October 20, 2018
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
Maylén Díaz Almaguer, the only survivor of the airplane crash of May 18, is being assisted by a multidisciplinary group from the Hermanos Ameijeiras Hospital in Havana, with the participation of specialists from other institutions.
According to the doctor, the patient continues the process of recovery and stabilization of organ functions, oral nutrition and infection control.
Neurological rehabilitation measures and respiratory mechanics are also maintained.
The healing process of soft-tissue injuries is also consolidated, with good evolution and the emotional state and level of cooperation of the patient with the medical treatment is adequate.
At the request of the relatives, the parts relating to the evolution of Maylén Díaz Almaguer are kept private.
Since August 1, Diaz Almaguer has received treatment and rehabilitation in the Ameijeiras. Previously, she was cared for at the General Calixto García University Hospital, where she received treatment and rehabilitation.
The accident occurred on Friday, May 18, when the Boeing 737-200 of the Mexican company Damojh, rented by Cubana de Aviación, fell to the ground just moments after taking off from Havana’s José Martí international airport, in which 112 people, including the crew, lost their lives.
By Dr.C Juan Triana Cordoví
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews
The apple is a noble fruit with bad luck. Eve used it with Adam and all humanity paid the price. The wicked queen gave it to Snow White to eat and it put her to sleep (true, then the Prince showed up). On top of that, one fell on the head of someone who was sleeping under a tree, the law of gravity appeared, by virtue of which all of us, although we float for a while, we fall.
It is also true that some people get back on their feet, but others, not even with a carne get back to a vertical position. There are also those who float perennially.
What follows is part of a real fact and a supposition. The real fact is that apples are not a commodity in Cuba or anywhere else. The assumption is that the “massive” purchase of apples in Cuba is not an act aimed at provoking some kind of political instability via hoarding.
As I said, my first reaction to seeing the news was to think like my grandfather, who was a winemaker in Güiro-a town between Quivicán and Gabriel. From that “merchant’s gene” I said to myself: magnificent operation.
If no act of corruption has occurred (lower prices, unbilled quantities, etc.), then those who sold the apples have managed to sell perhaps all their inventory at once. With this, in the first place, the turnover of committed capital increases. This, I believe, should positively influence the mass of profits then, it is good for the company.
Second, I say, La Puntilla has avoided having possible losses due to quality deterioration, which is also good for the company.
Third, the company can quickly and from that same income again buy apples! That non-tropical fruit that you like so much. That way you can quickly sell more in less time!
I recognize, however, that this is a very biased way of thinking that leaves aside the reality of the Cuban “market”. In fact, there is a resolution from CIMEX stores that prohibits selling more than a certain percentage of their inventories to a single buyer. It’s aim is to avoid hoarding, a resolution that is due to the “peculiar” way in which the Cuban “market” works.
From the perspective of the “apple consumer”, there are two situations: those who went to La Puntilla (a shop located in a place not easily accessible in Miramar) and suddenly cannot satisfy their fantasy of eating an apple.
However, there are also other consumers, who are willing to spend relatively more (in time or money, which is sometimes the same thing) to reach that store, but who also like apples and are able to pay a little more, always and when they have it closer.
I do not know which of the two groups of consumers is more important.
There is also another type of consumer of apples: one who has, for example, a bakery or sweetshop and needs apples in large quantities, but there is no wholesale market in which to buy them.
But after that cold reflection of a merchant’s grandson, I returned to my position as professor of Economics. The fact itself seemed fantastic to me for a case study from two different perspectives: that of microeconomics and that of Political Economy.
From the microeconomic perspective, there is nothing to say, except that perhaps the price at which the apples are sold at La Puntilla is not a price determined by market conditions -not just supply and demand, which should not be so simplistic, while there are monopolistic conditions conferred to a state company for the importation of apples.
Despite this price, there is a “market” for apples, to the extent that some people take the risk of buying 15,000 at a time. Therefore, there are no problems.
Now, look at an interesting thing: whoever buys apples at a price that is usually multiplied by a coefficient greater than 1.80, has enough money to import them! at a lower price or to buy them in a market that practices the wholesale modality.
If so, then perhaps the apples would be sold in those distribution points probably at a lower price than La Puntilla, with benefits for consumers and also for the country. This is because there would be no risk of money from the country (that is, from the people) in a perishable product, not at all decisive in the structure of the basic consumer goods of the average Cuban.
If there was such a possibility, as much as for the consumers, the salesman, and for the State itself (which does not have to spend on that which is not decisive) would be maximizing the utility of its resources. This is also a cold, calculating reasoning, made from microeconomics, which is too impersonal and far from the social relations of production.
