At the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time

Posted in Alain Saavedra, Translator: Raul G. on May 25, 2010 by Alain Saavedra

At around 9 PM this past Friday, May 21st, I bumped into a friend of mine on 23rd and G street as I was on my way to my mother’s house.  He told me that he was waiting on another friend of his to go to the club on 11th and 4th street and he asked me if I wanted to come along with them.  I thought it was a good idea so I said yes.

When that other friend got there we went to 25th to take a piss and we got into the parking lot.  There were two officials from the Ministry of the Interior dressed in civilian clothing just a few feet from us.  We got out of the place and we crossed to the sidewalk across the street.

While we waited for the bus my friend and I started to exchange music on our cell phones.  Suddenly, these two officials approached us and showed us their IDs, confirming that they were agents of State Security.  Meanwhile, other cops dressed as civilians began surrounding us.  They then started grabbing us, they were looking for drugs.  Neither my friend or I had any of that, however, they did find pills on the other guy.  “Positive!” they screamed, as they handcuffed the three of us and sent us to the station on Zapata and C.  We were there for 24 hours in between various interrogations.

The guy with the pills said he was sick and made it clear that we didn’t know he had that stuff with him.  They took me out of the station and took me to my house to get checked.  They took over my laptop and transferred me over to another unit.  The next day was full of more interrogations, more questions.  The friend of my friend was taken to 100th and Aldabo, while my friend and I had to pay a fine of 1,500 pesos while we waited on a supposed trial.

This is my story.  And it is also the story of many of the young people who just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.  I can only wait to see what will happen with us.  I haven’t done anything, my conscience is clean, but my reason is keeping me alert.

Translated by Raul G.

Neither Right Nor Left

Posted in Alain Saavedra, Translator: Raul G. on May 19, 2010 by Alain Saavedra

I am only a young 19-year-old who is proud of what I am.  I have made mistakes, but I do not regret any of them.  I am proud of my friends and the courage that each of them have.  I feel free in the little space of my life, even if to some I am considered a pest who hangs around the city.  It seems that this is the punishment that I should carry, and it really does not bother me.  The only thing that bothers me is that whoever is hanging out with me also has to be faced with problems.  They have wanted me to change my way of thought and I am never going to do that.  I’d rather be caught dead than cheating my principles and concepts.  Perhaps in a few years I will have no one beside me, but I will continue raising my voice as loud as possible in order to be heard throughout the entire world.  Lies and betrayal should have punishments, and that punishment will be my job.  The more they humiliate us, the more we will continue forward without fear of anything, and we will not bend before “Pinocchio’s” lies.

I don’t regret that I am Cuban, the same way that Willy Chirino, Celia Cruz, Carlos Otero, Yoani Sanchez, Gorki Aguila, Ciro Diaz, Huber Matos, and all the exiles of the country, also do not regret it, even if one does not want to see it that way.  One day we will all reunite and together we will scream “Long Live Free Cuba”!  I am neither of the right or of the left, I am just simply me.  I don’t sympathize with the reign of the queen bee.  It seems to me that they live in a fantasy where they think that the people are with them.  However, they just need to go out to the streets and listen to the comments from everyday citizens and then they will know first-hand that what they are doing doesn’t have any morals or any value.  What they (the government) are doing is sociological torture.  They want the Cuban people to march when they are slowly starving.  Later, they try to calm the people with a concert so they can later go killing themselves with alcohol and police brutality.

I neither want to be king or peasant, and much less a buffoon.  I only want people to understand this country that has suffered for 50 years.  I want people to know how we walk two steps forward and then five back. Not even their own fully support each other, and whenever one of them slightly change their ways of thinking, they disappear.  Violence will solve nothing, understand that.  We were born to be free, and like it or not, that is my position and I regret none of it.  Even if they are watching me and following my steps I am going to continue walking.  And I am going to continue having my reasons, whether they like it or not, and they must remember that revolution means to change everything that should be changed and I think that the time for change has come.  Long live my Re-Evolution.

Translated by Raul G.

Return the Faith

Posted in Alain Saavedra, Translator: Raul G. on May 15, 2010 by Alain Saavedra

Havana is dressed with sad stares.  The only thing the youth thinks of is the hope of being able to travel, being free, being able to work in order to see the fruit of their labor and to own whatever they want and not have to depend on an old man who doesn’t even know what he wants.  The only thing I can see is a regime that does not think of the future of its country and that doesn’t think of all the deaths that have occurred in open sea for wanting to realize the American dream.  When you triumph in another country because they didn’t grant you the opportunity in your own, you’re considered a traitor.  They don’t even know who the enemy really is any more.  They don’t realize that they are their own enemies.

I demand that they return the faith that they have robbed for half a century, and that they stop screwing around with those who want positive change for this humanity that is always mourning the memories of Cuban families who have been lost in time to Cuban history.  I want them to tell me something good that they have accomplished.  And I don’t want them to mention the supposed medical missions, with those conditions anyone can make missions.

