The Carnival of the Dead

The rumba sways from side to side as the partying cuts across the Havana Malecon in a summer that makes you use your shirt sleeves to wipe away the sweat. From the eighth floor of a nearby building, a man can no longer hear the congas and the drunken shouts. His thoughts come with bursts of machine gun fire and the smell of a distant Africa where he lost a friend, sanity, and sleep.

Ariel is the main character in The Carnival and the Dead, the latest novel from Ernesto Santana, an authentic writer of shadows in a blacked-out city. For those of us who already know his writing — harsh, accurate and loaded with questions — this new novel reacquaints us with a daily venality now so common that we hardly see it anymore. He draws us into the trauma of those who were taken to distant lands to wage a war they didn’t understand, one that still, today, many of us cannot comprehend. It is a story of love, ghosts, HIV, and other characters in this drama of just 175 pages. A fiction of the dead who leave and return, of specters with epaulets and medals, soaked in alcohol, needing to forget, urged to throw themselves into the void. In short, a book in the most intimate and raw style of the winner of this year’s “Novelas de Gaveta Frank Kafka” literary competition, Ernesto Santana.

Shortly, in our home on the fourteenth floor of a Yugoslav-style building that could well be in any part of Cuba, we will be presenting this horrifying and indispensable work. Neither triumphalism nor despair will be welcome.


20 thoughts on “The Carnival of the Dead

  1. I guess someone else has taken over damir’s persona.
    His “tales” are different, your “form” is close but … not the same as before, I wonder why?

  2. I should be probably feel honoured for the subtle mentioning in this post from the prolific time-waster “yoani”.
    Hey, “Yoani” do explain how come you are so intensively hanging on the net!!! You yourself had said sooo many times that that is impossible in Cuba!!!

    Yeah, as if that is going to happen!

    The team “yoani” are good in criticising but are smart enough to avoid doing what they demand from their idols Castros. Good luck to anyone who would try to engage them in a debate!

    Ain’t going to happen.

    See, just like her heros Castros, yoani knows only too well that were she to engage in a debate with someone like myslef, she would be thrashed and defeated in less than five minutes.

    And not because Cuba is a paradise, we all know that it is not. No, the team “yoani” do not stand a chance because :

    1. they have no real point to make, as we have seen so far from their posting

    2. they have contradicted themselves so many times, it would be a breeze and a very simple thing to defeat them with their own “arguments” (plus, the 1. applies)

    3. There are so many real issues they could be talking about, but we see nothing here. That points at the actual LACK of any true and honest political platform

    4. If you need a doctor, would you rather go to see someone who you know only pretends to be one or to see a real doctor in hospital? The same applies to the team “Yoani”. Tey bullshit about some “pragmatic capitalism” but it is abundantly EVIDENT that they have no idea whatsoever what they are on about.

    If you want capitalism, as bad and dead as it is nowadays, you would talk to Germans, or French. They are the only ones still functioning properly (Nordic countries are already socialist countries, so they do not apply), although they are about to fall into the abyss themselves given the number of CAPITALIST countries defaulting daily.

    But hey, I’ll do what they do, and continue to protest until SOME response happens. I guess I should feel lucky that they cannot, yet, throw me in jail for being a voice of dissent.

    And no, the subtle wannabe sarcastic mention of Yugoslavia is not an attempt to a discussion.

    More like what her idols Castro would be, sorry ARE, doing to her: quiet acknowledgement but loud avoidance.

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  4. LETS TAKE A WIKILEAK! Could not resist the pun!

    GUARDIAN U.K. : WIKILEAK DOCUMENT: US embassy cables: Venezuela ‘a source of serious concern for Cuba’

    Tuesday, 09 February 2010, 18:49
    C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 HAVANA 000084
    EO 12958 DECL: 02/08/2020

    HAVANA 00000084 001.2 OF 004
    Classified By: Principal Officer Jonathan Farrar for reasons 1.4 (b) an d (d).

