Ah “Maria”!

Yoani Sanchez, HAVANA | 20 June 2014 – Livio went on a trip and left his friends in charge of the most precious thing in his life. It wasn’t a child, or a pet, or even one of those home appliances so idolized in Cuba. The “apple of his eye” was a marijuana bush, grown, watered and ready to be made into the first cigarettes. Oblivious to the care such a plant requires, the astonished “babysitters” chose to put it behind the glass of a window, away from the eyes of neighbors and potential informers. It survived, but on returning from abroad its owner swore he would never again leave his precious crop in the hands of neophytes.

This is not an isolated case. Marijuana — which we also call “María” — is a familiar presence in the life of any Cuban. Although the media does not talk about it, it doesn’t need advertising to be popular. It is smelled at parties, seen in the air at some public concerts, and detected in the half-closed eyes of more than a few who appear on national television itself. It is a fact, it is here, and not only through the “bales” that come in along the coasts—according the official press bad things always come from outside—but also as a “made in Cuba” product, with the flavor of red earth grown among the palm trees or in the fields of marabou weed.

Havana’s musical scene knows its cousin “María” very well. Some can’t imagine the act of composition without this eternal friend who “whispers the lyrics in my ear.” The parents of those “hooked” are relieved, thinking that at least it’s not cocaine. “Softer, more therapeutic, happier,” they say to comfort themselves. However, behind this apparent social acceptance of the herb is hidden a debate too-long delayed. Legalize or penalize? That’s the dilemma. A question that simply asking publicly puts you on the side of the enemy.

Those very old men who govern us… have prevented discussions of modernity. I want to live in a society that questions the therapeutic use or the strict prohibition of “María.” I dream of living in a country where my son, age 19, can participate, in turn, in the social debate about whether to legalize or penalize the herb that Livio cares for almost with devotion.

Not speaking of marijuana doesn’t uproot it from our land. Looking away doesn’t prevent thousands of cigarettes made from its leaves ending up between the lips of your children, my children, the children of others. Why don’t we set aside so much prudery and start talking about what we’re going to do with it? With its serrated leaves, so slender and striking… that right now are growing on countless terraces and in gardens and water tanks converted into planting beds all over this Island.

Let’s see if we can stop “smoking” the cigarette of indifference and talk… about what we need to talk about.

21 thoughts on “Ah “Maria”!

  1. Omar,

    Everything you post shows the openness and honesty of the US government.

    Do you realize that?

    It also shows that hostile action against Cuba is ancient history.

    Do you realize that?

    When will Castro release documents about his dirty war on Cuban peasants, torturing and killing dissidents, the assassination of JFK, atrocities in Africa, terrorist attacks on US soil?

    I bet you the answer is never.

    Why don’t you thank the USA and all who fought for it for giving you such great freedom?

    Hey, the USA even gave you the internet so you can whine about the USA all day.

    Castro’s head worth 150,000 dollars, say CIA files
    Published on Wednesday, June 27, 2007
    WASHINGTON, Cuba (AFP): The CIA offered 150,000 dollars to Mafia figures to
    kill Cuban leader Fidel Castro, just one of several CIA plots against
    foreign leaders detailed in 693 pages of classified US documents released

    Other targets of CIA targets, long alleged but only now revealed in the
    intelligence agency’s own documents, included Congo independence leader
    Patrice Lumumba as well as dictator of the Dominican Republic, Rafael

    The documents also detail apparently illegal government spying on US
    citizens opposed to the Vietnam War and on prominent journalists in the
    1970s, as well as experiments using drugs on unsuspecting subjects.

    Among the CIA files is a lengthy memo which exposes the agency’s recruitment
    of top mafia figures already wanted for crimes in order to assassinate
    Cuba’s communist leader.

    “The mission target was Fidel Castro,” said the 1973 document.

    According to the memo, the man chosen for the “sensitive mission requiring
    gangster-type action” was one Johnny Roselli — in reality Santos
    Trafficant, head of mafia Cuba operations.

    He recruited a second man for the mission called Sam Gold, whom the CIA
    discovered was actually Salvatore “Momo” Giancana, head of the Chicago mob
    and “successor to Al Capone.”