I am referring to the Cuban reality- the reality of so many people not having jobs day and night and going to bed only with rice and an egg because the money they earn is nowhere near enough to feed oneself properly.  To me, the real heroes are not “the 5″*, instead the true heroes are the 11 million Cubans who live on this island.  Being born in this island lost in the Caribbean automatically converts you into a true hero.  You don’t have to fight, nor win a battle, you just have to try to live with shitty salary they pay you and live off the mandates they bark at you when you manage to live that way.  Name yourself a real life hero.  Let’s all get together and let’s scream that they must return our faith to us, the faith that they have robbed from us for 50 years.

Translated by Raul G.

You Will Not Enter Your Own Concert

Posted in Alain Saavedra, Translator: Raul G. on May 12, 2010 by Alain Saavedra

At around 8:30 pm, on Friday, April 23rd, a concert was being held by one of the most popular hip hop groups among young people, as well as older generations, in the Acapulco theater located on 26th and Acapulco in New Vedado.  The tickets were being sold since the morning hours of Thursday for 10 pesos (in the national currency).  All the preparations for the concert had started a month prior to the actual show in order to have everything turn out the way it was supposed to.  From the very first promotions in all of the City of Havana, everyone was talking about the grand concert of Los Aldeanos.

The concert was titled “Revolution,” the same name used for their documentary which was shown in the Chaplin theater on 23rd and 10th.  But everything did not go as smoothly as we imagined it would.  Once again, there were 100 people with special theater invitations.  The public was anxious to go in and take their front row seats in order to not miss out on one bit of the spectacle.  As I am going there in a car I bump into Melisa Riveri, the international producer of the group.  I asked her how the tensions were and she replied to me by saying that everything was very tense.

When I got out of the car and entered through the artist’s entrance I found Ciro Diaz.  He then told me that they did not let him go in.  I told him that I tried with the producer but I couldn’t get in either.  When I tried going in again they showed me a list of names of people who were prohibited to enter.  They then began to read the names to Melisa.  The first name on the list was Yoani Sanchez, followed by Ciro Diaz, Claudio Fuentes, Gorki Aguila, Reinaldo Escobar, Claudia Cadelo, and someone that I truly did not expect to be on that list, at least not for that specific day- Alain Saavedra.

At that moment, my face dropped as I heard my own name.  With so many people waiting for the concert to begin, any argument would have taken a while.  The only answer they could give me was that such an order had been received from “higher up”.  I told them that I was the DJ who was supposed to work in the concert and they replied by telling me that such a job could be replaced by anyone, and that, in fact, someone else had already been hired to do and that I was not going to enter.  Since I wanted the concert to go on I refused to continue arguing with them, seeing that none of the problems were going to be solved.  The concert was then dedicated to all those people who were not allowed to enter and mainly to a Free Cuba, and that one day all those people will pay for all that they have done over time, we will see their faces.

Translated by Raul G.

Gorki Returns to Cuba

Posted in Alain Saavedra on April 22, 2010 by Alain Saavedra

The Solution the Cuban Has Found

Posted in Alain Saavedra on April 20, 2010 by Alain Saavedra

For some time the Cuban has known how to survive by necessity, others have had to choose another road like abandoning their family and friends or even betray their own country that is so foreign when they are far from it. Thanks to the need to live they have made decisions that are very brave or very stupid. Some lose their lives for the great American dream or young girls become prostitutes and young boys perform homosexual acts into order to be able to have clothes to wear or something a little better to eat.

The Cuban today has forgotten his dignity and morals all for a system of survival created by the government.  The tourist is given more rights than a Cuban and the ego of the Cuban king must be fed. At this time when even your own family sees you as a nuisance you can really fuck up your life.

In Cuba there are more prostitutes than nurses and doctors because they have found a little better life. To make an honorable decision in Cuba is difficult and whatever you do you always hurt someone close to your, your friends or family.

The young Cuban has learned from childhood to live by making deals and trying to earn some pesos before going to school to graduate in a good career. It’s hard to say the truth at times but it is the reality of living in these times in Cuba. You have to make very hard choices to be able to live.

Many teenagers have a 9th grade education not because they can’t study but because they don’t have a pair of shoes to go to school and this is the solution they find. Others leave a career and work in a private restaurant because they say that if you study in Cuba you will never earn enough to live. This is the real solution of how to live in Cuba while the alligator sleeps in time.


Posted in Alain Saavedra on April 18, 2010 by Alain Saavedra

I would be a gusano, a worm*, if I weren’t thinking about my people, if I didn’t want changes, if Yoani Sánchez, Claudio Fuentes, Claudia Cadelo and all the people who think differently could enter the cinemas and the theaters. I would be a worm if I didn’t give information to the Cuban people, if I lied in every speech I gave, if I beat the Ladies in White when I won. If I mistreated the prisoners, if I played with the future of the young people. I would be a worm if I took advantage of the supposed position of the leader. Worm if I censored groups of musicians for their songs telling the reality in Cuba. In spite of if all I keep dreaming that something good will happen some day and they will realize they have been wrong for the 50 years of history, that they live the reality that we are living. That they remember the meaning of worm is an animal that crawls and you have the same prototype. I would be a worm if were the opposite I would unnecessarily kick people and then take the people who back when in fact I was a policeman in plain clothes. I would be a worm if I shut up and didn’t say what I feel and participated in this void they are making. I would be a worm if I talked about revolution and violated rights and changed laws to suit my own convenience. I would be a worm if I faked happiness and left for Miami talking shit about my country, if I diverted money from my country into my own bank account. Before continuing these acts of repudiation first look into the critical power and the lack of respect for people who only want Cubans to live like human beings and not slaves like they are living in this little Alcatraz prison called Cuba.

