Generation Y is a Blog inspired by people like
me, with names that start with or contain a "Y". Born in Cuba in the
'70s and '80s, marked by schools in the countryside, Russian cartoons,
illegal emigration and frustration. So I invite, especially, Yanisleidi,
Yoandri, YusimĂ, Yuniesky and others who carry their "Y's" to read me
and to write to me.
A Generation Y reader sent me a piece of the Berlin Wall. The fragment of concrete has come to me, a person also surrounded by certain limits, not less severe for being intangible. The stone painted with remnants of graffiti suggests to me an impossible collection of what has contributed to the separation of Cubans. According to a Latin American writer it would be a list of â€śthe things, all the thingsâ€ť that have intensified the division and tension among those of us who inhabit this Island.
You could put in this particular collection of objects a stretch of the wire fence that once surrounded the Military Units to Aid Production (UMAP*); a shard from the nuclear missiles* placed on our land which brought all of us to the verge of disappearing; one of those pages where millions signedâ€”without having the option of marking â€śnoâ€ťâ€”that socialism would be irrevocable*; and a sliver from one of the clubs that cracked heads on Havanaâ€™s MalecĂłn on August 5, 1994*. The display of samples would not be complete if I didnâ€™t add a shell from the eggs thrown during the Mariel Boat Lift and some millimeters of ink from the reports and denunciations that have abounded in recent years. There would not be a museum capable of also housing the beings and situations that have acted like a great barrier of brick and cement among us.
Each Cuban could create his own repertoire of the walls that still surround us. What seems more difficult is to draw up the list of what unites us, of the possible hammers and picks with which we tear down the walls that remain. For that reason the gift of this frequent commentator has made me happy because I have the impression that our barriers and divisions will alsoâ€”one dayâ€”be pieces valued only by the collectors of bygone things.
Please use your search engine to find more information on these events. Briefly:
Military Units to Aid Production were forced labor camps. Among those incarcerated there were homosexuals and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Nuclear Missiles: Placed by the Soviet Union in Cuba in October 1962.
Socialism irrevocable petition: In 2002 the Cuban constitution was changed to make socialism “irrevocable”, following the distribution of a petition which 8-9 million Cubans reportedly signed calling for the change. The petition was launched in response to the Varela Project, which reportedly collected 11,000 signatures asking for a referendum on individual rights such as free speech.
MalecĂłn on August 5, 1994: A spontaneous riot along Havana’s waterfront boulevard and seawall.
Seven months after they warned me, in a dark police station, that â€śyou have transgressed all the limits,â€ť I continue traveling to Pinar del RĂo to conduct the Blogger Journey. Instead of curing the virus of expressing ourselves online, that December 6th ban on our meeting has fueled, in many, the desire to become infected.
Here are some photos taken Sunday in the west of the country, while I was teaching the guts of Wordpress and tricks for updating a blog.
A store on Neptune Street closed yesterday so they wouldnâ€™t have to turn on the air conditioner after exceeding the strict plan of kilowatts consumed. In a five-star hotel they tell the tourists theyâ€™re repairing the air conditioner but in reality they turn it off so the meter wonâ€™t run so fast. In both places the employees breathe the hot stuffy air while few customers venture into the large market to buy, or remain in the lobby of the luxurious accommodation.
Fans appear everywhere in a savings plan that is costing the country a figure the press doesnâ€™t publish. The housewives avoid submerging themselves in the sticky atmosphere of the convertible peso stores; those wanting to make a deposit escape after half an hour inside the windowless bank; coffee shops see their sales decline; private money changers are having a heyday because the state currency exchange offices (CADECAS) close midday; and in the movie theaters one doesn’t know whether to scream at the monster who wants to devour the protagonist or at the unbearable heat.
Obviously these measures originated in some office air-conditioned by â€śup thereâ€ť; they occurred to those who, at three in the afternoon, didnâ€™t have to wait for a document in a place where more than twenty people were crowded together, sweating. I would like to throw out a proposal to the architects of this program, that they extend the cuts to certain untouchable sites where the thermometer still shows less than 25 degrees Celsius. It would be good, for example, to ask the members of the National Assembly, who are meeting on August 1st, to travel to their meeting on public transport so as not to waste fuel on their chartered bus. They should, keeping with the electrical restrictions we all live with, deliberate by the light of candles, drink warm soft drinks at the break, and limit their session to only a couple of hours, to avoid the costs of using the microphones and the TV transmitters. The unanimous approval and frantic applause which characterizes all their actions donâ€™t require much meeting time, nor the enjoyment of relaxing air conditioning.
Today I am showing you the oldest neon sign in my Central Havana neighborhood.Â With its red letters, the ad invites you to have a cup of PilĂłn coffee, although at this location they now offer only tepid dishwater from an undefined powder.
