Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A Letter From Cuba. Second Take.

About two years ago I came across this letter from a young Cuban. Of course, it was sent out anonymously and in Spanish. It hit me very hard, where it counts. Having nephews and other family still in Cuba, I know these situations are real. Specially when this young man talks about the inability to express his thoughts if against the government. 

I translated it with only one comment inserted, and this to explain a term of common usage in today’s Cuba. It expresses what many Cubans go through on a day to day basis while the communist/socialist elite and their children live a very capitalistic, opulent life, studying and often vacationing in Europe's best places at the expense of the people. Despite the so called opening by Obama's visit, the control of everyday living is oppressive, it has not changed one bit for the street citizen. I thought it was worth a second view.

 It says:

I was born in Cuba, but a foreigner has more rights than I here; I am free, but I cannot talk about what I want, or express my dreams.

I'm told I live in a democracy, but throughout my life I have only known one (political) party, one viewpoint, one government. I can vote in elections, but there is only one candidate.

My education was free, but I had to work as a volunteer in the back country schools so I would not be thrown out of the free schools; my education was free but I had no choice in what I could study. I have a university degree but I work in a “paladar” (Note: private, semi clandestine mini restaurants catering mainly to foreigners, a way to earn some badly needed “hard” currency); officially these do not exist nor can they be advertised because they will be closed by authorities.

Officially we have nothing because of the American blockade, but for the tourists and foreigners the blockade does not exist; for them, there is everything. My mother used to tell me that before this government, when there was little to eat, they would eat flour cookies … by the way … What is flour? 

My health care is free but at the clinic there are no medicines and the doctor who is supposed to take care of us in this area is too busy driving a taxi; the nurse is making do as a prostitute and, as this keeps her awake all night, we cannot call on her during the day
I have a TV, but there are only two channels and we see the same face on both. I have an electric fan, but often we have no electricity. I like to bathe, but often there is no water in my neighborhood.

When I have a toothbrush, there is no toothpaste; when I have toothpaste there is no toothbrush … I have a pencil but no paper and, when I have pencil and paper,  I then remember that I cannot write what I think.

They say that you only live once … obviously, whoever wrote this was not in Cuba. Here, you don’t live life … you observe it. “

Think about communism and socialism and what it really brings to the people next time someone tells you these are the panacea. They are not. As systems, these two have been an abject failure in every country where they have been put in practice. 

Remember that those who push these flawed systems will be the ones who will benefit for they are the people who will be in control.

Be Well … Be Back!!!

Final Notes:
·   Pray for those who are fighting an illness which may take them away from their loved ones… Every request is heard, and counts!!
·       Follow us on Twitter … @RJAsPandora
·       Any comments please send to rjalcazar@gmail.comComments to

Monday, July 18, 2016

Falling in Love all Over Again

There are places and there are places. In the end, people make those places…

- “Avere un buon viaggio di ritorno, tornare al piu presto!!”
 - “Have a good trip home, come back soon!!”

It was 4am on Sunday in the small city of Lido, Venice. Actually, an island city where we had ended during the last three days of our vacation by luck, sheer good luck. We and our suitcases were at a local dock waiting for our airport taxi (yes, dock … this was a water taxi); many late night-early morn revelers were on their way back home and as they saw us there waiting, either shouted while passing nearby or came to us to say the above in one of several versions…
View from our balcony

This capped a three day stay in this small city. A city I only knew from mentions over the years and from knowing that in the 50’s-70’s it was considered a prime vacation spot for many wealthy Italians and tourists.

I mentally compare it to the much more renowned port-o-calls visited during the cruise we enjoyed in the preceding days. All well-known and deserving to be called beautiful tourist bastions like Crete, Mikonos, Santorini, Athens and Ephesus, Turkey (we were there just three days prior to the attempted coup-d’etat). We were prepared to end our cruise time in Venice, but were not meat to do so. The owner of the small apt we had arranged for through AIRBNB did not respond and these folk were helpful in giving us options. We saw a nice apt. in Lido, looked at the map and said  -“Oh, it’s only one island away, easy to and fro”.  So the decision was made.
A canal in Lido
Suffice it to say we went to Venice only the first morning, did what we needed to do, and went back to Lido as quickly as possible. We didn’t know it yet, but had already been charmed by this town and its people.

If I was asked for one word impressions on this town, my answers would be: Beautiful, Clean, Restful, Friendly, Open. Reasonable (price wise).

A Lido Home
On main street, all the restaurants, shops, etc. you could want. Then, off side street trattorias and coffee shops; beautiful homes, apartments and buildings everywhere we looked, flowers in full bloom and yes, canals and more canals. Although there are cars, since there is a ferry connection to the mainland, most people get around in bikes, small Vespas and on foot. Just take an outside chair at any coffee shop, have a coffee or a glass of wine and watch the world go by. With more that many who would pass by offering a cheery - “Ciao” as they walked past.

Venice, seen from Lido
All in our small group came away with the conviction that we do have to come back to Lido, with more time to really enjoy all it has to offer. And we will.

“Ci torneremo

Be Well … Be Back!!!

Final Notes:
·    Pray for those who are fighting an illness which may take them away from their loved ones… Every request is heard, and counts!!
·       Follow us on Twitter … @RJAsPandora

·       Any comments please send to rjalcazar@gmail.com

Doña América and other memories.

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