    Both were on the US attorney general’s ten most-wanted fugitives list,
    according to the memo.

    “It was to be made clear to Roselli that the United States Government was
    not, and should not, become aware of this operation,” it said.

    The mafiosi recommended against the use of firearms to kill Castro, it said,
    and suggested instead “some type of potent pill that could be placed in
    Castro’s food or drink.”

    “Sam indicated that he had a prospective nominee in the person of Juan Orta,
    a Cuban official who had been receiving kick-back payments from the gambling
    interests, who still had access to Castro, and was in a financial bind,” the
    memo said.

    Roselli gave Orta the pills, but “After several weeks of reported attempts,
    Orta apparently got cold feet and asked out of the assignment.”

    “Roselli made it clear he did not want any more for his part and believed
    Sam would feel the same way.

    “Neither of these individuals were ever paid out of Agency funds,” the
    document said.

    The assassination was meant as a prelude to the disastrous invasion of
    Cuba’s Bay of Pigs.

    The documents declassified Tuesday were dubbed the CIA’s “family jewels,”
    denoting the importance of their secrecy.

    They detail surveillance of Americans who opposed the Vietnam War; opening
    personal mail to and from China and the Soviet Union, including four letters
    to actress Jane Fonda; break-ins on the properties of former CIA employees;
    wiretapping of journalists’ telephones and experiments using drugs on
    unsuspecting subjects.

    These acts were all part of the CIA’s snooping in the 1970s, even though the
    agency is forbidden to conduct intelligence gathering on US soil.

    Also revealed are plans to assassinate the Congo’s anti-colonial Lumumba,
    who was overthrown in a 1960 coup long believed backed by the CIA, and
    Dominican Republic strongman Trujillo, who was shot dead by political
    opponents in 1961.

    The files were assembled by then-director of the CIA James Schlessinger,
    after the agency was implicated in the Watergate scandal that led to the
    resignation of president Richard Nixon in 1974.

    “The documents provide a glimpse of a very different time and a very
    different agency,” said CIA director Michael Hayden announcing the release
    last week.

    “Much of it has been in the press before, and most of it is unflattering,
    but it is CIAs history,” he said.

    The documents are available at http://www.gwu.edu/ nsarchiv/


    As world oil prices rocket on Iraq strife, Venezuela oil price jumps above U$D 100

    Venezuela’s weekly oil basket rose above U$D 100 a barrel for the first time since the Fall of last year because of continuing crises in Ukraine and Iraq. According to figures released by the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, the average price of Venezuelan crude sold by Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA) during the week ending June 20 was U$D 100.29, up U$D 2.18 from the previous week’s U$D 98.05. (Latin American Herald Tribune, http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=2341062&CategoryId=10717)

    PDVSA profit surges as lower spending counters oil slide

    Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A.’s annual net income rose more than three-fold as the state-owned oil producer spent less on social programs, reduced costs after currency devaluation and sold assets. Profit rose to U$D 15.8 billion last year from U$D 4.3 billion in 2012, according to a bond offering circular dated May 14, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg. So-called comprehensive net income was U$D 12.9 billion, up from U$D 5.1 billion. (Bloomberg, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-06-20/pdvsa-profit-surges-as-lower-spending-counters-oil-slide.html)

  4. “Maria” needs to be legalized. Cuba needs to follow the lead of the U.S. and countries in Central America and legalize it. Growing and selling Marijuana can be a new source of revenue for the island. Mellow dissidents and Communists in Cuba after smoking marijuana can then have a common ground for greater bipartisanship.



    Paris Club’s claims as of 31 December 2013, excluding late interest (in USD million) – Outstanding Debt


    ODA: Official Development Assistance = $260 Million Dolars
    NODA: Non-Official Development Assistance = $34,933 Million Dollars (34.9 Billion)

    TOTAL DEBT = $35,193 Million Dollars ($35.1 Billion Dollars)



    NPR AUDIO STORY: Cuba’s Budding Entrepreneurs Travel A Rocky Road Toward Success- by David Greene and Jasmine Garsd

    At first the project was as rocky as any startup business. But a few months down the line, she says, the profits were outstanding. Barbara was able to save a good amount of money — which today is helping her purchase a new home with her boyfriend, Michel Perez Casanova.

