Karina’s patio is neither private nor special*

The Big Bad Wolf or the Boogieman was called something else in my childhood: The Urban Reform. Raised in a house for which my parents had no papers, when there was a knock on the door it scared us to death because it might be the housing inspector. I learned to look through the blinds before opening, a practice I keep to this day, to avoid those with portfolios who snooped around and warned us of the legal fragility of our home. The institution they represented was more feared in my tenement than the police themselves. Numerous confiscations, stamps stuck on the doors, evictions and fines made even the tough guys of Central Havana tremble when they heard someone talking about the Housing Institute.

Now the ghost of my childhood has returned, with what happened to the patio of my friend Karina Gálvez. An economist and university professor, this pleasant woman from Pinar del Río, was part of the editorial board of the magazine Vitral, and now is an essential pillar of the portal Convivencia (Coexistence). This, in a society where censorship and opportunism are growing everywhere, like the marabu weed, could be interpreted as a great mistake on the part of Karina. To make matters worse, she has always believed that her parents’ house, where she was born and has lived for more than forty years, was a family property, as it says in the title deed stored in the second drawer of her dresser. On the basis that building one’s own patio should be something as personal as the decision to let one’s nails grow, she built a covered patio that her friends all contributed to. Gradually it became a place for discussion, an epicenter of reflection, and a place of essential pilgrimage for the artists and free thinkers of Pinar del Río.

Until Bishop Emeritus Ciro González came to bless the Virgin of Charity that presided over this cozy space. I remember that Reinaldo and I are looking for a ceramic artist who recorded the Cuban flag and shield for the improvised altar in the now famous “Patio of Karina.” Then the legal skirmishes began, the Urban Reform inspectors with their threats of forced destruction and expropriation. It seemed that it would all end with a monetary penalty or, in the worst case, in tearing down what had been built. But for those who don’t know how to build, it gives them a special pleasure to confiscate, to remove the achievements of others, seizing what they themselves have not created. And so it was yesterday, Tuesday, that a brigade came to the house of my friend and announced that the patio was not hers, but rather the property of the State enterprise CIMEX which abuts the house. At a speed rarely seen in these parts, they raised a metal barrier which that night was converted into a brick wall.

Karina, in her infinite capacity to laugh at everything, said that she will paint a pair of roosters on the ugly wall, announcing the dawn. On the other side, the land that has always been hers is now used by others. One day she will get it back, I know, but not the Urban Reform, nor the political police, nor the rapid response brigade stationed outside will keep us from continuing to say and feel that this is Karina’s Patio.

Photo gallery from Yoani’s Flickr.

*Translator’s note

El Patio De Mi Casa Es Particular (The patio of my house is private/special) is a very common children’s song; click on the link for a YouTube video with subtitles. The word “particular” means both “private” and “special”.

54 thoughts on “Karina’s patio is neither private nor special*

  1. Really you have the right to put your POV but before you write any thing you should educate yourself . And you should ask .How Castro got to power? Who finance the guerrilla war ? Who was Castro’s family ? And how Castro life in zone cero?

  2. Exile I will answer for my brother . You are really dreaming or you have a nightmare . Castro’s family was one of the wealthiest in the Oriente . F, Castro ‘s father in law was a senator in Batistas gov. Castro is a real hypocrite hi life on luxury with his family went the people in some places in Havana life in houses made w/ cardboard . I have been in one of Castro’s residence , the one in Maria la gorda , and could describe that was better that a lot of the millionaires houses that I have seen in Potomac.

  3. i have e dream
    i have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted and every hill and mountain shall be made low, rough places will be made plain,and the crooked places will be made straight,and the glory of the lord shall be revealed and flesh shall see in together. Martin Luter King Jr. 28-8-1963
    para yoanis y todos los gue defienden la libertad a expresarse.

  4. MIAMI HERALD ARTICLE: In Cuba, bringing a message or help can lead to jail. People who travel to Cuba under U.S. -funded programs to promote democracy risk landing in jail.

    All the travelers follow basic tips such as being sure to engage in tourist activities and not take taxis from the hotel. Bringing more than one computer or telephone raises red flags, experts said.

    “If you bring two phones, they may let you in just to follow you,” Babún said.

    James Cason, the former head of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, said organizations used to send materials through the American diplomatic pouch, until the Cubans stopped deliveries.

    “You can bring in one or two computers, and they will register it at customs when you arrive. If you don’t have it when you are leaving, you have to pay an enormous tax,” Cason said.

