After 40 Years of Working, Keeping Body and Soul Together Selling Plastic Bags

Selling ‘jabitas’ (plastic bags) in front of an agricultural market in Havana. (Luz Escobar) 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 28 August 2014 – « I need some dark glasses, » Veronica told me one day when I ran into her on the street. Almost seventy, the lady underwent cataract surgery some months ago and now must « take care of my eyes, » as she explained to me. She works in the sun selling jabitas (plastic bags) to the customers of the farmers market on Tulipan Street.

Cuba’s Official Press: Triumphalism, Blacklisting and Censorship

News kiosk (Luz Escobar) 14YMEDIO, Havana, Yoani Sanchez, 22 August 2014 – The phone rings and it’s a friend who works for a government publication. She’s content because she’s published an article that attacks bureaucracy and corruption. The young woman finished college two years ago and has been working in a digital medium that deals with cultural and social issues. She has the illusions of a recent graduate, and she believes she can do objective journalism, close to reality, and help to improve her country

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

‘Calling Us Communists Makes Us Look Bad’

Big Brother stands as judge of journalistic « objectivity. » [The text says that CPI can temporarily or permanently cancel press credentials for « lack of journalistic ethics… or objectivity.' » Minrex is the Foreign Ministry) A few years ago I met a foreign correspondent based in Cuba who related an absurd and revealing anecdote. The International Press Center (CPI) had called him in to warn him about the content of an article. Receiving the summons didn’t surprise him, because warning calls like that were a common practice of this agency in charge of registering and controlling foreign journalists living on the island. Nor could he refuse to appear, because he depended on the CPI for his credentials to report on a nature reserve and even to interview a government minister

No Protests on the Streets of Cuba

Protestors in the streets of Vienna (Luz Escobar) A friend sent me photos of a demonstration in the streets of Vienna in support of the Palestinians. I also received–from all over the world–images with signs of solidarity or rejection of one or the other of the parties implicated in the conflict in Gaza. Many take sides and demonstrate it, be it a tweet, a way of dressing, a shout or a public protest. In Cuba, however, only the official press and institutions may speak in headlines and statements

Cuba’s Football Hangover

The World Cup 2014 on Cuban TV (14ymedio) Gone is the last game, the German goal, Götze’s hands raising the 2014 Brazil World Cup. Gone are the get togethers with friends, wrapped in the flag of Italy or Costa Rica, to go see the games in some public place. Some of the excitement remains, it’s true, but the roar that ran through Havana when the ball entered the goal in Rio De Janeiro or Sal Paulo is now just a memory. The painted faces, the arms raised in imitation of the spectators from their seats, and the euphoria shared with millions all over the globe.

Putin In Havana, Seeking an Ally or a Satellite?

Putin and Raul Castro together on Cuban television. (14ymedio) « These are the last sweets! » The cry could be the simple proclamation of a candy seller, but I heard it 23 years ago at my high school in the countryside and it was the first evidence I had of the collapse of the Soviet Union. The person shouting was Olga, a student who resold what the wives of the Russian technicians in Alamar gave her. She was the bridge between our Cuban money, worth less every day, and a series of products such as candy and canned goods « Made in USSR. » I remember this teenager, who warned us of the coming of shortages, like a blind Tiresias, alerting us to the adiós of the « bowling pins » (as we called the Russians). The old relationship with the Kremlin comes to mind now, with Vladimir Putin’s visit to Cuba.

‘Falling Into the Abyss of Nothingness…’

I remember him well, leaning over the table with head bowed and a vacant look. Carlitos was barely 20 and his every gesture carried the reluctance of someone who had lived too much. The young man ended up emigrating — like so many others — and I suppose there is little time in his new life to let the hours pass lying around bored.