Descriptive Hardship / Rosa Maria Rodriguez

An acquaintance of mine traded his one-and-a-half-room apartment for an even smaller one and a little cash, to ease his alcoholism and misery. I never entered his house and so I was unaware of his poverty. His furniture looked like shabby junk, which was probably — as in most Cuban houses — bought before the triumph of this guerrilla model that installed itself in power in 1959 and has been there ever since.

An oily film covers the surface of the dresser that was perhaps once covered in formica, the dilapidated cabinet narrates a history of old age and over use, as do his mattress and the remains of his sofa and Russian washing machine–from which he had to amputate the dryer–which are as revealing as the speeches of the Cuba’s leaders, their words blurred by neglect and demagoguery.

During the move, he took out a yellowed nylon bag with a ton of black-and-white photos to show his companions how beautiful the apartment had been when his father moved in 1958. Then the furniture seemed alive and the walls still wore an attractive and aesthetic coat of paint. Monochromatic sentiments showing the nostalgia on his face, pummeled by frustration and liquor.

His drinking buddies helped him carry out his things and let them in the sun for an hour waiting for transport. They were a dozen addicts invited to show “solidarity” and encouraged by rum, which served as fuel to maintain their enthusiasm. A truck from the thirties carried a part of the “skimpy” patrimony to the “new house,” which was clearly built before the Castro government and which sheltered, as in many other homes in Cuba, the ethyl-alcohol scandals of that part of society that drowns its disappointments and miseries with a cheap sulfuric homemade rum which is all they can afford.

The alcohol solidarity brigade turned themselves over to the care of the liquid treasure left int he bottle. The emptying of this was the shot that ripped through their own hardships accumulated over decades of governmental injustices, apathy, anti-democratic subjugation and social exhaustion. The delirium tremens, or tremendous delirium of trying to trick societies all the time with drunken ideological and economic theories, has failed worldwide.

Perhaps, in the quiet of their homes, before the bottle gives them the knockout blow, they pull from their personal yellowed plastic bags of history, photos that bear witness to that fact that once–before addiction had them tied by the neck–these were their houses and this was their country, before this evil government drove it to ruin.

17 April 2014

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Soldiers of Information / Rosa Maria Rodriguez

On March 14, the Cuban press spent another day with more grief than glory. Like previous years, some media guerrillas pledged to do more critical journalism. I wonder with whom. With society and grassroots leaders? So not fair! To criticize anyone but those responsible for the devastation of Cuba seems to be the motto of the soldiers of the media, because nobody wants to jeopardize their job and perks, which translated back to 1959 Cuban means, “let death take another.” The key is given by the fifty-five years of the of the Castro dictatorship in general and by the forty-seven of the original  dictator, who left the national caudillista scar of “as I say,” in a trail of verbal violence, disrespect and discrimination towards those who think differently. Then, what or who to criticize? Capitalism, of course, the United States, and all who are not aligned or sympathetic to the so-called Revolution.

The group is power always had ears receptive to their own interests and deaf to the real demands of society. The monopoly of information in Cuba is in the hands of the state, which officially prohibits the circulation of independent publications, freedom of association and a multiparty system.

The most chilling test starred the journalist Arleen Rodriguez around 2005, in the days when the price of a kilowatt had risen. On a visit by Fidel Castro to The Roundtable show in which she participated, she complained about the high price of electricity in front of him, and he, clearly annoyed, and with the veiled threat of “your husband is my friend,” appeared the following day at the beginning of the program, with a written text to make no mistake nor to say a single letter more than needed, and clarify that “what she wanted to express was…” It goes without saying, the writer and poet Heberto Padilla, founder of the Origins group, who in the 1960s was made to publicly denounce his peers and commit harakiri with a blade rusted by extortion.

Personally, I reaffirm what I have said before, that while our communication professionals do not have and feel the freedom to express what they really want and that concerns some or all of the people, there will be no true information transparency that facilitates and stimulates the freedom of expression of the workers in the industry and of the society in general. From themselves, without changing the violence that ended the democratic structures, which remain in order to perpetuate themselves in power and a dependent and manipulated press, couldn’t obtain what the leaders of the government want: instead of “dropping political flirtations” to the model in the Cuban media, creating the props for a media theater to send the world the false messages that there is freedom in Cuba.

25 March 2014

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Farewell, Adolfo Suarez / Rosa Maria Rodriguez

Adolfo Suárez, lawyer and Catholic Spanish politician, finally extended his hand to us in a physical goodbye. From now on, we will resort to memory, to photos and videos, to salute with a kind gesture his unwavering gallantry in the fight for democracy in his country. History records him as the architect of the Spanish transition.

For me he himself is the foundation and pillar of the magnificent democracy and of the whole process of political development taking place there after the death of Francisco Franco. As a public man and decent statesman, he worked for reconciliation between the Spanish, to eradicate the dictatorial vestiges in Spain and to help lift his country, not to put it on its knees, and dictators and their supporters in uniform usually do.

