Monthly Archives: September 2013

Prison Diary LV: A “Royal Taster” in Solidarity?

I overstepped the first six months in prison, paying for the attempt to give the dictatorship a lesson through my opposition to its hold on power. This is the price they found to make me pay, and this is the response that, all things considered, I offer them.

Since my imprisonment on February 28 of the current year, I finished the novels “The Summer When God Was Sleeping,”* and “God Plays Dice,” edited the novel “Johnny Million,” and I wrote a second part, entirely in pencil, and wrote a book of stories, almost finished, “Zone of Silence,” with eighteen stories. I started a period novel, set at the end of 1807, before Napoleon invaded Spain, and at the same time I’m working on a script for television, all without abandoning the posts for my blog, “The Children Nobody Wanted,” and added to this there are two novel projects awaiting their time to be born.

Looking at it with a cool head, I have to thank my keepers for their injustice in having imprisoned me with the intention of breaking me. I acknowledge that, thanks to them, I can see with my own eyes the terrible suffering from the inhuman treatment suffered by the incarcerated population in Cuba. And know that when it seems that hope is extinguished, a human being approaches, suffering like you, and offers you his hand.

A few days ago, after offering the inmates the usual egg or picadillo**, they gave them chicken — an infinitesimal quantity if we compare to that received by the spies imprisoned in the United States, and that they have the luxury of criticizing if they’ve already been served chicken that week***, which amuses Cuban prisoners — and after the inmates looked for their respective scrap of chicken, an inch and a half cube, including the bone, a gentleman who one day revealed his name, on learning that in my six months I have never accepted food prepared in the prison, offered to test my ration before me, imagining that I rejected it for fear that they would add something to it that with time would cause cancer or some other illness, as their masters in the Soviet KGB were accustomed to doing.

Of course, I said no, but I couldn’t help but be moved. “I’m already old,” he insisted, “I could die and nothing would happen; but you help my grandchildren with your struggle, you work for their welfare, and perhaps there is time to avoid that one of them risks their life on the sea to get to Miami.”

Again, I thanked him for his gesture, assuring him that I would never forget it. In his eyes was a that stubbornness for saving me, from his point of view, knowing of the mysterious and improbable deaths of Laura Pollán, Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero among others.

“No doubt they can hurt me,” I told him, “but I don’t eat the food for moral integrity.” Then, against his will, he went to the dining room.

I added another friend to my harvest, a Cuban who woke up from the alienation in which the inhabitants of this archipelago, when Fidel Castro offered dreams in exchange for their lives, without warning them, of the probable nightmare in which their existences would be converted.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison settlement. September 2013

Note from the Editor: Angel sent me this post a few days before he fell ill with dengue. His fellow prisoner, evidently, already harbored fears about his safety. It is encouraging to know that in prison there is also someone who is attentive to his “fate.”

*Winner of the International Franz Kafka Novels of the Drawer 2013 Prize,  in the Czech Republic.

Translator’s notes:
**”Picadillo” means “minced meat” but in Cuba is often means “minced mystery ingredients.”
***The story circulated that the Cuban spies imprisoned in the United States complained about the frequency with which chicken is served.

25 September 2013


Official Communication: Dengue Fever Confirmed; Angel Santiesteban Released from Hospital

On Saturday the 21st in the afternoon, Angel Santieseteban-Prats was released from the hospital after his diagnosis of dengue fever was confirmed, and he was transferred from Salvador Allende Hospital to the prison facility in Lawton once again.

Just yesterday afternoon, Angel began to feel more strength and has been eating with greater appetite, but he is still greatly weakened by the disease, which, thank God, has passed.

Now no one can lie, and cholera and dengue fever are rampant in Cuba, along with the lack of freedom and repression, but it is still rather striking that in prison facility in Lawton, to our knowledge, Angel is the only one infected, and also that he got sick on the exact day that, in Berlin at the Cervantes Institute, his novel “The Summer God Was Sleeping” was awarded the International Franz Kafka Novels From the Drawer Prize.

We give thanks to God for his recuperation. We feel great happiness and deep emotion knowing he is getting better. We continue to celebrate his greatly deserved prize. But we will not let our guard down for an instant.

Raul Castro Ruz, you and all your minions are directly responsible for what happens to Angel, there are no possible accidents, nor strange viruses, nor relapses, nor any excuses that justify absolutely anything.

