All posts by Yoani Snchez

“Media Slip”


Yesterday night, Monday, the program “Open Dialog” confirmed for me the idea that debate, when is not free and spontaneous, remains a monologue of several voices.  It was precisely the absence of controversy that characterized the guests of Loly Estevez, among whom were Alfredo Guevara, Eduardo Heras Leon, Desiderio Navarro, Roberto Fernandez Retamar and Corina Mestre.  A certain call to “not dissent” before the cameras could be guessed behind the descriptive and generic tone of the speeches. They didn’t even allow the possibility of taking calls from the audience, which in other broadcasts of the same program had elevated the temperature of the discussion.

The omissions, as almost always, were more significant than what was expressed aloud.  Desiderio Navarro was the only one who mentioned, very subtly, the intellectual controversy from the months of January and February.  As a “media slip” Navarro characterized the appearance of Pavon, Serguera and Quesada on Cuban TV, a fact that acted as a trigger for the exchange of emails questioning the cultural policy of the Revolution.

“Open Dialog” yesterday was a deposit of triumphalist phrases used to characterize the current debates that precede the Congress of the UNEAC (Cuban Artists and Writers Union), which contrast with the corrosive assertions made in those meetings by a good portion of the Cuban intellectual class.   The “polemicists” repeated phrases like “a nation can’t live with its back turned to debate,” “we can’t yield the issues to the enemy,” “we need to include more of the Youth in constructive criticism.”  All of this was said under the watch of Fidel Castro and Jose Marti who, looking on from two Raul Martinez paintings, formed part of the decoration of the set.

Of course, none of the participants dared say that “debate must be between all Cubans, regardless of the political affiliation or ideological preferences.”  Nor did they question why is it that culture must be discussed between the pundits, when it belongs to everybody.  What “the email skirmish” (also known as Words of the Intellectuals) left us has evidently been absorbed and re-arranged by those in charge of the culture. Last night, instead of fuel to continue debating, the audience was shown the inflexible limits of a “debate between revolutionaries.”

“The damn circumstance…”


Infanta Street amazes us with its market, the largest stock of pirated copies of movies and music in the city; with its huge church, whose portal competes on the volume of urine with the outside of the Asturian center, currently the Museum of Universal Art, and with its funny graffiti that, like this one, could well illustrate Virgil’s obsession with “water everywhere.”

Photo text: Mar = sea

“In war as in peace we will maintain communications”


The boys of Omni-Zona Franca have found the solution to the problem of the plucked handsets, to the voice that says “the number cannot be reached due to overflow in the lines” and the appetite of the phone that swallows our coins without compassion.

If what we want is a phone, here we have it: painted, in two dimensions, unreachable and exasperating as the candy behind a glass window.  Like those cavern graffiti, where the outline of the deer conjures up the other one grazing in the meadows, these phones put us nearer to what we are missing.  Painting them is a way to tame them, to make them ours, to finally catch and “tame the wild horse of technology.”

In the shadow of an “almendrón”


“Going to Havana?” the driver shouts as me, as if the corner of Boyeros and Tulipán where I am standing is not part of the city where I was born and live.  I respond with a gesture of the finger to the left and confirm: “Yes, going to the Fraternity*,” because I like to make my daily homage at the park of the Ceiba* — under which, we are told, is a “pledge” buried by Machado which has condemned us to an eternal national unhappiness.

I get into the almendrón* and make myself comfortable between the other passengers who look back at the bus stop we left behind and appear relieved to be “here” and not “there.”  The ten pesos throb in my pocket, but the thought of the new articulated bus with small windows convinces me I’ve done the right thing.  The car has been licensed and has room for eight passengers, two next to the driver, three in the middle and the other three back where the trunk used to be. The seat that must be folded back touches me every time someone reaches their destination.  It doesn’t matter, nothing is worse than the “groping” in the camel.*

We turn in front of a police checkpoint, where they make their packet from the private carriers alone.  We are lucky, they don’t stop us. The driver then has his last encounter with the cops which costs him ten chavitos.* The passengers opine, tell horror stories, and little by little we get to the subject about which everyone has something to say, that is an encounter with “anonymous neurotics” explaining the causes of their unbalanced minds.

The complicity has been created.  The magical space in this 40-year-old Chevrolet has succeeded in making us speak of our discontent.  The topics follow one another, passing through potholes, the stifling of private production, the excessive repetition of certain themes on national television, and ending with a phrase a fellow rider throws in my face, “Yes! But nobody does a thing!”

We arrive at the side of the Capitol and our shared ride ends.  The car returns to the taxi stand and I hear the driver shouting, “Twenty, to Santiago de las Vegas!”  The lady beside me completely ignores me and takes off in another direction.  I look out at the Ceiba tree, encircled by railings, that once was sown in earth from all the republics on this continent and murmur between my teeth, “And for all the good you did us.”

Translator’s notes: 

Almendrón = Pre-Revolution American cars in use as private, shared, semi-fixed route taxis.

Parque de la Fraternidad = A park alongside the old capitol building (which now houses a museum). 

Ceiba = In the center of the park is a Ceiba tree, planted in 1928.  Delegates to the sixth Pan-American conference, representing every country in the Americas, each brought dirt from home.  The tree was planted in the combined earth as a symbol of pan-American friendship. 

Camel = A type of Cuban bus that is a long double-humped ‘container’ with a capacity of 300 people, pulled by a truck tractor. Googling for images using the words “camello” and “cuba” will yield many photos. 

Chavitos = A slang term for Cuban Convertible Pesos; the word is a diminutive of “Chavez,” the name of the Venezuelan president.