- May 26, 2020 -
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Sayli Sosa

Sayli Sosa

Photo: Noel López Fernández

Gardens Worthy of a Queen

Christopher Columbus had seen a great deal of beautiful and new world when he arrived for the second time to the island of Cuba, baptized by him as Juana. In short, if already by 1492, on the shores of Bariay, it seemed to the Genoese that it was “the most beautiful land human eyes had seen,” although there are no reports of a similar phrase, he must have thought the same two years later, when his ship headed toward the southern coast of Cuba and hundreds of islets revealed a paradise to his eyes. The paradise was a labyrinthine archipelago in which the mangroves, thickets and dunes painted an exotic and unknown landscape for the discoverer. Faced by the beauty that spread along his passage, he did not vacillate. In honor of she who was the principal benefactor of his travels he called it Jardines de la Reina (The Queen’s Gardens), despite the fact that Isabella the Catholic never laid eyes on such wonders of nature. Years later, Diego Velázquez, traveling around northern Cuba, would find another group of cays which he would name Jardines del Rey, perhaps to make amends and to pacify the wounded honor of Ferdinand of...

Photo: Diariodocentrodomundo.com.br

Financial Snag between Angola and Cuba Settled

The bags had been packed when a new order arrived. “We’ve been informed no one has to leave. The problem of the debt has been solved,” a Cuban health worker based in Angola tells OnCuba. The message arrived when rumors in Cuba maintained the island’s health personnel and experts were leaving Angola owing to a lack of payment for their services. Angola’s financial problems and inability to meet its commitments with the Cuban government came to light in May, when Cuban authorities approached Luanda with a proposal to create a joint commission to analyze issues of bilateral interest, including the debt. At the time, the Angolan health minister told the Angolan Press Agency (ANGOP) that there were “certain concerns regarding the debt to Cuba, arising from the current global situation and, consequently, the readjustment of the 2015 State budget.” The health official added that the sums owed would be paid and that “despite the current debt, we’re going to continue to promote joint initiatives.” The crisis required the attention of the highest levels of government. In July, Vice-Chair of the Cuban Council of Ministers Ricardo Cabrisas traveled to southwest Africa. Following the meeting, the head of the America Department of...

Idalmis uses IMO to communicate with a brother she hadn't seen in four years. Photo: Eric Yanes

IMO in Cuba: Shortening Distances Between Relatives

At 6:30 in the afternoon, the only time the breezes make the city a tad cooler, Idalmis takes out her Samsung phone and a pair of headphones and sits in the shade afforded by the 12-story building in Ciego de Avila. At 50, it hasn’t been easy to learn to operate the devices that bring her these daily joys, two times a week, but the effort, she says, is more than worth it. Going through the logical steps, she activates the Wi-Fi in her cell phone, connects to the ETECSA network available and types her ID and password at the Nauta page. At the park, someone installed an app in her phone that allows her to speak with and see the faces of her loved ones on the small screen of her mobile phone: IMO. The lines of binary code allow Idalmis to see the most beautiful wrinkles in the world: those of her 79-year-old mother, who lives in the United States. “It’s only been a year since I last saw my mom, but I haven’t seen my brother in four. Though the service is still expensive, it’s been incredible to be able to talk to them and see them....

Door Locks and Latches

The history of the city can be told by its doors and doorknobs. Doors, like people, carry the scars of hardships and the scars of the pain inflicted by the years, which they, like people, sometimes can hide, some others, not. Doors also provide the city with a soundtrack of rusty hinge sounds, of slams, and clicks, and screeches. But unlike people, so given to move from place to place, doors remain, protecting what was left inside. Committed to their mission, they are the ones that set the limits between what's public and what's private; between legal and illegal, between enemity and endearment. After all, people are also sort of similar to doors, as we either chooseto remain close to the world, or happily open to others and welcome change.  

Photo: Eric Yanes

Welcome to Virginia

In Virginia, Ciego de Ávila, apples don’t grow like in Virginia, United States. Probably many of those living in the small Cuban community, that is not even in the maps, have never seen the biblical fruit rather than in the Cartoon Network which, by the way, are in the Multivision channel ─ sometimes─ because the reception there is very bad. Virginia, in Ciego de Avila, is a mountainous area, nor the end of the world, as might suggest above. It is a countryside village, about 15 kilometers away from the main roads to the town Ciro Redondo, everyone stills call it Pina. If you're wondering how to get there they will tell you something like, "get to the old airport road, turn left at the Crime Alley and when you see the tank, there's Virginia". Welvome to Virginia, Ciego de Avila / Photo: Eric Yanes The airport part is obvious. The only such facility in the province was located in the area, before they moved it to the Keys. After that, Avilanians have to arrive or depart by plane from Camagüey. They say the old tarmac and facilities are in place and that some workers keep...

