Author Archives: Auto Post

Guille, The Macho Guajiro / Angel Santiesteban

Angel Santiesteban Prats dedicates this article to Guillermo Vidal, to remember the tenth anniversary of his death. He wrote it from the Lawton Prison Settlement for the column “Some Write” from the digital magazine “OtroLunes” (“Another Monday”).

By Angel Santiesteban Prats

It’s always a pleasure to remember Guillermo Vidal.

Sharing with him the adventure of writing has been one of the great rewards that life has offered me. His sympathy, modesty and talent seasoned his conversations. He was a man called to make friends, easy to like, and always persecuted by injustice, since they never could make him bow down. He maintained his literature at a high price, because he didn’t yield even one iota of his level of social criticism.

When they expelled him as a professor from the university, they didn’t even ask how he was going to live or maintain his family. Being despised and marginalized by the government of his territory in Las Tunas, by the demand of the political police, he became himself.

He was part of an intellectual existence that he accepted with stoicism, without complaint, which he endured in solitude and repaid with brilliant writing. That was his revenge.

After treating him like the plague for many years, the government offered a tribute to an official writer, and we agreed to attend if Guille would be among those invited. Once there, in the seat of the Provincial Party, in the same lair as the dictatorship, one of us said publicly that our presence had no other end but to lionize Guillermo Vidal, the most important living writer of Las Tunas, and one of the most important in the country; that it was a way of supporting him and demonstrating our friendship.

The government functionaries and those in charge of culture opened their eyes, surprised by the audacity. Those were the times when we still had not gained some rights that we have now, and where for much less than what is done today, there were immediate reprisals.

What is certain is that on that night and in the following days, we felt like better people and better intellectuals for showing our solidarity with him. Later he let us know that, from that moment, things got better for him. He stopped being banned and persecuted, because the authorities feared his contacts in the country, especially in Havana.

Now that we are on the eve of another congress of UNEAC (National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba), I remember what happened during the decade of the ’90s. After the vote to name the officers, Professor Ana Cairo, the officer of the Roger Avila Association of Writers, and I counted the votes, and there were a surprising number of artists who voted for Guillermo Vidal.

No one else had as many votes; no one even came close. However, later, when I saw who they elected, I understood that the votes were only a game, because Abel Prieto determined the election. They didn’t give any commission to Guillermo Vidal, not even in his own province. He was cursed, on the list of the marginalized.

When he died, it caused an infinite sadness, impossible to describe. I called the Institute of the Book (ICL), since I knew that they would have transport to take writers who wanted to participate in his burial.

The Taliban Iroel Sanchez, at that time the President of this institution, assured me that the microbus already had seats assigned. Of course, he was lying to me, and I intuited that in his words. Later, those who made the trip in that transport told me that not all the seats were taken.

I regretted very much not being able to say goodbye to him in that last moment. They feared that the truth would come out: that they had condemned him in life by closing all the doors to him that he knew his literature, a stroke of talent, would win. Surely I would have said that.

You can’t talk about Cuban literature at the end of the 20th century without mentioning the genres of the short story and the novel. However, in spite of the human misery that surrounded him, and the material poverty they obliged him to suffer, his genius at being a good Cuban jokester is the first thing that comes to mind when we think about him. That’s how I want to remember him now.

The book fairs in Havana take place in February and almost always coincide with his birthday, the 10th, that all his friends celebrated in harmony. We also celebrated February 14. I have one of his books, presented to me during those days, and I remember the dedication to me that “in spite of it being the day of love (Valentine’s Day), don’t get me wrong, I was a macho, macho guajiro.”

He had a spectacular snore. It almost loosened the nails from the beams and raised the roof. When you approached his room, the first sensation was that there was a roaring lion inside. The result? No one wanted to share a room with him.

Once, late in the night in Ciego de Avila, I met another writer from Las Tunas, Carlos Esquivel, literally crying in the lobby of the hotel because he couldn’t manage to sleep with those snorts.

