Twelve Plus One


The Kabbalah, the number is not mentioned, a superstition with numbers, the calamity that even pronouncing eight letters could bring. I remember when I turned thirteen the many jokes at school that revolved around it. “How old are you?” asked the upper grade students to mock my confusion when answering. I had to respond with “twelve plus one” or “fifteen minus two,” because to say those cursed digits landed me in a wave of laughter. They also might launch a “cocotazo” with the cry of “Gotcha!” as they rapped their knuckles into my skull, and still today I’m not really clear on what that meant in that context. So I grew up assuming that thirteen not only brought bad luck, but also scorn, derision, insult.

When I moved in with Reinaldo, I thought, “What a relief! At least we live on the 14th floor and not the one below.” I imagined what if, every time I gave  my address, someone shouted that sarcastic “Gotcha!” of my adolescence. The embarrassment wouldn’t reach me. Years later the doctor predicted that my son would be born on August 13, 1995, but — luckily — nature moved up the date and freed us from that “dark day.” And so, bobbing and weaving, leaving off saying it at times, and using addition and subtraction at others, I’ve escaped the dark superstition of “ten plus three.” Like me, many others have done the same, sometimes more as a precaution than from true belief in the bad omen. But now comes an ordeal for everyone: the year 2013 is about to begin.

I have the impression that for Cubans the next twelve months will not be fatal. Looking ahead, I can predict they will be full of moments of change and great times. Much of the country we know will change, for the better, and a little for the worse; new names will emerge on the national stage and others will be finally inscribed in the marble of a headstone. An era will end, making the Mayans right this time. But all this depends, perhaps in the first place, on how we citizens handle the challenges presented to us, how aware we are that we are living at a turning point in history. Beginning now I am already preparing and I repeat like a mantra: thirteen, thirteen, thirteen, thirteen, thirteen…

* To all my friends, colleagues, bloggers, journalists from all over the world, readers of my texts, commentators have made this blog yours, translators who voluntarily turn it into so many languages, to those who with your true criticisms or your acidic tirades have helped me become a better person, to all of you, I wish you happy holidays and a wonderful new year.

29 thoughts on “Twelve Plus One

  1. Add my name to the list of those whose dreams for the pepole of Cuba thirve.
    We here in the U.S. do not wonder about our freedom, in fact we take the liberty to absuse our gift.
    Yet this is a land where dreams are realized, especially the small ones that are born as hope. (Hope that there will be a future free from the vagries of life, that safety and well being is truely gauranteed to us.)
    I hope that each day of the new year one person learns to beleive in their dreams and realizes that their dreams for themselves and for others can come true.
    This is one freedom that can not be taken from us, this is the one freedom that those who would deny us fear the most.
    It has always been this way.
    My Love to you and your family.
    I will dream that we are good friends and that we chat sometimes about our plans, about the future and about our dreams.

  2. Anonimo/”friendly translator”, you are deleting again my posts, are you “democracy and free speech chimp”.

    Well, here it is again. The personal information about the team “yoani’s” Spanish residence and confirmation that they are just a part of greater imperialist machine working against CUBA:

    Yoani Sanchez
    Sta.Ma- Soledad Torres Acosta 2
    +34 918298497

    And it is also very funny to note that the team “yoani’s” address is in Spain while the domain registrar is in


    Hostmaster Strato Rechenzentrum
    Tech-C Address: Cronon AG Professional IT-Services
    Tech-C Address: Emmy-Noether-Str. 10
    Tech-C Postal Code: 76131
    Tech-C City: Karlsruhe
    Tech-C Country: DE
    Tech-C Phone: +49 72166320305
    Tech-C Fax: +49 72166320303

    If yo live in Spain, why on earth would you want to register your domain in another country? And in Germany at that, which is much more expensive than Spain!!!!????

    Because your cia handlers organised everything for you in Germany, didn’t they?

    While you were “studying” the “art of blogging”!!!


    Who are you kidding!!!?? You have got no idea about WordPress and computers. You haven’t written a single letter in any of your books, and neither on this site.

    There are many of your verbal comments on the internet and any good philolog can tell us that the person that speaks is


    the person that writes here.

    Apart from the fact that teh spanish language of the writer and teh speaker are two different languages, it is also very obvious from your videos that the poor woman is just not a skillful speaker at all, let alone a skillful writer.