Great Northern Wetland in Ciego de Avila / Photo: Eric Yanes Rodriguez

Charms of the still water

Even a reservoir as the Great Northern Wetland of Ciego de Ávila is not immune to drought in this province and the rest of the country. These photos, however, were taken months ago when still water, but still water seemed to mirror and one cannot but be swayed by her charms. With about 40 kilometers, the Great Wetland has dominion on the shores of Morón, Chambas, Bolivia and Primero de Enero municipalities, and includes the adjacent keys. It includes three protected areas: ecological reserve Centro-Oeste Cayo Coco and wildlife refuges and El Venero Loma San Judas of Cunagua; and two natural lagoons, La Redonda and La Leche, the latter, coastal lagoon unique in the country. A few like the old Manuel, know how to slide still water on the small boat. He knows by heart the intricacies of bagá and everything there is to know in this area. He makes his living by taking tourists in his small boat to watch birds or the curious, as we are. Since 2002, the Great Wetland was declared a Ramsar Site by the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat. According to experts, the main types of vegetation in the...

Apple looks to Cuba for the first time

In an understandable movement after the 17D, and the race to be first, the American company Apple issued a statement on its website in which reports a new license exception for authorizing the sale of some of its products and software in Cuba. Under the name Support for the Cuban Peoplethe note was published in the Global Business Policy section and refers to the entry into force of the regulations implementing the measures announced by President Barack Obama, among which trade and investment is decriminalized in the field of telecommunications and info-communications in Cuba. According to the text, the regulations of the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) modified the American Export Administration Regulations (EAR), so it is now legal to export and reexport to the island some products and software (including cloud storage ), however, they have not been identified. However, not all users in Cuba are eligible, according to the License Exception for Consumer Communication Devices (CCD) provided by the BIS. "Eligible beneficiaries are individuals in Cuba, independent NGOs. Organizations managed or controlled by the Government of Cuba or the Communist Party of Cuba, including schools and hospitals, are not eligible recipients. " On the Island, Apple products...

Axel Luis Sardiñas Hernández / Photo: Edelvis Valido

The pact of the pumpkins

The day Axel Luis Sardinas Hernández was going to die, his grandfather Tomás Hernández clenched his fists and throat, took a deep breath and said no, that life had already taken a son from him and that it wouldn’t take this one. The boy was two weeks in and out of an operating room, reported serious and that afternoon the news was shorter: nothing else was to be expected. The cool March wind rattled the palm leaves roof of the house and the old man looked to the ground with a sharp look, like a new plow. Nearly 30 years ago malaria, in Angola, had left him without his José Luis and now a whimsical peritonitis again put in his body the unbearable pain of loss. He repeated the tiny word, its definition of hope (or certainty), and went to see those pumpkins growing on the black floor with which the boy of his affections wanted to buy a motorbike. Axel was going to die that March 2, but Doctor Luisito also said no. To get in or out of La Julia, a nook in the geography of Majagua, in Ciego de Ávila, there is only one path with multiple...

Miguel Chamorro / Foto: Saily Sosa

Miguel Chamorro: Looking at the world upside down

I made a colossal blunder, perhaps heresy. I asked Miguel Chamorro Rocamora what the three letters on the girl's sweater of the picture mean. Standing in front of the painting, I look and look the hollow eyes of people going in procession. That is the name of that work, Procession. People are walking slowly, staring blankly with craters on their face instead of eyes, but do not stop. Only the girl excels from the crowd with a striped gray sweater and three letters complete uncertainty. I imagine that the answer is in these letters. Also in the hands clapping, or calling for God knows. And I ask Chamorro just for him, with the utmost kindness in the world , to tell me quietly that it is a secret that everyone must understand it in their own way. That happens to me, I think, for not paying full attention to art appreciation classes; those in which the professor said, "It is not about understanding but to feel". I take comfort when knowing that I am not alone on tenterhooks. The poet and essayist Ileana Alvarez said that while reading the work of Chamorro, "every question, every doubt that remains when appreciating...

One minute away from glory (or earning the right to dream)

If not for historians, files or newspapers of the time, Cuba would have no way to remember that it once attended a World Soccer Cup. What has been the sport on the island since then does not let guessing that on June 12, 1938, against Sweden, the World Cup dream of Cubans stayed in those quarterfinals. After that we have not even dreamed. We began losing with every little island in the Caribbean, to confirm the assumption that good soccer players are not born here. We bet on baseball, volleyball, boxing or individualities in another sports and let the luck of soccer to the pastures, or to the urban version of street soccer. And I get annoyed with Reinier Gonzalez because he puts too much feeling when narrating a game, despite the improvement is not so great, it has never been. But before yesterday Mexico had failed to score against Cuba in regular time. Then our player Santa Cruz, in the 98th minute, scored with formidable shot from outside the area, like CR7, and for the first time in too long the Cuban soccer was soccer and not 11 people disorderly running in stampede after the ball. Then Sandy, the...

