Fame and Applause

For over a decade the corner of Infanta and Manglar showed the unfinished mass of a twenty-story building. Its completion ran aground with the coming of the Special Period and the end of the construction concept known as the “microbrigade.” Those who had laid the foundation with the illusion of getting an apartment in the high-rise, raged with impotence when it was announced construction could not continue. They had given years of their lives to raise the walls and suddenly the wished-for home escaped them with the same celerity as the Soviet technicians, boarding airplanes back to their homeland.

With its twenty floors incomplete, and still surrounded by construction materials, the building came to be one of those new ruins that un-gild our city. The enormous housing problems led many to make plans to occupy it illegally, so as not to have to stay in a shelter provided for the victims of some remote cyclone. The site, however, was well-guarded as some office was cooking up a plan to restart the work and award the apartments. The neighbors saw them return with some cranes, trucks and cement, and a few construction workers, who would not live there after the opening. In place of the original microbrigade members, the owners would be selected based on their political, artistic or journalistic merit. We all understood what they were doing: the building at Infanta and Manglar would be awarded to the most faithful.

In the middle of the campaign to bring Elián González back to Cuba, some voices stood out who were immediately seen to be compensated for their enthusiasm with a key to their new home. Popular cunning baptized the finally completed building in Cerro, “Fame and Applause” – a reference to the TV show – and it began to fill with singers, film directors, cartoonists, ministers, reporters and actors. Participating in the “Battle of Ideas” now would have a concrete result: the ability to enjoy a window with a view of the impoverished district of San Martín. For many, finally getting their own home encouraged them to commit themselves even more to the official discourse and their public stance moved a little closer to unconditional support. Below, the illuminated parking lot was rapidly filling with modern cars which arrived to complete the already substantial perks.

The eyes that peek out of the humble dwellings next door are surprised that the ruined building of old is now a huge mass, freshly painted, with anti-glare glass, and famous faces looking out of each window.

* The so-called Battle of Ideas was twist in the ideological propaganda that arose with the Elián González case and died – without any announcement from the official press – a couple of years ago now. It consumed enormous economic resources to mobilize participants of Open Forums, prepare T-shirts with political slogans, and organize marches of revolutionary reaffirmation.


66 thoughts on “Fame and Applause

  1. Thank you everyone who reads and makes this BLOG possible. I see a better future for Cuba as a result of the recent pressure and attention placed on the issues inside Cuba. We sure are living in some interesting times. God Bless you all and thank you Mr. Farinas for putting your life in peril, so that future generations of Cubans living on the island can have a more just existence. Like Bob Marley sang “you can fool some people sometimes, but you can’t fool all the people, all the time.”

  2. HEY!M. piñeiro losada ASA “REVOLUTIONARY RAT”!


  3. AFP: US says Cuba is responsible for hunger strikers

    WASHINGTON — The United States said Monday that Cuba had a responsibility to improve prison conditions, rejecting President Raul Castro’s characterization of hunger strikes as US and European-backed “blackmail.”

    State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said the United States was concerned about overcrowding, poor hygiene and a lack of drinking water in Cuban jails, along with the detention of some 200 political prisoners.

    “Somehow prisoners are rebelling against these conditions and we’re led to believe that this is the responsibility of the United States?” Crowley told reporters.

    “No, it’s the responsibility of the Cuban government. It has fundamental responsibilities under international law for its citizens, including those in custody, and they should live up to those obligations,” he said.

    He noted that Cuba does not allow foreign humanitarian agencies such as the International Red Cross to monitor its prisons.

    Guillermo Farinas, 48, a cyber-journalist who challenged Cuba’s state monopoly on the media, has been on a hunger strike for the past month and has said he is ready to die.

    He decided to give up food when he learned of the death on February 23 of Orlando Zapata, 85 days into his own hunger strike to protest prison conditions.

    Castro on Sunday vowed never to give in to the dissidents’ demands, calling it “blackmail” organized by the United States and Europe.

    The Cuban president charged that the United States and Europe were waging “an unprecedented publicity war” against Havana allegedly supported by “major Western media.”

    The United States maintains a decades-old trade embargo on the Americas’ only one-party Communist regime, but President Barack Obama took office last year offering to improve ties if Castro improved human rights.


  4. Hahahah… notice the absolute hypocrisy…

    those cowards that tried to dishonor Cuban flag making it dirty with the face of the assassin guevara just got what they deserve: the repulse and condemn of the people.

    When 3 people show up to protest the handful of people in Los Angeles marching in favor of overthrowing a foreign, sovereign state, they are rushed by a group of people who throw rocks at them (until they are stopped by LAPD) and one breaks through and what does he do? He rushes past everyone and heads straight for the woman, shoves her, grabs the flag she has, fights her when she tries to get it back and then runs off when he realizes he is one person against 3. WHERE ARE THE OUTCRIES ABOUT “BEATING WOMEN”? hahaha

    Then, when the black guy disagrees with the anti-Cuba thugs, they surround him, push him, yell in his face and one other guy had to come in and separate them. WHERE ARE THE OUTCRIES ABOUT THE LACK OF FREEDOM OF SPEECH? ISN’T HE BEING “REPUDIATED”? hahaha.

