My friend Miguel left, tired of waiting for a sex change operation, and knowing full well that he was never going to get a better job. He left the red wig to a friend who worked in the same hospital and sold, illegally, the room he had in Luyanó. The day he asked permission to leave he put on a suit and tie, which made him roar when he looked at himself in the mirror. At the immigration office he tried to keep his hands off the fold of his trousers, so that the last gasp of homophobia wouldn’t spoil his departure.

He escaped before they closed the river of Cubans which, for a brief time, flowed to Ecuador. His was one of some 700 marriages contracted between citizens of both countries, many of them with the sole objective of obtaining residency in that South American nation. Miguel paid the equivalent of $6,000 and in return got a wedding in Havana with a woman from Quito he’d known for barely a couple of hours. He faked pictures of the honeymoon, paid an official at the Ministry of Public Health so he would give him his “release”and even handed over a little cash so that his white card — the exit permit — wouldn’t be too delayed. He pretended to be what he was not which was easy for him, because those of us born on this Island are good at putting on a mask.

Now he expects difficult times because the Ecuadorian police have started to investigate the 37,000 Cubans who entered that country in recent years. He doesn’t seem scared, however. He is gay, one of those they loaded into police trucks under a rain of blows, and for years he was also monitored for his critical views. After experiencing both edges of the blade of censorship, nothing frightens him. When called to testify — if he is called — he will go wearing the red dress he always wanted to wear here. Nobody is going to stop him from gesturing while they interrogate him, because already Miguel has escaped that Miguel he once was, to become — happily — Olivia.


8 thoughts on “Olivia

  1. Granma, the official daily organ of the Communist Party of Cuba, wrote this on the First National Congress on Education and Culture regarding Homosexuality:

    “An in-depth analysis was made of the preventive and educational measures that are to be put into effect against existing locusts, including the control and relocation of isolated cases and degrees of deterioration . . . it was resolved that for notorious homosexuals to have influence in the formation of our youth is not to be tolerated on the basis of “artistic merits” . . . homosexuals should not have any direct influence on our youth through artistic and cultural activities. It was resolved that those whose morals do not correspond to the prestige of our revolution should be barred from any group of performers representing our country abroad. Finally it was agreed to demand severe penalties be applied to those who corrupt the morals of minors, depraved repeat offenders and irredeemable antisocial elements.”

    If the government can criminalize homosexuality, this implies the authority to criminalize anything. You don’t need to be homosexual to appreciate the ominous implications.

  2. The methodical oppression of homosexuals that exist under certain Marxist regimes in the world today is vicious. The systematic persecution of gays under Castro’s regime has by now become endemic.

  3. Cuba’s leaders lay out details for layoffs-By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ and PAUL HAVEN

    HAVANA — Cuba’s communist leaders have already determined what they want soon-to-be-dismissed workers to do after they get their pink slips in massive government layoffs, detailing a plan for them to raise rabbits, paint buildings, make bricks, collect garbage and pilot ferries across Havana’s bay.
    The plans, along with a timetable for which government sectors will get the ax first, are laid out in an internal Communist Party document obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press. Cuba on Monday announced plans to cut 500,000 state workers by March 2011 and help them get work in the private sector, in the most sweeping reforms instituted since President Raul Castro took over from his brother in 2008.

    Many of those to be let go will be urged to form private cooperatives. Others will be pushed into jobs at foreign-run companies and joint ventures. Still more will need to set up their own small business — particularly in the areas of transport and house rental — according to an internal Communist Party document obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press.

    The 26-page document — which is dated Aug. 24 and laid out like a PowerPoint presentation with bullet points and large headlines — explains what to look for when deciding whom to lay off. Those whose pay is not in line with their low productivity and those who lack discipline or are not interested in work will go first. It says that some dismissed workers should be offered alternative jobs within the public sector.

    The document hints at higher wages for the best workers, but says, “It is not possible to reform salaries in the current situation.”

    The document says workers at the ministries of sugar, public health, tourism and agriculture will be let go first, with layoffs having already begun in July. The last in line for cutbacks include Cuba’s Civil Aviation, and the ministries of foreign relations and social services.

    The outline includes a long list of “ideas for cooperatives” including raising animals and growing vegetables, construction jobs, driving a taxi and repairing automobiles — even making sweets and dried fruit.

    But it warns that one of the main challenges the country will face is that many of the fledgling businesses won’t get off the ground.

    It lists the main problems for newly laid off workers seeking to make it on their own as a lack of experience, insufficient skill level and low initiative.

    “Many of them could fail within a year,” the document says.




    Fidel Castro has said that the Cuban model doesn’t work.
    The Comandante is not exactly a perspicacious person. It has taken him 50 years to realize what all his countrymen discover from the time they gain reasoning, look out the window and begin to dream about a raft. But, besides being slow in the head, the Comandante is a living contradiction. If he knows that the system doesn’t work and sentences Cubans to misery, why has he insisted on maintaining it?

    An intelligent member of the nomenklatura who travels abroad as an official merchant confirmed that to me, disheartened: “The old man is the brake.” That’s true. It is well known that a huge majority of Cubans, even those who are part of the ruling class, want deep changes in the economic scene, but it is also well known that the big obstacle that has impeded those changes so far is Fidel Castro’s Stalinist intransigence.

    It is Fidel who doesn’t want Cubans to freely buy and sell their homes or automobiles, who doesn’t want them to undertake entrepreneurial activities, neither major nor small, who for decades banned the farmers’ markets that might have alleviated his compatriots’ misery. It was he who, in 1968, against almost everybody else’s better judgment, in a collectivist fit, confiscated and destroyed 60,000 private microbusinesses that made life less intolerable for Cubans.

