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

Kokuba / Regina Coyula

Image from ElPais.com

Kakebo notebooks. Image from El Pais.com

The kakebo comes from Japan and is a hybrid between a calendar and an accounts book.  It is said that Tomoko Hina, the first Japanese woman journalist, was the one who at the beginning of the 20th century developed the first kakebo in order to arrange and record household expenditures.  Housewives adopted it in order to organize the family economy and optimally administer resources.  Now its application has extended and there are kakebos of all kinds and all varieties and models, for big families to singles.  And for the first time here the year 2014 will feature Kakebo, book of accounts for household savings, published by Blackie Books (17.9 Euros).

With this news*, I eat breakfast with which, for years, my family’s economy has passed through a Kakebo.  A school notebook with the grid paper that they hand out freely, have been our expense control.  The page, divided in the middle to reflect the Cuban pesos on one side and the convertibles on the other.  Before, we had tried to manage our accounts by dividing our money into four parts corresponding to the money for the month destined for food each week, only to invariably violate the envelopes before the immediacy of an unexpected expense.

We resigned ourselves then to record expenses until the day on which we open the drawer and now there is no money; for a brief stage, with variable success, pockets, wallets and old ashtrays are checked, today often earmarked. Now it is known that it is time to eat the pseudo-bread of the notebook, I cannot buy coffee and the oil must be stretched.  Extravagances like beer, beef (including hash), or butter, a short while ago became harmful options, and not precisely to one’s health.  Must-have luxuries?  Coffee and hair dye.  That of bars, tobacco and meals out is a misplaced concern.

I’m dying to know what kind of welcome the sale of these Japanese philosophy notebooks will have in Spain.  I don’t know about the rest, but I can’t get it out of my head that whoever has to keep accounts, does not spend eighteen Euros on some other consumer object. For my part, I am about to abandon the daily notes, because I have arrived at the conclusion that everything has come to everyone in Cuba: on the topic of expenses and income, this film is backwards.

*Translator’s note: The link is to an article in El Pais about Kakebo notebooks

Translated by mlk

6 November 2013

As Much in Cuba as in Spain

The letter by friends from Spain is a cruel reminder that when it comes to confronting the government, repression can happen anywhere.  One of their sons was detained at a demonstration of the CNT and accused of assaulting a police officer.  Although in this time of smart phones there exists documented proof that it was the police who assaulted the young man while he hoisted a banner, he has to confront a trial where he could be sentenced to up to seven years in jail.  The illegality is so flagrant that Amnesty International has taken an interest in the case.  I am no philosopher or political scientist, my knowledge of economics is precarious, in times past I thought that culture could save us, but also that is an illusion.  It is justice, with eyes blindfolded and a true balance, that they should erect over governments and ideologies to protect any citizen.

Translated by mlk

11 October 2013

Voting

Only when I heard unusual noises next to my house, still before daybreak, did I remember that yesterday they were holding elections for delegates to the People’s Power.  The doorway of the house next to mine was restored as a school in order to open from seven in the morning.  Without need of knowing the votes, I knew it would turn out that the same delegate was re-elected, who I think is going for her third or fourth term.  She is a single mother who adds this additional burden to her work and raising a teenage son, because no one else wants the post.

The nomination assemblies around here were meteoric; hardly any took longer in search of an impressive alternative candidate.  My attention was drawn also to the fact that from my neighborhood, in all the places where I saw candidate photos, there were two, in contrast with previous years where there appeared a sizeable group of pictures with their corresponding political biographies, but — and this is characteristic nationally — no candidate reveals a plan, outlines a job, displays a concrete program on being elected.

As I stopped believing in the project of the government years ago, I do not vote. Yesterday, my neighbors from the polling station will have detested us a little (a little more?) because through our fault they kept the college open until the closing deadline. I am one step beyond those who void their ballots or leave them blank, but this year, my son for the first time, was of the requisite age to choose. He has just entered the university as you already know, that’s why I thought he would feel compelled to vote. It was treated as a very personal decision that we did not influence. He decided not to do it, but not for the civic reasons of his mom and dad:  As it is a right and not a duty, it does not interest me.

At some point that indifference will stop. That will be when he feels represented, or feels that his vote can make a difference.

Translated by mlk.

October 22 2012

A Day in Images

Taken at the moment in which the dentist was beginning the torture session

I secretly envy those who achieve those photos that I would like to have made.  Before, with the film camera, there was a “roll.”  Getting Orwo film from East Germany was a tiresome task: if there were rolls, the 100 ASA did not suit me; I detested the Orwocolor, which always seemed to be expired; but the 400 ASA Orwocromes were hard to get.  Developing a roll was a matter of months in the “consolidate enterprise.” They also sold little rolls of slides that were developed with the same delay and had to be viewed with a projector.  In the 1990’s Orwo disappeared, and Agfa and Kodak reappeared, but now those came in the other currency that has marked our lives, and my little Minolta camera, a gift from my brother Michael, sits in some drawer, which, if it exists, well I have lost sight of it a long time ago, just as it has been years since I’ve seen a roll of film.

The invasion of the digital camera changed photography forever and was love at first sight, but impossible love.  It was not until a little more than three years ago that they gave me a very good digital camera that I dropped on the floor on my trip to Spain last year, and when I took it to a shop for repair, the clerk ended up selling me another.

With that little second-rate camera I entered myself in the competition of aday.org in order to photograph my 15th of May.  I got up ready to do a portrait of all that would be my day.  In the end I found myself with almost 100 photos from which I had to choose ten (the maximum number admitted in the contest).  I decided on a group that reflects occupations.  They are not great photos, but in almost all can be seen the attraction of the photographed for the lens.  All strangers (except the dentist), they had no objection to being photographed, and even those who do not seem to have, “posed.”

My reality has a decaying beauty that makes the shutter contract.  A foreign observer could not perceive the conflicts running through them.  My images do not reflect misery, not even evident poverty, but life in one of the best places of the city, and I did not leave home.  On the other hand, as is already known, the essential is almost always invisible.

Translated by mlk

May 18 2012