal search in our absence, as well as to intimidate her). Silvia told me that Cuba was a sick country because no one like Steve Jobs was born here (or could fit here). I told her our taken iPod had run down because those who took it couldn’t find the OFF switch (they tried to get me to instruct them but I shut up out of revenge). They were obviously analog minded repressors, anachronistic, in any case users of the more commercial Windows.

Purely to shock my captors and compañeros I ended up singing, with the tenor echo of the catacombs (“MediastinumLumberjack,” an Eduardo del Llano mockery of me), gradually losing my timidity of the complacent inmate, fine tuning a Catholic fashion theme about this little doll to whom all your children / we cry to you / Mambisa Virgin / who are you brothers. And then songs in English from some animated feature films, including the classic Voltus V. As Papa Lorenzo would say in “El Juego de la Viola,” these people really like cartoons… Our tragedy will be weightless, our destiny a cartoon.

They told us we were under “investigation” for a “public scandal” in the future tense or perhaps in the subjunctive mode (verb tenses are not the forte of those in uniform). We passed from the jigsaw puzzle of “occupation” of our possessions that would be and, in fact, were fastidiously returned to us to the last cable and the next  ticket (it was all Silvia’s, nothing of mine, including packets of milk powder with a “receiving” stench).

They tried a police line up en masse which we resisted (and locked against the bars the three ex-occupants of the Cuban Republican Party). We never signed anything, we never wanted to admit that they’d violated us abducting us there (disappeared, that’s the word, because the Power is not worried about any family angst blindly calling on the medical corps on duty).

Only with the lifting of the landing gear did we once again recover our freedom, that unspeakable gift.

I implore the world not to schedule any great event in Cuba. I pray that nothing significant happen in this country again, please. One day they will they will kill us like they couldn’t help it: the chain of command is that lazy (and innocent). I guarantee the list of victims is already written, I can almost read one of its pages in the moving hands of an officer. I swear by my faith in Man that the staff to carry it out is guaranteed: I saw them throughout this long and sleepless night of shadows, with almost no children (or angels).

There will be no Plaza of the Tahrirevolution in Cuba. The exile is already further off than usual. The digital telephone is just that: digits in a cloud that retains a highly visible OFF switch. Not even the most incompetent of the Counter-Intelligence Cubans could miss it. One click and the Holocaust will click in behind closed doors, like in the pre-Internet 1970s. This button, reminiscent of the Cold War Red Button, is perhaps a programmed keyboard from the Era of Eliecer at the University of Information Sciences, this little tap of bits will unleash the barbarianism of excess in Cuba, enough to erase the genealogy of a civil society at the margin of the totalitarian idyll that mutates here and kills without symptoms of extinction.

March 29 2012

Estado de Sats and OLPL Covered in German Newspaper

28 03 2012


In Kuba werden kritische Stimmen im Netz lauter und mutiger. Das Beispiel einer Video-Plattform zeigt aber auch, wie das Regime reagiert, wenn es offen kritisiert wird.

Ein Feind des Internets

Trotz aller Widrigkeiten bleibt Rodiles kämpferisch: “Dass sich etwas ändert, lässt sich nicht aufhalten.
Die Frage ist nur, wohin die Reise geht.”
Kuba sei wie ein treibendes Schiff, mit ungewissem Kurs.

Orlando L. Pardo, einer der aktivsten Blogger der Insel, ist da eher pessimistisch: “Nichts hat sich verändert.
Estado de Sats hat so ziemlich jede politische Regel gebrochen, die man brechen kann.”
Laut Verfassung gilt das Recht auf Meinungsfreiheit nur, wenn es im Interesse der sozialistischen Gesellschaft ist.
Regimekritik wie die von Rodiles ist der kommunistischen Partei ein Dorn im Auge.
Nicht umsonst gilt Kuba der Organisation Reporter ohne Grenzen als einer von zwölf “Feinden des Internets”.

