Free Cuban Magazine VOICES 14 (The Pope Edition)

25 03 2012

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March 24 2012

What’s up Pope?

24 03 2012

Benedict: to Be an addict or not to Be an addict, that’s the…!!!—posteos/2012/03/20-8088…

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


18 03 2012

The free-lance Cuban magazine VOICES XIV, will be launched this coming Friday, March 23, an issue to welcome Benedicto XVI. Just a welcome good debate and nothing complacent. Critical eye. Clarity before faith. With more than 60 pages and 20 Cuban authors within and outside Cuba. Will you subscribe with a comment? It’s FREE!!!

Manuel Cuesta Morúa, Mario Félix Lleonart, Armando Chaguaceda, Luis Felipe Rojas, Armando de Armas, Julio César Soler Baró, Baltasar Santiago Martín, and @thers, many @thers…

March 18 2012

Encyclical of Pope Pius XI on Christ and Communism

18 03 2012

Encyclical of Pope Pius XI on Christ and Communism.


Excerpt from the encyclical:

In the face of such a threat, the Catholic Church could not and does not remain silent. This Apostolic See, above all, has not refrained from raising its voice, for it knows that its proper and social mission is to defend truth, justice and all those eternal values which Communism ignores or attacks. Ever since the days when groups of “intellectuals” were formed in an arrogant attempt to free civilization from the bonds of morality and religion, Our Predecessors overtly and explicitly drew the attention of the world to the consequences of the dechristianization of human society. With reference to Communism, Our Venerable Predecessor, Pius IX, of holy memory, as early as 1846 pronounced a solemn condemnation, which he confirmed in the words of the Syllabus directed against “that infamous doctrine of so-called Communism which is absolutely contrary to the natural law itself, and if once adopted would utterly destroy the rights, property and possessions of all men, and even society itself.” Later on, another of Our predecessors, the immortal Leo XIII, in his Encyclical Quod Apostolici Muneris, defined Communism as “the fatal plague which insinuates itself into the very marrow of human society only to bring about its ruin.” With clear intuition he pointed out that the atheistic movements existing among the masses of the Machine Age had their origin in that school of philosophy which for centuries had sought to divorce science from the life of the Faith and of the Church.

March 18 2012


18 03 2012

The free-lance Cuban magazine VOICES XIV, with an exclusive dossier on BENEDICTO XVI’s visit to our little Island, is about to come out of the oven.

Voices 14 is on the point of coming out of the surly oven where the Cuban precarious present is cooked, with or without fries* or faithful…

VOICES is unremovable from its own cathedral of words.


Translator’s note: About the fries… the word “papa” means both potato and pope in Spanish.

March 17 2012

La Caridad Church Assaulted Between Priests and Police

16 03 2012

They often made and received calls using their cell phones

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Finally the miracle had happened. The prose of war of decades and decades of totalitarianism media emerges now from the mouth of the Catholic Church, formerly irreconcilable enemy of Godless societies.

The press release from Orlando Marquez, director of the Archdiocese of Havana’s magazine Palabra Nueva — New Word — requested by Granma, the official organ of the Cuban Communist Party, is the suicide of an illusion.

Without making it to the first page, but with the consent of Cardinal Jaime Ortega and the imprimatur of General Raul Castro Ruz, the Cuban chapter of the “Reconciliation” just became obsolete (even while still in the making).

Author of a thousand and one democraticforms columns, Orlando Márquez, not without humiliating dignity, has paid the price of informing us that their will be no such thing. At least not among men and women now living. Resentment rather than reconciliation: in this, too, were they wise, our warlords as a fount of olive-green governance.

It’s upsetting (and panic inducing), this eccentric ecclesiastic before a domestic question of human rights, in a nation that limps with respect to the constitutional text itself. They marvel (and mutilate) the threats of a police intervention that would devastate the “religious freedom” of Cubans (the just will fall for the sinners: it’s the exemplary dogma of the Revolutionary State). It’s laughable (and rabid) the prudish paranoia of seeing themselves as victims of an anti-papal plot. It’s miserable (and mediocre) this matrimony of an institution of the spirit on the most materialist — militaristic? — altar of the world.

Cuba is a very convenient scaffold. Control is Catholicism. But Orlando Marquez legitimates and, without knowing it, stones his Church. With this coupling of fidelities, the prominence stolen in recent years by the Catholic hierarchy begins to fade. The first words to come from God in our official press are already a capitulation, more artful than atheist. Showing their dictatextual accomplices seams. Religion reduced to group therapy to cover “spiritual and even material needs.” The temple, like the whole street, seems to belong to no one, for that native sin of not being sufficiently pious (although the interventions of State Security are themselves hermeneutically justified as political performance or collateral damage).

Applauding we are overwhelmingly a people. But at the first personal gesture we disappear. Or they disappear us. And then we are no longer strangers in the land of others. Worse still, we are the Other known and unrecognizable: unpardonable pariahs under the crushing demagoguery of power (which always is One and does not admit the Outside).

Hence, perhaps, the barbarity of the ballet of announcement-repression between Catholics and Communists. Hence also the incriminating loathing that in symbiosis launches Granma and Palabra Nueva against some occupants capable of “frequently making and receiving calls using their cell phones.” In some unlikely bit of that future signal the humanist heresy of our freedom could be incubating today.

From post-Communism to post-Catholicism there is only a single text message of difference.

March 16 2012