The Lesser Basilica


A friend tells me that when she feels overwhelmed by daily life she goes to Old Havana. She grabs her purse and heads off to some of the restored streets that recall Barcelona, where she has two sons who emigrated a decade ago. “I gaze at the bell towers and mansions to make myself believe I am no longer here,” she says, a little melancholic. But immediately she points out with a laugh, “Haven’t you noticed that even the street vendors in that area say ‘popcorn’ instead of ‘rositas de maíz’ and hawk ‘news’ instead of ‘periódicos’?” Many Havanans like her have found, in these newly reconstructed sites, a place for strolling, taking their children, sitting in the shade of a bougainvillea. What was, a few decades ago, a neighborhood in ruins, today is a true island of comfort and beauty, although thousands of its residents still carry water in buckets or live among the timbers propping up their roofs.

The day before yesterday, I went to this other city, cute and touristy with churches everywhere and cobblestone streets. I stayed for a couple of hours in one of its most distinguished sites: the San Francisco convent’s lesser basilica. A vaulted room where musical instruments sound as if they were playing inside our own heads. The place was full and at six on the dot Bach’s concert in E Major for violin and orchestra began to play. Then, the talented musicians of the Havana Chamber Orchestra played Mozart, and, to end, the Simple Symphony of Benjamin Britten. The best part of the evening was the presence of Cuban violinist Evelio Tieles, who had just arrived, full of energy, from Tarragona, Spain where he lives and creates.

When I returned from this journey to another dimension, my Yugoslav-model building seemed uglier and grayer. The shouts of people from the balconies sounded out of tune and instead of eighteenth century towers the view was dominated by the huge cast concrete water tank. I entered the elevator trying to preserve the last notes of the bass and cello, the brilliant baton of the orchestra conductor. I thought of my escapist friend and just then the door opened onto the 13th floor and an illegal vendor shouting “Eggs! Eeeeeeeeeggs!” and I knew I was back, back in my other Havana, so hard, so real, so suffocating.

26 thoughts on “The Lesser Basilica

  1. @#21
    Once again u define troll perfectly, the laughable part is that u HAVE to compromise “…just to get laid …” LOL

  2. UnSoricel said : “@Humberto… if you do this work here to copy in and paste like forever.. at least do it well … take a course in human rights and new media… and learn to get your facts right.. WHO is always important when you think of perpetrators of crime more than WHAT and WHY!!… And do you know why?? because the guys who tortured that Cubano would claim they were following orders and some of them would be so arrogant to be in the new regime too with fat wages or pensions… Get real hermano clown.. get the facts..”

    OH HUN Un! I LOVE IT SOO MUCH WHEN YOU ATTACK ME! SO MACHO!! BUT NOT MACHO ENOUGH TO PUT YOUR NAME AND PHOTO AS I ASKED! NOW, LETS GET BACK TO THE REAL ISSUES HERE AND THAT IS CUBA, CUBANS, CUBAN-AMERICANS, FIDEL, RAUL, CASTROFASCISM!! AND SPEAKING OF FACTS, WHEN HAVE YOU PUT ANY LINKS ON YOUR ARGUMENTS SO WE CAN FACT CHECK? FEW OR NONE! THAT IS WHY I DONT “GET THE FACTS” HUN Un!

  3. @?… like everything with Pamela, she has just one phrase to prove it(full stop)… now Pamela will perform the next circus act to twist chew and spit that into something repulsive… that is meant to show how nice she is in fact!!!.. nuts anyone??

  4. IMPORTANT INFORMATION, PLEASE DISSIPATE!

    CUBA (TUTORIAL) Report blogger platform, @ ultimoscambios for inciting VIOLENCE!
    Recently ETECSA employee Manuel Enrique Lagarde who writes on the portal “CubaSí” and the blog “Changes in Cuba” launched in this blog, a call to use repression and violence (implied) against the Ladies in White for a march that is to take place September 24 in Havana within the framework of a religious festival.
    Many are unaware that the blogger platform which hosts the blog that Lagarde publishes on has online tools to report violations like this and take complaints to Google (which owns Blogger) and have them take action as they see fit.The first is to access the blog in question and click “report misuse”
    CLICK LINK FOR INSTRUCTIONS HOW TO HELP! (Spanish only)
    http://uncubanoencanarias.blogspot.com/2011/09/cuba-tutorial-denunciar-un-blog-en-la.html?spref=tw

  5. A man and a woman, both smart, both speak their minds = great relationship.

    Sorry you missed out on that one, you wouldn’t be able to hold up your half.

    Now please, let’s get back to talking about Cuba, and not your disdain for women and your contention that they are only good for one thing.

