Saturday, October 13, 2007

Literary Interlude: La Nina de Guatemala

Courtesy Realia Project/ Photo Jeffrey Barnett

La Niña de Guatemala: A portrait of Maria Garcia Granados

whom Jose Marti immortalizes in his famous poem "La niña de guatemala"

In honor of this weeks's anniversary, let's make it a Marti poem. This my mother used to love to recite .

Quiero, a la sombra de un ala,

contar este cuento en flor:

la niña de Guatemala,

la que se murió de amor.

Eran de lirios los ramos;

y las orlas de reseda

y de jazmín; la enterramos

en una caja de seda;

Ella dio al desmemoriado

una almohadilla de olor;

él volvió, volvió casado;

ella se murió de amor.

Iban cargándola en andas

obispos y embajadores;

detrás iba el pueblo en tandas,

todo cargado de flores;

Ella, por volverlo a ver,

salió a verlo al mirador;

él volvió con su mujer,

ella se murió de amor.

Como de bronce candente,

al beso de despedida,

era su frente -¡la frente

que más he amado en mi vida!

Se entró de tarde en el río,

la sacó muerta el doctor;

dicen que murió de frío,

yo sé que murió de amor.

Allí, en la bóveda helada,

la pusieron en dos bancos:

besé su mano afilada,

besé sus zapatos blancos.

Callado, al oscurecer,

me llamó el enterrador;

nunca más he vuelto a ver

a la que murió de amor.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Odds & Ends of Things

I've posted on Lone Survivor before. Today comes word that one of the fallen Navy Seals, Lt. Michael P Murphy, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for combat, a well-deserved honor. Read it here.

Gusano at La Contra Revolucion has gathered together the various stories, some posted here, of musicians standing up to the regime. Don't miss it. While you're there, read about the fritas. Click here. Doesn't it seem that the discontent is being brought in the open by Doctors and Musicians?

The day after I posted about generacíon Y, there was a Reuters article about Cuban bloggers which featured Yoani Sanchez. In one of her articles, quoted below, she points out that Cubans learn to read between the lines. Today, I'm reading a link to Cubanet from Penultimos Dias when I come across this first line in article.

Para intentar enterarse de algo en la prensa oficial cubana lo principal es saber leer entre líneas.
or In order to find out anything in the official Cuban press, the most important skill is to know how to read between the lines.

The author, Luis Cino, points out that an Oct. 5 article about a well-attended march in support of the revolution by students and professors from the University of Oriente to the initiated means something altogether different happened there. By means of Radio Bemba, the truth emerges about recent upheaval in that educational institution, which is now reportedly quiet.

Finally, in the what were they thinking department, is the recent vote by a house panel on the Armenian Genocide by Turkey. Forget that it happened during WWI and that this motion has been floating around for ten years, that Turkey is poised to invade Iraq and cause even more havoc, that we use its territory for logistics in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Let's try this: at a time when we are accused of waging war on Islam, why are we alienating the only Democratic government of a Muslim country? It's the timing I question. Read it here.

Al Gore's Nobel Peace Prize and the Triumph of the Boomer Generation

As a late boomer myself or perhaps because of it, I have very little respect for the generation. A more self-serving, self-important, sanctimonious, and vacuous lot, there has never been. From their youth, they have sought to instruct the rest of us on how to live, all the while plucking the fruits of the system they so abhorred.

This a generation that came of age at an opportune- excepting Vietnam- moment. They graduated from colleges, which they attended without having to mortgage their futures, with their liberal arts degrees into a wide open marketplace at a time when homeownership did not require the pledging of parts of one's anatomy. For this they were not grateful. It was only their due.

This sense of their own superiority, coupled with an unfortunate tendency to mindlessly hop on the nearest bandwagon, led them to take a country which functioned on principle-religious, civic, and moral- into the morass of relativism where anything goes except traditional values.

Without the underpinnings of guiding principles, such as respect for authority, our society has devolved into one characterized by cynicism and arbitrary judgement. The President of the United States, whether Republican or Democrat, is not to be believed and fair game for personal attacks. The propaganda of some totalitarian regimes, however, is swallowed, hook, line and sinker. Despite unheard of amounts of money, still not enough for some, thrown into schools, only 22% of students in Michigan graduate high school. The figures for other metropolitan areas are equally as dismal. A teacher complains and Junior doesn't get the beating he deserves; Mom hires a lawyer. A student with over a hundred stitches in her face from a razor blade attack sits in a biology class down the hall from her attacker whose rights cannot be violated.
The contradictions and absurdities abound.