    But that boom in business soon came to an end when the government announced that importing clothing for resale on the island .

    Even though business is good for Onil, he echoed what several other small enterprise owners said to us: One of the biggest challenges has been the lack of raw materials. In Mariel, for example, Onil said, there’s no access to wholesale food markets, which are so important to the restaurant industry.

    Pointing to the delicious lamb stew he’d prepared for us, he explained that he’d had to go to a farm to buy the meat, but foods like rice and beans — staples in Cuban cuisine — are hard to buy in large quantities at good prices.




    NPR AUDIO STORY: With Cash And Fat Fryers, Americans Feed Cuba’s Growing Free Market – by Greg Allen

    Perhaps even more important than their travel are the unrestricted remittances Cuban-Americans can now send back to family on the island. Scarpaci estimates that goods and cash sent by Cuban-Americans now is in the range of $5 billion a year, making it the nation’s second-largest source of income.

    Using a Cuban slang term, he calls it, “Gusanos carrying gusanos.”

    “Gusano is the derogatory term that the folks of the island refer to when the Cubans left the revolution — they crawled away from the glories of the revolution. Now they’re bringing back these duffel bags that are long and shaped like worms, or gusanos,” Scarpaci says.

    The goods carried in those duffels aren’t just clothing and cologne. Deep-fat fryers, power saws, electric drills and soldering irons are in great demand in Cuba. Scarpaci says he knows of many small businesses there that have started up with goods and cash supplied by Cuban-Americans.

    “From small restaurants to home body repairs to plastic-mold makers for use of children’s toys. In every one of those instances, the capital for that has come from family members abroad,” he says.


  8. FINANCIAL TIMES:Venezuela confronts volatile fuel dilemma – by Andres Schipani in Caracas and John Paul Rathbone in London

    “Gasoline here is regalada, a gift,” says Mr Velasco. “But adjusting the price is too sensitive an issue. Things could turn nasty again if they don’t do it right.”

    Nevertheless, Mr Maduro, a former bus driver himself, may have no choice. Street riots this year that have left over 40 dead, plus over 60 per cent inflation and scarcities of basic goods have seen his approval ratings drop to 39 per cent, according to a late May poll by the Caracas-based Datanálisis, which also found that eight out of 10 Venezuelans believe the country’s situation is “bad”.

    So far, in a tentative move towards economic pragmatism, Mr Maduro has partially liberated currency controls. Last week, he also sacked Jorge Giordani, a former planning minister and central bank governor known as “the Monk” for his spartan lifestyle and doctrinaire leftwing views.

    Despite these incipient signs of a more coherent approach to policy making, analysts say that removing a gasoline subsidy estimated to cost $12bn a year will be the litmus test of how far Mr Maduro is prepared to go in his attempt to bring a semblance of economic rationality back to the country.

    “No government dares to do it, but we are at an inflection point: either they do it, or we go bankrupt. There is no other option,” says Nelson Hernández, a former senior executive with PDVSA, the state-run oil company.


  9. Fernando Leanme,

    It’s a trap. I don’t like supporting Castro, but the alternative is letting family and friends starve to death.

    I would rather get them all out of Cuba, but they can’t leave. A few got out the past few years, but Castro keeps the rest of their families hostage.

    If I didn’t know anybody in Cuba I would never go there.

    I suspect many tourists end up in the same trap. They are naive about the dictatorship at first. But then they end up with Cubans dependent on them and have to keep going back.

  10. Mary,

    You are quite right, psychology 101, forbidden fruit and being hit over the head with Castro and socialism for 55 years.

    That’s why most Cubans dream of the USA and hate Castro and socialism.

    I haven’t met one Cuban, including members of the Communist Party, who want socialism. Even the tiny minority who love Castro still want capitalism.

    The trouble is, In the East, all these socialist dictatorships led from Mafia socialism to Mafia capitalism.

    I hope Cuba is different. But socialism leaves deep scars.