    “They may even have followed the person off the plane. This is what they pay spooks for: to find out when people are coming from these organizations to Cuba. If you work for a human rights organization, it’s naive to think they don’t know who you are.”

    That was the kind of information Bubenik said he never got from Freedom House.


  5. Yoani,

    I have always been interested in Cuba and feel that the Cuban people have a great deal of opportunity in the future. You and your friends are contributing to a positive social change. I hope that the Cuban government will gradually see that their citizens can benefit from increasing their political and social freedom. I admire you for your effort and hope that one day, I may be able to visit your country.

    Keith Rizer
    Walterboro, S.C. U.S.A.

    I am sure you remeber the people that resisted castro’s efforts to take power.
    I am sure you remember the name of a woman, considered “loca” whom even after the death of her husband (hanged by the “revolutionaries”) still went on fighting/resisting.
    Captured, she was driven to insanity & still she resisted … she finally “landed” in Miami where she lived … till her death, anonimous but … never forgoten.
    Thin of her name … think of her sacrifice … think of her love for her patria.
    When the name gusano (among others) comes to play … all that use it starting with el caballo have forgoten that it is the “little people, the simpletons & the less educated” the ones that know what sacrifice is & what the real values are.
    Without the encumberance of a complicated analisys, without all the book knowledge, without the pseudo intellectual babble, the people gets right to the point.
    So …

  7. exile:
    The more you “talk” the more you are showing of yourself.
    Your “accent” has changed, your statements are changing as well, your one liners are getting longer.
    I wonder what is going on with you … are you ok? I think is your blood pressure, please take care of yourself …
    Like I said before in reference to your blog: just like Duffy Duck … “mine … mine … all mine”

  8. RE HHmberto #40

    NMHR (no me hagas reir)!

    It is all there for Exile and his pals to read and weep–the Castros did not engage with riff-raff–they were part of the elites, albeit sans the cultural refinement that others in their social class had. Both Fidel and Raul married wealthy WHITE women from not just upper-class families, but from among the wealthiest of the white families. Mirtha Diaz-Balart and Vilma Espin Guillois were no toothless guajiras bearing babies in dirt-floored bohios. They can talk all they want about their love for the poor and for blacks, but none of them, NOR ANY OF THEIR MANY CHILDREN have yet to marry a person of color or of modest background. Go figure.

  9. HEFA,

    WOW! I HAVE TO MAKE SURE YOU ARE ON MY SIDE WITH ALL YOUR KNOWLEDGE!! I think he should also read Tom Gjelten’s new book, Bacardi and the Long Fight For Cuba: The Biography of a Cause. It will explain a lot from an NPR journalist perpective.

    “In the 1950s, the family’s support for Fidel Castro in the Cuban Revolution was a natural carryover from 100 years of involvement in Cuban nationalistic movements. Pepin Bosch, the chairman of the company at that time, gave tens of thousands of dollars of his own money to the cause — as did other members of the family.
    “When Fidel Castro came to power in 1959, there was no Cuban company more associated with the revolution than the Bacardi Rum Co.,” says Gjelten.

    But the alliance was short lived; a year and a half after taking power, Castro appropriated all of the Bacardi properties, and most of the family was exiled. The company continued to thrive, however, largely because the family had created independent companies outside Cuba in the 1950s.”


  10. RE Humberto #36

    Humberto, people like Exile (I promise to not make it personal, Julio…its hard, but I’ll try) is that they can’t get their story straight because they don’t know the facts–they think they do, but all they have learned is propaganda dribble devoid of any real value or significance. Let’s just consider how idiotic it is to suggest that only rich Cubans left Cuba for the country clubs of Miami, from where they plot their return to plunder. The typical idiocy is that Cuba was a country of 96% poor, oppressed, illiterate farmers and ex-slaves–the other 4% were the bourgeoisie who oppressed them. Well, the facts and numbers again tell another story. At the time of the revolution, Cuba had a population of less than 6 million–of that number, more than ONE MILLION left. 4% of 6 million is 240 thousand–who made up the other 760 thousand? If you think that everyone who left was rich, then Cuba had a “rich” population equal to almost 17% of the entire population. Not even the richest country in the world has those kind of statistics.

    The fact is that poor, rich, and mostly middle class left Cuba–blacks, white, and everything in between, including Chinese.

