Category Archives: Translator: MLK

Remnants of History: Cubans in the Independence of the United States / Angel Santiesteban

Many Cubans are unaware, although living in the United States, that we were participants in the independence of the Thirteen American Colonies.

When in 1776 the conditions were given for the confrontation with England, commercial relations between Cuban and the North had already reached a mutual development and interest, independent of their cities. In 1764, England cut off commerce with the Spanish and French Antilles which affected thirty distilleries that produced the coveted “Anitillean Rum.”  This was one of the reasons for the separatist movement, recognized by John Adams, second president of the United States.

After that event, Havana became a supplier for the independence army.  A commercial fleet was in charge of bringing resources while in Havana shipyards and arsenals American ships were repaired and mounted with cannon.

Part of the rebel force was made up of Cuban Creoles and brown and moreno battallions. On the Pensacola Site, April of 1781, the Havana forces that had arrived as reinforcement were the first to enter the city.

In revenge, England attacked Havana, attempting another capture like that of 1762 but — this time — they found different circumstances. Twenty years later, the defenses were impregnable and their forces were strategically positioned. The harassed Admiral Rodney, then, beat a retreat. The Cuban forces continued their contribution to the American cause and managed to evict the English from control of the Mississippi River, guaranteeing the provisioning of the rebels through that route.

One of the great moments of Cuban collaboration for the independence of the Thirteen Colonies was the delivery — to aid General George Washington when he was without resources — by the native Cuban general and first Creole named governor of the Island, Juan Manuel Cagigal y Monserrat, of his loyal collaborator, intimate friend and personal aide — the Venezuelan Francisco de Miranda — to meet with Washington.

On his return, they gathered resources through public fundraising and jewelry donations by Havana ladies. Thanks to that contribution, Washington began the attack against the troops of British General Cornwallis in Yorktown, Virginia. After intense fighting, he achieved the surrender of the English.

Particularly, Havanans had the opportunity to clear their honor after the loss of The Havana, taken by the English in 1762. With their contribution to the independence of the Thirteen Colonies, Cuban natives fought for the first time to liberate another country.

Thereafter, America began to be the largest trading partner of the archipelago and the second home.

Angel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton prison settlement.  June 2014.

Follow the link to sign the petition for Amnesty International to declare Cuban dissident Angel Santiesteban a prisoner of conscience.

Translated by mlk.
4 July 2014

Opportunistic Foreigners Who Suck the Dictatorship’s Tit: Alessandra Riccio, the Most Castroite of All the Neapolitans

Alessandra Riccio, a Neapolitan who resides in Cuba, knew how to live, like so many leftist foreigners, from the benefits that the totalitarian regime offered them. I don’t know if she came to be one more of the secret collaborators of State Security, captured by Commander Manuel Pineiro “Red Beard,” of course, dead in suspicious circumstances at a time when that death was very convenient for the Castro brothers, because with his secrets as Fidel’s private scribe he could sink them before international justice.

What is certain is that the lady in question has written a book about her memories of Cuba, at least those that she can or they permit her to tell, because if she tells some others she would be catalogued as a traitor by those who helped her out for so many years on the island.

Without seeing the book — really among the list of texts that I need to read, I don’t plan to give it space — I am sure that she did not tell, logical with her usual lack of honesty, that when she was a juror of the story genre in the “Casa de las Americas” prize in 1992, together with the Cuban and great writer Abilio Estevez, and the fabulous Argentine writer Luisa Valenzuela, State Security prohibited them from awarding my book “South: Latitude 13,” because of the heartbreaking stories of the internationalist Cubans in Africa.

She will not tell that they, as jurors, gave into those “extraliterary” demands because, according to Abilio, the political police officials told them that if they gave me they prize they would do me much harm. Coincidentally, an aide to Riccio told me that a little later she left Cuba disappointed and hurt for having seen herself “obliged to commit such injustice;” so much so, according to what they told me, that she had denied meeting me because of the shame that she felt because of her actions.

Abilio and Valnezuela, on the contrary, did decide to confront their guilt and tell me what happened. The first one explained to me what happened; then he did it with others, above all several years later on a trip to the Dominican Republic, when he told that shameful incident to several colleagues and editors, who corroborated their pain and shame because of that literary assassination.

