". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Thursday, January 24, 2019

I Am Not An Expert But I Am A Privileged White Male, So Watch Me Bloviate Anyway Because, You Know, White Man = Expert

     . . . .Too long, don't read this rant following ☭  ☭  : but Kristof made me do it.

Imagine oneself Cuban, reading Nicholas Kristof's latest excrescence in the NY Times. The colonial, imperialist, white supremacist mindset permeates him, and he doesn't even know it. He actually thinks he's being nice and progressive about Cuba.

This is why the United States (and England too) is a lurching, dysfunctional, chaotic, violent monster of gigantic destruction to itself and everything else. 

"I'm Not An Expert (nor does he even speak Spanish) BUT Listen to ME!!!!!!!! Tell Everybody All About Cuba." Bloviates Nicolas Kristof: 

"....It’s simply a tired little country ..."
This, right at the top of his blowharding in the prestigious New York Times, reveals Kristof's profound ignorance of what is going on in Cuba -- he's never have written that if he went dancing Cubans, of any and all ages, or listened to Cubans making music, or spent time with them getting up every day to dress their kids as nicely as possible, figure out how to solve yet more shortage or invent yet another work-around, exchange tech expertise for pay, providing goods and services, doing a cattle round-up, make chocolate -- organic chocolate on organic, diversified beautiful farms, by hand, as well as raising, organically, the other two crops that naturally occur together, coffee and coconuts, as well as poultry, pigs, cattle, horses -- and, further run by a consortium of women, of all ages and colors, who love their machetes -- they give their machetes names -- and use them with great expertise -- and they don't look in the least like a cliche of what a farm woman or agriculture worker looks like.

If Kristof had any meaningful contact with Cuba beyond a service situation he would NEVER have called Cuba "a tired little country." Cubans have more energy than anybody in the USA, other than immigrants like the Haitians, and certainly a lot more than anybody currently in the White House or trying to be POTUS. 

It's not merely an ignorant observation, it's insulting, in the way one would expect from a privileged, comfortable old white guy who isn't an expert but is gonna tell people anyway -- even when the people he's telling know profoundly more about it than he does. 

"Let’s make room for nuance: Cuba impoverishes its citizens and denies them political rights, but it does a good job providing basic education and keeping people healthy. As I noted in my last column, on Cuba’s health care system, Cuba’s official infant mortality rate is lower than America’s (its real rate may or may not be).
I’m not a Cuba expert, but ... "
However, Kristof is a privileged white male in very comfortable circumstances so he's gonna tell the USA what is what about what he doesn't know anything about, and all will read  his awesome brilliance and be in awe of of his awesomeness who went to Havana that one time -- and he shall be well paid. Don't bother looking out for somebody who does know and could tell us what we might want or even need to know. And who speaks Spanish.

Moreover, Kristof proves to have never met a cliche he won't seize on without thinking about it or investigating what is behind the cliche -- one that everybody invokes who is not an expert either, the cliche that everybody includes in every repetitive same-samey piece they all write about the subject of Cuba. (Who will bet against me that when Kristof writes or talks about New Orleans, he uses the dreaded hoary 'gumbo' cliche?) 

"Plus, extra credit goes to a country that so lovingly preserves old American cars. I rode in from the airport in a pink 1954 Cadillac."
He has no idea that this pink Cadillac's body (all the rest of it was pillaged to get something else running for a little while) has rusted for decades without an engine, but is now running because the state fairly recently imported a large number of diesel fuel burning engines that those with these useless cars rushed to install in order to drive around ignorant old white guys who boast of riding in a pink Cadillac and further pollute beautiful Havana. It wasn't lovingly preserved, but created, with parts and paint the owner somehow managed to wangle recently from outside of Cuba.

People visiting their Cuban friends and family commonly bring in shock absorbers, fuel pumps and all sorts of parts even for vehicles much more recently manufactured than a 1954 pink Cadillac, such as Toyotas.  But he doesn't know that  Why?  If he'd asked, you know, he would have known. Responsible journalism, hello?

