dreaming in gUSAno* / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

30 09 2013

The dreams begin, comrades.

Noises in hotel rooms.  I begin to hear noises in the hotel rooms where I stay from coast to coast in the United States.

In Cuba, I was never a victim of the homeland paranoia; I only had the certainty of being spied on with criminal cruelty. Millimetric, butcher. I am sorry for Castroism: it failed to sow in me the syndrome of suspicion.

But, in Philadelphia, for example, or in Washington DC, in LA, in Miami, in La Crosse, in Madison, in Chicago, in Boston and who knows in what other city of the union, it is very different.  There are hotels, those labyrinths that in Cuba are a rarity in terms of civility.  And in the hotels things are heard late at nights.  Sounds, whispers.  And a cosmic cold that penetrates the soul and only then do you understand that you do not exist here.

Halfway through the late hours of the night, frantic knocks on my room door wake me up.  Or not.  Perhaps they are at the room across, who knows.  The fact is that I wait and wait, but the assault does not repeat itself. Until the next day, during the wee hours of the night, at any time after the silent midnight.

They drag cleaning carts at random times. They scratch the parquet or the cardboard walls that make every building Made in USA.” They walk loudly.  They speak a language of unknown accent that in Havana I would have perceived as English.  There are little permanent lights that come in through the curtains or fall from the ceiling tiles in the form of a sea of alarms that never cease.  And then begin my dreams. My North American dreams.  North American dreams about Cuba, it is understood.

At this point in history, to dream of Cuba is purely a preservation instinct.  I dream that I am back there, of course. And I laugh, I laugh like a madman.

I laugh at the assassins paid by the powers-that-be who did not arrest me or search my things with the twisted pleasure of rapists at the airport customs. I see things as if they were very small, dilapidated, but with an insane shine, like a drug addict.  I see the houses of my city, the ones that I can recognize with my eyes closed.  I see the small house of wooden planks, the only one in my life, the one in which I was born and died several times in Lawton; and I see my sacred objects, the ones I barely said goodbye to; and then someone tells me (usually someone I loved a lot, but not anymore): “When are you returning to the United States?”

“Never,” I reply, and suddenly I cannot breathe in the dream, and at that point I invariably wake up crying.  With pouting.  A baby’s cry, a cry of mental patient.

To return.



The United States.

The agony of the fighting fish.  Their branchiae wide open, like swords. The oxygen of an atmosphere  that will never be my atmosphere. Not having ground under my dreams.  To be without existing.  Orlando, Orlando…why have you forsaken us…?

I open my eyes. It is not dawning yet. I want to forget. My temples hurt. There are weird noises in the rooms around me. I am alone.  Desolate.

If one day I go out on a walk, if it snows, and I get lost erasing my footsteps, who and when is going to ask about me?  Who takes care of me?  Who misses me?  Who will feel sorry for my loved ones if one bad day my country’s military death reaches me by edict so that I do not live my life after Fidel?

I turn to the other side of the bed. I sleep naked. I curl up under the blankets and sheets which the American hotels provide me from coast to coast in the nation.  The beds are cold here. More than exciting, they are pure erection. I cannot resist myself.

Nor am I sleepy now, but I surrender very quickly.  I yawn, I must be exhausted. I nod. I myself make the noises and whispers that are going to reach, incognito, the other room.  Strange. I do not stop myself. It is warm and tender like the deep light of the northern skies.  Like the smile of teenagers who dispense insipid dishes at a cafeteria while they complete their PhD. I swallow air. I retain it. I am choking. I am not here.

I think about collecting all the Cuban dreams of exile.  They are not here.

I am asleep, we are asleep.  Soon it is about to be dawn.

*Translator’s note: The word “Dreaming” appears in English in the original. “Gusano” (worm) here refers to the insult hurled by the Cuban regime and its vassals at every person who has opposed the regime in any way, or who has left the country to escape it.