Translator’s note: Gusano, literally “worm” is a derogatory term the regime uses against dissidents and anyone who leaves Cuba.

Documentary: 9th Exhibition of Young Artists

Posted in Alain Saavedra on March 15, 2010 by Alain Saavedra

The Exhibition Shows its Claws

Posted in Alain Saavedra, Translator: Raul G. on March 12, 2010 by Alain Saavedra

Thursday, February 25th 2010, was a much anticipated day amongst the young Cuban public because the documentary about the controversial rap group, Los Aldeanos, entitled “Revolution” and directed by Maickell Pedrero, arrived.  From very early in the morning a large number of people were waiting outside and a good portion of these people who had tickets were not necessarily fans of Los Aldeanos nor of the seventh art, but instead they were there to occupy seats to comply with orders given to them by the Party.

Suddenly, the habitual pressures rise and those who work in the theatre were not able to close the crystal doors in time.  A large number of people with or without tickets start to enter like a massive wave- an act which Claudio Fuentes (a photographer who contributes to some Cuban bloggers), his girlfriend, and I take advantage of.  Once inside we begin carrying out some interviews and film recordings.  Claudio tells me of his intentions to return to the theatre lobby to take videos of the people who have not been able to enter and of any happenings that seemed interesting.  Upon arriving he is detected by three people who surround him and tell him that he must leave the place because he is not welcome.  Claudio resists with the argument that the theatre is a public cultural space and that it is his constitutional right to attend it and that, in addition, he has been attending for 17 years in which he has never had any argument.  Finally, he is pushed out under the sad triumph of force.

The next  day (February 26th), the author Lia Vilares, our friend, presented her audiovisual material and Claudia Cadelo, Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, and Ciro Javier Diaz tried to attend the screening.  In this case their admittance was also denied by the same ringleader and oppressive agent named Hugo Pavon, together with other grey-haired men who at the top of their voices shouted: “Counter-revolutionaries!  Mercenaries!  You all are paid by the United States with 20 million dollars a year” and other stupid comments like that.

For the closing ceremony of the 9th Exhibiiton of young artists, which took place on the 28th of Februry during night hours, Claudio once again returned and tried entering with his girlfriend, this  time with official invitations.  Once again he was detained by Hugo Pavon who snatched the tickets from his hand and cornered both of them near the entrance doors and an argument arose where Claudio was publicly accused of being an agitator.  While this occured, Hugo Pavon also snatched the camera from Lia Villares who was intending to film or photograph the event.  Thanks to Claudio screaming at the top of his lungs that they return the camera, it was returned to its owner.

All of what occurred makes me impatiently wait, with more urgency each time, for substantial and significant changes in the laws of this country that protect and respect all kinds of citizens, despite their religious, political, or civil preferences.

Translated by Raul G.

The Cuban Economy is Up in Flames

Posted in Alain Saavedra, Translator: Raul G. on March 8, 2010 by Alain Saavedra

The conference by Oscar Espinosa Chepe, economist and independent journalist, showed us that Cuba is economically going from bad to worse.  One of the ways money comes into the country is the remittances by family members living in exile and those trips to the country by Cuban Americans.  But what also maintains the economy of this country is the mini-black market that provides society with illicit sales of merchandise that is property of the state.  Cuba finds itself in the same process it faced in the 90’s- the famous so called ‘special period’- but this time it is more concealed by the government.  The government has announced a statistic of 1.7% of unemployment in 2009, surely the lowest in the world.   During these times in which the world crisis lashes out with a great strength against the Cuban economy, the truth is that out of 100% of the people that live in Cuba, 60 or 70% work for the little salary that they pay in Cuban jobs.  The average salary of a worker is of 328 Cuban pesos and converted to ‘cuc’ is 14.25, while one kilogram of milk in powder form costs 6.55 ‘cuc’ in the state-owned stores that offer certain products.

Then, how is it that they want the youth to travel if one must work an entire month to cash a miserable salary that doesn’t even give enough to go to a presentable club, where the entrance fee is 10 cuc per person and the drinks cost 1.50 cuc?  But Cuban youth have learned how to confront this with the black market, selling clothes and objects brought by family members from other countries.  Then how do they expect the people to lift the economy of the country.

Conclusion:  Let people have their own cafeterias, try to establish only one currency, and raise the workers’ salaries.

Translated by Raul G.