Creole Block

Beto was one of those who handed out beatings in August of 1994. With his helmet, his mortar-splattered pants and an iron bar in his hand, he lashed out at some of the protestors during the Maleconazo. At that time he was working on a construction team and felt like part of an elite. He had milk at breakfast, a room he shared with other colleagues, and a salary higher than any doctor’s. He spent the years of his youth building hotels, but a decade ago, when his brigade was demobilized, he became unemployed. He didn’t want to return to the village of Banes where he was born, not him, nor many others of that troop ready to build a wall or break heads.

Several of these construction workers were allowed to settle in a makeshift neighborhood in the Havana suburbs. The received the benefit of permission to build a “llega y pon*” — a shantytown — near Calle 100 and Avenida Rancho Boyeros. A crumb, after so much ideological loyalty. Without the perks and high wages, many of these bricklayers had to survive on what they could find. Beto set up a workshop for fabricating “creole bricks.” Other neighbors in his makeshift neighborhood also dedicate themselves to building materials: sand, stone powder… bricks. With the new relaxations giving permission for the repair and building by one’s own efforts, the business of “aggregates” prospers, involving more people every day. The producers, transporters, brigade leaders, and finally the men who load the sacks on the trucks. A chain of work — parallel to the State’s — more efficient, but also at higher prices.

Beto doesn’t like talking about the past. In his shirt full of holes he walks between the stacks of Creole blocks coming out of his little factory. When he sees one that has cracked or that has a broken corner, he shouts at one of his employees who mixes the mortar for casting the molds. He carries an iron rod in his hand, as he did on 5 August 1994, but this time it’s for knocking against the blocks, checking the strength of his product. He frequently glances over to the little house he is building at the end of this unpaved street with no drains. For the first time he has something of his own, something no one has given him. He is a man with neither privilege nor obedience.

*Translator’s note: “llega y pon” is literally “arrive and put.”

63 thoughts on “Creole Block

  1. HEY Marabu!! WHAT ABOUT THE SELF-BLOCKADE BY THE CASTROFASCISTS AGAINST THE CUBAN POEOPLE?? AND WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS CENSORSHIP BY THE CASTRO BROTHERS AGAINST ROBERTICO CARCASSES?? DONT YOU THINK HE HAS A RIGHT TO EXPRESS HIMSELF??? ANXIOUSLY WAITING YOUR “RESPONSE”! AND DONT HIT YOUR HEAD ON THE BOTTOM OF THAT BARREL DEAR!!

  2. We still need to wait whether the call by Robertico Carcassés to end the US blockade of Cuba will meet any reply from the State Departmnt or some Senators.

  3. ROBERTICO CARCASSES JUST MADE HIMSELF FREE INSIDE THE ISLAND JAIL OF CUBA! THE CASTROFASCISTS MAY NOT ALLOW HIM TO PLAY ON THE ISLAND, BUT HE HAS GAINED FANS AND RESPECT FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD!

    BILLBOARD: Robertico Carcassés Sanctioned in Cuba Over Critical Song Lyrics: Report – by Judy Cantor-Navas
    The Cuban pianist and bandleader Robertico Carcassés improvised lyrics calling for “direct presidential elections,” “freedom of information” and “the end of the embargo and the auto-embargo” during a televised concert in front of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana on Thursday (Sept. 12) marking the anniversary of the arrest in Miami of the Cuban intelligence agents known as the Cuban Five.

    Cuban officials Friday suspended Carcassés from performing on the island “indefinitely,” according to a report in the exile website Diario de Cuba.
    While performing the song “Cubanos por el mundo,” dedicated to Cubans “here and there,” Carcassés, 41, took to the microphone. He improvised lyrics calling for the release of the four prisoners, “and a lot more,” including presidential elections by direct vote, equal rights for all Cubans on the island regardless of their political opinions, and an end to the U.S. embargo and “[Cuba’s] auto-embargo.”

    According to Diario de Cuba, Interactivo’s Facebook page published a message Friday saying that Carcassés and his bandmates were called to the Cuban Music Institute and told that Carcassés would not be allowed to perform on the island for an indefinite period of time. The group announced that two upcoming shows were canceled “due to a decision by authorities.” That message was later erased from Facebook, the website reported.

    According to Diario de Cuba, Carcassés declined to comment when reached by telephone, but said he would be publishing a letter addressing the incident.

    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE!

    http://m.billboard.com/articles/columns/latin-notas/5695452/robertico-carcasses-sanctioned-in-cuba-over-critical-song

  4. In 2011 the Oficina Nacional de Estadísticas (ONE) estimated at 32,540 the total of new houses built, of which 21,687 were built by the regime and 12,214 by private citizens. Most of the houses built after 1959 have many construction deficiencies due to the poor quality of the materials used and works performed.

    The houses under construction, around 33, 000 per year, not only are not enough to solve the housing deficit, but even to replace the losses for diverse causes. The housing problem does not show indications of improvement in the near future under the Castroit regime.