    Another major fact escapes people like Exile regarding the class wars he would like to believe were at play–the revolution was primarily of interest to the bourgeoisie–the rich intelligentsia were the primary and main supporters of the Castro movement…just ask old man Bacardi how many millions he put into the game. Unlike Russia and China, the Cuban revolution was not an uprising of peasants–actually, the peasants were mostly disengaged until they had the July 26 rifles aimed at them to join the gang. Not even the Cuban Communist Party supported the July 26th movement–they recognized the social conditions that warrant a Bolshevik-type revolution DID NOT EXIST in Cuba–on those grounds they refused to support Castro’s attempts BEFORE and AFTER he declared himself a Marxist. This is something he never forgave them==just ask Vladimiro Roca.

    People like Exile have to hang on to something that gives them hope because they are disaffected and disenfranchised–the fictitious narrative they propagate helps them hang on, but it does not make it so just because they propose it. The proof will be in the pudding–will see just how fast the entire house of cards will fall–I predict it will be like the aftermath of Rumania’s fall–when the smoke and mirrors went away the world saw what was really happening there. It will be the same in Cuba and Exile will need to take up another cause in another country to help him hang on to something that gives him hope. Pobrecito.

  11. RE Julio #5

    Julio, that was me, I jumped in as “Guest.” I am still getting my feet wet here, but I helped with a few phrases.

  12. Exile,
    The problem with people like you is that you put all us Cubans in the categories of RICH, GUSANOS (which is a good thing and so passe!) and BOURGEOIS! FYI, my grandfather was an illiterate farmer from the Canary IslandS who came to Cuba at the turn of the 20th century and never learned how to read and write, far from the stereotype “BOURGEOISE” that Fidel and leftist like you want to paint us all with. If I were you I would go back to “Cuban History 101” and GET EDUCATED! AND STOP INSULTING PEOPLE! I never saw in 30 years my grandfather insult anyone, maybe you should learn how to be CIVIL from a GUAJIRO!

    1. A person belonging to the middle class.
    2. A person whose attitudes and behavior are marked by conformity to the standards and conventions of the middle class.
    3. In Marxist theory, a member of the property-owning class; a capitalist (even if they are illiterate!! bull!!)

  13. The Exile, Julio, is my toy and I write what I want on it. I sympathise with Cuba, but I am not blind to her faults. Unlike the gusano element who sit in Miami and dream their lost dreams of life in Country Club when everything was sweetness and light – for them. The fact that one of the most exclusive districts in pre-revolutionary Havana had an English name tells you everything that you need to know about the old order.

  14. The Exile, Julio, is my toy and I write what I want on it. I sympathise with Cuba, but I am not blind to her faults. Unlike the gusano element who sit in


    Blogoguerra en cuba, a mano limpia, Parte 2

    Blogoguerra en cuba, a mano limpia, Parte 3

    Blogoguerra en cuba, a mano limpia, Parte 4 (con comerciales si quieren casa no como en Cuba)

    Leo Brouwer- Wikipedia

  16. Exile,


    ‘Why the hell should the country worry about the likes of Hiram P. Fartbag 111 from Peoria Illinois?”

  17. John Two,

    There is nothing “delusional” in saying that Cuba is relatively crime free. Furthermore, and at the moment, Cuba is chock-full of Canadians, Mexicans and Europeans. Why the hell should the country worry about the likes of Hiram P. Fartbag 111 from Peoria Illinois?

    In January and February of this year I ran a series of postings on what a tourist can expect in Cuba – why not just read it? Scroll down to the bottom to start. It even includes warnings about the scams.

  18. ASSOCIATED PRESS ARTICLE: Amid crisis, Cuba falls short on home-building

    “A report prepared for Sunday’s session of parliament indicates that authorities missed by more than a third the target of building 32,000 homes this year.
    There was no reason given for shortfall, reported in the Communist Party newspaper Granma. Cuba’s cash-strapped economy has been pummeled by the global economic crisis, however, causing officials to slash imports of food and other basics as the country’s foreign debt balloons.

    In September 2005, Fidel Castro said housing was such a priority that his country would build 100,000 new homes per year. That goal proved so overambitious that by 2008, officials had lowered annual projections to 50,000 homes, then sliced them to 32,000 for 2009 — a bar that still proved far too high.”


  19. Cuba needs more books, media, and Human rights. so that the everyday Cuban living in Cuba gets a better picture of reality, and not just the BS they get feed by current Government. When Fidel’s death is proclaimed, the shit will hit the fan. It will be a new day for all cubans a day to rejoice and take to the street.