“Klar, dank des Internets gibt es jetzt weltweit Sympathisanten”, sagt Pardo, “doch hier auf der Insel hat das Projekt keinerlei rechtliche Grundlage.
Deshalb trauen sich auch viele Gäste nicht, Einladungen zu den Events wahrzunehmen.”

Translator’s note: I will let you paste it into Google Translator yourself! I have “some” German but I wouldn’t want to overstep myself!

March 21 2012


27 03 2012

Speaking: Raudel Collazo, from Patriot Squadron. Sadly… the situation is a little complicated… my voice… my poetry… it is not permitted to hear it… it’s a word like censorship…


To Whom It May Concern:

The reason for this letter is an event that happened on March 6, 2012, Year 53 of the Revolution; an event which from our perception as novice… and not so novice filmmakers, is an unusual event.

At 2:00 pm we met with the director of the Information Center of the Cuban Institute of Motion Pictures Arts and Industries (ICAIC), compañero Robert Smith, to whom we reported that the  documentary Awakening from directors Anthony Bubaire Pérez and Ricardo Figueredo Oliva, is “outside the cultural policy” of the aforementioned institution; therefore the decision had been made “not to exhibit ‘Awakening’ in the Young Filmmakers Exhibition.”

At this news we immediately called on our logical reasoning: Why can not our film be shown after accepted for the Young Filmmakers Exhibition? How far outside of the artistic or political Cuban culture is it? What is the Cuban cultural policy?

As a second step we met with Fernando Perez, an exceptional director in Cuban cinema and president of the Young Filmmaker’s Exhibition. In the conversation with Fernando, he told us that he had decided to resign from his post as President, maintaining that support but taking that unfortunate decision.

Fernando Perez with his team, in selection meetings, approved Awakening; but this was not valid for X culture officials, who told Fernando that Awakening was out of competition; obviously, this information was not shared by compañero Roberto Smith.

What compañero Roberto told us is that, after the film was chosen for the competition,  there was “a review” by the board of ICAIC, where they determined, “among other things” that for “a question of production” it could not be submitted.

We question all of this. Does it still exist? If this ploy is part of the cultural policy of the country, then consider that we are devolving emotionally, or realigning ourselves in underdevelopment. If we are heading down the path of social development, if the economic projects are maturing, and if compared to the world situation we are in a “period of proliferation,” those mentalities and projections are inversely proportional to the policy exposed up to them. Are we really changing. Rectifying the errors? Events of this type, are they errors or solutions? In previous decades, were we wrong, or “were we wrong”?

From our position, the hoop is smaller, which makes us think that our “case” as not been the only one in recent years, so of course it’s to be expected that we are very concerned. We must exercise a strong criticism against events like these. If the institutions and the officials of the institutions continue to act in this way, Cuban art, which is manifested in the streets, which emerges from reality, is going to go under one of these days.

Will Cuban art be elitist? Or will the “art of the people” be elitist? What is the “art of the people”? Every day I see different manifestations of Cuban art displayed in the mass media and most of it does not represent us, it does not show the true reality. Is that valid? What, then, does it represent? Who does it represent? Is this the image? Festivals of culture, films, theater, music happen; but what “artists” are included there?

If the process of selection and “revision” are similar to what happened with my work, what is on display: art or propaganda?

It is peculiar how the are “within the Revolution” has experienced several interesting processes; those meetings at the National Library or “The Words to the Intellectuals”; the First Congress on Education and Culture, the Padilla case, the “Five Grey Years” or Pavonato; and many others; in most or in every one of them huge errors were committed, irreparable errors for art and culture in general, errors that perhaps affect the actions of many artists, errors to which today not a word is addressed because they are surpassed, errors that are now exposed as mechanisms for disposal.

We see, if these processes are taking as guiding examples for the direction of Cuban art today, we would like to emphasize, then, that we are marching in a different direction contrary to progress, and that every day will further strengthen the executors who don’t hesitate to censor, not as a function of a sovereign culture, but as a function of growing as an Inquisitor power; becoming in this way, as in former years, the Cuban culture in a State beset by irrational arrogance, insensitive and unreasonable.