For her part, on meeting me, Luisa Valenzuela was surprised by how young I was (I remember that she exclaimed that I was the same age as her daughter), and immediately proposed to take me to Argentina, a gesture that I appreciated although I refused.

For further embarrassment, last year, at the beginning of my incarceration, Riccio appears in a grisly list of “women against violence,” supporting the government’s injustice which sentenced me without evidence, in a biased trial where nothing that my lawyer did to demonstrate my innocence with five witnesses, videos, and documentary proof, which Riccio could have easily consulted on the internet, did any good.

But as in old times from the already mentioned Commander Red Beard, she prefers to attend swiftly to the call of the tyrant to shape her signature, as if it were not enough already to shoulder the weight of the shame of that other literary injustice that she had committed against my person and my literary career.

Now nostalgia has made her write a book remembering the authorized part that she can narrate, and the newspaper Granma has gotten a photo and a report about her love for Cuba (although I would dare to correct and change Cuba for dictatorship).  Do not worry, Riccio, your role as bootlicker has suited you well, and the tyrant rewards you.


Angel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton prison settlement.  May 2014.

Follow the link to sign the petition for Amnesty International to declare Cuban dissident Angel Santiesteban a prisoner of conscience.

Translated by mlk.

2 July 2014

Lilo, An Artist Who Fed Himself From Misery / Angel Santiesteban

Lilo Vilaplana

Lilo Vilaplana

When I began working in Cuban television, in the second half of the eighties of the past century, the first person they introduced me to was Lilo Vilaplana. He was already a star Assistant Director and they assigned him to teach me, in practice, his expertise.

We immediately became good friends, and friendship flowered as if an elf had taken us by the hand. I joined the post-production of a children’s series directed by Roberto Villar, and we would begin to produce an adventure fantasy written by the brilliant writer Daina Chaviano.

In the serial edition, we could see from our booth how they accommodated the trial of the Number One Cause of General Arnaldo Ochoa. I remember that our editor was famous for being one of the best in the trade, and he recognized that the soldier who was doing it in the other booth was excellent.

For example, in the scenes where the Republic’s Prosecutor or Raul Castro spoke to Ochoa directly, he replaced his angry face, sometimes his ironic smile, and showed him tired, jaded and perhaps even drugged, making him appear ashamed of what the Prosecutor or Raul said to him, like someone who recognized that he had made a mistake, and he deserved it.

That which I lived together with Lilo — and which maybe was the first injustice that we attended as witnesses — was a seed of rebellion. We swallowed that, and — in our youth, at 20 — maybe had awakened our consciences. Almost thirty years later, those beginnings have made us more deeply know the pride of being friends, in spite of geographical distances.

I remember those years of human and artistic development, where we shared his theater works and my stories. Taken by the hand by the persevering elf, we went to propose characters to Lili Renteria, to Jacqueline Arenal, who rejected one princess character because she preferred to be the witch.

Once, in the “Aquelarre” Humor Festivals, I was with my partner trying to gain access and, when it seemed that it was impossible because of all the people who were still outside, I saw Lilo passing in a line of five people who made way among the tumult contained by police and ropes.

I called to him, and he stopped with a smile that even now — remembering it — moves me; I had to say nothing else, he took me by the arm and put me ahead of him.

He was always giving like this; I believe that the hardships we have experienced have placed us on the same side, that I have always recognized that I had a childhood full of poverty, my mother — alone — raised five children and sometimes we had to go to school with holes in our shoes, or in the winters, we stayed in the house because we had no coats.

Scene from "The Death of the Cat" with Albertico Pujol

Scene from “The Death of the Cat” with Albertico Pujol

I wil never forget that Lilo, when he decided to become an artist, the first thing that he understood is that he could not achieve his dreams in his native and beloved Nuevitas, so “maddened,” he arrived in Havana without knowing anyone; that was the great course of his life, since he slept in the funeral home or sneaked into hotel pools in order to bathe.

His first great triumph was to get work in the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television (ICRT); his second triumph was to rent in the building adjoining the Cathedral in Old Havana. It was a small room without either bath or kitchen, which he celebrated as if he lived in a small palace.

