Bulletin Boards

The paper was recently stuck on a wall in Tulipan Street:  “I unblock cell phones,” it said, and gave the phone number of the shrewd technician.  More and more frequently, you see ads offering puppies for sale, auto parts, or offering the services of someone who repairs kitchens or polishes floors in your home.  They’ve been placed by the more daring in the informal market for services, trades and offers, upon which we all depend.  A stream of businesses that lack legal spaces where they can spread out, but who manage to show their merchandise with as much or more effectiveness than the official trade.

These little handwritten cards remind me of the workplaces and schools outside of Cuba where I was fascinated by the bulletin boards crammed with requests and offers.  One, “cheap lodging,” “someone who wants to buy a laptop,” or a trip that needs “new riders to pay for the transport,” were some of the classifieds that I saw posted on them.  None of this can be read on the boring walls, covered with political slogans, that appear in the Cuban universities, factories or businesses.  The students and workers are not authorized to have a physical space to post a little paper asking for a book, a computer part, or a room to rent.  Nor are there any sites like that for the rest of the populations, just as there are no local radio or television channels that devote brief minutes to informing about trades or lost objects.

To me, not allowing these boards is one of the most visible signs of control over all kinds of spontaneous organization or interaction among citizens.  Their absence is a real shame, because these columns or boards stuffed with ads energize a city and give life to schools, offices and shops.  But instead of that, posting the smallest card to “sell this thing” or “buy that other thing” continues to be, here, an act of transgression, an action that you must do clandestinely in one night, on a wall—in shadow—while no one sees.

Here is a sample of some virtual bulletin boards, which we cannot have in the real world: http://www.revolico.com and http://www.cu.clasificados.st

18 thoughts on “Bulletin Boards

  1. I am so sick of political slogans & ad’s on wall’s.Everywhere you go these damn slogan’s are there,either fading away,or still visible.For one thing,they are painted on the wall’s of house’s,which i doubt is legal;but hey who cares about it being legal;they rule the city,they can do whatever they want! :-S

  2. I dont know much about that Juanes singer. I’m in Brazil where that of musci (such as salsa and merengue) is not very successful. Anyway, maybe Juanes is not very succesfull right now and arranged that show in Cuba just to enhance his popularity (even the negative one).

  3. I have a personal story, which will be good to show, how simple, but, at the same time how cruel, strong and strict is the repression in Cuba .

    It was in 1980, just few months after “Mariel”, I met a mexican woman that was in Cuba as a tourist, and, in few days we were involved in a romance!!!!.

    We were not doing anything wrong, anything against the Revolution,we just were enjoying the moment, those days!!!!!, where I was showing to her my Havana, the beaches, etc,.

    For her last night in Cuba, she made a reservation for both of us to go to Tropicana (a famous Cabaret in Havana), to enjoy the music, the food, etc,,,,some kind of good bye.

    At 9 PM in the night I did arrive to Tropicana and I asked right at the entrance if the mexicans tourists were there or not, because she was coming in a group of tourists, then, we did set up to met us right at the entrance.

    The guy at the entrance answered: “No , they are not here yet”, I said : “Thanks”, then, I turned and I was determined to wait until the arriving of the mexicans, but just after few steps, I was intercepted by two guys wearing civil clothes and both at the same time, with the same kind of attitude, they did show me their IDs , which identified them as member of the Secret Police, and they told me: “Come with us compañero (comrade)”.

    I was took it to a small office and they asked by my ID, and while one the guys was checking my ID, the other one started to ask questions such as:

    What are you doing with the mexicans?

    How long have you been involved with them?

    Why are you coming with them today?

    And, on , and on,,,,,he just wanted to know what was my relation with them or with her.

    I was very calm, totally quiet, because I was not doing anything wrong, all my answers were very clear: “I’m just enjoying the Mexican girl, that’s it”, then, suddenly the other guy said:

    Are you working in JUCEPLAN? (JUCEPLAN was the main entity, -those years- in charge of the national planning of the Economy), he saw the stamp in my ID and immediately I knew that I was in troubles, because, we, the workers of that entity , were not supposed to get relations with foreigners and we were supposed to report any kind of relation before it happens.

    Both guys knew that I was there for a date, for some kind of romantic affair, but they used my status to frighten me, saying thing such as:

    “The enemy is very wise and they can take information from you in a clever way, then you should go before it’s too late, because we should report this issue to your job,remember that the CIA is behind anything, or anybody can be a CIA agent, etc, etc,,,,.”