To limit this disagreeable immediate future we wish that ICAIC would offer us an explanation for the event discussed here, or perhaps an apology, a reappraisal; naturally we would not want obsolete justifications; there are many people affected by this and there has been so much sacrifice in every image; therefore, I make a call on the good judgment of some people, in whom we still have hope.

Thank you very much.


Cooperative Productions

March 25 2012


27 03 2012


PLEASE HELP, to crowdfund the CD of the PATRIOT SQUADRON

“New Philosophy of Struggle”

 which is being launched by the


There are a few days left (28 as of this posting) to achieve this dream

to be a bridge between free Cubans on and off our little island.



March 25 2012

Catholicommunist Censorshit in Cuba

27 03 2012

Gustavo Arcos With Regards to “The Higgs Particle,” by Fernando Perez

Hello Juany:

I did not want to overlook a significant event that occurred a few days ago. While we were participating in the successful Film Critique Workshop, Fernando Perez quit his job as the director of the Young Filmmakers Exhibition, an even that, thanks to its vision and what it delivers has become an irreplaceable audiovisual reference point on the Island. Reading your blog, its text THE HIGGS PARTICLE, with the echoes of our recent debates about the cinema of the ‘70s fresh in my mind and encouraged by the workshop, I have to express my complete support for Fernando who, once again, has shown his ethics as an artist and as a Cuban. At the same time, I can’t but be alarmed by the silence of so many filmmakers, young and veterans, with regards to it.

Over ten years ago, in a text published in Revolution and Culture, titled Noises in the Warehouse, I expressed my point of view about the state of audiovisual production in the nation, from the emergence of the new generations and the weakening of the official industry.

I said then, that the main problem I saw was this fragmented creation was precisely its weakness as a generation. Everyone seems to be staring at their navel, without really taking sides for the fate of their cinema. For them the important thing was to create, make, film, tell their stories and express themselves without a sense of belonging to anything, with a fidelity to anything outside themselves.

A little later, we saw the first symptom of it when Ian Padron saw his documentary Out of Season censored, without any of his contemporaries saying one word about it publicly. The Young Cinema Exhibition itself has seen, year after year, how diverse materials are “uncomfortable” for this apparatus that is faceless and nameless but that prohibits, cuts, limits and silences, works created by the youngest artists.

The documentary Revolution was the object of derision, polemics, arguments and dismay two years ago, although the Exhibition managed to show it and even give it a prize, other later Festivals refused to register it under pressure from “on high.” Significant movies like Family Video, the aforementioned Out of Season, and the documentaries Of Divers, Lions and Tankers, The Illusion, Havana Looking For You, Utopia or Revolution, still have not shown in our theaters or on television, in a natural and commercial way. I only mention a few that have won awards and have been considered, by the critics, among the most prominent films made in Cuba in the last decade.

When Fernando Perez signs his text and remembers his position as an inclusive project manager, who has for year been a leader against  every kind of “external forces,” those who love art and cinema should be at his side, although for them they have to paralyze the Exhibition. Never mind here if the documentary censored now is any good, successful, or mediocre, what matters is the common position the younger creators should take and also for those who are or not, with this attitude that censors and bans.

If the ideologues, or the functionaries of ICAIC, believe that a documentary can cause the fall of a system, an idea, a societal project, then little has been achieved over the last 50 years.

If a film, however realistic or critical it may be, leads to the bureaucracy or the mediocrity censoring it, worried about the “ideas” expressed in it, it is simply a sign of the total failure of this will and the extraordinary weakness of this political project.

Gustavo Arcos, Havana

March 25 2012


27 03 2012

If someone can identify the protester, please give his name now. This Cuban person, for a simple shout, is going to suffer tortures and a sentence that could be 10 years or more.