Entering that citadel was like arriving at a giant anthill. The bathroom was collective, and Lilo told me that when the women bathed, their husbands had to protect them so that they were not seen. The citadel that Lilo recreates in his short “The Death of the Cat,” was based on that where he lived, very close to his friend Raul Guerra, where he took me once to listen to his mastery; there also I met his daughter, who was at that time in that interval of leaving childhood and entering adolescence, and who later would become that excellent writer who today is Wendy Guerra.

Lilo Vilaplana, Director

Lilo Vilaplana, Director

All this preamble in the life of Lilo was knitting or rather soldering his bones, those stories that — at times — you don’t know whether to laugh or cry, because he passes through the so extreme social dramas that Cubans — and so artists imitate it — tinge with humor, in order to avoid melodrama, and which serve as a safety valve, letting pressure escape.

All those human pressures, sadnesses and miseries with which Lilo coexisted served him — besides feeding and strengthening his creation — to — for the second time — arrive at an unfamiliar city, also in a foreign country, and in Lilo’s case, overcome all the obvious obstacles for any immigrant who, by luck, arrived with two suitcases, one of a trade and the other of talent.

Angle Santiesteban-Prats
Lawton Prison Settlement, June 2014

Translated by MLK

Answer To Those Who Don’t Accept the Embargo / Angel Santiesteban

A public letter addressed to President Obama with the intention of lifting the embargo or, at least, lessening it, has been signed by figures who demonstrate that Human Rights on the Island do not matter to them at all.

For some, shame means a check with several zeros. I cannot hide that it fills me with consternation that there exist people in this world who defend the dictatorship although I suspect that those who do it do not think of anything more than economic gain, perks or future payments for political “lobbying” services. One way or another, it means the same thing for ethics and humanity. Their shameless acts rival each other for the championship of the most cynical.

No one with honor can raise his voice to strengthen the tyranny of the Castro brothers, which — for more than a half a century — has sunk our country into misery. They cannot hide behind the apparent good intention of “helping the Cuban people” when we know that absolutely nothing will improve in our reality; to the contrary, as the totalitarian regime is strengthened, the same will occur with the iron yoke that they exert over the people, repression and assassinations of dissident leaders will increase. That is the only thing that they will achieve if they raise or lessen the embargo on the Castro family.

To those to whom it does not matter then, sign and protect the Cuban dictatorship.

Angel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton prison settlement.  May 2014

Follow the link to sign the petition for Amnesty International to declare Cuban dissident Angel Santiesteban a prisoner of conscience.

Translated by: Michaela Klicnikova and mlk.

29 May 2014

A Light on My Path / Angel Santiesteban

I Raise My Glass to Freedom Day

I must confess that when they seized Raul Rivero in the Black Spring, and he was part of “The Group of 75″ that was seeking political change in Cuba, at that time I had no political conscience, or maybe I did not want to have one.  My thinking protected me and I needed to believe my literary teachers who insisted that the work was primary and that from writing we should fight for change, that books were our rifles and words our bullets.

I do not doubt that is true, but there was a moment in which it was not enough for me, and so I have recognized on many occasions, and when I ripped off the mask that covered my face — stuck there since my birth, weathered and clinging to my skin throughout the time of my education — then I felt for the first time the cool, clean air caressing my skin.

My shame obliged me to start the blog. I felt that I had a double debt:  to all the national readership — where I perceived the need for the fight — and to my contemporaries, in particular and especially to the great Cuban poet Raul Rivero, who abandoned the life of a passive writer with which he collected great achievements in order to become one of the fiercest critics of totalitarianism. There was an instant where it all began, and his face, poetry and attitude towards life were made present, and I wanted to continue in his footsteps.  The bar is very high, like his poetry.

Maybe you will not believe it, but at this moment, while I write this post, I was interrupted by Officer Abat — one of the many bosses of this prison — and he tried to assert his authority over me, he wanted me to notice that he was prohibiting my family from coming to see me.

When I ignored him, he asserted that he was going to win — I suppose he was referring to a dose of suffering for me — then I assured him that he would never beat me because for me a cell was a badge of honor, but that I recognized that he could do it as a henchman, abuser, weak in manhood, and several other things that — in the heat of the moment — occurred to me.

He screamed at me to shut up, and I told him that they would never achieve it, certainly not on a day like today.  Finally, he left threatening, surely looking for help in the headquarters to make me pay for my rebelliousness.