Then let’s look at it from the viewpoint of Political Economy. This act of exchange is nothing more than a way in which diverse actors of society are related in certain conditions at a given moment. The state company, as representative of the owner -which is the people-, and the wholesale buyer of apples, who then sells them to the same owner (not to the State but to the people who consume them) at a higher price. Yes , it seems strange but it is like that. It watches over the interests of the owner and makes his stores work under And part of the utility produced by apples reverts to the owner in some kind of subsidized product or service, or development program from that income produced by apples.
On the other hand, the buyer of apples, who has discovered an opportunity in the retail and territorial distribution of the fruit, has an interest in selling it and making a profit to appropriate it privately. However, by buying all the apples at once from the state-owned company, it has made it easier for the company to buy apples again and continue fulfilling its social purpose, producing more profits for the owner, who is the people. It is true that this buyer appropriates a profit, but if and only if he manages to sell the apples, which allows the realization of the product in which a state company invested money (of the people).
The seller, as already mentioned, makes a profit, a part of which is used to pay its retailers, which generates some type of employment and provides a salary to people who are generally elderly and/or women, or other private businesses. This, although it is true that the “consumers of La Puntilla” are left without their apples, it is also true that the purpose for which apples are imported and sold is fulfilled!
If the company that provides the apples for La Puntilla could immediately replenish the inventory, it would be a great virtuous circle. But this is not the case and, in this case, it is not because of the blockade (you can buy apples not only in the United States, but also in Mexico or Canada).
It is also true that the apple does not care if it is sold in a mass lot or if it is sold individually. It, as long as it does not rot, will fulfill its role of becoming a direct natural food, juice, part of some kind of dessert. Keep in mind that famous passage of the Yogi Bear apple cake, BooBoo! – or in a good and refreshing drink, like cider. It is, in short, an apple, and it is aware of its role – and if not, then worse for the apple.
The way to solve the problem –MINCIN’s proposal to ration the sale of forty-eight “sensitive” products in stores that sell at differentiated and high prices– is another matter.
(Those stores, formerly known as TRD, since they do not sell in dollars directly, only collect CUC, which despite everything we think is not a currency and in fact, today is overvalued in its relationship with the dollar.)
We must resort to the economic history of Cuba and other countries that at some point practiced rationing –in the case of Cuba because we have been faithful and we have not abandoned it– to understand it.
In Cuba, the history of rationing is associated with three factors: the blockade and, before it, the trade reduction measures taken by the US government since the beginning of the Revolution. The decision of the revolutionary government sought to “guarantee” certain goods to the entire population during that hard period. In addition, it aimed to defeat the plans of the North American governments to force us to surrender through hunger. When we already had enough “brotherly and solidary help from the USSR”, then that measure of war became an instrument of equality, where the ration book is its iconic expression.
Then, our productive failures, as much or more than the blockade, made the supply of products in Cuba, in spite of having cheap energy, credit at very low cost and markets and safe prices for our export products, could ever be sufficiently flexible and respond quickly to variations in demand.
Today that expression of equality becomes the sustenance of distributive injustice. This is because, despite the differences in income, all Cuban citizens receive subsidized products and services, from the richest (the buyer of apples, for example) to the poorest, such as retirees with their pension as their only source of income. Note that the buyer of apples is not guilty of this, nor that Puntilla cannot buy apples quickly.
In general, the experiences of physical rationing of products only fulfill a very temporary and short role as a way to regulate the market. Its permanence over time generates distortions that, in the long run, affect the system as a whole and make it unproductive and inefficient, as well as having an intrinsic problem of poor allocation of resources.
(Of the Plan, our old and dear Plan, which was never fulfilled, not even in those days of “fat cows”, what can we say now?).
Resorting to these measures again is like eating the yuca plant and throwing out the root or, as Marxist economists say, it is to settle for momentarily solving the effect and not the cause.
I remember that in the Constitutional Reform Project that we discussed, everyone says in article 20:
“In the Republic of Cuba, the system of economy based on the socialist property of the whole people is governed by the fundamental means of production as the main form of management, and the planned direction of the economy, which considers and regulates the market in function of the interests of society.”
OK, this “solution” that has been proposed as a sui generis way of considering the market. It’s very similar to those of the sixties, which was later recognized in the Programmatic Platform of the Communist Party of Cuba as an error.
The latest recent history –that is, of the last fifty years– of our internal trade is a great book from which to learn what is not to be done. I won’t go on further here, because that gives one enough material for a couple of volumes.
If the decision to ration products at the end is taken again, what will happen? The first thing is that it will create more uncertainty towards the current project of modernization/updating of our economy, and that is a bad political effect.
The second is that it will also generate uncertainty for consumers, who will protect themselves by purchasing those products even when they do not need them (“just in case”) and will force additional expenses even when they are not necessary. In other words, there will be a non-efficient allocation of scarce resources.
Third – and this may not be so bad for some people – it will create a new type of employment, that of the PERMANENT BUYER, who will be out in the stores ready to “help” those who need/want to buy a little more of the normed product. This would be another unproductive form of employment that probably has as a correlate some “special relationship” within the stores.
