A 2nd Colloquium on Reggaeton and Problematic Social Situations in Cuba

7 04 2012

Reggaeton: a love story; Better bayuti[1] than dictatuti

In real time, it’s illegible but the Cuban press has come to be very creative if it is read with a five year lag time, “chabacaneria”[2], luxury, lechery, lamentation, vice, consumption of toxicity, banality, corny-ness, trinket shops, flamboyant attires, cheesy bargains, and an ecetera half ethical and half ethnical. The self-titled “Cuban Youth Daily” put forward its best effort in the beginning to frame the coordinated condemnations of reggaeton, even if a bit late, with the  flow of time and money, and has attempted several baby steps towards tolerance.

Why would the Cuban intellectual have to think or at least give some weight to reggaeton? Why isn’t it reggaeton that intrudes on the theory chorus of the cultural realm? To think is to possess. We want to put all phenomenon in the civil waistline of power. We can’t stand to be stuck outside the the flow of sense that, for its part, is a source of capital. We know that we can legitimize or stigmatize a genre of music that, while the more it goes along with a big mouth and sticks to people, the more voiceless and vulnerable it seems facing the Institution that is always a bit inquisitorial. for the moment we fool along (we make ourselves the fools). It’s still early to be passing judgement and maybe it was our turn before for a good piece of cake.

Reggaeton as a form of linguistic violence has always captivated me as a distortion of the Cuban norm (unconscious Cabrera infantilisms or translated captions something like the movie La Naranja Mecánica [The Mechanical Orange]). Any break-out or emptying of the language fascinates me, even when it closes upon itself and doesn’t blow up in the face of the social consensus.

In terms of textual terrorism, the territorial reggaeton slang in truth promised much more than it produced, but in Cuba this inefficacy far from being a sin, at these heights already, should be a constitutional preamble. We don’t come to any libertarian limits. We cross the line, yes, but only from a heavy conservatism, never out of fashion. Cuba as commodity.

The strange family sagas of the first texts that I have a poor memory of, with their twisted Oedipus-isms and certain common, criminal-esque places, soon were dissolving in the friendly media of the caricature. The themes ended before being completely explored, even before turning out to be interesting for our most restless intellectuality (worthy oxymoron).

There remain then the eternal twitches of Cubanity, the alpha macho uprooted or predatory, the mean and voracious girl, the consuming at an open bar (the CUC [3] as the measure of all things, the almighty buck as the only real event to be remembered in anniversaries) complete forgetting of those who died needlessly, hedonism before historicism, a certain “sexual promiscuity” and a lot of “moral relativism” (that still generates panic in the chorus line of our insular churches), and all the other aesthetics that pass for icons, brand name clothing, tattoos, glitzy jewelry, luxury cars, purebred pets, the mass orgy as a substitute for the organization of the masses, in the end, a final assault on all those delicate distractions that the ideological elite hid for decades by the frugal instinct of self-conservation.

When it’s allowed (with some possible exceptions) to be aired in official media, reggaeton pays homage to the popularity they charge for it under the table [4]; and pardon me those of you present here from the left, this bad metaphor, the announcers and radio producers, among other new actors of the Cuban post-socialism of the 21st century). The Quinquenio de Oro of this class does not stain its fingers with the ink of the “best pens of the Republic” as have been called its songwriters a bit in the style of “the best minds of my generation” of Allen Ginsburg, howled a lot but seldom criticized. More like attendance records and prohibitive prices for their spectacular spectacles not like the cock fighting rings but like vaudeville. No-one loses. Not even those who lose their heads only to lose their clothes in public in a corporal climax of the corporate show (there was even someone who involved their skin in the first comandante-esque tattoo in five discursive decades of the Revolution).

Precisely then, after the first putative death of Fidel, it was the Cuban state that began to find itself outside the game, victimized budgetarily, reggaeton-icized by an emerging industry much better than its functionaries. Tickets were running somewhere between the corrupt and the legal, between the clandestine disc burners and the video clips of national television (contaminating the increasingly professional artists and technicians) between the Makumba and Miami (it’s only an example) and the power doesn’t know how to boycott this short cut direct to the future, no, to the extreme future.

The little dogs, who knows if from the political police (it’s only another example), gave a hand to the ministerial marionettes. Here or there in every six months there rises some brilliant conference that rebukes reggaeton in the sacred name of the little people, that fascist totalitarian defect of the disguised demagogue of pedagogy. When the Premier of Culture  himself appeared on the Mesa Redonda [5] of Cubavision Internacional (which is our de facto Parliament before the world) a fake head was chosen and it was so simple to deconstruct the remains of a slang that was barely mumbling genital syllables.