Today is Free Press Day, and this is the best way I have to honor it.  And it is also the best day to express my gratitude to the great Raul Rivero, who lights the free path with his lantern of poetry, who in his turn inherited from the master of all, Jose Marti.

Angel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton prison settlement.  May 2014.

To sign the petition for Amnesty International to declare Cuban dissident Angel Santiesteban a prisoner of conscience follow this link.

Translated by mlk.

15 May 2014

I Am Not Afraid / Angel Santiesteban

Even though more than half a decade has transpired since that confession:  “I know that I am afraid, very afraid,” that the great writer Virgilio Piñera — one of the greatest artists born in the archipelago — pronounced in the National Library, in the same place and at the same time that Fidel Castro prattled his “Words to Intellectuals,” I could never stop imagining the inner mockery that the young comandante must have hidden on hearing the sentence; and then, the abundant and grotesque laughter of the rest of the bearded men. . . and the times that they would have repeated “fucking fag,” without any of them imagining — unhappy souls — that the poet would outlive them in dignity and would come to form part of the history of the country as one of its great men, thanks to his literary legacy, while Fidel Castro and the rest of his unworthy “revolutionary” team just leave us an immense wake of blood and pain.

Virgilio Piñera

The bravest and most honest among those present at that meeting was Piñera, who with his declarations got ahead of what would fall over the country, in particular over the cultural sector.  Thanks to those premonitory words, worthy of an enlightened one, today we know the cost of what has been ignored by the rest of the intellectuals.

Maybe — if in that moment they had united — then they would have been respected, so preventing all the suffering that Virgilio, Reinaldo Arenas and Heberto Padilla suffered so much; possibly also they would have avoided all that abusive theater that surrounded us during the fatal period of the 1970’s decade, when because of their critical, human work, because of their ideology and their sexuality, they were persecuted, marginalized, expelled from their jobs and study centers and brought to bleed their original sin of being artists.

Fidel Castro always knew that he had to watch them closely and keep them under his boot, given that in spite the fact that he was dealing with “the soft sector of society,” they were dangerous, harmful to his ideals about keeping himself in power.

Now, since my incarceration due to the opening of my blog “The Children Nobody Wanted,” I can attest, paraphrasing the brilliant Virgilio, that “I am not afraid, not at all,” and paraphrasing the dictator, “Within art, everything; against art, nothing.”

Angel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton prison settlement.  April 2014.

Translated by mlk.

5 May 2014

Cuba Continues To Occupy An Embarrassing Position In The Free Press Rankings

Freedom House, like every year, has published the report on the freedom of the press situation in the 197 countries that it monitors.

In the report released the first of May, covering 2013, Cuba continues to occupy one of the worst positions on the list.

On the global list, it occupies position 190 out of 197, shared with Equatorial Guinea and Iran.  On the list of countries of the Americas, it occupies 35 out of 35.

Nothing to add. . . everything said.

The Editor

Translated by mlk.

2 May 2014

Raul Castro, Think Again / Angel Santiesteban

The months keep passing, and Angel Santiesteban — the only “common prisoner” to whom the political police have offered “freedom” in exchange for his renouncing his political position, witnessed in a video — continues punished, victim of constant inspections and deprived of passes to which by law he has a right; nor do they permit him to go to the dentist or the barber.

Now, this “common prisoner” was chosen among the 100 Freedom of Information Heroes by Reporters Without Borders.  Those who took him to jail should be writhing in shame; also those who have been and are complicit with their silence.

Why does the Regime fear him so? Because if it considers him a common prisoner, nothing they undertook against him make sense, besides being illegal.

Angel remains incarcerated, and he considers it an honor; the Review of his trial remains ignored and his attorney disqualified. From whatever point you try to understand this unjust sentence, the one who loses is the dictator Castro, because being a “common prisoner” he treats him — for all purposes — as a political prisoner, by which we can imagine that he wants to aggravate his situation “converting him” now into an enemy of the Revolution and traitor to his country.

If they make this official, they will only admit that Angel is a political prisoner, and there will be in evidence — once again — the true nature of the Castro dictatorship. It is also true that the democratic governments that make deals with Cuba at the cost of the sacrifice, suffering and blood of Cubans, don’t care at all. These governments and the Castro dictatorship will pass, because everything passes.  But they will remain forever in history.

