Rice for the Eighth Army

And also it is a gift from God that every man may eat and drink, and enjoy the benefit of all his labor. Ecclesiastes 3:13.

The first theater work I saw in my birthplace, was on an improvised stage in a park. It was a Chinese play interpreted by Cuban actors. The plot unfolds around the harvest, collection and delivery of food to the battle front. I was captivated by the charm and magic of it.

Abandoning their nomadic life, humans added agricultural work to their labors. In order to develop successfully, the crops needed water. Thus, people settled where there was an abundant supply of the precious liquid. That’s why ancient civilizations originated around rivers. Next to the Nile in Egypt, the Ganges in India, and the Yangtze in China flourished the three great human cultures.

Our ancestors discovered the nutritive value of rains and planted them. Through a long process of selection they improved the yield and resistance to pests of oats, wheat, corn, barley, rice and rye, which are known as cereals (Ceres, the Latin goddess of agriculture). According to region of the planet that developed one crop or another. In Asia, widespread planting of rice and in America, corn. Therefore, in anthropological studies, food offers valuable information.

In our country, some foods and ways of preparing them come from Spanish tradition. Much of those who came from the Iberian Peninsula are from regions where Islamic culture predominated for centuries. Later, with the addition of Africans, their nutritional habits were added. The geographic position of the Island, between Europe and South America, made it a place of replenishment, so we have recipes from France, English, North America, Yucatan and the Caribbean enriching our cuisine.

In selecting and carefully preparing what we consume we ensure a double happiness: the enjoyment of eating it and of good health through a balanced diet. The balance is given by an equilateral triangle whose sides are the food: energy, construction-repair, and regulation. Good nutrition is very important, the substances are transformed and converted into a constituent part of our body, hence, we are what we eat.

In our geographic environment cuisine based on corn predominates. However, for centuries rice is the basic food of our society. For many people this cereal is symbolic. Without rice on the table, the rest of the food doesn’t seem nourishing and we are psychologically dissatisfied. Even though we eat enough.

In April comments and expression of growing unease among the population began. They had suspended the free sale of rice. Now, since the beginning of the year, different companies no longer offer their workers lunch, instead they receive 15 pesos a day. Now they have to buy, make and bring what they are going to eat in the middle of the day. As this stipend doesn’t correspond to the prices, it’s very hard to satisfy ones basic dietary needs.

Imagine my surprise when I went to the State Agricultural Market at 27th and A in El Vedado in Havana on Saturday, the 29th, and found they were selling ten pounds of rice per person. Going home, after two hours in line under the hot sun, my wife asked me, “What did you get?” I remembered the title of a play I saw during puberty and answered, “Rice for the Eighth Army.”



May 23 was Pentecost Sunday. On this solemn occasion I went to the Eucharist liturgy in the Church of Santa Rita de Casia, in Playa municipality, Havana City, where the Ladies in White also attended. The celebration has its origins in Judaism. It is the feast of the Jewish people in memory of the day when God gave Moses the Tablets of the Law on Mount Sinai. In turn, the Catholic Church celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit.

It was Moses who led his people away from the slavery of Egypt and the Ten Commandments are the ethical norms which form the foundations of Western civilization.  At the same time, divine manifestation allowed people who spoke different languages to understand each other with the disciples and Jesus himself.

With a white dove, which is associated with peace, the Holy Spirit is represented.  The color white refers to the devotion we give from ourselves to something higher.  That is why when those who are adept or novices join some religions or fraternities, they are assigned to wear that color.

Throughout the history of the Christian Church, there have been individuals who are attributed with a special divine light.  They are considered to act directly under the protection of the Spirit.  They all share the common factor that they are guided by a light to help those who most need it.  With that same symbolism, the Ladies in White demand freedom for their relatives.