The life and integrity of Angel Santiesteban-Prats is the ABSOLUTE RESPONSIBILITY OF RAUL CASTRO AND HIS REGIME.

The Editor

24 September 2013

Rafael Alcides about the Official Novel against Angel Santiesteban

I present to you here the article that writer and poet Rafael Alcides published in the blog Penúltimos Días about the judicial farce mounted against Angel Santiesteban with the sole and hidden objective of silencing his critical and damning voice about the Castro dictatorship.

I ask readers to read this article knowing that Rafael expresses himself ironically but without removing one iota of the truth from what he says about Angel, the horrible antihero into which they try to convert him, the false testimony and the judicial manipulation and from the proxies and scribes of infamy that the regime knew so well how to buy in order to execute and legitimize such a dirty objective.

I believe the clarification is necessary because of the many reactions that his first article about the topic provoked and because he already busied himself clarifying in another article and because such bad fury was used by the Writers of Infamy concentrated in the Cuban Writers and Artists Union (UNEAC) in order to criminalize their colleague (and friend in many cases) and convert him into an example of the macho, abusive and violent man whom they should only recognize in the Castro dictator, his minions and those men in Cuba who regrettably are violent with women and each day pursue and brutally beat the Ladies in White and other brave and peaceful opponents throughout the whole island.

It remains to be said that there also exists — regrettably — a large number of men who practice domestic and gender violence.  Against these men among whom are found distinguished members of the nomenklatura, Justice has never done anything; it would seem as if they had assumed that violence against women and machismo are ingredients of national folklore.


By Rafael Alcides

A novelist who would like to write the complex and diverse novel that is hinted at behind the bulky “Santiesteban case,” could begin with the presumably frightened faces that the poor magistrates who failed in said process to know the facts that they would judge.  I get it, because of my own fear and because of what obviously brought the Women of UNEAC to manifest their wrath.  The prize-winning author Angel Santiesteban, UNEAC Prize, Juan Rulfo Prize, House of the Americas Prize, and who physically only would lack the horse to seem an all-powerful rodeo cowboy (The Novelist could not describe his character), threatened his ex-wife with death, hit her, tied her up in order to rape her in comfort and set fire to the house.

I, who at the beginning believed it a magnified quarrel, discord, lovers’ disagreement of the kind that so often feed the great loves while they last (and in that respect I wrote some lines of which I now repent), on knowing the facts in detail or supposed facts (The Novelist will have to investigate them and take a position), I told myself:  this is not the Angel that I know.  It’s not him.  And searching for an explanation for the undoubted failure of the judges, it even occurred to me to think of witchcraft.  Had not Angel been a victim of the evil eye, one of those “hazards” of the sorcerers of the Guatemalan mountains in the time of my childhood?  Also The Novelist would ask himself, but on finding a certain video downloaded from the internet maybe he would stop searching in the Hereafter.

Disturbed by the disconcerting mutations in the conduct of the protagonist in the mentioned video and main witness in the charge by the ex-wife of Angel Santiesteban, he would scrutinize the mystery of this young, good-looking, talkative, well-presented man who on appearing self-pitying retracts on the video his first statements in the police station against Angel.  Regret, nothing strange, The Novelist would think, I have read Dostoyevsky in depth, but now he would draw a blank when he learns that later, in the trial, this same loquacious young man, generous to the point of opulence in the details in the filming seems to be erasing feelings of guilt that would not let him sleep, suddenly, as if suddenly exchanged for a clone, as if a power greater than all the witches of my childhood had placed grief over his head, he returned to being the fundamental witness for the accuser, the enemy of Angel.

Maybe The Novelist then imagines that compassion could very well be a named protagonist in the Case, and maybe he is wrong.  As he is not The Novelist a person who believes in evil a priori, maybe he excuses Angel’s ex wife imagining her one of those poetic souls who end up believing and swearing with hand placed on the fire what they invented in one of those trances in which any of us, fantasy or not, would give half our lives to be able to transform ourselves into nuclear weapons, which would explain the eagerness of the ex-wife to erase her ex from the memory of well-born people.  Because if anything seems like life it is radio novels.  Not for nothing has Felix B. Caignet sometimes been as medicinal as the Virgin of Charity in Cuba.