  6. @??… wow is Pamela talking to me? That’ll be the day… Just a few days back she was telling me I should never again address her.. probably that would work best in her opinion of what a relationship is about …a man quiet and dumb whereas a woman is loud and smart… imm the future!!! Funnily enough I look closer to Hector… than I care to admit!… ah yes wonder if she’s seen that old Cuban comedy about a woman trying to get a permit to bury her husband (black and white) I can’t remember the title but it was funny!!

    @Humberto… if you do this work here to copy in and paste like forever.. at least do it well … take a course in human rights and new media… and learn to get your facts right.. WHO is always important when you think of perpetrators of crime more than WHAT and WHY!!… And do you know why?? because the guys who tortured that Cubano would claim they were following orders and some of them would be so arrogant to be in the new regime too with fat wages or pensions… Get real hermano clown.. get the facts..

  7. UnSoricel said “..so why don’t post the names of those who torture here?? you focus on instruments and how … not on WHO!…and how these tortioners know each other!

    HUN Un! DID IT STING? OUCH! OUCH! IS THAT YOU WHIMPERING? LADY PAMELA STRUCK YOU OUT FOR THE ENTIRE WORLD SERIES! I THINK SO!! AND AS ALWAYS, CHANGING THE SUBJECT! SOOOO PREDICTABLE! PLEASE GET MORE CREATIVE, DISCO RAYAO!

  8. Oh, and Hector Elizondo is beyond hot, so let’s see what witty gustatory reference could be conjured up about him? No… not peanut butter, let’s see, um…. honey, yeah, he is the honey women of a certain age would rub on their wounds thinking they are tough.

    “Thinking they are tough?” Oh no, only European pseudo-intellectuals can be tough.

    And pseudo-intellectual. It’s all they have left.

  9. Men never say one thing and do the opposite.

    Older men chasing after the 19-25 year old set, now that’s original. Viva viagra!

    I do believe we have a one-dimensional poon-hound amongst us.

    The gray matter between your ears and the gray matter between your legs are one.

    Ommmmmmmmmm.

    Now I’m off to speed-dial 500 of my closest gay male friends. Must impress. It’s all I have left since I am “une femme d’un certain age.”

  10. @Humberto … thank you for the video I did watch it… so why don’t post the names of those who torture here?? you focus on instruments and how … not on WHO!…and how these tortioners know each other!

  11. @Humberto … if I had £10 for every woman I heard saying one thing and doing exactly the opposite… I would be a rich man and Einstein would have been mobbed by blonde brunettes and redheads every day of his life!… But in the real world that is not how it works even with half-brainy feminists at the helm when men have to pretend that half-baked jokes arguments sexuality and love coming from that side are great just to get laid… So I take it your friend is trying to impress!!!.. what else is left for women her age then to be friends with the Carlos Acosta types!… The age group I try to talk to is 19 to 25 since the lower half makes the world go round and not the top.. so are we clear now about my gravatar???? haha! So no I am not an Enrique… the typical peanut butter girls of certain age would rub on their wounds thinking they are tough…

  12. THIS WILL BE IN SPANISH SO BE AWARE OF THAT! MOST LIKELY iIT WILL BE AVAILABLE LATER AT THE RADIO MARTI WEB SITE OR THE “COPY AND PASTE/POSTMASTER GENERAL CYBERGUENZA”, YOURS TRULY WILL FIND IT FOR YOU! NO PROBLEMO! RIGHT HUN Un?

    Ted Henken: EL YUMA BLOGSPOT!

    On Thursday, September 22, from 11 a.m.-12 p.m. Radio Marti, together with Martinoticias.com will have an interactive exchange with Cuban bloggers Yoani Sanchez, Miriam Celaya, Dagoberto Valdes, and Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo via telephone about the state of the internet in Cuba. (Radio Marti would like to include others, but some bloggers only have silence for Radio Marti…). The conversation will take place live on the radio and live on the Martinoticias.com web page. The event will be an exchange of information of what technology is available in the island and how it can be supported, enhanced, and assisted. Based on class readings, all students have to come up with a single, well-developed question they will ask the bloggers themselves live on the air!
    http://elyuma.blogspot.com/

  13. UnSoricel!! WHAT IS THAT? STRIKE 5, 10? FROM LADY PAMELA TO YOU! I TOLD YOU SO!

  14. To Post 9:

    I’m so turned off by the gray matter between your ears that you could look like Enrique Murciano and I’d still be turned off. Nice cop out though, it’s appropriate that you are hiding behind a little girl’s face.

  15. HEY HUN Un! MAYBE YOU SHOULD NOT SEE THIS VIDEO! OUR YOANI WILL MAKE YOU FEEL REALLY GUILTY FOR YOUR LACK OF COURAGE!

    THE PERSON ON THIS YOUTUBE TESTIMONY DOES NOT NEED ANY INTRODUCTION! FROM THE “WE HAVE A DREAM” UNITED NATIONS GLOBAL SUMMIT AGAINST DISCRIMINATION AND PERSECUTION OUR FLACA SPEAKS!

