Payá, Posthumous President

31 07 2012

Rosa María Payá speaking at her father’s wake (O.L. Pardo Lazo)

The trashed cityscape reaches all the way to the gate of the parish, in the arid Cerro neighborhood. “The Savior of the World,” says the sign, so distant from the desert outside, beyond the gates. And one thinks, sleepwalking before sunrise: how poor any form of expression is in this country.

Dawn lingers on the park benches. The wake is supposed to start at 8:00 am, but there are only the little workers brigades, trying, on this Monday, to make up for decades of decadence: mowers, sprayers, trash collectors which, like the cop cars, pass and pass again without picking up anything. Everyone pretends it’s normal. It’s July 23rd and since yesterday Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas is dead.

They had promised it to him by word and with attacks, which he survived without even realizing it. It doesn’t matter with whom or how they fulfilled their promise. The idea is that there will be no Nobel Peace Prize in Cuba if Fidel Castro doesn’t win it first.

In a nightmarish sequence, Payá’s body, with his 60 years and thousands of signatures collected to reestablish our nation, fell so far away, a province whose name didn’t exist before the Revolution: Granma… An accident among strangers, Europeans with presidential ambitions who now will be anything but witnesses to the truth. A catastrophe without the protection of his brave and beautiful family, near this deadly Bayamo of the National Anthem.

It was the end of an era of a deceptive balancing act between the dissidence and the torturers: a declaration of war, although it seems exaggerated. And before so much horror, to the first curious we can only speculate what not even the Christ of the Democrats would dare to type here now: if it was carelessness or a paid assassin, if he died without suffering in the act, or perhaps looked with terror at the paramedics or the paramilitary or both, if he repented and assumed his martyrdom without the final temptation to betray himself.

The hearse traveled from the Oriente to Havana under an insulting sun without optimal conservation measures (or came secretly by air and the delay was only a ploy to pressure his family: living in Cuba is a lot like a police procedural). In the text messages we received and resent like automatons, the funeral was postponed until 11 am, and then to the secret hour permitted by State Security, already mid-afternoon when, amid the cellphones and tears, Oswaldo’s box made its entrance flush with the crowd.

By then the church sheltered almost a whole spontaneous congress of the Cuban opposition, from its media stars to the anonymous infiltrating agents of the last generation. The operation of control this time would play at not interfering with the ceremony and conceded everything his widow asked for (except the resuscitation of her love of 26 years). The irrepressible applause burst forth as the coffin advanced, in an unsuspected consensus from minutes earlier, erasing rancor and caudillos, displaying everyone’s best side before the memory of a good man who saw like no one else the promised land and, not to disprove the Bible, never managed to inhabit it.

Mass for Oswaldo Paya Sardinas. (O.L.PARDO)

It was not a private wake, but every time they felt invaded, the church’s young strongmen limited the labor of the cameras, cautioning us not to disturb “the suffering of the family.” A most dignified pain and more real than any other sentiment I remember in my life. But pain in public and not behind closed doors. That is, a pain that needed to be captured in all its beauty and brutality, in all its strength and fragility, in all its decency and denunciation, until it infected our sleepiest fibers, so that the world would understand the debacle that just occurred on the Island: another death the naturalness of which not even death itself trusts.

When the cries of “Freedom! Freedom” startled the pastor, with a nervous gesture implored the wife to calm the flock. And Ofelia complied in the name of Oswaldo, taking the microphone for the first time, and was instantly obeyed.

But perhaps her husband would have preferred that the music of throats and hands was never quelled, that explosion of sympathy that went from the intimate to the social, that instant plebiscite between indignation and revolutionary: it lacked nothing then to rip out the roots of resignation and appropriate the august corpse to take the Plaza by assault.

Perhaps the Christian Liberation Movement had never counted on such a quorum and this posthumously late, between grief and fear, compelled to say goodbye to their leader with more than incense and rosaries. An instant later, silence, it was obvious that we thousands gathered there will never play a leading role among the people, and the death of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas will be diluted in the government statistics of the Traffic Division.