    And, of course, we all know that this is a relatively well-behaved group of exiles. We all know that Cuban exiles attacked the Pastors for Peace caravan, ran them off the road and got in a fist-fight with .. that’s right … a bunch of PASTORS. We all know that Code Pink was physically attacked in Miami when they demonstrated for the arrest of self-confessed terrorist Luis Posada Carriles.

    What a bunch of hypocrites. So, to read it again, Sigmund Fraud thinks that attacking a woman, throwing rocks at peaceful protesters, this is all “what they deserved”:
    those cowards that tried to dishonor Cuban flag making it dirty with the face of the assassin guevara just got what they deserve: the repulse and condemn of the people.

    … but if anyone even looks funny at the Ladies in White, they are being BEATEN!!!! bwahahahaa. Really, you guys make it too easy.

  5. which one of che’s dreams …?
    the one about living off women?
    the one about living children (his) to be raised by the state?
    the one about not working for a living?
    the one about having his face on a condom package?

  6. M. piñeiro losada,

    Flag etiquette on most countries DOES NOT ALLOW, desecrating, modifying or marking the flag in any way. We Cubans had the right to remove that flag since it insulted not jus us “gusanos” but Cuba as a country by altering it. In addition, those people were non-cuban so they had no right to fly that particular version of that flag!


    Raúl Castro advierte que no cederá ante opositores

  8. Trudeau,

    Will be co-producing two Architectural Lectures at The Museum of Latin American Art (MoLAA) in Long Beac, CA in the summer. The Cuban Modernism Lecture will be done by Rosa Lowinger, cuban who wrote “Tropicana Nights” and The Art Deco Lecture will be done by Mitzi Mogul, who I helped set up that organization in Cuba. I’m hoping to raise awareness at those events about the plight of Cuba’s buildings and this organization. Maybe get them some money to continue their work! In the meantime, all of you can enjoy two of my favorites videos on Havana, one around the 1930″s which was the Art Deco Period and the other during the 1950’s around the time of modernism.

    YOU TUBE: Havana, Cuba 1930s
    A tour of the city of Havana, Cuba in the 1930s filmed by Andre de la Varre.

    Music by our GREAT CELIA CRUZ!
    Cuba Before Castro.wmv

  9. Humberto,

    I notice that Eusebio Leal’s restoration program in Habana Vieja also includes the “barbacoa” as a standard procedure for social housing, thus setting up problems for the future. Last month I stayed with a film-maker in Vedado who, thanks to work outside the country, is restoring a lovely art deco house, and filling it with period furniture. It is a conscious gesture in response to encroaching collapse and ugliness. Socialism has saved the city from the demolitions of capitalism, but history and time are biting back.

  10. 54M. piñeiro losada

    Abril 5th, 2010 at 07:28
    The “Peace-Loving” Gusanos … They Just Love “Free Speech” …

    Gusanos (worms)……… this word used for castrofascism to design all human been that opposes its criminal regimen is not a original finding of castro but Hitler…… Hitler was the first to use this word to discredit its enemies and in such way to try to dehumanize this people. The objective of dehumanize enemies is to create an effect described in mass psychology as “collective rejection” where the mass thinking is guided by ideas association to qualify the enemies as no humans…… it is easy to crush a worm or a roach under your foot, it is not so easy to kill a human been….. but by this ideas association becomes more easy the idea of killing those people that are called worms…… Hitler used this technique profusely ….. his admirer castro, imitating him, uses the criminal technique profusely too…… of course castrofascism admirers and supporters like losada foolish brigade also puts to work the criminal practice. I hope that in a free and justice full Cuba this practice will be prosecuted by the law.

  11. 54M. piñeiro losada

    Abril 5th, 2010 at 07:28

    Thanks for the video silly thug…….. It shows the great demonstration organized by Latin Americans in los Angeles in support of freedom in Cuba and Ladies in White and against castrofascism…….. those cowards that tried to dishonor Cuban flag making it dirty with the face of the assassin guevara just got what they deserve: the repulse and condemn of the people. No speech freedom were attacked there….. The video shows clearly that people wanted only the Cuban flag but the coward with the speaker was not molested, so, he could continue with his speech but like you and your brigade has nothing coherent to say, just lies like you now trying to present a speech freedom attack where nothing like that happened…….. the real silly with you is that even dare to show a video that clearly demonstrate the opposite to what you affirm.

  12. The “Peace-Loving” Gusanos … They Just Love “Free Speech” …

    Hahaha, here is the true face of the maniac anti-Cuba thugs look like… the video speaks for itself… “we raised the victory banners above the crazy gusano counter revolution protest. of course they cant tolerate freedom of speech and assaulted us, the cowards rushing a woman first. when one level headed member of theirs cautioned them to show respect the mad dogs tore into him. long live peoples’ cuba! hasta la victoria siempre!”