These founders of the environmental movement have overseen the explosion of the McMansion and the rise of the even more eco friendly SUV. They have presided over the death of factual reporting and the emergence of mainstream tabloid journalism. They have made a religion of conspicuous consumption and a consumer staple of consumer debt. They have birthed the infant nanny state: telling us what food to put in our bodies, what not to smoke, what to wear in our cars, what kind of windows we can put in our homes, and what values we should teach our children.
I am the first to know that the world of my childhood contained much injustice, but as I look around at the fruits of the boomer generation, I am not impressed. As far as I can tell, their only significant achievement was in combating racism. And now it looks like Hilary, who never worked up a sweat in her life unless it was cutting sugar cane for Fidel Castro, is going to be President and Al Gore has won the Nobel Peace Prize for bruiting science that may or may not hold up to the test of time. Vanity, all is vanity. Or is it dada?

Literary Notes: Updated

Update: I knew I had seen an article on New Short Fiction from Cuba, but I couldn't find it. It's at El Tono de la Voz where you can find excerpts from the introduction here.

Two new collections of Cuban fiction on the market-

The first is an extension of the Cuban Noir I've written about. Entitled Havana Noir and put together by Achy Obeja's, it consists of crime stories written by Cuban authors set in Havana. And true to form, the political makes up a central fact of Cuban life. Of Ena Lucia Porteles' contribution

Her disturbing story "The Last Passenger" revolves around a woman infatuated with a serial killer, and portrays a class-divided Cuba where the nomenklatura enjoys vacations in the Bahamas and wears gold Rolexes.
"Cuba's upper class is invisible for most people," Portela, 34, said via e-mail from Havana. "Official propaganda insists that in communist countries all citizens live under the same economic conditions, which is a huge lie."

Read the complete article in The Daily News.

Another comes in the form of the more scholarly New Short Fiction From Cuba. Read the little information I could find here.

Good night.

The Ant Can't...

Congratulations are in order. Cuban bloggers in the United States have finally breached the great media wall of propaganda. Through the efforts of George at The Real Cuba, among others, and the courage of Dr. Darsi Ferrer the truth about Cuban health care has been seen nationally, not once but twice, first on ABC, then last night on Fox News. Read all about it on Babalublog, if you haven't already.

Watching the interview last night, I had a moment of epiphany. As I watched both Hannity and Colmes try to co-opt the Cuban truth by enmeshing it in the debate over nationalized health care, I was incredibly proud of George's dignity in staking out his own territory. He made it abundantly clear that his sole concern was to expose the truth about the Cuban healthcare system. On ABC, Stossel had also used the Cuban angle as a means of questioning Moore's whole thesis. Then at some point, it hit me. The plight of Cubans was irrelevant, except in so far as it could be used to fight over domestic policies. They just don't care.

So why am I optimistic? In a word: exposure. For too long now, it is the regime that has controlled the discussion, but maybe, just maybe, this is the beginning of change. No longer can the MSM count on their bogus claims and shoddy reporting going unchallenged. And every time they are challenged, the discussion is slowly, tortuously being reframed and the consciousness of the American public raised. And while NBC has garnered criticism, rightfully so, for not using the footage Dr. Ferrer risked so much to get, it was the first network to question the healthcare shibboleth. Where are CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC? Well, if we look at the trajectory, it was Sanjay Gupta who first took on Sicko. Then Stossel picked it up with the teaser. Last night Fox presented a more complete report. Can they be that far behind? At what point does the pain of being scooped overcome the desperate need to not upset the apple cart? Only time will tell. And we'll be watching.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Week for Remembering

No sooner are we out of the Che daze than along comes October 10. On this date in 1868, I believe, the first of the Cuban wars of independence, the Ten Years War, commenced in what is known as El Grito de Yara. I can't seem to translate it poetically, so I'll leave it in Spanish. With limited knowledge of colonial history, I hit Google. There is a surprising amount of information to be had, some from doubtful sources, if you know what I mean.