Foreign broadcasters crowded in line hoping for my cell phone, while I chronicled tweet by tweet trying to be the eyes and the heart of an ever more desperate diaspora. In exhaustive detail, exhausted. I took eleven million photos and video clips, approach the main altar where the coffin rested with wreaths of flowers and a flag, but I never joined the infinite line expressing condolences to his family for hours.

Perched dangerously above Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, I saw his bruised face reminiscent of a fight, a trickle of blood without a biography flowing from his mind, his chest sunken under his Cuban shirt, his smile disappeared, his eyelids stoned, and I trembled before the remains whom I had admired from my ignorance and whom I defrauded before reading it by not signing the most virtuous Varela Project and in exchange, indeed, the socialist mummification of our Constitution, an anti-constitutional outburst with which Fidel Castro took his personal revenge on him.

His daughter Rosa María, whom I had heard on the underground radio like a miracle of courage and faith in human justice, emphatically imposed on me without knowing me, “I don’t want photos of my father’s face.” But I treasured much more than that. I had managed to cry softly, moved by so much helplessness among my contemporaries, infinitesimal beings when not infantilized, at the intemperance of a State incapable of communicating a single word to us, except those of our stigmatization by decree (and at this same time they humiliated the Payá Acevedo family with vicious vermin on the web, without a note of protest coming from the Catholic Church nor from any other denomination).

With the setting of the sun came the Eucharist and then followed the deepest midnight. I hadn’t eaten or drunk anything. I was tired and my clothes were drenched by the vile summer. My Nokia and Canon batteries had given out. I went home and looked at my mother, who still suspected nothing, and gave her a hug as if suddenly it was me who would never come home again. I don’t want my accident to catch me without having said I love you to those I love.

But totalitarianism is exactly that surprise, you can always be removed from their spaces: from the cradle to school to high school to the brigade to the hut to the desk to the prison cell to the firing squad wall to the ambulance to the chapel to exile to heaven to the pantheon.

I returned to The Savior of the World church and lay down on the Plaza Galicia’s benches, amid the sacred snores of some Ladies in White. Inside the temple a few crestfallen mourners slept. I felt unpunished, indolent, and wanted to take the flag off the coffin, this heroic rag shared by saints and soldiers. Cuba tired. Outside was the most beautiful morning. The ceiba trees, a fingernail moon, the damp chill misting the pale streetlights and my eyelashes: this time there were tears without crying, a salt trickle flowing from my backward mind. Why do I stay in this citizenless cenotaph? They make you want to flee and not be killed. But, as long as I am free of so much hopelessness, I was enamored of those few words dictated despotically be despair, and now I came back for more photos of her father’s soul.

Tuesday dawned, and not having breakfast or perhaps the Cardinal’s weather made me want to vomit. Jaime Ortega y Alamino demagogued that “the aspiration to participate in the political life of the nation is a right and a duty of a lay Christian,” and even dared to quote Pope Benedict XVI who, when in Havana, had time to greet tyrannical atheists but not a lay Christian democrat with the last name of Payá: “let no one be impeded from joining this enthralling work by the limitation of their fundamental freedoms.” I had already heard this quoted on the jail TV, in His Holy Manipulated Mass of the month of March, and with hundreds of Cubans jailed on a prophylactically Catholic basis, with the consent of his spokesman Orlando Márquez in the Communist Party newspaper named with the same six letter word of accidental death as that unfortunate province: Granma

All ritual is reiteration. Botched, yawn. But at the end of the funeral liturgy she returned to speak, there, a sliver of unspeakable Cuban truth. Rosa María Payá spoke with more spirit than a half century of erudite fakers. She accused without panic, although she was preparing her own gallows. She left hatred outside her discourse like the testament of a twenty something in terminal danger. From the elementary particle, the divine word, wherein is incarnated the mute honor — the prostituted honor — of this nation. The bishops stared at the infinite, faceless, masks of glass of those who couldn’t throw even the final stone. And then her mother Ofelia Acevedo, with a manifesto that claimed the right to fight from the peaceful opposition to be free beings in Cuba and not to die in the attempt.

