Archive for January, 2008


January 28, 2008

The other day I was at the home of a neighbor sharing a cafecito and helping to catch up on the housework and care for a sick family member—very stressful tasks for a first-timer. The neighbor woman lives alone and is accustomed to having the television on to “kill the silence” and she didn’t turn it off during our entire visit, so our tasting of the black nectar passed pleasantly, brightened by the sound of the Cubavision channel (the style and phrases are totally intentional). In the midst of our trivial conversation, hearing familiar music, I went to the television to see if I was hearing what didn’t seem possible, and to my surprise it was true, pictures and sound of Gema Corredera and Pável Urquiza* singing, “I would like to stop smoking.” I don’t remember precisely how many years it’s been since such a fun song “stuck” and was played to the point of boredom on the radio and TV. Nor do I remember the exact moment, later, when they were “lost” like Lucas and Lucía and moved on to form part of that legion, silent and invisible, of “gone,” “left” or “aterciopelados” that are so common these days.

Translator’s note:
Gema Corredera and Pável Urquiza are a Cuban duet that started singing together in Havana the 1980s.  They moved to Spain in 1993 and are still together.  YouTube has a video of them singing “
Yo quisiera para de fumar.” Lucas and Lucía is a song by another artist about two young people who steal an airplane…

On youth and change

January 28, 2008

Maybe I’m turning into an old man and I believe that (as a generation) I am the most qualified for the race and these youngsters have a lot to learn… Maybe at the time for fixing the disaster we have to say as we said at the beginning (and said later, and continue saying): “with these oxen we must plough” and begin a new round of development weighed down, and so, ad infinitum. This thought, that in others provokes dread of the change that lies ahead, only worries me, because I am convinced that, come what may, the change will come.

Memories of glasnost via Sputnik

January 24, 2008

I have vague memories of the articles about Glasnost in those incredible Sputnik magazines, before it was banned by the government in August 1989.  With this act of censorship against those they considered the “murderers” of socialism, began, for me, the last chapter in the saga of the Cuban government, which began with a wandering journey to nowhere, very visible in the sector of the economy, the diaspora, the sterile “cultural rescues” and the restrengthening of nationalism through small appliances made in China.

A Russian satirist wrote something like this:

In my city people who lived the arts dedicated themselves to the stuffy and perfection of their skills and came to be honored artists.  Those with a talent for the sciences strongly dedicated themselves to science to deepen their knowledge and came to be renowned scientists.  Those with no interest in science and no talent for art dedicated themselves to direct others and came to infect everyone with their mediocrity and incompetence.

And with regards to his immediate environment he said:

My small apartment is the same as my neighbor’s and those of many of my friends.  The same can be said of the building where it is located. The hard-working builders completed buildings and left quickly to construct others somewhere, forgetting to complete the sidewalks and parks. Opposite the entrance to my building there is a huge puddle full of mud, determined to soil our shoes…

Today, as I observe the deterioration of the neighborhood, the garbage watered by dogs, the ‘lions’ and the ‘divers’ and I avoid a huge mud puddle every time I enter and leave my prefabricated Soviet-era building, with minimal apartments where it is simply impossible to place a three-door cabinet or a game with four chairs without utilizing the famous fourth dimension or the devil’s magic in The Master and Margarita, I can only smile with irony and sadness, remembering those Sputniks of Glasnost, the breath of hope that they brought to our debased atmosphere and hear the recurring echoes of the sound of a door being violently slammed in our faces.

Ghosts from the past

January 24, 2008

During the long weeks prior to general elections which concluded recently, we have been the target of a media campaign in favor of the united vote.  In its various stages of development we have seen frequent messages, exhortations and appeals which have involved public figures, artists, sportsmen and Cubans on the street.  The image of the electoral ballot has been repeated past the point of exhaustion, with the names of the candidates supplanted by words full of symbolism, such as United, Fatherland, Revolution and Socialism.  Taking all of this together, it’s interesting to highlight like something novel the use of an animated cartoon that presents a character unknown to the great majority of young Cubans, and even to many of a more mature age.  Wearing a guayabera and dark glasses, this figure who asks “unusual” questions can be identified as a petty politician or political sergeant of the pre-Revolutionary period.  This anachronism is too obvious, having been drawn in the typical way used to represent ghosts in cartoons and, just in case there are any doubts, it is called ‘ghost’ by another character.

If it’s true that the traditions of dead generations oppress the brains of the living, in this case it’s evident that the generation in power only reflects on and engages in discussions with its own obessions.