The Cuban People Have Spoken

Protesters in Old Havana

The Cuban people have spoken:
they have voted with their feet,
they gather on any street
to talk about what’s been broken
for so long that not a token
from the government can quench
the thirst, the hunger, the stench
stemming from that institution
that some call “the Revolution,”
which digs its grave and its trench.

____________
Author’s note: This text is my recreation and condensation, in English, of my décimas published this week in the Spanish edition of 14ymedio. Remember, this post —part of Ideological Deviation, my weekly column— is considered a crime by the Cuban government.

A Belated Ode to the Worker’s Union

Screen capture of the 16-second video in which workers from state-owned Prodal company, in Havana, shout: “Long live the sausages!”

In Cuba, the Worker’s Union
is just a branch of the State.
It doesn’t allow debate.
It curtails any reunion
of people seeking communion
of ideas by themselves,
while there’s no food on the shelves,
and there’s widespread condemnation
of the Party as the indignation
of the Cuban people swells.

____________

This text is my recreation and condensation, in English, of my décimas published this week in the Spanish edition of 14ymedio. Remember, this post —part of Ideological Deviation, my weekly column— is considered a crime by the Cuban government.

The Castro Media Way

All the news that’s fit to print
when the government controls
radio, newspapers —their trolls!—
in a never-ending sprint
that doesn’t mention or hint
at the truth, and talks all day
and all night, and gets away
with lies, alternative facts,
and their multiple impacts:
that’s the Castro Media Way.

____________

This text is my recreation and condensation, in English, of my décimas published this week in the Spanish edition of 14ymedio. Remember, this post —part of Ideological Deviation, my weekly column— is considered a crime by the Cuban government.

Behold the Cuban Revolution

Agent of the Special Brigade of the Ministry of the Interior on July 11, during the repressed protests in Cuba. (EFE)

The Cuban people are tired
of a regime so repressive,
cruel, controlling, obsessive…
The whole nation has been mired
by a clown nobody hired:
a buffoon whose greatest feat
is his mastery of deceit,
to our dismay and confusion.
Come, behold the Revolution,
it kills with a rumba beat!

____________

This text is my recreation and condensation, in English, of my décimas published this week in the Spanish edition of 14ymedio. Remember, this post —part of Ideological Deviation, my weekly column— is considered a crime by the Cuban government.

Public Displays of Affection, Cuban Dictatorship Edition

Díaz Canel has a wife
whose tackiness knows no bounds.
It’s not as cute as it sounds,
in the midst of Cuba‘s strife,
when she says that, in her life,
he’s “The Dictator.” For sure!
(Lis Cuesta is done with demure.)
Cubans long to live in peace.
That regime is a disease,
and we are ready for the cure.

***

This décima is part of Ideological Deviation, my weekly column in 14ymedio.

Apropos of “Ideological Deviation”

I will be brief. These terrifying words began many of the interminable speeches of the Mansplainer-in-Chief who, pistol in hand, took control of Cuba 62,000 millennia ago. With this introduction to my new column in 14ymedio, I propose to do exactly the same. (I’m referring to being brief, not to taking over the Island. I hope the results are not so devastating.)

The column will appear weekly under the banner Ideological Deviation, which in addition to being the title of my book of décimas, is a horrible legal concept with which the government frightened me in my childhood and youth in Havana, and for which any Cuban can still be imprisoned in the land I fled. The décima is a style of Spanish poetry created in the XVI century by Vicente Espinel. The format is 10 lines, eight-syllables each. It rhymes ABBAACCDDC. Jorge Drexler did a beautiful TEDx talk about it.

Does this mean that I am going to write an opinion column exclusively to the rhythm of the décima? Well, yes. The reason is simple: the meter and rhyme  —and, hopefully, the content— ​​will render them memorable. This will make it easier for them to be recited in morning assemblies at schools throughout the nation. From preschool to sixth grade! To infinity… and beyond! Pioneers for dropping bars, we will be like Espinel!

My octosyllables will come in a variety of tones and registers —lyrical, nostalgic, satirical, parodic, animal, vegetable, and mineral— which are my ways of thinking and feeling Cuba from a distance. Thinking and feeling are crimes in totalitarianism, and the Cuba that the Castros took for themselves is no exception. (Ah… and I aspired to write a presentation without mentioning that last name that produces gagging, nausea, hives).

I escaped in order to be, an action that in Spanish is split into two verbs: ser and estar. I fled in order to think and to feel. Beyond the seas and decades later, I admire those who are, who think, and who feel in Cuba. I could not imagine my life in my land, but I celebrate that there are those who can do it and do it every day, against the winds and the tides of an implacable regime. These verses, and those to come, are for you.