Funeral of Oswaldo Paya Sardinas. (O.L. PARDO LAZO)

Minutes later, a few yards away, the rapid response mobs and the police beat dozens of those present who, for trying to accompany the coffin on foot, never made it to the cemetery. Nor to their homes.

Rather than narrating the standing ovation goodbye at the cemetery, I would like to end with the horror still coagulating over the surviving witnesses from the rental car where Payá and his young collaborator Harold Cepero died. From promising European politicians, Ángel Carromero and Jens Aron Modig have become victims of verisimilitude for life. Whatever they say at this time of mystery and misery, their declarations will now echo with intrigue, traps, torture. I affirm it with the sarcasm of my own involuntary sacrifice: if both of them were to agree now that a flying saucer with the initials INRI* bombarded them on leaving Bayamo, their alibi would sound more sincere and less vulturous.

We Cubans do ourselves in. Cuba buries us. I haven’t slept a wink since then. Insomnia is a very persistent thing. Rest in peace if you can, first president of the country who wasn’t. What’s wrong with us.

*Translator’s note: Cuba’s Foreign Ministry

From Diario de Cuba.

July 28 2012

A Little Tree

31 07 2012

A little tree. A car whose right side is never shown. Two witnesses with no testimony.

July 28 2012

For the Record

28 07 2012

Black: Paved road. Brown: Gravel road. Green: Medium height vegetation. Brown side roads: Entrance to the rice fields.

for the record, originally uploaded by orlandoluispardolazo.…

[Translator’s note: the official government version with OLPL commentary.]

In 140 yards of gravel [invisible to the driver until he was already on it?] and a steady braking without pumping the brake [why not simply leave his foot on the accelerator, what instinct of conservation made him stomp on the brake if in the gravel itself there was no immediate danger?] and sliding freely [and rapid loss of speed] without any supposed external impact etc. etc.  [couldn’t the rear passengers escape during the controlled maneuver? Why didn’t they move to the right by instinct, and even open the right door and jump out — at least the young man seated there — just before hitting the tree of death?].

P.S. The Spaniard is marked for incineration; the Payá Acevedo family shouldn’t make any formal accusation against him, they should withdraw any charges against him so he can travel abroad freely to see if he is resuscitated.

P.S. The Swede who aspires to be president: was asleep, he woke up not with the sliding on the gravel but only with the braking, he gave the exact testimony necessary to fit, and lost consciousness so that he can return to Sweden to nominate himself when he grows up.

July 27 2012

Reynaldo Gonzales and The False Death of Fidel

27 07 2012

REYNALDO GONZALEZ Y LA FALSA MUERTE DE FIDEL, originally uploaded by orlandoluispardolazo.

Source: From a meeting of the Cuban Writers and Artists Union (UNEAC) on 11 February 2012.

Note: Because this video is on Flickr, our subtitling site can’t handle it. So here is the translation and you can read along.

….he/she wins by making it harder for others… they win there, they can begin to speak, not of deeds but rather of the person and invent history

Every day they kill Fidel

Every day we’re even more corrupt and we have a hideous past and we are….I don’t know what

And that….there are people who ……I’ve been to Miami and I say: “damn! there’s a lot of people who are going to be stuck without work when Fidel really does die!”

Because friend, we’re going to see…… work because they live just to kill Fidel….they live finishing off Fidel…they’ve spent their entire life that way and they never get tired of it

and neither can we think that now when a Taliban is called for , not wanting it , not killing it

I would like to know, which of us has gone around the world slitting the throats of relatives because we all have someone, or some people, we all have complete families and we have love for these families and we haven’t quit loving them

This image, this desire to communicate among ourselves, is the motherland, like Gloria Estefan sings in a song….the fatherland calls you, this is true, it exists.