When I described this scene the next day to Guillermo, he laughed like a naughty child. He asked me to repeat the story so he could continue to amuse himself, and he called for the others to listen to what suffering he was capable of inflicting, unconsciously.

In one of the prizes he won, and there were several, he had the luck to receive dollars. Then we got a telephone call saying that he was a relative of Rockefeller, and that he was ready to share his fortune; thus, he was generous. Certainly, in those few months I didn’t have a cent, and he continued in his material poverty. No one except his friends and spouse could believe him.

At one book fair in Guadalajara he told me that sometimes he had the impression that the government permitted him to leave to see if he stayed and they would get rid of him, and he laughed imagining the faces of the functionaries when they saw him return.

In one of his visits to Havana, he confessed to me how surprised he was because another writer told him that he envied him, and he couldn’t conceive of being anyone to envy, and he laughed. “When I go home from the university, at high noon, the cars pass me and no one gives me a ride, and they leave me wrapped in dust to the point that I stop breathing so I don’t swallow the dust,” he said, and he began to laugh.

Then I told him that I would exchange all that poverty for his books, that I also envied him, and he got serious, and in a respectful tone asked me if I was serious.

Thus he always comes into my memory, ironic as the priest’s pardon after confessing sins, and as sweet as the tamarind that they give the leaders to taste.

This year is the tenth anniversary of his physical disappearance. And every year, in spite of some mediocre political and cultural figures who agree to forget him, the imprint of Guillermo Vidal on Cuban culture overrides frontiers and political regimes. And this is elaborated with the passage of time, which was the only thing he didn’t laugh about. To struggle against time through writing was an exercise on which he bet his life.

Published in OtroLunes.

Please follow the link and sign the petition to have Amnesty International declare the Cuban dissident Angel Santiesteban a prisoner of conscience.

Translated by Regina Anavy

9 April 2014

The blog “The Children Nobody Wanted” on Twitter and Facebook / Angel Santiesteban

To follow the update of Ángel Santiesteban-Prats’ blog on Twitter:

@AngelSantiesteb


To follow on Facebook: Go Here.

Translated by Regina Anavy

27 March 2014

Marti Theater, Much More Than a Stage Set / Angel Santiesteban

 

Reopening of the Marti Theater

Since we were kids we dreamed of this space full of magic and history, where a great part of Cuban culture was staged and presented for our enjoyment. Timeless works were presented there: “Cecilia Valdés,” “Amalia Batista,” among others, without forgetting that in this space in 1900 the Constituent Assembly was held, and that a year later Generalissimo Maximo Gomez, surrounded by the great generals, presided over a gala celebrating the victory over Spain and the ultimate decolonization.

For decades we’ve suffered the ruins of that majestic place, in silnce imaging the beginning of its functions.

On several occasions I’ve approached it — from outside — penetrating it with my gaze and recreating those sublime figures who represented culture at the height of their era, and those who fought for freeing and shared their lives. The first, learning to be the artists of their time, and joining in the social clamor with a vernacular theater and slapstick comedy, the people saw reflected in those characters their desires. They also recreated society with political satire, that cold irony that made us laugh and think.

The historian Eusebio Leal Spengler recalled the example of the Father of the Nation and founder of the Cuban nation, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes: “In a few days we will remember his great sacrifice. High above the mountains, in a place called San Lorenzo, he gave his life, laying the foundation, the example and at the same time, the bitter lesson that disunity would only postpone the chances of achieving the great objectives.”

Such immense words for that man who agreed to let go of power knowing how much he had done, and he did it, rather than divide our forces. Quietly and immediately he began to prepare the files to give to his successor, and with his hat over his heart, he received him at the entry of his camp. A great man until the last moment of his life.

Would that Fidel Castro had learned that lesson. Today our country wouldn’t be in ruins, like the Marti Theater has been for decades, our families divided. Nor would we have sacrificed so many brilliant lives, nor would the nation be bleeding from its wounds of political repression.