The People,” “the Cuban Nation”

“The people,” “the Cuban nation”
is not the same as “the State.”
(No need for you to debate.
Go on. Have a revelation.)
The “Revolution,” that station
in Dante’s Hell, is a trap:
the government does kidnap
the Cubans who dare protest;
at Díaz Canel’s request,
they get erased from the map.

***

The photo in this post shows Cuban artist and two-time Latin Grammy-winner rapper Maykel “Osorbo” Castillo, who has been detained at the maximum security Pinar del Río prison since May 2021 for his song “Patria y vida.”

We don’t talk about Castro

We don’t talk about Castro

Music (and original lyrics): Lin-Manuel Miranda

Lyrics: Alexis Romay

We don’t talk about Castro (no, no, no).
We don’t talk about Castro. But…

It’s been six decades.
Sixty-two years of hunger, repression, and fear.
(No one’s allowed to speak).

Castro walked in with a murderous grin.
And he destroyed Cuba’s dreams.

Castro said, “Elections, what for?”
(In 1959.)
In doing so, he ruined us all.
(Abuela, get the boats.)
Let’s go to Miami now… but anyway:

We don’t talk about Castro (no, no, no).
We don’t talk about Castro. But…

Hey! I grew up in fear of his endless stumbling,
he was always on TV, muttering and mumbling.
I associate him with the sound of exile.

It’s a heavy lift, with a pain so numbing.
Abuela stayed in Cuba with the family wondering,
grappling with prophecies they couldn’t understand.
Do you understand?

A greasy beard,
guards along his path.
When he calls your name
it all fades to black.

His spies see your dreams.
They feast on your screams. But:

We don’t talk about Castro (no, no, no).
We don’t talk about Castro.

Texas Library Association: The 2022-2023 Tejas Star Reading List Announced

I am delighted to announce that five of my translations were included by the Texas Library Association  in The 2022-2023 Tejas Star Reading List. The books are: Cuando los ángeles cantan, Juana y Lucas, Manos que bailanPokko y el tambor, and Un pregón de frutas.

I would like to congratulate everyone included on this list. And I would like to thank everyone who is working on publishing (more) Spanish books in the US. 

I take ever this opportunity to celebrate the authors, illustrators, and editors —Melanie Cordova, Sylvie Frank, and Reka Simonsen— of the following books that I had the pleasure and the privilege to translate.

Havana for Foreign Correspondents & College Professors (a parody)

Havana for Foreign Correspondents & College Professors

(a parody)

Music (and original lyrics): Camila Cabello

Lyrics: Alexis Romay

Havana, ooh, na-na.
There’s a police state in Havana, ooh, na-na,
and throughout Cuba, but Havana, ooh, na-na,
is where the ruling Castro Junta,
the dynasty, keeps dragging
our country through the mud.

Fidel came to power with all his shootin’,
back in the fifties.
He scared the whole nation by executin
his friends and foes.
We knew him forever in a minute.
It’s been six decades.
And fleeing became our national sport.

Ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh.
I knew it when I met him. I hated his repression.
Ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh.
And then I had to tell him, I had to go.
Oh-na-na-na-na-na.

Havana, ooh, na-na.
There’s a police state in Havana, ooh, na-na,
and throughout Cuba, but Havana, ooh, na-na,
is where the ruling Castro Junta,
the dynasty, keeps dragging
our country through the mud.

A dictatorship is ruling the island.
Sixty-two years!
They’re sentencing minors for daring to speak
against the tyrant.
His name’s Díaz Canel, but we call him “Singao.”
He’s just a puppet.
My friends are in prison or they were exiled.

Ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh.
I knew it when I met him. I hated his repression.
Ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh.
And then I had to tell him, I had to go.
Oh-na-na-na-na-na.

Havana, ooh, na-na.
There’s a police state in Havana, ooh, na-na,
and throughout Cuba, but Havana, ooh, na-na,
is where the ruling Castro Junta,
the dynasty, keeps dragging
our country through the mud.

***

Here you can find the Spanish version of this parody.

Bank Street College of Education: Best Children’s Picture Books of the Year in Spanish

I am delighted to announce that six of my translations were included by the Children’s Book Committee at Bank Street College of Education in their list of Best Children’s Picture Books of the Year in Spanish, 2022 Edition — Books Published or Translated in 2021. The books are: Un trineo para Gabo, Cuando los ángeles cantanPokko y el tamborNo se permiten elefantesRatonauta and Un pregón de frutas.

I would like to congratulate everyone included on this list. And I would like to thank everyone who is working on publishing (more) Spanish books in the US. 

I take ever this opportunity to celebrate the authors, illustrators, and editors —Sylvie Frank and Reka Simonsen— of the following books that I had the pleasure and the privilege to translate.