His warm smile as a gentle man, a leader with no rancor, who didn’t hide behind the knife of vengeance, but the embrace of reconciliation, earned him the respect of the whole world. He led the formation of a democratic monarchy and gave lessons in respect for the institutions and the laws with the alternation of power that has been maintainedfrom1976 to today.

We Cubans, who have suffered a dictatorship for fifty-five years that defeated another dictatorship of seven years to remain in power longer and ruin Cuba, value the moral stature of politicians who serve their countries and their societies, not those who use the pedestal, as Jose Marti say, to rise about the others.

I remember during my childhood how the Cuban dictator criticized the caudillo of El Ferrol [Francisco Franco] for his years in power and with the passing of time broke the record for being installed in the highest position in Cuba.

Democratic societies are in mourning these days for the eternal rest of this citizen and politician who showed the world that intentions “are demonstrated” in deeds, they are not “shown” with words. May he rest in peace this illustrious son of Spain and exemplary disciple of democracy.

27 March 2014

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Abuses at the Border / Rosa Maria Rodriguez

Image from Kubafotos

On March 7th I returned to Cuba from Miami and they seized seventy pounds of food from me. I doesn’t matter that I bought the ticket at the travel agency, sent the money and packages to my Country through “Go Cuba,” which is rumored to belong to the Cuban government and that currently offers 100 pounds free of charge. It was a traumatic flight on a Gulfstream Air Charter, for which we checked in to the terminal in Miami at 9:00 AM and left for Havana twelve and a half hours later.

Even before the new travel and immigration law went into force in January last year, for an ordinary Cuba to face the predators at customs, is not a setback when it comes time leave for abroad. The problems arise when you come home with the “junk” and other material needs to relieve some personal and family shortages with some of the “enemy’s money” in your purse.

The foreigners and Cubans living abroad run into the same luck when they travel to Cuba. It’s the government of my country that has converted the capital’s Jose Marti Airport into a stress chamber, psychological torture and extortion border for many travelers coming to this country.

I imagine the same happens with the other air terminals around the country. You have to face the arbitrariness, helplessness and caprice of a raw crude tyranny, where the law is an exhibitionist who walks naked through the streets and the airfields, nothing more. A return with the excitement of a reunion and here they seize our things with enthusiasm.

I returned melancholy about the family I was leaving behind, but compensation by the reunion with the family I founded almost 32 years ago: my two sons and my husband anxiously awaiting my return, who had announced they would be picking me up. I was among the first to get off the plane and also to collect my bags when they were spit out from the belly of the plane.

As I was going through the last control they announced the seizure. The food that my mother and sister, people with low resources living in Miami, had collected for months, was stolen by the Cuban border officials with their complex cheating Chinese-style thievery. Is it true that the authorities make laws so convoluted in order to facilitate the corruption of their officials, or were they “sent to kill” by the political police? And if so, why?

What did I do or say that upset them so much that they took reprisals on my arrival in Cuba? I told them everything humanly possible based on what I’d been told by General Customs of the Republic in New Vedado, whom I consulted repeatedly prior to leaving and whose telephone number is 881-9723.

I replied, but I couldn’t insist too much to avoid their taking reprisals and making it worse. It seems that the customs laws are one thing and those at the airport are something else. Even so, they tried to coerce me into saying I’d brought a router, which is simply prohibited to Cuban citizens to import.

Before my argument–which showed evidence of computer skills– that it was a wireless car, they chose to remain silent without consulting a specialist to confirm my explanation. Or is it, that thought I was meek and were pressuring me to upset me and get even more advantages? The other lady they also took things from that night broke into tears at the announcement of the confiscation. As she was an elderly lady, the attended to her quickly and gave her special treatment to avoid a medical emergency. She is living in Miami, and like me, was not allowed to pay for excess baggage.

However, behind us the people on the same plane went through the door laughing with their carts piled higher than ours, leaving behind officials who had attended them with smiling faces.

The sent me off to a corner of the terminal and punished me by making me stand there for three hours. They ignored that I’d been traveling since 9:00 AM in the Miami airport. When the airport emptied of passengers, the chief came with a gentleman with a green sack into which they threw all my mother’s and sister’s food. Looking at the color of the bag I could only think that it was a messages. I left there about one o’clock in the morning.

It wouldn’t surprise me if in a short time they make widespread the pillaging of the suitcases which weigh a certain amount when the tourists leave home and weigh “a few kilos more” per capita when they land at Cuban airports.

In addition to the confiscation, they fined me 1,450 pesos and to told me that I had a month to claim it. I decided that despite my indignation, I’m not going to challenge the customs authorities, because in Cuba there is not a State of Law. Nor will I put myself in the orbit of the bureaucracy and complicity with the entities in the industry, because all that happens when you engage with such machinery is that you wear yourself out. Also because the situation can occur that “winning” the case sends the wrong message about my commitments and loyalities.

This new setback only reaffirms for me that I’m on the right track when it comes time to fight and denounce the arbitrariness of a dictatorship that’s teetering. My appetites are freedom, democracy and social justice for Cuba, which contrasts with the petty and unjust greed of those who, like the customs workers, symbolize the “boogeyman,” stealing the pants off the trapped travelers through questionable and abusive legal figures. Bon appetit!