The following is the most infuriating bit, the most insulting bit. Kristof literally cannot imagine Cuba and Cubans existing in any way in the future except as in its previous relationship to the US when the US corporations and the mafia owned the whole damned island -- as a servant class to rich white old white Americans. Caregivers. Servants. Cooks, Cleaners. Gads, this is disgusting. He hasn't met any of the dynamic, innovative Cuban professionals. Just for one example of what he can't imagine is just at the end of this last year, a Hollywood production team came to Havana where they met with all sorts of agencies and people who work in television and film there. The Hollywood people were agreeably impressed with their knowledge, experience, record and creativity. But great economics white US guy can't think that there could be fine investment opportunity in film and tv production facilities in Cuba.  Nope. Cubans must clean up the vomit and shyte of tourists and elderly retired people. Who are rich, white USians.

".... Some American seniors who now winter in Florida could become snowbirds in Cuba instead, relying on its health care, low prices, great beaches and cheap labor. You can hire a home health care aide for a month in Havana for the cost of one for a day in Florida...."

Cheap labor yay! That's what we can do with Cuba!  

Additionally this will help keep immigrants out who traditionally are supposed to be doing this work since we'll be outsourcing to Cuba our rich elderly family without the voting crisis of letting in to the USA people, who aren't, you know, white -- people, who work harder than privileged white men like Kristof can begin to imagine, to improve their families' futures and become US citizens -- and voters! which is the ruling class of the USA's worst nightmare. Total win-win for us, YAY!

You know Cubans are not thrilled about returning to their historic status as servant class to clean up the incontinent messes of rich old white guys of the USA. Additionally, they are already doing this for the elderly members of their families -- who live with them, not in retirement homes, where US prosperous ilks foist off the care for their elderly upon immigrants and others they assume are too stupid to do anything else, and should be GRATEFUL for this really low-paying, really difficult and exhausting work, while facing imprisonment and deportation any old time. But he, as an old white guy of privilege, demonstrates he literally cannot think of Cubans as deserving or capable of being anything more than  'servant' and providing 'service.' 

Has he noticed how much of the island's population is not white? Who does he think made the Cuban Revolution? Who does he think the Revolution served? Does he believe they have put up with everything the Cubans have had to put up with throughout their history and struggled to overcome throughout their history in order to -- raise their kids for the opportunity of cleaning his white bottom when he's old and drooling? What does he know about the great Cuban Revolutionary leaders such as Lt. General José Antonio de la Caridad Maceo y Grajales in Cuba's history of fighting for the abolition of slavery and independence, and the position of the US in those struggles? Clue, here:

The US was NOT in favor of the abolition of slavery in Cuba -- and opposed over the 19th century to various of Cuba's struggles for independence from Spain, because independent from Spain, Cuba would abolish slavery -- so the USA intervened with its big stick.  Can't have free black people by golly. Our slaves would run away to Cuba instead of us being able to sell our overpopulation of slaves to Cuba where the sugar industry would kill them in 10 years -- very profitable for us, that, yessirree bob! 

In the meantime, while Kristof mourns that the orange nazi (and the mummies of Florida like Rubio) want to roll back the baseball players deal, he hasn't noticed that the orange nazi and his mafia have sold Cuba to Putin and his mafia. The Russians are everywhere in Cuba again, providing building materials, industrial products from elevators to tractors, while the Russian oligarchs anchor their yachts in Cuba's Caribbean ports. Orange nazi feels right at home with yachts of course (or does he get seasick?) while giving not a ripe fart for baseball. 

My gawd, everything clown Kistof did not notice, that was right in front of his face, but he didn't see, blissing out on pink Cadillacs and cheap servants. 

Saturday, January 12, 2019

     . . . . Holy Cow! 

Greetings -- not from Cooba, but a Hampton Inn in Ft. Lauderdale. 

Got in from Holguín this morning. The Postmambo Travelers continued on their various home journeys. El V and I have processed to a Hampton Inn, with airport shuttle service, laundry facilities, and just fine wifi in the room. This is a suite, though. We got a complementary upgrade on our reservation for some reason. 

