They Came Back

Steppes, snow, apples and the sound of an ax cutting wood into uneven pieces. These foreign images and sounds nurtured our childhood due to the excessive presence of the Soviet Union in the Cuba of the seventies and eighties.  We shivered with the cold watching Bulgarian and Czech cartoons, while outside the tropical sun reminded us we were in the Caribbean.  Some say we learned to say “Koniec” before “The End,” until one day the bears migrated, leaving us without their films of victorious soldiers and smiling mujiks.

After 1991 the large runs from the Russian publisher MIR could only be found in secondhand bookstores, under the dusty mantle of abandonment.  This February, however, the International Book Fair has dedicated its XIX year to the country that for decades was a mentor and economic supporter of the Cuban process.  The comrades who once paid astronomical prices for our sugar, while selling us their oil for a trifle, have returned, dressed in suits and ties.  They landed on the island they once subsidized, but this time to market their works, printed in brilliant colors, on themes alien to Marxism.

In the esplanade of the Cabaña Fort large, intersecting lines form to buy the new titles from the East.  Children here and there leaf through illustrations of golden ears of wheat or of people under sombreros with huge earrings.  But it is no longer the same.  The forced presence these iconographic images once had in our lives is, for the children of today, a mere curiosity about the exotic.  In their young minds fir trees will not replace the palms, nor foxes the lizards; for them, Russia will be nothing more than a distant and different place.

96 thoughts on “They Came Back

  1. #95 Ah so THAT is why NOONE of the usual suspects here has commented on Yoani Sanchez’s recent intreview comments – she is an “undesirable”?

  2. If you guys stop paying attention to undesirables, soon they will run out of an audience, otherwise you are providing the ammunition and attention they so much want.

  3. Igor:
    I hope as well you reconsider …
    I do appreciate your thoughts & kind approach to this conversation.
    Your contributions are valuable (to me) because you offer them in an open way, sharing your thoughts with no malice but reflecting good will.
    … just a thought …

  4. Reminds me of the International book fair that took place in December here;it was a good experience,& somewhat uplifting,to know that people from abroad saw our potential as a market,& not as a terrorist country-_-
    But i have a question to ask…Yoani,(i doubt your actually reading this),to me the way you say Russia will be nothing more than a distant & different place to the children of today in Cuba,sounds as if you mind it?why?isn’t it better the children know thing’s alittle closer to home,irrespective of how depressing home might it be, it still has a culture has it not? But i suppose i can understand what you mean-_-
    HELP HAITI!(yes i’m gonna keep this up:P )

  5. Well Henry it ain’t me who is just saying end the travel ban – it is also Yoani and many other including the 1000’s of Americans who already ignore it on an annual basis. And abuse should be directed at Yoani – remember i am just parroting her words!

    But that’s right this is your intelligent position :

    Febrero 15th, 2010 at 16:03

    That’s why I don’t go to Cuba and refuse to do so. I won’t go there until things change.”

    And Julio you earthmover you…..but yes I will be surprised – very!
    ….what has posting support to end the US blockage/travel bans got to do with caring or not caring about Cubans? So similarly you are suggesting Yoani doesn’t care? Ah I get it – when i say these things I show my lask of caring and understanding of the Cuban situation; when Yoani says the IDENTICAL thing that’s different.

  6. juan,

    Yours is a rare and discredited talent. You have achieved nothing and have convinced no one of anything but how foolish you are in your attempts to provoke and divide. Your motives don’t interest me and neither do your ideas.

  7. Antónimo/Humberto/Humbug your friend Yobbo says don’t just parrot and pirate as in your most recent effort – #83. I guess that is a better than posting a slab of an interview with Yonai Sanchez and saying it was with Obama! Stll lying when I say it was actually Sanchez am I??

  8. Ah Yobbo to replicate and pride a link to the words of Yoani Sanchez is “parroting and pirating”. By that logic 99% of the stuff posted here day after day after ady would be deleted!