I have felt the fatherland in Miami, I have felt the fatherland in Paris and I’ve felt the fatherland (recording weakens )  intensely in Matanzas….this is the truth

Original Spanish transcript:

Gana con ponerle dificultades a los demas

como ganan alla, pueden empezar a hablar, no de la obra, sino de la persona e inventar la historia.

Todos los dias matan a Fidel

Todos los dias nosotros somos cada vez mas corruptos  y tenemos un pasado nefasto y somos no se que

Eso.. hay gente que… Yo he estado en Miami y digo “caramba, que cantidad de gente sin trabajo se van a quedar cuando realmente se muera Fidel”

porque caballero, va a ver un …. en el trabajo porque viven matando a Fidel,

viven acabando con Fidel … han pasado la vida… no se cansan…

y tampoco podemos pensar que ahora cuando se solicitaría un talibán, no quererlo, matarlo

Yo quisiera saber cual de nosotros ha ido por el mundo degollando parientes

porque todos tenemos a alguien, o “alguienes”, tenemos familias completas  y tenemos amor por esas familias y no hemos renunciado a quererlas

esta imagen, este deseo de comunicarnos, es la patria.. como cantaba en una cancion Gloria Estefan… la patria te llama, es la verdad, eso existe

yo he sentid la patria en Miami, yo he sentid la patria en Paris y he sentido la patria en la …

Translated by William Fitzhugh

February 12 2012

Payá Yes, Bishops No

27 07 2012

World: Death on the island

The death of Oswaldo Paya in Cuba has impacted the dissidence and sowed suspicion. This is the story and tribute from a Cuban writer and photographer from the ranks of the opposition.

By Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, from Havana 26/07/2012

Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas (1952-2012) has died like they kill the dissidents on the island: in a spirit fired by paranoia against State Security, a residue of the Cold War that operates above Cuban law and perhaps the divine as well. He has died with condolences signed by everyone from the White House to the Vatican, but with the Stalinist stigma of “enemy of the people” in the State press — the only press legal in Cuba — plus a campaign of vulgar insults on government web pages.

His wake was a bath of masses in an open church over two days, overwhelmed by shouts of “Freedom!” applause and tears. One of the masses, before the diplomats accredited in Havana, was offered by Cardinal Jaime Ortega, much criticized lately for his distancing from pro human rights activists  and his ever more complacent collusion with General Raúl Castro.

All made sacred by the intimate and public grief of his widow, Ofelia Acevedo, and their young children, now orphans: Reinaldo, Oswaldo and Rosa María, who read an allegation where she held the government responsible for the tragedy, demanded an impartial investigation, and denounced the death threats endured by the family. Weeks early, a car had rammed his car causing it to flip over, although that time Payá was unharmed.

During the wake and internment, the congregation was surrounded by a battalion of police and the mobs of the so-called Rapid Response Brigades, which eventually resulted in dozens of arrests.

Payá has died, with his Andrei Sakharov Prize from the European Parliament (2002) and his five nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize.

The death of the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement and the author of civic renewal platforms such as the Varela Project, which gathered more than 25,000 national signatures for a constitutional referendum that was rejected by the Cuban government. He died in a traffic accident at noon on Sunday 22 July, on a road in Bayamo, east of the island.

Moments later, in the capital, his daughter received a terrifying phone call: according to the testimony of the survivors (the Spaniard Ángel Carromero Barrios and the Swede Jens Aron Modig), another vehicle had struck their rental car. Inexplicably, this time, only the Cubans riding in the back seat died (Payá and his young collaborator Harold Cepero), without the two foreigners suffering serious injuries.

Like every prophet, Payá didn’t manage to exercise his power in the promised country he was trying to found. Like every prophet, it will have to be his body that calls the citizenry to awaken.

July 27 2012

Paya Dead Ipso Facto in "Ecured"

23 07 2012

What effectiveness with the enemies…!!!

Translator’s note: Ecured is the Cuban government’s internal “wikipedia” — written and controlled by the government.