Raul Castro, think again; you can still correct this injustice–and all those that are committed against the more than one hundred political prisoners. Do not do it for Cuba or for your victims; you as well as your brother demonstrated amply that no one and nothing matters to you, that only power interests you; do it for your children and grandchildren, those who throughout life are condemned to carry your last name and your stigma. Because the moment will come in which everything will fall into place, although you and your brother perhaps will no longer be–regrettably–and will be saved from facing Justice.

It is not only incomprehensible that the dictatorship is the most tolerated of the world, but no one ever will be able to understand why a “Revolution” that never spared bullets and violence so fears the words and opinions of an intellectual, of peaceful opponents and of decent women who bear as a “weapon” a gladiolus.

The only certainty is that history will not absolve them.

The Editor

Follow the link to sign the petition for Amnesty International to declare Cuban dissident Angel Santiesteban a prisoner of conscience.

Translated by mlk.

1 May 2014

Burn Your Neighbor’s Beard / Angel Santiesteban

The hypocritical “conversation” that Nicolas Maduro held with the opposition indicates the political temperature of what is happening in Venezuela.

Against his will, the dictator sat down at the table of dialogue.  Although he does not want to recognize it, he did it at the demand of his Cuban advisors, and of Raul Castro himself, who in frequent phone calls from the Island, advises him not to give up, or show weakness or that he is desperate because of social pressure.

It is true that in Cuba Raul Castro is far from recognizing his political adversaries; further away still is the possibility of a dialogue between both sides.  Many more Cubans will have to die before — at some point — we throw ourselves into the streets in order to demand what belongs to us by right and that they have stolen from us for more than half a century.

Circumstances, dictators and tyrannies are different, but on perceiving that the process imposed by the deceased Hugo Chavez is extinguished, and in spite of the power and abuses they make a disillusioned people suffer, they have also make them pay for their rebellion with more than 40 lives.

In order to avoid guarimbas (street clashes) in Cuba, the Castros have maintained their iron command, which has cost many lives of those who have opposed them. Here, if one breathes at a different rhythm than that stipulated by the leadership, the political police open a file and begin their constant persecution, waiting for you to breathe deeply to “bring you” your shares of anguish.

No fire is needed in the archipelago; the smoke of a lit match barely suffices to sound the alarm.  Nevertheless, we keep dreaming of our guarimbas.

Angel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton prison settlement.  April 2014.

To sign the petition for Amnesty International to declare dissident Cuban Angel Santesteban a prisoner of conscience, follow the link.

Translated by mlk.

25 April 2014

UNEAC Complicit In Its Silence / Angel Santiesteban

Previously I have said that in the circus exercise called court, which I attended with the sentence already dictated by State Security, as I was made to know long before by one of their henchmen, a fact that I made known publicly — and which the judges in the First Chamber of Crimes Against State Security executed, in their special headquarters for notorious crimes on Carmen and Juan Delgado, when it was supposed that my crime was common — officials of the Cuban Artists and Writers Union (UNEAC) attended, sent by their president Miguel Barnet to watch the show, like poet Alex Pausides, accompanied by the legal official, who said that to his understanding what the prosecution could present against me was smoke, like the report of that handwriting expert who said that the height and slant of my handwriting made me guilty.

At the exit, the poet and Communist Party member Alex Pausides as well as the legal official, said that I would be absolved given that what was presented, and according to what was exposed in the oral ceremony, I could not be judged, especially when I presented five witnesses who demolished those accusations.

Then, when they found me guilty, my lawyer went to UNEAC and left all the documents that corroborated my innocence and that they requested for presentation to Miguel Barnet, but we never received an answer, they kept silent.

Of course, I am not naive, I never expected a reaction from UNEAC, I always knew what they would do, but above all, what they would not do, and they have fulfilled my predictions.  I understood that they would take that posture because I believe in history like a religion, and I knew that history would yield that despicable stance. Their silence is their shamelessness.  And that shamelessness is now written in our history.

Angel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton prison settlement.  April 2014.

To sign the petition for Amnesty International to declare Cuban dissident Angel Santiesteban a prisoner of conscience follow the link.

Translated by mlk.
16 April 2014