Note – Clicking on the image of the Video will take you to Diario de Cuba where you can see the video.

Translator’s note: The video is self-explanatory without subtitles. The person being led away and beaten over the head with a beach umbrella shouted “Down with Communism” at the Pope’s Mass in Santiago de Cuba.

March 27 2012

Censorship Catholicommunist in Cuba

26 03 2012

Why Not Awakening?

— An article about the censorship of the documentary about Escuadrón Patriota(Patriot Squadron) —

Every February, the Chaplin Cinema opens its doors to the Young Filmmakers Exhibition organized by the Cuban Institute of Art and Cinematographic Industry (ICAIC). The Exhibition is presented as the only and therefore the best chance for the youngest filmmakers to show their work.

Organized under the guidelines that govern the ICAIC, and being that this is a center that, despite enjoying some autonomy, meets the state interests, the Exhibition retains the right whether to accept films according to its policies, which do not serve the interests  of the filmmakers. So it can be said that it decides based more on political correctness, than on the quality of the work as artistic and critical means of expression.

It is evident that under this right of selection is hidden censorship and exclusion from the system, which the documentary Awakening, directed by Ricardo Figueredo Oliva and Anthony Bubaire did not escape this time.

The topic is Raudel Collazo, best known for Escuadron Patriota (Patriot Squadron), who, in the lyrics of his now-censored songs, takes on with strong and direct speech core issues that attack Cuban society, such as racism, fear and segregation. Which brings us back to the show last year when the documentary Revolution, which explores the history of Los Aldeanos (The Villagers), Cuban hip hop’s most successful group on and off the island in recent years, was also censored, only this time as opposed to that, all parties did not reach consensus.

The freedom of creation and exhibition is still a conquest to be reached in Cuban audiovisual media, and institutions rusted away by time and their policies, which are obsolete in the current context, look like old dinosaurs today. More than ever, Cuban cinema lives today among the hundreds of filmmakers such as Anthony Bubaire and Ricardo Figueredo who strive to assault and present reality with all its nuances.

It is necessary that the ICAIC, an institution that has championed art as a fundamental premise, echo the needs for which Cuban society is avid: the completion of an art that is more than their reality, a cinema that shows them to be more than they are and what can be, and that for once leaves behind those politics that are maintained only in cinema tied to the remnants of a past that only endeavors to reveal the reality of two colors: red and green.

Mely Acosta


March 25 2012

Free Cuban Magazine VOICES 14 (The Pope Edition)

25 03 2012

We do not have the plug-in to put the magazine on this site -- click the image to read it on TranslatingCuba.com

Download the magazine in PDF here.

March 24 2012

What’s up Pope?

24 03 2012

Benedict: to Be an addict or not to Be an addict, that’s the question.cu…!!!


World: The Island That Waits for the Pope

Many years later, between the anti-imperialist icons of the ministries of the Armed Forces and the Interior (on whose facade Che Guevara survives the great hopes of the ideal New Man), facing to a platform once converted into a tribunal, where the Maximum Leader and the blind masses demanded “to the wall” (execution) against the class enemies; too many years later, even if it is only 14, the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana will host supreme pontiff for a second time.

During the past month, emergency brigades have erected in Santiago de Cuba and the capital, the ephemeral altars where Benedict XVI will officiate Masses on Monday and Wednesday.

They have covered with make-up — even relocating families — the facades and avenues where the pope will travel at the invitation of the government and the Conference of Catholic Bishops, in the Jubilee Year for the 400th anniversary of discovery of the Virgin of Charity, patroness of Cuba, which for 16 months recently made a pilgrimage of almost twenty thousand miles through the whole island.

Of most concern today is the record wave of arrests without warrants, plus the supposedly spontaneous “acts of repudiation” against the classical opposition and the emerging civil society. In response, there were a peaceful occupation of churches in Pinar del Rio, Holguin, and the capital, with the controversial cooperation between the Catholic hierarchy and the political police during the evictions. An alliance sealed when the Communist Party newspaper gave its pages to the editor of the magazine Palabra Nueva of the Archdiocese of Havana (in practice, the spokesman of Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega), whose speech was a carbon copy of the official stigmatizing style.

