Archive for March, 2010

Revista Convivencia.
A threshold for the citizenry and civil society from within Cuba.

Pinar del Río, Cuba, March 25, 2010
Hon. Mr. Lech Walesa,
Former President of the Republic of Poland

Honorable Mr. President:
Receive our cordial greetings.

Cuba is living in the most critical time of the last decades. Twenty years after the transition to democracy in the countries of Europe and Asia, Cuba is still torn between the immobility of its rules and the vibrant emergence of a free civil society.

The political project of communism is exhausted here, as it is throughout the world. The Cuban economy is in collapse because of the blockade the system has over entrepreneurial initiative and the productivity of its citizens. Society lives in a deep and painful division between those who think in one way or another; between those who live on the Island and in Exile; between those who use violence and those who suffer it; between those few who have access to resources and those who survive in penury. The true Cuban culture is rich and diverse, but it too is censored for ideological reasons. And when freedom and creation and expression is suppresses, it subjugates the soul of the nation and causes major anthropological damage to human beings.

Cuba, however, the Cubans both here and in the Diaspora, have an immense wealth in its people and its country: We can see this in the free cultural creation that rises above censorship. We look with hope on the private and community initiative of the citizens pushing to emerge, that will guarantee the economic reconstruction of the country. The network of Cuban civil society is growing, weaving itself with care, creativity and boldness into a co-existence without exclusions. And several groups of Cubans thing, design and undertake various political projects to bring democracy when the dawn comes. In this we base our fundamental home and confidence in the Cuban people.

Finally, it seems that the international community and public opinion in more than a few countries, is hearing the old cry of the real Cuba which, for 50 years, has been distorted by the siren song of the virtual Cuba. t has taken the sacrifice of one of our contemporary martyrs, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, to leave behind that long road when no one, or almost no one, was listening.

You, Sir, are one of those people who have always been attentive to the true voices of the Cuban people, and for this we thank you, and wish to appeal to you to convey to your colleagues and to all who participate in this meeting, and subsequent events, our gratitude for all you have done for freedom, for your unlimited respect for Human Rights, and for the gradual and peaceful change to democracy in Cuba.

The moment we are living in is a mixed one, as we try to communicate to you our suffering and our hope. If the Cuban government does not open the door to change it will unfortunately reinforce violence and no one wants that, not inside nor outside of Cuba. In this critical and shining hour, the international community can hear the cries of the Cuban people which can be summed up in a simple demand: We want, for Cuba, the same rights and duties, the same freedom and responsibility, that all the democracies in the world desire for their respective countries. Why should Cuba be an exception when we are culturally rooted in the faithful of America and in the heart of the western world.

Allow me, Sir, on my own behalf and in the name of the publishers, editors and contributors of the Coexistence Magazine Project, from the interior of Cuba, thank you for your love for our Country and reiterate to you our highest regard and admiring respects, praying to the Lord our God, and to our Mother the Virgin of Charity, for the greatest blessings of heaven for you, your family and your colleagues.

Dagoberto Valdes
Director of Coexistence Magazine

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By: Sironay González Rodrígue

I have been looking at our country these days, faced with a wake-up call from various countries with respect to situations that are clearly intolerable. I have come to several conclusions I would like to share.

As always, instead of accepting their mistakes and correcting them, that attack on every front, using, as we say, all the dirt they can gather.

In this campaign also, they use the misinformed people, who not knowing the truth in its totality, repeat what they have been hearing for fifty years.

Surprisingly, like the opinions that are published in the newspaper Granma, the people interviewed speak with total confidence about the European Union, which makes them seem like political analysts rather than simply professionals.

And most seriously, they give the appearance of a people in agreement with the decisions of our government, whatever they may be, and do not want to be challenged by anyone.

This is not the solution to the problems we are going through, digging in and shooting blindly at everything around us. One can’t waste time criticizing and questioning everything, when there is so much to fix internally. It is unacceptable to use as accomplices a people who have insufficient information to make judgments about anything.

This is my opinion. If everything is dirty, let’s start cleaning our house.

Sironay González Rodríguez

San Cristóbal, Pinar del Rio. b. 1976

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Your Truth, My Truth

By: Sironay González Rodríguez.

You, who identify with this revolutionary process, who defends everything it does, who justifies all that has gone wrong in fifty years, who sees enemies everywhere, really in the end, you and I, we are not so different.

You say there is an external blockade that prevents us from advancing economically.