Incredibly, the structure has survived childrenâ€™s rocks and the stateâ€™s intention to sweep away all the brands that remind us of the past.Â This â€śfossilâ€ť still hangs in Galiano Street, though its interior light has failed to illuminate the small sign for years and underneath it you can no longer drink coffee made without chickpeas.
Saturday morning, I learned that chicken had arrived at the rationed market and I went to the butchers where they usually sell eggs and soy-based â€śground meatâ€ť.Â But there werenâ€™t any customers there.Â The employee, with the muteness common among those who serve the public, called my attention with a pointed finger to the hundred people in line in front of the fish store.
For some time thereâ€™s been a shortage of products from the sea and the natural sources for obtaining the nutrient phosphorus are more lost than the ark in the Indiana Jones films.Â Thus, in the little grid in the ration book where they should mark a portion of mackerel or hake, they now enter a tiny portion of thigh, and next to thigh, chicken.Â I spent two hours waiting, and finally entered the place where nothing remains of the odor of the African coasts, which is where the Cuban fishing fleet captures its fishâ€¦ in the idealized time of true socialism.
The seller was standing on a mat made of cartons where one could readâ€”perfectly clearlyâ€”the origin of the merchandise: â€śMade in USA.â€ťÂ An old man with a malicious tongue didnâ€™t miss this detail and commented, â€śThese American chickens are certainly well fed.â€ťÂ The lady took our ration book where it specifies we are three people, and threw 33 ounces on the scale, none of which was breast, telling me the price was one peso fifty centavos.Â â€śWhen is the fish coming?â€ť I inquired, but she didnâ€™t answer me with words but rather with an index finger pointing to the sky.
With their red shirts they appeared in my neighborhood one day to inventory the old American refrigerators and the Soviet air conditioners.Â They came vested with full powers and one early morning they also descended on the service stations in an operation to stop the illegal sale of fuel.Â They were young people who hadnâ€™t been able to enroll in the university and a planâ€”gestated at the highest levelsâ€”converted them into a troop available for any task, on the promise of a place in higher education.Â Allocated a set of clothes, they started to move across the country in newly purchased Chinese buses, flamboyant and imposing.Â Their authority to appear at any labor center and ask for accounts, do an audit and even replace personnel, earned them the alarming nickname, â€śchildren of the Comandante.â€ť
Some of them abandoned the ten-year commitment theyâ€™d signed on for and for them leaving was difficult and the black mark on their file certain.Â The same ones changed light bulbs on the streets of Caracas as controlled the sales people in the convertible peso stores.Â They were the new eyes of power among us and yet they belonged to the generation most affected by the Special Period, the dual monetary system and the fading of the myth.Â So it was common to see them exchange self-confidence for obedience and slogans for words of boredom.Â Their brilliance was as brief as the denim trousers they were allocated at the start of their work.
Today, one hardly hears them mentioned.Â Although there has been no announcement that the social workers have been demobilized, at the very least it seems that their work lacks substance.Â There are now no electric pots to distribute, no public opinion surveys to conduct, and it seems that the enormous physical infrastructure of shelters, snacks and buses that supported their work can no longer be guaranteed.Â I rarely run into any in the street, but those I do see no longer have that arrogant air, nor display their previous pose of belonging to an elite group.
We were going to spend Reinaldoâ€™s birthday listening to the songs of Pedro LuĂs Ferrar at a concert titled â€śVelorioâ€ť at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Vedado.Â But it happened that the culture police didnâ€™t let us enter, using their bodies like a barricade between the door and the seating area.Â They accused us of wanting to organize a supposed provocation there even though, for us, they and the official television cameras theyâ€™d called to film us provoked the major commotion.Â I believe these anxious boys of State Security are watching a lot of Saturday movies, since our plan was rather familiarâ€”we even took our sonâ€”and consisted of listening to the songs of the well-known musician and then dropping in at a friendâ€™s house.
At the Museum entry a real repudiation meeting* was waiting for us, all it lacked to be complete was the eggs and the blows.Â A man who didnâ€™t identify himselfâ€”continuing the style of not showing oneâ€™s faceâ€”yelled at me that I wanted â€śto destroy Cuban cultureâ€ť and that that space was â€śonly for the people.â€ťÂ It seems that what happened at Tania Brugueraâ€™s performance has rubbed the nerves raw among the bureaucrats who saw the spectacle.Â They fear weâ€™ve returned to seize the microphones, as if it werenâ€™t better to put a loudspeaker on every corner for everyone who wants to say something.Â I must point out that many of those who witnessed this abuse of institutional power avoided greeting us, in view of the huge operation surrounding the place.Â Nevertheless others, whose names I withhold to protect them, showed solidarity and werenâ€™t afraid of being seen with us.