Seen this way, maybe the Novelist would stop by the office of the police officer who, according to the young man in the video, began to visit the Ex after her denunciation in the precinct and frequently began to stay to sleep over in the house.  In that case, at best it might give the Novelist to create a mutual inoculation between both characters.  She passed him the bacillus against Angel and he to her those that would be expected in a police officer who was not born tomorrow.  But let’s not complicate the Novelist.  Let’s suppose that he has left the officer listening at the foot of the accuser’s tales about her unhappy days with Angel, sorrows so great and of such a kind that they moved him to pity and he couldn’t avoid infecting the officials charged with opening the indictment in the case, this solution would permit the Novelist to explain the part of pity that seems to have decided the failure of the Trial magistrates, in the first instance, and later those of the Supreme Court.

Investigating as was his duty, The Novelist “knowing, from his time as a psychologist, the best documented historian of his time, nonetheless availed himself of apparent fictions in order to represent it,” could then be aware that a few years ago, the young prize-winning author Angel Santiesteban started to think for himself, he was then assaulted by the unknown enthusiasts who broke his arm for educational purposes.  So they might suspect that, the Novelist, asked to identify the educators with rebar wrapped in a newspaper so common at the repudiation rallies but unable to confirm it, were loose ends, adrift, down the drain (but refusing to disappear) of the old days before the Elian case, when the Rapid Response Brigades would go out to take back the street, a task that, in effect, these detachments would over accomplish with a subtle but sufficient breaking of bones, lost teeth, bleeding eyes and so-and-so’s here and there limping for weeks and some, “it’s inevitable,” who knows, perhaps for life.

The Novelist wouldn’t like these methods.  Me neither.  But shouldn’t The Novelist before judging talk to those who’ve been doing it?  Perhaps then he wouldn’t accept it, but at least he would understand these devoted people.  Or they have fought, and sometimes shed their blood in the numerous overseas wars waged by the Cuban government in its first thirty years in power or had elaborated all that was said and done by his government a mystic idea so powerful that there couldn’t exist someone on earth, in the sea or in heaven that didn’t share the idea of their leaders.  Not even in heaven.  “They are heretics”, one of them said to me once.  Another one said “I would beat them to death”, and another who was very catholic, maybe thinking of the heat from hell, with teary eyes and the passion of a Arab who has seen his faith attacked said to me twenty years ago, holding my hand with fervor and staring at me at a table with two beers “I without laying a finger on them would let them fall from a very high roof into a pool filled with boiling oil”. There was no cruelty in the heart of those devoted people, however. There was love, devotion and unconditional love beyond death for the government project that constituted the reason for their life, their marrow that has gloriously burned to say it with the poet.

In statement on the Internet, Dr. Vallín, honorable man and prestigious attorney, claims that during the trial against Santiesteban, witnesses were not allowed and he alleges the defense was obstructed, mentioning laws that were not taken into account by the court. While they aren’t a justification, the rationale of government devotees explained in the previous paragraph, might have permitted The Novelist to understand the irregularities observed by Dr. Vallín.  The pity already stated on the one side, and on the other that these learned men with cap and gown should have represented the free-thinker Angel Santiesteban, still alive, was too much. They failed.

Of course, “and The Novelist knows”, this mixture of sentimentality and  governmental loyalty that on our Island has reasons to work in the garbage truck driver who has seen his son off to the university with a doctorate degree, it would not be convincing abroad.  It couldn’t.  Those curious people from “outside” see things differently.  They still talk about social contracts and things like that.  That’s why from the beginning I assumed, or “better, I believed in being sure” that the government of Army General Raul Castro, looking out for the good image of its administration in this pivotal moment in history, would do justice to the author Angel Santiesteban.  He wouldn’t allow in this case, I thought (and I hope that with me the hypothetical Novelist believed it) to become something else.  Because any person, however humble they may be (or seem to be) can be, nevertheless, the beginning or the end of an era. I think about the nobody in Sarajevo who stepped out in front of a coach.

Finally (second ending to the story: you choose) The Novelist appeared to say, obliquely, without seeming to, in his usual subtext (and if he wouldn’t say it, I’m telling you now so you won’t misunderstand me again), finally, ladies and gentlemen, enough of repeating episodes, of different dimensions but in essence like Christ, Herod and the Pharisees of that time.

