Studying Medicine and Desecrating Tombs in Cuba/ Juan Juan Almeida

•April 22, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Since 1948, when the UN decided to adopt the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, many organizations and activists of the world have hoisted that dignified flag confronting the daily violations of liberty, justice and peace that many people suffer for the simple fact of their human condition.

Unfortunately, in several corners of this jungle that we call Earth, human rights entered a dark period due to the infinite apathy of many of its residents.  Barbarity is like our daily bread, and that makes it more or less normal.

In my country, for example, the topic is always a subject of controversy and debate; but today, I will not make reference to the rights of the living; I will speak of those who no longer exist, of our forebears, who are not the monkey, the Ardipithecus or the Australopithcus; but my mother and your grandfather.

Skulls, teeth, tibias, ribs, femurs, mandibles, vertebrae, pelvises; it is all found at the cemetery gate.  The desecration of graves has gone from being a horrible act of vandalism to an almost daily event.

But, "why is the toti always saddled with the blame for everything*"; uninformed metaphorics and made up know-it-alls, instead of finding out at the time of judging, they launch the accusing roar towards the many practitioners of Afro-Cuban religions who make up our folklore and form part of our cultural heritage.

In Santeria and witchcraft there are very but very isolated rites that require a human skeleton; there also exist artisans who buy bones in order to construct objects with them that they sell for the price of gold; but the absolutely responsible party for this atrocity against our dear ones is, as always, the State.

Ad nauseum the thought is drilled into us that since 1959, the development of medicine has been the principal priority of the revolutionary government, and in fact, Cuba boasts the highest physician-inhabitant ratio in the world.  Thousands of doctors are graduated each year on the island, and I tell you, each of these students, without regard to race, color, sex, language or religion (come on, like human rights), receives a bag with a skull and parts of human skeletal remains that if insufficient to study anatomy, then they get a card that they present at Cuban cemeteries in order to exhume from among the graves without owners the remains of those who in life were relatives of the unnamed, emigrated and exiled dead.

In order to have a slight idea of the desecrated graves, we would have to compare the number of bags delivered with the gross rate of Cuban mortality which, according to the reference published by the UN and sent by Havana, was 7.6 in 2012.  The same year in which — according to the extensive editorial by the website Cubadebate — the largest of the Antilles Islands trained more than 11,000 new doctors, 5,315 Cubans and 5,694 from 59 countries.  Scary.  I do not favor statistics when I write, nevertheless the exception deserves it.

Just a day like today, April 7, but in 1985, one of the most renowned Cuban visual artists, Rene Portocarrero, died.  His remains . . . I do not want to even think where they might be.

*Translator’s note: In "good Cuban" the expression is: “porqué la culpa de todo, siempre la carga el totí."  It means several things: that someone small always ends up being accused of what others did, or that the blame always falls on the same notorious people regardless or whether or not they were actually involved, and also, that black people always get blamed for things. The totí (a.k.a. Cuban Blackbird) is a small black bird from the Cuban countryside that is notorious for eating crops and other human foods.

Translated by mlk.

10 April 2014

Presences, Absences / Juan Juan Almeida

•April 20, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Having no choice, the press has presented a ton of coverage of the VIII Congress of the Cuban Writers and Artists Union (UNEAC), which concluded with the presence of Army General Raul Castro, and  which affirmed during the different discussions that the culture is committed to the Revolutionary forces to implement in every sector of the country the “new Cuban model.”

And, as “a picture is worth a thousand words,” taking a look at the published photos, we see the main auditorium of the Palace of Conventions with an audience only comparable to an overbooked hotel during Holy Week; the faces of those present reflect boredom, absence and “I don’t care.”

The curious note of the Congress was that, like someone coming out of the closet. the General defined himself as “the absolute enemy of unanimity.” So he leaves us to wonder if he understood what he said, or said it without thinking?

16 April 2014

Cuba: Changes Come, Although the General May Not Want Them To / Juan Juan Almeida

•April 18, 2014 • Leave a Comment

For more than half a century, the Cuban Revolution developed exclusively inspired by the powerful and omnipresent archetype Fidel Castro.  An image that no longer exists or is hidden is the dressing rooms of the current political-economic-social theater. That is why when someone asks me if there exist in Cuba objective and subjective conditions for forging change, I always begin by saying: It depends on what we understand and want to assume by “Change.”