The difference would be a place won for each person. Carlos Manuel de Céspedes will always be remembered for his sacrifice, putting his country before his personal interests. Fidel Castro and his brother Raul will be remembered for the opposite.

Blessed history!

Ángel Santiestaben-Prats

Prison Settlement of Lawton, March 2014

3 March 2014

Solidarity Campaign #FreeGorki #FreeSantiesteban

Please join the campaign in solidarity with these two artists whose only “crime” is to want Cuba to be free and to not have to pay the consequences to the Castro dictator when they say what they think. Follow the links and sign. Many thanks.

To sign for Gorki, go here.

To sign for Angel, go here.

8 February 2014

Answering the Requests of Those Who Are Looking for Holes / Angel Santiesteban

Many people ask me to clarify some points that tarnish the credibility of my case and situation. As Internet is the playground of all, we can utter truths, but also otherwise. And every time, after every event, positive or negative, that happens in my life, I have a bunch of people trying to highlight an insidious observation, creating doubt and suggesting, in general, that I’m lying.

Among them, some even tell me that there are people who think I’m imprisoned because of a family dispute. That possibility seems impossible to me since the all evidence of my innocence can be found on the Internet, and nothing, not a single thing, against me.

So how can anyone even suggest that what the government in power says about me is true. I have exposed to public review all my proofs, I proved that I am innocent. On top of that, I made a video of an alleged witness for State Security’s Prosecution and the “plaintiff” against me. I absolute believe that, after seeing this proof, among many others, no one can accept the version of the State against me.

After someone makes a pact with the State, with its political police, and its legal arm, it could appear plausible. I’ve said a thousand times before opening my blog I was [in the eyes of the regime itself] an exemplary citizen, save for my writing which was already, from my start, rebellious.

I was also an exemplary father, and spent more than two and half years lovingly and physically separated from my ex, with whom I have a beloved son.

I have also offered the name of Major Pablo, chief of the  sector chiefs of the municipality of Plaza.

In my blog you can read all the irregularities of the trial, it was just a circus, and a month before the sentence was handed down the henchman Camilo announced my sentence to me, with the number of years I would serve. Is he psychic?

It can also be seen in the sentence, after the appeal and review, that I was badly sentenced, but nonetheless they are not interested in amending it. Anywhere in the world, that sentence should be thrown out. And in front of the whole world, I ask for a new trial.

File of Angel Santiesteban’s Case (click to open)

To make matters worse, the journalist Juan Carlos Linares Balmaseda, from Cubanet, interviewed me. They immediately asked how it was possible that he could have access to me. I urge those who have questions to ask the journalist to see how terrified he was, and how he had to escape before finishing so he wouldn’t be arrested. In that interview he took a picture, the one where I am at the end of the unit where they keep me locked up, which adjoins a street and homes. That was the appropriate space to do it.

Under my sentence (five years), I have the right to leave on a pass every sixty days. After eight months in prison, I was awarded the first pass and visited the home of Antonio Rodiles and in the happiness of family, they gave me a cake and me took a portrait.

That day gave rise to more gossip, sowing doubts, saying I was released and just pretending to be a prisoner, and so many stupid things that they don’t deserve mention. Then Aimara Pérez came to Cuba and spent a day visiting my family. I allowed her to photograph me. This prison settlement ends at the end of a street. Then some said I was in the street. At the end there is a Girón bus they keep here, and others said that the picture was taken on a public street. It is like looking for the detail to fit the official version.

I have no doubt that those who are interested in these false details have another interest which is not the freedom of Cuba. It only remains to add that anyone who has any doubts can look for evidence on the internet or can approach me, can find ways to reach me, and after that conversation, then you will be allowed to issue an opinion supported by your own inquiries.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Prison settlement of Lawton, January 2014

Ernesto Santana, a Needle in the Haystack / Angel Santiesteban

It’s very rare to find an artist belonging to the Cuban Artists and Writers Union (UNEAC) who leaves the narrow fold of the government. We all know that those who have done it will pay for their boldness at some point.

