Saturday, August 11, 2007

What? Don't Have to Blow a Gasket?

Was reading about the release of a single political prisoner at Uncommon Sense, the kind the Cuban authorities say don't exist. Then I hit Reuters, and for once I was relatively happy with the report. Here are some tidbits included:

He [the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National
Reconciliation spokesman Elizardo Sanchez Santa Cruz
] said Cuba has
the world's highest per capita ratio of political

... the [Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation] report said the human rights situation had not improved since ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro handed over power to his brother Raul Castro more than a year ago.

*I know it's a little awkward, but I want to be fair in ascribing the source.

Yard Sale of the Century

Light posting today...on account of the "Send me to Film School Yard Sale" that has taken over this weekend. Of course, it's rained for the past two days. Hope Lou can pick up the slack.

Friday, August 10, 2007

"Sicko" Banned in Cuba

Yup, that's right! Considered subversive. Just emailed Anderson Cooper's "Keeping them honest," but we all know how "honest" CNN and the mainstream media are. Anyway, here's Dr Darsi Ferrer's take on the matter. It's in Spanish, so among the highlights.

  • The film is subversive because it is filled with "lies" that do not accurately reflect the "drama" of healthcare in Cuba.

  • Fidel Castro resorted to a Spanish surgeon. Vice minister Ramirez turned to France for surgery on the gastric cancer that killed him. Fidel Castro's physician reached out to British doctors for ocular surgery. Dr. Ferrer maintains that they who had access to the best facilities demonstrated very little confidence in the competent "revolutionary medicine."

  • The system of healthcare in Cuba can be summarized in one word: "chaos"

There are many other details. If I have the time and energy, I'll translate and post the whole thing. Isn't it rich?

(To be circumspect, I don't have an official source, but Dr Darsi Ferrer is a leading dissident, and I'll take his word for it, not to mention that anyone familiar with the regime can pretty much bank on it never being shown to the public.)

H/T Babalublog

Thursday, August 9, 2007

The Story of the Painting

Is not the most exciting, but Thursday is chemo day (not mine, thank God) and I feel like telling it.

Born in Brooklyn, I grew up in Staten Island, NY. I cannot tell you what it was like to be the single Hispanic, let alone Cuban. When I was very young, you could count the number of Cubans in any geographic radius on your fingers. Even as I was growing up, we didn’t really have access to cool Cuban stuff, so unless you were going to lay the island of Cuba in gravel on your front lawn- which someone I know actually did- you were stuck with “Kiss me, I’m Irish” shirts.

An American friend once complained that no one in Miami spoke English. I laughed and told her that when I got off the plane in Miami, I felt like I was in my native country, a feeling of belonging I experienced nowhere else. Recently in response to a post, I wrote to Alberto de la Cruz that I envied him his childhood near Calle Ocho. And I do.

On one of my trips to Miami in the late 80’s, I was in a cafeteria, making inroads into my pan con lechon, when I noticed the artwork on the walls. “Wow”, I thought “How cool is that.” I was particularly taken with a lone elderly figure in a cape. “Oh, him,” my mother said, “he was a famous figure in Havana, El Caballero de Paris.”
“I’d love to have something like that,” I said.

My aunt called me a few weeks later that she had tracked down the twin sisters, the Sculls, to a studio on Washington, which was still pretty seedy at the time. Was I still interested? So I asked, sight unseen, for a painting that showed a typical Cuban scene. The building in the background is the Capitol, modeled on the US Capitol, which itself has roots in classicism. The gentleman with the numbers is selling lottery tickets to an old woman who is lowering a bag for her purchase. She lives in what my mother calls a cuarteria. On the right is the aforementioned gentleman bearing a rose before him. It is intriguing that a homeless man seized the imagination of all who saw him making his rounds and was so well known throughout the island.

And that is the story of the painting. Click on the links on this one. They are fascinating.

Fidel Castro Shaved Afeitado

Courtesy of barberohabanero.

He looks much older and less scary without the beard don't you think? LOL!!! Very cool how they did that!

P.S.- Listen to the music. lol

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

A Little Color And A Little Fun

According to my mother, green is the color of hope, so I'll do this post in green and light a candle to Santa Barbara or someone.

Let's see if anyone can answer any of the following:

Who are the artists? (There's a built-in hint)
What building is lurking in the background?
Who is the gentleman with the cape?
What is the guy with the numbers doing?
What type of building does the old lady live in?