Translated by Ernesto Ariel Suarez

29 September 2013

The Anti-Gospel According to Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

25 09 2013

1 I, that had no motherland, have lost my motherland.

2 The motherland is, of course, the place where your neighbor will mourn over your dead body.  3 And, I never wanted this. 4 I resisted from the time I opened my eyes and saw.  5 Everything was so ugly, so false, so Cuban around me. 6 That I never wanted to give them the only thing that made me good and real. 7 My body.

8In the silent night of childhood. 9 In the fading light of adolescence.  10 In the early mornings being nude on stairwells and neighborhood alleys. 11 In the youth devastated by the nightmare of the 1990s. 12 In the two thousand-nothings when all who were to die had died and love still had not shown up. 13 Now. 14 When I want the least to be mourned in my country or to have a street named after me in democracy.

15 I do not want to be mourned. 16 Seriously. 17 But I want a country. 18 Please.

19 Life is too much of life for it to be humiliated by death. 20 If life ends in a wake, then it was not worth living it. 21 Life opens to life or it will never be life at all. 22 I wish to live.

23 I am going to repeat it slowly because these are two verbs that we Cubans did not know how to execute from that arrogance of beings living in freedom: to wish, to live. 24 We Cubans, who massacre each other in that mystic rapture called Motherland to achieve our most heroic state of slavery.

25 Neither wish. 26 Nor live.

27 Cuban politics is the organ (what a creepy word: organ) in charge of diplomatically avoiding these two vital verbs, to have them forgotten through pure patriotism and terror, to manipulate them in its image and convenience to cheat us out of our time and humanity. 28 That is why the people does not exist. 29 Because it has no body, just mass.  30 Because we fuse as a whole, as a something, as a living organism. 31 Because we are that: scattered organs. 32 Decrepit 33 Lifeless viscera.

34 That is why the Revolution and Castroism will have no day after. 35 It is impossible to resuscitate what has not even died, but continues to live in perpetuity.  36 An unlivable life.

37 The lyrics of the National Anthem are foreboding in that sense. 38 A macabre song, of incarnation of Evil in men and women who were already departing and in those who were yet to come. 39 Demoniacal march, just like the sight of its author on a horse in the outskirts of a city that should have been capital and ended up being holocaust. 40 Mortuary music composed precisely on a Horse*, apocalyptic beast that in less than a century will implement that same anthem to its last poetic consequences.

41 Poetry, and not Cuban politics, has been the main genocidal compulsion in what was on the verge of being my country. 42 Cuba, scaffold.

43 The word “motherland” is not better than the word “impiety.” 44 Someone had to state it for you, Cubans. 45 The word “hope” is not sterile, but breeds sterility exclusively.

46 On the claustrophobic line of the horizon 47 In the planetary twilight of the one thousand nine hundred and fifty-nine exiles. 48 In the bodies abandoned in the stampede. 49 In the love promptly betrayed.  50 In the invisible beauty. 51 In the family that vanished.  52 In the weightless home. 53 In the Cuban body constantly constrained to the cadaver that is going to inhabit it.

54 Men and women of my country, I have loved you from the distance of the most intimidating inner space. 55 From these trachea and intestines I have seen things that you, Cubans, would never believe.

56 Mercy is not enough. 57 You, that never had a motherland, will never lose the motherland. 58 And that pain is unspeakable.

59 May you remain, then, in the posthumous peace of my words.

*Translator’s note: From Spanish “El Caballo,” “the Horse,” one of Fidel Castro’s many nicknames among Cubans.  It denotes masculinity and vigor, and it is deeply rooted in that Cuban tragicomic “machismo.”

Translated by Ernesto Ariel Suarez

19 August 2013

PITTSBURGHABANA / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

22 09 2013


I’m already leaving Pittsburgh as if to say I am already leaving Havana. The city of hundreds of bridges, and a downtown that imitates Manhattan’s, and a steel paste coagulated in the lungs of half of the 20th century, until the slave labor in China ruined its metallurgical industry and saved that of tomato sauce. And the Penguins. And the Pirates. And the Steelers.