    Why don’t you defend your contrary position to those expressed by Sanchez? Too embarrasing huh! Such a contrast with your stridency before being exposed.

    And yep you are painted into a very very small corner.

  9. Juan
    I am because of people like you that do not care for Cubans
    you only care about to keep the status quo that possibly benefits you or your family in some way while the rest of Cubans live in total poverty.

    As to progress you will be surprise :-)
    progress is been made

  10. Juanita

    Stop parroting (and pirating) other peoples thoughts. Repeating the same quotes in post after post proves nothing about the validity of anything. Opinions are not facts. In your case you have neither opinions of your own, or facts to convey. Your attempts at trying to paint others in a corner are laughable. Anyone can voice an opinion pro or con. Just be ready to defend them with facts, common knowledge, not what somebody else says. In any case Juanita, you get the last word because this will be the last time I waste another line on you, say what you will.

  11. #74 Julio why are you still bemoaning Cuban monetary policy. Who can forget your scheme to fix all this!! Progress report on your ‘threats’?

    “I am very serious about my statements if within a month the Cuban government does not give us any signal of change we will proceed to request legislators here to take punitive action on exports to Cuba from the US.”???
    10 January 2010
    je je je je!

  12. Igor

    Hopefully you will reconsider and continue contributing to the blog. Your comments are appreciated. You offer a needed perspective having emigrated from a a country with a similar political history. Albania, the country you mentioned had a particularly nasty form of Stalinism very similar to the isolationist North Korea. Houxa was not a nice guy. It must have been a very tough place to live in. I agree with you that many lessons can be learned from what the European countries experienced in their transitions from communism/totalitarianism to democracy. What will be most interesting is to see which model Cuba follows, will it be a “velvet revolution” or will it be bloody and chaotic ala Romania. I am curious about your extensive travel to Cuba. I would think someone with your history and political philosophy would avoid Cuba like the plague. Why go there and see others suffering through what you’ve already been through?

  13. “I believe that these economic restrictions − an “embargo” to some and a “blockade” to others − represent a blunder in American policy toward Cuba.”


    January 28 2010 , Cuban blogger, writer, and photographer Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo interview with Sanchez:

    “For this reason I support an immediate opening to allow all Americans to travel to Cuba, the end of the “blockade,” the end of the damaging hostilities of the Cold War, and in particular the complete elimination of anything that limits contact between the citizens of both countries.”

    January 28 2010 , Cuban blogger, writer, and photographer Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo interview with Sanchez:…..ama-speaks

    Interesting that none of the intellectuals who frequent this site have had the intestinal fortitude to comment on these quite unequivocal recent statements from Yoani Sanchez.

    Could it be that these comments are not dissimilar to those of say the Blogist El Yuma who I quoted as saying “More than anything else, Cuba Central is aimed at removing the travel ban on Americans going to Cuba and eventually ditching the entire anachronistic embargo.”

    To which Yubano on Feb 15 wrote “Who cares about the Centre for Democracies or El Yuma”?. But this was surpassed by Humberto Capiro who in 2 consecutive identical posts – well identical except one was ‘authored’ by Anónimo and the other ‘authored’ by Humbug (Feb 14 12.06, 12.07)…such intellectual honesty – stating that Centre for Democracy in the Americas “was a one sided lobbying organiation” AND ITS
    policy of ending the USA travel ban wasaimed at enabling tourists to “have a CHEAP IDEOLOGICAL VACATION WITH CHEAP SEX WITH THE SMARTEST PROSTITUTES IN THE WORLD”.!(Feb 15)

