December Tells Me / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

31 12 2013

December starts in New York.

The people don’t notice it, because they are not Cubans. But December is the month of death and of hope. The end of a year. We are still here. Another year begins. We don’t know if it will be our final date. Beauty and liberty surround us leaving us no alternative to sadness. We miss some love.

That’s Manhattan. The place where with each new life we miss the same old love. Although people don’t notice, because they aren’t Cubans, and December just appears to be another excellent commercial opportunity.

My name is Orlando Luis. I was born on the 10th of this month in 1971. I will turn 42 outside Cuba. Pardon the ambivalence. Maybe outside of Cuba I will turn 42. Perhaps it has been 42 years since my homeland deported me.

Whatever the statistics of the Revolutionary State say and their comparisons with other emigrants, there is not one Cuban outside of Cuba who has not been deported. The dreams demonstrate it, although they are not enough to take the Castro brothers to an international court.

Those recurrent nightmares of exile bring us together around the evil axis of what Castroism has meant for our bodies. We know that the Cuban people is a fascist invention from before independence. But our bodies suddenly collimated by the same sovereign dreams still permit us to recognise ourselves as a nation.

We are Cubans because we dream the same terror, because our land terrifies us so that nobody who is really Cuban really wants to return.

We are Cubans because our heads sway in communion during the mornings of sweat, tremors, sleepwalking, funny faces, halitosis, frog in the throat, pills, snoring, apnea, and awakening with tears, while we imagine we are in Havana, but what perversely persists outside is now New York.

December in Manhattan is the most desolate and uncomfortable season of the year.

We remember, also, our cadavers abandoned with the prosaic haste of the party. Well, I have bad news recently arrived from our island: in the Cuban cemeteries there is a dismal sacrilegious fraud going on. Many bones have been looted by the negruno pantheon. Others have been captured by the political police to osteoporosisize the history of their crimes and, in passing, to sabotage any future homage to their victims. Still others are in the hands of apprentice doctors and also artisans working for CUC (Cuban convertible currency) making tortoiseshell jewellery.

The rest is a mixing up of common graves with family ones. Neither Martí nor Ché nor any of the remnants of our despotic heritage are what it says on the label. The marble tells lies. Neither grandmother nor aunt nor your love are waiting for you there. Cuban cemeteries are a puzzle which our own flight has left without a code to decipher.

I repeat it but not without pain: it’s very late already, we won’t go back there where no-one is left.

The diffused December nation waits for the first snows and celebrations summing up the year. The Cubitas diaspora thickens little by little, according to the Cuban exile it disappeared. We are a will-o-the-wisp, juggling lights, an optical error of refraction.

We breathe. We swallow the free air of New York. We recognise ourselves as strange beings in front of the shop windows of almost mournful luxury. To be the phantom mannequins on this side. Not mixing with anything, because we will always be with one half of our soul on each side of the glass, violently Cuban shadows whose memory is fragile but very well fermented. We are not simply at the moment, but we are indeed half New York and half Havana.

I put up my coat collar. Stick my hands in my pockets. I look like someone out of a crime thriller, half way between private detective and serial killer. I cough. The New York cough of Cubans without a Cuba is also a lingering symptom. We cough out of sheer stubbornness. We worry about our lungs, about the rheumatic rhythm of our breathing, but in practice we hardly ever get ill unless it’s to die.

By then, by the time we suffer a New York December, we will be destroyed, consumed.  People will not notice, because they will not be Cubans. But December will again be the month of the death of hope. Another year which will not have put an end to everything. Still we will not be so many here. Another year which never stops starting, since no date would be able to finish us off.

The sadness which surrounds us makes us free and beautiful with that brilliance which is wonderful and has no alternative, implying complete truth. We do of course miss some love.

 Translated by GH

2 December 2013

The Age of Innocence / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

28 12 2013

Imagine. That this coup d’etat on the first of January 1959 would be considered a Revolution by half the planet. Or planet and a half. Imagine. And that the whole country would be militarized and export war for more than 55 years of world history. Imagine. That what could not be conquered by death, would finally be conquered by the ballot box and capital. Imagine. That in 2014 we Cubans would still be talking about some Fidel or whatever his name was. Imagine.

28 December 2013


26 12 2013

The Cuban Speech from Jon Rubin on Vimeo.

21 December 2013

Gone With the Revolution / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

26 12 2013

OLPL in front of the UN in NYC

What is our lesson after 55 years of the Castro regime, more than there were before Batista in Cuba (“Castroism” predates Castro), and there are still more to come, as long as the Castro brothers don’t die (there will be no Castroism after Castro), and the violence of freedom finally begins? Is there a lesson? What a perverse historical pedagogy! But yes. And if there isn’t any, then there should have been.

Like the good teachers in the public elementary schools, I would like to reduce everything to a couple of elemental points, although they will seem farfetched juxtaposed on the blackboard. I promise to be brief. Also, the chalk disappears quite easily before a damp rag leaving no trace in the classroom’s memory.

1. From the beginning, the Revolution was a fallacy in our national imagination. It wasn’t betrayed by Fidel Castro, far from it. In fact the Revolution was the foundational cause of our independence and it was this we were playing at during the Republican period, aborting any instant of understanding. We believed in the violent transformation of society. We tried our contemporaries so as not to criminally succumb before them.

Castro was carefully incubated by Cubans, until he accumulated sufficient critical evil to become what he is: an evil unbeatable without applying sufficient evil. With luck, or as revenge, Castroism should mean, then, the end of that string of Cuban Revolutions.