It is clear that the so extended process called the Cuban Revolution did not lead to a more just or prosperous or inclusive society, but to a strange and irrational collapse that still endures. The seizure of all powers, judicial and executive, did away with the legal protection of the citizen, and imposed apathy and fear; like that singular combination that exists between a cup of coffee with milk and a piece of bread with butter.

The old Asian theory that speaks of two elements is the basis of the idea that all phenomena of the universe are the result of the movement and mutation of various categories.  The good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, the yin and the yang.

The presence of the Ministry of Foreign Relations, the chief of the political department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, and the misguided intervention of the President of the Republic of Cuba in the closing event of the recently held Eighth Congress of UNEAC was a terrible implementation of this old theory, and a disastrous strategy for showing the authority of the Government and the State, and at the same time it tried to reconquer the intelligentsia that as we all now know appears because of obstinacy, compromise, inertia or boredom, but that for some time, due to these same reasons, distanced itself from the Revolution.

The island’s government, upon the prompt and unstoppable disappearance if its leader-guide-priest and example, manages to entertain by talking of transformation while it intimidates us, leaving very clear the place of each in its chain of command.Many times we have seen dissident voices that issue from within the island repressed using mental patients with disorders like bi-polar and schizophrenia that without adequate medication exhibit extremely violent behaviors.  Outrageous.

I ask myself what the representatives of international organizations do, or what  those sensitive and passionate people who decided to defend vehemently and peevishly the Hippocratic oath say, on learning that the mentally ill are used as deadly weapons.

On April 14, 1912, the Titanic, at that time the safest boat in the world, crashed into an iceberg, and while it was sinking, the orchestra played.  In all ways, whether the general wants it or not, change is coming, although I have to admit that since 2008, the man has exerted himself in confusing us with an imaginary and mythological climate of national improvements and radical reforms; on one hand he shows several political prisoners, and on the other he hides political prisoners from us (here the order of the factors does alter the product).

According to the Marxist bible, the Communist Manifesto, a transformation of the structure of the classes demands a change in the social order and a political revolution.

La Habana decided to wind up its old and rusted clock because it had turned into quite the brake.

Translated by mlk.

14 April 2014

The Recently Elected General Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas Hides Behind the Press and His Oldest Son / Juan Juan Almeida

•April 7, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Oh Jesus, our only consolation in times of sorrow, our only consolation sustain us in the immense vacuum that…!

Today I woke up praying, asking for the rest of the fast-paced, almost dead, but still alive Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Callejas. Parasite with a beautiful face and expensive clothes, recently promoted to general. He knows full well that this olive branch is the final blow.

With more fear than money, Luis Alberto walks prudently, as I said a few days ago, gripping the armrests of his battered old couch. Having beaten Deborah Castro to the point of putting her in the hospital, he is more vulnerable than a manatee at the North Pole. No father accepts this; and much less so if he is the “Godfather” of a formidable clan, because as they say in Sicily, the Camorra doesn’t forgive.

This significant promotion has at least a couple of purposes and one reading; to distract our attention, and bring Lopez-Callejas to paroxysm of despair making real the torment of being between pride and terror.

We can think, speak, and insinuate and put our heads together; but faced with such cases we must never forget that the January 1, 1984, Maj. Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa Sanchez publicly received the distinction of Hero of the Republic of Cuba, the highest honor awarded by the Council of State. And only 5 years later, on July 13, 1989, he was shot by a makeshift firing squad by the sea, by the decision of Raul and a military tribunal.

Chance or coincidence, a few years after the execution of Ochoa, Alejandro, his only son, died in suspicious accident; but I don’t even want to talk about this out of respect for people I love. But I have to admit that a few weeks ago just when I finished writing an article under the title “The powerful former son of Raul Castro, into exile” a great friend (family of the General) whom I prefer to keep more hidden than groin of a nun, had the wisdom to warn “As you publish this, you’re only protecting Luis Alberto and dragging out what for him is inevitable.”

Indeed, only the press can shield Luis Alberto today, and he clings to his best and only wild card, Raul Guillermo Rodriguez Castro (his eldest son), who although he is the favorite grandson of the Cuban leader generates frequent discord within of the royal family, because this arrogant boy, with the well sculpted athletic body, fed certain addictions that build gradually.