Case closed, comical circus , semantical of semen cyclical: chabacaneria, luxury, lust, lamentable, vice consumption of toxics, banality, corny, trinket shop, flamboyant attire, cheesy bargains (put on the hot underwear-uty, take down the wild par-uty, spit all-uty out the mouth-uty because the dictator-uty is here to order you to stop-uty [6]).

To the new class of non-consumers of Reggaeton, you’re within your right to defend the status quo of your governance ad infinitum. For lack of rash intellectual attempts, the transition in Cuba could have well been able to slip into the background of the neighborhood of the last tam-tam[7]. A lesson is necessary in order to expose the lack of solidarity of the trade (not even a single collection of signatures against the censorship) and the shunning by steps of its most successful leaders .

Now in the second stage of the rhetorical recruiting of Reggaeton as state lever, for sure a mutual pact in terms of taxes and resolutions against the delinquency of debt and infractions, ethical codes and sanctions including even for reasons of grammar, symbolic management salaries and permits in passports in order to allow departure from and return to the country with money, more so the customary community signboards, clearly, and perhaps these colloquiums or lectures where, to legitimize or stigmatize this idiot son of the post-modernity that, meanwhile the more lap dancing, bumping and grinding gets more promiscuity to the people, the more mute and defenseless it leaves us in the face of our own inquisition that’s always a bit institutional. We fool around for the moment (we make ourselves the fools ). It’s never too late to pass sentence and I believe it will be our turn before that nice slice of cake.

Translator’s notes:

[1] The word “bayu” in Cuban Spanish means a wild, orgiastic party. Adding a syllable to the end of that word enables reggaeton to rhyme the word bayu-ti with “dictadura” (dictatorship) which has the same syllable added to it to make dicatu-ti

[2] “Chabacaneria”: crass , loud , mannerisms of the street including vulgar sexual talk.

[3] Cuba has two currencies. There is the traditional CUP (Cuban peso, also known as “moneda nacional” or national money), and then there is the coveted CUC – Cuban Convertible Peso, the value of which is tied 1:1 to the American dollar. CUC enables the holder to purchase goods at government stores that sell goods from overseas, quality foods, luxury items in addition to anything that CUP can buy as well as purchasing or selling such items between private parties.

[4] the expression “under the table” in English is rendered as “by the left” in Spanish which is why the writer apologizes for the use of the metaphor.

[5] Mesa Redonda or Round Table is a nightly show on Cuban television where prominent academics and members of the government discuss matters of national and international importance.

[6] A satirical change of lyrics from a reggaeton song by Osmani Garcia about the joys of oral sex. The song can be heard at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIsCs4g3maM.

[7] Drum circle or a drum of African origins.

Translated by: William Fitzhugh

February 25 2012


4 04 2012



By: Family, artists and friends of Hector Riscart


Amid the profound changes taking place in Cuba (which some create or not, which seem slow to others, or a deception to so many), changes that are demanded by the President of the Republic and for all at all social levels, inside and outside the island, and although each day are new openings in the economic and civil are published in the official press and articles appear denouncing discrimination, there are still mechanisms that operate efficiently and urgently before the abuse of power and the injustice for citizens with police authority over civilians, Cubans all equal, everyone with the same rights.

On November 15, 2011, something very unfortunate happened. The artist Hector Riscart (El Ñaño), one of the first Rastafarians in Cuba, director of the Reggae Band Herencia, the musical group most committed to the spiritual growth of our youth, respected by the emerging alternative Cuban art, left his concert at the National Cabaret, and was searched by the police along with other members of his group on the corner of the Capitol across from the Payret cinema.

To El Nano, this seemed humiliating and he asked them, please, to take him to the police station and search him there and not humiliate him right there in the street. The police didn’t listen and when El nano defended his rights, he was attacked with great violence by the officers and treated worse than the most despicable criminal. Then at the Police Station, he had to suffer insults and slurs and, to the astonishment of the Duty Officer before the evident brutality, her heard, along with another brother detained, plans to fabricate a false accusation of drug trafficking: “You, when you’re in the Communist Party and accuse someone, no one will doubt your word.”

Much less would they doubt it, because this same officer boasted during the violent arrest of having found important artists in the country with hard drugs. During the following days they violated all the established legal procedures, without making any records or charges, with declarations of false investigations, refusing a line-up before witnesses, without allowing him the help of an attorney, and blatantly brainwashing his wife Zurainma not to act in the public defense of El Nana. In addition, the authorities visited the manager of the National Cabaret to ask him, with exaggerated lies, to fire the group Herencia from their jobs.

