Oct
14
2009
0

La Libreta

(Photo: Roy Llera)

(Photo: Roy Llera)

The rationing book is a form of control, relegating people to paralyzing hours in line for the meager handouts as freighters loaded with goods for the tourist hotels pull into Havana harbor. According to this AP story, Cuban state-run media (which has a monopoly on expression) are suggesting that the rationing should come to an end. This seems to be part of Raul Castro’s lurching steps toward economic reform, but it is a example of how difficult it will be to implement changes in a fragmented way.
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Written by IPH in: Cuba News,Cuban Revolution |
Sep
20
2009
2

Juanes, the difficult terrain of neutrality.

Juanes and Ché, its hard to be apolitical in Havana..

Juanes and Ché, its hard to be apolitical in Havana..


Colombian rock singer Juanes has caused quite a stir in his adopted hometown of Miami for his project of bringing a stellar roster of Latin musicians to a mega concert in Havana. Today, after facing a storm of controversy among exile Cubans for several weeks, the concert, called Peace Without Borders is in full swing in the Plaza de la Revolución with an audience of over a million people.

To people outside the Cuban sphere the controversy surrounding this concert may be hard to comprehend, and I will attempt to shed some light on the subject.
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Jul
18
2009
0

Cuba: One Story – A graphic novel

I’m happy to see that Dean Haspiel has announced that he’s doing a graphic novel with a Cuban theme.

Cuba: One Story, an original graphic novel planned for 2010 is a collaboration with writer/artist/friend, Inverna Lockpez, a Cuban emigree who will write the story based on her experiences as a surgeon in Castro’s army. Haspiel is a talented artist with dynamic bold lines and excellent sense of composition who has previously collaborated with comics legend Harvey Pekar.

The book is described as “a memoir with a little fiction mixed in”. The extreme and harrowing situations so often present in the context of the Cuban Revolution readily lends itself to nonfiction treatments, and I’m glad that comics is becoming part of that. Sequential storytelling has a lot to offer the genre, combining words and images to recreate real events in ways unique to the medium, as seen in the work of Joe Sacco and Marjane Satrapi.

I wish Dean and Inverna luck with their project, hopefully Happy At 90 Miles and Cuba: One Story will be sharing space on the bookshelves of stores and in homes, shedding light on the individual experiences that are so often lost in the churning of historical drama.

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Jul
09
2009
0

World Affairs Journal on Cuba

http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/2009%20-%20Summer/full-Gjelten.html

© World Affairs

In his article “Cuban Days: The Inscrutable Nation”
Tom Gjelten of World Affairs has written the rare thing that is a balanced, extensive and informative article about contemporary Cuba, carefully detailing the sense that the island is at a crossroads.

Subjects touched on include:

  • The “special period” of hard times after the collapse of the Soviet Union when many analysts expected Cuba to follow suit.
  • The rafter exodus in 1994 and the hushed national discussion it sparked.
  • The challenge for the Castros in dealing with a progressive U.S. president, not easily demonized.
  • Blogger Yoani Sánchez and the internet censorship.
  • The benefits of a totalitarian state in emergencies such as Hurricane Ivan.
  • The CDRs and the imposed loyalty the regime demands.
  • Dissidents and undercover informants.
  • The different paths that Cuban “change” might take.
  • Interesting quote from a commentator:
    “The Castro regime has destroyed any nationalist sentiment among the youth sector of the population. . . . Emigrating to the United States or waiting for Fidel Castro to die, those are the favored options in Cuba. If there were a referendum to choose between sovereignty and annexation to the colossus of the north, the independent Cuban nation would perish unnoticed.

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    Written by IPH in: Cuba News,Cuban Revolution |
    May
    26
    2009
    1

    Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Internet?