  11. Mary, when I’ve had the opportunity to talk to Cubans who left recently and they made me feel as if I was talking to a Viet Nam or Iraq war veteran. They don’t think or behave like we did in the 1960’s when I lived in Cuba. History tells us the Castro dictatorship will disappear. They won’t have their 1000 year Reich. But they will leave a huge scar. I wonder, do you realize your dollars help keep that dictatorship afloat and abusing people? Does it bother you visitors at all to think of Cubans as a subhuman class whose natural fate is to endure the abuse and human rights violations carried out by the two dinosaurs?

  12. I always said living in Cuba would be so much “heatlhier” and “cleaner” then living in any other country in the world because of the lack of drugs and violence. I guess I was wrong.

    In 2013 I went to La Havana, Cuba, after many years of going to Cuba I was offered “Maria” for the first time ever, I had no idea what the person offering it to me was talking about as I never even picture Cuba getting this type of traffic into it’s grounds. I agreed to it, “why not?” I didn’t want to seem like I didn’t know what this person was talking about it, at the end of the day I always loved experiencing every little thing about Cuba. I was taking into a “lada” vehicle and driven through the city, a little ways from the “Disco” I was in. We picked up a mid-aged man from a dark corner street and drove with him in the car for about 3 blocks, enough to take the product and pay him the money owned, and we dropped him off.

    I have tried this product before many times from the country I live in, and trying it in Cuba seemed just unreal, it was “softer” then I had ever had before, so me smoking it was a shock to the man around me who offered me it, they called me “loca” while giggling because they could not believe a woman could smoke so much of it without nothing happening to it, but to my surprise it was almost an excitment, something fascinating to them, and I always wondered why.

    In the country I live, marijuana is illegal, but it is commong, everybody knows it, you either sell it or use it, but in Cuba it is not yet a “normal-looking” thing which is why it amazes them so much when they do it, because it is something they’re country will never allow. I feel like Cubans are just like kids, the more you prohibit them from doing something, they tend to want to do it just because they know they’re not suppoused to, and this is were I am going with this comment.

    Cuba will never open up to their population, it will never open many roads that could benefit the country, and certainly will never close complete roads to avoid the next generation from getting hurt. The more you prohibit Cubans things, the more they will want to do it.

    It is a sad thing because Cuba could benefit from a few “prohibited things”

    but I guess if Cuba ever became a democratic country I think their people will become crazy since they’re not used to freedom…. sad story!


    BLOOMBERG: Cuba downgrades 2014 GDP forecast to 1.4 percent – June 23, 2014

    HAVANA (AP) — Cuba has revised its 2014 economic growth forecast downward to 1.4 percent, Communist Party newspaper Granma said Monday, nearly a point off previous projections of 2.2 percent.

    Economy Minister Adel Yzquierdo attributed the downgrade to lagging foreign income, adverse climatic conditions and “internal insufficiencies that our economy continues to confront,” Granma said.

    The downgrade came in a midyear report by the Council of Ministers.

    President Raul Castro acknowledged that the adjusted figure shows Cuba’s economy is not growing at the desired pace, according to Granma.

    Yzquierdo said officials predict growth for the first half of 2014 will come in at just 0.6 percent, and “greater dynamism in the second semester” is needed.

    Cuba says GDP grew 2.7 percent last year.



  14. Report: Obama Offers to Lift Cuba Trade Embargo – by Chriss W. Street

    But President Obama cannot lift the embargo with one of his infamous “Executive Orders” because of the 1996 Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act. The bipartisan passed legislation requires U.S. Congressional approval to lift the embargo and ending sanctions. Such approval is subject to human rights improvements and the democratic election of a new Havana government, preferably without a Castro family member at the helm.
    Since Fidel Castro died and his brother Raul became the equivalent of President for life, Raul has been slowly moving to end the stigmatization of private property and market mechanisms as a cornerstone of ideological correctness.
    The U.S. embargo against Cuba means that Cuba would have to pay a huge premium to get oil from the black market or cut a deal with the Russians, who are now trying to improve relationships with Latin America. With the “New Cold War” heating up in Eastern Europe, the United States is keen on heading off Russia reestablishing a presence just 90 miles for the U.S. coast.


  15. Like everything else proclaimed by Castro and his sycophants, the “drug-free” Cuba is ridiculous propaganda.

    Like every other social problem in Cuba, the state-run press can’t write about it unless Castro orders them to.