And that is not science fiction. It has already happened and it still happens. It will happen again as long as the causes remain unresolved. I think we should first ask ourselves how apples can be imported when other, much more important products suffer from the disease of intermittency. Has anyone asked that question?
From the perspective of economic policy, it is evident that today there is a lack of market modality. That is, wholesale sales, something that has been recognized by all as a necessity in these times but which has been delayed for a long time. This happens sometimes for reasons that are not sustained either from the economy or from the Political Economy, much less from economic policy.
Selling wholesale does not even require a building, it is a decision. To make it work you can use state warehouses. It would only take a customer account for those who need or are legally authorized (because of their status as self-employed workers or cooperative members) to carry out that kind of operation.
While we are discussing this apple pastry, very sensitive and decisive issues for our well-being, for the perception of prosperity, for social justice and for equity, as well as for development, remain unresolved, despite the effort made and the hours that many people have dedicated to it.
Issues that have been publicly addressed by our deputies more than once or that have also appeared more than once in the neighborhood accountability assemblies.
Some examples: the weak dynamics of foreign investment, the low participation of investment in science and technology in the total volume of investments, the exodus of professionals, salaries so depressed that they are already almost psychiatric, the use of public services for personal benefit, the deficient system of care for the elderly, the lack of basic supplies in hospitals – such as sheets, towels, syringes and needles (which, by the way, are sold in pharmacies in CUC), medicines on the left, the lack of doctors, the almost eternal deficiencies of public transport, garbage on the corners and the lack of hygiene in the city, the housing deficit.
They are all there, they have been treated again and again. Some have objective causes, others depend to a high degree on subjectivities of one kind or another. However, several of them are unable to reach the hype that has been made because of this poorly understood fruit. And I don’t know why, being such hot and decisive issues, and being all in public view, they haven’t had the good fortune to be treated in the same way as Snow White’s apple.
* This text was originally published in the blog of the troubadour Silvio Rodríguez. OnCuba reproduces this text with the express authorization of its author.
19 September 2018 | 39 Comments
By: Marco Velázquez Cristo.
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews
Some say that corruption should be denounced, demanding that impunity be avoided. However, when these demands are met but affect their personal interests or those of their class, they then try to minimize and ridicule what has been exposed. They also vilify those who have had the courage and moral integrity that they lack and who go beyond the ethereal blah, blah, blah, and denounce an offense like the one committed in La Puntilla.
In this specific case, in the conduct assumed by those who defend the unjustifiable, passion and wounded vanity also play a part. It is unbearable for them that a humble revolutionary blogger –whom they have tried to discredit by all means– with a simple but courageous article of denunciation, succeeded in capturing the attention of the country’s main media and that of an important part of society. So they resorted to making trouble on the Internet.
These characters are so contradictory that while they criticize double standards, they apply them on a daily basis. Their criticism is selective, they only approve of those that go against their main objective: [being] against the State. They are experts in distorting reality and try to describe a situation of corruption in our country like that of other places where it is difficult to differentiate between criminals and corrupt politicians. They are so hypocritical that they claim to defend the Revolution, when in reality they defend their own class interests and –in not a few cases– those of the enemy.
Due to this absence of principles, lack of objectivity and masked perfidy they must resign themselves to holler their heads off on the world wide web..
They themselves provide the arguments that lay then bare: When CIMEX reported on the investigation it would carry it out to clarify what had happened, these people said it would only go so far. When the results came out then they speculated that these would only lead to administrative measures. When it became known that the corresponding charges had been filed, they are now trying to justify a punishable act by the non-existence of a wholesale market and the insufficient availability of some products. Is it licit to corrupt others by taking advantage of their needs and lack of integrity in the name of still unresolved issues? Where are their moral values?
It is true that many things are needed and many problems must be solved, but these issues cannot be used as a justification for hoarding, speculation and exploiting those who have the least. To do so is immoral.
A wholesale market and the availability of more products cannot guarantee on their own the eradication of acts such as the one that has caused these cyber-vigilantes to come out in defense of the crooks who committed it. It is also necessary for defendants and defenders to show decorum, ethical principles and a sense of solidarity. They must leave hypocrisy behind, set aside individualism and honor their human condition. In the rest of the people courage and sense of citizen duty must not remain impervious while crimes are perpetrated.
“To witness a crime passively is equal to committing it”.
— José Martí.
Applying the philosophy of these false apostles of justice, we could charge them and those of their class. Maybe charge them for their children’s education and medical care?, take away their subsidized supplies?, tax their income with high taxes? and… why not?: take away their ADSL paid by the State because no few of them use it to access the Internet and attack the State.
If we were to do that, we could be in a better position to raise salaries and therefore the purchasing powers of those who receive the least and who, as a whole, contribute the most to the public coffers. We could buy more products, lower prices and maybe even create a wholesale market. What do you think, gentlemen?