Havana, March 19, 2013

Published by Penúltimos Días

Selective Ignorance: The Women Writers of UNEAC / Luis Cino Alvarez

To the wall! To the wall!*

HAVANA, Cuba, March,  – Luis Cino Alvarez –   A worthy poet who has known how to confront decades of ostracism, Rafael Alcides, wrote, “Regrets and hopes for a new jailed writer.”  After the letter by Alcides, email notes of support signed by various writers in favor of Santiesteban began to circulate.

It was then when the official counterattack was launched.  It was a ploy wrapped in political correctness: eight female writers and journalists signed an appeal against gender violence, in which the case of Santiesteban seems to be the epitome of masculine abuse against women, and the Cuban justice system is pristine, free of suspicion except in falling short by only giving five years of jail time.

It even appears to hear the screams from the women of the Cuban Writers and Artists Union (UNEAC) against the writer-machista**-abuser: To the wall! To the wall!

The document signed by Sandra Álvarez, Marilyn Bobes, Zaida Capote, Luisa Campuzano, Danae Diéguez, Lirian Gordillo, Helen Hernández and Laidi Fernández de Juan demonstrates solidarity with Santiesteban’s ex-wife; whose name — Kenia Rodriguez — curiously, is never been mentioned; and it calls “for the Cuban institutions and organizations to speak up about this case in particular and about the violence against women in our society.”

So, after so much effort to clarify that the judicial process that sent the writer to prison for a fight that occurred almost four years ago had no political motivation nor the intention to punish him for being a dissident, all those who have doubts will be marked as machista and misogynist.  Amen to being identified as prone to being manipulated by “the Counter-Revolution.” And you already know what that means at UNEAC!

Would the signers know of the frequent beatings, outrages and sexist insults that the Ladies in White and other dissidents receive from the hands of State Security and rapid response brigades at the frequent repudiation rallies?

They must know something about those repudiation rallies.  At least one of the signers, Laidi Fernandez de Juan, a few years ago in the Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth) newspaper, called these pogroms “repudiable.”

Would they know that only a few weeks ago, in Santa Clara, the dissident Iris Tamara Aguilera, head of the “Rosa Parks” Feminine Movement received forceful blows to her head when she was thrown to the sidewalk by a henchman and was mistreated at the hospital where they took her for being a “counterrevolutionary”?

Would they know about the case of Sonia Garro, another dissident who was jailed more than year ago, without trial, and who was arrested at her house in Marianao during a loud and violent police operation and was hurt by a rubber bullet in her leg?

Would they have taken all these facts into consideration when they drafted their petition and procured an email address to collect the signatures against gender abuse?

Would they be willing to fight against violence against all women in absolutely all instances?

If that is the case, independently from the Santiesteban situation, surely they will collect many more signatures.

Published by Cubanet

The Always Disconcerting Writers of UNEAC

By Luis Cino Álvarez

The writers of UNEAC can’t but disconcert me with their liberal poses when it comes to believe in the openings of the regime and the hoops they are willing to jump through so that they don’t jeopardize their awards, travels and publications.

With the imprisonment of Angel Santiesteban, under such doubtful circumstances, I was not expecting a protest from the writers at the UNEAC, not even from the more outspoken ones.  That would have been asking too much of them.  However, I did suppose that at least his friends, like Eduardo Heras Leon, who a few years ago boasted with pride that Santiesteban was one of “his boys” from the Onelio Jorge Cardoso Cardoso Narrative Workshop, and Laidi Fernandez de Juan, who considered him one of her most dear friends, even if they didn’t publicly protest, at least would feel sorry for him.

But, oh surprises, miracles and hocus-pocus from the official culture! Here is a letter from the poet Rafael Alcides  — one of the few dignified — and with notes of support in favor of Santiesteban; and then it was precisely Laidi Fernandez de Juan, one of the eight intellectuals who signed the letter against the violence of women in which the case of Santiesteban seems to be the epitome of masculine against women, and the Cuban judicial system is completely exonerated from wrong doing, with exception of falling short in its sentence of five years in jail.

In different time we would have heard chants of “To the wall! To the wall!”

The document signed by Sandra Álvarez, Marilyn Bobes, Zaida Capote, Luisa Campuzano, Danae Diéguez, Lirian Gordillo, Helen Hernández and Laidi Fernández de Juan idemostrates solidarity with Santiesteban’s ex-wife and calls on “Cuban institutions and organizations to speak up about this case in particular and against the violence against women in our society.”