The Anguish of an Independent Journalist

This AM, Babalu which is also waiting, published a nice roundup of different posts. Somehow I wound up on Miscelaneas de Cuba and ran across a pretty moving post from an independent journalist in Cuba. Here's the last paragraph.

Amanece Cuba cada día en un suspiro. Su tristeza es la de millones de seres, y le puedes preguntar qué le hace falta y responde que un cambio, que los gritos la asfixian, que le duele el encierro y el maltrato a sus hijos.

My very clumsy translation:
Cuba awakens each day in a sigh. Her sadness is that of millions of beings, and you can ask what she needs, and she responds a change, that the screams suffocate her, that the imprisonment and mistreatment of her children hurts her.

(Now I remember, I found it through a link from Uncommon Sense )

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


Vague rumblings are afoot...... When are they gonna 'fess up?

This is starting to remind me of a Spanish novela, not that I have a great knowledge of them. I watched "Renzo, el gitano" when I was a kid. But the other one I watched, the one that this reminds me of was a remake of "El derecho de nacer" in the 70's or 80's. The patriarch of the family, Rafael del Junco, after a series of nasty actions like ordering his daughters' illegitimate son killed, suffered a stroke and was rendered mute, just as he was about to disclose something monumental. I don't even know if it was to tell her the son was alive. Anyway, night after night, everyone would watch saying, "Esta noche va hablar Rafael del Junco." "Tonight he's gotta talk. He's got to tell her." Of course, he didn't. For weeks on end, everyone we knew was glued to the set. They milked that one a long time. See the comparison?

Cuando va acabar de hablar Rafael del Junco?

Cuban Detective Fiction

As I was perusing the new book shelf in the library, I bumped into yet another detective novel closely resembling the old pulp fiction novels. There seems to be a resurgence of the genre. Lately, I've noticed a few of these are Cuban detective novels. The first one I read, the title of which escapes me, I hadn't mentioned because, at the risk of being sexist, it was definitely a man's novel. It was like being the only woman in a sports bar, a little too much testosterone for my tastes.

However, the one I picked up the other day, Havana Blue, was fascinating. It centers around a missing person's case, set against the backdrop of Havana. The chain-smoking, rum drinking, perpetually in trouble, and very burned out police lieutenant Mario Conde, although a spiritual descendant of the PI's of old, shares the more modern sensibility of detectives like Stuart Kaminsky's Porfiry Rostnikov or even James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux. It's interesting that both Rostnikov and Conde function in socialist societies.

Part of a series of previously published novels by Leonardo Padura, who I was surprised to learn is a Cuban writer living in Cuba, it was recently translated into English. Although not glaringly political, the political situation in inextricably intertwined in both the story and the lives of the characters.

Although it was noteworthy, I haven't quite made up my mind yet. I want to read a few more. So next, after having put down Dick Morris' Outrage- I just wasn't in the mood- is a biography of Benjamin Disraeli. Told you, this summer I seem to have a bug about Victorian England, or is that just what's being published?

Bittersweet Symphony

I always hoped we would have had the opportunity to see Fifo go as did Mussolini (pictures are too graphic to post)!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Mad Emailer and CNN: Round Two

One of these days I'll be able to watch TV news without courting heart failure from excessive spleen. Watching CNN when there is a report on the lack of efficacy of TV Marti. I phrase it that way because that was the gist of the report. As part of the report, they stopped people on the street in Cuba to ask them if they watched TV Marti. They cannot possibly be that stupid to think that in a repressive totalitarian regime, they would actually get a real answer. Therefore, it has to be a cynical manipulation of an uninformed American public or shameless pandering to the regime or both. Well, it's off the email CNN. I would encourage others who've seen it to do the same.

A View of Cuba

This interesting piece appeared in a newspaper from El Salvador, I believe in 2003. It was written by a Doctor who attended a Cuban medical conference and includes his brief observations of Cuba. It is a little long but worth reading. The other interesting fact is that the writer was a roommate of mine in school for 3 years. Although not he is not Cuban, we share similar beliefs about communism. He doesn't know I translated it or put it on the blog hopefully he will not mind. I have not spoken with him in over 5 years. He must have touched a nerve: please read the spinmeisters at work at Granma after the piece came out!