    Conclusion: “I left,!!!!, I did not see the mexican girl, because I was totally scared, thinking that I could be fired of my work, which eventually became my escape to freedom, the first time I could leave the country on mission work.

    Situations like that are the daily bread for every Cubans, and that is happening for more than 50 years, and the same reaction I had , is the reaction that the all Cuban people has for anything, just trying to stay away of troubles until the moment of truth comes in a raft, or some family reunification, or defecting , or any king of way, where you can be out of the island forever and ever!!!!! escaping!!!! from that cruel, repressive and horrendous system, impose by the Castros and their mafia gang!!!!!


  4. Interesting picture above. Looks like a five hundred pound bomb blew a hole at the entrance to the house, and musical instruments are being saved and are making their way out, including a piano and a doublebass (contrabajo) if I’m not mistaken.

  5. Mark Rich – USA,

    To grow food and sell it, is much more complicated than you realize. All the land is owned by the state; one has to request permission for everything. It is illegal to buy seeds, fertilizer, pipes to repair plumbing, tools, etc. without permission from the state. There is no Home Depot where anyone can just drive up and buy supplies and equipment. If you manage to get permission, everything you grow has to be sold to the state at the price that they tell you, otherwise you risk arrest. You will be paid in the Worthless Peso, but all your supplies must be bought in the Convertible Peso. The dual currency system works really well against you….

    As for fishing… the state is not happy when Cubans get on a boat, they are more likely to head North, so that is not allowed. You can swim out and dive for lobster, but don’t get caught selling them to tourists as you risk many years in prison for stealing the state’s property…

    I think that change can only come from inside the power structure as Concubino suggests; the people are terrified, have no weapons, and are locked inside an island prison with no access to the outside world. The people are unarmed, but the state has lots of guns and ammunition that it can use against them. Even food is a weapon used against the people… I just can’t see how regular Cubans can “storm the Bastille” as the French did to free themselves from the monarchy.

  6. Cold: I hope change in Cuba comes without violence, but just in case, I want to see “the Bulls from the stands”

    Juanes is getting some Voltaire “sayings” in his Twiter. He is interpreting these comments as death threats and dennouncing them to the Police and then right away, it goes to the media.
    I started to wonder about Juanes real motivations regarding this concert.I don’t think he cares to much about peace but about himself.A huge free advertising campaing in a recessed economy. Not bad , not bad at all

  7. Concubino:

    You may be right, and however change takes place, I hope it comes like in Eastern Europe, without much violence. This regime is not worth the trouble.

    On a separate note, it appears that Juanes is getting threats through tweeter, according to a relative I spoke to in Miami. I did not know this, but it appears that he lives in Key Biscayne and the local police is now guarding his house day and night.

    I’m not against him going to Cuba, but he better make some kind of statement for the cause of freedom. It’d be great if he also brings up Panfilo.

  8. I’m rewriting my previous post , so it makes more sense gramatically speaking..

    My grandfather was sent to Villa Marista State Police Headquaters and La Cabana Prision, for something less than what Mark Rich is suggesting, he was almost 70 years old when it happened. “HIM” thought that it was big conspiracy behind what he did. When my grandad told “THEM”, that he did it all by himself without any help from outsiders, they could not beleive it.Still, He spent almost 3 years in jail. What my gramppa did was not a big deal by the way, but it was a big deal to “THEM”. It was something like a little panflet that he wrote against the Castro regime and he deposited in Ballot Box during some kind of “elections”in Cuba, instead of casting a real vote.

    I’m a firm believer that change in Cuba will come from somebody within a position of power . Like Gorbachov in the former CCCP.

    Hope and Optimism is a wonderful thing though.

    All these blogs within Cuba is great start and eventually a catalitic, an accelerator of change.

  9. 2
    Mark Rich–USA
    Agosto 20th, 2009 at 17:24
    Mark boddy…. what can I tell you!!!!….. you are right you need a lot more information about Cuba for understanding how this regime works.
    Lets start telling you that you are not allowed to develop economical activities by your self at any level, that means, ….. if you start to fish and sell the fish you captured by your self you will by charged and judged for develop “illicit economical activities” ……. the objective of the regime is not to create richness but poverty and in such way keep the people in total dependence and obedience…… tyranny is not dumb ….. they will never allow the people become economical independent because then they will lose the grab on the political power.

