He could have been an alcoholic lying on a street corner sleeping off his inebriation, like so many others in this city, but he also wanted to act.  He jumped in front of a camera and cried for food which, along with yearning for change, has become the national obsession.  His spontaneity, and the emphasis he gave to asking for “grub” has turned the brief video of Juan Carlos, alias Pánfilo or Dimwitted, into a “superhit” on the alternative information networks.  I don’t remember other visual material that has gone viral so quickly in our society, not even the video of Eliécer Ávila versus Ricardo Alarcón from last year.

Pánfilo would understand, a few days after the broadcast of his image, that his demonstration had been denounced.  His words were like a red circle around his head, a lighted announcement at the entrance to his house, or a finger pointed at his life.  The magnifying glass of power, which hangs over us all, focused on him and begin to rummage through his weaknesses.  Managing to stay afloat with no work, he had been prosecuted for theft, probably bought rum on the black market, and the many other outrages that we Cubans commit every day to survive or escape.  It was enough that he was sincere in front of the microphone and took off his mask to feel the scalpel of repression slicing through his existence.

In a society marked by punishments against those who express their opinions, neither fools nor children say what they think, only drunkards.  Thus, I wasn’t surprised at the news that they found Pánfilo to be a criminal and charged him with “pre-criminal dangerousness” for which he was given two years in prison.  The judicial process must have sobered him up faster than a bucket of cold water and an extremely strong coffee.  Although there is still the possibility of appealing this decision before the court, he’s unlikely to get off without punishment because it is lesson aimed not only at him.  If they don’t condemn him, who will prevent the corner alcoholics, the neighborhood drunks, from standing in front of a camera and starting to shout for everything we lack:  Food!  Future!  Freedom!


24 thoughts on “Antihero

  1. Yoani,

    I know that freedom is a hard thing to come by in Cuba. I have visited the island a few times. My last visit was in 2007. It is always sobering and at the same time inspiring. Perhaps it’s the romantic allure of the place or my need to see things for myself… to catch a glimpse of a magical place. Because there is magic on the island. Not the type that you can see. But the type that is nuanced and often hidden. I’ve seen for myself the spontaneity and the resourcefulness of the Cuban people in the face of such dire circumstances.

    I grew up in El Salvador. I came to the U.S. before the war. But even before the outcome of that war, I sympathized with the plight of those in need. The poor, the hungry and the desolate. In the years since the war, people tired and longed for something different than what the ruling party offered. Disatisfied, they opted for a leftist government. As you know, this was repeated in many places in Latin America. My point is that poverty and hunger and dissatisfaction is rampant everywhere. Not just in Cuba. The only difference is that you can voice your opinion and yell all you want in other countries without fear of being jailed. But things don’t get much better if you’re poor.

    What is likely to happen in Cuba if things open up (completely), is that there will be more poor people than ever and the old ruling system with those who have a lot and those who don’t have anything at all, will return. You have to make sure that you keep some of the things the revolution has given you. But try to make changes within the system. If you allow those outside to have a say in what your country does, you will all lose. My mother always told me, “Otros vendran que de tu casa the echaran!” In other words, be careful what you wish for. It’s not always as beautiful on the other side.

    I respect your opinions and your desire for more freedom. Just don’t forge ahead without thinking of those who don’t possess your talents and wisdom. The poor and needy will get left behind inevitably in a capitalist system. I hope you think about that!

  2. THE CASTROS eat and live well everyday, its only la gente del pueblo that suffer. Its time that everyone speak only the truth. STAND UP FOR YOUR RIGHTS. Break some eggs and make yourselves an omellette.

  3. After horader’s hoarded sugar,in order to inflate sugar price’s,the government began crackdown’s on hoarders.But,recently,the Sugar Mill’s Association threatened,so the government stopped with the crackdowns.Ofcourse,it was’nt because they threatened that the government stopped,it was because most of the sugar owner’s are supported,or are,powerful minister’s & senator’s.
    Corruption,& the silencing of it,is something that’s everywhere;it’s emphasised more in some place’s.The situation in Cuba is a sad situation indeed;but so is the one here;i suppose it’s a sad situation everywhere in some sort of way.
    I praise Yoani,for praising these unsung hero’s,or even dum dum’s as some people might go to call them.

  4. Cuba The only Country You can’t say out loud ,” Grub what I need is grub, I’m Hungry”
    In Other Civilized Countries someone might hand you a piece of bread or a hot dog, In Cuba they hand you 2 years in Jail! FREAKS !