We stayed outside the railings and in the patio a strange audience full of retirees and men with military haircuts seemed not to know the songs of Pedro LuĂs to be able to hum along.Â Some friends, among them Claudia, came to show solidarity with our forced â€śexileâ€ť and we stayed outside until the last chord was played.Â When all the musical instruments were in their cases and the troubadour came out he was surprised by what had happened and said he would speak to the vice-minister about it.Â We didnâ€™t want to disabuse him of the idea, but I donâ€™t think this high-ranking official could do anything to prevent the actions of a repressive body which is superior to him and of which heâ€™s perhaps even a part.
Since I know they read my blogâ€”all those who prevented me from going inside the railing seemed to know meâ€”I want to tell them that they are not going to force me to withdraw into my house.Â I do not think Iâ€™ll stop going to concerts, clubs, cultural or humorous events.Â Iâ€™m a cultured person, even though they want to reserve such an appellation for a group of ideologically-screened chosen ones.Â They will have to stand guard in the doors of every theater, club and music room.Â I could show up at any of them.Â Who knows if I might climb to the dais and take the microphone?
Repudiation meetings.Â Canadaâ€™s Immigration and Refugee Board describes these activities as follows: Acts of repudiation (actos de repudio) are another form of harassment that dissidents in Cuba may face. Amnesty International describes these as “meetings or demonstrations organized by government officials or mass organizations supporting the government at which the person or persons concerned are subjected to criticism and abuse, sometimes physical, because of their so-called `counter-revolutionary’ views or activities”.Â The civilian groups that carry out the acts of repudiation are commonly referred to as Rapid Response Brigades and are thought to be initiated by authorities.
As a child I liked books with little drawings and this attraction for text accompanied by images remains with me today. It gives me the greatest pleasure when I find a well-written story with illustrations drawn by the author herself. It was precisely this combination in Persepolis, by the Iranian author Marjane Satrapi, that captivated me. Her very first pages pulled me in, evoking my days as a reader of comic books, but I did not imagine that her vision of Iran would affect me so deeply.
Like everything that comes quite late to my Island, first I learned of the green tide in Tehran and later was able to explore the story of this woman growing up in the midst of intolerance and prohibitions. The young Marjane canâ€™t stop asking questions, as has been the case for me for more than twenty years. If it werenâ€™t for the black veil on her hair and the constant presence of religion, I would think that Persepolis tells the story of the Cuba in which Iâ€™ve lived. Especially with regards to the extreme tension, the constant mention of an external enemy and the creation of a cast of martyrs around the fallen.
I showed Teo some pages of the book and he fixed his eyes on the panel where Marjane reflects about a political billboard. It featured the phrase, â€śTo die as a martyr is to inject blood into the veins of societyâ€ť for which the girl drew a body that was screaming while transfusing the insatiable Nation. My son, who is no slouch when it comes to questioning everything, found similarities with the slogan, â€śWe are ready to shed every last drop of our blood,â€ť so often repeated in these parts. I could not control my graphic imagination and visualized a Cuban dripping on native soil, after being squeezed to the maximum.
The Octavo Cerco blogger celebrates her 26th birthday.
The second time I met Claudia Cadelo we were holding upâ€”each of us by one cornerâ€”a piece of sheet with the name â€śGorkiâ€ť.Â It was at the concert at the Anti-Imperialist Bandstand, where we chanted for the liberation of the singer from the band Porno Para Ricardo.Â Our shouts were heard briefly and then cut short thanks to the beatings they gave us and the enormous loudspeakers broadcasting the imperturbable voice of Pablo MilanĂ©s.Â A short time later, that girl by my side would open an honest and uninhibited blog that now has many followers inside and outside of Cuba.
What I like most about Claudia is that she admits to being afraid, confesses that she jumps when she hears noises and that she fears the long arm of State Security.Â Who doesnâ€™t?Â In a country where so many have called themselves heroes, to declare in advance that you are frightened is something too sincere to be accepted.Â There is a mistaken idea that courage takes epaulettes, years of incarceration, or scars; not the languid face of a calm woman who displays not rancor but questions.Â This fragile blogger, from her fear, disproves these stereotypes every day.
Today we are going to celebrate Claudiaâ€™s birthday at our home.Â With the Blogger Journey, discussions, a documentary and even a little rum.Â I will drink to this girl who writes her opinions, these truths that many mature and stout males only dare to whisper into the ears of their wives.
Remember my son Teo’s seventh grade diploma?Â Well today a new diploma arrived for the recently completed grade and it bears the face of JosĂ© MartĂ.Â Iâ€™m wondering if my criticism of the design of the previous certificate influenced, even inÂ a small way, the substitution of the imagine accompanying the phrase: â€śTo: __________ for having satisfactorily completed studies corresponding to the eight grade.â€ť
Accident or intent, it doesnâ€™t matter, I only know that the teacher was much closer to the model I would like for my son.Â I hope to see her face, which unites rather than excludes, on the next diploma.
The diploma from this year.
The diploma from last year.