I believe that it is a fair formula, because I remind these “avengers” that, fundamentally out of the sweat and the sacrifice of millions of humble people. From them come not only the apples but also many other items that some insensitive self-serving persons later hoard and resell at exorbitant prices. These humble people also create the resources and the money to guarantee the services that I mentioned above and the possibility of offering them free of charge, to subsidize the products of the basic basket, etc. It is their work that supports the economy and their dignified and disinterested attitude of commitment to the Revolution that constitutes its greatest strength and the indispensable factor to ensure its continuity.
They make it possible for us to enjoy the advantages of a social system that puts men and women at the center, that fights for equality and social justice, shows high public safety and low crime rates — features that are a luxury in a world shaken by violence. These features allow those who have a lot of money to live in peace and tranquility, and the Internet buffoons to play their pranks on the networks trying to win over supporters and smiles from their class without risk.
We must be consistent: corruption, as well as any other illegal act, have to be denounced regardless of who commits them. Their perpetrators must be prosecuted accordingly.
In Cuba there is not a protective hand that inhibits the action of justice. Double standards are not practiced at the government level as they are in other countries. But double standards are applied in the Cuban blogosphere by some who are shocked only by what does not suit them.
Don’t forget you pink tie clowns that in Cuba money will never guarantee impunity. Those who are in power are the humble –who in the face of scarcities and needs, will not tolerate being robbed, exploited and outraged– aware that as Martí said, “Poverty passes, what does not pass is dishonor”.
Paraphrasing the apostle, “this is a republic for all and for the good of all, not just for a few.
By Iroel Sanchez
Cuban engineer and journalist. He works in the Office for the Informatization of Cuban Society. He was President of the Cuban Institute of the Book. On twitter @iroelsanchez
September 9, 2018
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
Some time ago, in an article titled “Against the third blockade,” [published 2014]I spoke of the fledgling oligarchs who already control food distribution networks in Cuba, this Friday, I had the opportunity to see them act. It was as a result of the sale of apples in the La Puntilla de Primera y “O” store, in the Havana neighborhood of Miramar.
Organized almost militarily and faced with the complicit indifference of the employees, a platoon of strong young men appeared – a good part of them “in uniform” with clothes bearing the U.S. flag – who, in a few minutes, bought 15,000 apples (150 boxes of 100). Using the pallets and wheelbarrows of the store, they arranged to take them out, using transportation from the CIMEX corporation itself, which the head of the group, [acting] with total authority, insistently demanded from a cell phone and a luxurious and modern black car with a private-car’s license plate.
When asked how this was possible, a store employee replied: “We can’t do anything”. An empty “information desk”, but [only] with a sign with the telephone numbers of “Customer Service” of the Panamerican chain of stores. When calling, at first they do not answer and after insisting several times they say that they already knew about the situation were taking care of it.
But in one hour, despite the promise of the only employee who tried to give an explanation: that the manager of the complex was on his way, he never arrived. Remember, the central office of the Corporation is a few meters from the store in a building named Sierra Maestra (!!!!). The calm with which the “platoon” acted suggested their conviction of their impunity.
I know that before this publication the company will try some answer, maybe there will be explanations and some disciplinary measure but let’s transcend the anecdote that surely told daily and get to the bottom. Let’s not collect more water with baskets:
A store that not long ago caught fire, was completely rebuilt, with cameras, guards, brand new cash registers and expensive security devices, for whose benefit? Imports with scarce foreign currency, for whose benefit? It is impossible not to remember what our colleague Javier Gómez Sánchez told us about how the same “uniform” prevails in the wardrobe of nationals who vacation in hotels in Varadero.
It is all very well for the press and prosecutors to go to the construction material stores, but they must follow the trail to the mansions that have been built with them, such as those on the road to Marbella, sorry, I meant Belllamar, in Matanzas. Marbella, in Spain, is where the oligarchs who ransacked post-Soviet Russia erected their residences.
“Tell me about your mother”, was the request of journalist Ignacio Ramonet to Fidel
Author: Fidel Castro Ruz | email@example.com
August 12, 2018 18:08:16
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
She brought into the world seven children, all born in that house, always assisted by a rural midwife. There was never and could never be a doctor there, it did not exist in all that remote region. No one tried so hard to get her children to study, she wanted for them what she didn’t have. Without her, I, who always felt the pleasure of studying, would still be functionally illiterate today. My mother, even if she didn’t say it every minute, loved her children. She had character, she was brave and self-sacrificing. He knew how to bear with integrity and without hesitation the sufferings that some of us involuntarily caused her.
She accepted the Agrarian Reform and the distribution of those lands, which she undoubtedly loved, without bitterness.