Clinging to the charm of a bicolor soul

In Majagua, for most of the year, people can dress on the color they want, but you must decide in November. You must be Red or Blue, by choice, by inheritance, or just because, and you do not have call to anyone or call for too many meetings so that everyone to know their role. Some dance and others sing, but the majority eats the fruit (and traditional sweets); young people learn the chords and steps of Zumbantorio or El Papalote, and matrons prepare the food for feasts. Affections are divided on both sides of Main Street. Blue is on the East, while Red is on West. The tableau recreates the farms La Vega and La Criolla, and the shindig begins. Pepe celebrates 40 years of marriage to Carmela and his family and friends dance to La caringa and Pica pica. The Blue band plays live the melody for the rescue dance, this time El abanico y el baston. Then, Joaquina and Pancho prepare the party for the engagement of Venancio and Margarita. It's the end of the year, December 31, 1898 and there are dolls and roast pork. Young people dance the Guanche and Zumbantorio, and rescue La ratonera...

Guille likes to imagine stories of love with the Bird of Paradise, perhaps his preferred flower. Photo: Courtesy of the author.

The secret is not in the flower

José Guillermo González (Guille) and Marie Antoinette Espinosa (Mery) have promoted since 1995 an ornamental plants patio that boasts the category of Excellence, awarded by the National Urban Agriculture Group. They have one of the most comprehensive collections of orchids in the country with 160 varieties. Despite having a flower´s name Margarita didn’t like gardens. When she went to live in the town of the Violeta sugar mill, she chose the house that had no patio because, although she didn’t work outside she did not want to spend the day raking and picking up leaves. The property had belonged to Julio Farinas, chief of machinery at the mill, and then passed to the family of Mery, back in 1958, when his father accepted a position at the sugar factory. Since then she has not left, nor will she. At the old house Balloon Frame style, as in the southern United States, they cemented all around in to prevent red mud stain it all, hopelessly, during the rainy season. That´s why Mery thinks the decision to promote a garden is a sort of sacrilege and perhaps, too, so it was not until after a long time that made their home in...

The secretof Los Ramones

In the harsh year of 1994, Jesus Ramon Miller found a purpose for his life. It would seem unlikely because those were the worst year of the 90’s in Cuba; the toughest year of the Special Period; a time of despair and extreme material and spiritual shortages. Yet, Jesus Miller definitely found his course and regardless of all the obstacles he followed it as if possessed by an inexplicable certainty as if it was Ariadna’s mythical thread and it would hold the exit to the Labyrinth on the opposite side. Truth be told, the challenges from that time were as or more complex than the Labyrinth, as or more fearsome than the Minotaur, as or more definitive that Theseus’ deed. That’s why, Jesus Miller had no other choice but to face time and circumstances and, even though he is unknown, overshadowed by his job, he has not lost his impetus. Whenever people read Los Ramones in the small tag on the famous butter crackers or the unique garlic sticks, they should also read the story of a man that found the purpose of his life in baking back in 1994. The long way to one’s objectives At the age of...

(Re) visa

Roly was already looking for a plan B. Since the official statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba made it clear that the consular offices in Washington would close because they cannot operate their bank accounts, he began feeling an uncomfortable tingling, an uneasiness that even deprived them of sleep. Roly is obviously Cuban, but for more than 20 years he’s been living in the United States. He decided to go one day and when given the opportunity came he didn’t look back. However, he left behind too many beloved, indispensable people. That’s why Roly returns whenever he can, as long as he has left enough dollars after so many bills and insurance, provided they give him the visa. So when bilateral panorama between the island and the mainland darkened further, the first thought that went through his mind was that his passport was about to expire and that without updating he could not spend the end of the year with his mother. She expects him every December as adolescents expect their boyfriends, or rather, as the son who is gone for so long. His mother could not bear that kind of heartbreak. Not at her age. Not...

Mandela: black and white never more

There once was a mulatto, well, not a mulatto, a black man, that in this world things sometimes are as follows: white or black. There was once a black man with a friendly face, wide nose, wide cheekbones and eyes in which all forgiveness fit. They called him Madiba, as his old clan still calls the elders. But that was later. After political activism, after 27 years in prison on Robben Island, in his native South Africa, where he was sent to silence his claim and the opposite happened. From the square, so they called his cell-Madiba Mandela built a nation that was dying because things were white or black, and nothing else. He was forced to break rocks, and maybe that's why he modelled with the patience of an architect the new society that would proscribe the word apartheid, archaic concept, an ignominious past where to return would be a sin. There was once a man who conquered his fears and rationed courage. He took the banner of forgiveness and reconciliation, but not of forgetting. He made a weapon of resistance, and in the streets of many cities people clamored to see him released while in Pretoria, let us...

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