Honestly, whenever Machetera reads something new from Yoani Sánchez, the famous “Prizewinning Censored Cuban Blogger,” she feels a sort of pity tinged with loathing. Yoani’s whole world could fit on the head of a pin, and the revulsion Machetera feels is that for a media that has nothing better to do than celebrate such picayune whining as though it is something extraordinary. She’s not alone. One of her compañeros from Tlaxcala, the translation collective, Antonio Antòn Fernandez, wrote a smart reply to Yoani’s bitter post about the posters carried by Cubans in their May 1st celebrations. Yoani had complained because they were professionally done – impossible on a Cuban salary! – she sniffed, while speculating that the slogans were dictated and not reflective of the people’s true feelings. Like the professionally lettered sign above, Yoani?
Machetera’s translation of Antonio’s response is followed by her translation of the original post from what some call the Blocked Cuban Blogger. Blocked is a good word for it.
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How shameless, Yoani. I won’t say that you lie, only that you see things from the other side of the mirror. A small, distorted, very comfortable side, I might add. Perhaps the same comfort that prevented you from testing whether you’d “been censored in the island,” at a time when I could access your blog easily in Cienfuegos or Havana, not to mention now, in Spain.
Fortunately, I was in Cuba for this May 1st celebration, and afterwards I received (or picked up off the ground, hours later) a gift from your compatriots, walking through the streets of Havana: numerous posters made by workers, students, youth. I have them in view now; made from pieces of old packing boxes, or Granmas [newspapers], repainted or glued, quite simply, also indicating the class, school, or union group where they were made, just like the large cardboard models of TV cameras, tools or computers that were visible during the parade and that I and several internationalist friends saw up close.
Maybe, through some kind of osmosis, the prize they gave you infected you with certain cognitive tics that made you forget that people are – even now – capable of building together, of working together, to achieve just a few shared – and unpaid – moments of joy and justice.
For some strange reason, the question that you seem to ask, through the impersonal use of “one can,” “from where do they come,” etc., is how one person alone can buy, or acquire, the materials to make such posters, banners and models. In Livorno, Barcelona or Buenos Aires, it’s not one person buying these materials either. Rather, it’s the (festive) work of a team, whether union members, students, or workers who decide to come together for the demonstration.
And it is May 1st, exactly, that celebrates the possibility of the common, the shared, of being and working with (and for) others.
To you, my dear Yoani, with time to go and see shows, wander, and talk about “Russian cartoons” (might not some of them have opened the door to certain values, for example those of the ecologist Cheburashka?), I affectionately recommend that, when you come to Madrid (I have absolutely no doubt that you will, shortly) during May 1st’s to come, that you visit with some of the Ecuadoran, Bolivian, gypsy and Slavic laborers, who work and live in awful, difficult, sometimes unbearable conditions, dreaming to be able some day to celebrate a May 1st with the joy of those workers who parade and sing through the streets of Havana, Cienfuegos, Granma, Santiago or Caracas…despite all the difficulties they have had to overcome; we all know caused by whom.
– Antonio Antòn Fernandez
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Yoani’s original post:
Where did the Posters Come From?
This Sunday on the news, the President of the main Cuban workers union announced a May 1st [celebration] where our people’s “inventive creativity” would be on display. His words were accompanied by the well-known pictures of thousands of people parading in [Revolution] Plaza, full of posters, flags, and multi-colored t-shirts. Upon seeing such exuberance, my old doubts returned about where all these visual elements, resplendent under the May sun, had been cooked up.
If we are to go by the words of Salvador Valdés Mesa, it’s the initiative of citizens who design, paint and color the posters and clothing. However, we all know that it’s impossible to buy Cuban flags, oil or acrylic paints, much less t-shirts and caps with Cuban pesos – the currency in which salaries are paid. Nor can printers be legally acquired that produce the perfect lettering shown on the posters at the gatherings. From where then, do the posters come, that pretend to be the product of popular spontaneity?
I know the answer and you should know how little it has to do with the courage of a worker who writes his demands on a canvas. Nor does it appear to be a decision of an autonomous union that arranges banners so that its members might demand better working conditions. The majority of these signs are directed and designed by those who watch, “captivated,” from the podium. They know that if they were to leave the workers to make these posters on their own, they’d probably say other things.
Machetera is a member of Tlaxcala, the network of translators for linguistic diversity. This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.