    YOUTUBE : UN Rights: Speech by cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez from Cuba @wehaveadream_GS

  16. UNITED NATIONS GLOBAL SUMMIT AGAINST DISCRIMINATION AND PERSECUTION

    Wednesday, Sept. 21- 9:30 am Opening of the Summit

    Theme 1: DICTATORSHIP TO DEMOCRACY: DISSIDENTS SPEAK

    10.00 am Part I, Dictatorship to Democracy: Dissidents Speak

    Chair: Joel Brinkley, Professor of Journalism at Stanford University, former New York Times correspondent and winner of the Pulitzer Prize

    Syria’s Assad Regime: From Promised Reform to Ramadan Massacre
    Rami Nakhleh, Syrian dissident

    Crackdown in China: Jasmine Revolution and the Arab Spring
    Yang Jianli, Former Chinese political prisoner, founder of Initiatives for China

    Iran: Lessons from the 1979 Revolution
    Ahmad Batebi, Former Iranian political prisoner

    The Inside Story of Arab Reformers Confronting Human Rights Abuses
    Nasser Weddady, Anti-slavery activist, civil rights outreach director, American Islamic Congress

    Message from Ayatollah Boroujerdi currently jailed in Evin Prison in Iran
    Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi, Iranian activist

    12:00 pm Networking Lunch

    1:30 pm Part II, Dictatorship to Democracy: Dissidents Speak

    Chair: David Lowe, Vice President for Government Relations and Public Affairs, National Endowment of Democracy

    Freedom for Aung San Su Kyi, Freedom for Burma? The Junta vs. Democracy
    Thaung Htun, Director of UN Affairs for Burmese government-in-exile

    Castro’s Cuba: Police State on the Caribbean (HERE IS DISSIDENT FIDEL FROM PREVIOUS YOUTUBE TESTIMONY)
    Fidel Suarez Cruz, Cuban dissident and former prisoner

    Jailed for Singing Songs of Freedom
    Ngawang Sangdrol, Tibetan nun and former prisoner of conscience

    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE PROGRAM TODAY

    http://ngosummit.org/program.php

  17. SO HUN Un! I WOULD RECOMMEND YOU WATCH THIS VIDEO AND SEE WHAT REAL COURAGE IS!AND THAT COP OUT EXCUSE? PRETTY LAME!

    YOUTUBE : #UN Rights: Speech by former Cuban political prisoner in Fidel Suarez Cruz @wehaveadream_GS

    Fidel Suarez Cruz is a farmer and human rights activist from the Cuban province of Pinar del Río. On March 19th 2003, following a previous house arrest for “disobedience” for fishing in a restricted area, Suarez Cruz was arrested and sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment. He was accused of violating Law 88, the legal instrument used by the Cuban authorities to silence journalists and writers on the island.

    From April 2003 until the end of September 2010, he was held in isolation cells. For seven of these years, Suarez Cruz was prevented from any contact with other prisoners. For two years and eight months, he not allowed to receive any sunlight. Suarez Cruz was sent to numerous prisons during his sentence, where he was brutally beaten. From January 1st to February 9th 2005, he received 19 beatings for refusing to wear the common prisoner uniform, shave, or salute the military officials that visited his cell twice a day. On July 27th 2005, he received a terrible beating using a tonfa, a rubber coated steel rod used in Cuban prisons to beat prisoners. Suarez Cruz was also often kept in punishment cells, once for protesting in favor of an ill prisoner who was being denied medical attention, for which he was dragged across prison floors in such a manner that he was unable to breath and nearly suffered from a heart attack.

    Suarez Cruz bears the signs of these beatings today. He lost the hearing in his right ear, developed an abnormality of the fifth spinal vertebra, dislocated his right leg, suffered from wrist injuries from handcuffs and had his right knee and first cervical vertebra damaged.

    Fidel Suarez was released in October 2010 under a deal struck by Spain, the Castro dictatorship and the Catholic Church of Cuba. On March 1st, 2011 he arrived to the United State as a political refugee.

  18. @Humberto ..you really want me steal the show with my good looks??? Meaning at least half of the Cuban girls would go crazy… Pamela included…. Imagine that….you’d lose precious fighters…

  19. YOANI SANCHEZ TWITTER ACCOUNT STATISTICS

    163,142 Followers (+194 yesterday, +219 on average) daily followers added

    CLICK LINK OR COPY AND PASTE IF NOT ACTIVE
    twittercounter.com/yoanisanchez

  20. Hey Un! WHAT HAPPENED WITH THE NAME AND PICTURE? COP OUT? I HAD THE FEELING DID NOT HAVE THE COURAGE!

  21. Freedom Rings: “The Church is always a great place to go. If more people would attend, the world would be a better place.”