    Another voice from inside cuba.

  20. I know they will do everything they can to “attract the tourists, it is (in their mind) the life line prolonging their stay in power.
    It seems the “blocade” works both ways when it comes to assuming it effects.
    The castros blame it for all that is wrong & the people outside Cuba thinks it is the truth.
    However: keep in mind that there are many countries not bound bu the agreements for the blockade, why then there is no economic “influence” to the cuban economy?

  21. This following sentence from the Cuban tourism official in the Miami Herald article is just another indication of how delusional the Castro regime is:

    “He said Cuba was safe, that there were “no drugs, no vices, no crimes against tourists” and that “no one is crazy to kidnap a bus with tourists.”

    Clearly the regime will not be ready for a massive influx of American tourists. In my mind, that’s another good reason for lifting the travel ban. A sudden influx will make it more difficult for the regime to keep the people to people contacts to a minimum through its tourism apartheid policies.

  22. MIAMI HERALD ARTICLE: Cuban officials try to sell U.S. travel operators on tourism

    “The meeting – which one of its organizers said was a first – came as travel companies eagerly eye congressional efforts to lift the restrictions that prohibit most Americans from traveling to Cuba.
    The operators watched promotional videos of tourists frolicking in the surf, lounging on sugar-white beaches and exploring old Havana. They asked Cuban officials when they would be ready for what the president of the U.S. Tour Operators Association, Bob Whitley, called a “mass rush” of American tourists, should the ban be scrapped. Whitley’s group sponsored the event along with the National Tour Association. ”

    “We are ready


  23. Over 50 years had to pass so “hermanisimo” Raul Castro would recognized that he and his brother Fidel are criminals, a FREUDIAN SLIP he had during a speech at the ALBA Summit “in December 2009 says it clearly.



    The two ‘heads of state’, Hugo Chávez and Raúl Castro, have admitted, in the ALBA Summit and in several occasions, that Venezuela and Cuba are one economy and one government. What does this mean? Three obvious facts:

    1. Cuba is a democracy, but the Cuban people don’t know it.

    2. Fidel Castro is the ‘head of state’ of Venezuela and the democratic constitution of Venezuela was violated, but the Venezuelan people have not realized it yet.

    3. Communism Rests In Peace.


    The two ‘heads of state’, Hugo Chávez and Raúl Castro, have admitted, in the ALBA Summit and in several occasions, that Venezuela and Cuba are one economy and one government. What does this mean? Three obvious facts:

    1. Cuba is a democracy, but the Cuban people don’t know it.

    2. Fidel Castro is the ‘head of state’ of Venezuela and the democratic constitution of Venezuela was violated, but the Venezuelan people have not realized it yet.

    3. Communism Rests In Peace.


  26. Pingback: Tweets that mention Generation Y » Karina’s patio is neither private nor special* -- Topsy.com

  27. wow
    The giving effort, the bridges been built … is not a surprice, is a living testament of working for love, patria & freedom.
    I bow my head with a full heart.
    “Sobriety check”
    The “picture” of how the “machine” works.
    Little things, little fears …
    Is not (I think) that the regime is affraid of a little group, is the way they let you know “they have the muscle, the way & the oportunuty” to do it any time day or night.
    I wonder why the people ordered to do what they do carry out this orders.
    I can understand & accept some people not having a concience but I have a hard time accepting “they” are the mayority.
    My point:
    there is going to be a healing needed after things change; our capacity for tolerance & understanding will be tested fully because of our wish for revange & retribution.
    I realize is going to take time to change old habits born to survive this regime’s practices, to return to a “normal” way of life.
    All this scares me more than all the repression & brutality this regime has & still will dish out.
    To become free will be easy in comparison to the work ahead, I am not doubting the outcome, I am contemplating the price we will pay … even since I know is worth it

  28. Regarding the Translating Experiment:

    Watching what is going on here I am reminded of the proverbial snowball.

    Once it starts rolling down hill, it becomes bigger and bigger. It just picks up speed and grows exponentially until it becomes unstoppable.

    The snowball is also used in another favorite expression of mine. As in, “They don’t stand a snowball’s chance in Hell – of surviving this!”

    The translating experiment posed to us by our Friendly English Translator was a resounding success – in three hours! Good job to everyone who helped!

    We need more of you, with your prodigious powers of expression: Albert, Concubino, Statue of Liberty, Andy, Humberto, Sigmund Freud, John Two, HEFA, Candido and everyone else.