I know there is a blockade, but those who block us are closer than you imagine.

You think you have to be prepared against the enemies of the fatherland.

It is true, the fatherland has enemies, but have you clearly defined who they are?

You praise the work of Cuban doctors in other countries.

I, those who remain here, taking double shifts and working more than the a vendor in the market.

You don’t want any other country to interfere in the problems of Cubans.

I want, that among all Cubans, for once we solve our problems.

You proclaim that in Cuba there is freedom.

I know there are some few, who enjoy all the freedom they please.

You want, for our country, economic improvement.

I do too, but for that, brother, there inevitably has to be a change. Our country (it is mine as well), needs urgent transformations. We are stuck because people like you, you see everything through rose-colored glasses, and don’t realize that people like me, we also want to lift our country.

I know that you want the best for Cuba. But remember, Cuba is all of us.

Sironay González Rodríguez
San Cristóbal, Pinar del Rio. b. 1976

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Mute Presidents?

By: Sironay González Rodríguez

Everyone who, like me, sits down to watch the news on the different informative channels on our television, at some time must also feel a doubt that greatly troubles me: Are some presidents mute?

I say this, because except for one or two leaders in other countries, there are those one hears opine about what happens in the world, including what happens in our country. Of those, who say they know so much about our reality, you see their daily activities, hear their long speeches in events in the area, and would recognize their voices anywhere.

Very well: Could some “informed” Cuban television viewer have been able to hear the voice of President Obama? Could anyone hear the comments of Álvaro Uribe or of Oscar Arias at the last summit? It seems that those presidents did not speak, they were mute.

You know they’re there, you can even see them, but always, the good journalist who brings us the information takes care to speak for them, and all that reaches our ears is the manipulated news, to which they link the gestures of the silent leaders.

How much damage they do to us. It is like an insult to our intelligence. Each one of us, adult Cubans, we know what is good and what is bad. Let us choose for ourselves. By silencing the others they did not manage to make their own voices heard more loudly.

Sironay González Rodríguez

San Cristóbal, Pinar del Rio, 1976

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By Sironay Gonzalez Rodriquez

The meeting starts in total silence, no one says a word. The zone boss of the party, the President of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, and the functionary delegate start their proposals.  Their proposals are direct, concrete, well-analyzed so that the changing of the guard can take place.  The rest of the neighborhood, some tired from the day’s work, others sleepy and crazy to see a soap opera raise their hands for anyone.  Whoever is elected will be the same as the others and won’t solve any problems.

That is how the candidate nomination assemblies have started for the delegates to the Popular Power Party; between deceptions from previous mandates and little hope in the new nominees.  The people know that the solutions to their problems do not rest with a neighbor who represents them, it is higher up than that, but one has to propose, choose and vote so we don’t break what exists now; what is required is more than just an exercise in democracy but we must reach back into our traditions, like community parties or carnival.

When everyone’s opinion finally matters; when the concerns of Cubans influence the decisions made by the state; when the delegates represent the people instead of the government and they do not justify the poor work of the government before the people; when the people who govern us work to sustain us, and not the reverse — then true power will be in the hands of the people.

Sironay González Rodríguez

San Cristóbal, Pinar del Rio, 1976

Translated by: Hank

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Hon. Mr. Miguel Angel Moratinos
Foreign Minister of Spain

Mr. Chancellor:

Spain is beginning its rotating EU presidency and you, its foreign minister, have said that you will do everything possible for the “normalization” of relations with Cuba. These are the good intentions of the socialist government of Spain. And no one judges the intentions, as the Latin proverb says.

I want to talk about to events with which Cuba inaugurated 2010.

On January 4 Luis Ñáñez, Member of the European Parliament for the Spanish Socialist Party was expelled from Havana’s José Martí airport. He had a tourist visa.

Another event that started in 2009 but continues, is the “corralito” of the funds of foreign companies by the Cuban government which has frozen their bank deposits. Spain has more than 200 employers and over 400 million dollars locked up in this way.

The Spanish daily El Pais published, at the beginning of 2010, an editorial titled “Cuba in bankruptcy.” The Spanish foreign ministry has called its ambassador in Havana back to Madrid “for consultations.”

I think that you, Mr. Foreign Minister of Spain, will have serious difficulties explaining to your countrymen, even those of the PSOE, how you intend to “normalize” political relations with a country who grants a tourist visa to a Member of the European Parliament and sends him back from the airport as soon as he arrives. How can you “normalize” economic and commercial relations with a country that “freezes,” sine die, the money of his country’s business people, and in addition, in his year-end speech the president of Cuba announced that the negotiations over these frozen funds “would depend on the economic situation in the Island,” while at the same time a left-leaning newspaper in Spain recognized that Cuba is bankrupt?