  5. DIARIO DE CUBA- URGENTE: El régimen de los Castro sanciona ‘indefinidamente’ al músico Robertico Carcassés por sus críticas durante un concierto.
    URGENT: The Castro regime sanctions’indefinitely’ musician Robertico Carcasses for his criticism during a concert.
    YOUTUBE: Havana abuzz over singer’s bold concert lyrics. Carcasses, the 41-year-old leader of the Cuban jazz-fusion combo Interactivo, sang about his desire for “free access to information so I can have my own opinion…” “I want to elect the president by direct vote and not some other way,” he continued. “Neither militants nor dissidents, (we are) all Cubans with the same rights.” “And an end to the blockade,” he added, in reference to Washington’s 51-year-old economic embargo against Cuba, “and to self-blockade.” Then, more in line with the theme of the event, he gestured at the U.S. Interests Section behind the stage and exclaimed, “Free the Five Heroes!” A woman who answered the phone at Carcasses’ home Friday said he was away, and calls to his cellphone did not go through.

  6. Nick! YOU LIKE SOCCER OR FOOTBALL AS IS KNOWN IN THE REST OF THE WORLD??
    NOT ALL THE CUBAN ATHLETES WHO DEFECT ARE BASEBALL PLAYERS! GREAT STORY TO FREEDOM! AND Marabu! I KNOW YOU WERE SECRETLY MY FAN! DE NADA AMIGO!
    MLS Video: Osvaldo Alonso – From Cuban defector to MLS star – by Kyle Bonn
    For a kid in Cuba with a gift for soccer, everything changed when he took a trip with his team to the United States, and never went back. Now, with a family, American citizenship, and a job playing his lifelong passion, Osvaldo Alonso is living his dream with the Seattle Sounders. Will he get a shot to play for the USMNT? That’s for the Cuban federation to decide. But for now, the defensive midfielder continues to ply his trade in the middle of the CenturyLink Field pitch, dispossessing opposing players with great precision.
    http://prosoccertalk.nbcsports.com/2013/09/13/mls-video-osvaldo-alonso-from-cuban-defector-to-mls-star/

  7. This time Humberto has pasted somethig positive: “The fight against corruption and indiscipline”. Good news. Thank you.

    And congratulations, Mr President Castro. Be tough with them. Do not seek cheap popularity, lke the Western politicians. The best imaginable place for thieves has always been a prison, although in Cuba it might be a labor camp, too. No more Yoani reporting her friends selling plastic bags of unclear origin.

  8. Nick! DOES THIS COPY AND PASTE POST MAKES ME LOOK PHAT?? BE HONEST DEAR!

    HUFFINGTON POST: Cuba: When “The Bad Guys” Carry Calculators – by Yoani Sanchez

    For months now, Raul Castro has unleashed a strong campaign against illegalities which has turned into a wholesale stomping on the calluses of those who, until now, had managed to keep their “feet” well protected. Thousands of inspectors in the street, tickets for fines being handed out right and left, and a general feeling that at any moment the police might show up. Resellers, the corner vendors, families remodeling their homes, self-employed workers and farmers, are the focus of this crackdown. No one is safe. Dressed in plain clothes or uniformed, the soldiers of this new battle reinforce the feeling of constant surveillance.

    Unlike other previous raids, this one has affected virtually the entire Cuban population. To the point that people are saying “the government has declared war on the people.” A crusade that breaks a tacit social compact, fragile, yet crucial to the survival of the current system. A certain level of permissibility for corruption, for the black market and for the diversion of State resources has been built up over decades as a mechanism for political control. Faking an ideological loyalty to the regime has been the indispensable prerequisite to embezzlement, stealing, adulterating, without serious reprisals. However, the formula of screaming “Fatherland or Death” to ward off the inspectors and the police is no longer working. The stomp on the callus reaches even the publicly declared faithful followers of the Communist Party. Though it’s worth noting, not all calluses are equal… at certain heights, no one will stomp on your feet.

    With this new offensive, Raul Castro’s government faces a growing unpopularity. It’s true that looking at the penalized illegalities, they are ethically and legally unacceptable, but anyone who respected the strict Cuban penal code, literally could not survive. Tolerating a certain level of transgression — or what we call “cimarronaje,” the culture of fugitive slaves — is an inseparable part of the apparatus of subjugation to totalitarianism. Between the rulers and the ruled a tacit accord is established that implies ceding impunity in both directions. In a country where the president himself has had to recognize that salaries are not the principal source of income, the authorities know that tightening the screws against parallel paths of survival would, over the long-term, be political suicide. The unwritten contract where citizens pretend to work and the rulers pretend to pay them is in crisis. The fight against corruption and indisciplines has touched a docile, but numerically very large, political sector.