    Of course nothing excells Humbug when confronted with Yoan’s actual words who called me a liar and saying “.. but your quote acredited to Yoani is actually US President Barak Obama’s answer to her question.” !!!!(see #45 below for whole interview with Yoani). Naturally Humbug hasn’t had the decency to aplogise for this slight! error or like the others reacted to Yoani’s words.
    Similar of course to Yubano (feb 14) who described a recent editorial of the Centre for Democracy for the Americas “ridiculous” – again the editorial used similar words to Yoani that US policis in Cuba are counter productive.
    Albert was critical of m eborrowing other people’s statements – in this case Yoani Sanchez – although he didn’t recognise that. Apparently it is OK to cite satements form other sources as long as they support a straitjacketed, nonolithic and anachronistic perspective on US-Cuba policies?
    Ah and don’t forget changocubano who said “I think most Cubans really care less whether the USA trade with Castro or not”. (Feb 15) and Pepito “If someday the Embargo is lifted, can someone with some degree of inteligence tells me how the system is prepared to pay for their purchases?
    Lets see how many intellectuals we have in this forum, please be serious in your reply.”(16 Feb). I suggested that Sanchez was his definition of an ‘intellectual’ – perhaps not?

    So a litany of abuse for El Yuma, Centre for Democracy in Americas and myself for reproducing the words of Yoani Sanchez prior to revealing their authorship but deafening silence since.

  14. NEW YORK TIMES:Purging Loyalists, Chávez Tightens His Inner Circle
    By SIMON ROMERO Published: February 16, 2010

    CARACAS, Venezuela — “News travels fast in this city, and rumors even faster. So when a billionaire banker named Ricardo Fernández Barrueco learned that his home had been searched by agents from the feared secret intelligence police, he might have suspected that the rumors of a purge of magnates loyal to President Hugo Chávez were true.”

    “But instead of dismissing the matter, the intelligence chief imprisoned Mr. Fernández last year and ordered agents to start detaining other pro-Chávez magnates. Some slipped into hiding abroad and are still being sought. Several others and their associates were arrested and put in cells adjacent to Mr. Fernández’s.
    The purge has revealed a power struggle at the highest levels of government, leading to the fall of some of Mr. Chávez’s military comrades and reports of secret dossiers on businessmen compiled here by intelligence agents from Cuba, Venezuela’s top ally.

    At a time when Mr. Chávez struggles with public ire over electricity shortages and an economy in recession, the arrests show his ability to nimbly consolidate power while crisis swirls around him. To do so, Mr. Chávez is using tactics like secret-police raids and expropriations of some of his most powerful supporters’ businesses, relying on a dwindling number of military loyalists to carry out his orders.

    “We are witnessing the battle between competing mafias who prospered at Chávez’s heel,” said Ismael García, a leftist legislator who broke with the president in 2007. “Chávez still has the cynicism to camouflage his rule in socialist rhetoric, but anyone with a brain sees that his loyalists are in it for just two things: the power and the money.”

    Some bankers here apparently acquired too much of both. The rise of a shadowy group of pro-government tycoons had for years been an embarrassment to Mr. Chávez as he was promoting anti-capitalist values. Included in the Bolibourgeoisie (another name for the so-called Bolivarian moneyed class) were men like Arné Chacón, a former navy lieutenant who took part in Mr. Chávez’s failed 1992 coup attempt.

    In newspaper photographs back then, Mr. Chacón, like Mr. Chávez, looked like a skinny idealist. But Mr. Chacón amassed a banking fortune, appearing in newspaper photographs here with more girth and a selection of the more than 40 purebred racehorses he owned.”

  15. Igor, it seems I am coming into a conversation that was in progress. I agree with your points on the embargo discussion.

    More importantly, I also think your perspective on the inevitable dismantling of the communist state is 100% accurate. One would think, logically, that the Cubans would welcome the benefit of someone’s experience (who lived through a transition). It sure doesn’t feel like logic has much to do with what is occurring in the debate though.

    The road ahead for the Cubans (from my perspective also) looks brutal and bloody. It feels like no one in Florida or Washington really wants to see it. Maybe there is no stopping the downward spiral towards killing at this point. Thank you for your response, sorry for my misunderstanding of your background.

