Birthday / Regina Coyula

I can’t forget the first time I saw my blog. I’d gone several weeks making posts through friends, but thanks to a web-connection gift card, finally I could feel the vertigo that comes with peering out from the abyss of the internet. The two hours of that memorable connection were consumed by a virtual onanism; I spent them looking at my own blog, …from the outside.

I couldn’t remember my password in my nervousness. Nervousness joined with the feeling of transgressing a very real internet access restriction which in those days was enforced discretionally and arbitrarily. Nervousness, also and above all, for doing something suspect; that stamp in the Cuban psyche that says that what is not expressly authorized must be prohibited.

It is now five years since those experiences. I’ve become, if not a privileged user, at least an able and avid user of the tools of the web. The blog I began with an urgent feeling is today more sedate, but it has granted me two important things. The first, to take myself on as citizen –which to anyone can be inferred, but we are in Cuba– to learn of projects like the Asociación Jurídica Cubana (Cuban Law Association) or the campaign for the signing of UN covenants on basic human rights. The second, to receive invitations for collaboration with online news sites, particularly with BBC, on the subject of Cuba.

Malaletra (Bad Handwriting) has paid the consequences. I post sporadically and I have lost readers. The comments section, once effervescent, now languishes with one or two notes (which I am grateful for and take into account as I did since the first day).

I also have the impression that after the boom of the Cuban blogosphere, the water level has sunk, but these details I leave to the specialists, because the importance that this virtual space has had for freedom of thought and expression (or quite the opposite) will be part of the history of this strange age in which we’ve been thrown.

Five years later, I continue imagining myself before a screen into the future, always ready to supply opinion.

Now I blow out the little candles.

 Translated by: Ana Diaz

14 November 2014

"Equality"; Together But Not Intertwined / Regina Coyula

That equality is still a concern in our society is yet another sign of failure in our society, no matter that organizations are created or laws promulgated to promote it. For the 77% of the population — born after 1959 — formal measures have been one thing and practical applications something else.

That which is supposed to function for preventing discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexual preference and religion, should also be valid for avoiding political discrimination.

Equality is not decreed — it occurs. Respect for differences should be inculcated as a value. As part of such an education, when making a promotion to a higher position or job, the important thing is the candidate’s ability and not meeting some quota of supposed equality that results in the selection of the most “correct” candidate, rather than the best one for the job.

Nobody says this is easy to accomplish, but it is imperative.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

29 October 2014

A Survey from Granma / Regina Coyula

In its Friday edition, the newspaper Granma has asked readers to fill out a questionnaire with the laudable goal of improving its quality. I’ve had some great times with Granma, but this survey marks one of the highpoints.

Among the questions is whether the news presented is timely, if the way it is presented is original, if articles create an information vacuum because they lack insufficient (I assume they mean sufficient) data, if topics are repetitive and if there is follow-up. This is a joke; the first thing readers who get their news exclusively from Granma or any other national news outlet need is references.

People more serious than I will take the time to analytically answer the survey in question, but if one were to ask how the newspaper is doing, there are several possible answers: 1) Very good, 2) Good but could use improvement, 3) Bad — certainly one that would have to be included — and 4) Very bad.

Granma is not the worst newspaper in the world. That would have to be Rodong Sinmun.* Remember that we are talking about the official media outlet of the Communist Party, which is almost like saying the only news outlet since all the others parrot its editorial line.

With or without the survey, Granma will continue to be in high-demand for the subsidiary role it plays in personal hygiene and home care.

An anecdote: My son once asked a friend to read the above-mentioned publication and if there was anything interesting in it. Tossing aside the newspaper and dragging out his response for emphasis, the friend gave a very enlightening answer:

“Nothing. It’s all a Granma.”

*Translator’s note: Worker’s Newspaper, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of  North Korea. 

3 November 2014

Indifference (With Background Music by Juan Formell)

I just wrote a text for the BBC where I used my own experiences to illustrate how, faced with everyday situations, the questionable breeding of the citizenry is on display. Either I have very bad luck and ride buses where trouble breaks out, or this is so widespread that it happens to anyone.

The Chinese-made Yutong buses have a platform facing the back door on one side which, according to the original design, is for baby strollers and other impediments, but here they are occupied, almost without exception, by passengers. In one of these buses whose problems haunt me, a full but not crammed Route 69, there was a passenger with a huge sack which he had placed on a corner of the platform.

Across from the Clinical Surgical Hospital on the 26th, a couple got on by the back door with a disabled woman in a wheel chair, and the man accompanying her cheerfully asked the man with the sack if he could make space for the wheelchair so that the disabled woman could use the rail to help lift her weight.

The reaction of the man with the sack was defensive: there wasn’t any room, the wheelchair would only fit sideways, etc. An older gentleman who was riding standing up, ignoring his partner pulling on his sleeve, intervened to accuse the man with the sack of being insensitive.

The disabled woman and the couple with her were silent, but their discomfort was obvious. The man with the sack turned to the gentleman, “Insensitive, me? Don’t fuck with me, I rode this same bus yesterday with my two-year-old son and no one gave me a seat or held the boy, so mind your own business, it’s got nothing to do with you.”

Silence, even from the gentleman whose lady companion had successfully counseled him not to respond. The disabled woman got off at Santa Catalina and Vento and the two couples further on. The man with the sack continued his soliloquy. I imagine he was trying to justify himself.

Only after alighting on the street, two riders exchanged meaningful glances as if to say, one to the other, “In this country we have lost the capacity to care,” and the other replying, “Yes, nobody cares about anyone anymore.”

Translated with considerable help from Alicia Barraqué Ellison

8 October 2014

The Camera Says More than "Cuba Says" / Regina Coyula

For several months now the Tuesday evening television news has featured a series called “Cuba Says.” The reporter, Thalia Gonzalez, and her team seem to have been given the go-ahead to bring up — only to bring up — the actual problems of average citizens. Yesterday’s subject was employment. What struck me more than the shallow discussion of this topic were the opinions expressed by the respondents.

Notable was the widespread acceptance that anything coming out of Ministry of Labor offices is of interest to no one, the aspirations these people had to work for a private firm or to own a personal business, the ease with which the they spoke about money and the repeated use of the verb “to resolve,” along with all that implies for us Cubans.

The camera revealed what neither the interviewers’ questions nor the interviewees’ answers could: the indifference with which the young respondents on the street looked into the camera. Having a job is not enough to get by. Salaries are not enough to live on.

22 October 2014

Lost War / Regina Coyula

The war against the weekly audiovisual package is a lost war. The television programming is an inestimable help. And the way these things are usually synthesized with examples, I have my next-door neighbors’. I wouldn’t have heard that they are “package” customers it if weren’t for the discussion between the eighty-something father, militant and member of the Cuban Revolution Combatants Association, and the thirty-something daughter, a civilian employee of the Ministry of the Interior, MININT.

“That’s ideological diversionism,” thundered the father, undoubtedly repeating some “orientation” he received at the core of the party.

“But papi, what if what we watch is the soap operas!”

“Still diversionism!”

And they kept on like this until the wife of the retired combatant and the mother of the active combatant intervened.

“You, you watch your Telesur and your ballgames and leave me alone with the soap operas, and if it’s ideological diversionism, at least it’s nice.”

15 October 2014