    It is very easy to do, when you have a free moment or two, you can get into the Google document, make a simple addition in 30 seconds and leave if you please – or stay longer. The document automatically saves. Many times there are phrases or words that an English speaker such as myself just can’t translate without the help of someone else who has more experience. That’s why this is such a great thing, we can all contribute what we know. Try it!

    The document is safe, so don’t worry about making any mistakes. It is that easy. Let’s collaborate and use our talents together! We can push this wall down!!

  29. Some excerpts from Joel Garcia’s posting of the kids from ISA. At the end of the video one of the young men takes a bath with the “chicharo paste” (split pea mush) as an act of defiance and what we call in the art field “performace art”. Look it up in Wikipedia.

    Joel Garcia’s Blog : A Cuban in The Canary Islands (my abuelo Pablo was born there)

  30. I’ve got some time off over the Christmas period so may take a stab on the cooperative translating starting on the weekend.

    It’s so wonderful to have access to more blogs in the English language. Both Laritza and Miriam (Sin Evasion) had excellent recent blog postings. Such intelligence, insight and respect for readers is rare in any community of bloggers. There’s lots of reasons to be optimistic about Cuba’s future once the regime is consigned to the trash can of history.

  31. I meant that it is a “gift of time” by all those Non-Cubans who work so hard to make this movement possible and that will make freedom happen.

    “Thanks for your gift of time to make Cuba FREE!”

  32. Humberto, I disagree with getting freedom as a gift.

    To gain freedom we all the Cubans have to get up an get it
    freedom can not be give away as it is something we each much claim on our own.

  33. To our Friendly English Translators,

    Thanks for your gift of time to make Cuba FREE! Gracias! I know that one of these days we will get that gift of freedome from Los Reyes Magos which are ALL OF YOU!!

    Humberto Capiro

  34. Hey Julio,

    I Don’t know who guess is.

    Google docs are perfect for what is rapidly becoming a huge task. We are going to need significant collaboration on these projects.

    I have worked on collaborative docs before in Word, but never in Google. What I like about Google docs is that the doc updates every 15-30 seconds or so. You can see what other people are doing. This is going to be an exrememely valuable tool. Thanks for introducing it to us, Julio!!!


    ABC NEWS PIECE: U.S. Travel Industry Gearing up for Return to Cuba

    “A bill to end the travel ban sponsored by Democrat Bill Delahunt of Massachusetts and Republican Jeff Flake of Arizona has 195 backers in the House of Representatives, 23 votes short, supporters of the measure said.
    Similar legislation in the Senate has the support of key senators such as Republican Richard Lugar of Indiana, but needs 60 votes to pass.

    “They are within striking distance in the House,” said Phil Peters, a Cuba expert at the Lexington Institute think tank.

    No action on the bill is expected until the spring.”


  36. I will like to add a plug for our wonderful translator. Hank and I are already helping
    some of you may not want the commitment but will like to do a bit more for our brothers and sisters in Cuba. This is the minimum we could all collectively do. The majority of the people that post here even if you do not speak Spanish you could help correcting the English.
    The process I follow to make my translation easier is I use Google translate first and then I keep to copies of Word one Spanish original and one Google translate and rectify Google translate and then once finish I posted for others to review.

    Let us all help to push the wall.
    We will be pushing a bigger wall than the one they place on Karina’s backyard.

    Freedom for all Cuba.

  37. Hello Again Everyone,

    So many people want to help translate, but most people only have a few hours a week to do it. Not enough to keep up with an entire blog.

    I am going to try something new. If you want to help me design this new method, please go to the link in the bar below the header picture titled, “An Experiment In Cooperative Translating”.

    We shall see what happens. Remember, you don’t have to be perfect in English to get a translation started. If you can just get the meaning clear, even if the grammar is not perfect, someone else who is a native English speaker can follow you and polish it up.

    A new adventure…

    Your Friendly English Translator

  38. It is hard to believe that this shameful dictators have lasted for 50 years.
    How they victimized Cubans that dare to be free!
    The dictatorship is been expose for what really is
    a plain grab for power and nothing else.
    Under the opportunistic ideology mantle of Communism the two Castro’s have manage to enslave its own people and have the whole of Cuba as their own personal farm.
    I heard stories about their father moving fences at night as to make his farm bigger.
    His two sons did it all the way. They move the fences of his father farm to engulf all of Cuba.

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