    1. (C) SUMMARY: There is little prospect of economic reform in 2010 despite an economic crisis that is expected to get even worse for Cuba in the next few years, according to key commercial specialists, economic officers and Cuba-watchers in Havana. Promised structural reforms remain on hold while the Cuban government wrings its hands in indecision, fearful of the political consequences of these long-overdue changes. The one potentially significant reform implemented in 2009, the leasing of idle land, has not been effective. The Cuban government (GOC) could be forced to speed up reforms in the event of a significant reduction of assistance from an increasingly unstable Venezuela. Otherwise, the GOC will continue to prioritize military-led control and aim for a slow, measured pace of reform focused on agriculture and import substitution. The Cuban people have grown accustomed to tough times and will respond to future government belt tightening with similar endurance. END SUMMARY.



    Sara Martha Fonseca Quevedo, de 40 años, Secretaria del Partido Pro-Derechos Humanos de Cuba afiliado a la Fundación Sajarov y miembro de Agenda para la Transición Cubana y Dama de Apoyo a las Damas de Blanco

    YOUTUBE: Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo Acto de Repudio 1

    YOUTUBE: Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo acto de Repudio 2

  6. Interesting book by Ernesto Santana, someone who was there and experienced everything first hand. These are the people that bring on the dysnasty’s worst nightmares, those who’ve been there done that, and no matter what, cannot be fooled by simplistic slogans, false promises or any kind of theater presented by the brothers.

    It is gratifying to see quality writters telling us their experiences, feelings and interpretations of the what the dynasty has expose them to over the years.

  7. Simba Sez: They are only three men, but they speak the minds of 3,000,000. If only 100 Cubans believed in each of these men, and 100 more believed in each of those, and in turn 100 believed in each of the last, then 3,000,000 would be in unison as wanting a real reform of government. The seed of new growth is ready for the planter. The smell of success is in the air. The old guard spent their half century in failure, it is time for the vanguard of a new wave. Who shall heed the call for Cuba Libre? Like the new year soon to arrive, it is time for the new call for freedom of thought, freedom of human dignity, and the right to earn a living in a manner suitable to an enlightened citizenship. Cubans do not need welfare from Venezuela, nor from the United States. Cubans need the right to steer the course for their own destiny. They need the right to farm as only they know how? They need the ability to run a business as their forefathers did, free and clear of government interference. Cubans need to stand up and be counted as humans in a dignified society.

  8. FOX NEWS LATINO: Opposition wants Cuba’s socialist model dumped, not updated

    Havana – Prominent dissident Guillermo Fariñas and two other members of the opposition presented here Tuesday a document rejecting the Raul Castro administration’s plan of adjustments, demanding change rather than a “modernization” of Cuba’s socialist economic model.

    In a session with foreign reporters, Fariñas, Rene Gomez Manzano and Felix Antonio Bonne Carcasses released the text of “Cuba Es lo Primero” (Cuba First), stating their opposition to the plan of economic reform outlined in the basic document of the 6th Congress of the ruling Communist Party, to be held next April.

    Last Wednesday the island saw the beginning of a popular debate of that basic document entitled “Project of Guidelines for the Economic and Social Policy of the Party and the Revolution.”

    “We as Cubans disagree and will certainly express our points of view freely,” the three opposition members said in their own document presented Tuesday.

    Fariñas and his two associates believe that the government’s plan of reforms has little credibility and describe as a “lack of respect” for citizens and for the party’s own congress the fact that the conclave will only discuss economic subjects, shunting aside “vital” political and social matters.

    They also said that the basic document of the congress omits statistics and problems such as the “generalized corruption” and the plan to lay off 500,000 state employees, while its approach could not be more full of party platitudes.

    They said that the Cuban model must be totally changed and not “modernized,” as proposed by the Communist Party, which they also criticized for dodging the preparation of a “self-critical analysis of the last half century” for the upcoming congress.

    In the document, the three opposition members ask respect for human rights on the island, the legalization of dissent, free and competitive elections, and that all political prisoners be freed once and for all “and that there never be any more.”

    Fariñas, who received the European Parliament’s 2010 Sakharov Prize for human rights, said that the Communist Party’s reform plan is an interim device to “gain time” and see what happens with the presidency of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, with regard to the subsidies that Caracas gives Cuba.

    Fariñas also made a “call for rationality” to the Cuban government in the case of the 11 members of the “Group of 75” dissidents rounded up in March 2003 who remain in jail, two months after the end of the period for freeing them that was agreed upon with the Catholic Church.

    He said the government is afraid of what those “leaders” can do, adding that the first condition for any negotiation of the opposition with the authorities is unconditional freedom without exile for all dissidents.