The introductory text of Oswalda Payá’s entry reads:

Oswaldo José Payá Sardiñas. Cuban counterrevolutionary, linked to the United States. Leader of the counterrevolutionary organization The Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) and the leading advocate of the so-called Varela Project, financed from the exterior, with the active participation of the United States Interest Section in Havana (USIS).

As a part of the propaganda support from abroad he received the Andrei Sakharov Human Rights Prize from the European Parliament in 2002.

He frequently attended meetings at USIS, where he received guidance and financing for his activities. He died in an automobile accident on July 22, 2012.

July 23 2012


18 07 2012

Nostalgia for the life lived or maybe not so much.

Nostalgia for the people who slipped like water through our fingers with the change of the century and the millennium. All magnificent, all beautiful human beings, memory erases the landmarks or makes them desperately breathable.

Nostalgia for the limits we then imagine, as an antidote to our big fear and our not small mediocrity. We were never us.

Nostalgia for a biography that no one fully has yet, in Havana as in the exile.

Nostalgia for the biology that is already betraying the bodies and minds of our generation, orphaned by revolution and aborted by capitalism

Nostalgia, in the ultimate instance, for the Biology Faculty, splendid mass of the morning classrooms in one of the most unforgettable streets of the world: Number 25 in the foothills of El Vedado.

Nostalgia for the Republican desks where we met Biochemistry in 1989, when Cuban generals died and the survivors censored Soviet publications, while the civil collaterals emigrated en masse after being expelled from their jobs for saying out loud what the repressors were thinking.

Nostalgia for a time of harsh light but not as extreme as the vacuum that swallowed the years zero to two thousand.

Nostalgia for a major that, before entering the university, sounded to us the most complicated on planet Earth: Biochemistry.


We had everything Geniuses imported from vocational schools, today promptly exported to the First World. Stalinists that became democrats. Homeopaths. Mystics. One writer who even fell into the webs of the savior Redonet. Most noble peasants. Scramblers for scholarships. Solemn brutes. Congolese of princely lineage. And other unpronounceable nationalities. Returnees from nuclear careers in a disintegrating socialist camp. Closeted gays. The most apathetic (and sympathetic) militant Communists from Carlos Marx. Also potential suicides (someone who took the dogma of toxicology too seriously: there were no toxic substances only toxic ways of using them…) People who broke their sanity (someone who wiped away tears, on saying goodbye on the grand steps, with a psychiatric certificate that looked like a doctoral thesis). And also unpaid murderers (someone who killed his partner very early while in vacation in the province).

The Biology Faculty was like a cubist apple. A drawer full of sharp art-deco corners. Shade. With a family home not evicted right in the parking lot. With the scent of solutions received in apothecary jars from the colonial era. With magisterial professors, especially in the right wing of the fourth floor. A prodigy of enthusiastic speakers with eons of experience and textbooks donated by students who deserted, discretely, every time they got a scholarship abroad.

Two decadent decades have passed since then. All, in our peculiar way, we have triumphed here or there. We have all run incredible risks that with the passing of time sound ridiculous. We all love a puzzle of hearts that in the end, clearly, returns us home alone. I could pronounce their names, but they’re stuck in my throat. What’s more, almost all have children with perfect strangers. The others, the sterile, we won’t have even time.

Today we never communicate. What is known, is not said. The truth is totalitarian. Back, inside or outside, a decrepit youth was left in Cuba. We had to look further down to avoid dying of sadness, in the generations that followed us ten or fifteen years difference, little people who arrives as infants in the Special Period and who never hear Fidel speak live.

We are in the summer of 2012. Everything remains just below the DNA, as secret as a deadly gene waiting to detonate. Everything remains soft, intangible, like the looks of the boys and girls that we embarrass then before the table of vital amino acids, in a plagiarized book whose prologue accused him of having ideological problems.