Extremely religious in her faith and beliefs, which I have always respected, she found comfort in her sorrow as a mother, and she also accepted with motherly love the Revolution for which she suffered so much, without having had the slightest possibility of knowing the history of humanity and the deepest causes that the events she experienced so closely in Cuba and in the world originated, due to her origin as a humble poor peasant woman.
She died on August 6, 1963, three and a half years after the triumph of the Revolution.
By Ana María Domínguez Cruz
Posted: Tuesday 07 August 2018 | 09:06:12 PM
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
When it comes to a haircut, a bold nail polish or a bold piece of clothing, it’s not as worrisome, because of the ephemeral nature of fashion, in the end. The alarm is triggered when health risks are evident when assuming styles and habits that far from guaranteeing beauty, touch us with danger.
Several blogs dedicated to fashion and pseudo beauty, as well as photos, have multiplied in social networks, promoting a series of aesthetic fashions, based on extreme thinness and non-professional criteria. Examples: the bikini bridge, thigh gap, diastema, belly-button challenge and ab-crack, among others.
During the summer, in particular, the fashion of slimming the belly until the rubber on the bottom of the bikini becomes so tight between the hips has spread so far. The textile piece then forms a bridge over the navel that can only be achieved when adolescent girls practice arbitrary diets without any balance or with excessive fasting periods.
When we talk about a thigh gap, it is because we also test our body’s strength by trying to make the upper part of the thighs so firm and thin that it leaves a clear space between them and the pubic area. Specialists warn that this is very dangerous, because, to obtain this separation of the calves from their inner faces, depends on the anatomy of the hips and not on the amount of muscle or fat in the leg, girls often resort to anorexic behaviors that put their nutritional needs at risk.
The furrow of separation between the two muscles of the abdomen in a well-marked way is another tendency between adolescents and adults, called the “ab-crack”. They do not take into account the risk of obsessive hyper-musculation from unbalanced protein intake, or in some cases, from abuse of vitamin supplements and other less-desirable substances.
As if that weren’t enough, there are plenty of images on Instagram and Facebook of teenagers who want to show off their slender bodies, running one arm behind their backs to try to touch their bellybuttons with their hands, while with their other hand they take on a selfie. The belly button challenge also certainly flirts with dangerous diets and eating disorders, as does the so-called collarbone challenge, another challenge for teenagers who want to demonstrate that they can fit a string of coins in the gap between their collarbone and their neck.
For both the female and male sexes, the diastema is now spreading as a fashion, which is nothing more than the search for the separation of the upper denture into two halves after a widening of the central teeth. It is then valued to undergo an expensive dental operation to wear what is not naturally available.
In the area of cosmetic surgery, we note with concern the fact that some teenagers between the ages of 13 and 16 want to undergo labiaplasty, an aesthetic operation that seeks to resize the vaginal lips and leave them shorter, more even or more turgid.
The followers of this surgery for aesthetic purposes consider preventive reasons regarding hygiene or pain when having sexual intercourse, as well as psychological reasons when the lips are asymmetrical and when sexual acceptance and self-esteem disorders are associated, but what is alarming is that this type of operation is not recommended before the age of 18, since the vaginal lips during adolescence are in full growth phase.
Also not without risks, and also associated with high prices is the pubic lifting, another practice used by girls and boys who want to attract more from a sexual point of view to their partners. They are exposed to lightening the adipose tissue of the Mount of Venus in women and the lower abdomen in men to rejuvenate the urogenital area.
How many wrong associations with beauty! Imitating aesthetic models that are far removed from what is healthy only shows the vulnerabilities that those who do not feel completely satisfied with their physique and way of being suffer during adolescence.
It is a complex period in life, say psychologists and sociologists, because adolescents need to build their identity and value the opinion that others have of them. However, this is the best time to alert them to the health consequences of certain behaviors and, above all, to the importance of accepting themselves and cultivating what may be invisible to the eyes, but which is ultimately the most valuable.
By Israel Hernández Álvarez
July 28, 2018.
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
One person was reported seriously injured among the 30 injured in the traffic accident that occurred at dawn this Saturday at kilometer 327 of the National Highway, belonging to the province of Sancti Spíritus.
The incident occurred when a Yutong bus went off the road and its driver, trying to incorporate it into the road, lost control of the vehicle, which overturned.
The general hospital Camilo Cienfuegos received the injured, some of whom received first aid at the mother and child hospital in the municipality of Cabaiguán.
Two children are in a state of care and are cared for at the José Martí Provincial Pediatric Hospital.
At noon today, 22 people with minor injuries had already been discharged from the hospital and, after receiving the appropriate treatment and verifying their good state of health, they continued their journey to Havana, the destination of the National Bus Company’s vehicle, which was arriving by freight from Baracoa, in the province of Guantánamo.
Dr. Eduardo Pedrosa Prado, director of the Camilo Cienfuegos Hospital, told ACN that, as in these cases, the Integrated Emergency Medical System was immediately activated and the injured were provided with the necessary resources for their care.