When I met the writer Ernesto Santana Zaldivar at a meeting of Estado de Sats, his solidarity made my soul happy. After the hug, I was pleased to hear that he was aware of my situation and it was his intention to help make these absurd accusations against me better known by publishing them in Cubanet. And we agreed that he had no intention to destabilize my harmony, thus damaging my creativity and — from exhaustion or the logic of survival — causing me to abandon my blog and my demands for democracy.

Ernesto Santana was aware of every story that happened in the crude process that  brought me here. his continued solidarity has proven through phone calls, opening his home to me, or arranging in some place in Havana to make known the tricks of the regime for silencing me. His solidarity also makes me happy because he is a Cuban who exposes his life in the pursuit of individual rights. It was not enough to travel abroad, win prizes, be published or receive the gifts of the powers-that-be if he could not be honest with himself.

It is a pleasure to make this journey at his wide for the freedom we need and that we are not willing to renounce, at the risk of abuse and prison, from this child nobody wanted. An honor to share him with my readers.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison Settlement. February 2014


Sign the Amnesty International petition to support Angel.
21 February 2014

Angel Santiesteban Celebrates His First Year in Prison With a Cake

First anniversary in prison of the intellectual and writer Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

This 28th February marks the first anniversary of the unjust punishment imposed by the Havana provincial tribunal on the prize-winning writer Ángel Santiesteban-Prats. Judgement prepared by the Cuban government.

Santiesteban-Prats, has passed more than 5 months locked up in the Lawton centre, situated in the 10 de Octubre area, under constant restriction by the Heads of the Havana headquarters.

The celebrated literary figure, holder of various international and national prizes. In his critical blog of the¨Los hijos que nadie quiso¨(The Children Nobody Wanted) he has continued in his perennial role as stone-thrower into the middle of a pond. He redoubled his efforts. When the government attacked him, his ability to do this reduced.

In these 12 months he has suffered physical and psychological torture.

He found out that the appeal process which was presented to the Ministry of Justice (MINJUS) on July 4, 2013, had been filed away for more than six months on the basis of lack of a contractual agreement. Finally he presented another document, which is proceeding, has been accepted and is to be found in the Provincial Review Department, where they are keeping it while they wait for the sanctioning tribunal to forward them the lawsuit.

The injustice perpetrated against Santiesteban-Prats has served to strengthen him more. He has maintained his writing as a sacred space for this celebrated creator.

We hope that the Cuban government will accept responsibility for committing a grave error. Santiesteban, when he is free again, will continue to insist on the rights of all Cubans, because not even imprisonment has been able to stop him.

To all his readers, lovers of literature, do not give up the fight for his immediate release.

This day he was presented with a cake so he could celebrate his first anniversary in prison.

So that Amnesty International will declare the Cuban dissident Angel Santiesteban to be a prisoner of conscience you can sign the petition: please click on this link.

Published by: Dania Virgen García on 2nd March 2014 in Desde Cuba.

Translated by GH
3 March 2014

Stormy Summits / Angel Santiesteban

In an effort to make a final inventory of the CELAC event in Havana, one would have to begin quantifying the accolades received by the Castro brothers’ dictatorship from the leftist presidents of the Caribbean and Latin America. Emulating the Organization of American States (OAS) Cuba’s love-hate frustration with the continental organization from which it was expelled and its revenge for that affront, plus the loss of political leadership in the region, are the driving force of the Cuban government.

The fact that the Presidents have avoided exchanging opinions and suggestions with the Castro brothers about Cuban Human Rights is another proof of the lack of transparency and honesty of the leaders who went to extremes to avoid mortifying their hosts, also proving that they know the nature of extreme totalitarianism, a topic that is not debatable even though hunger threatens the Cuban people with death.

The summit left without sorrow or glory.

Angel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton prison settlement.  February 2014.

