Plebiscite not only for Cuba, but by the Cuban people / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

24 12 2014

The American President, Barack Obama, decided on behalf of Cubans. His holiness the Pope decided on behalf of Cubans. The Army General Raul Castro decided on behalf of the Cubans. Everyone, except the Cubans , decided on behalf of Cubans.

After more than six decades without any consulting of the popular will in free and competitive elections, it’s finally time for Cuba to decide for Cuba with everyone participating and for the good of all. It’s finally time for Cubans to decide for Cubans.

Any international solidarity will be useless if Cubans don’t have a say. Any dissent and national opposition would lack a legal framework as long as there is no referendum by Cubans. There is no legitimate government without the effective participation of the governed. No consensus will be credible as long as Cuba does not decide for Cuba.

One learns in the open exercise of freedom, how to live in freedom. The American President and His Holiness, and the General of the Army and all authorities of good faith in the world are invited not to decide but instead to accompany Cubans in this decision, in a historic meeting where the transit from totalitarianism towards an open society or another controlling regimen is defined.

The demand for a national referendum is already in motion. May no one speak for the Cuban people but rather support  the Cuban people so that they may recover their voice.

Translator’s note: The graphic is a “suggested design” by El Sexto for a new Cuban flag.

Translated by William Fitzhugh 

23 December 2014

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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





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





IN THE DEEPEST MARROW OF DEATH*

7 03 2012

LOOK AT ME, DEATH, AND FOR YOUR LOVE’S SAKE, DON’T CRY 

It’s been ten years ago already, in the purple-blue evening of Centro Habana, in an independent literary workshop that had the Ministry of Culture (made flesh in the person of the vociferous agent Fernando Rojas) dying of fear and envy, we had invited an activist from the  Cuban independent press. What audacity for some intellectuals! (Today it looks like an unimportant novice’s mistake.)

It was shortly before the Black Spring that imprisoned (and even asked for the death penalty, although without officially validating it) dozens of our opponents of a more or less peaceful and digital nature. So we were all a bit frightened, in truth, including that author who did not show too much fighting spirit and in fact, a suspicious humility that we, beginning writers, not unreasonably confused with a lamentable lack of talent.

There did not shine in him that huge ego of those chosen to impact with a unique style (read me, for example). Our dissident certainly was a good guy of his home, but precisely because of this, was a lump of dough. None of us could imitate the author. Too little incendiary, too conservative in his little anti-establishment speech, too commonplace in the anti-dictatorial demagoguery that nobody in Cuba would dare to criticize, too much political peace in times of war uncivil to death.

At the end of his soulless talk , it occurred to me to ask why the opposition was not threatening with at least a word of the violent kind. Nothing of terrorism, of course. Just a clean war with bullets or the gun that both sides will choose to exterminate themselves. After all, let’s not pretend  to have been cheated. The Cuban Revolution will be only a truce of cadavers hidden with the stamp of Legal Medicine. Before and after that, we will murder ourselves again democratically in the middle of the street (and in the headlines). Long live the freedom of exhumation.

The good man turned pale to the level of 2003 (if they manage to arrest in March, he dies of a heart attack). Stu..stut..stutter..ter..tering… I had not the quality of a character narrator, obviously. I was not ready to survive a live debate before the cameras and microphones of the future. And then I did what the 99.99% of Cubans would do ( the exceptional hundredth continues to be me): he felt attacked and offended me in his own defense and in that of his party, I suppose, one of those matches where in barely four words, the words “Cuba” and “National” are set in front of the leg that makes them trip. I’m almost branded a collaborator of State Security (Everyone in Cuba is indirectly that still because no one has yet signed its dissolution) as well as a provocateur (of course I try not to have a dialogue with anyone without provoking them beforehand, without forcing them to be like they would be honestly in private).

Now I think maybe he himself was and he reported me to the authorities, who knows if looking for an impossible legitimacy for his illegal activity. Our system of block chieftains makes us protagonists just like in an act of repudiation** as in an already tiresome intellectual blindness. We don’t know how to read. We ignore all irony. And being a pacifist in the two thousands or zero years in Cuba, one is paid the going price (and life is not far from the highest), is a sort of totalitarian common denominator, a collective corrective out of which we are guilty a priori, a hypocrisy to deceive foreign NGOs but of course not the local G2.***

Today I ask forgiveness of my poor opponent for the panic that I set into his soul that unspeakable night, for stoking his paranoia and laying bare his verbal violence (if he had had a gun, certainly he would have shot at me, at me yes; at the government; no ). Reason was not on his side, but he had suffered and was an aged creature in himself and in that other greater cage that is the Archicementerio of Cuba. Simply put, he was no longer a public figure, but appeared as such. He was, shall we say in scientific terms, an angel (an author in his Adamic phase, the most dangerous by naivete: it’s known that nothing is more genocidal than an angel).

Once in a while, as a creator of fictions that cause fractions, I go back to feeling out my question of 2003: when did violence lose its crazy glory in our lands ? I speculate several suicidal solutions in my narrative that is more outrageous than unprecedented. But the only answer that I love, even though I don’t know how to set it up in writing, is a class of conspiracy theory: only when the Cuban state will be useful, will manipulate like a puppeteer their good men for and against, until they set them to fight each other as a mechanism of governance.

Then it will not be worth columns nor “Gandhi-loquent”martyrologies like those of our hunger strikers cruelly posed (and disposed) to fail. Then it will be the crude bodies of the Cubans that will recover their most vile voice. And then only if we will be free to massacre ourselves mutually in peace.

For the moment, war is too unambiguous, too scripted so that it is guessed in advance, too bored by its lopsided scoreboard.

Translator’s notes:
*The original title is:”En la masmedula de la muerte.” “Masmedula” is a word invented by the poet Argentinio Oliverio Girondo
**”actos de repudio” or acts of repudiation and disowning is a tactic used by the government to harass and intimidate dissidents. It typically involves the creation of a mob of “indignant citizens”  outside the home of an opponent of the government to shout slogans favorable to the government and threaten anyone entering or leaving that home.
***G2 is the Cuban government internal police force in charge of intelligence gathering on Cuban citizens.

Translated by: William Fitzhugh

January 20 2012