One of the more interesting bits of knowledge I gleaned was about what surely has to be the first feminist by the name of Ana Betancourt. You can imagine how dismayed I was to see that this is another historical figure co-opted by the present regime. Still, it got me to thinking about "The Cuban Gender Paradox." With the whole mucho macho routine, which was big at my house at least, you would think that Cuban culture would be sexist, and it was.

Yet the typical Cuban woman of my acquaintance is quite capable of commanding armies, and generally does impose order on her world. Once, my husband and I, on vacation in Miami, stumbled upon two middle-aged couples on the boardwalk stretch. Having stopped in one of those gazebo structures, they were moving on. Apparently one of the husbands did not move quickly enough for his wife. She turned and demanded, "Y, tu, que estas? de referee? or "And you, what are you, the referee?" The exasperation and humor in her voice made me look at my husband, who in the interests of his own survival has made a study of all things Cuban and who was at that moment barely managing to stifle a laugh. With the secret understanding of the young and in love, we shared the thought. In that almost imperceptible moment was the whole
of the Cuban male/female relationships we knew.

Back to my researches, I'll leave you with the perfect holiday gift for that one Cuban American on your list who has everything. I couldn't find prices, but I suspect it follows the if-you-have-to-ask-you-can't-afford-it-rule. Check it out here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Updates of a Sort

Chefest (Both sides celebrate)
I haven't posted on Che because others have done it better than I could. If you haven't already read Fontova's book, do it. I'm still harassing my library system to get it. With my reading habits, I can't afford to buy.

Anyway, I came across this on the Spanish language BBC Mundo. The interesting point is that, oh mi gosh, they actually had some negativity as they detailed Che, the man. In addition to describing him as arrogant, ill-tempered, and doctrinaire, but the big surprise comes when they quote Felix Rodriguez, former CIA operative and witness to Che's end.

"Hace 20 años una mujer se acercó a mí en Paris y me contó como cuando su hijo de 15 años fue condenado a muerte por escribir en contra del gobierno de Fidel Castro", cuenta Rodríguez.
Ella consiguió una audiencia con el Che y le rogó que lo dejara vivir. Era viernes y la ejecución estaba prevista para el lunes. Cuando el Che le preguntó el nombre del muchacho la madre creyó haber salvado la vida de su hijo. Él giró la cabeza y dirigiéndose a sus soldados gritó: 'Al hijo de esta señora fusílenlo hoy mismo para que su madre no tenga que esperar hasta el lunes', asegura el ex agente de la CIA.

"Twenty years ago, a woman came up to me in Paris and told me how her 15 year old son was condemned to death for writing against the government of Fidel Castro," Rodriguez states.
"She managed to get an audience with Che, and she ple d with him to let her son live. It was a Friday, and the execution was scheduled for Monday. When Che asked her for the name of her son, the mother thought she had saved his life. He turned his head and yelled out to his soldiers, 'This woman's son is to be executed today so that his mother does not have to wait 'til Monday...'"

Uh-huh, revolutionary "hero," uh-huh.

H/T Penultimos Dias

Cuban Health Study
A thought. I've posted about the John Hopkins study, the one with shades of Reich science about it. Well, since I'm in an anecdotal mood, I'd have to say that the study does not account for the perversity of the Cuban character. At least twenty years ago, I met an aunt of my grandmother's in Union City. She had just come from Cuba. She was about 96 and spent her days sitting in a rocking chair, smoking cigars and drinking rum, which habits she was said to have indulged in her whole life. Actually, every one of my relatives of that generation died well into their 80s. It is the American generations that are dropping well before that.

Cuban Food
Speaking of which, is there a more politically incorrect diet than the traditional Cuban one? Fat is one of the food groups, and everything is fried or stewed with a generous layer of oil. My very American daughter, brought up far from Miami by relatively Americanized me and her Cuban only by association father, was surprised that at college, no one fried their meat. Vegetables barely exist, unless it's the yuca you have with pork or the occasional root vegetable. I can honestly say that for the first twenty years of my life, a green bean was never served in my home. Until my teens I though salad consisted of papery iceberg lettuce, a couple of slices of tomatoes, and some foul tasting radishes. You served it as a species of prop when you laid out a big spread, but no one ate it. It's amazing we're all walking around. Good genes, as one commenter on another blog (my apologies, I seem to have developed CRS) pointed out.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Are We Looking at 4 More Years of This?