I’m already leaving Pittsburgh, as if to say I am already leaving the United States.

I never wanted to know the name of its rivers. That would be treason. I name the rivers when they themselves reveal their names. And they revealed them to me, one by one by one. And in the three cases it was the secret name of love. That is why I hush now. For mercy. For prudence. Because to abandon a city where one has loved is to bury in her an unknown sliver of our heart.

Here I leave it to you, Pittsburgh, so when the archeologists bring down your mountains and uncover the fossil homes with parquet floors and sinister little windows, your parks and highways still at a human scale; your hospitals, where the silence is broken only by helicopters that travel between life and death. Your universities, where even the glances are carnal and where freedom would be tangible except in books where they talk guiltily about the Cuban Revolution (and where the teachers admire Castro but denigrate the Department of State in neighboring Washington DC).

Here I leave you my Havana heart Pittsburgh; the one that you couldn’t steal after months of seclusion.  The one illuminated by your northern solitude in the wee hours of the night; naked between the blinds of the crazy moon; but that now has to continue north, always north, like someone who flees blindly from the malefic magnetism of an island south of all the socialisms.

The beauty of the United States of America starts with the anachronistic feel of this city; it even looks like Pittsburgh but, really, it no longer is.  The multitudes, the drunks, the almost childishly innocent bars, the pornographic websites, the community festivals and the teenagers’ tattoos (almost always fake), the pills that get you high (almost always fatal), a blimp that almost never catches fire and falls to the ground (like in my nightmares resurrected from childhood), the food that is better than most cities because it’s less American, the fluffy snow that I didn’t see, but for which I will return one of these Novembers and deeply bury myself in; like in the womb of a loved one.

It’s hard to say this, but the light in Pittsburgh allows an explosion of colors that is unthinkable in the tropics.  The greens here are ephemeral and absolute.  The sun is rough but noble.  The fall announces itself a few days after the end of spring.  I have worn an overcoat in August.  I have breathed pollen.  I have started the novel to end all Cuban novels. I have been happy.

Goodbye my female friend, goodbye my male friend.  I could not even decipher the grammar your gender.  Don’t forget my steps and bike rides through the North Side, Pittsburgh.  Do not laugh at the day I heard fireworks, and I thought they were gunshots and threw myself on the floor of my room; the day when I was poisoned by a shampoo, and I thought of the silly immortality of coming to die here; alone in a huge house where the fire alarms do not even let you fry a fish-stick.

I must declare your airport the smallest in the world, and the jitteriest too.  Through those jetways my wonderful memories of eternity come and go through the air..

No Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, and no Wright House either.

You and me, insomniacs, accomplices in the  desire and the wish to keep on surviving here; away from the suffocating concept of motherland. Incognito so that I don’t hear the despotic voices of my countrymen. In the antipodes of the Cuban Revolution.

Pittsburghabana, mon amour.

Translated by:  LYD

Who Are You, Little Virgin?

10 09 2013

Poor little doll made of tinsel and wood, so battered across the long and narrow stretch of thousands and thousands of kilometers.

Last night, I saw her in Lawton, and it was daunting.

Because of her, and because of the bleak surroundings.  A neighborhood polluted from the disposition of its inhabitants to the sky that hangs above, propped up by the electric poles that shine a poor pasty yellow light. Houses like caves. Light and faces like grimaces. Light and the feeling that none of these collective biographies should be called human, let alone “from God” (amorphous animalia, ignorant by way of amnesia).

Light that only shines from the “Made in China”[1] patrol cars and in the sequins of the motorized traffic brigade.  The light that has an edge, but no faith in the insolent and proactive eyes of State.

At around 7:00 p.m., in winter time midnight begins in Cuba. It seemed like people were willing to shout anyone down, entertainment hysteria to welcome the weekend in style, as if it were a reggaeton concert (the style of clothing of the young people present proved it).