We have to stop thinking and acting revolutionarily, because all of the initial allies of the Revolution, betrayed, imprisoned, exiled or murdered, also committed the sin of complicit naiveté: they purposely ignored that no Revolution ever in the key of death has brought anything but that, more death.

2. Organized communism has committed genocide in Cuba.  It sold the nation to foreign powers, under a popular and nationalist disguise. It made a pact with a charismatic gangster, a permanent dictator, watching while he and his clan lived. It cauterized all civic life: meaning it disintegrated the nation, fostering an exile that irreversibly diasporized Cuba.

It abolished the idea of the individual, and it did this from Marxism not as a concept but as a historical juncture (we now know that a capitalist communism is viable).

It debased the god in man that lived in Cuba, leaving us as a people despotically exposed before the State. Left without any hope of change in the future. Thus it has lost is right to form any part of a more inclusive future, after the debacle that will follow the fall of the Castros.

Although few Cubans have the courage to mention it (an exception is Oswaldo Payá Sardiña’s Transition Project), as long as organized communism on the island is not illegal, there will be no national reconstruction that isn’t controlled or hijacked by organized communists.

Like every good elementary public schoolteacher, I earn no salary for my chalk lesson on the blackboard. I’ve fulfilled my promise to be more than brief. I don’t lie to the students. Now they can erase me. Or leave the classroom.

25 December 2013

Somebody calls for extermination WEB

23 12 2013

23 December 2013

NADAVIDADES (Nada Christmas)

13 12 2013

From Julian del Casal (1863-1893) all he kept was the winterphilia.

Weekly chronicles long for months of Cuban winter so the pleasure of silence can reign supreme on streets which would barely feel like Havana after twilight:

[…]  would that snow would begin to fall so tree rings and white caps on evergreen mountains would turn into the shroud of snowy folds we would all wear.

Storyline: After 1998, Cuban Christmases have become less and less worthwhile and plausible for me.  The subtle and old glow of a December 24-25 Christmas Eve has been lost.  Before, a certain floating sacrosanctness came from resisting the prohibition by official decree. Now the sadness has become all too tangible.

As Cuba blends in more substantially with the rest of the world, and as “demagoguery ” and  “democracy” endure or elude or mockery, and as people feel more enthusiastic the day after or maybe the day before committing suicide, I instinctively realize our future is doomed to repeat the same empty and repressive performance.

We live in an uninhabited Havana forsaken even by languishing films like “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” which movie houses never failed to play ever so punctually at every year’s end.

December 2002 caught me by surprise at The International Book Fair in Guadalajara (Jalisco, Mexico).  Starting the first days of the month, the city became filled with red flowers which I couldn’t name and ridiculously mixed up with all the artificial bric-a-brac decorations.

A civil servant and Cubanophile asked in good faith how revolutionary Cuba decorated for Christmas (the good man reminded me of a John Lennon Christmas tune).  Back then, regretfully, I hadn’t a clue about the value of applying rhetorical diplomatic language, so I rebuffed him but later regretted doing so.  I subsequently apologized with an e-mail and said, “we hang flags and miniature Fidel faces on our Christmas trees.”

Indeed, for the past couple of years, I have seen them once again at currency exchange locations in the city of Havana.  They look like Christmas stamps of Comrade Fidel.  The beard looks grey and is somewhat reminiscent of St. Nick.  The olive-green fatigues are the Santa Claus uniform.  The background is awash with a sea of human reindeer parading just in front of la Plaza of la Revolution.

It was the end of 2002 and a brave and soft-spoken poetess from Matanzas wrote me a poem about the embers and aftertaste of love as a Christmas gift; an unpleasant post-Padilla style nightmare flavor remains whenever I re-read her words:

[…] They cut short our childhood with empty slogans,

with tales of the sea and useless prisons.

They tore our hands away from building sand castles,

kept our legs from running ahead of death,

kept our voices from singing psalms, and our eyes from looking up at the stars.

They made us turn austere and sinister.

They wanted to erase our souls until all we had left with was weeping and rage

and the need to use memory as a shield to guard against so many lies.

Today everything is stuck in a void and a thickened peace clings to the night [….]

In December of that year, my friend the poetess and I had our 31st birthday.  Joseph Brodsky was also 31 when he wrote “December 24, 1971” (the very year my friend the poetess and I were born):

[…] Void.  But standing in front of the void you can see

a sudden light appearing from nowhere.

If only the Monster knew that the stronger he is,

the more believable and inevitable the miracle becomes […]

Meanwhile, the Cuban press recounts memorable patriotic events time and time again. Obviously, the State rejects the absence of memory: According to Ricardo Piglia, what’s in the boxing ring is fiction authors vs. state fiction.  Just luck (bad) we are again reading recycled headlines and eye-witness accounts about the local Herod Fulgencio Batista’s bloody Christmas crimes which, despite being nearly half a century old, still seems useful garnish for the Revolution’s amniotic fluid.

From solstice to saturnalia, under papal license or puritanical prohibition, from mangers to despotism, or to the beat of Christmas carols or reggaeton, perhaps Christmas in Cuba lands me in a turn-of-the-century chronicle where a longed for millennium of winter would finally make it possible for us to enjoy the silence of twilight streets before they become Havana’s:

[…] what better shroud than snow for people who yawn from hunger and agonize from consumption?

From Penultimos Dias

Translated by: JCD  (Merry Christmas, 2013) 

30 November 2013


9 12 2013

8 December 2013