For Amnesty International to declare Cuban dissident Angel Santiesteban a prisoner of conscience.  To sign the petition click here.

12 February 2014

Letter to His Holiness Francisco to Mark the CELAC Summit in Havana

Your Holiness Francisco,

I write to you, once more, to ask you, if it is possible, to make an appeal to the leaders and delegations of the member countries of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States which will hold its Summit in Havana on the 28-29 January, and which the Castro dictatorship, as has been its custom for 55 years, will use, having chosen as the most important topics the region’s hunger and poverty, to add to its false fame as humanists concerned with social dramas, while doing nothing more than consolidating the repression and the violation of human rights on the island against those who dare to speak out against it.

This 2nd Summit of Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) to be held in Cuban will be another opportunity for the brutal dynastic dictatorship of the Castros, so that, along with its recent designation as “guarantor of Human Rights” on the United Nations Human Rights Council, continues tormenting its people, preying especially on the most humble, including women and children.

Ángel Santiesteban Prats is one of the hundred political prisoners who dared confront the tyranny. And only his national and international recognition as a writer, makes him a visible prisoner. And nor has the expenditure of resources on hiding the harassment from the repressive agents of which he is a victim for more than a month and which has its objective punishing him so to avoid his leaving prison on a pass during the days leading up to the Summit. It is easy to imagine how much greater is the cruelty and brutality against the “invisible” prisoners.

The world turns its back on the Cuban people. Commercial interests are more powerful than human reasons. And meanwhile the dictatorship has undermined every effort of union to achieve the only end everyone yearns for: Freedom and Democracy.

The Cuban people are alone and isolated. Only you, Holy Father, in your infinite love, mercy and wisdom, could appeal to the leaders of the governments that, once again, legitimate with their presence in Havana, the longest and bloodiest dictatorship on the continent, to demand that the dictator put an end to his crimes against his own people.

With all my affection and gratitude,

(The Editor)

Note: This letter was sent to His Holiness Francisco via fax on the morning of 14 January 2014.

The Dictatorship Mathematically Speaking / Angel Santiesteban

If we calculate the victims and the economic losses caused by the creation of  guerrillas in the world, starting with the coming to power of Fidel Castro, particularly in Latin American, how many deaths would they be guilty of over the more than half century that some conflicts have endured like the one in Columbia, which still continues? How much have the economies lost in those countries? However, you have to hear the Cuban government presenting itself as victims to understand the shamelessness of the State that has always been their flag.

That our people have lost their children is entirely the fault of Fidel Castro. That the Cuban economy is a zero, is the fault of his inefficiency. Starting from 1959 in the last century we are one of the people with the highest emigration per capita, it’s the fault of the dictator, sinking us into misery and despair.

In recent years they have make an inventory of what has been lost because of the U.S. economic embargo (with the intention of justifying their own inefficiency), which according to them is more than a billion dollars. With this we couldn’t even begin to pay all the damage that has been caused to other countries, with regards to liquidity, because on the moral and human site it’s priceless; without quantifying the damage to Cuban society, its families and the economic side, which will have to be suffered for many years to recover, at least what was achieved in 1959.

The Cuban people have learned to listen to the “complaints and apologies” of the government while remaining silent. They know they have to choice, that things could get worse it they thought, calculated, and not match those numbers and causes of totalitarianism that has a particular mathematics and logic. At least it can’t be denied that they have learned if not which side lives better, at least which side doesn’t live worse.

The infamy is that we don’t know whether to laugh or cry when we see the commissioners cynically defending the debacle of a government that has systematically drowned us for half a century. On the TV screen I see them speaking at the UN or in Geneva, and try to guess if they’ve convinced themselves of what they are saying. In any event, they exaggerate so much in order to hide the visible, that it’s impossible to believe them.

we can’t forget that even Nazism had its defenders, and the dictators in the Americas do as well. There will always be the satrap interested in the power on offer. And of course, there will always be the dignity of those who risk their lives to confront them.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton prison settlement. January 2014

21 January 2014