One last question, Mr. Moratinos, and given your role in the European Union which Spain presides over this term, for me this is the most important question:

How will you “normalize” relations with a government which systematically violates the human rights of its citizens and also violates those of Spanish citizens, be they Members of the European Parliament or small business people?

A few months ago you gave us to understand that the first thing was to “normalize” and if, to accomplish that, you had to postpone the issue of human rights, so be it. Then, I would like to ask you, with all due respect, why don’t you postpone the rights of Spanish business people and Parliamentarians? Or are the rights of Spaniards above the human rights of Cubans?

Mr. Chancellor: I know, Human Rights are universal, equal for all, and a priority in all international relations that would be modern and acceptable.

Or is it different in Spain? As it is in Cuba.

I express my best wishes for your high responsibility while I repeat my most fervent desire that a day is not far off for true normalization of relations between Cuba and Spain.


Dagoberto Valdes
Director of Coexistence Magazine


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By Karina Gálvez

To Yamila, Maikel and Sergio it must not have seemed real.  They just wanted to express themselves, share their artistic creation. This for me is the purest truth, despite every possible interpretation. Yes, it is the most naive, but the most real. To express yourself in Cuba is to be in political opposition. It bothers me that some still doubt it and seek justifications for the unjustifiable. In the civilized world artistic expression can only be good or bad, a box-office success or not, cruelly criticized in the worst cases, or the beneficiary of flattering media reviews. In Cuba, as in few places in the world now, they do not throw tomatoes or eggs if they don’t like it. They kidnap the artists or assault them with political slogans.

The reality is that the tolerance of the Cuban authorities seems to have touched bottom. I wonder how to differentiate what happened to Yamilia, Maikel and Sergio with what happened to Juanes in his hometown when he decided to hold a concert for peace in Cuba? How to distinguish between those who broke Juanes’s CDs and those who made Yamilia and Sergio kneel in the middle of the street or those who dragged Maikel in a car to the Interior Ministry? Sadly, I answer myself: Yes, I see a difference. In the case of Juanes citizens acted on their own behalf. In the case of Yamilia, Maikel and Sergio’s performance of “Without Permission,” the threats, coercion and repression that prevented its final presentation came from the authorities at the highest political level and from the forces of the Interior Ministry. It is not the same when some extremist citizens attach the CDs of Juanes, as when a repressive political force attacks human beings.

To me, it is at the very least incredible that the almighty Cuban State, so ideologically strong, appears to stagger before free expression, and even artistic expression, and mobilizes itself to prevent it, willing to face the risks and consequences of showing the world and their own Cuban people, their true totalitarian nature. Violence is the only recourse of power that has lost its authority. I pray for a Cuba that ends this stage, I can’t say without violence, but at least with demonstrations of violence only from those who hold power. Maintaining our own peaceful attitudes will save us and will save our future.

Karina Gálvez (Pinar del Río, 1968)

Degree in Economics

Member of the Editorial Board of the magazine Convivencia.

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By Dagoberto Valdés

On the night of Jan. 9, 2010, was to be the performance of the plastic artist Yamilia Pérez Estrella titled, “Without Permission II: Transition to Change.” The first part of this series was performed the previous Dec. 10, 2009 in Independence Park in Pinar del Rio on Human Rights Day. That one ended successfully, although with threats and a wide deployment of agents but they didn’t manage to prevent the performance.

On this second plastic action, the situation was quite different. For same days previously Yamilia and her husband, the well-known painter Pedro Pablo Oliva, were warned by the highest authorities of the province and the nation, to suspend the artistic intervention that ultimately could not be performed as planned.

The script for the performance anticipated the interaction of three characters: one white, Maikel Iglesias, representing peace, forgiveness, good; another red, Sergio Suárez, a reference to the oppression, power, censorship; and the artist Yamilia Pérez herself who wold be dressed in black, alluding to the pain, sacrifice, the cross. They would walk from Independence Park to a little park nearby about 200 yards away.