The motorcade barely slowed down under the traffic light although the corner of 16th and Dolores was a sea of bodies. I heard women curse the mothers of the drivers. I saw people hit the hood of the cars (in a remake of the movie Midnight Cowboy). The smell of conflict in the air did not abate, but added a patriotic spiciness to our pedestrian concept of devotion.

We remember the Virgin when she arrives, that is once during each Revolution.

And indeed, in her glass or acrylic shrine, carrying the pillar of our national coat of arms, and between the Vatican flag and our nation’s heroic rag (without Byrne-style[2] romanticisms in the 21st century: our flag represents barbarity, and I do not love it even if they force me to, mostly because it is the source of demagoguery uniting dictators and democrats).

The anonymous insular Mary finally descended on her rented automobile from the chapel kept by the nuns of Concepción Street, far beyond the Lawton bus depot, the now useless railroad lines and the already putrid River Pastrana; in that stretch of sub-industrial forest that invades the capital from the Cordón de La Habana[3].

Mambí Virgin[4].  The crowd running, cars honking, chants, clapping, prayers from the loudspeakers, a rope to keep the faithful in line. Human circles trained in the parishes, aging and semi-alienated men with their particular quasi-military but Christian-inspired speak plus 1970s fashions that include a dress belt up to their belly buttons. How uncool is Cuba!

Raw collage: Help out the Cuban faithful! It is a masquerade in which Cardinal Ortega comes out from under his own sleeves, and walks up B street to Porvenir Avenue, turns right on 10th Street, then speaks.

Our prelate looks exhausted behind the microphone. The Cardinal knows that Cuba does not love him any longer, first for being a coward and also an accomplice (among other closet secrets handled only by the Office of Religious Affairs of the Central Committee of a godless party).  No one pays attention to Jaime, “no thistle and no caterpillar”[5] he plants.  A drunkard kisses his hand, and the boys of State Security send the sudden devotee flying back to his non-place on the sidewalk.

And it makes sense that the words of an elderly man do not engage (nor fool) Cuba on this night: the superstar tonight is Cachita[6]. Besides, Ortega, since he first appeared on Cuban television without promotion or credits, keeps talking about Antonio de la Caridad Maceo y Grajales, a 19th century Cuban general who, before going out to kill his fellow men (or be killed by them), checked to make sure that he had, in his breast of starched mulatto, a little medal of the Virgin made of noble metal.

Then, the head of the Catholic Church in Cuba stops speaking, and finally is our turn alone with the headless incivility of the island.  And, we shower ourselves in vandalism: against the temple’s iron gates and up the steps, a movie scene not silent but screeching. Hundreds, thousands. Girls, old men. A man whose mother assured me that he had had a heart attack very recently. A lady whom I lifted from the sea of legs that would have crushed her (she was bleeding from her calves). And again expletives, holy debauchery.

The clerics and seminarians screaming with diction too correct to be violent, almost excommunicating their fellow congregants with primary school teacher admonitions like “if you don’t behave, there will be no virgin for anyone in this neighborhood.” We witness an avalanche of soccer finale proportions, or, of course, a concert in CUCs[7] for thugs who understand nothing.

This is our undeniable raw material (you cannot perpetually impose a myth from the minority, be it the Gospels or History Will Absolve Me[8]).  But, this stage set is missing the elite police brigade: the Special Forces units that perpetrate peace in a Special Period[9].

It is obvious that the Cuban state is interested in making the Catholic Church aware that so many processions a year will create a tragedy for them (I saw several women, all of them black, semi-unconscious being carried to different destinations). Let them buffet each other for a bit amid polyphony of laments and curses. But, it is obvious that some other worse curse words cannot be heard here:  “Liberty,” for example.