Every four hours, Pedrosa Prado added, we make the visit pass, and in correspondence with the evolution of the patients we will adopt the behavior to follow with them.
Upon learning of the incident, authorities of the Cuban Communist Party, the Government and the Health Ministry in the territory went to the largest health centre in Sancti Spíritus to take an interest in the wounded and their medical care.
This is the fifth massive accident that has taken place this year in the territory of the Spirit, and the second in less than 10 days; the previous one took place in the early hours of last Saturday at kilometer 332, also on the National Highway, in which 37 people were injured.
Author: Félix López
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
We come today to young Alejandro’s third and most complicated paradox: “If not socialism, what do we have left?” It would seem our young man was looking for an exit on the expressway, but I don’t think so since he already made it clear he goes for a cool socialism. Well? Nothing, I can see he wants and needs to know what the non-socialist option has in store for us. And I will answer him without using the worn-out tale of the Big Bad Capitalistic Wolf devouring the Proletarian Little Red Riding Hood.
What’s at stake is a lot more than a remake of a children’s story: history, maybe life itself; our ecology and future; our happiness and existence. Socialism is all that and even more: the sworn enemy of selfishness and inequality, boundless consumption and violence, warmongering and expansionism, drugs and pornography, a lifestyle based on foolishness and glamour… all synonymous with capitalism, designer of a society where –contrary to Martí’s precepts– the more you have to show off, the more valuable you are; where it’s not how you think but how well you’re dressed and what brand your cell phone is what matters; where people’s worth is measured by their fortune –ergo, the have-nots are not people– and the ID cards have been replaced with credit cards; where a mall is more worshipped than a university; where, according to Eduardo Galeano, to praise a flower you say, “it’s so beautiful you’d think it’s plastic!”
If not socialism, Alejandro, barbarism would be the only option left to us. I’m sure that capitalism would waste no time in presenting us with an oasis of spotless showcases and the mythical junk food franchises would compete for the best spots downtown where they could create a mirage of lights and affluence, as they did in the former USSR… and all the while that artificial bubble would be surrounded in a flash by a poor area with no schools but teeming with gangs; with no jobs but many prostitutes; with nothing to dream about but lots of drugs to forget that fact; with no quality lifestyle but the required TV set to sell you all kinds of comforts… and you bet I’m not even mentioning the terrible dangers fueled by deep-seated hatred.
There’s another, simpler and more realistic answer to Alejandro’s question: you either make sure you become an enterprising optimist and strive to build a cooler socialism –so you can keep your freedom and at the same time have a better and happier life– or risk your neck at the Russian roulette in a casino and end up finding out that in the realm of “every man for himself” even your smile can be mortgaged. It’s no coincidence that Silvio Rodríguez, who has traveled around the world and gives us through his music a kaleidoscope of life, voiced his support of a perfectible socialism in his capacity of Deputy to our National Assembly of the People’s Power, making it clear that we can improve ours and we must do it by ourselves.
President Raúl Castro warned in a recent speech that he had not been elected to restore capitalism in Cuba and invited all Cubans to discuss what kind of socialism we want. If we ever lose the gift of participation the Revolution will have lost its sense of direction. Hence the importance that we, our parents and our children, that is, three or more generations of Cubans –in one of which Alejandro belongs– take part in this get-together and engage in a collective reflection free of slogans and mechanistic attitudes.
I feel certain that our socialist values will come out stronger as a result. Not long ago, on the occasion of the Cuban Revolution’s 50th birthday, a number of young intellectuals were invited to talk about it and the realization of the socialist project. What follows is just a thumbnail sample of their comments sufficient to understand how necessary and comprehensive is the debate awaiting us:
Julio César Guanche: “In 1959, the Cuban Revolution gave birth to a beautiful specimen of utopian socialism and implemented on Cuban soil a significant part of Rousseau’s great ideal: universal citizenship, a sovereign society, and social justice. Fifty years later, Cuba realized that a revolution is not the ultimate goal, as every thing conquered must be re-conquered and changing with the times is the only way to move on”.
Ariel Dacal: “We must publicly discuss how we understand socialism and what to do to make it more effective in its quest for an anti-capitalist alternative, which entails as much social justice as possible. People’s education, culture, technical ability, feelings and political knowledge are underrated and in some cases wasted. In order to reverse that situation we must make qualitative changes in the way people get involved in the management and control of their daily individual and public life, both as workers and community members”.
José A. Fernández: “Our Socialism has fought against poverty, capitalism, imperialism and its worst manners –war and terrorism– as well as against the immobility of state bureaucracy, political ignorance, the opportunism of the alleged extremists, the tiny internal opposition and the strong external opposition, the ghost of the ‘siege’ that prevents us from trusting our own potential to be freer… We have contributed the beauty of a whole people of women and men forged with blood and fire, blockade and militia, lack of resources and a wealth of wisdom and faith in the justice we have earned”.