  5. EFE ARTICLE: Disidentes cubanos apoyan el concierto del colombiano Juanes en La Habana.

    “Nadie tiene derecho a privar a los cubanos de adentro de lo que él mismo disfruta naturalmente en el extranjero. Con el totalitarismo isleño ya tenemos más que suficiente”, opinó Miriam Leiva, fundadora de las Damas de Blanco (familiares de 75 disidentes apresados en 2003).”

  6. Regarding Juanes and Pamfilo.

    You never know what will occur. Miracles can happen. Don’t forget that many of these performers enjoy and love to live somewhere in Biscayne Bay.

    It wouldn’t hurt him to score some points with Miami cubans in case he ever has to live there. While I don’t know his music very well, I assume he’s a smart man, and wants to keep a sure footing this side of the pond.

  7. Concubino:

    I know that Juanes is not going to mention just one word in favor of Pamfilo’s freedom, because, that is not his interest, plus, we both know, that his first “bounce” -after receive the first kick- will be in Alaska!!!!!

    Anyways, I just mentioned – and if you are not candid and know how to read!!!!- from the beginning : ” If Juanes is brave or civic enough!!!!!,,,,,things that you, me and everybody knows are not like that!!!!,,,but,,,Who knows?.

    By the way, Concubino comes from the words ” Vino de Cuba” (came from Cuba)!!!!,jajaja.

    Don’t tell me that is some kind of consensual relation that did not receive the “blessing of God”!!!!,,,yet!!!!jaaaaaaaa.


  8. Juan Carlos Gonzalez Marcos (Pánfilo), the poor Cuban who became an Internet celebrity when he interrupted an interview with a musician about reggaeton in Cuba yelling “Jama, jama” (Food, food), has been sentenced to jail for 2 years by exercising a universal right, the one of free expression of thoughts, but inside a totalitarian dictatorship. He was charged with “Peligrosidad Predelictiva (pre-criminal dangerousness) since he has being 10 years out of work. Funny, just now, after the guy gets drunk & claims for food, on video and gets famous, then they notice him.

    The message: In Cuba, not even drunk you can say the truth.

  9. Ian and Concubino, thanks for the link and for bringing up the subject of Panfilo. It’s great to catch on to what has become a cyber phenomenon, at least in our circles, and hopefully beyond.

    To me, and I’m sure to many others who have been living out of the island for many decades, the video speaks a thousand words.

  10. I just went to Juanes web link provided by Humberto, but could not find a way to leave a message. I’m not a computer techie, if anyone out there can figure out how to post a message on Juanes web page, it’d be nice if they could share.

    By the way, I just caught myself misspelling the alias name Panfilo below in my previous post.

    Now that I think about it, Madison avenue (the advertising agency strip in NYC)could not have come up with a more suitable and analogous name for Juan Carlos. If you combine Spanish and old Greek, you could think of the name Panfilo as meaning “lover of bread”.

  11. Iain:
    Almost everybody in Cuba except perhaps for the elite has a a neighbor like Panfilo in Cuba .Believe me.
    Mine was nicknamed “El Villa”,because he came from Las Villas province.He commited suicide a couple of years ago. He threw himself while drunk, from a third floor of his building.He lived in Vedado, very close where Panfilo lives or was living, because now he is jail as everybody knows.

  12. Just to mention to “Cold in Chicago” that I added a link to this video to Yoani’s last post. The thing which strikes you about him is that he comes across as the LAST person who would be a menace to society. He does not seem the slightest bit violent or threatening – I’d be glad to have him as a neighbour. He’s just a reasonable man driven to the end of his tether. No prospect of a worthwhile use for his life. No prospect of a decent quality of life. Half a century of a wasted island! It resonates throughout the world!

  13. Candido
    Your words are very candid,almost like your name…If Juanes can sing a song as candid as yours…. that will be awesome!!

  14. I agree with Candido:

    I hope someone in Juanes fan club who reads this blog and has his email address sends him the You Tube link, with a letter explaining and asking him to follow through and make mention of Pamfilo and his dilemma during the concert in Habana.

    Someone asking for food and under the influence is not a reason, in this civilized world to put a citizen in jail. This is such a blatant violation of this poor man’s human rights, that it should cause any visitor who’s aware of this event, a degree of shame and guilt if he or she has a drop of morality in them. This is particularly applicable if the visitor has some notoriety such as in the case of Juanes.

  15. Let see if Juanes is brave or civic enough!!!!! to denounce the most recent abuse committed by the dictatorship imprisoning Pamfilo!!!!!