    And look at some of the posts here in spanish! Sometimes the language varies from a peasant’s lingo to a moderately educated person.

    But, the only consistent thing is that the Spanish used is

    N O T

    CUBAN Spanish.

    The woman in your videos speaks like a proper Cuban. There’s no sofistication in her. And there are many typically Cuban phrases used in her speech.

    Yet there are none of these in Spanish language of the posts here.

    See, my wife is a linguist, and she specialises in Latin languages. She has discovered this anomaly and she is of opinion that this puppet is indeed not the author of the posts here.

    The verbal language just doesn’t come close to even that moderately educated Spanish your cia handlers use in their banal and deranged propaganda rants.

    A farce, that you most certainly are.

  3. I live in Key West and found your book Havana Real at the local book store, advised by an acquaintance to read it to get a feeling for what is truly happening in Cuba. Your courage in writing is inspiring and you make the world a better place. Everyone should experience life through your eyes so that the gift of freedom and the ability to eat whatever and whenever one chooses will never be taken for granted. Your acknowledgement of the humanity of all those you encounter gives insight into the goodness of your spirit. Stay strong and know that you inspire many to be better people. I hope to see you walking freely on the street someday, maybe even in Key West!

  4. Mi esposa y yo nos casamos el 13 de agosto en un pasado distante, no porque preferimos ese día,sino porque era la única fecha disponible en ese verano. Nuestros amigos nunca nos perdonaron por ello. Años más tardes, salimos de la isla un 13 de agosto. Nuestros amigos ya nos perdonaron. El número 13 puede ser la solución, al menos para algunos.

  5. You want to know what real Cuban dissidents think about the team “yoani” and their pin-up granny nail-biter?


  6. Quoting usanian nazist propaganda instruments, such as “leftist” huff post and cia-created “usa-blogs”, is like asking goering what is wrong with hitler.

    I posted the link recently where that jews own family confirmed that he is in great health, that he is being cared for and that he is in the best shape of his life. His ailments are normal and expected for his age, and Cuban doctors are doing what they can to keep him as healthy as possible.

    However, he is about to rot in his cell until his death for his terrorist job in Cuba.

    It is only right.

    If we look no furhter than Guantanamo, to see how the nazsit gulag usa handles terrorist suspects, we will see clear difference in favour of Cuba. The jew is smiling on the photos, and does not have any shackles on him.

    muslims in Guantanamo concentration camp, managed by the nazist gulag usa, live in stark contrast.

    The jew is in much better conditions of living and medical care, and he is convicted terrorist and a spy!!!

    Those stupid toothless muslims in Guantanamo are merely suspects and are being tortured and killed quietly, while their agents here talk trash about some “non-democracy” and “injustice” in Cuba.

    The only dictatorship and injustice contrary to democratic principles in Cuba are committed by the nazist gulag usa.

    But what would a Spanish immigrant, who calimst to be a Cuban, know about any of that?

    S/he doesn’t know even what are her/his own roots…!!!

  7. AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: 10 Absurd and Unjust Arrests of 2012
    #6. Approaching a government building.

    Antonio Rodiles, a Cuban activist, lawyer and journalist, was arrested in November 2012 when he went to the Cuban State Security headquarters in Havana to inquire about the arrest of an independent lawyer and journalist, Yaremis Flores. He was knocked to the ground and pinned down by four plain clothed men, then charged with “resisting authority.” He has since been released.


    HUFFINGTON POST: Getting Serious About Alan Gross – Ricardo Herrero

    By pivoting negotiations for Gross’s release away from a spy-swap and toward win-win alternatives, both the United States and Cuba stand to gain credibility within the international community. The United States could finally pave the road to a future where it can lead an effective multilateral policy toward Cuba focused on the advancement of human rights and helping the Cuban people. Just as importantly, Alan would finally come home.
    The Cubans have often stated that they are willing to swap Gross for five Cuban spies who were arrested in Florida in 1998 for infiltrating a U.S. Navy base and several anti-Castro groups in Miami. The U.S. has refused to accept the swap, and the negotiations have remained stalled for almost three years.

