Coconut Flan

I’ve found a Cuba outside of Cuba, I told a friend a few days ago. He laughed at my play on words, thinking I was trying to create literature. But no. In Brazil a septuagenarian excitedly gave me a medal of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre. “I have not been back since I left in 1964,” she confirmed as she handed me this little gem that had belonged to her mother. During my stay in Prague, a group of compatriots living there seemed to be more aware of what was happening in our country than many who vegetate, inside it, in apathy. Amid the tall buildings of New York a family invited me to their house and their grandmother made a “coconut flan” in the style of our traditional cuisine, so damaged on the island by the shortages and scarcities.

Our diaspora, our exile, is conserving Cuba outside of Cuba. Along with their suitcases and the pain of distance, they have preserved pieces of our national history that were deleted from the textbooks with which several generations have been educated or rather, raised to be mediocre. I’m rediscovering my own country in each of these Cubans dispersed around the world. When I confirm what they have really accomplished, the contrast with what official propaganda tells me about them leaves me with an enormous sadness for my country. For all this human wealth that we have lost, for all this talent that has had to wash up outside our borders and for all the seeds that have germinated in other lands. How did we allow one ideology, one party, one man, to have felt the “divine” power to decide who could or could not carry the adjective “Cuban.”

Now I have proof that they lied to me, they lied to us. Nobody has had to tell me, I can grasp it for myself on seeing all this Cuba that is outside of Cuba, an immense country that they have been safeguarding for us.

24 thoughts on “Coconut Flan

  1. MIAMI HERALD: Yoani Sanchez meets with The Miami Herald Editorial Board (Part 1) – Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez meets with The Miami Herald Editorial Board during her tour of Miami on Monday, April 1, 2013. Part 1 of two videos. Note: Interview is in Spanish. Jose A. Iglesias / El Nuevo Herald Staff

  2. Dear “trudeau”,

    Thank you for the recommendation for Jose Latour. I will certainly buy his book. There are quite a few excellent Cuban writers outside Cuba who are unknown on the island.

  3. Por el levantamiento popular en Cuba
    ¡EN VIVO! Conferencia de @yoanisanchez en La Torre de la Libertad. #Miami #Cuba #yoanimiami

    1:00PM EASTER TIME ON THIS LINK! GOOOOOOO FLACA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    VIA Por el levantamiento popular en Cuba’s

  5. Asi es, todos los que salimos de Cuba la llevamos muy presente, en todo lo que hacemos, en nuestras conversaviones, en la comida, la musica, lo que le ensenamos a nuestros hijos. Yo creo que mientras mas tiempo llevamos lejos mas la extramos. Estoy muy contenta de que hayas podido venir, para que experimentaras por ti misma como somos los cubanos fuera de Cuba, como amamos nuestra patria. Te admiro mucho por tu valentia, por lo que haces desde Cuba, si todos hubieramos hecho lo mismo probablemente ya no tuvieramos ese gobierno.

  6. Nick says: “So why do right wing commentators say Chavez messed up the economy”

    Is “right-wing” your idea of an insult?

    Were Chief Sabino Romero and his Yukpa people “right-wingers”?

    Please give a definition of “right” and “left” sometime so I can figure this all out.

    I know all the communists, socialists, social democrats and liberals killed and exiled by Castro are all “right-wingers” because Castro says so, but I can’t figure out any other reason.

  7. De la Cuba que se ha mantenido viva en el exilio se sacarán las semillas para re-sembrar de sus propios valores y tradiciones a nuestra bella y sufrida isla. Después de 50 años, Cuba sigue latiendo en todos los corazones de sus hijos ausentes. Seguimos esperando con fe en que habrá un regreso…

  8. ***
    HI NICK–#9. The articles I read say that there are severe food and other product shortages in Venezuela. There is high unemployment–and much poverty. The petroleum exports are half of what they were 10 years ago. And that Hugo Chavez’s family has $2 BILLION dollars in the bank–stolen from the people. Similar to the problems that exist in Cuba.
    HOLA NICK–#9. Los articulos que lee dicen que hay severas faltas de comida y otros productos en Venezuela. Hay mucha falta de empleo–y mucha pobreza. La exportacion de petroleo es media de lo que fue hace 10 anos. Y que la familia de Hugo Chavez tiene $2 BILLION de dolares en el banco–robado de la gente. Similar a las problemas que existan en Cuba.
    John Bibb

  9. The comparative study of the GCP among several countries by this article will bring into focus the catastrophic results of Castro’s regime over the Cuban economy. Here is the link:

    Comparative Study Of Cuba’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Based On Existing Statistical Data During The Republic And Today’s Communist System


    In 1958 the Cuban peso and the dollar circulated in Cuba on a par-basis. Between the 1960’s and the 1990’s, the inflation index (consumer price index, CPI) changed to 5.96 (4). In other words an item that cost $1.00 in 1958 will cost $5.96 in the year 2000. For example a gallon of milk that cost $0.47 in 1958 in the U.S. cost $2.80 in 2000.

