Archive for March, 2008

Zombie’s toaster

March 19, 2008

From my student days I maintain several friendships, which support the passage of time like the pyramids.  The protagonist of this story is a friend from high school, which by his great ability to sleep in the classroom with his eyes open and an expression of profound interest on his face, managed to avoid being called on by the teachers.  He therefore received, in a student baptism, the nickname Zombie, in spite of Ferdinando’s* being \”pegged”\ the same.  I will talk about his other characteristics.  Zombie is the persistent type.  And he’s also the lucky type.  He’s an excellent musician in academia, who prepares arrangements, composes, and plays three instruments.  He has the tremendous luck to have been permitted to travel (abroad, you understand) more than four times since 2001.  And that, for a “musician from the provinces,” is a great success.

Returning to his persistence, it turns out that Zombie is infatuated with the idea of toast for breakfast, like the English, he says.  Because of this, on his last three trips he brought back a toaster, which was invariably confiscated at customs.  He has no complaints and even considers that he has voluntarily donated them to tourism or to some official guest residence, and we must acknowledge this, no?  Many believe that he’s nuts or half comem…*  But he insists, and persists, and says he’s not going to get tired of trying, until one day he’ll manage to get the desired toaster. The recent rumors about the sale of household appliances* and a post from Yoani* made me remember the story of Zombie who must be off with his music to Turkey or Japan by this time, perhaps with the toaster already packed in his luggage.  How many more will he “donate” before realizing his dream of an English breakfast?

(* Ferdinand was a clown, a protagonist in a TV show from the defunct German Democratic Republic who, in each episode, used to sleep in the most incredible positions and situations.)

Translator’s notes:

comem…” is the beginning of an “unprintable” word.  This translator cannot think of a comparable word in English that has more than one or two letters before it gets to the point… so you’ll have to use your imagination.

Sale of household appliances: The government recently announced that Cubans will be allowed to buy previously unavailable household appliances.

Yoani: Yoani Sánchez, author of the blog Generación Y, which is also on the DesdeCuba website, along with this blog.

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Guardian Angels

March 9, 2008

I want to bring to this blog my guardian angels, poets and writers whom I wanted to know or to thank but various combinations of time and space didn’t allow it. They also have in common the fact that today they are not with us. Some, life distanced them and, as the saying goes, while there’s life there’s hope. Others, inevitably, death took them. And perhaps there is something comparable to the death of a poet?

This death is the only frontier that I recognize for them, the unique taxonomy, because it establishes the impossibility of communication. Where a Cuban poet is born, writes or dies is material for bibliographies, data for the bureaucracy, mere circumstance. Whim, be it human or of destiny. As the order in which I will present them to the reader is also capricious, as are the introductory words I will dedicate to them, which will not be literary reviews—more and better have been written everywhere—nor a judgment on their life’s path, but rather a light rendering of feelings which, like poetry, should not be over rationalized. Simply one fixed idea: I do not encourage second guessing nor manipulative zeal. I reject that I might be considered capable of reducing works and lives so dear to the simple category of projectile instruments. Before I’d do this, I would prefer—like a good peasant—to be struck by lightening, whether real or of shame. For this battle, numerous other arguments wait their turn. I approach with respect the works I wish to share and offer apologies in advance for any misunderstanding, always possible in these turbulent times.

Each one of them, at some point, was very important to me. Some left memories of people, places and dates; others aroused emotions through readings, learning, discoveries. All contributed to assuaging another hunger that is not only for guavas; they helped to expand my horizons beyond the limits of a farm and everyday life, and made me feel a part—a particle of the smallest cosmic dust—of this cluster of stars and universes that is culture. All left their mark on me, unique, for which I will always be grateful. But, if possible, I would prefer to have them as friends rather than to count them as influences.

My ‘new’ rights…

March 5, 2008

The signing of the International Covenants on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and on Civil and Political Rights is a done deal.  I saw it on the news with the oaf and the slogans, so there can be no doubt.  There are two aspects that draw my attention: The first is the disappointing pronunciation of Chancellor Pérez Roque.  It could be a protocol requirement of the United Nations, the truth is I don’t recall previously having seen their making their declarations in English.  And what English!  I do not recommend it.  The second, which shouldn’t surprise me so much, is that he continues throwing the blame for everything on the blockade.   It’s tough for me to decipher the relationship, to give just one example, between the blockade and a swap at Varadero.

I think the most significant thing for us is yet to happen.  It will be to check the limits that are imposed on the realization of these aforementioned rights.  I am taking this opportunity to record what I consider indicators of a complete intention for full recognition by my government and, in my view, the expectations of many Cubans.

  • That they free our fellow countrymen imprisoned for having made anticipatory use of freedom of expression.
  • The ability to visit a friend who lives in Germany and return to Cuba without asking permission of my government.  Alternatively, that my friend—who is Cuban—can return to Cuba when he desires.
  • To choose a better education for my children, with experienced teachers and no improvisations that depend on a remote control.
  • To rely on trade unions that are independent of civil and political organizations, and which respond to the interests of the workers who elect them.
  • To pass a short holiday in any hotel in the capital or the keys.  In reality this possibility is foreseen in the Cuban Constitution, but since in practice you can’t do it, I am recording it here just in case…