  16. Here is an extract from today’s daily press briefing at the State Department:

    QUESTION: Cuban migration talks – you put out that statement this morning. I’m just wondering, do you know if there’s any chance that those might also involve discussion of the contractor, and do we have any more information about the situation with the contractor, consular access, and all that?

    MR. TONER: Well, that was one of the things on my to-do list to say what is the status, have we had access and whatnot, and I did not get an update prior to coming down here. So I’ll try to get that for you.

    QUESTION: Okay, all right.

    MR. TONER: Because that’s a valid question. I had the same thought.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    QUESTION: Just to follow up on that a bit —

    MR. TONER: Sure.

    QUESTION: Correct me if I’m wrong, but he’s – the talks are going to be on Friday and he arrives today – Craig Kelly’s team?

    MR. TONER: Yes, correct. Yeah, right. They are on Friday. Yeah, there was a little bit of a date discrepancy on that.

    QUESTION: Sure, sure. Two days up to that, does he plan to have talks on any other range of issues with the Cubans?

    MR. TONER: It’s a good question. I’m not sure when he actually arrives in country, so – whether he’ll have any time leading up to the talks. If you want, I can check on it and try to follow up with you.

    QUESTION: Okay. Or more broadly, I mean, is there a significance to having the senior – this senior of a level official going to Havana at this time?

    MR. TONER: Look, I mean, I think it’s always productive to have dialogue, but I think the primary purpose is to engage in these talks.

  17. Gabe, I never said I owned a business in Cuba.I tried to bring my background ( Eastern European) into this discussion forum. I had my fair share of oppression and lack of food which helps me understand better about what is happening in Cuba. When the communism collapsed we got the freedom bu the high rank communist got their hands on the most of the state own valuables. We were able to start a business ( mine was retail) but we had to bribe the new appointed officials to obtain different kinds of permits. After a few years I decided to put an end as too much money was going in their pockets and I found my way to Canada. I just hope that when the change comes to Cuba they will manage to throw all the high officials bastards in jail and keep them inside for many years. Failing to do so might just turn Cuba in a corrupt country like Albania and with high rates of emigration ( Freedom will allow Cubans to emigrate legally wherever they want )in mind.
    In my humble opinion the embargo discussion make no sense or 2 reasons:

    1. See post #72
    2. It will never be lifted unless Cuba becomes libre or if USA is taken over by socialist government.

    With this post I end my short lived presence on this website. It seems that the Anti Castro Cuban diaspora refuses to acknowledge the similarities between the historical events that dismantle the Eastern European block and to WHAT WILL happen in Cuba ( believe me that it will happen and it will be bloody). I just hope that it won’t happen when I am in Cuba as I spend much of my vacations there.I already witnessed a bloody revolution in 1989 and it was enough for me.

    Good Luck Cubans !!!

    PS: Yubano, that post where I lashed out at you it was actually aimed at cubano. I already explained that.Sorry for the misunderstanding.

  18. Gabe I will assume pirated DVDs are not a form of income to the regime and not one they will care for so the low level corruptible police is ok with bribes on the other hand lobster is a different story. That is a form of income to the regime so only the regime can capture and sell lobster.

  19. IGOR – I would be interested to hear your story (about what business you had in Cuba) and when you were able to leave. I have always had a hard time getting a clear picture on why the police tolerate some businesses but slam (prosecute) others. In Havana, the young guys running the ‘illegal’ DVD and CD resell operations have told me they pay 100 CUC a month and la patrollia leaves them alone. Street Vendors (selling pots and pans etc) are still harassed (and arrested and good seized).

    I get the power/process of the bribe, but what I don’t understand, is why are some businesses able to pay the local police off, but others are subject to state security scrutiny (ie DVDS si, langosta no)?

    The only logical conclusion I can make out is that a business may be tolerated, as long as it didn’t 1) Embarrass the CCP or 2) interfere with a FAR monopoly.

