Releases / Regina Coyula

(Published on BBC Mundo 17 December)

It didn’t fail to surprise me although I wasn’t taken unawares. I’d said among friends, who called me crazy, that Gross and the three wouldn’t be exchanged, that without Human Rights there would be no relations.

I respected the point, but I recalled the politics are cooked up with subtle ingredients that don’t appear in the news (much less the news in the newspaper Granma) but there were indications and because of these indications the news of the year didn’t come out of nowhere.

Now, with Gross in the United States and the three in Cuba, the implementation of the conversations that have taken place begin, conversations that open a parenthesis for a calm transition in which the successors of the nomenklatura live with peace of mind and even participate, if they want, in the multiparty politics that will come.

Before the announcement, workers speculated about what its contents would be.

I don’t believe everyone is happy, neither in the government nor in the dissidence, but the doctor, the closeness of the patient, shouldn’t cloud the judgement when the time comes to made a diagnosis.

The economy, as we know, is very pragmatic, American investors will weigh the risk in numbers and not in violations of human rights.

The Cuban government, for its part, needs to normalize its relations with the neighbor to the north and anxiously await new capital. The Mariel Special Development Zone (ZEDM) will finally fulfill the function for which it was conceived.

Civil society needs to take advantage of this undoubtedly favorable junction to deepen the struggle to establish a true State of rights.

For my part, I think that today, 17 December 2014, opens a new stage in the long journey of Cuba to insert itself among the modern and democratic countries.

19 December 2014

The Challenges of Young People / Regina Coyula

When vast disagreements exist, dialogue and respectful discussion especially generate questions for the present and future. We were accustomed to the language of the barricade, where anything that didn’t align with the Holy Trinity (motherland, revolution and socialism) was as heretic as in the times of the Inquisition. There were enormous ideological fires that any newcomer or forgetful person should never doubt; he/she must only pay close attention to the embers and sparks that still rise.

The issue becomes complicated with the rise of a trendy lack of social discipline. The youth, whose responsibility to govern will come in a historically short period of time, is educated with videoclasses with no educational supervision and “emerging teachers” who barely have the advantage of three to four years more instruction than those they are teaching. With this deficiency in instruction, whatever one doesn’t learn at home, becomes increasingly difficult to learn at school.

It infuriates me to hear people say, “In my time…”, although I had professors who imposed their experiences, demeanor and ethics as soon as they entered the classroom. In addition to instruction, I received an education in school that reinforced the influence of my family on my development. Now, those who may not have good models at home, model their behavior to the beat of popular artists and telenovelas (soap operas), because those behaviors are neither learned in a manual nor from a class on television. Under the illusions of so much patriotism, the youth get just as excited about the anthem of Real Madrid as they do with that of Bayamo.

It will be complicated to discuss the course of this country in context when the youngest members of this nation are (at last) in charge of government. They learned that all you had to do to lead and tame people was to raise your voice and a finger along with a group of ideas-turned-slogans (or are they slogans disguised as ideas?). With those few elements, they said, one could corral the people. I don’t have any contempt for them; I was also once naive and easily convinced.

No one ever taught them how to express themselves in a simple and original way. Pay close attention, if you don’t believe me, to the way youth of any age and background mumble heavy diction, one cliché after another, whenever they speak in public. I noticed this months ago in the Ebola doctors, fifteen days ago in the athletes of the Juegos Centroamericanos [Central American Games], last week in the students of CUAJE or yesterday in the innovators and reasoners.

I can’t allow myself, however, to be a pessimist. With a lot of shame, I borrowed from José Martí. The shame doesn’t come from his greatness, but from the poor who have been bustled about from here to there. Despite the shame, I take what I borrowed as an ethical guide. That’s why I have faith in the improvement of humanity, in future life and the utility of virtue, and in you. I want to say that I believe in the youth who unknowingly prepare for their moment.

Translated by: Gloribel Rivas

5 December 2014

Reactions that won’t appear on the news / Regina Coyula

I was in the salon stretching my feet, and although some of the women there had never heard a thing about Alan Gross and acknowledged their inability to recite the names of “The Five,” the news of the re-establishment of relations with the United States was greeted with jubilation by that heterogeneous group, and yes, there was unanimity in that. While one threw kisses to the image of Obama on Telesur, I had to slightly cool the enthusiasim of those who thought (and it was more than a few) that reestablishing relations and lifting the embargo were the same thing.

The best was the only male, a young man who was getting a complicated haircut with designs. The triumphant boy rose from his seat at the risk of ruining the hairdresser’s work and raised his arms as if he’d scored a goal, with the phrase: “This is our Berlin Wall!”

17 December 2014

The Story Behind the History / Regina Coyula

I share, here, a curious fact related to yesterday’s anniversary of Maceo’s death. Almost everyone believes that Panchito Gomez Toro fell fighting alongside him. Panchito was out of commission from having been wounded in an earlier battle. On learning of the death of his admired mentor, he abandoned the body of the Lieutenant General in the battlefield after all those who were with him were wounded. Panchito decided to go and recover the body, helped by Maximo Zertucha, Maceo’s doctor, who was at his side at the moment the fatal bullet destroyed his face and he was able to confirm the death in barely two minutes.

