“2 Cubanitos” remember growing up Cuban in the US!

We love reminiscing about our experiences of growing up Cuban in the US.

We were all inspired years ago when our friend Carlos Eire wrote his Pedro Pan memoirs.    I think that Carlos’ work reminded all of us that there was a Cuban past to be discussed and stories to be shared.

Furthermore, we all have parents who made great sacrifices to come here and start anew.     I can assure you that sharing these Cuban stories has made me appreciate my parents very much.  I appreciate their sacrifices, or what they were willing to do so that their kids could grow up in freedom rather than the communist tyranny in Cuba.

Check out my chat with Jorge Ponce, a contributor to Babalu and good friend.

Jorge has posted often here about his Cuban American experience.

He recently posted “The trials and tribulations of becoming an American“:

“I soon learned that there was a more diverse world out there.  I met Bolivians, Ecuadorians, Puerto Ricans, Argentineans, etc.  We all shared our Hispanic heritage and our Spanish language.  I was exposed to different dances, variations of idiomatic expressions, and fantastic food.  To my great surprise, some of my Hispanic friends did not share my same anti-communist views.  In fact, some thought that Fidel, El Che, and Ho Chi Minh were visionaries who had improved the standards of living of the proletariats in their countries.  Some even wore Che T-Shirts as a fashion statement or as a sign of protest against the “American Empire.” I realized that it was time to expand my network of friends.”

In contrast to Jorge, I grew up in Wisconsin and there were no Cubans or Latin Americans in my circles.

My “trials and tribulations” were simple:  “Ingles o no comes”!

I spent most of my early years in the US hearing about Cuba from my parents.  We had no friends from Latin America in school or neighborhood.  In fact, it was a “thrill” when my father, now working at a bank, would bring home a colleague from Chile or Colombia.  It was rare but enjoyable.

Let me say it again:  Share your Cuban stories with your kids.  Tell them about your Cuban past.  It will make you very proud of being Cuban American.

Please enjoy my chat with Jorge this weekend:

Listen in now at http://t.co/foS61KrmbW.

Yoani Sánchez walks us through her “peculiar” passport (English subtitles)

A few days ago I came across this recent video of Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez giving a camera a tour of her passport. It’s about the best illustration you could possibly ask for of the regime’s deliberate measures to keep the Cuban people from being exposed to life outside the communist bubble. Her passport is full of visas. Literally. There is nowhere to put a new stamp. And yet she hasn’t been able to use a single one of them to board a flight out of Cuba.

I downloaded the video and added it to my own YouTube channel for the sake of being able to add English subtitles. SO… here it is. If you don’t hve closed captions enabled, just click the “CC” icon in the YouTube player and select the English track. Subtitles should appear.

Cuban blogger Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo detained, tweets Yoani Sanchez

Yoani Sanchez tweeted earlier today that Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo has been detained by Cuban authorities. Apparently, as he was being arrested, he had the good sense to dial her number and leave his cell phone in his pocket so she could listen in.

Yoani is now in the process of tracking Orlando down, going from police station to police station (and getting the run-around).

Follow Yoani on Twitter here (for her original Spanish tweets) or here (for tweets translated into English).

Follow Orlando here.


UPDATE:  Orlando and Silvia, his girlfriend who was also detained, were released at 11 p.m. last night, according to Yoani.

Yoani Sanchez tweets that Orland Pardo is freed

Human Rights Watch denounces attack on Yoani

Via Capitol Hill Cubans:

November 7, 2009
(Washington, DC) – Cuban authorities should cease all attacks on human rights defenders, journalists, bloggers and civic activists, Human Rights Watch said today. The international community should condemn attacks on those who peacefully exercise their basic rights to freedom of expression, opinion, and assembly in the strongest terms.

On November 6, Cuba’s most prominent blogger, Yoani Sánchez, together with blogger Orlando Luís Pardo Lazo, were abducted by three men. Sánchez and Pardo were forced into an unmarked vehicle, beaten, and threatened by their captors before being released onto the street.

“The Cuban authorities are using brute force to try to silence Yoani Sánchez’s only weapon: her ideas,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director of Human Rights Watch. “The international community must send a firm message to Raul Castro that such attacks on independent voices are completely unacceptable.”

Sánchez and Pardo had been walking to attend a “march against violence” in Havana when they were abducted. When Sánchez called for help and bystanders started to intervene, one of the captors warned the other civilians, “Don’t get involved, these people are counterrevolutionaries.”

Sánchez wrote that, while in the car, “one man put his knee on my chest and the other, from the seat next to me, was punching me in the face.” The captors told Sanchez that her “clowning around” was finished.

Cuba is the only country in the region that continues to repress virtually all forms of political dissent.

“This brazen attack makes clear that no one in Cuba who voices dissent is safe from violent reprisals,” said Vivanco.

Uncomfortable Questions

By Yoani Sanchez


I skirt the edge of my building, avoiding walking under the balconies, because the kids throw condoms filled with urine to kill the boredom. A man with his daughter is carrying a bag that’s dripping a mix of grease, water and blood. They’re coming from the butcher’s, where the line announces that some rationed product came in this morning. The two climb the stairs happily carrying their trophy meat. The wife is probably already cutting the onions, while breathing a sigh of relief that the protein is back, after several days’ absence.