    So, a bakery won’t be allowed (because the communist party is supposed to be running that according to ‘socialist principals’ and also selling ice cream is forbidden (because some FAR general has a monopoly on that and it cuts into his CUC revenue) – but repairing shoes and bikes is alright?

    Anyways, I would love to hear your thoughts and experience as someone who actually ran a business in Cuba. Also, I am wondering if you were located in Havana or another city. Thanks.

  20. This coming Friday some Administration experts, will visit Cuba to offer Castro an apology for the way we have treated US Cuba Migration policies for the last few years, we will also lift the Embargo as a gesture of goodwill and ask Congress to allocate 10 Billion Dollars for the first quarter of the year to subsidize trade with our enemy. In order to help the economy in this country and create new source of jobs, we are contracting with Acorn to form a task force to help finance groups of Castro followers in Miami in continuing their clandestine operation in Radio, TV Stations and Newspapers as a branch of the official newspaper in Cuba. We are also exploring the possibility of rounding up dissidents in Havana and trade them with present occupants in Guantanamo in order to help the free flow of future tourist to Cuba.

  21. Not sure if you guys remember a year or so back
    they increase the salaries of retired people by around 20 Cuban pesos
    but then the increase the price of cooking oil and other food items by a larger amount.

    So what initialy look like a good step to help the poor end up been bad from them!

    In Game theory a branch of mathematics this is call a zero sum game

    Some one have to loose when some one is winning
    The regime is always winning extracting every little penny from all those “rich” Cubans. So that they keep asking relative for more and more to keep their whole inefficient system “working”.

  22. Why does the regime devalues the Cuban peso?

    Cuban peso should be considering the reported Cuban GDP on par with US dollar
    So 1 Cuban peso should be equivalent to 1 US dollar.
    That will map to the per capita GDP of around 4700 dollars a year

    So why does the Cuban regime devalue the peso so much?
    Is that to pay for all the supposed gratuities?

  23. I only have this to say

    mangos are produce in Cuba

    can mango pure is produce in Cuba by cuban workers in state own enterprise

    Can of mango pure is sold to Cubans for 200 pesos (what many of them makes in a month)

    Who’s fault it is?

    Everything here points only to one thing

    Inefficient Cuban regime

    very high inflated prices or largely devalued local currency

    in conclusion. The regime pays nothing to them therefore they are the slaves of the regime.

  24. When you talk to cubans and bring up their situation ( lack of food and other basic items that are not available to them, for ex soap) they all blame the embargo. When you talk to them in private where no other soul is around they blame the system, communism, Castro. The embargo is a way to externalize the blame…let’s blame Obama nowadays. Who are they gonna blame if the embargo disappears ? At this moment (as in the past 5 decades) it is easy to blame the Americans for the fact that Cuba is starving. Lift the embargo and Castro will blame the …… Fill in the blanks.

  25. Pepito el Travieso, please be sensitive to the fact that “El Embargo/Bloqueo” or the “Futuro de Cuba” is NOT an academic or intellectual debate for about 99.9% of Cuban people. While the extranjeros and so-called Cuba experts speculate about potential business, travel, and sexual conquest opportunities, the Cubans are having to fear for the future of not only their country, but also the literal lives of their friends and families are at stake.

    I can’t speak for Igor, but my first guess is that he probably has a life story that would make the jaw drop on most Norteamericanos, most of us who do have not a clue about the level of struggle and tragedy he and he fellow country men have had to endure in order to survive. None of these issues are ancient history, as while we argue on a blog, there are today; Cuban mothers struggling to find food for malnourished children, decent people in prisons and forced labor camps for ‘crimes’ most of us would not even consider worthy of a parking ticket, and a hell of a lot of young men building rafts and preparing for the right moment risk their lives in the Florida straits.

    The conditions that led to the rafting exodus in the 1990’s are now reasserting themselves. Foodstuffs and basic medicines are disappearing, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to do the math. The next crises in the lives of millions of Cubans is already occurring.