    Now it is apparently former President Fidel Castro, Raul’s older brother, who is in charge of freeing dissidents who refuse to leave the island as a condition for getting out of jail, Fariñas said.

    He also believed that it is Fidel who “is handling” the subject of whether he will be allowed to travel to Europe for the Dec. 15 presentation of the Sakharov Prize.

  9. VOICE OF AMERICA EDITORIAL: Cuba Should Free U.S. Aid Worker Now-The government arrested Mr. Gross and has held him for over a year without any criminal charge.

    One year ago this month, an American development sub-contractor named Alan Gross was arrested by Cuban authorities as he was working with a program to bring greater Internet access to civil society groups on the island nation, including Cuba’s Jewish communities.

    Upset with his efforts to distribute equipment that would allow these groups to better communicate among themselves and with their counterparts around the world, the government arrested Mr. Gross and has held him for over a year without any criminal charge. Despite the pleadings of his family, and the repeated requests of the United States and others in the international community, he remains in jail to this day.

    Mr. Gross, 61 years old, works for an American company that was conducting a program in Cuba for the U.S. Agency for International Development. Hardly subversive, its aim is to strengthen civil society organizations and improve the flow of information to and from the island. Cuban President Raul Castro himself launched a somewhat similar effort in 2008 when he took steps to liberalize government policies on goods and services, allowing the private ownership of personal computers.

    It is long overdue for Cuban authorities to release Mr. Gross. He has languished in jail for more than a year without charges, a clear violation of international human rights obligations and commitments regarding due process and judicial procedure. The United States is deeply concerned about his welfare and urges again that he be freed on humanitarian grounds. His continued detention is a major impediment to advancing the dialogue between our two nations.–111411799.html


    ASSOCIATED PRESS: Raul Castro celebrates Hanukkah with Cuban Jews
    HAVANA (AP) — President Raul Castro celebrated Hanukkah on Sunday with Cuba’s tiny Jewish community, a heavily symbolic act at a time when his government is holding a Jewish-American subcontractor on suspicion of spying.

    Neither Castro nor those assembled at Havana’s Shalom synagogue mentioned the name Alan Gross during the gathering, which was broadcast on the state-television newscast Sunday evening. But Gross’s one-year detention without charge was the elephant in the room.

    The U.S. government says Gross was in Cuba as part of a USAID program to distribute communications equipment to the island’s 1,500-strong Jewish community, and both the State Department and Gross’s wife, Judy, made fresh appeals this week for his release. The leaders of Havana’s two main Jewish groups have denied having anything to do with him.

    Castro wore a suit and a yarmulke, the head covering which observant Jews wear as a symbol of their deference to God, and was given the honor of lighting the first candle of the menorah. It was the first time in memory that either Castro or his brother Fidel appeared with the Jewish community at a religious celebration like Hanukkah.

    The brothers have gone out of their way to show their support for the Jewish people in recent months.

    Fidel Castro took time out from his warnings about a looming nuclear war pitting the U.S and Israel against Iran to say that he disagreed with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s denials of the Holocaust. He said: “I don’t think anyone has been slandered more than the Jews” adding that Jews “were expelled from their land, persecuted and mistreated all over the world.”

    The comments won rare praise from Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

    Raul Castro, who took over the presidency from his brother in 2006, thanked his hosts for a “very enjoyable afternoon,” and said he hoped to have more time on another occasion to come and talk about “the Hebrew community in Cuba and the fabulous history of the Hebrew people.”

    Castro noted that he will turn 80 in June, but said he was “in good health.” He said he was pleased that his country had begun to hold discussions on the need for a major economic overhaul. Cuba has announced that it is laying off 500,000 state workers, while allowing for more private enterprise.

    Gross, a native of Potomac, Maryland, was arrested Dec. 3, 2009. His family denies he was spying, saying he brought communications equipment for use by the local Jewish community, not dissidents. The U.S. government says his continued detention is a “major impediment” to improved ties between the two Cold War enemies.

    Hanukkah is the Festival of Lights for Jews. The holiday commemorates the rededication of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem in 164 B.C. According to tradition, a candelabra was lit with only enough oil for one day, but it miraculously burned for eight days.


