Saturday, October 20, 2007

It Does Make a Difference

Carlos Rios Otero, a Cuban dissident participating in the non-cooperation campaign, has made a plea to be allowed to send a taped message to the Miami program "A Mano Limpia." Some interesting stuff surfaces in his letter.

Discussing how they are publicizing their resistance campaign against the phony upcoming elections, he points out they need our air and radio waves. Let's not forget that due to information restrictions, we in the United States know more about the dissidents than their fellow countrymen do. He states

por la radio estamos trasmitiendo cosas de ANN y la campana por el NO para toda Cuba. Ellos son la VOA, Radio Marti y Radio Mambí y la Poderosa.

over the radio we are conveying info [about the campaign]. They are the VOA, Radio Marti [You know the one we're wasting money on] and Radio Mambi and the Poderosa.

The most interesting thing is the feedback about the recent publicity. Apparently, the Real Cuba stuff has made it to the Real Cuba. He is so fired up to get the word out because

En estos dias vimos uno sobre la crisis de la salud en Cuba del que se han estado repartiendo copias y que se comenta en toda la Habanna.

These days we have one over the health crises in Cuba, copies of which have made the rounds and are the subject of commentary in all Havana

Ain't it something? Those enterprising Cubans seem to have found a circuitous route around the information embargo. Check it out here. There's a link to the actual text of the letter here also. Gracias, Rafael.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Some of My Favorite Books: Our House in the Last World

Recently in the excitement over Cane, someone mentioned in a discussion that the writer had written Mambo Kings. Of course, someone else immediately corrected that she might have written the screenplay, but the novel was written by Oscar Hijuelos. And so it was. Of more importance to me, much as I enjoyed both the movie and the book, is Hijuelos' first novel, Our House in the Last World, so much so that I reread it this week.

There are so many different worlds in this book that it is difficult to apply the title to any one locale at any one time. There is the world of Holguin, Cuba in the early half of the century, the world of immigrants on the upper side of Broadway in New York, a glimpse of 1960's Miami, the oblique reference to Castro's Cuba, even a dream world in Isabella and Ferdinand's Court. In fact, that is the hallmark of this moving novel, in which meaning is layered upon meaning.

Ostensibly, the novel traces the family history and love story of Mercedes and Alejo Santinio as they meet at the movies, fall in love, and marry. Paradoxically, despite the spare prose, there is richness here. Hijuelos evokes the Cuba of that generation using dreams to convey an idealized, yet realistic portrait. Later, as the young couple emigrates to NYC long before the revolution, he depicts faithfully the experience of those early Cubans, as well as other immigrants, who came to the bleak environs of New York's tenements, to jobs in factories and restaurants, and to a world where they didn't even speak the language. It is easy for those of us who lived through those times to see ourselves in that world.

As their marriage turns sour, Alejo turns into an abusive drunk who never misses a day of work in the hotel kitchen and the high-strung Mercedes becomes unhinged, the novel quickly becomes a story of familial dysfunction, much of it seen through the eyes of their two sons. But this is no facile depiction. Much as we resent Alejo's bullying, we pity him when his desperate love for his two sons is rejected as a result of his own actions. We pity him as life and his dreams and all those Cubans he helps pass him by. Our sympathies for Mercedes are qualified when we see the havoc she wreaks. Even as we feel for the sons, brought up in abuse and unpredictability, we share in their guilt. Again, anyone who has seen substance abuse close up will easily recognize the Santinios.

Then there is the revolution, only this time obliquely from the perspective of those who were already here. We see the excitement of many of the early immigrants, their support for Fidel, the famous visit, and later their disillusionment as word and exiles began to filter in from Cuba when the revolution is betrayed. A word- this is not a political story. Don't expect any condemnation or praise.

However, Our House in the Last World is rife with longing. As a novel, it is summarily painful, yet cathartic to read. You really do care, at least if you're Cuban, I think.

By the time, I got to Woodstock...

..there was a museum. What was that I was saying about "self-important" and vacuous? First Gore gets the Nobel Peace Prize, and now we're gonna have the Rural Museum of Drug use, Debauchery, and Rock and roll. Get a load of this.

Republicans say presidential contender Hillary Clinton can forget about getting $1 million in taxpayer funds for a Woodstock museum.
Clinton and Charles Schumer, Democratic senators from New York, want to earmark the federal money for a museum that would commemorate the 1969 music festival in their state

Personally, I really got trashed at a Dave Bromberg concert at the old Academy of Music. I could really use a couple of thousand to enshrine the bathrooms there; they were memorable.
Can't make this stuff up, folks!

"Judge, judge, take me to the 'lectric chair." Ah, those halcyon days of youth!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Apple...

Here we are again. Published in the Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly is an article by none other than Kruschev's son with two co-authors. According to this article about it, he advocates US hospitality industry involvement in Cuba.

“We see a historic opportunity for profitable investment in a ‘new Cuba,’” write the authors. “Not only can the U.S. hospitality industry participate in shaping that new Cuba, in partnership with locals, but we contend that now is the time to advance prescriptive, forward-thinking insight designed to shift the thinking of the U.S. business community about Cuba and, in so doing, shift the thinking of the Cuban government, businesses, and people about their neighbors to the north.”