So, El Nano was sent to a provisional prison where they cut off his dreadlocks, which are most sacred to a Rastafarian.

Many brothers were moved by this, waiting in silence for a solution. Only about two months later could El Nano see his lawyer, who was very afraid and didn’t know how to defend this case and said it was impossible to go against the word of the National Revolutionary Police.

All this happened under the surveillance cameras of the Payret Cinema, but these images disappeared. The police investigators send the Prosecutor a file completely full of lies and incoherencies, where they said El Nano had no witnesses. The situation has been reported twice to the Central Committee of the Council of State (Citizen Matters), but nothing has happened and Hector Riscart, connected to his biblical belief in God, is no longer willing to eat any kind of food or liquids.

Why this effort to keep in prison such a noble and beloved artist, who brings messages of spiritual liberation, and who everyone knows where and how he works?

There is a history of much gravity that is not told in the book Cuban Rastafarians, whose presentation was promoted last year on national television. This book should be re-printed and distributed to police stations and schools in the country. Artists of new protest HipHop have denounced them over and over in their songs. The Internet is full of fabrications, but also the audiovisual documentaries have not given space to the abuse of police power.

In December 2011 several of El Nano’s songs of commitment had already seen the light.

According to statements from the brother Zenen (soundman for the Herencia group, also detained that day), when he saw him the last time at the police station, Hector Riscart was already convinced they were going to condemn him with completely negative premeditation. “Look after my children, that’s all I care about,” he said.

Zenen shed tears in the Police Station before the hard official who tortured her psychologically by lying. Just then a very young girl came in, who was with them at the cabaret during the whole concert of the Herencia group, working as a prostitute. It’s clear that the weaving of an offense by the leader of Cuban alternative art already included her.

Perhaps, with regards to this arrest, one can open a debate about the use of drugs in Cuba. The most consumed are 1) alcohol, 2) tobacco, 3) marijuana (unlike many other countries here even its consumption is condemned), 4) crack cocaine, 5) meth, 6) paco (cocaine residue, industrial solvents and rat poison) and 7) ketamine.

These last three are medical industrial products. Those that generate the greatest death and violence are the first two, both legal in Cuba, of course. There is a very great negative prejudice associated with marijuana and Rastafarians. But we must listen to the Rasta fundamentals and attend to the truth of the behavior in reality at all levels.

The fear based on repeated history is also natural, where police witnesses retract and admit in open court they have been pressured and intimidated to make false accusations against the accused, yet despite this, the court condemns the accused, so it follows that the jury was already prepped with a false ruling beforehand. This gives us great fear, and suggests judicial corruption. Our government should look at this data and feel deeply concerned for the love of justice.

Other members of the Rasta movement are suffering harassment, imprisonment and injustice around the country, especially when trying to use the new economic and civil rights of association. Some have also complained to the Central Committee of the State Council, but without solution.

Faced with the impossibility of receiving justice promptly, and by the seriousness (which grows, as we know they continue to manufacture a way of judging to the Nano, with no guarantee of a solid defense), almost five months later we have to let the public know of this situation, waiting for the light.


April 2 2012

Del Llano flames out with "Veni Vidi Vinci"

1 04 2012

In “Vinci” the episodic film on the life of Leonardo, Eduardo Del Llano borders on indigence.

“Don’t fool yourselves; my film is “buenisima” as its screenwriter and director Eduardo del Llano rebukes us in his eponymous blog.

The sentence could not be more precise. That something is buenisima is said in Cuba in television adventures as they approach the final, definitive conflict. And it is not that the unique location of the film Vinci(2011) has room for many heroes or much action. It’s that by its duration and visual splendor this work could well aspire to be the final chapter of one of those “historic” series that routinely occur at La Cabaña[1] (There’s no art direction that can manage to conceal the truth about this jail in Havana that is nowadays portrayed so festively). And, as in any self-respecting final chapter, in Vinci everything is a bit sudden and brought on by the really long hair of an almost pre-pubescent Leonardo.

Enveloped in a little war of e-mails without any real consequence in the realm of Cuban culture, Vinci finally debuted in January on the Island and did so with nothing less than a monster-ography that bragged publicly that it was by the same author of the censored short film Monte Rouge,a canonical little work that put Eduardo del Llano between the La Jiribilla[2] and the CIA, between the dissidents and the G2[3] (wake me up if we are not already in that transition!).

This time, as was customary in each independent audiovisual of his Decalogue of Nicanor (Sex Machine Productions) it was not necessary to clarify in the captions that exhibition of the film was prohibited in the United States. Perhaps Del Llano intuited that, from coast to coast of the lands of the exile, that on no “channel of the enemy” would they be interested in pirating and conducting an “anti-Cuban campaign” with this, his most recent “buenisima” film.