    “In addition, there will be more private enterprise and foreign investment openings, and integrating more with progressive neighboring governments. Nevertheless, the document maintains that “only socialism is capable of conquering the difficulties and preserving the conquests of the Revolution”.”
    Cuba’s New Reforms Bode Shaky Future-by Ron Ridenour / Dec.
    With the November 2010 Cuban Communist Party (PCC) publication of 291 proposals for reforms in 12 areas of economic and social life Cubans are once again faced with a national debate on policies. The key question is if the 800,000 Communist members’ discussion, plus that of non-members, will affect the policies to be taken at the forthcoming PCC VI congress, in April 2011. There is no proposed mechanism to assure such in the 32-page document.

    The essence of these guidelines, which aim to increase efficiency and production, and decrease the budget deficit, balance exports-imports, and pay the foreign debt ($20 billion), is to reduce the state’s role, delegate more authority to local governments and work sites, increase taxes and other revenues while cutting back on social benefits and subsidies.

    In addition, there will be more private enterprise and foreign investment openings, and integrating more with progressive neighboring governments. Nevertheless, the document maintains that “only socialism is capable of conquering the difficulties and preserving the conquests of the Revolution”.

    The state will continue to be the central economic planner using the budgetary method but it will permit more farm land as usufruct property, greater self-employment (in 178 areas) and small businesses which, for the first time, will be allowed to employ people outside the family.

    Several times in the last half-century of revolutionary Cuba have citizens been allowed to discuss national policies (not international ones) but the results have been consultative rather than binding—with the exception of adopting the revolutionary constitution in 1976, and modified in 1992. Three years ago, shortly after Raul Castro took over the presidency, a widespread national debate was launched about the future of the revolution. Millions contributed ideas, but there was no real mechanism to implement anything debated.

    I participated in the PCC’s fourth congress preparatory discussion, in 1991, while working on an oil tanker in Santiago de Cuba. We seamen (I was a volunteer) passed two motions concerning democratization of decision-making and in the media. Most seamen later said these discussions were a waste of words. We saw no results from our motions, but the party did listen to some of the one million complaints and proposals.

    In the spring of 1994, the National Assembly called upon a “workers parliament” to discuss economic policy. The then national CTC union leader, Pedro Ross, said that these discussions would form the basis for permanent workers input with the objective of “finding and implementing solutions,” to “increase work efficiency and greater production”. However, greater worker input has not occurred since, and efficiency and production have never reached acceptable levels.

    In Overall Terms

    I find positive and worrisome aspects in the guidelines. First, I will sketch the major points, and then go into details in each arena.

    Positive goals are those aimed at becoming self-sufficient in foodstuffs; uniting the two currencies into one so that all can buy what is offered; some decentralization of decision-making and use of more finances by local governments and companies. Then there is the admission of too much dependency on foreign capital and imports, the need to cut back on excessive costs and wastes, strengthen the desire to work, eliminate work centres operating at a loss that constantly produce less than their expenditures.

    On the down side are several proposals which would continue mono-culture dependency, joint ventures-foreign capital investment, a dual economy and class inequalities generally viewed as necessary tactical setbacks in the early days of the Special Period (1990-96+). Many analysts, including myself when working in Cuba, expressed the fear that these retreats could become permanent.1 Our fears were warranted as it is clear today that these retreats have deepened and become entrenched.

    The greatest lack in these proposals is the failure to propose a transfer to workers power (real democracy), in which workers actually manage the state and the economy. Because workers do not have real decision-making power, nor do the majority have sufficient foodstuffs and essential consumer items due to low wages and little supply, there is rampant demoralization-apathy-cynicism-alienation, which results in epidemic thievery of needed items from work places and state warehouses, and an omnipresent black market. Coupled with out-of-control thievery and corruption among some government officials and in the bureaucracy, the now stagnant revolution is on the verge of self-destruction.

    There have been some leftist-oriented writings about Cuba’s economic and political discrepancies, mostly published by non-Cubans who support greater socialism. Cuban media will not publish such critiques by non-Cubans or Cubans—other than by Fidel and Raul.2

    Recently, however, Esteban Morales, a prominent Cuban Communist economist and leading researcher on race relations in Cuba, wrote a critical article from a left socialist perspective, “Corruption, the True Counter-Revolution” (published abroad but also allowed, for a time, on the website of Cuba’s writer-artists association (UNEAC), for which the PCC expelled him, as if affirming the widely held view that ordinary Cubans can’t have real influence. It seems some leaders took umbrage at Morales view that: “Corruption turns out to be the true counter-revolution, which can do the most damage because it is within the government and the state apparatus, which really manage the country’s resources.”