Right at that moment, some guys chide me because all of my pictures are focused on the people’s fisticuffs. We then argue over the possession of the truth.  I show them my white t-shirt that says “Laura Pollán Lives”[10].  They swirl around me and surround me while a woman loudly asks me from a distance for whom I work (they all have the language of the counter-intelligence TV series “Las Razones de Cuba”[11] and that of the official blogosphere), but I am already inside the temple, and I seek refuge by the main altar to capture the faces blessed by an Italian priests whose smile I cannot call divine, but democratic.

No wonder I have a work credential to shutterclick away without having my camera stolen or shredded “by mistake” or “by chance.”  And the Virgin that mother of all Cubans who precedes even the motherland, what is the Virgin doing here in her own procession?

Each prayer and each tear is accompanied by a picture taken with a cell phone. Our Lady of Charity is therefore a little bit of pop icon amidst so much media fruition (Nokiarity Syndrome). Her disposition seems a bit timid despite her olive skin, so clean and congenial, Cecilially she is a Valdés[12].  And, with a certain wooden modesty, it could be said that our virgin hides in Islamic fashion under her cloak of sorceress queen. Perhaps, it will be difficult for her to discern whether she is worshiped by subjects of God or Nothingness.  Perhaps She knows more than a few things about tomorrow (with that sad grimace of hers). Perhaps she feels very lonely, condemned to carry that baby who does not grow for eternity.

Poor little Cuban virgin, so fragile, surrounded by a flower holocaust, petals with that smell so peremptorily funerary.

Poor little virgin surrounded by the medieval Cuban populace, forced to the insomnia of the donated electric fans, walled behind that music so falsely happy for when death comes to us, egged on like a fugitive by the brown-out looming over the convent confiscated and turned into a school (this is precisely how the totalitarian state imposes its narrative: turning on and off the central switch).

Poor, oh poor, our Cachita, so invisible under the greedy gaze of the mob, willing to be Maceos in exchange for a quality miracle.

Poor, oh poor, my darling, so Cuban and yet no one in Cuba knows it because they are content with lighting some candles to you and asking you for a visa to the United States. No one spoke of love, my darling. No one in this island or in the Exile ever knew who you were. Now, for example, they will charge against me, but you and I secretly know very well that you and I recognized each other at least this once.

Little Virgin without name or history.  Little ephemeral Virgin of my soul that fades already. Little Virgin of Truth.

[1] In English in the original text.

[2] Refers to Bonifacio Byrne, a Cuban poet who wrote a famous poem to the Cuban national flag from the ship that brought him back to the island in 1899.

[3] El Cordón de La Habana (Havana Cordon) was a plan created by Fidel Castro to plant Caturra coffee beans (a Cuban native variety) around the Cuban capital in 1971-73.  Predictably, the plan failed because of soil incompatibility and administrative blunders.  It did manage, however, to successfully eliminate most of the little individual vegetable gardens in the area.

[4] Mambí were the Cuban rebels who opposed and rose against Spanish rule in the 19th century.  Many were devotees of the virgin, and carried her image into battle.  Virgen Mambisa is also the title of a 20th century hymn to the Our Lady that can be heard here:  http://youtu.be/cq9kGJ44ecw

[5] This is a play on words from Ortega and a verse in José Martí’s poem “Cultivo Una Rosa Blanca” that is in turn part of “Versos Sencillos,” a compilation of poems. The verse reads “cardo ni oruga cultivo/cultivo una rosa blanca”: “neither thistle nor worm I grow/I grow a white rose” roughly.

[6] Cachita or Cacha is a nickname given to women named Caridad (Charity) in Cuba.  The ever cheeky Cubans have given it to Our Lady of Charity as well.

[7] CUC is Cuba’s “convertible” peso, one of the two currencies in use in the island.  It is artificially paired to the U.S. dollar.

[8] History Will Absolve Me was Fidel Castro’s defense speech at his trial for the assault of the Moncada Army Barracks in 1953 in Santiago de Cuba. It was later made into a book, a sort of tropical Mein Kempf (from which it borrowed heavily, including the phrase used as its title).