    So what can be done? There are three opportunities for securing Gross’ release that could also help improve relations between the U.S. and Cuba:

    1. Introduce alternative terms to the negotiation. The Cubans have dictated the terms of the negotiation from day one, and hardliners in the U.S. government have seemingly been too happy to play along. However, just because the U.S. won’t agree to the spy swap doesn’t mean negotiations should stop there. U.S. sanctions on Cuba remain a decades-old morass of congressional actions, presidential directives and executive orders, resulting in an entrenched and inflexible foreign policy that is as incoherent as it is ineffective. There are plenty of outdated sanctions on the books that the United States could repeal or amend in exchange for Gross’ release.

    2. Pursue Gross’ release and economic engagement concurrently. In 2011, the Obama Administration announced a shift in the focus of U.S.-Cuba policy toward empowering civil society and supporting independent economic activity. If Cuba’s burgeoning private sector is to grow into a viable alternative to the Island’s top-down economic system, it will need a deeper economic relationship with the American private sector. By conditioning all further efforts to engage with the Cuban people on Gross’ release, we are playing by the rules of those who benefit from the prolonged confrontation and mutual isolation between the two countries. Denying these private individuals an economic relationship with the United States only serves to further delay the kind of changes that policies like Helms-Burton were ill-designed to accelerate.

    3. Look to the Angel Carromero case as a model. We don’t know what deal the Spanish government struck with the Cubans to secure the release of Angel Carromero, the Popular Party’s pro-democracy activist who was charged with the negligent homicide of Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero and will now serve his sentence in Spain. What is clear is that through direct diplomacy, the Spanish have been far more successful at liberating political prisoners, democracy advocates, and businessmen from Cuban jails than any other country, all while promoting democracy inside the island through direct support to pro-democracy groups. On the other hand, our confrontational approach has only perpetuated the conflict without any progress to show for it.


  9. Hank, I’ve asked the same question of other intelligent posters and the response is always the same: Silence.

    I’m hoping one of these intelligent posters will one day post something intelligent on this blog.

    Until then I’ll continue posting my stupid experiences in Cuba. Experience is worth something to us stupid people.

    Hank, Humberto, Pam and everyone else, I hope you have a Happy and Peaceful New Year.

    And to all those intelligent posters who have never lived in Cuba, I hope you have a 2013 full of intelligence.

  10. Damir said: “Where is the money for all your internet access coming from? 1/2 an hour in Cuba costs 5 CUC. You are on the net all day every day. Explain now.”


  11. YOUTUBE: Public Protest in Sagua la Grande, Cuba December 3, 2012 -Protesta pública en Sagua la Grande, Cuba 3 de diciembre de 2012 – Members of the National Front for Civic Resistance and Civil Disobedience Orlando Zapata Tamayo staged a public protest in the streets of Sagua la Grande, in the province of Villa Clara to claim the Cuban people’s right to freedom of expression and demand rights violated by the military and repressive regime Castro family. Leading the protest former political prisoner Jorge Vázquez Chaviano.
    Miembros del Frente Nacional de Resistencia Cívica y Desobediencia Civil Orlando Zapata Tamayo realizaron una protesta pública en las calles de Sagua la Grande, Provincia Villa Clara para reclamar el derecho del pueblo cubano a la libertad de expresión y demandar derechos conculcados por el régimen represor y militar de la familia Castro. Liderando la protesta el ex prisionero político Jorge Vázquez Chaviano.

  12. Here’s something REALLY fascinating:

    Let me commence with one of my older questions:

    Where is the money for all your internet access coming from?

    1/2 an hour in Cuba costs 5 CUC. You are on the net all day every day.

    Explain now.

    Or, if you prefer to go down the “we are sending the sms to our friends overseas who then post the tweets in our name” way, explain where the money for sms to abroad is coming from.

    One sms from Cuba costs 1 CUC. You smack up to 200 tweets every day, and have peaked on a number occasions with 700.

    Where is all this enormous amount of money coming from? Surely – you will agree for these are your own words – you are not making that money in Cuba.

    Not to mention that should the sms-ing your “tweets” be the truth, that would mean that people abroad are actually managing your tweeter profile.

    Care to elaborate on that, wannabe terrorist and Castro after Castros?

    And please enlighten me on This Rodiles guy’s genealogy too: an uncle is a general of Castros’ revolution, and his father was in State Security Agency.