I’m behind them and I manage to hear the little girl ask, “Papi, how many chickens have you eaten in your life?” I see the bewildered face of the father, who’s made it to the sixth floor, sweating from every pore. His answer is a little brusque. “How would I know that? I don’t keep a count of the food.” But the young girl insists. Evidently she’s learning to multiply and divide, so she wants to take apart the world and explain it—completely—with pure numbers. “Papi, if you’re 53 and every month you get one pound of chicken at the butcher’s, you just have to know how many months you’ve lived. When you have that number you divide it by four pounds, which is more or less what a chicken usually weighs.”

I follow the mathematical formula she’s developed and I figure I’ve eaten 99 chickens in my 33 years. The man interrupts my calculations, telling her, “Sweetie, when I was born chickens weren’t rationed.” I start thinking about how I grew up with the shackles of rationing attached to both ankles but, thanks to the black market, the diversion of resources from State enterprises, the shops that sell only in convertible pesos, the trading of clothes for food, and a ton of parallel tracks, I don’t know the exact amount I’ve digested. I hurry past them and hear the doubting phrase from the little Pythagoras: “Oh, Papi, do you expect me to believe that before, in the butcher shops, they sold you all the chicken you wanted…”

This was originally written and published in Spanish by Yoani Sanchez and translated and posted in her English version blog. Since the castro regime continues to curtail her internet access and continues to block access to her blog and other internet sites in and out of Cuba, we are posting Yoani’s work in its entirety in solidarity and to help promote and distribute same.


By Yoani Sanchez


Every day I run into someone who’s been disillusioned and has withdrawn their support for the Cuban process. There are those who turn in their Communist Party cards and emigrate to their married daughters in Italy, or those who concentrate on the peaceful work of caring for their grandchildren and waiting in line for bread. They shift from betraying to conspiring, from monitoring to corruption, and even change their listening tastes from Radio Rebelde to Radio Martí. All this conversion—slow in some, dizzyingly fast in others—I sense it all around me, as if under the island sun thousands have shed their skin. However, this process of metamorphosis only happens in one direction. I haven’t run into anyone—and I know a lot of people—who has gone from disbelief to loyalty, who has begun to trust in the speeches after years of criticizing them.

Mathematics confronts us with certain infallible truths: the number of those dissatisfied grows, but the group of those who applaud gains no new “souls.” As in an hourglass, every day hundreds of the small particles of the disillusioned come to a stop just opposite the place where they once were. They slide down to the mound formed by us: the skeptics, the excluded and the immense chorus of the indifferent. Now there is no return to the side of confidence, because no hand will be able to turn the hourglass, raising up that which today is definitely down. The time to multiply and add passed a short while ago, now the abacuses operate always by subtracting, marking the interminable flight in a single direction.

This was originally written and published in Spanish by Yoani Sanchez and translated and posted in her English version blog. Since the castro regime continues to curtail her internet access and continues to block access to her blog and other internet sites in and out of Cuba, we are posting Yoani’s work in its entirety in solidarity and to help promote and distribute same.

Between the two walls

BY Yoani Sanchez


Today at 3 in the afternoon we managed to present Orlando Luís Pardo Lazo’s book. After sneaking through the alleys of Cerro to lose the two “securities” who were following us, we ended up at the Capitol and took a bus through the tunnel under the bay. Tension, fear and doubt joined us on our brief journey to the fortress of La Cabaña. Orlando was thinking of his mother, with her high blood pressure, frightened by the threatening phone calls. My mind was on Teo at his school, unaware of the fact that maybe nobody would be there when he returned home. Fortunately, they were only ghosts.

The police operation had—we understood it a posteriori—an intention to intimidate, but there was little they could do in front of the cameras of the foreign press and of the writers who were invited. We began, sitting on the grass, speaking with a group of fifteen people, and ended with the closing applause of more than forty. We were surprised by the presence and solidarity of several young writers and poets with books published by the official publishing house. Also by the attendance of some Latin American novelists who supported us with words and hugs. There were Gorki and Ciro of the group Porno Para Ricardo, Claudia Cadelo of the blog Octavo Cerco, Lía Villares, author of the blog Habanemia, Reinaldo Escobar, blogger of Desde Aqui, Claudio Madan and others whose names I won’t mention, so as not to cause them harm.

From the other side of the street a group of persecutors was filming, with a telephoto lens, everything that happened in the green esplanade. Several primary schools had been invited to fly kites in the same place and a raucous reggaetón started just at three in the afternoon. However, we managed to isolate ourselves from all that and enter the door of Boring Home; to raise ourselves a few centimeters above the dusty reality of the watched and the watchers. From where I was sitting, the wall of La Cabaña looked to me more deteriorated, full of small porosities that opened in the stone.


This was originally written and published in Spanish by Yoani Sanchez and translated and posted in her English version blog. Since the castro regime continues to curtail her internet access and continues to block access to her blog and other internet sites in and out of Cuba, we are posting Yoani’s work in its entirety in solidarity and to help promote and distribute same.