    So Cubans are already dying, more are going to die, embargo or no embargo, Obama or no Obama, Fidel or no Fidel. The magnitude of the tragedy and the potential for more ruined lives is so great, I don’t see how it would be possible to speculate on these issues without strong emotions.

  26. today i arrived in florida on a small boat… obama…viva usa… beautiful place

  27. Now, now boys play nice. You are on the same-side, save your best wishes for the truelly diserving, the clueless and the castro supporting losers: juamita, el mexicano and the so-called cubano.

  28. Only a moron like you pepito could not understand what I actually meant. I think your intelligence is restricted by the embargo.

  29. Igor, if you are of the idea that Cuba is a paradise, why don’t you move permanently there, why live someplace else if you are not happy, don’t like or don’t care?

  30. pepito, the lack of Grey Matter made me survive both the communism and post-communism when if order to keep my business running I had to bribe former communists officials who kept their filthy hand on everything that was state own. The lack of Grey Matter helped me when I crossed the ocean and joined the capitalist world. Actually I am so stupid that I need a dictionary to read this blog as I’m not sure what to believe because my many trips to Cuba revealed that Cuba is actually heaven of earth and the man with beard is actually St. Peter. pepito, enjoy your victory as your very smart embargo question received the desired answered. I advise you to take this question to this question to both Fidel and Obama and let us know the answers.

  31. Looks like the State Department link has been updated. At first it said that the meeting was to be held today, which is what I copied and pasted into the post in #62. I checked back and now it says that the meeting will be held on Friday.

  32. Cuba Migration Talks

    Office of the Spokesman
    Washington, DC

    February 17, 2010


    Today, U.S. and Cuban representatives will meet in Havana to discuss implementation of the U.S.-Cuba Migration Accords. The discussions will focus on how best to promote safe, legal, and orderly migration between Cuba and the United States. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Craig Kelly will lead the U.S. delegation, which includes representatives of the agencies involved in managing migration issues.

  33. all your people is reading yoanie from you house in yankee land come on to cuba and see with your ojos..but you are not free to travel to cuba …jajajaj good we dont need americano we live good look yoani have a good house she have more than you yankee de mierda abayo los yankee abayo los cubano q vives en usa viva cuba viva fidel viva raoul … la revolucion hasta siempre

  34. mejicano, juanito & others:
    “all it takes is to shake the trash for the rats to come out …”

  35. Mexicano, I suggest you buy a one way ticket to Havana and stay there for a while, you will see the change in your brain, I mean, if you have any. Good luck with your communist ideas.

  36. 56
    Febrero 17th, 2010 at 09:11

    not your help thats for sure……………

    All you write is personal attacks non a single argument to back your attacks……. then you are just a messenger killer and the true is not your goal…….. any one can see what you are, so, your “efforts” are in vain ……… probably you are not even Mexican……

  37. el mejicano @#54:
    “A person who habitually takes advantage of the generosity of others without making any useful return” (from the American Heritage Dictionary).
    So: how what help do you think Cuba needs?

  38. people should stop beleiving all the propaganda that yoani is writing she does nt seem to be suffering she is a parasite a provocador a liar ….and all the anticastro are happpy whit that …maybe you should put your efforts on helping cuba as it is….

  39. So Puppy when Yoani said a few days ago ” For this reason I support an immediate opening to allow all Americans to travel to Cuba, the end of the “blockade,” the end of the damaging hostilities of the Cold War, and in particular the complete elimination of anything that limits contact between the citizens of both countries”

    …how does this sit with your comments in #31? She is not intellectual enough??

  40. The intellects pass the litmus test: Yubano and Gabe.

    Igor and Juan both run out of Grey Matter, instead of answering they resolved to the same old bla, bla, bla….China…Russia…Secret Police…Blockade…Hostilities of the Cold War…Solidarity and Fluidity…

    Thanks for not answering. Actually I was expecting it.

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