    Since Castro never intelligently addressed any of Cuba’s social problems, all he cares about is hiding them from the outside world.

    How do cocaine addicts get high in “drug-free” Cuba?

    At one point, Castro was giving open support to cocaine traffic into the USA. His top generals were involved in cocaine smuggling on his orders.

    Why are the Cuban police and army, who follow the movement of every dissident 24/7 and are able to shake down every tourist for every trinket they bring into Cuba, “unable” to stop the import of cocaine into Cuba?

    I think some people are making a lot of money in Cuba.

  16. Socialist worker.

    If you were in Cuba you wouldn’t get to write what you want. You wouldn’t even get to read what you want.

    People who write what they want in Cuba are lynched by secret police directed mobs, arrested and sometimes thrown in jail for years.

    This blog is about Cuba, where Cubans can only dream of the day they get the liberty you take for granted and whine about all day.

    Cubans don’t even have the freedom of prison inmates in the USA, who get to read what they want and write what they want all day.

    The US government should be keeping track of the writings of the violently insane in order to prevent more acts of terrorism by rich brats posing as socialist workers or oppressed jihadists.

    Unfortunately they don’t do enough, despite the paranoid fantasies of “socialist workers” that they do.

  17. Fernando ‘your post sounds like a quote from Fidel Castro.’ I don’t need to search for quotes. The reason it sounds like Fidel is because its true. ‘I remember when I was living in Cuba the regime was very homophobic.” Okay the operative word in this case is was. In the US ‘the regime is very homophobic.’ Passage of the two party approved homophobic gay bashing Defense of Marriage act in 1996 was so bipartisan that it would have been made into law without a Presidential signature. However Bill, ‘end welfare as we know it’, Clinton’s signed it into law anyway. It took 18 years of court rulings and battles including two Supreme Court rulings where they overruled themselves to undue the damage inflicted upon those who wanted to enter into same sex marriages.

    In the US marriage confers a number of secular benefits that are otherwise unavailable to those not officially married. No church can be required to Marry anyone however the biggest opponents of gay marriage were the Catholic and Protestant Fundamentalist. The same forces that want to overturn all the progress made by the women’s liberation movement of the late nineteen sixties and early nineteen seventies.

    The reason I get to write what I want is because of the fights waged by myself others before me. We stand on the shoulders of giants. It is a never ending struggle. Only recently it has been revealed that Boston Police are secretly using Social Media to find and enforce a new ban on concerts held in homes. The US Bureau of prisons is currently trying to prevent inmates from receiving the Militant Newspaper. Large corporations have engaged in frivolous attacks on free speech using the court system to try and bankrupt and silence those individuals wanting to write articles or make films that defend their workers rights. Few people read what I write so I am not in any clear and present danger.

    However the rulers in Washington find the internet so interesting that they are building a once secret facility that can capture every internet packet sent that they can get their hands on for storage and later use. Why was it secret? Because fundamentally they are embarrassed by their actions. They couldn’t go to Congress and publicly say they needed it because it is a huge attack on privacy and free speech. What it amounts to is a general warrant. An action used by an English King against his American colonists. This was suppose to be outlawed by the fourth Amendment in the US Constitution.

  18. AMNISTIA INTERNACIONAL/AMNESTY INTERNATIONA: Cuba: Journalist threatened and attacked: Roberto de Jesús Guerra – 20 June 2014

    Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez, director of the independent news agency Hablemos Press has been receiving threatening telephone calls and was assaulted on the streets of Havana, the capital. He believes these are attempts by the Cuban authorities to dissuade him from continuing his activities as a journalist. Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez, founder and director of the independent news agency Hablemos Press (Let’s Talk Press) has been repeatedly receiving threatening telephone calls since 6 June. Different male voices have called his mobile phone and the landline at his home, which also doubles as the office of Hablemos Press, and have threatened that Roberto will be killed.

    Just after 11am on 11 June Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez was walking in the municipality of Plaza de la Revolución in central Havana on his way to use internet facilities at the Czech Embassy. He was attacked without warning by an unknown individual who started to punch and kick him, leaving him with a broken nose and bruises all over his body. As he was being beaten four men on two motorcycles which are typically used by the Cuban Department of State Security pulled up beside him. Roberto stated that one of the men said “ok, that’s enough” (ya, ya, no le des más) before they drove off. Roberto recognized one of the four men as someone who had participated in repressing demonstrations by dissidents. Roberto and his wife filed a complaint against the attack at the police station in the Cerro municipality of Havana. Roberto was called back to the police station later that night where he identified his attacker from photographs he was shown.