    Castros after Castros. Children of communist leaders raising against their parents!!!???

    Yeah, right.

    DO tell, the “world” is listening.

    I say you are nothing but a double spy who is preparing for the throne once it is vacated. The next generation of parasites getting itchy for the power and more blood of Cuban people.

  13. He is a self-confessed disliker of CUban government. He lives abroad and hopes for a change in Cuba. You have to give it to him. He’s eloqunt and he KNOWS what he is talking about. I liked especially the part where he talks about the family of the dissident traitor and wannabe Castro after Castros!

    An uncle a general from revolution, an aunt working in State Security!!! The family of this “champion of democracy in Cuba” traitor and double agent, according to the Cuban dissidents in Europe!!!

    One cannot but laugh at the transparent duplicity of this liar and a clown “yoani”!!!

    BBC NEWS VIDEO: Cuban town of Baragua’s British West Indian heritage
    It is almost a century since hundreds of people headed for Cuba from British territories in the West Indies, looking for work in the country’s sugar industry. The town of Baragua, in the centre of the island, was transformed by their arrival. They brought with them the English language and many British traditions, but when Cuba’s Communist government came into power during the 1960s, life dramatically changed. The BBC’s Sarah Rainsford reports on how are they managing to keep their traditions alive. Baraguá is a municipality in the Ciego de Ávila Province of Cuba. The municipality occupies the south-eastern part of the province, and the area is dominated by mangrove.

  15. ENVIROMENTAL NEWS SERVICE: Cholera Spreads in Cuba After Hurricane Sandy

    HAVANA, Cuba, December 26, 2012 (ENS) – A rise in cholera cases in the Cuban capital Havana is being traced back to parts of the country hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy, the worst natural disaster to strike Cuba in half a century.

    The Cuban government is saying little about reported cases of cholera. But doctors who have recorded new cases of the disease during recent house-to-house inspections say the health ministry has declared a state of alert in the Jesús María and Belén communities of Habana Vieja municipality.

    Habana Vieja – Old Havana – is a popular tourist area in the city center.

    “They’ve found 47 cases in Habana Vieja municipality,” said a doctor, who requested anonymity. “Thirty-three of them originate from the eastern provinces.”

    The implication is that the individuals carrying cholera may have contracted it in Cuba’s eastern regions as a result of the flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy in late October.

    Standing water is an ideal breeding-ground for cholera, an intestinal disease transmitted by contaminated liquid and food, and many cases have been reported in provinces like Holguín, Santiago de Cuba, Las Tunas and Guantánamo.

    The authorities have taken steps to address the new cases in Havana by setting up specialized hospital wards, cleaning up streets and buildings in the Jesús María and Belén communities, and distributing medicines that prevent dehydration.

    Health staff have been driving around Old Havana issuing notifications by loudspeaker, telling people what precautions to take, urging them not to try to cure themselves, and announcing training sessions where medical staff will be taught how to contain the “epidemic.”

    The authorities are also taking action to stop sales of food that fall short of health and hygiene standards, according to a health worker involved in the cholera identification and public information campaign in Habana Vieja municipality.


  16. If the silence (and only stupid responses from “friendly translator” hiding under the “Anonimo” nick unsuccessfully) are the only response to my questions, I’ll repeat them until the team “yoni” respond with the answers to my questions

    I have asked many a question about many aspects of this team “yoani” that even to a superficially informed person they appear impossible. So far the feedback is zero.

    The team “yoani” do not like to answer the questions that destroy their painstakingly built “profile”, whose foundations are pure bullshift.

    Here’s one of my questions that the team “yoani” are keen to ignore:

    why are all your “biographies” only saying that you have been 2 years in Switzerland and are now omitting to say that you have actually traveled to


    And that after Switzerland you went to Spain, and when even then you could not find any employment other than baby-sitting, YOU CAME BACK TO CUBA in order to survive for there was no life and future for you in “some kind of pragmatic capitalism”!!!

    From this question MORE inevitably follow. See, there are multiple problems you cannot surpass on your own here:

    Just to be able to travel abroad you needed a


    How did you get that letter?

    Then the small question of passport. How did you get the passport? And how did you get the $500 CUCs to pay for it?