As the parliamentary body of the island — the National Assembly of Popular Power — for decades has unanimously ratified every law, and given the lack of independent institutions for the debate between reform versus stagnation, in Cuba any event serves to confront the possibilities being pushed for a post-Fidel future: from a Castro-ism without Castros of the military court (the elderly group of generals still controls the economy) to the more liberal leonine Made in Miami (the empowered exile is a fifth of the population of the island). And, even if he doesn’t awake the sympathies that his predecessor did in January 1998, the Vía Cuba  of Joseph Ratzinger Via Cuba will be no exception.

Thus, columnists lacking in imagination have suddenly been resuscitated with a plural arc that ranges from enthusiasm to skepticism, from democracy to delirium. They are dusting off the republican pillars of the nation. They are evoking fundamental analogies between Christians and Communists are evoked. They are sneering at the periods of religious apartheid under a dogma that wants to be science and even has a constitutional range. And they are recycling rumors that non-uniformed police will exceed the faithful in numbers, or that the State company Cubacel is going to block mobile phone transmissions during the gatherings, for fear that a tropical Tahrir Square will erupt before the correspondents of the world.

A convoy of pilgrims will come from the U.S., in a goodwill gesture from Havana, but there is already censorship for reasons of “national security” or “political despotism,” according to the version of each side. As a “relief” or “provocation,” an alternative flotilla will come from Florida to the limit of territorial waters on Tuesday night the 27th, to fire off, as on previous patriotic dates, a display of fireworks visible from the capital.

What the charismatic John Paul II failed to accomplish at the end of the last century — the right to a Catholic education for starters — it is unlikely that Benedict XVI will try on a shorter visit. Despite internal petitions (and also an open letter from former Polish president Lech Walesa), the Holy See looks imperturbable: they plan no meetings with dissident sectors, not even with the human rights activists the Ladies in White, through whose street demonstrations dozens of political prisoners were able to go into exile in 2010.

The Cuban nation should not turn its back on itself. The risk of social collapse is not negligible, from the anthropological damage of the crisis of values, and from the continental situation where the subsidies from Hugo Chavez could be dangerous to its health, condemning the island to a worse mess than that caused by the collapse of Soviet socialism. It is irresponsible for the historic leaders not to believe in the spiritual and material conditions for a gradual process of reconciliation. And even though the Catholic Church insists on its pastoral rather than the political nature of its guest, the permanent postponement of the first stone of the transition is left in the infallible hands of the Pope.

March 23 2012

Michael Dweck (protagonist in the Exit of Eduardo del Llano?)

18 03 2012
Photo: Camilo Guevara, La Habana, 2010 (Michael Dweck)

I wish it were true that this is a city where the high-life is picking up, as promised in the ads for the book Havana Libre along with some happy photos posted, in advance, on the internet, including the Cubancentric comments against its author: the New York photographer Michael Dweck.

I wish there was, indeed, a Havana with “a creative class in a society without classes,” a glamor in the time of cholera that doesn’t seemed forced for the camera, PMM* that doesn’t parody PM** (the cackling laugh as a framework to put make-up on the metallic grimace of the late nights).

Hopefully this sample is turning out to be the least offensive, the spit of luxury in the big dirty face of the Cuban proletariat.

But no, that’s nothing. Rather, the Michael Dweck: Habana Libre exposition, open to the public for a month from 24 February at the Photo Library of Cuba (Mercaderes Street # 307), is excessively correct. A diary of a neutral trip (three years of work and paperwork). From an imitative Malecon to a skateboard park, from the thongs of the Tropicana to the Clubs on the little western beaches, from the Juanes concert in the Plaza to a hotel bedroom that refers to the usual place of our “photos of 15” (very soon they will get naked and their prudish parents won’t even be scandalized). Permitted provocation is not provocation: it’s barely the curriculum vitae of the guy, “one of the first living American photographers to exhibit in Cuba.”