What would we do without modern technology. I can watch this clip over and over and over.

Straight from the Belly of the Beast

Of all the blogs I read, there is one which has new posts only sporadically, but which I follow religiously. The blog in question is the creation of a young woman, as she frames it from the "Y generation" in Cuba. Someone living "over there" once explained those names to me, the Yesleidys and Yusnavy's. Let's just say, they were the product of another time and pretourist perspective.

To read her blog is to be privy to the elaborate machinations needed to find internet access, to witness the very human desire to have one's voice heard. Most importantly, to read her blog is the hear the plaintive notes of the genuine Cuban experience.

To me, today's posts were heartwrenching.

About posting:

Mientras usted va al trepidante ritmo del ADSL y de la Internet por cable, yo me muevo a la velocidad de la guagua que conecta a la Víbora con Línea y G.

While you go with the awesinspiring rhythm of DSL or cable internet, I move with the speed of the bus which connects la Vibora with Linea and G."

About the blogger in chief:

Pura frivolidad política esa de estar reflexionando sobre jefes de estado, remitiéndose a correspondencia diplomática y bestseller escritos por exmandatarios. Nuestra realidad pide a gritos que se abran espacios para escuchar la opinión popular. ¿Hasta cuándo se gastarán las pocas páginas de la prensa nacional en satisfacer la vanidad personal de un político que no nos representa, que no se hace eco de nuestras exigencias y que ni siquiera nos menciona?

It's pure political frivolty to be reflecting on heads of state sending each other diplomatic correspondence and bestsellers written by former leaders. Our reality screams for the opening of spaces to listen to popular opinion. How long will the few pages of our national press be wasted in satisfying the personal vanity of a politician who doesn't echo our predicament and who doesn't even mention us.

About how they get their news:

¡Vaya forma que tenemos los cubanos de enterarnos de lo que pasa! Hemos aprendido a leer entre líneas, a sospechar de cada información y a dudar de lo que dicen esos señores de traje y corbata que hablan en los noticieros.

Some way we Cubans have of finding out what is going on! We've learned to read between the lines, to suspect each report and doubt what the men in jackets and ties say on the news reports.


Vimos como la delegación cubana ante la ONU se levantaba de sus asientos durante el discurso de Bush, pero las palabras de éste nunca fueron transmitidas.

We say how the Cuban delegation at the UN stood and left their chairs during Bush's address, but his words were never transmitted.

Although she describes herself as a coward, she is a brave woman. I fear for her as I fear for all the voices which manage to make it accross the great divide. If you can read Spanish, you can find her here. I usually find her through Penultimos Dias.

Monday, October 8, 2007

No, I Didn't Get to the Ringling Exhibit Today

but I did read another article, this one from The Bradenton Herald via Hispanic You can read it here. If you don't have the time and inclination, the money quote from Stephen D. Borys, Ulla R. Searing Curator of Collection at the Ringling speaking about the special period is here-

"Cuban art was really a place for public discourse, a place where civic dialogue could take place," Smith said. "Because, of course, they don't have a free press. They don't have elections, and no right of free association. So this art was expressing cultural, historical tensions that people were undergoing."

Not quite what I would have wished, but tell me we're not making progress. The get in free planets won't align again until next Monday, so you'll just have to wait for the details.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Whass Up?

Interesting article (in Spanish) at Payo Libre concerning a Carlos Varela concert in Santa Clara at which the singer dedicated a song to a famed retired pitcher. Surprisingly he also included el Duque and another exiled player in the dedication. Talk about living dangerously. As one of the attendees, a university professor stated, "I almost fell out of my seat." Most striking, however,
was something he yelled out. I'll give you the Spanish first.

“La libertad de los seres humanos nunca puede ser a medias. La libertad es única, y se tiene o no se tiene. Porque si sólo es a media entonces no se tiene verdaderamente”.


The liberty of human beings cannot be a halfway thing. Liberty is unique, and you either have it or you don't. Because if you only have it halfway, you do not truly have it.

Are you listening all you apologists for the revolution?

Literary Interlude: An Old Favorite

Dover Beach

The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand;
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Agaean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

-Matthew Arnold