So, everyone who dares to doubt that this process was free of political motivations, or who thinks it was a vendetta to send this writer-abuser to jail, will be categorized as stubbornly machista and misogynist.

And me, silly me, who thought that at least with her daddy Roberto Fernández Retamar, the poet-commissary-president, with his Bolshevik cap of the Casa de las Americas, and in the privacy of their home, Laidi Fernandez would complain and regret that Santiesteban was in jail to see if daddy would cease to play the Caliban and sympathize, and make use of his influence “up there”!

Does he know Laidi Fernandez de Juan claims to be “as devoted to the Revolution as acid in her critiques” of the frequent beatings that the Ladies in White and other dissidents receive from the hands of State Security and the cheerleaders of the rapid response brigades in those also frequent repudiation rallies that she herself, on occasion, has called “repudiable”?

Do she and the rest of the signers of the petition know that only a week ago in Santa Clara, dissident Iris Tamara Aguilera received strong blows to her head when she was thrown to the sidewalk by a henchman of the Ministry of the Interior (MININT)?

Would they have taken all these facts into consideration when they drafted their petition and established an email address to collect signatures against the abuser?

Years ago, in an interview with Angel Santiesteban himself (in the magazine El Cuentero, No. 6, 2008), Laidi Fernandez de Juan said that she didn’t share the view that no friendship could exist among writers. “What happens is that sometimes we believe someone (being a writer or not) belongs in this circle of friends and then we discover that he is a miserable, repugnant son of a bitch; but this has nothing to do with literature,” she clarified.

Would this be what happened to Angel Santiesteban?  Nothing’s worse than the fear of having a connection with a dissident.

Santiesteban’s case is confusing and contradictory, to say the least.  Many consider that State Security used the four year old incident with his ex-wife — whose name is Kenia Rodriguez, in case that the authors of the manifest supporting her without mentioning her name didn’t know — as an excuse to punish Santiesteban for his affiliation with Estado de Sats.

If that’s the case, one can’t help but wonder: Why him? Is he one the biggest critics of all the bloggers? Are they trying to send a message to UNEAC? Was it really worth it for the regime, precisely now that they are trying to fake a certain opening, to pay the costly price of sending to jail a writer who, a few years ago, won the distinguished Casa de las Americas prize for the book entitled “Blessed are those who mourn”?

I have heard some intellectuals who wonder if State Security might not be creating a legend, with Angel Santiesteban as a “super dissident,” with this jail sentence?  “Here you don’t know who’s who,” they murmur.  And so, aside from being wise-asses, they justify their fears of getting into this mess and end up like machistas. And maybe they are right. You never know…

Published in  Primavera Digital |Email

Translated by: LYD

Translator’s notes:

*”Paredón” literally means “wall” and is shorthand for “to the wall” as in: “put him up against the wall and shoot him.”  Immediately after the Revolution it was the word shouted by the mobs at the show trials.

** Machista is related to the words macho and misogynist and is similar to the term “male chauvenist”

30 March 2013

Letter Sent to Pope Francisco About the Hospitalization of Angel Santiesteban

francisco-palomaFragment of a long letter faxed to Pope Francisco today, following the hospitalization of Angel Santiestaban, with a diagnosis of “supposed” dengue, and it will be delivered directly into the hands of His Holiness, on Monday, through the mediation of a supportive person.


Your Holiness, as I said at the beginning of this letter, this morning I received the sad news that Angel was admitted to a hospital in Havana with a diagnosis of “supposed” dengue. I’m the one who takes care of his blog and many of his efforts outside the island prison, along with his literary agent, the exiled Cuban writer and journalist in Berlin, Amir Valle.

Our concern for Angel is immense because we know well the methods they use to get opponents they find uncomfortable out of the way. They have done it with Laura Pollán, infected with a fatal virus, they have done it with Oswaldo Payá, ramming his car to simulate an accident, just to mention two of the most notorious  and brazen cases.

Angel began to feel ill and have a fever on Friday the 13th, precisely the day when his novel “The Summer God Was Sleeping” was presented at the Cervantes Institute in Berlin, having just won the International Franz Kafka Novels From the Drawer Prize in the Czech Republic. It took five days for his jailers to take him to the doctor, and he was admitted to the hospital with the erratic diagnosis of “suspected dengue.”