    The International Society for Human Rights has released a creative campaign pointing a finger at those leaders that fear that the openness of the internet is at odds with the closed societies they preside over. I guess this confirms that Raul Castro is the official image of Cuba.

    mouse_raulcastro1
    The campaign is by Ogilvy & Mather (Frankfurt) and won a bronze Clio this year in New York.

    Check out the others here, starring authoritarians Ahmadinejad and Chávez.

    For more info on the restriction of internet in Cuba, please see my previous post on the subject.

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    May
    24
    2009
    0

    The rhetoric of prison countries

    cuba_bars
    image credit: International Society For Human Rights

    The necessity of imprisoning one’s people because they are liable to emigrate en masse if given half a chance is nothing but a sad admittance of failure. All societies exercise some level of coercion over their citizens in order to ensure order, but the ultimate proof of tyranny is a closed border. It is a capitulation of faith, replaced by a grim certitude that people must be prevented from voting with their feet.

    I came across a piece of East German propaganda that attacks the motivations of those who would want to leave the “worker’s paradise”. It is called “He Who Leaves the German Democratic Republic Joins the Warmongers”. This pamphlet was distributed in 1955. It is sad that so many years later Cubans still suffer under similarly tired slogans and laws.

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    May
    18
    2009
    1

    Internet in Cuba

    Less than 2% of the population in Cuba has access to the internet.

    Reporters Without Borders online protest against Internet Censorship

    Reporters Without Borders online protest against Internet Censorship

    There are real obstacles presented by economic limitations of the potential users and the U.S.embargo (lack of access to fiber optic cables limiting bandwith, although telecommunications technology is not part of the embargo). However, the fact remains that the Cuban government extends its severe censorship to the world wide web, undobtedly fearing its inherent openness.

    Go to any bookstore in Cuba and check out the selection: The life of Che, Che’s diaries, Memories of Che, Fidel’s best speeches, The Open Veins of Latin America by Galeano and some works by Chomsky. There are other titles, conspicuously apolitical, but that about sums it up. Now imagine applying that kind of filtering to the internet. It’s hard, but the regime has managed through a couple of ways. Communications Minister Ramiro Valdes recently called the internet “A wild Colt (horse) that can and must be controlled.”

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    May
    15
    2009
    2

    Drawing Havana

    Here’s a study of a street scene in old Havana.

    habana_vieja011

    It’s loosely based on a photo I took years ago and shows two constants in Cuban street life; People hanging about without anything particular to do and magnificent old buildings in Art Deco and Baroque style crumbling slowly. The idle Cuban is not lazy, rather, there’s nothing for many of them to do. In order to avoid high double digit unemployment, most Cubans are employed just a couple of days a week as there’s not enough work to go around.

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    Apr
    29
    2009
    0

    Che comix

    As a follow up to yesterday’s longish post on Mr. Guevara, here’s a quick look at his recent appearance in comics.

    che_spain1

    cheattack

    Underground comics artist Spain Rodriguez has been comissioned by a British publisher Verso Books to do a biography on Che. The result is unapolagetically adoring by Rodriguez’ own admission. I’m not a fan of his awkward figures nor of his politics, but I haven’t read the book so I won’t comment further.
    Here’s a REVIEW from Latin Culture Mag REMEZCLA. This negative review aside, I wouldn’t be surprised if this book becomes canon for many readers. With their visual impact and power of images fused with words, comics can be terribly persuasive when carrying a message, as talked about in this post and in a future post on a little book called “The Cuban Revolution for Beginners”

    Out also is “Che, A Graphic Biography” from Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón, confusingly sporting the same title as Rodriguez’ book. Will there be a war of the Ches? The art looks good, but there’s not much info out on this book, except this publicity piece:

    The creators have previously done a graphic version of the 9/11 report which sounds like great bedside reading.

    So, is there room for a Graphic Novel with a less positive view of Saint Che and the Cuban Revolution? I think there’s not only room, it’s probably overdue.

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    Apr
    29
    2009
    2

    Che será, será.