    If Fidel’s words are the Revolution’s gospel and the time has come for changes, two essential aspects need to be established: how far-reaching those changes shall be, and who shall perform them. Raúl Castro’s answer is obvious: The changes will be determined by himself and his clique. But that kind of philosophy — if I cook it, I eat it — doesn’t work that high up in the dictatorship.

    Those who have provoked, prolonged and dispensed the disaster for half a century have totally lost society’s trust. The Cuban people don’t believe them, and it’s a fact that the fundamental element in any radical process of change is the people’s enthusiasm.

    But Raúl doesn’t want to expand the circle of decision makers. On the contrary, he moves stealthily with a small group of army officers and has given enormous unofficial power to his son, Alejandro Castro Espín, tapping him as the de facto heir of the dynasty.

    Alejandro, a colonel in the Interior Ministry formed in the extinct Soviet Union, has created a fearsome support circle, with the aid of Senén (Senencito) Casas, another political police officer, son of a late general. This ghostly organization supervises, controls and terrorizes the government’s entire managerial apparatus, including Alejandro’s own brother-in-law, Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Callejas, also a colonel, married to Deborah, Raúl’s daughter.

    Luis Alberto, Raúl’s presumptive Dauphin until a couple of years ago, fell into disgrace (although with a velvet parachute) because of certain serious irregularities in the management of Cuban Army enterprises (40 percent of the Cuban GDP) that were investigated by Alejandro. Today, he directs the development plan at Port of Mariel, which means that there are serious tensions in the Cuban royal family.

    Naturally, that family nucleus, full of intrigues and quarrels, is not the right institution to make the changes that the country needs. That wouldn’t be serious. If they finally have admitted that collectivism doesn’t work — which is tantamount to saying that Marxism-Leninism is nonsense — it is no longer a question of arbitrating half a dozen administrative measures but of performing major surgery. This implies a general debate inside and outside the Communist Party, an institution that, like the National Assembly of the People’s Power, is co-responsible for the nation’s sinking.

    Therefore, they will have to broaden the margins of participation, include the opposition democrats (people such as Oswaldo Payá, René Gómez Manzano and Oscar Espinosa Chepe, among others, could make great contributions) and set up a constituent assembly to revoke the constitution that shapes a system that doesn’t work. The danger is that Fidel might want to lead the opposition to communism. In that madhouse, anything is possible.


  5. BBC NEWS: Cuba to cut one million public sector jobs-13 September 2010

    Cuba has announced radical plans to lay off huge numbers of state employees, to help revive the communist country’s struggling economy.
    The Cuban labour federation said more than a million workers would lose their jobs – half of them by March next year.

    Those laid off will be encouraged to become self-employed or join new private enterprises, on which some of the current restrictions will be eased.

    Analysts say it is biggest private sector shift since the 1959 revolution.

    Cuba’s communist government currently controls almost all aspects of the country’s economy and employs about 85% of the official workforce, which is put at 5.1 million people.

    As many as one-in-five of all workers could lose their jobs.

    “Our state cannot and should not continue maintaining companies, productive entities, services and budgeted sectors with bloated payrolls and losses that hurt the economy,” the labour federation said in a statement.

    “Job options will be increased and broadened with new forms of non-state employment, among them leasing land, co-operatives, and self-employment, absorbing hundreds of thousands of workers in the coming years,” the statement added.

    Free enterprise?

    To create jobs for the redundant workers, strict rules limiting private enterprise will be relaxed and many more licenses will be issued for people to become self-employed.

    Private businesses will be allowed to employ staff for the first time.

    The self-employed will have access to social security and will be able to open bank accounts and even borrow money to expand their businesses.

    They will also have to pay tax on their profits and for each person they employ, something which could dramatically boost the government’s income.

    And they will be able to negotiate contracts to provide services to government departments.

    A minority of Cuban workers already work for themselves, for example as hairdressers and taxi-drivers, or running small family restaurants.

    There is also a thriving black economy, with many people working independently without proper permission from the state.

    The BBC’s Fernando Ravsberg in Havana says salaries in Cuba’s state sector are so low that many employees could be better off working for themselves.

    But he says not everyone has the skills and initiative necessary to be self-employed.

    He adds that the government plan does not foresee any kind of advice being offered to people seeking to set up their own businesses.

    Economic crisis
    President Raul Castro outlined some of the changes in a speech in August, saying the state’s role in the economy had to be reduced.

    “We have to end forever the notion that Cuba is the only country in the world where you can live without working,” he said.

    Cuba’s state-run economy has been gripped by a severe crisis in the past two years that has forced it to cut imports.

    It has suffered from a fall in the price for its main export, nickel, as well as a decline in tourism.

    Growth has also been hampered by the 48-year US trade embargo.

    Mr Castro became Cuba’s leader when his brother, Fidel Castro, stepped aside because of ill-health in 2006.


  6. Samuel Farber said, “The present Cuban government… has done more to promote homophobia than any regime in the country’s history.”

    After 51 years LGTB members remains under attack in Castrolandia. Article 303 of the Cuban Penal Code threatens “publicly manifested” homosexuality with a year’s imprisonment. Homosexual Cubans can be imprisoned for something as innocuous as holding hands.

    The Cuba Communist Party, the only one legalized political party in Dr. Castro island paradise doesn’t allow homosexuals in its ranks.

  7. ***
    Olivia would probably be happier in San Francisco or in New York City. How does a Cuban get $6000.?
    Olivia estara mas feliz en San Francisco o en Nuevo York. Como recibe $6000. en Cuba?
    John Bibb

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