20 March 2014

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Barriers Because of Indolence / Rosa Maria Rodriguez

Several years ago we often heard talk in the Cuban media about architectural barriers. Eliminating them is a goal injected some years ago in our national actions and lexicon by the teams of town criers from the government, who have tuned their radar pay attention to campaigns undertaken by international agencies like the UN, FAO, UNESCO, WHO, PHO, etc., in order to blow their own horn without muting their propaganda and showing those entities and the world the achievements of the 50-year revolution.

Since childhood I have heard reference to the immodesty of people who praise themselves, using the phrase: “they doh’t have a grandma.”  Such lack of humility corresponds in many respects with the boastful conduct of the Cuban government.

The eradication of architectural obstacles is a consideration that many countries have incorporated into their urban aesthetic and laws, and they quietly implement them out of respect for the mothers who travel the streets with their baby strollers, the physically disabled who cross in wheelchairs and the rights and quality of life of others in general.

Here they made of that project a cloying campaign with which they saturated — among other always present historical-political themes — our communications media and showed it on television with such enthusiasm that it seemed a native initiative. The lack of information is a blindfold that limits the capacity of Cubans to freely think and discern.

The aspiration, in Cuba, of fixing in pitfalls of the streets and sidewalks in our neighborhoods is great, but it advances little and badly.  Of course there are exceptions, but generally the ramps that they put on the corners to climb to the sidewalks constitute an obstruction themselves because of how misshapen and badly made they are.

And don’t mention the number of broken sidewalks that we have seen in different parts of our city for decades!  They symbolize the architectural barriers because of indolence that belie and disprove the good will of the leaders of this subject.

It seems that the authorities quickly grabbed this international baton  to direct the orchestra of bungling and mediocrity, but they noticed later that the project required the investment of great quantities of cement, an important exportable item for the state for years.

In short, that campaign initiated years ago in our country, like so many other matters, became more tall story than movie.  It is regrettable that they have converted all of Cuba into a country of obstacles.  That’s why we don’t stop advocating for the project of eliminating physical, moral and legal obstacles that impede the travel of Cubans through our streets, but also of all those that cloud our senses, blind our comprehension of the world and prevent us from inserting ourselves, in full use of our sovereign faculties, in the concert of the world’s democratic countries.

Translated by mlk.

5 December 2013

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The Rice Boobytrap / Rosa Maria Rodriguez

Image Courtesy of

Count on earthworm remains, bits of assorted garbage, tiny jaw-breaking pebbles, and the odd piece of moon rock mixed inside the minute ration of the people’s rice being offered by the State; this is the quota for December which was released for sale November 30 in the bodegas (ration stores) in Vibora and everywhere else.  Go figure why the government chose December — a time when many families celebrate various Christmas or New Years gatherings and meals — to get rid of a large portion of dirty and off-color rice more fit for bird than human consumption.  All that the store manager at my “designated” bodega could say was that the grain crop available was from Pinar del Río (West of Havana) and was the only rice supply being distributed to consumers in the Tenth of October (Diez de Octubre) municipality of Havana.

I went to another local bodega and got the same song and dance.  My gripe upset a neighbor to the degree that I got scolded for taking a stance.  I was soon reminded how some brownie point seeking official would be chomping at the bit for the opportunity to nag us for hours on end — and pep-rally style — about the great job the State does for the people by providing free rice.  Beyond that, we would also get some impromptu group shouting slogans thanking the Department of the Interior for poultry, pig or any other State farm for giving us such piss poor quality products.  Fine.  But nearly inedible State products are unnerving: Cuban family members trying to put decent food staples on the table are forced to endure unbelievably time-consuming and exhausting hardships just to make a meal edible.

Most exasperating of all: Why can’t rice ever be “deregulated” so restrictions can be lifted and we can buy whatever we would like or can afford to pay?  Instead, like helpless slaughterhouse pigs, we always get the same condescending mantra: “Eat the stuff or eat the stuff.”  For consumers, the outrage ultimately becomes subsumed in listless apathy — or oddly enough — a pact of collective silence when the State decides to run roughshod over our rights.  Almost imperceptibly, people do murmur. Many are alarmed the local rice crop might suffer the same fate as our potato production when a substantial Cuban government subsidy to Bolivia all but eliminated potatoes from our sight for most of 2013.

An elderly neighbor tried to console me by saying, “Listen: If you cook it, it’ll taste O.K.”  But honestly, after wasting three whole hours sifting and washing rice to clean the grain, I could care less about the flavor, the quality, or whatever the rice’s appellation of origin might be.

Translated by: JCD

3 December 2013

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Towards a Just Cause

Heberprot-P 75  Human recombinant epidermal growth factor

Heber Biotec, S.A. Havana, Cuba

Last November, a group of Cubans and part of the exiled Cuban community living in the United States, co-published a document named A Humanitarian Appeal  which I already submitted here. Given the importance of the publication and level of interest shown by many who still wish to add their names to the petition, I am submitting the link directly:

Translated by: JCD

12 December 2013

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