Secrecy / Regina Coyula

The ruling elite accustomed themselves to living in secrecy, with that phrase, “Silence, the enemy is listening,” so convinced that all information about their lives was a matter of state, disrespecting public opinion, including that which sympathizers still have, with silence around the life (or death) of Fidel Castro.

This can only happen in a country that feels no obligation to offer explanations and where the journalists do not dare to do their job. It’s not serious to try to justify that such discretion is essential because it involves a man against whom hundreds of attacks were planned (though they never got close). Today this person is a sick old man, retired from public service, whose image for years now is always deferred and in photos.

Nor do I believe that Raul Castro needs time to prepare anything, because he controls the power and if there are cracks in the corridors of power, military counterintelligence should keep the General-President (HIS ministry) updated about the operative situation.

Fidel Castro occupied so many hours of television and so many headlines; in short, he dominated the media, that it’s logical, given the information vacuum, that his health status should be the object of all sorts of speculations.

9 January 2015

The Way Things Go / Regina Coyula

One of the things that I am going to miss when Cuba is an ordinary country, will be these days when digital piracy is still patriotic and on any corner you can acquire the best of the Discovery Channel, the magnificent series of the History Channel, or the captivating serials of ABC or Fox. With regards to the series, I am greatly enjoying Mad Men, partially broadcast here in the early hours of morning as “The Men of Madison Street.” With these series and movies on demand, I only turn on Cuban TV for the news, a brief moment of Telesur to read the news crawl across the bottom of the image.

If I, who am a great joker and not interested in reality, nor MTV, nor soap operas and all I want is to stay far from national programming; what about my neighbors. The head of the family, my neighbor Tomás, whom I’ve already talked about here, has lost the fight. It seems that as a Party member, they’ve “targeted” him in the fight against the audiovisual packets, but his wife and even his daughter, also a party member and civilian employee of the Ministry of the Interior, adore The Voice, El Gorda y la Flaca, Dancing with the Stars, Belleza Latina, and especially Case Closed. Tomás’s wife made a strong statement of her intentions to Tomás, and given the volume at which she did it, to the rest of the neighborhood:

“So here people can hold their ‘worm’* meetings and nothing happens (that’s us); they can hold their religious meetings and nothing happens (my neighbor Tania, whom you also know), and I can’t watch “Case Closed”? Because to me %$#@!… I get the &$%#!… I watch it and you’re not going to stop me!”

*Translator’s note: Gusanos (worms) is a common insult used by the Castro regime against those who leave Cuba and/or who don’t support the regime.

7 January 2105

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