But nothing returns.. We are dull. We are going to die without anybody to count on, without even crossing our e-mail. Without specifying the price of bread with orange paste at the cafeteria in the basement, where the smell of corpses from the Calixto Garcia Hospital was not enough of a symptom for us to wake up. Without reviving the morning guards, between the drinking of the neighbors where the name of Isolina Carillo was shouted in the building next door, down to the silence of the end of an era in which Havana dawned in those years of the nineties (there were no others). Without I don’t know what.

Nostalgia for life unlivable or maybe not.

Nostalgia for people we won’t get back, not with the thought (the hope is that death is a dream more generous than the restless dozing that we butchered between the stock of jobs in perpetual exile and the perpetual political police here. All resplendent, impeccable, making us want to jump naked on the mass of angels and ask them not to move from there: so emaciated and exceptional.

Nostalgia for what we imitate rather instead of implement in our imagination (like universities, we never had a common cause to defend in the face of society: that is what the Latin American left do not understand unworthy or indigenously of Cuba).

Nostalgia for nostalgia that since then we uninhabit, animals outside of an inopportune state.

Nostalgia for the biology that ran out or filled with untranslatable mutations.

Nostalgia, in the first instance, for the Faculty of Biology and it cloisters of granite and their antediluvian librarian.

Nostalgia for certain colors and steps from where we launched the world in 1989, when Panama fell on its ass toward freedom and the next Cuban foreign minister gave his first spins on the asphalt because “what doesn’t jump is a Yankee” (clowning around as governance).

Nostalgia for a period in which they killed and died “by iron”, as the current Premier said in the cemetery (hemoglobin iron, it is understood).

Nostalgia for the career that, after leaving the university, still sounds to us like the most loving of Planet Earth: Biochemistry.

July 17 2012

Disaster Response to Building Collapse at Infanta and Salud Streets

15 07 2012

July 9 2012

Mini-Capitalism or Death

12 07 2012

The Yellow Pages of the ETECSA Telephone Guide report this year the first official post-socialist symptom. A more literary symptom, let’s say, almost a stylistic question: with good sense, without the extreme shrill of the vanguard nor the vainglory of the new class, the self-employed Cubans can at last advertise in this million-issue pamphlet.

Timidly, as one doesn’t completely trust the State’s imprimatur, a very limited number of the most entrepreneurial citizenry on the island already appears on the ETECSA list: a revolutionary species, where the hundred or so occupations officially blessed by the Raulista reforms can pay for self-promotion without violating the discipline of openness.

It is about, according to the slogan, “the best response of ETECSA to the demands of those who always need to be informed”. With a call to 118 and a few introductory papers, any micro-empresario can become immortalized in writing for the economic (and soon, ecumenical) history of this country.

The majority of customers venture only their business names along with a phone number and an address. The elite minority, with a more flexible vision and numismatic resolution, contracts for a half-page or perhaps a full yellow page, with pictures and deluxe infographics (that which doesn’t exclude our usual kitsch that spreads to Miami).

Small eateries and hairdressers. Pets and massages. Watchmakers and tutors of this or that educational subject. Photos and chic cafeterias. Bookbinding and mobile (with the iPhone in the middle of everything) services. Web and birthday designers. Books and laundries. Fashions and moving. Punchers and plumbing. Rentals and artisans. Marabú charcoal and insurance agencies. Shoemakers and locks. In principal, no traces of censorship nor ideological apartheid. Show me the money, countrymen! In the end, the proletarian paradise in person …

Cuba is changing, comrades: please don’t cling to violations of human rights and other Stalinist delicacies. Don’t perversely ask God for the impossible, either.

Nonetheless, there are two opinions in Cuba that I’d like to confront with respect to our nascent promotional sensationalism: some theoretic diatribe from that neo-Calvinist, anti-capitalist called Critical Observer (where they confuse solvency with exploitation) and simultaneously, an inflexible thought of Fidel’s (I assume still unaware of this daring act of self-management or perhaps this conspiracy of the self-employed).

In one and another clean corner of the ring, this column might serve as a betrayal.

May 26 2012

Cuba Miscellaneous

9 07 2012

July 9 2012