Those who knock down the battlements of fear and start reclaiming the space that belongs to them are increasing in number.  Upon conquering the freedom to communicate among each other, and with others who speak different languages and engage in different beliefs, they have displayed the violation of human rights that exist in Cuba.  The world has united to condemn the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo because the news was immediately spread from within the island.  Upon demolishing the stronghold of defenselessness, in an irreversible manner, those who have decided to take control of their own lives from their skin towards their soul have become empowered.  That is why we see the manipulations of the government to not acknowledge the rights of citizens and how they avoid dialogue with their own people.  That is how they intend to delay the necessary transformations required for our society.

Significantly, Yoani Sanchez was received the 2010 Perfil Award this past Saturday, in the category of freedom of expression, which is promoted by the Editorial Section of the Perfil Argentina.  The tribute took place in silence, behind the doors of her apartment.  In the midst of the insomniac process, guards surrounded the building.

The DHL shipments of diplomas, books, and other objects are prohibited by the State.  Invitations to international events, presentations of books, and conferences in prestigious universities, are all prohibited.

For those who have remained detached from the material, Divine Grace grants them a trophy.  In this jubilee, on the eve of the Pentecost, the Holy Spirit protects the home of the Major Blogger of Cuba.  The Spirit came to her in the form of a silver dove.  Congratulations!

The Absurd Path

For years in Cuba, day after day, we have felt as if we were regressing. As the environment and our lives deteriorate, the official pronouncements in the mass media become more and more triumphalist. The devolutionary process is gradual and conditions psychological accommodation. So over time it has instilled in the collective subconscious an apathy and resignation.

The government has hung its ideological campaign on two hooks: public health and education. Public health care is in a precarious state, with thousands of specialists sent to Venezuela in exchange for the resources that have allowed the dictatorship to remain in power without making a democratic opening. Hundreds of others sent throughout the world help create an altruistic image of the government and the benefits of the island’s social model. Now that the congenital economic crisis has dangerously shaken the foundations of the system, they speak of rationalizing and optimizing resources. The reality is that medical services for the population become more deficient every day.

At the same time, education has been woven at the whim of the Pedagogue in Chief. His constant empirical improvisations, the emphasis on indoctrination and not education, as well as the exodus of professionals in search of better pay, have led to the worst moment in the history of education in the country.

During this 2009-10 school year, parents have discovered that their children’s access to high school and above would have to pass through a sequence of requirements. The number of students at those levels of education would be regulated. Because the country is totally bankrupt, and the state determines everything, it set admission quotas.

The current Head of State and his cheerleaders had already alluded to the issue in order to create in the population the requisite mental preparation to accept the new imposition, on an issue as sensitive as the technical and professional development of their offspring. The new approach is full of pitfalls, given that they had always emphasized that wages, and quality of life in general, were modest in order to make possible access to health care and free education.

The reality is that because of lack of attention, over decades, we have lost the tradition and quality in a whole spectrum of work in which there was a high degree of specialization: masonry, carpentry, gardening, among others. They created standardized qualifications for positions and, paradoxically, they underestimated manual labor. In theory, they were building the workers’ paradise; in practice, the worker is the means and the leader is the end. Leaving  productive activity behind and becoming a chief, if only with one feather in the headdress , was more exciting. The possibilities for personal fulfillment and quality of life were tied to the size of the bureaucratic feather and not to the capability and qualification of the citizen.

The result of imposing that unhealthy social architecture is that everything having to do with human beings in our society is damaged. No wonder it has been described as anthropological genocide. It will take generations to heal the nation. No other country in the region has suffered so prolonged and systematic a policy of degradation and subjugation of its people.

As a representative example of what has happened in Cuba, from 1959 to the present we have had the Inclán Foundation, located on Carmen Street, between Cortina and Figueroa, in La Vibora. According to the older residents, it was a school for children from low-income families. Students received a general education, they were prepared in appropriate subjects and practical skills while working in workshops within the institution. Once the State took control of all activities, of society and individuals, the teaching facilities became — everyone said it although euphemistically — that in reality the government leadership and the bureaucracy constituted a new class.

Millions of cubic feet of concrete were used to build tunnels. Today the city of Havana sits on a gigantic Swiss cheese, supposedly for “the war of the whole people.” The reality is that these would be underground prisons in the “people’s war.” However, for no materials and labor have been assigned for the maintenance and conservation of the once flamboyant and commendable Inclán Foundation. It is a demonstration of the absurd march toward ruin.