Just an observation or two or three. Ah, "profitable investment," play to those already frothing at the mouth at the thought of the gazillions of dollars they're missing. Then there's "in partnership with the locals." Would that be the local totalitarian government, the local CDR's? We know it can't be anyone else, since all investment must be done in partnership with the regime. Sorry, but there are no locals in this case, just the monolithic, repressive dictatorship.
Finally, has "the forward-thinking insight" of collaborator countries like Spain "shift[ed] the thinking of the Cuban government" at all? I'll give them that they have managed to shift the thinking of some Cubans in so far as they have imbued them with the less-than-favorable European view of America, something the regime had failed to do in decades of anti-US propaganda. And so, it goes, and goes, and goes

Still working on getting the original article.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Beware the Clowns

In the past year, our local hospice taking its cue from the cows in Chicago, the bulls in New York, even the pigs in neighboring Venice decided to raise funds by displaying and auctioning off statues. But as they scrambled for an animal for the campaign, someone had the seemingly felicitous idea of using clowns. Sarasota was once a circus town. So clowns in all sorts of artistic regalia began appearing on downtown street corners. Even as they appeared, the trouble began. They were vandalized: arms were broken off, an MP3 player was stolen, and a couple of visiting Coast Guard guys even kidnapped two, one of which has never been seen again, I think. Finally, they had to install cameras for clown protection in our normally law abiding city.

It seems that the clown is not such a benign figure, after all. The hostility the clowns were apparently evoking in some of my fellow citizens surprised me. My friend Jo explained, as she phrased it, clowns are "evil." Some reflection reminded me that John Wayne Gacy's alter ego was a clown. And "It" in the Stephen King novel by the same name was usually "Pennywise," a clown figure. It was striking, then, to read a quote from a Havana housewife who -on the condition of anonymity- described Chavez: "He looked like a clown, singing on stage."

It's a sentiment I've shared about fifo, having on occasion described him as as a laughable figure. And so he strikes me, as did Chavez making a total horse's hindquarter of himself at the UN calling Bush a "devil" last year. What I wonder is how they ever achieved power. Who are the people that found or find either of these two Chuckies admirable?

Yet the results of their gambols are not to be laughed at. These clowns are truly evil. And as I've said before, perhaps the greatest cruelty of what has befallen Cuba is that it has happened at the hands of a buffoon, as if some vile sentient force was having a laugh at the expense of a whole people.

Cuba-Venezuela Ties

For the last few days, the "increased cooperation" between Cuba and Venezuela has been the subject of innumerable articles. See here. Some, rightfully so, methinks, have seen it as a species of power grab by Chavez, a clumsy grasping for a bastardized Bolivarian ideal.

Well, it set me to thinking about the Monroe Doctrine. Written to keep European powers from establishing any more colonies in the new world, their existing colonies conveniently excepted, it nonetheless set forth important limits, namely that "we should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety." Further on, it states that it would be "impossible" to believe that "our southern brethren, if left to themselves, would adopt it of their own accord."

It seems time for Mini-me to get his own private, geographically updated version of said doctrine. Will the increasingly gun-shy American government take him on? That's a question. Given the spreading virus in Latin America, it undoubtedly should.

Around the Blogs

Ran into all sorts of good stuff and most excellent links this AM. Let's start with a bit of fun. On Cubanology, we have a link to Ideas Ocultas, a website I've missed somehow but is going on my list. Highlighted are some jokes.

Patriotismo en tierra cubana
El inspector de escuela le pregunta a Pepito:Pepito, ¿quién es tu madre?La Patria, inspector.Y padre?Fidel, inspector.Y ¿qué quisieras ser, Pepito?Huérfano, inspector.

my translation:
Patriotism on Cuban Soil
The school examiner asks Pepito: Pepito, who is your mother? My homeland, inspector. And your father? Fidel, inspector. And you, what would you like to be Pepito? An orphan, inspector.

Enough said. But while you're at the site, read the story about the unfortunate political prisoner whose attempts to escape led to losing both arms. Here.

On Blog for Cuba ran into a very good post on rationing and the supreme irony of sugar being rationed in Cuba. The bonus is a link to a longer article. Some have already raised quibbles about the historical dates, but the rationing is a reality. Check out Cuban Truth

The ever irreverent Gusano on La Contra Revolucion asks "Am I now a Venecuban exile or a Cubazuelan refugee?!?!?" Read it here.

Finally, Alberto "el americanito" de la Cruz marks his entry as one of the contributors to Babalublog with a post dealing with the longing he feels, never having been in Cuba. I've often remarked to my brother that we Cuban Americans have absorbed that sense of loss from our parents, almost imperceptibly. Read it here.

As Alberto says "I could have been born anywhere in the world, but I still would have been born a Cuban." How's that to go along with your morning coffee?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Technical Difficulties

I apologize for the irregular format, but Blogger is doing crazy things. It changes the size of the fonts and the spacing when I hit publish. Still working on it.

The Ringling Show At Last: ZZZZZZ

The Sacred Heart, 1995 Lazaro Saavedra Gonzalez

If I have to provide one overall impression of the Cuba Avant-Garde exhibition it is that of disappointment. I'm afraid it was a little too avant my garde. I'm reminded of visiting the old MOMA. You started on the ground floor and by the top floor you were into performance art, if you know what I mean. Having established my lack of bona fides.....

There were some notables, a tinker toy World Trade Center complete with embedded plane. There was a sizeable wooden zipper with little wooden people teeth, talk about your cogs in the machine. There was a big old car with many feet instead of tires. And there was the painting above, my favorite because it encapsulates so well the doble cara or two faces Cubans have
perfected. Actually, that's what struck me. About half of the works are by artists living and working in Cuba, yet there was no patria o muerte about it. Although the political informs many of the works, most are not overtly political in nature. Even the set of panels depicting the wedding of Fidel and the Virgin of Charity, La Virgen de la Caridad, lends itself to a variety of interpretations, although I would defy anyone to miss the mockery implicit in the work.

If as TS Elliot once said artists are the antennae of civilization, Radio Marti is not the
only thing being jammed. So would I go out of my way to see it? Nope. Would I go see the absolutely world class permanent collection of the Old Masters? In a heartbeat. And don't forget the Butcher photos and the Goya exhibit while you're there.