    At around 6pm on 17 June the same man who attacked Roberto shouted threats outside his house, including that he would kill Roberto and set fire to his house. Roberto’s wife returned to the same police station to file another complaint but they refused to take it and told her that they had no grounds for complaint (“la denuncia no procedía”).

    Please write immediately in Spanish or your own language:
    1. Calling on the Cuban authorities to immediately investigate the assault on 11 June against Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez as well as telephone threats against him and to bring those found responsible to justice;
    2. Calling on the authorities to ensure that citizens who seek to peacefully exercise their right to freedom of expression, assembly and association are able to so without harassment or intimidation


  19. “Socialist worker” your post sounds like a quote from Fidel Castro. I remember when I was living in Cuba the regime was very homophobic. I don´t think Fidel´s homophobia was a secret. This wasn´t something we discussed in public, but we did discuss in private. Some thought it was fine because Christian and other religious traditions condemned it, others thought Fidel was being a bit dumb when he had the police check our homosexual tendencies by checking the tightness of our pant legs. I was a bit more selfish, I thought most homosexuals were male, and the more of them the better, because it left the young girls to the rest of us.

    But what should be perfectly clear is that none of us could say something about it in a public setting, criticize the government, or write about it anywhere.

    So now we read how the state of Colorado in the USA has legalized marihuana, and we continue to read and hear the eternal comment about yankee imperialism, and denying the people the right to ask for changes, or making such changes, “because the empire will gain an advantage”.

    I don´t know where you sit, but I suggest you think about this:

    Is it better for Cubans to be kept wearing a muzzle, or is it better FOR THE PEOPLE to let them write, talk, suggest changes, and even protest to have changes? What do you think will happen if the people are free to say and write they are sick and tired of Fidel´s ideas? Do you really think those ideas are sacred? Is it sort of like a religion for you to have to bow and scrape to an old man, when everybody knows his ideas were wrong, and his brother Raul is going to change things as soon as Fidel dies?

    Once you have given this a thought, I suggest you start writing your true opinions, and forget the yankee empire and the other ideas they used. Fidel´s ideas are all obsolete, this is the 21st century, and it´s time for Cuba to move forward in time.

  20. Socialist worker says “Cuba is not Amsterdam”

    I didn’t know that. I didn’t know anything about US drug laws either.

    But I see you can talk freely about your country’s drug laws and publish your views on the internet.

    I guess you don’t live in Cuba?

  21. Cuba is not Amsterdam. Legalization at this time would result in the US government using it as an issue with which to attack Cuba. The reality of marijuana use in the US is that it provides the police with a way in which to take money from parents who want to keep their children out of jail. A whole slue of lawyers, police, correctional officers, social workers and medical personal make their livings from marijuana prohibition. Judges want to hear that the accused will be sent to rehab otherwise they will impose a jail term. Heaven help them if they should plead not guilty because they may find themselves serving a very very long prison term if a jury finds them guilty.

    Once someone is arrested for any kind of illegal drug possession it is just a matter of how much you can afford to keep a loved one out of jail or prison. If you are convicted or plea bargain to a felony that record will follow you for the rest of your life. Every time you apply for a job you will be asked and then if you say yes they will reject you immediately even if the say it isn’t a bar to employment and if you say no they will check the public records and fire you for lying on a job application. Your job prospects will be heavy and difficult work at the minimum wage. If the police say your possessions were obtained through drug profits than everything you have will be confiscated. Most private lawyers will not take a case involving drugs for fear that they will be accused of accepting drug profits. Instead you will be assigned a Public Defender to workout a plea bargain.

    The cops like being assigned to University towns and jurisdictions because of all the ‘drug work’. Marijuana is only partially legal in the US. Federal law trumps state law which says any amount of marijuana is considered illegal. It is a gateway drug in the US because those who sell it also have other both illegal and dangerous drugs for sale.

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