Vinci is, with all and for the bluff of all, in spite of the resume of its director, the film of a beginner and those involved in it should know it, beyond the protest signs or solidarity in reaction to its exclusion from the competitive round of the 2011 Havana Festival of New Latin American Cinema. A first class crew including the director of photography Raúl Pérez Ureta and the Argentinian composer Osvaldo Montes who preferred to lower expectations of the movie to “a good film”, is no guarantee of a graceful coming out of Veni-Vidi-Vinci.

Praxis vs art, truth vs lies, acting vs lecturing, desire vs reason, who knows if also capitalism vs utopia: thematically the Renaissance was that, a magister ludi’s hat where it is possible to pull the rabbit out of any conflict. Better that we don’t make a game of the erudite exegetes of this Golgotha with a happy ending (Vinci as acronym of INRI).

More than with Mick Jagger, there’s a lot of marvelous affectation in the Diego of Jorge Perugorría in the Leonardo of Héctor Medina accused of sodomy (although this kiss of the woman doesn’t “spider” like that of the Brazilian director Héctor Babenco[4]).

Be it collective unconscious, or evolutionary convergence, there’s much of the dim and noble David from Senel Paz’s script for the film Strawberry and Chocolate,in the two common prisoners who share a cell with the more political Da Vinci who, “determined” in the opposite, demands, like a servile Piñerian serf, to wear the robe of the underclass. One of his lascivious compañeros, the illustrious and fatherly serial killer (Manuel Romero) plays the seemingly inexcusable in the style of the maniacal mimicry of the Cuban poet Delfin Prats in the documentary Extravagant Beings. The other, a pickpocket with a chicken mind and rotten teeth (Carlos Gonzalvo) is a cut-and-paste version of the humor of the Cuban TV show Kicking the Can that is the only social critique even barely allowed on our national television: the idiot as the hypostasis of the intellectual.

Right at the halfway point of Vinci, a glimpse of lucidity is sighted in the false Florence of 1476 which doesn’t escape from its cubicle at the Havana Book Fair. After seeing the placing of the immaculately clean feet of Leonardo (was he floating over the filth of the props that were his cell?) there then, literally, occurs an animation between the bars; a bird flying that no critic dares to cite in order to not commit the sin of intertextual ignorance. But if it had been conceived the other way around; an hour of animated cartoons and only a few seconds of realistic filming, (for example the rats of the CENPALAB[5] breed) the Tomas Piard[6] type ballets of Vinci and its overacted dialogues would be pardoned now as a cult piece.

“Is it that you would have had to create a native Da Vinci?”, is the question in the more rigorous Eduardo del Llano interviews. Worse, impossible. Everything in this opera primais an indigenous-ism on the verge of indigence. Without mentioning the fatality of the fauna of a Fabelo[7] that is too fabelesque to be believable. On top of that, a cameo appearance by the director at the very end falls into the ridiculous; Eduardo del Llano in museum armor straight out of the adventures of Asterix and Obelix.

Vinci is the type of aesthetic tragedy caused by being within the church and in an institution. For years now the ICAIC[8] has been a straitjacket for Eduardo del Llano and both sides know it without saying it. The author of Monte Rouge shouldn’t use his microphones with such mediocrity. Ready to speak, we can only speak until State Security separates us as in the German drama The Lives of Others. Del Llano runs the risk of boring the agents who “attend” him and he makes them suspect that he is up to something more intense than just the second season of a Nicanor. Anyway he’s already a lost case for whom they will never let down their guard, in as much as he defends the “ideal of a democratic socialism that still doesn’t exist.”

or precisely because of it!

[1] The fortress of La Cabaña is posed dramatically on a bluff overlooking the entrance to Havana harbor. It was built by Spain in 1763 and has been the scene of many turns in the history of Cuba as a military installation. Captured by the forces of Che Guevara in the final hours of the Cuban Revolution, La Cabaña became a grim prison and the location of Revolutionary tribunals that ordered the execution of many of the former regime’s operatives. Today it is a tourist destination. The hour of nine ‘o clock is marked every evening by “cañonazo“, the firing of a cannon by men dressed as Spanish colonial soldiers. It is an easy choice as a setting for historical dramas.

[2] A reference to the official magazine of Cuban culture La Jiribilla.

[3] TheG2is Cuba’s intelligence service known for watching over, and arresting, dissidents.

[4] Hector Babenco is the director of the movie “Kiss of the Spider Woman”(1985).

[5] CENPALAB is the Spanish acronym of the National Center for Laboratory Animal Production, a personal project of Fidel Castro that carried out arcane experiments in milk production using at times, cattle breeds imported from Canada at great expense during the sixties and seventies.