    Truer words have never been spoken. The world needs a great spiritual rebirth.

  22. UnSoricel, I know, and I know that Yoani’s digs would be the envy of many Cubans, as would any of the Soviet style projects built to house Fidel’s loyalists. As much as the buildings have decayed, they are still considered rich by poor Cubans. Perhaps some can be fixed up, but I really prefer traditional Cuban architecture from colonial days through to the 1950s.

  23. @Help … there is a deeper irony to that… everybody hated those tower blocks in communism .. but after the revolution they were re-done and now they are very sought… it is crazy I thought these should be razed to the ground… but no way this is valuable property maybe because these cannot be reclaimed by the old guys !!.. no one understands why I frown whenever I am there and am invited to some ‘posh’ diner in one of these apartments in the capital… capitalist fun awaits!! and yes these don’t look that bad once redone ..

  24. THE TIPS OF ICEBERGS KEEP COMING UP ON THE CORRUPT CASTROFASCIST GOVERNMENT OF “LA CHINA” & “THE MUMMY”, THEY SHOULD BE THE FIRST TO BE INVESTIGATED! THE TRUTH WILL COME OUT SOON!

    MIAMI HERALD : Cuba investigates, shuts down Canadian firms-Two Canadian companies that sold vehicles and other equipment to Cuban government ministries and state enterprises were shut down. – By Juan O. Tamayo-
    Cuban authorities are investigating two Canadian companies in corruption scandals involving a long string of government ministries, senior officials and state-owned enterprises, according to published reports.

    The companies were identified as the Ontario-based Tomakjian Group, considered to be one of the biggest foreign companies doing business in the communist-ruled island, and Tri-Star Caribbean of Nova Scotia.

    Several officials and employees of both companies and their government contacts have been detained or are under questioning on the allegations of corruption, according to the news media and Internet reports.

    The two companies were the latest targets of a Cuban leader Raúl Castro’s crackdown on corruption that already has hit the civil aviation, nickel and cigar industries and led to the arrest or dismissal of top government officials.

    Sill unraveling is a case involving the state communications monopoly, Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba S.A. (ETECSA), which was under the control of Ramiro Valdes, vice president of the ruling Council of State, from 2006 until this January.

    Authorities last week ordered the shutdown of the Havana offices of Tomakjian, which does an estimated $80 million a year in business with the government and state enterprises, the Reuters news agency reported.

    Tomakjian distributes Hyundai and Isuzu vehicles in Cuba, most of them for the construction, transportation and mining industries, and has two truck engine maintenance facilities on the island.

    Owner Vahe “Cy” Tomakjian, a 70-year-old Canadian born in Syria of Armenian descent, started doing business with Cuba in 1988 and has boasted of good profits despite some delays in payments.

    “If the Cubans say they’re gonna pay, they delay, but eventually they pay,” he told the CubaNews newsletter in 2002. “I trust these people, and by nature they’re very good. They have high ethics.”

    Reuters quoted an unidentified western businessman in Havana as saying Tomakjian had been detained by Cuban authorities.

    El Nuevo Herald messages left with his office in Ontario and the Tri-Star headquarters in Nova Scotia were not returned, and the Cuban news media has made no mention of either case.

    Tri-Star was shut down and its owner Sarkis Yacoubian was detained for questioning in July, according to another Reuters report. Since then, up to 60 company employees and state officials have been questioned or jailed.

    Tri-Star reportedly does an estimated $30 million a year in business with government ministries and state enterprises in telecommunications, transportation and construction and the nickel and oil industries.

    Yacoubian, an Armenian-born Canadian, has been well known on the island since his arrival in 1996, for his humanitarian donations to the government and what Reuters described as “lavish year-end parties for prominent local and foreign businessmen.”

    The Miami-based blog Café Fuerte, which was the first to report the Tri-Star case, wrote in August that before the scandal Yacoubian had “maximum trust” within the Interior Ministry, in charge of domestic security.

    But a routine search of his yacht in Cuba turned up “a sophisticated system of listening and localization technology installed by foreign [intelligence] services,” the blog added.

    The ensuing investigation led Cuban authorities to ETECSA, according to the blog, which Valdes controlled as Minister of Communications and Information Technology. He was promoted in January to “superminister” in charge of the oil, mining, construction and communications industries.

    CLICK THE LINK OR COPY AND PASTE ON BROWSER TO GO TO ORIGINAL SITE.

    http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/09/20/2416989/cuba-investigates-shuts-down-canadian.html

  25. The Church is always a great place to go. If more people would attend, the world would be a better place. Thank you Yoani for your blog and posts. I’m your number one fan..

  26. “…my Yugoslav-model building seems uglier and grayer.”

    Oh Oh, I better run for cover. This should set off our resident Titoist (aka Damir) for at least 20 rants. Call me when it’s all over.

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