Don’t be Shocked by Anything

Among cannibals.  At least when we kill, it is to eat.

Since the founding of the Cathedral of the Russian Orthodox Church in Havana, I have been mulling over the Cuba-Russia reconnection.  Some of my blogger colleagues, upon the dedication of the recent Book Fair to that country, quickly posted their brilliant writings on the web. In spite of what chauvinists say, women are smarter and quicker than men.  It is not necessary to substantiate this with neuroscience or brain research; the Biblical reference is enough.  The Book of Genesis tells us that it was Eve who first ate of the fruit from the tree of knowledge, and later convinced Adam to do likewise.  Since then they have the advantage over us.

Russia was the guest of honor at the recent 30th International Tourism Fair.  At the same time, we also celebrated the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations. The old French proverb, “The more things change, the more they remain the same” is relevant here. These Russians, having shaken off the soviet dust, dream of the tsarist crown and scepter.  Having mutated, the communists now exhibit the desires of the nobility.  Although by their methods, they are more like Ivan the Terrible than Peter I. For this reason, they are natural allies of our lifetime corrupt rulers.  At the end of the day, the mutual enrichment took place under the carte blanche of socialism and the building of communism.  If they pay the fee, they will be equally welcome on the island these modern pirates and buccaneers of the world.  The ambitious speak all languages, even that of the disinterested.

The construction of the great orthodox installation could have been an act of devotion of the successor in power, who now, in his old age and political and economic weakness remembers religion and commends himself to St. Nicholas, the patron saint of Russia and lost causes.  Don’t be shocked by anything.

Translated by HEFA

To Our Worthy Ladies in White

Sunday, May 9th, we celebrate Mothers Day in Cuba. This antecedent was established in Philadelphia, USA, where Ana Jarvis founded an Association with the purpose to promote a propaganda campaign in favor of dedicating the second Sunday in the month of May to honor mothers.

The proponent of this homage in our country was Victor Munoz Riera, journalist and member of the Masonic Lodge “Fe Masonica” who adopted that initiative and published an article in El Mundo newspaper with the title “My White Carnation” in 1919. Later after his election as a municipal councilor in Havana, he proposed the foundation of this date in the Municipality of Havana; it was approved on April 27, 1921. Years later, Pastor del Rio, a Mason and a Representative to the House of Representatives of Cuba, got ratification in Congress of the Republic on July 7, 1927.

The family is the angular rock of society and its cohesion is the job of the mother. Today we know, from discoveries about the human genome, that all of us living on the planet carry a part of the primitive mother of humanity, the conventionally called African Eve, embedded in our mitochondrial DNA.

In our homage, we should dedicate a minute of meditation, recite a poem, hum a melody or say a prayer for Mother Creation. Together with all that uninterrupted chain that has made possible the survival of our species, and those who suffer for their children. I, in my own way will include the worthy Ladies in White.

Translated by: Mari Mesa Contreras

Not Even By Force

But time does not stop

On Saturday, April 17, at 10:00am I was invited to attend a seminar about Computing and Communication Technology (TIC) led by Yoani Sánchez, at Silvio Benítez Márquez’s house, in the Punta Brava area of La Lisa municipality in Havana Province.

Two subjects were to be addressed by the speaker: Blogs and Twitter. The first was based on Andrew Sullivan’s well-known post, “Why I Blog.”  The second covered “Survival Manual for the First Days of Twitter” by Delia Rodríguez.

I was aware of the enthusiasm and anticipation that was going around since others who had also been invited called me to confirm if the seminar was still on.  This was a part of it.

Yoani was behind the human barrier at the door.

But, we are aware of the warnings of our Apostle of Independence: “Men fall into two categories, those who love and build and those who hate and destroy.” Those with exclusive power executed another plan. They gathered at daybreak, situating themselves in the area to prevent access to the house. They even placed four undercover agents at the front door of the house just in case anyone of us managed to break through the ringed throng that blocked our way. These even attempted to block Silvio’s mother’s way.  Significantly, we were not intercepted–the obstacles cleared and the human barrier at the entrance gave way. It is possible they thought that our presence there did not matter much since no one else would be allowed through.