The road to Cuban power is paved with hypocrisy and victims. The recently sanctioned General Rodríguez López-Callejas is at the center of a hurricane at the mercy of Raul Castro’s clock, and his son Alejandro, who without any hurry, calculating, calm and meticulous waits for the exact moment to activate the guillotine which, during the unexpected storm of some morning, will fall on his neck and like the curtain in a theater and put a final end to the terrible work of his short eternity.

19 March 2014

Cuba: Genetics, Elites, and Emigrant Children / Juan Juan Almeida

•April 3, 2014 • 1 Comment

Some months ago, someone who does not wish to be named because she is closely related to a high level Cuban leader, called me and told me that she had finished living her first and very unhappy American experience.  Her voice sounded ragged, with the irregular breaths that usually accompany crying.

Bilingual, university graduate, pretty, well prepared and much better raised, she applied for a job and found as an answer: Your last name is vetoed here, we don’t want any trouble. I told her, “Don’t worry, when someone destroys our dream, life always fixes it to help us build another one much better.”

I believe that so I managed to calm her; but today I need catharsis after seeing the hubbub generated in the local press by the arrival in Miami of the young Havanan named Josué Colomé Vazquez, the son of the Cuban vice-president and minister of the interior, General Abelardo Colomé Ibarra.

It is true that since there is no gossip press on the island, the lives of certain people who make up that clouded high society generates a curiosity that approaches morbidity and gives life to hunters who with mandibular exercise seek to call our attention shooting relentlessly at the so-called elite who because of non-programmed genetics were born with certain privileges.

Needless to say, with exceptions, this so attractive demographic group that includes many relatives of leaders of the Cuban revolution, does not decide to emigrate because of feeling persecuted or for political reasons; they do it because of fashion, eccentricity, or to study and one day return home with the honorific baggage of an American residence and some ultra-flamboyant title.  Also to improve their personal economy and/or look for more stable places than Havana in which to reverse the syndrome of generalized apathy that is produced by not knowing where we are going… In short, the reasons vary by those who come, ninety miles further north, this galaxy that many call “Daddy’s kids.”

Are they simply opportunists?  God save me from judging, although I agree that they are taking advantage of Public Law 89-732, “The Cuban Adjustment Act” which offers refuge and opportunity to Cubans in this country, the United States. The same law and opportunity of which so many Cuban emigrants (the term exile sounds a bit more cruel to me) make use of.

It is not good to outlaw so much. He who is free of sin come and ask me for a few. Is it necessary to clarify that, although to many it seems an act of high patriotism, stealing an airplane, a boat or raiding a warehouse in order to steal loaves of bread, without being hungry or needy, are not political issues but common crimes?

Look, on March 31, 1589, the fortification works of Havana began to come into being, directed by the engineer, military architect and Italian builder Bautista Antonelli, and by field marshall Juan de Tejeda who was governor of Cuba from 1589 to 1593.  An excellent anniversary to think of building a better country, where judging is an act of law, the guilty pay for their crimes and not for being sons or nephews. Reconsidering it bodes well.

1 April 2014

The Cuban Parliament Interrupts Its Eternal Vacation / Juan Juan Almeida

•March 31, 2014 • Leave a Comment

In a small editorial, the newspaper Granma reported that, in accordance with Article 90, section (a) of the current Constitution, the State Council of the Republic of Cuba agreed to convene a special session of the National Assembly of Popular Power to consider the draft Law on Foreign Investment.

Wow, even in that there is apartheid! Wouldn’t it be better to reconvene to establish the rights of Cuban entrepreneurs? I don’t know why I bother if Cubans already know that in this strange debate the MPs only attend to shout in unison “Aye.”

20 March 2014

Homage to an Absentee / Juan Juan Almeida

•March 31, 2014 • Leave a Comment

The truth is that Cuba continues to be more surrealist than André Breton himself. You would think that only in the theater could an absent honoree be honored; but no, a recent tribute organized by the Archdiocese of Havana for the eminent professor Carmelo Mesa Lago on the occasion of his 80th birthday had to take place without the presence of the honoree, after the Cuban authorities denied him entry to the island.

Anyway, (to paraphrase the saying from Don Giuseppe Lampedusa’s novel The Leopard) in Cuba they changed everything so that nothing changes.

Translated by Tomás A.

20 March 2014


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