    At the end of November 2001 the official exchange rate of the convertible Cuban peso (equivalent to the dollar) was 27 units of the Cuban peso in circulation. In the year 2001 Cuba’s monthly average was 230 pesos per capita, which at the exchange rate prevailing for that year would be equivalent to $8.52 per month. In 1958 Cuba’s monthly average was $110 per capita, 12.9 times larger than in 2001.

    The combined effect of the devalued Cuban peso with respect to the dollar, and the rate of inflation for the last 40 years (27×5.96) have been devastating to the standard of living experienced in Cuba from the 1960’s to the 1990’s. To remain at the same purchasing power, the average salary would have to be 161×110=17710 pesos today. Current per capita figures represent only 1.3% of the 1958 per capita.


    MIAMI HERALD: While in Miami, Yoani Sanchez tweets at record-pace
    Famed Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez spent Easter Sunday in South Florida explaining her motivation for speaking out against the Castro government.

    She didn’t do it on the radio or on television, fittingly she took to Twitter, her weapon for free expression.

    Starting at noon Sunday, Sanchez responded to every inquiry on the social media venue posed by both supporters and haters, writing over 130 tweets at her handle @yoanisanchez.

    At 6 p.m., she was still going strong.

    Scores of people engaged the Cuban blogger in conversation. She responded to all, even vigorously arguing back and forth with her critics. Sanchez is currently on an 82-day tour of the Americas, U.S. and Europe.

    “I will not shut up!” she tweeted after one heated exchange.



    MIAMI HERALD: With wit as her weapon, Yoani Sánchez cuts Castro regime to ribbons – by Juan O. Tamayo

    When a hostile questioner pushed Yoani Sánchez in New York earlier this month to explain how she dared criticize a Castro government that provides free health, education and welfare services, Sánchez compared Cubans to birds in a cage.

    “Yes, the food and water are free,” the Cuban blogger and journalist replied calmly. “But those things are not worth more than our freedom.”

    It’s that kind of lacerating yet cool language, and the simple yet powerful ideas it delivers, that have made Sánchez the spearhead of a burgeoning digital dissident “blogostroika” in Cuba and won her international fame and prizes.

    Sánchez’s digital sword regularly skewers Fidel and Raúl as well as their policies and acolytes. And her tweets — at times fierce, funny or mocking — are like 140-character thumbs-in-the-eye to the government.

    Her power lies in “language that cuts through the hypocrisy and myths that have clouded the truth about Cuba for so many years,” said Ted Henken, a Baruch College professor who studies social media in Cuba and has written several articles about her.

    She describes herself as a political “free electron” that gravitates toward conservatives or liberals depending on the issue and does not insult the other side.

    Her husband, journalist Reinaldo Escobar, 65, says that’s part of the secret of her success.

    “Yoani writes from a point of moderation, a middle point that many people can agree with,” said Escobar, who was fired from the newspaper Juventud Rebelde in 1988 for criticizing the government and now works as an elevator repairman.

    Sánchez argues that her fame is her shield from repression. And while she steadfastly attacks the government, she has not joined any dissident organization and calls herself an “independent” or “alternative” journalist.

    And while Cuban officials argue that Sánchez is virtually unknown on the island, her supporters point out that the government blocked access to her blog until recently, and that the state’s news media monopoly treats her as a Soviet-era non-person.

    Sánchez can look a bit like a hippie at times, favoring loose cotton blouses, long skirts and dark hair down to her hips. She speaks softly and mostly slowly. But even relatives paint her as fiercely headstrong since the age of 5, said Henken.

    Mary Jo Porter, the Seattle engineer who founded the volunteer network that translates Generación Y and other Cuba blogs, said part of Sánchez’s appeal is the “juxtaposition of her fragility, her small and slight physical form, with the iron strength so apparent in her voice, her life and her work.”

    But, Porter said, “put food in front of her and she eats like a lumberjack,” and in private she’s even more cheerful and funny.

    “There’s no ‘behind-the-scenes-Yoani’… what you see is the real her,” the translator said.


  12. Hugo Chavez is dead. He leaves behind a country ruined by populist policies he referred to as “Socialism of the 21st Century.” Venezuela, under 14 years of Chavez’s leadershi,p benefited from about $1 trillion in revenues from the oil bonanza but has little to show for it. Instead, the country has largely followed the path described by economists Rudi Dornbusch and Sebastian Edwards in their 1991 classic, The Macroeconomics of Populism in Latin America.