I hope that both young Alejandro and those who read these comments found in them food for thought, issues to debate, new questions and some answers. Many people deem a discussion about socialism in present and future tense a thorny subject. Rest assured that if we do it in public, using a pro-positive key instead of drawing up an inventory of problems, we will no longer be treading on waste land. The forest is crawling with snipers.
We have to keep creating and learning if we want to make progress and be better. With the energy of our people and Fidel’s endless supply of creative thoughts we have done what once seemed impossible: we saved socialism.
Author: Félix López
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
Why does socialism seem more concerned about ideology than about aesthetics?, young Alexander asked, his question undoubtedly originating with his concept of a cool socialism: a just, nice society, estranged from capitalism’s “every-man-for-himself” laws and free from any ugliness, sloppiness, vulgarity, mediocrity, bad taste and boredom for good measure. To young people, “being cool” means hip, fashionable and graceful, the kind of synonym Alejandro chooses for his life.
Let’s come to the grips with his poser. The praxis, to be sure, ended up leaning to the ideological side, but I think the idea of favoring ideology over aesthetics never entered the mind of the socialist theoreticians or the letter of the classics. Lenin, for one, warned us that disseminating ugliness and annoyance was by no means good revolutionary communication. A case in point is Cuba, where plays, movies, books and museum exhibitions became real crowd-pullers following the democratization of culture and seeing a worker enjoying a classical ballet or a scientist shaking her hips like one possessed to the rhythm of a popular band is no longer surprising.
Cuban culture is the perfect example that most people want socialism free of any gaudiness. Many of us brag about the criollo, Martí-oriented and Caribbean nature of our Revolution without overlooking the benefits and influence –both positive and negative– of the Krim TV sets, the Moskvich cars, the Hanka and Danka cartoons, the incomprehensible jokes of Ferdinand the Clown, and the “proletarian chivalry” clichés. Or the avalanche of luggage bursting at the seams with bad taste that our relatives in Miami are bringing here as we speak. Or the blue jeans with golden dragons embroidered on the pockets that a Cuban state purchaser –a très unchic one, by the way– brings from overseas to supply our department stores.
Alejandro, make no mistake: Marx and Lenin dreamed about one thing, but the final outcome after the [mis]interpretations was another matter altogether. Let me give you one example: in the months following the triumph of the Russian revolution, the avant-garde currents were deemed a natural complement to revolutionary policy. Constructivism flourished in the visual arts, while poetry and music praised all non-traditional and modernist forms… until one day that the illustrated bureaucrats let their criticism run free, saying that impressionism, surrealism, Dadaism, cubism and other modern styles were full of subjectivist principles –which crashed head-on with dialectical materialism’s objective aspirations– and ruled it was “bourgeois art”.
That’s how the curtains of cultural diversity were drawn and socialist realism came on stage, aesthetic flaws and all, convinced that only the topics touching on politics and the working class were worth the effort. Then the USSR exported it most other socialist states, where the doctrine took on various degrees of significance… only to see its eagerness to describe people’s simple life –with Maksim Gorky’s work as one major exponent– become swamped in a dogmatic and exclusionist vision of socialism that eventually harmed the mission of its culture.
It’s a commonly held, albeit wrong, belief –often used as a justification– that a poor, underdeveloped country can’t afford to think about aesthetics when it has so many other fish to fry, namely to feed, shelter and clothe its population. A comfortable economic and financial situation makes everything easier, I have to give you that, but at the same time I flatly refuse to second such ode to misfortune. My grandma used to say something became a canon at home: “Poor but honorable; patched but clean”. Our greatness lies in surmounting that crest of hardship and being different.
In my previous comment I asked: “How much longer do we have to wait until our builders, food service workers and everyone else in charge of making people’s life happy rather than miserable become steeped in the excellence we have achieved in research, sports and culture?” Well, here’s another question: how did we manage to remain immune from the unsightly contamination of socialist realism and even oppose it with a recognized movement of graphic designers, filmmakers with a soul of their own and protest singers who leaped over the bureaucratic censors and became a poetic monument to Cuban culture?
Luckily, we don’t have to go out in search of the answer. Cuba has every reason to take pride in its indigenous culture, its own creations, and its people’s commitment to the Revolution and boldness to conquer the bureaucrats’ Golgotha and inherent ability to come up with a problem for every solution. Dialectics, participation, authenticity and our criollo cleverness… those are the best antidote to sloppiness, banality and laziness. Aren’t the New Song Movement’s lyrics cool or what? Who says Cuban baseball or the way [110-meter hurdles racer] Dayron Robles runs are not cool? How to deny that the children of La Colmenita are not cool on stage? So why should we deny Alejandro the chance to make our socialism cooler?
