The composition is almost circular, compact. The eyes follow a spiral line that starts on the shoe of the man seated in the foreground and ends at the rooster held by another. There is peace, vestiges of good conversation, and in the background a village of wood and palm leaf huts. Six Cuban peasants have been represented in this painting by Abela, as well known as it is plagiarized. Their faces are tanned by the sun and vaguely indigenous. They are magnetic, irresistible. Our gaze takes us to the details of their clothing. “Dressed to the nines,” impeccable sombreros, long sleeves, perhaps with the fabric starched for the occasion.
Infected by the familiarity of the painting, I go to the countryside, put myself in the furrows where so many times I have picked tobacco, beans, garlic… I go in search of that original exemplar of Cubanness that is rural man. However, under the scorching sun of August, instead of “Abela’s guajiros,” I find people dressed in military garb. Olive-green pants, shirts that lost their epaulettes long ago, old berets from some battle that never happened. They don the uniforms of the Armed Forces or the Ministry of the Interior to face the rigors of the fields. They don’t have many choices.
In the informal market it’s easier to buy an official jacket than a shirt for farm work. A police cap costs less than a straw sombrero. Belts made out of cowhide are also a thing of the past; today it’s easier and cheaper to find those used in the army. The situation is the same for shoes. Rubber boots are scarce and instead the men and women of the land wear shoes designed for the trenches and combat. In a militarized country, even in the smallest details the military prevails over tradition.
State centralization was drying up the autonomous production of clothes designed for farming. Not even the recent relaxations for self-employment have encouraged this production. It is not just an issue of economics or supply, this situation also affects questions of our national idiosyncrasies and popular customs. A current version of Abela’s painting would leave us with the impression of a looking at a militia group in tattered clothing posing for the painter in the middle of an encampment… about to sound the reveille.
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Where Are Abela’s Guajiros?
L’organisation internationale contre la torture lance une “intervention d’urgence” pour José Daniel Ferrer
MIAMI, États-Unis.- L’Observatoire pour la protection des défenseurs des droits humains (OPDDH), a lancé ce vendredi une campagne d'”Interventions urgentes” en faveur du prisonnier politique et de conscience cubain José Daniel Ferrer García, leader de l’Union patriotique de Cuba (UNPACU), selon une note de Radio Televisión Martí.
Who Is Filling Cuba’s University Classrooms?
New students at the University of Havana (14ymedio) Born during the Special Period, they have grown up trapped in the dual currency system, and when they get their degrees Raul Castro will no longer be in power. They are the more than 100,000 young people just starting college throughout the country. Their brief biographies include educational experiments, battles of ideas, and the emergence of new technologies They know more about X-Men than about Elpidio Valdés, and only remember Fidel Castro from old photos and archived documentaries. They are the Wi-Fi kids with their pirate networks, raised with the “packets” of copied shows and illegal satellite dishes
Born during the Special Period, they have grown up trapped in the dual currency system, and when they get their degrees Raul Castro will no longer be in power. They are the more than 100,000 young people just starting college throughout the country. Their brief biographies include educational experiments, battles of ideas, and the emergence of new technologies They know more about X-Men than about Elpidio Valdés, and only remember Fidel Castro from old photos and archived documentaries.
They are the Wi-Fi kids with their pirate networks, raised with the “packets” of copied shows and illegal satellite dishes. Some nights they would connect through routers and play strategy video games that made them feel powerful and free. Whoever wants to know them should know that they’ve had “emerging teachers” since elementary school and were taught grammar, math and ideology via television screens. However, they ended up being the least ideological of the Cubans who today inhabit this Island, the most cosmopolitan and with the greatest vision of the future.
On arriving at junior high school they played at throwing around around the obligatory snack of bread while their parents furtively passed their lunches through the school gate. They have a special physical ability, an adaptation that has allowed them to survive the environment; they don’t hear what doesn’t interest them, they close their ears to the harangues of morning assemblies and politicians. They seem lazier than other generations and in reality they are, but in their case this apathy acts like an evolutionary advantage. They’re better than us and will live in a country that has nothing to do with what we were promised.