A View of Cuba

By Rodrigo Siman Siri from El Diario de Hoy.El Salvador

To talk about Cuba is to talk about a beautiful paradise where natural beauty is entwined with the everyone’s dream of good and hard-working people. I am sitting on the balcony of a hotel in la Havana, watching one of the most illuminating sunsets I could have ever imagined, with a mixture of strong emotions similar to the smell of Cuban cigars.

I thought that writing a few lines about Cuba was going to be easy after having been here for one week, but it is a difficult objective when your ideas are fogged and your eyes tear constantly with the large number of vivid sensations in these days.

I was invited by the health authorities of this beautiful country to a medical conference, perfectly organized by the Cuban doctors. I had the opportunity to see the legendary Fidel Castro, who must had been a strong guerrilla. He arrived in his heavily guarded caravan which consisted of three black Mercedes-Benz's, just like the ones used by General Pinochet. “The ironies of life” I thought. We witnessed an elderly man dressed in olive green speak confusingly for more than one hour about thousands of things, loose words with no meaningful message, from the Iraq war to mosquitoes causing Dengue.

As a doctor I arrived believing that the health system was one of the best in the world. After all that is what the health statistics show and are constantly repeated by the FMLN. I’m not sure what parameters the Cuban politicians use, but yesterday I saw a child whom appeared to be 7 years old tell me he was 15, and his body had changes consistent with severe malnutrition.

We asked to visit a hospital and they took us to see a tourist hospital exclusively for foreigners. It was elegant and impeccably clean. Later we found out that the public hospitals are impoverished and that they look worse than our Rosale hospital. They are old with unending lines of people waiting to be seen with a scarcity of medicines and with health professionals suggesting under the table dollar payments to be treated faster and with better medicines. And my biggest surprise was to find that a medical specialist earns the measly sum of $20 per month. This is $20 per month when a bottle of water cost$1.00, obviously you cannot drink the tap water because it is contaminated, our Cuban colleagues warned us. If all this is happening in La Habana, what must it be like in the rural communities?

In Cuba there really aren’t beggars wearing rags or barefoot kids, but there is an overabundance of elderly and young that will approach the tourist for money or a piece of bread.

The tourists have access to the places created especially for them, giant hotels, luxurious restaurants, all paid for in dollars of course. The Cubans can only be passive witnesses of the good life that is offered to foreigners. A friendly taxi driver commented to me with tearful eyes between rage and sorrow “ Here the tourists are humans and we are aliens”.

I discovered Cuba and its heroic and valiant community that lives, or rather survives in a regime of oppression, fear and misery. Thanks goodness for tourism here because at least the Cubans can see the difference between them and the rest of the free world.

I was approached silently by a gentleman who, after asking where I was from, asked me for a newspaper from El Salvador. They are hungry for real world news, not the fantasy created by the authorities who nobody believes anymore. Many have asked about President Flores. They want to know about his personality. They are impressed with him because he is the only person to have put Fidel in his place. This has all been learned through word of mouth because none of this news was broadcast in Cuba.

Last week in La Habana, 3 youths were executed because they dreamed of freedom and tried to escape Cuba on a stolen raft. For this grave crime, they were tried in one day. And 24 hours later they were savagely executed as an example, so that the people see what happens to those who go against the regime. When I was told this by a beautiful Cuban girl, all I could say was that things will change soon. I felt really stupid when she answered that they have been waiting for 44 years and the many still die, some by rifle such as the three youths. And many live but their hope of freedom, work and improvement and exercise of rights without repression has been executed.

But, it would be unjust to talk about Cuba and only mention the misery of an obsolete regime. To talk of Cuba is to talk of its women, the most beautiful in the world, the rhythm and quality of its people, of the beautiful look of its people, of the beauty of its streets with smells of salt, tobacco and rum. To talk of Cuba is to talk of a paradise where natural beauty is entwined with the everyone’s dream of good and hardworking people that continue to wait for the true revolution.

Sunday, August 5, 2007


I've always thought there was a resemblance. One was a comedian and the other was a murderous thug. I mean no direspect to the comedian.

Cubans in Costa Rica

My wife, who unlike myself, is not Cuban, just returned from a trip to Costa Rica. She told me that the Cubans are taking over the place. They own all the shops, restaurants, etc..... Knowing Cubans, that doesn't surprise me.