Coming back to the opening question above, I call attention upon something we have neglected. We all know that socialism in our Island is essentially just, friendly and remarkably human. It’s the wrapping what we have to solve yet, a problem not always dependent on solvency, as we’re also haunted by subjective ghosts. But it’s not too late to ward them off, though. Let’s stick a moral bill on every ugly, rundown and forgotten spot of our environment which says: “Wanted: creativity, solutions, gall, good ideas, diligence, shame, devotion and, why not, plenty of cool.
(To be continued…)
By Graziella Pogolotti
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
The large-scale tourism industry has a relatively recent history. Its initial impulse came after World War II. The rise of left-wing movements and the pressure exerted by powerful trade unions led many countries to pass laws making paid rest compulsory. For many sectors of the middle classes, the possibility of enjoying holidays was opened up.
At the same time, numerous publications disseminated the cultural values located in Third World countries. Appropriate marketing operations designed tours to famous places for destinations that were docile to the indications of trained guides. The trip was no longer an adventure. Everything was planned in advance. Back home, the tourist would not remember much of the experience lived in the pyramids of Teotihuacán, but would arrive with a bunch of trinkets billed as souvenirs.
The traveler, on the other hand, is moved by the search for the unusual. He’s going to go to some of the most remote places in the cities. You will observe the human landscape without disdaining typical foods in some modest restaurants. I confess to having belonged to this species in my younger years. When I couldn’t afford the pennies to take on bigger adventures, I decided to start at home.
At the time, I had just finished my college degree. The studies of Art History had revealed to me the importance of our colonial legacy. I obtained the assistance of two compañeras to launch us on the adventure of discovering Trinidad. We stayed in a room on the corner of Media Luna and Desengaño. The names of the streets, such as the Habaneras of Amargura, Mercaderes, lficios or la Muralla have always exerted on me a remarkable power of poetic evocation. But the Trinitarian atmosphere of those days was far from what we know today.
There were the houses of yesteryear in the midst of an impressive misery. Barefoot and ragged, the children roamed the streets, sometimes reduced to begging. The ruin of the Valle de los Ingenios plunged the city into a poverty in which some families tried to preserve the dignity of the past.
It’s been a few years. In the 60’s of the last century, in the middle of the fight against the bandits, a traveling library went along the road between Cienfuegos and Trinidad. It offered book loans for children and adults. I wanted to know the experience in a direct way. The newly-literate peasants encouraged their children to acquire the habit of reading. On that occasion, I met a unique character.
Carlos Joaquín Zerquera was one of those local historians who narrated countless anecdotes of characters from the past. He did it so neatly that his murky marriage intrigues seemed to be happening in the contemporary world. His energies were focused on the effort to rescue the Brunet Palace in order to turn it into the Romantic Museum. Resources were scarce.
Nicolás Chao, Party secretary in the region, who also sponsored the creation of the Grupo Escambray, led by Sergio Corrieri, was able to listen to the Trinitarian researcher’s homily. Little by little something was done. Recognition of the need to preserve our heritage was beginning to take shape. We did not know, in those distant 1970s, that we were investing in a future tourism that would become one of our options for economic growth. Trinidad has been reborn and has recovered its best artisan tradition.
The traveler can enjoy the uniqueness of its urban environment. Let us take great care of your specific features. Let us not fall into the mimetic temptation of Cancunizing it.
On holiday days, we can try the adventure of discovering our country. Sometimes, you don’t have to walk very far to stumble upon the surprise of the unusual. In the Havana municipality of Cotorro is the Church of Santa María del Rosario, a rural place devoured yesterday by the galloping growth of the capital. Nicolás de la Escalera, the oldest painter with a name registered in our history of art left his mark there.
In our small country, there are many corners to be rediscovered. To do this properly, we need to move, relentlessly but steadily, towards a change of mentality. Let’s not confuse the popular with the uncouth. Let us discard the reductionist vision of culture as an ornament and recognize in it the nourishing source of a spirituality that defines our uniqueness, that is, our identity. Managing with intelligence, avoiding the banal commercialization of the peddlers, is a good that can translate into tangible material benefits.
Let us abandon the formal routine of commemorations. Let us make each of them an event open to wider horizons. In these days we have remembered the bicentenary of the San Alejandro foundation.
Let us abandon the formal routine of commemorations. Let us make each of them an event open to wider horizons. In those days we remembered the bicentenary of the foundation of St. Alexander. The history of the Academy was one of light and shadow. The triumph of the Revolution brought about a substantial change by bringing about the emergence of the long-neglected artistic avant-garde. The tribute to the date would be an opportunity to find in our National Museum the work of those who passed through it along with the insurgents who rebelled against the obsolescence of their curricula.
Welcome to the sunny days and the beach, as well as the festivities that animate summer days. Let us also learn to take advantage of the weeks of rest to turn our gaze inward and devote some moments to productive meditation.