[9] The Special Period (Período Especial) was the name given by the regime to the period of extreme economic straits following the collapse of the Soviet Union (Cuba’s main political and economic ally and subsidizer) in 1991.  Its end is not very well defined, but seems to have been around the time when the late Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez started to send oil and money to the island.

[10] Laura Pollán was the leader and founder of the Ladies in White, a group of Cuban women whose husbands and/or relatives were imprisoned during the purge known as the Black Spring of 2003.  They have marched, and still march peacefully every Sunday after Mass carrying gladioli and dressed in white asking, initially, for the release of their loved ones, and, now, that the regime respects the human rights of all Cubans.  They have been subjected to extreme abuse by the regime and its goons.  Laura Pollán died under mysterious circumstances in 2011.

[11] “Las Razones de Cuba” was multi-part a documentary produced by the counter-intelligence services of the Ministry of Interior in Cuba that supposedly unmasked covert operations of “enemies of the people” and revealed how the government has infiltrated the opposition movements.

[12] Another play on words: it refers to Cecilia Valdés the main character in the 19th century novel of the same name written by Cirilo Villaverde.

Translated by Ernesto Suarez

8 September 2013

MCL at 25

8 09 2013

… We must announce to Cubans that their lives, their dignity and their freedom belong to them and that no one, not Caesar, can take these things from them if they don’t give in because of fear or other reasons.

Oswaldo Paya Sardinas

Inspired by these ideas, our Christian Liberation Movement was founded 25 years ago. Born to defend the rights of all Cubans and to promote the full liberation of the person leading to the development of society.

We want to serve, we are convinced that in Cuba the changes that the people want will only occur if the majority of Cubans, freeing themselves from the culture of fear, take a liberating step to reclaim their lives. The law should guarantee the right to do away with the simulation generated by an oppressive system, like the totalitarian regime that prevails in our country. We are part of the same people, those who live inside and outside the archipelago;we are not trying to speak for a people, we are working for citizens to have a voice.

Liberation demands its right and the right of Cubans to know the truth; an independent investigation is required to make public the circumstances under which died our leaders Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero died, after an attack on 22 July 2012.

The dialogue that we are proposing is inclusive, where we are all represented, and in an atmosphere of trust that only respect for the law and the practice of fundamental rights can guarantee. We condemn the “Fraud Change” and the false dialogue that excludes and discriminates against those who do not submit, tools that the regime seeks to impose to preserve absolute power and control of the resources belonging to all Cubans. We demand transparency for Cuba and call on Cubans one and all to claim and build this path of changes.

Liberation with the opposition diverse and united in the Camino del Pueblo (the Way of the People), promotes a plebiscite for the sovereign people to decide the changes. Only when citizens can choose their government in free and multiparty elections, can we talk about Cuba having inexorably begun real democratic changes. So today we demand, within the history of thousands of Cubans who propose legal initiatives through a referendum, a referendum to restore the sovereignty of the people

All Cubans, all brothers, and now freedom.

Coordinating Council, Christian Liberation Movement

From MCL

September 8, 2013

Voces Magazine Returns

3 09 2013

The magazine Voces [Voices] welcomes you to a plural space,
where you can always say what you think
and respect the diversity of opinions.

After a necessary silence for those of us who want to express ourselves freely,
Voces reopens its pages to collaborations, with the only purpose to unite all Cubans in the world.

Although issue #18 is titled “Is the transition in Cuba a utopia?”
you can publish about theater, visual arts, ethnoculture, gender, politics, philosophy, ethics, narrative, poetry, recipes, lyrics, good public messages, publicity and more.

The texts should be between 500 and 1,500 words.

Those who want to write about the topic of the dossier for this #18
the deadline is Monday, September 9.

For the rest, we are open 24 hours.

A secure email until 1 October will be:


That’s it, María Matienzo Puerto

2 September 2013