Your Holiness, I pray to you for Angel, the brave opponent, the tireless fighter for human rights, the great man, the loving father, the great patriot, my beloved friend.

His entire struggle for Cuba is an act of love, boundless dedication, the only way he knows to do things. He does not deserve the plan the dictatorship has designed for him. We need Your Holiness to raise your voice clamoring for Justice for Angel and for all the political prisoners who are dying in the Castro concentration camps.

I am at your disposal to collaborate with you in this task, that of helping to raise the cry for all of them, which to date number more than 120, many of them on hunger strike, seriously endangering their lives.

I say goodbye to you with the hope that you receive my plea for Angel and pray for him and for his speedy recovery.

I firmly believe that whoever saves one life, saves humanity. I act accordingly.

With all my affection,

(The Editor)

18 September 2013

Official Communication: Angel Santiesteban Admitted to Salvador Allende Hospital with Dengue Fever

Headline in Official Newspaper: There is no dengue epidemic in Cuba

From Friday the 13th, Angel Santiesteban Prats presented with sporadic fever spikes, without the prison authorities responding to his requests for medical attention.

Just yesterday afternoon, Tuesday the 17th, they decided to send him “just as a routine” to the doctor, and after the results of the clinical test were back, they allowed him to be admitted with “suspected” dengue fever, into Salvador Allende hospital in the Cerro municipality. According to how things go, he will be discharged.

The mosquito that carried dengue fever, common in Cuba

They invented crimes he did not commit to imprison him and to silence his uncomfortable voice, critical of the dictatorship, refusing to listed to their own witness at his rigged trial, and all the witnesses to his innocence.

Imprisoned unjustly, they also refused to listen when he said he felt ill and needed medical attention, he had to endure five days with a fever for them to, finally, take him to a doctor.

Today he is admitted with “suspected” dengue fever.

Exiled Cuban writer Amir Valle presents Angel’s book in Berlin

How far does the regime intend to go? Angel spoke the truth when he said that he was innocent, Angel spoke the truth when he said, beginning on Friday, that he felt sick and had a fever. And here we have new proof that Angel always tells the truth: Angel has dengue fever.

In Cuba there are epidemics of dengue fever and cholera. In Cuba there is a complete lack of freedom and an abundance of cholera, dengue fever and official lies. These are truths that they can no longer hide though they keep trying. Every effort will be useless.

Angel at Estado de Sats before him imprisonment

Raul Castro Ruz, you and your cliques are absolutely responsible for the integrity of Angel Santiesteban-Prats, recently awarded the International Frank Kafka Novels of the Drawer Prize, and whose prize-winning novel, “The Summer God Was Sleeping,” was presented with great success at the Cervantes Institute in Berlin on that same Friday the 13th — when he was already demanding medical attention — despite the futile attempts of the government to rain on the parade through “Netxwerk Cuba.” The world is watching, the world is waking up. Just yesterday, in Geneva, once again the painful and shameful attempts of your representatives to silence Ofelia Acevedo, widow of Oswaldo Payá, failed before the Human Rights Council of the UN.

Every day there is less room for impunity and we hold you directly responsible, Raul Castro Ruz, for the life of Angel Santiesteban-Prats.

The Editor

18 September 2013

Prison Diary LIV: The Uselessness of Cuban Journalism / Angel Santiesteban

The actor Roberto Albellar playing José Martí at the Congress of the Union of Cuban Journalists (UPEC)

On national television, with great fanfare and bombast, they present the approaches of the IX Congress of the Union of Cuban Journalists (UPEC), the most useless group in the country, among the many unproductive institutions on the Island, which, for more than half a century, has bowed before the designs of the Castro dictatorship.

It’s not new that the news items are selected by the Ideological Department of the Council of State, then are passed on to the newspapers which publish them in their own way, according to the journalists that write them. It is also known that for any spot to appear on TV, it has to pass the censorship filter of the Commission that analyzes it, sending it on the Ideological Department, and waiting for the response.

Each radio program in the country, has a consultant who is responsible for reviewing the scripts and deciding what is acceptable to air and what is not.

With regards to the publishers it’s the same, in fact, for my books they’ve published they had to be award winners, they never accepted a book from me that hadn’t won a prize, as for my rebellious literature… but that’s another story.