    C’mon Janes, you can report the abuse so humble, but direct,,,,,may be you can say in one of yours songs :

    “I have a white shirt and I’m requesting freedom for Pamfilo!!!!!♫ ♫ ♫!!!!

    ” This is a peace concert and that’s what I want for Pamfilo!!!!♫ ♫ ♫!!!!!


  16. Beautiful, Yoani, your writing, just beautiful. This one in particular, poetry par excellence.

  17. I’m glad Pamfilo was brought up in this forum, for I had not heard anything related to this man and how he implores to the world or whoever will listen, articulating and gesturing his desperation for what is the most basic and primordial of human needs: nourishment.

    As if to make matters worse than they are for this poor soul and others, the regime is out to make an example of him by punishing him further with trumped up charges and to set an example for others.

    This is a classic dictatorial tyranny at work, out to protect itself at all costs by eliminating or jailing their opponents to stay in power. Never mind that these methods went out of style in the twentieth century, and that there are only a handful of what amounts to economically decrepit, half starved countries still practicing it. The dynasty seems to insists that they want to be part of, and share in the dishonor of being on that list, no matter the how much infamy they bring to themselves when future Cuban history books are written, and the horror stories are told to future generations of Cuban children.

    This is the type of case study that future teachers will be using to illustrate to their students the fallacy and cruelty of a regime that starves, mistreats and lies to its people. And they’ll have Pamfilo’s video and sound to prove their point in a most visceral and detailed way.

  18. It is VERY IRONIC that one of the groups that “The Revolution” was supposed to fight for and represent is the same one that is in the most dire need! It is a good thing that Panfilo is black so that those leftist idiots around the world see the HYPOCRICY that the Castro goverment represents! No blacks in the high levels of power but many in the lower levels of despair!!

  19. Panfilo’s case is a situation that is familiar to millions of Cubans. I am referring to the fact that the government creates laws with too many prohibitions for the average Cuban than always find itself easily within the illegality if not too careful. As long as these persons do not pronounce themselves against the government or splash the news a la Panfilo there is no much too fear since almost everyone live in this illegality state of affairs. Now once one of this persons pronounce itself openly against the government or bothers the government in special way the government can stop to be blind to prior illegalities and minor transgressions of the law and then all of the sudden as in Panfilo’s sad case penal charges can appear!

    This does proof a point about the Cuban government!
    It does seem to use the law for it’s own benefit appearing to apply it when it is convenient for them reducing the government and the application of the law to caprices of the executive higher power of the government in Cuba!

    Definitely that brings to mind the way that the mafia works but in an infinitely more powerful way since they have the full power of the government! Since they are the Cuban government!

    The law is then intentional trapping and prohibition with the objective to create traps to have individuals with the only choice of bending or violating the law and living in the illegality in many cases and then the government will have the choice to apply it when it deems!

    So we can see clearly that Pamfilo’s situation is an injustice! one of the many more perpetrated by the Cuban government to many of it’s citizens!
    Because Panfilo dare to speak freely and to utter the truth that some Cubans are afraid to tell because them the government as in Panfilo’s case could remember of other illegalities committed by the individual!

    Something as basic
    as food!

    And as can be seen also there is no freedom!

  20. A few weeks after the video “Jama” (Food), Pánfilo, former merchant marine, complained that the police were after him for telling the truth, but he kept saying that there was hunger in the island. He said that he was fearful that Castro’s Gestapo was going to “disappear” him and he asked people to help his family if he was sent to jail. He also complained that he had not been able to have a job for the last 10 years.

    He was right. A few days after his last video he was arrested and sentenced to two years in jail.

  21. Yoani;
    Thanks for your denounce.That’s the only thig we asked for.As always you delivered it,like nobody else could have done it, except perhaps for Claudia Cadelo(Octavo Cerco).
    For those who would saiy that Panfilo was an alcoholic.I would say that Diego Armando Maradona,the famous soccer player,was one also and probably still is,he was also a drogadict. For those tha will jump to say that he was a theif, well I would say that Diego A Maradona commited many crimes as well,the same goes to Teofilo Stevenson who commited crimes unknown to the public,but well known to he cuban people,the same goes for Javier Sotomayor who was a cocaine user. Stevenson and Sotomayor are considered glories of Cuba. Maradona is considered a glory of Latin America.
    And for those who dare to say that Panfilo is not the best to fight against Havana Regime.I would say that we prefer to put a human face like Pablo Pacheco (Voz tras la rejas),like Neda is for repressed people in Iran, or Aung San Suu Kyi is for the people in Burma. But Panfilo is the only face we have a great one indeed,and Panfilo is a human being like all the people mentioned in this comment. No more. No less.

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