    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE!
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/yoani-sanchez/cuba-when-the-bad-guys-ca_b_3926289.html

  9. THANKS Nick FOR YOU ENCOURAGING WORDS! WILL TRY TO LIVE TO YOUR EXPECTATIONS DEAR!

    YOUTUBE (Spanish Only): Havana abuzz over singer’s bold concert lyrics. Carcasses, the 41-year-old leader of the Cuban jazz-fusion combo Interactivo, sang about his desire for “free access to information so I can have my own opinion…” “I want to elect the president by direct vote and not some other way,” he continued. “Neither militants nor dissidents, (we are) all Cubans with the same rights.” “And an end to the blockade,” he added, in reference to Washington’s 51-year-old economic embargo against Cuba, “and to self-blockade.” Then, more in line with the theme of the event, he gestured at the U.S. Interests Section behind the stage and exclaimed, “Free the Five Heroes!” A woman who answered the phone at Carcasses’ home Friday said he was away, and calls to his cellphone did not go through.

  10. Trevor,

    I entirely respect your right to express opinions which are different to mine.

    My point of view is based on having lived a chunk of my life in Cuba and having dearly beloved family there….
    Cuba is by no means a perfect place, but it is by no means the worst place on this earth…

    I would like to inform you that I have no disdain for the USA or the decent people that live there.

    I do have much disdain towards many U.S. foreign policies.

    Specifically those which have a detrimental effect on Cuba.

    I also, by the way, have much disdain towards certain British foreign policies (both historical and current) but as these policies have no direct effect on Cuba, I think they are best left for a different forum…

  11. Keep up the copying and pasting Humby if that’s what you feel the urge to do…..
    The world would be so much of a lesser place if it were not for your valuable contributions here…
    And its always so chucklesome to see you passing on this propaganda…
    Keep it coming…

  12. Nickaroono! YOU KNOW I LOVE YA DONT YOU?? AND I KNOW YOU LOVE YOUR “OLD COPY AND PASTE QUEEN FROM CALIFORNIA” ! DONT YOU DEAR!!
    IT’S A BABY STEP WRAPPED IN THE CASTROFASCIST’S “CUBAN 5” SPIES PROGANDA MACHINE, BUT A SMALL STEP TOWARDS FREE SPEECH IN CUBA NONE THE LESS!
    WISTV: Havana abuzz over singer’s bold concert lyrics – by Peter Orsi
    HAVANA (AP) – It was a day when Cubans were called to speak with one voice to demand the return of intelligence agents serving long prison terms in the United States.

    Then, at a nationally televised event outside the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana, a prominent musician sang not only about the so-called Cuban Five but also his wish for more freedom of information and direct presidential elections.

    Artists, writers and musicians have long enjoyed a certain amount of room to speak critically about the island’s Communist system. But Robertico Carcasses’ unusually bold lyrics at the pro-government concert-rally were the talk of the town on Friday.

    Carcasses, the 41-year-old leader of the Cuban jazz-fusion combo Interactivo, sang about his desire for “free access to information so I can have my own opinion…”

    “I want to elect the president by direct vote and not some other way,” he continued.

    “Neither militants nor dissidents, (we are) all Cubans with the same rights.”

    “And an end to the blockade,” he added, in reference to Washington’s 51-year-old economic embargo against Cuba, “and to self-blockade.”

    Then, more in line with the theme of the event, he gestured at the U.S. Interests Section behind the stage and exclaimed, “Free the Five Heroes!”
    A woman who answered the phone at Carcasses’ home Friday said he was away, and calls to his cellphone did not go through.

    His lyrics alluded to authorities’ control over many aspects of society.

    The state and Communist Party operate nearly all island media, and Internet access rates are very low, if creeping upward.

    The Communist Party is the only one allowed in Cuba, although membership is not a requirement to run in elections. The president is selected not by direct popular vote, but by parliament, which in turn is elected on a ballot with just one approved candidate for each seat. Cuba defends its political system as more participatory and democratic than most others.

    Other prominent musicians have tested the boundaries of acceptable speech.

    Legendary crooner Pablo Milanes has given interviews in which he criticized counter-protests that are quietly encouraged targeting anti-government groups such as the Ladies in White.

    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE!

    http://www.wistv.com/story/23425186/havana-abuzz-over-singers-bold-concert-lyrics

  13. Dear Nick:

    If you could open your mind, just a little crack, you might be able to expand your worldview. FYI, I pride myself on my ability to think, to reason, to come to a conclusion based upon my own research and reasoning. I abhor propaganda, which, as you well know, comes equally from the left as from the right. I’m independent.

    I’ve been researching Cuba and Fidel Castro for over 30 years now. My opinions come from this, and from talking to many, many Cubans. My main concern is the oppression of the Cuban people, who couldn’t even, for the most part, travel freely out of their own country until very recently.

    Armchair socialists, such as yourself, have come and gone on this blog over the years. Your thinly-veiled disdain for the USA, as well as your glorification of Fidel Castro, never ceases to amaze me. I can only shake my head and wonder how you can believe such propaganda.

    Fidel Castro is a tyrant who, upon assuming power, promised free elections for the position that he held. Cubans are still, after 54 years, waiting.

    The video that Humberto posted featured the former girlfriend of the son of Fidel Castro. She released video a couple of years ago, clearly showing the lavish lifestyle of Fidel and his family. She lived it, but I guess you know better.

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