After several days of pressure and threats, in the end, on that same January 9, both parks were taken over by people dressed in civilian clothes, amplified music and a collection of chairs that filled up the second place. Just after 8 pm, Maikel Iglesias, poet and member of the Convivencia Magazine Editorial Board, acting in his personal capacity in the performance art, was taken from the Home Workshop of Pedro Pablo and taken by two agents to a car nearby where he was put and driven to within a few yards of his house.

The other two artists decided to leave the Home Workshop and take another route to Courthouse Park, also close to the place. But they were intercepted by a mob screaming Viva Fidel, Viva Raul, Viva la Revolucion, and even made to kneel in the middle of the public space.

In this way the physical and violent repression against artistic expression continues, and in the last months has accelerated throughout the length of the Island. A sign of the impotence and exhaustion of a project that is left with no other resources. When they resort of repressing, with brute force, cultural performances they are not only transgressing against the social and cultural rights of people, but they are oppressing the soul of a nation. And this, as we all know, is very serious. It is worth reflecting calmly on the anthropological damage that this and any kind of repression is causing to Cuba.

Dagoberto Valdés (Pinar del rio 1955)

Director of the magazine Convivencia

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By: Jesuhadín Pérez Valdés.

March 29, at the Wilfredo Lam Center: The Artist Tania Bruguera installed a platform with an enormous curtain and a podium with two microphones. It was announced that anyone could mount the platform and for one minute they would be allowed to say whatever they wanted, with complete freedom. And people spoke. The incident would be catalogued, afterward, as a counterrevolutionary provocation.

December 5: Monseñor Siro Gonzales Bacallao blesses, in the city of Pinar del Rio, a small space where the members of the digital magazine Convivencia regularly met. Ten days later the property is confiscated by the State.

December 6: In the centrally located 23rd Street in Vedado, more than 200 people march carrying signs against violence. No intimidation is reported against them during the march, but three bloggers are violently intercepted to prevent them from attending the march.

December 10: Plastic artist Yamilia Pérez, performs in a public space in the city of Pinar del Rio, without official permission. He does this with a personal exposition, and a blank cloth to free the creativity of his fellow citizens.  Immediately upon discovering this initiative, the authorities in charge harass and threaten the artist.

December 11: Support is withdrawn for the Poetry Festival Without End, organized by Omni-Zona Franca, and Fayas Jamis is sacked — by means of a notorious act of repudiation — from a position he has held for the last 10 years.

December 17: Pilgrimage to the sanctuary of El Rincon by a group of young people.  A hundred people, more or less, left the starting point on 26th Street, two hundred arrived at their destination. The police watch over them the entire way.

December 18: About thirty people sign a letter objecting to governmental obstructions in the cultural and social spheres. Five groups or projects sign…

The Cuban stew is more and more restless. More restless and more uncertain. Cuba paralyzed is a thing of the past. There are many more people who are not reconciled with the future planned by the people in power.  Many people rebellious and nonconformist.

And that is normal. Every day there are more and more people with sufficient desire and audacity to take the reins of their personal destiny and project their own plans without regard for the social milieu. But this displeases the “nomenklatura” which prefers,  without doubt, the calm and quiet revolutionary.  It is lifeless, without the least intention to move a finger for change. And then? It  rises only to respond with sticks to each of these civic initiatives.

In the majority of countries the political parties growl and bite at each other.  It is part of the process of attaining power. They compete for the popular vote.  At times, I think, they get a little out of hand.   But in Cuba, since there is no opposition party, or even any competition within the Communist Party itself, that competition has moved to the sidewalks, parks, porches, groups and peoples; it belongs mostly to the civil society.

And here the problem is not a political project with aspirations of power, but anything that moves independently of the precepts established by the official revolutionary apparatus.

“Nothing can happen in Cuba without our stamp and letterhead”; that is the belief of the most influential or determined officialdom.  But how to contain the spirit of so many people who want to add their grain of sand so that the country in which they live might be a little bit better? Do they think we can stuff our dreams under the mattress and walk like robots for century after century?

Nine out of ten repressed people do not have any intentions of usurping political power.  They are not politicians in any strict sense; they are artists, intellectuals, who feel drowned by a retrograde institutionalism that cooks the meal until it is charred to avoid ideological sepsis, impeding each person’s art, or personal initiative, from reaching the people, in any form that is timely and fresh. These are simple and splendid Cubans, who raise their voices, and in most of the civilized world that is respected and valued.  Not here.  Here it is extremely dangerous, repelled by force.

And therefore, I am increasingly startled by the reactions of the powerful before the restless attitudes of the Cuban people.  Why, in this country, is every hope, every free spirit met with a revolutionary strangling, detention, an act of repudiation, expulsion to some other place, or worse still, prison?