    And what I really do not understand, is

    H O W

    did you re-enter the Cuba, being such a dissident and the “enemy” of the state?

    See, Cuba does not accept the dissidents back in.

    Were you really a student in Germany? If not, how did you get there? As a dissident who had received an invitation letter from Germany? And who wrote that letter?

    And how did you get to know them?

    And how did you get the permit to re-enter Cuba, if you were indeed a dissident? The official policy of Cuba is that if you leave as a self-declared “dissident”, you do not need to return hence you are banned from Cuba for life.

    Yet, there you are. In Cuba, spewing vomit and garbage daily. Unhindered and undisturbed. You have never been arrested and jailed for your activities, despite a few brushes with police, which you yourself have caused anyway, by choosing to confront police, who then legally and completely justifiably arrested you, only to let you go after a day or so.

    How come you do

    N O T have a prison time to your name, like


    other enemies of the state?

    Explain now.


  18. Well, Trudeau, thanks for your comment. You observe that “the arguments [posted here are] endlessly circular, familiar and repetitive.” What do you expect after over 50 years of dictatorial insanity; families destroyed; heritages squandered and plundered; generations wasted? Instead of bowing out and sniping in one short sentence, why not provide us with your “more intelligent response.” What is that more intelligent response?

  19. ***
    Many years ago in Nevada I worked in a 15 floor casino/hotel. The elevators didn’t have the number 13–it was 12, 14, 15. None of the gamblers would stay on floor 14!
    I’ve never hear of a “cocotazo” before–Mexican Spanish doesn’t use it.
    Hace muchos anos trabaje en un casino/hotel en Nevada que tuvo 15 pisos. Los elevedores no tenian el numero 13–fue 12, 14, 15. Ninguno de los apostadores quedaban en piso 14!
    Nunca oia de un “cocotazo” antes–el Espanol Mexicano no lo usa.
    John Bibb

  20. I have long since stopped participating in this forum, where the air is a little fetid and the arguments endlessly circular, familiar and repetitive. However, Yoani’s blog maintains its capacity for freshness and surprise. I shall be back on Fantasy Island for the month of February, concluding a photographic project I have been working on for several years. Her insights have been greatly helpful to me and have only served to reinforce my own intuitions . So thank you, Yoani’, for all your writing. I only wish it could have inspired a more intelligent response both from your supporters and your detractors. E

  21. There’s absolutely no evidence, and no reason to claim to have become a “better” person.

    Someone who lies and profits financially from those lies on expense of their own natioon, people and country is not a good person to start with.

    You could claim to have become a better persons if you renounced your own lies, admit what a bunch of criminals and fraudsters you are and closed this page.

    Do that and I’ll concede you have become “better” persons. Better than you are now, that is.

    The road to betterment in your case is a very long and challenging road. And even if you do try, you will fail.

    But, you can try by doing the above and disappearing from the scene altogether. That would be enough for all the truth-favouring honest people of the world. Liars and criminals like you are the reason why this planet is in such a destroyed state it is today.

  22. The number 13, another ridiculous superstition made up by humans who live in fear.

    Happy New Year to you and yours, Yoani, and may 2013 usher in peace, happiness, and change for the better in your world.

    Thank you for creating this amazing blog.

  23. The number 13, another ridiculous superstition made up by humans who live in fear.

    Happy New Year to you and yours, Yoani, and may 2013 usher in peace, happiness, and change for the better in your world.

    Thank you for creating this amazing blog.

  24. Espero que 2013 sea tranquilo y lleno de luz y esperanza para ti y para todos los cubanos. Gracias por tu blog, lo leo con regularidad. Envío de amor de sus amigos canadienses, Wendy

  25. Dear Yoannis,

    I’ve been a faithful reader of your blog from almost its beginning – I have recognized in it a lot of what I saw in Cuba, during my short visits, and I leaned a lot about you, Cuba and Cubans. I liked your honesty and directness, I smiled and cried with you. I wish and pray for you, all my Cuban friends and aquaintances and all those who love Cuba to have new opportunities to see the beauty and unflinched vitality and love for life and beauty, and have less to talk about pain and painful things. Viva Cuba (veranmente) LIBRE! Your friend in Canada, Greg

Comments are closed.