Even the classics of the epic period of the Revolution dared to portray a little more in private, in terms of entertainment and nudity.

Photo: Habana Libre by Michael Dweck opening (OLPL)

So, we are under the warm gaze of a Re-discoverer of the Island, one of those opportune chroniclers who puts us squarely in Western modernity or, still more profitable, who updates us before certain scholarship of Americana (academically: The Cuban Way of Life?).

Half of my colleagues were portrayed by Michael Dweck to mount the discourse in Kraft paper of this Habana Libre. In Exit, the tenth and hopefully not the last Decalogue of Nicanor, the director Eduardo del Llano does a much better job of dissecting the entrails of that Habanita chic posing for an international flasher (despite the contrasting black and white, that now and again ricochets the shocks of light).

“They are talented protagonists of an imminent Cuba,” the author declared to Diario de Cuba during the opening. Although to me it shines with a retro aesthetic, fifties-like, with the convertibles and wine glasses and brand name rags of a certain provincial star-system that would have delighted G. Cain*** (if the magazine Carteles has not succumbed to the barracks in the key of cool-war communism).

Beyond a certain progeny of patriarchs (Castro/Guevara & Sons, Ltd?), in most cases they are citizens irregardless of the accumulation of capital (“internationals, although travel is difficult”; “fashionable, although Cuban couture is an oxymoron”; “a prosperous class enveloped in an egalitarian society”). For the rest, the general managers are missing here, the czars of Swiss bank accounts, the political diplo-police experts in petrodollars, and a coin collector, etc. It so happens, also missing are the heads paid in hard currency of a mercenary millionaire dissidence, or so the official discourse would have it.

Guard and poster exhibition. (OLPL)

That would have made of Michael Dweck: Habana Libre a Havana plaza of freedom. Not a catalog of pets, not an album to name the species in the zoo, not a sterile room of dissections. “Cubans preserve much more than the metal of old cars: they preserve a now lost way of life,” the catalog tells us. “The country that Kennedy once called ‘that unhappy island’ overflows with visceral enjoyment and beauty.”

Nelson Ramirez de Arellano, director of the Photo Library of Cuba, offered some keys in his cheerful words of introduction. He emphasized the notion of “class” as a materialistic mantra for the future, “without this implying the enjoyment of any privilege other than being connected to the appropriate circle of friends.” (“Despite the negative photographs that the news agencies stamp on the global collective memory, many here lead the good life,” Dweck himself said.)

Attendees at the exhibition, Fototeca de Cuba, February 24, 2012. (OLPL)

For “the restless souls of artists and creators,” the nocturnal country “apparently frivolous in this party world” evokes that evoked in verse by Jose Marti and connects with “the warmth and simplicity that characterizes the subjects photographed.” And the fault of the institution unable to gain access to the cash donations of Michael Dweck lies in “the well-known economic blockade” of the guest author’s country of origin, which in its turn only tries “to relate another part of the history that is not told in the USA.”

Sooner or later in some Vogue interview, the art critics will come out with the little cliché phrase of the title of the review. Before the evidence as yet unverified silence is imposed (the banners taken down in the salon speak for themselves). If Havana Libre is a love story, then guilelessness as a conceptual deficiency is more than understandable.

Translator’s notes:
*PMM – Por un Mundo Mejor / For a better world. A Cuban slogan.
**PM – A 1961 short film directed by Guillermo Cabrera Infante’s brother, Saba, banned for its cinéma vérité-style depiction of Havana nightlife, thus inaugurating a period of intense official involvement in the ideological content of artistic endeavors in Cuba.
***G. Cain was a pseudonym used by the Cuban writer Guillermo Cabrera Infante when he wrote film reviews in the 1950s.

February 28 2012