Between Panchito and Zertucha they tried to put the body on a horse and this is when Panchito received an enemy bullet. Badly wounded, he wrote a goodbye note to his family, where he explained that he preferred to commit suicide rather than fall prisoner. The texts on this point are confused, which is explained because suicide has never been looked on kindly by Christian morality, but even so, it seems Panchito didn’t kill himself; rather a party of Spanish guerrillas, having not the least idea of who the dead man was, approached and killed Panchito with a machete to later strip the corpses of their valuables.

As is well-known, the bodies were recovered the following day by Colonel Aranguren and interred in secret to avoid the Spaniards despoiling the corpses.

For a long time, the weight of the accusation of having murdered Maceo and Panchito as part of a plot fell on Zertucha, including taking the doctor to a council of war to give an account of the events of 7 December in San Pedro; he was exonerated but for his whole life (which he lived with decency and patriotism in his native Melena del Sur) he had to carry the weight of that accusation that took flight, magnified in the foreign press and among the exile right from the start.

I wrote about this curious and little-known passage motivated by hearing on the TV news yesterday talk of the “murder” of Maceo and Gomez Toro, from a journalist named Raiko Escalante. I don’t know what sources he relied on for his work, but it seems superficial and harmful to me to have such a slight knowledge of the history we have suffered.

8 December 2014

Extremes Meet / Regina Coyula

I am not Argentinian nor did I lose someone during that country’s military dictatorship, but I am appalled to learn about the agreement between Jorge Videla and Fidel Castro as well as by the selective memory of the mothers and grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo. What would Stella Caloni, someone always in the Cuban media, say about this? Or the current Argentinian president, Cristina Fernandez, in her crusade for human rights?*

On Telesur last night I saw Juan Carlos Monedero, one of the leaders of the new left-wing Spanish political party Podemos (We Can), demanding to know what Spain’s democratic leaders had done to counter the excesses of Latin American dictatorships while showing a photo of none other than King Juan Carlos together with Videla.

Fidel Castro seems to be in no position to explain anything. Emilio Aragonés, Cuba’s ambassador to Argentina at the time, died incognito years ago. (His death did not merit even a brief obituary on page 2 of Granma.) One of our shrewd journalists should get to the bottom of this.

And I personally believe someone from the government should provide an explanation and issue an apology.

*Translator’s note: The author is referring to recently released secret cables indicating that in 1977 Cuba asked Argentina’s right-wing military government, then led by Jorge Rafael Videla, to support its admission to Executive Council of the UN World Health Organization in exchange for the Cuba’s support of Argentina’s continued membership in the UN Social and Economic Council. 

Stella Caloni is an Argentinian journalist and writer. In an introduction to a recently published biography, Fidel Castro described her as “a recognized expert in communication” who “untangles the objectives in the counterinsurgency’s media war.”
24 November 2014

Audiovisual Education / Regina Coyula

The concerns of cultural and UNEAC officials over the potentially dangerous ideological content of the paquete* (package) is also causing me some concern. I am not an avid consumer of either the paquete or of television in general, but a furtive look, a stolen glance, a scan across the horizon raises serious doubts about the ammunition these Cuban organizations have to counter the barrage of audiovisual material coming from this package.

Are they trying to educate us with soap operas like Avenida Brasil (Brazil Avenue), in which the growing middle class does not make the connection between economic prosperity and good manners or good taste?  Or, alternatively, is Paraíso Tropical (Lost Paradise), which is currently being broadcast, now considered to be the model?

Are they betting on Cuban soap operas, rejected as “ugly” because they portray the current reality or labeled as “sci-fi” because they sugarcoat that same reality?

Do the latest South Korean soap operas (where nothing is ugly and everybody is an idiot) have some deeper meaning that escapes me?

Are they thinking of getting rid of many of their musical programs in which triviality, vulgarity, sexism and bad taste exert a pull over producers as well as musicians?

Is education going to be achieved through interview programs, whether they deal with politics, addiction, entertainment or public services?

Will cinematic education disrupt the profile of their programming, turning the Saturday Movie into a different version of the Sunday Matinee and Midnight Cinema by replaying B movies?

All of this is making me wonder if officials are really as concerned about quality as they are that the paquete continues its expansion unchecked by state supervision. Nah! it doesn’t matter how many operations they carry out. Like the Hydra, for every distributor that is eliminated, two more show up. And if they are trying to counteract its effects with the above-mentioned content or other similar programming, the education of the citizenry will continue to decline. On the other hand, the future success of the paquete, in which everyone chooses what he or she wants, is guaranteed.

Translated by Corriver

*Translator’s note: The paquete, or package, is a selection of foreign entertainment programs distributed informally throughout Cuba. In July, 2014 the national television broadcaster, TVC, admitted it could not compete with its selection of programming. UNEAC is the Spanish abbreviation for the Artist’s and Writer’s Union of Cuba.

17 November 2014