    “Again and again, in country after country, policymakers have embraced economic programs that rely heavily on the use of expansive fiscal and credit policies and overvalued currency to accelerate growth and redistribute income. In implementing these policies, there has usually been no concern for fiscal and foreign exchange constraints. After a short period of economic growth and recovery, bottlenecks develop provoking unsustainable macroeconomic pressures that, at the end, result in the plummeting of real wages and severe balance of payment difficulties. The final outcome of these experiments has generally been galloping inflation, crisis, and the collapse of the economic system.”

    Venezuela’s economy, kept afloat by the long commodity boom, has not yet collapsed. But it is headed for crisis. A devaluation of more than 30% this year brought the official exchange rate to 6.3 bolivars to the dollar. The black market exchange rate — about 26 bolivars to the dollar — shows how much further it has to go. Inflation in 2012 reached 20%. Uncontrolled spending, expropriations, price controls, monetary expansion, capital controls and other misguided policies have also led to scarcities of basic goods, recurrent power outages, water rationing, increased dependency on imports and on oil exports, and a rising public debt and fiscal deficit.

    Chavez also centralized political power as he gained control of the main institutions of Venezuelan society — the military, the judiciary, the congress, the central bank, the electoral council, the most important broadcast media, etc. — and did so by trampling on due process and basic civil and political liberties.

    The vast expansion of state power led to a neglect of traditional functions of government such security or keeping up infrastructure, and to an increase in corruption. Crime under Chavez skyrocketed. When he came to power in 1999, the country experienced less than 6,000 homicides per year; in 2012 that number reached about 21,700. By 2012, Venezuela’s ranking in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index fell to 165 out of 174 countries. The systematic corruption of the Chavez regime that Gustavo Coronel documented in a 2006 Cato study only got worse in subsequent years.

    The economy did grow under Chavez and poverty was reduced (as occurred through most of the region) but annual growth in Venezuela averaged 3.3 percent from 1999 to 2011, below the rates experienced by Chile, Peru, or Colombia — all market democracies that didn’t sacrifice basic liberties in an attempt to achieve such progress. The complete economic record of Chavez’s rule will take into account the decline in wages and per capita income that result from any future crisis his policies engendered. Only then will Venezuelans be able to fully assess the extent to which the last 14 years were recklessly squandered, and hopefully move away from the state-dominated development model which has afflicted Venezuelan society for decades.

    This article originally appeared on the Cato@Liberty blog.

  13. @Nick

    They probably mean he messed up business for the multinationals he either kicked out or made them comply with Venezuelan interests. All news I can get confirm, that the bottom 10% of poorest Venezuelans improved their situation under Chavez.

    What Chavez failed to was to create strong, efficient police force, able to curb the violent crime. I am free to fly to Venezuela (unlike to Cuba) but I am scared of their murder rate.

  14. According the IMF, before Hugo Chavez won his first election the inflation rate in Venezuela went up to 103.2%

    At the end of 2012 it was just 19.9% with a growth rate of 5.5%.

    The IMF states that the fiscal deficit is fine and its foreign debt is just 1% of GDP which is good in the context of the current global financial crisis.

    So why do right wing commentators say Chavez messed up the economy?

  15. ***
    HI SANDOKAN–#7, HANK–#6. Excellent comments! Bad governments don’t just kill people–they kill economies also! Venezuela’s dead president Chavez did the same.
    HOLA SANDOKAN–#7, HANK–#6. Comentarios excelentes! Gobiernos malos matan mas que la gente– tambien matan las economias! El presidente muerto de Venezuela hizo el mismo alli.
    John Bibb

  16. Castro ran off the people who could make Cuba grow, the people the nation needed to feed everyone else. These same cast-off exiles through their own efforts, blood, sweat and tears, turned Miami into a world-class bustling metropolis, a paragon of International business success and prosperity.

    Cuban-Americans make up approximately 4% of the Hispanic population in the United States, yet own approximately 34% of Hispanic businesses. That savoir-faire, the initiative, the drive, the work-ethic and educational diligence, the determination to succeed exhibited by the Cuban exiles in America, could have been the bed-rock for a beautiful economically successful Cuban democratic republic. Instead, universal destitution, misery and starvation are Castro’s legacies, his gifts to generations yet unborn.

  17. I received this today from my friends Irish Sam and Cuban Nellie and post it on their behalf:

    I just now, finally, have read the few paragraphs of Yoani Sanchez’s authorship and I must say, I am impressed by the perceptions this woman has and which she communicates so clearly and well.

    What she wrote reminded me that this Cuban diaspora is not unparalleled.