I remember that with the writer and career journalist, Amir Valle, Tubal Paez Hernandez, President of UPEC, rejected his membership for being rebellious, and his testimonial book Havana-Babylon was snatched the Casa de las Americas Prize for its content of social reporting, which is supposed to be the main reason for being a journalist.

In the small spaces of “debate” in the IX UPEC Congress that have been televised, it was a shame to see journalists as if they were recent graduates, inexperienced yet feeling their way — and yet already with gray hair — saying with apparent naiveté, “that the revolution needs a more effective journalism, persuasive, aggressive.”

With these words, years ago, they were thrown out of their jobs without recourse, for not being politically reliable, stopped in their professional development, their social status deteriorating, along with their ability to travel, their salary, etc, in short, the Cuban “journalist” was crushed, humiliated, intimidated, made timid.

And now, to cover up these hard, in this Congress they have been allowed to say  ridiculous things, like that the computers are archaic, the Internet connection is inadequate, as if they were asking for Christmas presents. They still don’t understand that they shouldn’t give us anything, that our intellect should acquire what’s needed, that our labor should be enough to earn us what belongs to us. But that will be for a tenth Congress, that — with any luck — we will hold in freedom, without a dictatorship, where we can, like journalists, writers, bloggers, chroniclers, correspondents, say what our conscious demands.

Ángel Santiesteban
Prison 1580
July 2013 / Published in this blog on 6 September 2013

Prison Diary LIII: The Cardinal Cuba Needs

Bishop Siro and Father Conrado

Bishop Siro and Father Conrado

The first time I heard Father José Conrado Rodríguez, on a visit he made to Havana, I was among those at the back of the huge crowd surrounding him, hanging on to every word he said.

To be honest, I must I hung back, because I didn’t know his greatness. My disappointment with the hierarchy of the Catholic Church had caused me to distance myself, after five years of unconditional and consistent collaboration with the diocese of Pinar del Rio.

The last of the Catholics who had made me tremble in my own land, and whom I loved until his death, was my Pope John Paul II.

From the back of the crowd, I heard the words of the priest José Conrado, which immediately fostered a pleasant emotion, giving me goosebumps moved by his passion, his love for Christ and for family. His speech dealt with material deprivation, and strengthening the spiritual, the lack of unity for an inadequate government that could end the conflicts, misery and famine, especially in the east of the country after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.

Without knowing how, my legs, responding to the call of my soul, carried me up to him and I was only conscious when I found himself looking into his eyes, completely entranced by a simple being, hence so extraordinary, not afraid to say what his heart was feeling. This is my true religion.

He called for an understanding between the government and the opposition, a meeting among Cubans, bringing together the differences and turning us into inhabitants of a prosperous country, with a religious and cultural history sufficient to direct the destiny of a nation.

He asked us to put aside personal ambition, and to respond to the multiple pleas of society to end political differences, that the only thing they have done is promote poverty in a country that had a future marked by the dream of José Martí.

His song healed my wounds, once again I felt hope; but above all my happiness was based on discovering that there was a man of the church who understood my conflicts, knew of my cries, sorrows, desires, shames and showed me solutions.


Bishop Siro with Laura Pollan and Alejandrina Garcia

After listening to him, I remember Bishop Siro, already retired to rest from political and ecclesiastical leadership, giving his efforts to Vitral magazine, directed by my beloved friend Dagoberto Valdes, and to maintain his courses and constant interchange with civil society.

From love and the direct work of Bishop Siro, from his cry for a new Cuba, transformed, evolutionary, in which the family unit is first, I learned to be free, to externalize my dreams and to fight for them without thinking of the sacrifice.

Inside the Cathedral of Pinar del Rio, my yearning for freedom grew, along with the the need to share it, to demand my rights and to fight to achieve them.

Father José Conrado, in his night of cries, made me travel, confusing their voices, at times seeming to hear the other, mutated, exchanged his religious and patriotic reasons, and for moments he was Bishop Siro, in another, definitely, Father Conrado, who joined the geography of the national Catholic map, beginning with Bishop Díaz de Espada, Father José Agustín Caballero, the priest Félix Varela, Bishop Siro, Monsignor Pedro Meurice, and now, with a candle in his word, Father José Conrado Rodríguez, Who from the first moment, irradiated by the brightness of his eyes, I discerned as the Cardinal Cuba needs.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Prison 1580. July 2013

Posted in The Children Nobody Wanted on 2 September 2013