[6] Tomas Piard is a director and producer of many films and television shows shown in several countries and has taught in both Spain and Cuba at university levels . Born in Havana in 1948, he has been awarded the Order of Artistic Merit by the Cuban Ministry of Culture.

[7] Roberto Fabelo Cuban painter and illustrator (b. 1951 Camaguey) of international renown , illustrator of Gabriel Marquez’s100 Years of Solitude,whose work sought by collectors, is on display at the Cuban National Museum of Fine Arts.

[8] ICAIC is the Instituto de Arte y Industria Cinematográficos (Institute of the Art and Industry Filmmaking) formed by the Cuban government in the earliest days of the revolution to promote non-commercial cinema that often carried overtly political themes.

Translated by William Fitzhugh

February 10 2012


1 04 2012


Translation of linked article from Varela’s blog:

there is a resident in cuba of 40 years whose name is orlando luis pardo lazo, i don’t know why he puts so many names if a couple of them is enough to identify himself. who also self-titles himself a dissident and in passing photographer. and who above got naked and painted little things on his body and face, making idyllic buns and mops of hair resembling rolls in triangles, pissing on the flag, dragged through a patio, climbing in trees, wearing caps, getting naked, turning many more somersaults to call attention on the internet. come on, he is one of those aspiring patriots (who don’t remain clowns) who flood our blogosphere well, how goofy, now he writes a post where he says he was imprisoned because of the pope’s visit to cuba. it had to be. whatever. here the application of the baker act. it turns out to be that he is of this legion who follow the miami press, taken out of circulation while the country was at a national mass. and later when the pope clears off they were freed again. then the 4-named charlatan proceeds to narrate the multiple drama of his calvary. his whole farce — like his name — is always superlative. so that it seems taken from the pages of the bible during the golgotha of jesus and from alexander solzhenitsyn’s gulag archipelago (a real dissident, whose shorter name was enough to earn him a nobel). i should note that this figurine when i was in cuba came out in his blog with a gallery of photos of indigents on the streets under the title: ‘the people that verela will not see on his visit to cuba’ but he lifted his ass (smooth-cheeked in his photos) with the door because the first thing i did was go see a friend who was sleeping in a park, give him money, enroll him in alcoholics anonymous, talk with friends and family and relieve his immediate misery when I returned 3 months later he had clean clothes, a haircut, accepted back into his house, sober, and as focused in his issues that we talked about the american nba because he was a star in provincial basketball. now the shithead orlando luis whatever could say to me that in cuba there are thousand of more beggars…but the case that i took care of, that one, i resolved. it is that a poor mental paraplegic like olpl (those are his initials, with which his followers identify him) cannot ask for more intellectual resource. let’s not forget who narrated in the famous univision soap opera style the kidnapping of yoani sanchez when they beat her only on her butt and she squeezed the balls of her attacker while they lifted her skirt, and said: ‘the greatest woman in cuban was crying in my arms’ (the greatest woman in cuba). and so, he has always dedicated himself to little things of this style, besides supplying graphics to the blog of the greatest woman in cuba (he lives that). i wonder what such a good-for-nothing has really done to help a fellow in cuba well, who needs help is him, but i say within his dissidence I as not to pose as a rebel or dummy in photographs and give an aura of heroism from a few hours’ arrest (if they really did arrest him). one would have to see what his impact is in the environment where he lives, in the short and long term perhaps he creates a style although for me now he is that fauna of extraterrestrial cubans who live orbiting the limbo of his own fantasies; from which they are the only ones who believe and transfer them to the outside world through their blogs as if those who live outside believe them beginning because in the post that narrates his martyrdom he explains that he has internet, cell phone and twitter account and that all that was private. vacilador (vacillating) class. Thanks to us — because it cost the money of the u.s.i.s and u.s.a.i.d., that comes from the american taxpayer — he lives at a level above our own families there, and complains, paints himself as martyr. we have to see that self-employment is not enough, they need to make a living at the expense of the yuma, and sell him their farce. i know that now readers come and tell me how dare i criticize an opponent who suffers persecution in cuba, who is braver than me blah, blah, blah but these are the same types of little animals that until recently lived there like this; and now have come to live here, they have had to shorten their names, for example, of orlando luis pardo lazo they had to put on his social security orlando pardo, stop eating shit and start working. that’s why they are bastards they live in trauma in eternal identity crisis, irritated by their shattered protagonist urgencies they are people with a very big hole in the middle of them, who spend their lives trying to fill it… with shit. original (in spanish) © varela

April 1 2012