I recalled that Abraham Lincoln left us his classification of human work: Those who do useful work, those who do useless work,  and those who are lazy.  Rulers feel omnipotent with their useless, repressive strength that only paralyzes those who are lazy.  They tend to underestimate the creativity and strong will of those determined to perform, at all costs, useful actions.

I proved once more that one can always do good. We learned from Silvio’s family, that the old laptop was having technical problems and Yoani decided to check it out. Instead of the seminar, she held a workshop; three hours later, after taking the computer apart, cleaning it and updating its programs, we left the house. Silvio’s son, a smart adolescent was her outstanding student, who like a sponge absorbed everything he was learning.

At the same time, last Sunday, the 25th, elections of the so-called Popular Power were held across the entire country in every district. This is the reason why the group of retired members of the Communist Party from the area where I live and members of the rapid response brigades, among others, have been restless.  It seems my support for the Candidates Platform for Change has led to instructions for them to keep me under control. First they were expecting me to nominate myself at the nomination assembly–they waited for me, prepared with a strong response.  Now all morning long on election day, there were two people posted at the entrance to my apartment.  They are aware that I get along with my neighbors and have taken that into account. But I followed Karl von Clausewitz’s wise advise: “It is by our enemies position that we can draw conclusions about their intentions, and thus plan accordingly.” Therefore, on both occasions, I left them waiting and widened my social network of information in the neighborhood. They have lost moral authority even though they have maintained the formal one.

I know that the efforts of repressive forces are in vain–in his magnificent play to anti-Nazi resistance Schweyk in the Second World War Bertolt Brecht (1898 – 1956), the German playwright tells us change cannot be stopped: “But time does not stop.  The unlimited ambition of those now in power continues its course.  Like fighting cocks splattering blood defending their position, but time cannot be stopped.  Not even by force.”

Translated by HEFA.

The Kiss of the Blogger Academy

“Decorated” by Samantha and Samylia Medina Martín

On Thursday the 8th we celebrated the end of the course in the Blogger Academy. Altogether, between the bloggers and others we were 32 people, 27 students and 5 teachers: Yoani Sanchez (Word Press), Miriam Celaya (Cuban Culture), Claudia Cadelo (Blogpost), Reinaldo Escobar (Interactive Journalism), Wilfredo Vallin (Ethics and Law) y Claudio Fuentes Madan (Photography).Those who taught some subjects were students of others.

The interactive dynamic, team spirit, relaxed atmosphere and prevailing joy allowed us to come together like people in a fairy tale: The Musicians of Bremen. We felt happy and “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” according to the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy. This happened once the classes were over and the meetings ended. Each one takes his grief in his own way: alone, with ice or diluted with the soft drink of his choice.

Me, I usually suffer from evocations, I remember my time in elementary school in the second half of the decade of the ’50s in the last century. At school I was restless, talkative and rather unruly. So I always kept a great distance, light years away, from the well-known scholars. In particular there was an award insignia, the desire of all parents for their offspring, which was awarded in a special ceremony. Awarded only to the brightest comets who had passed, with the corresponding level of learning, with a purified light, it was called, “Kiss of the Fatherland.”

As the old saying goes, better late than never. fortunately that happy and sociable little boy is alive and well today in the adult. His little friends, the twins Samantha and Samyra, awarded him the kiss of the Blogger Academy.

Other photos of the activity:

The Evangelists of Change

The Evangelists of Change

The brotherhood of Consenso, desdecuba.com and more…

Total list of the Evangelists of Change, graduates of the Blogger Academy.

With Wilfredo Vallin and Juan Juan Almeida

Between the chronological extremes, Rebeca Monzo and Hector William Riturreta, the baby of the Academy.

With Miguel Iturria of the blog Island Anchor and Silvio Benítez of the Platform for Change.