Tag Archives: Havana

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.”

An unusual photo of a(n) (un)common Havana

My friend Santos Rodríguez visited Cuba recently. He walked the streets of Havana (the real city, not the one that appears in touristic pamphlets) with a good camera, a good eye and a happy-trigger attitude: ready to press the shutter whenever there was a scene begging him to grant it the immortality of the still shot. He took amazing (and heartbreaking) photos, which he was kind enough to share with me and I will publish here, giving him his due credit, to illustrate some of my musings.

After this preamble, let’s get to the photo that inspired this note. Santos was wandering around Centro Habana (I’d like to think he was nearby the corner of Belascoaín and Neptuno, my former address, the two streets that name my blog in Spanish), when he witnessed an unbelievably unusual setting for a country kidnapped by an ideology that brags about the high literacy rate of its population and, still, the only things it produces by the truckload are ruins and exiles. On an unspecified corner on his way to nowhere in particular, abandoned in a trash container, he saw loads of books. This shocked him. But the main course was yet to come. As he approached the container to zoom in, one book caught his eye. He was surprised that nobody had bothered to cover that book by placing it under one of the many volumes that surrounded it. “Alexis, I swear I didn’t touch anything; I just took the photo,” he told me. And we would have to believe him. It is hard to imagine a Spaniard rummaging through Cuban garbage.

Poetic justice does exists. Thanks to her, the generations of Cubans who grew up forced to scream everyday at school “Pioneers for communism: We will be like Che!” can see here the final destination of the Writings and Speeches of the blood-thirsty argentine:


(Photo: Santos Rodríguez).