I am startled, because the wave of nonconformist rebels grows and the repressions makes it grow in proportion to what it observes in the will of the power.   Brashness will be met with clubbing, courage with fetters, and the untameble spirit with more police.  We are going against logic, justice, and peace.

…then will return the dark springs, when the new ladies in white and other innocents will swell the endless rows of prison cells.

I am very worried about this future planned for Cuba. A new, heartbreaking wave approaches. I see it coming.

Jesuhadín Pérez Valdés.

Member of the Editorial Board of the magazine Convivencia.

Translated by ricote

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By Juan Carlos Fernández

Art has always had the virtue of repositioning, of showing to the greatest extent the absurdities of the standard bearers of the power-dogma, a cyst that makes them extremely nervous. It brings them to hysteria, combined with paranoia, because the pre-programmed mind of the dogmatic cannot imagine departing from the script, which is also pre-programmed and reprogrammed (the same forever). To go against the libretto is to immediately convert oneself into a heretic that has to be burned in the most fiery bonfire.

Yamila Perez, Sergio Abel Suarez, and Maikal Iglesias were condemned to burn on Saturday, January 9, when they dared to exercise artistic creativity in a performance piece titled: Intervention 2 “Without Permissions” “A Step towards Change” which they would carry out in a city park. For those in power, that was more than enough.  Once was all right — well, with reservations — nervously, aggressive to the point of explosion, but… well, we remember the  last time, on December 10 in Independence Park, but twice… don’t even think about it. Hit the alarm, code red, it’s war!

The unsure army and the counterintelligence (read: against intelligence) went out of their minds, they did not rest until all of their actors (could it be genetic?) were notified in time to prevent “the Machiavellian act of three heretics” who imagined that they could communicate and share with other people their feelings, their ethical visions and their esthetics.  This, simply said, was inexcusable.  The set was made ready.  They began the acting: politicizing the deed, always the same thing, they have no imagination, repeating the formula again and again… from time immemorial. It seems there is no cure for this.

Independence Park and Bailina Park (which previously had been completely unknown by these name and now have achieved fame), the places where these performances were to occur were literally packed with huge audio equipment, and chairs, from the earliest hours, although it was called for 9 in the evening, but just in case…

But they couldn’t wait, it was too much, the order was: carry it out so to involve one of the implicated, it was Maikal’s turn. Two strong agents removed him by force to Yamilias house, in a Mercedes Benz, (they are moving up in the world and no longer use Ladas) to within a block of his house.  Yamilia and Sergio remained alone, they had busted the performance because it now lacked an essential piece.  And the power-dogma thought, “They are not going to do it, everything is OK”;  there wasn’t room for anything else in its collective mind. They did not consider, because they never consider, creative freedom, which is why artists are able to reposition things, which bothers the hell out of the powerful, in all parts of the world. Cuba is not the exception to this, it is more like the rule.

But the two pieces that remained went out to perform, and the artistic event achieved a success that the artists themselves could never have imagined, thanks to the crude and brutal collaboration of Power, which played itself, and which moreover, was one of the three characters that made up the performance, the others being fear, and purity, the role of Maikel. Lacking him, the remaining two assumed the role of fear, which was certainly felt amidst the hysterical cries and abuses. In the opinion of the artists, the representation of power was brilliant, overwhelming, literally speaking.

For myself, in addition to applauding the courage of these simple artists from Pinar del Rio, and their sense of humor in the face of such brutality, I believe that the State has shown a weakness every bit as large as the success of the artistic improvisation.  It was a full, real performance of terror, and of the most primitive feeling than a human being can show: hatred.

Hatred of love, of sensitivity, of peace, of diversity and of free artistic creation.  On January 9 the soul of the entire nation was attacked.

And there in the middle of so much hatred and rancour  there were tears, not exactly of the artists, although I do not doubt that their tears also poured out. But also tears of their compatriots, who saw all of this as an attack on themselves, because they did not attack political or economic adversaries, but simple Cubans, who only wanted to transmit: Faith, Hope and Love — and this they achieved.

The paraphernalia has failed, and neither shouts, nor false slogans, nor hysterical communiques can redeem it.

Juan Carlos Fermandez Hernandes (1965)

Formerly correspondent for the Brotherhood of Assistance to Prisoners and Their Families, Diocese of Pinar Del Rio

Translated by ricote.

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