    This does not bode well for the PCC congress discussion.

    Another problem is that many of the state’s leading economists actually propose so-called “market socialism”, believing that the solution to scarcity is more capitalist investment and supply-demand pricing. And in the proposals are aspects oriented in that direction, coupled with so-called “socialist” self-management of individual work centers, which would result in competition between work centers. This would lead to petty-bourgeois production relations and individualistic mentality—worker-capitalists in the making, such as what the Solidarity union in Poland advocated. If one is to be paid according to what one produces and sells, as proposed, then nickel and sugar cane workers would be poorer than workers in citrus farming, for instance, when global capitalist pricing fluctuates so that mining nickel is not profitable, as is often the case in inevitable endemic cycling. Thus the basic principle of solidarity and equality is in serious danger once again.

    The continued reliance on capitalist foreign trade and tourism limits investments in agriculture and other necessary goods for the population.

    Furthermore, the proposals do not call specifically for greater trade with ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of America) countries, although there is a vague statement that ALBA is a priority. With the exception of Venezuela, there is little trade with ALBA. Most trade is with major capitalist countries, including the US, which is Cuba’s number one food exporter (25-30% of all foodstuffs) and its fourth importer generally.

    “I participated in the PCC’s fourth congress preparatory discussion, in 1991, while working on an oil tanker in Santiago de Cuba. We seamen (I was a volunteer) passed two motions concerning democratization of decision-making and in the media. Most seamen later said these discussions were a waste of words. We saw no results from our motions, but the party did listen to some of the one million complaints and proposals.”

    “On the down side are several proposals which would continue mono-culture dependency, joint ventures-foreign capital investment, a dual economy and class inequalities generally viewed as necessary tactical setbacks in the early days of the Special Period (1990-96+). Many analysts, including myself when working in Cuba, expressed the fear that these retreats could become permanent.1 Our fears were warranted as it is clear today that these retreats have deepened and become entrenched.”

  12. Dream Havana-the film-Synopsis:Dream Havana is the story of Cuban writers Ernesto Santana and Jorge Mota. Men who be-came separated by an ocean, politics and their own choices, but remain bound by their deep friendship and mutual respect.

    The writers met during the early 80’s, a time of relative calm and prosperity in Cuba. During those years, Jorge and Santana were the center of a group of writers, poets, artists and rockers. In the midst of good times, careers were being chosen and paths were being set. Santana already knew that he would never leave the island, just as Jorge already knew that someday he must. Santana, now a professor, remained in Havana delving ever deeper into the world of literature and his own introspective verse. Jorge began a series of explorations of the island, seeking to know his country before he left. He would return to Santana’s house with tales of his adventures and Santana would always be there to listen.

    In 1989 with the fall of the Soviet Union, the political and economic climate in Cuba began to deteriorate rapidly. The crisis known as the “Special Period” brought with it extreme economic privations and caused riots throughout the island. In August 1994, at the height of the crisis, Castro announced that people would no longer be prevented from leaving the island. Jorge and his wife, Dora, took to the ocean in a tiny boat, as would more than 33,000 of their fellow Cubans. After 12 days at sea, Jorge and Dora were picked up by the U.S. Coast Guard and brought to Guantánamo Bay. What followed was a 3 year oddyssey of refugee camps and constant uncertainty. Eventually, Jorge found a sponsor and began a new life in America with a new job as a reporter for a Spanish language newspaper in Chicago.

    The two men continued to correspond through letters and audio cassettes. Santana, surviving sometimes on bread and water, made it through the worst of the “Special Period” and his writing began to flower. In Havana, Santana began to publish small works of poetry and short stories, while in Chicago, Jorge quickly gains a reputation as a top investigative reporter. In 2001, Jorge wins the National Association of Hispanic Journalists’ highest award and in Cuba, Santana wins his country’s top literary prize, the Alejo Carpentier Award. Santana is given permission to leave the island for the first time in his life to attend the Guadalajara International Bookfair. Jorge flies to México to reunite with his old friend at the awards ceremony. The story ends at the sea where Jorge takes Santana for his first glimspe of the Pacific.

    “DREAM HAVANA” web site

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