  10. Cold..
    My granfather was in Villa Marista and La Cabana, for something less than what Mark Rich is suggesting, he was almost 70 years old when it happened. “HIM” thought that was a big conspiracy behind what he did. When my grandad told “THEM”, that it did all by himself without any help and they could not beleived.Still spent almost 3 years in jail.

    I’m a firm believer that change in Cuba will come from somebody within a position of power . Like Gorbachov in the former CCCP.

    Hope and Optimism is a wonderful thing though.

    All these blogs within Cuba is great start and eventually a catalitic, an accelerator of change. ..

  11. I understand Concubino’s anguish, however I am optimistic, and I think what people are doing in Cuba is a positive step and if enough of them do it, it could hurt the dynasty by enhancing an already existing underground free market economy. And it will all happen right under their noses whether they like it or not.

    Not with a big bang, but step by step this regime will be eaten up and eroded by the time God (Vishnu a Hindu deity), technology and people’s need for survival.

    I look forward to the near future (less than five years) with much promise and hope. I try not to depress myself and others with pessimism. There is already plenty of that in the Island as Yoani points out.

    Concubino, you need to break a few eggs and blow some smoke with a cigar around your house so as to expell all evil spirits that may have followed you from Cuba !!! Despojate. Just kidding but seriously, I never thought this, but I think the end of this despots is not far in the future.

    And yes, I get tired when I discuss Cuba with some American friends, while being told that the country was run and supported by the Italian Mafia with their one or two casinos in Havana. We have Coppola and Redford to thank for the impressive display of historical facts.

    I think Mark Rich below is sincerely interested in Cuba and its problems, and we have to thank people like him who make the effort to take an interest in our dilemma.

  12. Candido;
    Some “chivatones”, don’t want to be pay.They do it for pleasure, it is a pity…
    Changing the subject.. I think that Mark Rich is not just naive but kind of ignorant about Cuba political situation. It is very hard to understand from the american prospective what is to be a Cuban in Cuba.The Cuban law has delictive figure for what he is proposing it is call “Enemy Propaganda”.. Yo can go to jail for up to 20 years for doing something like that.”Chivatos” profesionals or not will be glad to “denounce” something like that.

  13. Mark Rich:

    Your suggestion is a good one, and I think out of desperation people are doing it regardless of the consequences as pointed out by Yoani above.

    Not that I want to make any excuses, but the problem is that this regime is an expert at nipping everything in the bud and throwing everyone in jail or killing them before any practice they deem deviant, becomes widespread.

    Although it is a different situation, look at what happened to Pamfilo, even though he was inebriated and just expressing his hunger.

  14. Concubi!!!!;

    That link shows an official offer to be a professional “chivatón” or “delator (both words mean in spanish informer or snitch).

    During more than 50 years of repulsive and cruel regime, we had many types of informers:

    1- The one who do that “for free”, just for the simple pleasure to inform anything.

    2- The secret one who is working for the police, and could be working in something really important at the highest level, or could be just spying to denounce something as simple as saying “I’m hungry”.

    3- The one who does the snitching because fear the reaction from the authorities if he does not inform something.

    4- The one who is expecting something, such a wrist watch, or a pair of shoes, or a medal, a diploma, etc, etc,,,,does not matter if he has to inform anything even about and against his own mother.

    5- The “Palestinian”, which are those coming from the eastern provinces, with a high desires to be “someone important” and they don’t care if they have to snitch or kill,,,,their main goal is staying in Havana City, and once they have a gun hanging from his belt,,,they are like “Billy the Kid”, or “Al Capone”.

    All of them are very despicable, all of them are worse than a cockroach, they are truly rats, surviving inside that system which has been designed to be exactly that way, starting for the main leaders, the Castros, the old mafia gang, etc.

    Anyways, the link showed by the Concubino was good as a laxative, because after I did read it I had to go to the bathroom for vomiting after I felt that nasty nausea reading that kind of offer.


  15. Some readers have suggested that thousands must die to change Cuba but why not change Cuba this way? Post the card, sell the thing, or buy that thing. This then makes Cuba free and enriches the lives who sell or buy. Just like blogging, the more who participate, the freer the participants.

    Admittedly, I am naive. I don’t know the situation in Cuba, the risks, the possible backlash. But from all the blogs, how else can you improve your situation? Get more food by growing and selling it. Get more water by fixing water lines and wells. Get fish by fishing.

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