    He’ll have two brief appearances in “Happy at 90 Miles”, once in a historical setting, once in a dream sequence, so I did some drawings of him to get his likeness down.

    guevara
    Here he is, one of the most polarizing figures in Latin America. Not so much in Europe and great parts of the US, where the consensus is that “Che” was a righteous fighter for justice, a Christ-like paladin of the downtrodden and most of all genuine.

    In Latin America, while he certainly has more followers than anywhere else of both the casual and impassioned kind, there is also a great many people who have been at the receiving end of the violence he either committed or inspired.

    I’m not talking about dictators in shiny boots like Batista, or even the his torturers who were executed following the triumph of the Revolution. I’m talking about ordinary middle class people who were jailed and killed for their active dissent and opposition to communism, who were told they would either agree to become wards of the state or be labeled as criminals, the parents who lost sons to the armed insurgencies and terrorism he directly or indirectly exported, whether they were soldiers and police men of a bourgeois government, or had been seduced by Che’s example to take to the hills with a gun and fight his countrymen. How many lives have been ruined by the political violence that ravaged Latin America in the last 50 years?

    Che means a lot of things to a lot of people. The asthmatic Argentinian physician who became the poster boy for The Cuba Revolution has long since ceased being a mortal human and has transcended into the rarified realm of legend, where he is usually only lionized or demonized. His image taken from Korda’s famous photo casually adorns the t-shirts and bedrooms of adolescents world wide. “Brand Che” has been thoroughly embraced and coopted by the very consumerist culture he despised while populating the wet dreams of rebels and radicals of all stripes who know they’ll never be as hardcore as he was.

    To me, he is not Che. He is just Ernesto Guevara de La Serna. A fallible human being who had an inflated sense of self that enabled him to put an a gun to the head of anyone who opposed his worldview and feel holy when pulling the trigger. In other words, another armed extremist with a mission. In this he is more a continuation of the Spanish conquistadors than the indians they both aimed to “liberate”.

    Where others see his love for the exploited poor I see this love used as a license for his tremendous capacity for hate. Only hate can put you in such a hard, fanatical position where everyone, including yourself is better off dead than “wrong”. All in the service of ideas that feed on blood and reduce human lives to the expendable debris that is the cost of failed messianic projects such as the Cuban Revolution.

    I don’t think you have to be a hard-nosed conservative to see that his example is intolerant. undemocratic and ultimately futile.

    One thing his admirers and I can agree with is that he was the genuine article. He was singlemindedly true to his ideals, and did not sensor the brutality of his thought process. This makes me think that a lot of the idealization that he’s the subject of is mainly casued by a lack of understanding and information. I’m sure he’d make most of his young fans cry in disbelief if he could have ten minutes with them.

    An anecdote tells that when he was in charge of the more than 150 executions at La Cabaña prison after the rebels captured Havana in 1958, a woman came to plead with him for her husband’s life. He was one of Batista’s officers and was sentenced to die in three days. Guevara had all visitors cross the courtyard with its pocked wall stained with blood and brains from the victims of the firing squads. On listening to her plea, he said that there was no sense in her suffering for three more days, he’d take care to have the husband executed that same afternoon. Is it a true story? It certainly is consistent with his attitude documented in his writings and speeches.

    “To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary…These procedures are an archaic bourgeois detail. This is a revolution! And a revolutionary must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate. We must create the pedagogy of the The Wall! (El Paredón)” –Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara

    “Hatred as an element of the struggle; a relentless hatred of the
    enemy, impelling us over and beyond the natural limitations that man is
    heir to and transforming him into an effective, violent, selective and
    cold killing machine. Our soldiers must be thus; a people without
    hatred cannot vanquish a brutal enemy.” Ernesto Guevara -Message to the Tricontinental,
    1967

    For a brilliant summary on the dark side of Che, please see Alvaro Vargas Llosa’s article HERE

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    Written by IPH in: Cuban Revolution,Updates |

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