The Means and the End / Regina Coyula

Much has been written about Zunzuneo and Piramideo and I’m not going to be an analyst. My reflection is simple: Could a mass messaging through Twitter subvert governments like those of Great Britain, Canada, France, Australia, Sweden, Costa Rica?

Beyond the well-known 15-M (May 15th) protests in  Spain, the student movement in Chile, and Occupy Wall Street in the very belly of the beast, the social networks have mobilized, have probably knocked down politicians, but they haven’t knocked down governments.

Where does this turn into a dangerous thing? In countries where a bad economy, lack of freedoms, or both, create the conditions. The Arab Spring is the best known referent. The displeasure of the Cuban government is not about the alleged violation of the telephone privacy of its citizens (that would be a colossal joke)  but precisely because the government knows very well the express or buried opinions of much of its citizens about the bad economy, the lack of freedoms, or both, and what they least want is that a significant group of them would organize themselves through this means.

And also, I believe, reacting in the face of the launch of Yoani Sanchez’s announced project–a new digital newspaper–a “means” that could align the feelings of citizens in response to the bad economy, the lack of freedoms, or both.

9 April 2014

Photophobia / Regina Coyula

According to the still very useful UTEHA dictionary, photophobia is a medical term which means discomfort or pain to the eyes due to light. But the photophobia of my story has nothing to do with medical apprehension, but rather with social apprehension.

More and more I am hearing about people who want to take photos in public places and are told that it’s prohibited. It’s not a matter of taking photos of military units or the movement of troops, no. On a public street, in a pharmacy, in the agro-market, in a maternity hospital, in a night club, a stern employ arrives who threatens the photographer, who, generally, abides by the absurd order.

This paranoia can’t be spontaneous, it has to obey “training passed down”, where behind every camera lens could be hiding, horror!, an independent journalist, which is to say, a CIA agent.

The citizens, of course, say that in order to have legal force, the said prohibition has to be clear and very visible, and be endorsed by a resolution and not by the caprice of an administrator, director or the police.

If there is nothing to hide, why the fear?

 Translated by Regina Anavy

2 April 2014

Confused Phrase / Regina Coyula

“Revolution is to shape ethical principles.” I repeat from memory a phrase I heard today in the press. Attributed to Fidel Castro, I’m not too sure if it forms a part of a well-known fragment of one of his speeches (Revolution is…). A phrase in the midst of the corruption, laziness, the poor quality of education, the visible lack of an education that governs relationships among young people–and those not so young–the patterns of the political police harassing the dissidence.

An incomplete list but sufficient. The so-called Revolution not only doesn’t shape new ethical principles; it lambastes the existing ones for being “bourgeois.” The irony: the Revolution ended years ago, and ethical principles are degraded to the point where it will take several generations to restore them.

To say it in the official way: this is neither the time nor the place to wield a phrase so devoid of content.

26 March 2014

Sociology of Transport / Regina Coyula

My acquaintances in public transport like Ms.C tells me that we are now facing another cyclical crisis in urban transport. In the rush hours you see bus stops which are full up and people hanging about in queues 50 metres long and who are trying to guess where the bus is going to pull up, which, you can be sure, will not be at the stop.

The “blues” and “yellows” we used to see have disappeared, those inspectors authorised to stop public transport and organise passengers wanting to get on. In contrast, lots of fairly empty buses associated with work places, pass the crammed-full bus stops, one after the other, giving rise to lots of colorful comments on the subject of the privileged few.

In the face of this phenomenon, I always ask myself whether it wouldn’t be better if this semi private transport were incorporated into the public transport, but as a dear acquaintance says to me: The “Razonamil* I’m taking must have too strong an effect.

The irritation of buses whizzing past just adds to other frustrations, every one of  which is a burden. Therefore, waiting for a bus and, if you can manage to get on, listening to how everyone in there gives vent – even if briefly – to his individual view of the process of modernisation of the economy, and how it provokes immediate reactions from other passengers, is a good thermometer, even though it may be that the general “reaction” is one of indifference.

Looking at the passengers’ faces doesn’t show you a happy society. Some of them pass the journey dozing, even though they are standing up; the younger ones often cut themselves off with their earphones or, on the other hand form noisy groups and are often abusive if people protest.

Most of the passengers are men and they are also the majority sitting down. Rucksacks, baskets, briefcases and parcels which seem to be heavy, take up a space which is already insufficient for the passengers. Gaunt faces, acrid smells, verbal violence in response to the slightest incident. And the heat is the last straw in this micro world.

*Translator’s note: “Razonamil” is a joke, a fake name of a drug that makes Regina “see reason”.

Translated by GH

28 March 2014

A Brief Dictionary of Cuban Newspeak / Regina Coyula

Production — that is true production — this country does not produce, but in the matter of being creative with language, we are champions.  Psychologists are at the head of the invention of words, as if our language were sparing of synonyms.  The bureaucracy cannot be more creative with abbreviations, but the press, the press has specialized in euphemisms.  I invite you to add words to this incipient list.

Newspeak / real meaning

jinetera (jocky) = female prostitute

pinguero (penis provider) = male prostitute

to struggle = to steal

diversion of resources = embezzlement

missing = misappropriation

extractions = evictions

physical disappearance = important death

self-employed = private worker

factors = participants

internationalism = Cuban participation in other countries’ issues

interference  = foreign countries’ participation in other countries’ issues

temporary facilities = ¿housing?

semi-bus = truck used to carry passengers

modernization = leave me alone and go play somewhere else

Translated by mlk.

11 March 2014

Snipped / Regina Coyula

Like anyplace else, a successful business has many ingredients. Here many have failed because they engaged in activities they knew nothing about. But others prosper, become very visible, and then fall under the evil gaze of those who would give up an eye if they could see a neighbor get screwed over.

A quiet street of Nuevo Vedado had frequently become jammed with people, all wanting to buy at La Fontanella, a bakery that began modestly but then put up an eye-catching lighted sign. What began as a business in part of a house became exclusively a factory and sales outlet, with rotating shifts, open to the public from nine in the morning until nine at night.

Such prosperity drew attention and/or aggravation, and Monday dawned this week to find the business closed. The commentaries are various: stolen flour; workers walking off; problems with the ownership of the old family home, now converted into a bakery. The truth is that La Fontanella had become a troublesome twig on that bonsai which Minister Murillo, and the updating of the economic model, had designed to be kept well pruned.

Translated by Tomás A.

7 March 2014

Citizens-in-waiting / Regina Coyula

Photo: Luz Escobar

My country is so devoid of citizen initiatives, citizens live convinced that the “citizen” itself is a pejorative and almost criminal term used by the police, so how can they imagine that the word is not only beautiful, but that it has erotic overtones: the citizen-sovereign is he who elects his representatives and removes then if he is not served by them. In this “democracy” that we suffer we have managed to reverse the terms, so these “whatever” slogans and others in disuse lacking a rhythm and the name of the actual leader come into play.

And so, sick to death of these ever repeating slogans, the ailing citizen continues on not knowing who he is, braving the incessant drip of problems that define his life, where he is a victim, hero, anonymous or villain; not understanding, submerged in the everyday, that he will be the star of the democratic transition.

Standing in front of a shop window, looking in a mirror, or facing an abuse of power, the citizen ends up realizing who he is.

Between the cryptic and the serious, I wanted to greet the appearance of the Constitutional Roadmap, which is complementary to the Campaign for the signing of the UN Covenants (without tarnishing other proposals I don’t know of or that don’t interest me: more is better) they seem to me to be good fertilizer for the citizen-in-waiting.

26 February 2014