A few months ago, these same young people, starred in the best known case of school fraud uncovered publicly. Some of those hoping to earn a place in higher education bought the answers to an admissions test. They were used to paying for approval, because they had to turn to private tutors to teach them what they should have learned in the classroom. Many of those who recently enrolled in the university had private teachers starting in elementary school. They are the children of a new emerging class that has used its resources so that their children can reach a desk at the right hand — or the left — of the alma mater.
These young people dressed in uniforms in their earlier grades, but they struggled to differentiate themselves through the length of a shirt, a fringe of bleached hair, or through pants sagging below their hips. They are the children of those who barely had a change of underwear in the nineties, so their parents tried to make sure they didn’t “go through the same thing,” and turned to the black market for their clothes and shoes. They mock the false austerity and, not wanting to look like militants, they love bright shiny colors and name brand outfits.
Yesterday, with the start of the school year, they received a lecture about the attempts of “imperialism to undermine the revolution through its youth.” It was like a faint drizzle running over an impervious surface. The government is right to be worried; these young people who have entered the university will never become good soldiers or fanatics. The clay from which they are made cannot be molded.
Who Is Filling Cuba’s University Classrooms?
A Caricature of a Cuban Woman
Woman drinking (14ymedio) 14yMEDIO, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 22 August 2014 — A woman on national television said that her husband “helps” her with some household chores. To many, the phrase may sound like the highest aspiration of every woman. Another lady asserts that her husband behaves like a “Federated man,” an allusion to the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), which today is celebrating its 54th anniversary. As for me, on this side of the screen, I feel sorry for them in the face of such meekness
14yMEDIO, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 22 August 2014 — A woman on national television said that her husband “helps” her with some household chores. To many, the phrase may sound like the highest aspiration of every woman. Another lady asserts that her husband behaves like a “Federated man,” an allusion to the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), which today is celebrating its 54th anniversary. As for me, on this side of the screen, I feel sorry for them in the face of such meekness. Instead of the urgent demands they should mention, all I hear is this appreciation directed to a power as manly as it is deaf.
It’s not about “helping” to wash a plate or watch the kids, nor tiny illusory gender quotas that hide so much discrimination like a slap. The problem is that economic and political power remains mainly in masculine hands. What percentage of car owners are women? How many acres of land are owned or leased by women. How many Cuban ambassadors on missions abroad wear skirts? Can anyone recite the number of men who request paternity leave to take care of their newborns? How many young men are stopped by the police each day to warn them they can’t walk with a tourist? Who mostly attends the parent meetings at the schools?
Please, don’t try to “put us to sleep” with figures in the style of, “65 percent of our cadres and 50 percent of our grassroots leaders are women.” The only thing this statistic means is that more responsibility falls on our shoulders, which means neither a high decision-making level nor greater rights. At least such a triumphalist phrase clarifies that there are “grassroots leaders,” because we know that decisions at the highest level are made by men who grew up under the precepts that we women are beautiful ornaments to have at hand… always and as long as we keep our mouths shut.
I feel sorry for the docile and timid feminist movement that exists in my country. Ashamed for those ladies with their ridiculous necklaces and abundant makeup who appear in the official media to tell us that “the Cuban woman has been the greatest ally of the Revolution.” Words spoken at the same moment when a company director is sexually harassing his secretary, when a beaten woman can’t get a restraining order against her abusive husband, when a policeman tells the victim of a sexual assault, “Well, with that skirt you’re wearing…” and the government recruits shock troops for an act of repudiation against the Ladies in White.
Women are the sector of the population that has the most reason to shout their displeasure. Because half a century after the founding of the caricature of an organization that is the Federation of Cuban Women, we are neither more free, nor more powerful, nor even more independent.
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A Caricature of a Cuban Woman
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