    Everyone knows about the Jewish Diaspora, but there have been others, among them that of the French Huguenots after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, when those French Protestants had to flee their country literally to save their lives, going into Germany (Goethe’s grandfather, for instance, was a Protestant in France who had to leave his home with the Revocation) and across the Atlantic to faraway Carolina, where they formed the nucleus of what became the Low Country aristocracy in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (British Carolina, later South Carolina, was filled with French Porchers, Hugers, Ravenels, Legarés, Lanneaus, and so on).

    Needless to remind you of the flight of Germans and Jews from the Nazi régime in Germany and Nazi-controlled Europe in the 1930s, which included figures as far apart from each other as Marlene Dietrich and Albert Einstein.

    In every instance, as in the case of Cuba, one man—the Sun King, der Fuhrer, or Fidel—with his armies of thugs, was responsible for imposing an ideology on a people that would rob them of their individuality and their lives, and in every case the places to which they were able to escape afforded them opportunities to achieve, invent, innovate, discover, create, and improve.

    I think Yoani Sanchez has presented this so lucidly, and joined it with her belief that the emigrés and their descendants have kept alive an authentic national Cuban culture that at best only glimmers nowadays on its native ground under the military authority of the Castros. I am taken not only by the argument but by the excellence of Yoani’s use of her language.

  18. SUN SENTINEL NEWS: Famous Cuba social media activist visits South Florida – by Melvin Félix

    Yoani Sanchez has become the international poster girl for a new generation of Cubans trying to promote democratic reforms in their homeland — one tweet at a time.
    Sanchez, who is scheduled to speak at two public events Monday during her first visit to South Florida, is easily Cuba’s most famous social-media activist. She has a popular blog that her supporters translate to about 20 languages and nearly a half-million followers on Twitter.

    “Yoani represents an entire generation of Cubans who were born and raised after the Revolution,” said Jorge Duany, director of Florida International University’s Cuban Research Institute, her official host for a panel discussion Monday night. “She articulates a new mode of resistance to the restrictions established by Raul Castro’s regime, especially its monopoly over information.”

    Still, the internet has become a vital tool for today’s Cuban activists struggling to voice their views freely, said Sebastian Arcos, who grew up in one of Cuba’s most prominent dissident families — Sebastian Arcos, his father, and Gustavo Arcos, his uncle, both now deceased, were well-known human rights activists.

    The younger Arcos went to prison for a year after trying to flee Cuba in 1982. He is struck by Sanchez’s story about an earlier arrest in 2009, when she was able to tweet a simple message to the world — “We have been arrested.” She and her colleagues were released the same day.

    “The Cuban government understood that the whole world knew what was going on as it was happening,” said Arcos, now an associate director for FIU’s School of International Affairs. “That’s the way technology is changing the relationship between citizen and government, especially authoritarian ones.”

    Some of Sanchez’s supporters believe she was instrumental in persuading authorities in Havana to ease travel restrictions for their citizens.

    In January, Cuba put into effect a new law that allows people to travel abroad more freely, without an exit visa or foreign invitation.

    “It’s unlikely [the policy] would have come when and how it did if it hadn’t been for the bloggers, especially Yoani, who strategically converted herself into a test case,” said Ted Henken, a City University of New York professor who has planned some of Sanchez’s appearances in the United States.

    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE!,0,6447846.story

  19. ***
    There are many talented Cubans in the U.S.A. A Cuban engineer–Gus Mungia–did excellent advanced design work for the Data Craft / Harris mainframe computers in the 1970’s and 1980’s. They were faster and cheaper than other computers.
    A Cuban owns the Nugget Casino in Sparks, Nevada. He has helped many university students with jobs over many years. A good businessman. He has their photos placed on the walls in the hallways.
    Hay muchos Cubanos talentosos en Los Estados Unidos. Un ingeniero Cubano–Gus Mungia–hizo muy excellente trabajo avanzado por las computadoras mainframe de Data Craft / Harris en los 1970’s and 1980’s. Fueron mas recio y mas barata que otras computadoras.
    Un Cubano es el dueno del Casino Nugget in Sparks, Nevada. Ayudo muchos estudiantes universarios con trabajos por muchos anos. Un buen negociante. Tiene sus retratos puestos en los paredes en los pasillos.
    John Bibb

  20. In Toronto, there is a diaspora of enormously talented Cuban musicians, including the incredible pianist Hilario Duran. When I mention his name in Cuba to young musicians, they go blank. We even have the writer Jose Latour, whose novel The Fool, about corrution in Cuba, got him into trouble on the island, and how is writing from Toronto. And I have elways been fascinated by the excellent Cuban-Chinese restaurants in New York like Flor di Mayo, which is so much better than anything similar in Havana.

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