  13. “LA CHINA” MADE A “FABULOUS” SPEECH TODAY, WHERE HE QUOTE “..spoke slowly and stumbled over his prepared text a number of times.” SHE IS SOO BUTCH! AND A LIAR WHEN SHE SAYS QUOTE “Let them know that if they try to corner us, we will defend ourselves, first of all with truth and principles.” GUESS WE SHOULD BE THANKFUL THAT IT WAS ONLY 45 MINUTES INSTEAD OF “THE MUMMY”‘S MUTIPLE HOURS DIAREAH OF THE MOUTH MARATHON SPEECHES!

    THE WASHINGTON POST: Castro: Cuba will resist hunger strike ‘blackmail’
    By WILL WEISSERTThe Associated Press Sunday, April 4, 2010; 9:31 PM

    HAVANA — Raul Castro called mounting international pressure over Cuba’s human rights record one of the strongest assaults its communist government has ever faced and vowed not to yield to the “blackmail” of a high-profile hunger striker.

    In a 45-minute nationally televised speech, Cuba’s president said his government has the right to beat back any efforts to destabilize it.

    “We will never yield to the blackmail of any country or group of countries, no matter how powerful they may be, whatever happens,” said Castro, who replaced his older brother Fidel – first temporarily, then permanently – following his emergency intestinal surgery in 2006. “Let them know that if they try to corner us, we will defend ourselves, first of all with truth and principles.”

    Cuba’s human rights situation has become increasingly tense since the Feb. 23 death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo after a long hunger strike in jail. Another man, freelance opposition journalist Guillermo Farinas, has refused to eat or drink since shortly after Zapata Tamayo’s death – though he is allowing himself to be fed intravenously periodically at a hospital near his home in Santa Clara, a city in central Cuba.

    Castro did not mention either by name, but said Farinas’ efforts were “sponsored” by forces in the United States and Europe out to topple Cuba’s government, and that they had been glorified by “western media.”

    He noted that Farinas is not behind bars, saying “he is a free person who has already served his sentence for common crimes.” Castro said those included assaulting and threatening to kill the director of a hospital, but did not elaborate.

    He said Cuba would do all it could to care for Farinas and that the island’s government did not want him to die – but added that could be what happens if Farinas continues his “self-destructive” behavior.

    It was not the smoothest of speeches for Castro, who spoke slowly and stumbled over his prepared text a number of times. His comments at Havana’s convention center concluded the congress of the Young Communist Union, where a new generation of party leaders and community officials gathered to discuss a future without the president and his older brother Fidel.

    Some of the island’s best-known “youth” leaders are well over 30, but Fidel Castro turns 84 in August and Raul is close to 79. The president’s hand-picked No. 2, communist hard-liner Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, is a year older than Raul.

    Zapata Tamayo had been imprisoned since 2003 on charges including disrespecting authority. He became the first Cuban imprisoned opposition figure to die after a hunger strike in nearly four decades.

    Castro said previously that his government very much regretted what happened but denied that Zapata Tamayo was tortured and blamed problems on the island on Washington’s 48-year trade embargo.

    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the European Parliament condemned Cuba for Zapata Tamayo’s death, and a group of artists and intellectuals including Spanish film director Pedro Almodovar have circulated a petition criticizing the Cuban government. Amnesty International has called for the release of all Cuban political prisoners.

    Cuba brands all dissidents, Zapata Tamayo, Farinas and any other political activists who openly oppose its single-party system, as common criminals who are paid by the United States to destabilize the political system. It says every country should have the right to jail traitors.

    Also Sunday, Castro repeated what has become a common refrain in recent speeches, saying that unless the government reduces wasteful spending, it will have to make cuts to the free education and health care it provides all islanders.

    “Without a sound and dynamic economy and the removal of superfluous expenses and waste, it will neither be possible to improve the living standard of the population nor to preserve and improve the high levels of education and healthcare ensured to every citizen free of charge,” he said.

    He also chided the Obama administration for doing little to thaw nearly half a century of ice-cold U.S.-Cuba relations.


  14. Trudeau,

    One of the greatest reason for stuctures in cuba falling down/apart is the building of the “barbacoas” at the mid-poing of high ceiling spaces. The stress, weight and movement the people make living/walking causing irreparable damage and thus one of the reasons for callapses. The others reasons include, weather, time and biggest of them all, the lack of maintence by “LA CHINA” & “THE MUMMY”. I have a degree in architecture and helped 10 years ago fund a project that allowed some cuban citizens start an art deco organization in Havana with a license from the goverment. Unfortunately, re-building anything now is impossible, so all they can do is document the buildings with photos, drawings to be done in the future.


    Agredida Reina Luisa Tamayo en Banes, Holguín
    Abril 4, 2010
    Reina Luisa Tamayo Danger, miembro de las Damas de Blanco y madre de Orlando Zapata, fue agredida en la mañana de hoy por una turba parapolicial en Banes, Holguín, mientras intentaba realizar una marcha hasta la iglesia del pueblo en compañía de otros opositores cubanos.
    El periodista Alexis Gaínza, de Misceláneas de Cuba, habló con Reina Luisa Tamayo después de los sucesos:


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