El V's washing clothes, as he goes to Havana tomorrow. I'm waiting until I get home, and hoping that the laundry facilities haven't been shut down for some kind of renovation or something. Pulling all the packing back together again seems more than I can handle right now. Seriously, and I mean seriously, short of sleep. Haven't had caffeine or breakfast today yet either (it's noon). I wasn't ready for either of them, served especially for us, by the swimming pool at 6:30 AM at the beautiful soviet era Hotel Pernik. Breakfast doesn't start officially until 7 AM, but this is what we get with our Amistur Cuba guide, Jesús, and his pull . . . . 

I was online once only, for about 10 minutes, on the 5th, but that is it. 

Another adventure completed, another adventure with the most wonderful and adventurous people. This, despite, one-by-one, every single member of the group, went down to some mysterious but awful bug that lasted at least two days. The only people who didn't were Nan, a beautiful dancer from California who is 68 but looks about 50 at most, and young J (his dad M, came from Albuquerque to travel with his son and with el V -- he's a mad drummer), who, as the director of the Sarah Lawrence College Cuban Studies program, has lived here by now for three years -- and, you won't believe this! -- me! So I'll probably go down tonight or the moment I get home. 

My flight to LaGuardia is around 11 AM tomorrow; B's meeting me to help with the baggage. 

Whew! we did it. The Travelers are very pleased. This is particularly so for the woman whose life partner is now in assisted living due to Alzheimer's. For years they traveled together all over, often, for their own pleasure and because of work (they were an award-winning television advertising video team throughout the 70's, 80's and 90's).  This made her a bit weepy at the start, that she was taking a break for herself (his kids are taking care of matters while she's away), without him because he'd love it so. But after about 5 days, she was laughing, cracking jokes and, she said, feeling like herself again. She also looked about 15 years younger than when she joined us. We could see in front of our own eyes the healing power of being away from all of it for a while, including the internet.

Visions of granola and tea dance in my head!  Also, how strange, to be looking at screen again after so long away from that as well as everything else.

So glad to be going home. This trip was, against expectation, harder the previous Postmambo Oriente trip. 

One of the reasons was that somebody (excluding the brilliant bus driver, Julio, tour guide Jesús, N,  J, and me, was always sick, and unpleasantly so. Thank goodness we spent most of this trip based in the Hotel Meliá Santiago, so people could crash out in a dark, cool, comfortable room, and not have to sit on a bus with serious stomach upset and fatigue.

The second reason is that it was unexpectedly hot, even for this part of Cuba, in January. Last Postmambo Oriente trip, it rained all the time, which evidently cooled things off, despite it being later in the season -- March.  In western Cuba it has been getting down to low 60's every night, and even the 50's. It was nearly 90 everyday where were were, brilliant sunshine, beautiful nights, but the days were very hot and humid.  

The third reason was that we had more elderly Travelers -- all very fit for their age, very experienced even with nature adventure travel, spending long weeks in Mongolian yerts (the coldest thing anybody can do), living in Asia and traveling around everywhere from Russia and China, to Malaysia and Vietnam, as well as Mexico and Africa. They were game as heck. But getting sick, and the heat and the humidity did take its toll on them

I judged by previous experience, so in packing I got some of it wrong. That Oriente trip of 2017, like last year's Central Cuba trip and the 2016 western Cuba trip, were quite cool. So I put in more warm clothes, none of which I used until dressing for the last dinner at a restaurant that was open air, last night, when the temps in Holguín province fell into the 60's.

I had packed a dozen identical Ann Taylor loft white t-shirts, plus three other t-shirts. I wore them all, as well as the more dressy blouses and shirts for the evenings. All my underwear except for what I need tomorrow is dirty laundry.. I should have packed more t-shirts and underwear, while leaving out  the long sleeved shirts and the light sweater and shawls.

But I did use my flashlight -- even had it with me when we ladies needed it at a baño break to see where we were going. The flashlight passed along our line in the dark informing us of our progress toward relief . . . .

My three hand fans were indispensable.  I loaned out two of them.  The really efficient, effective one, whose stakes are made from wood, even helped one of the Travelers who came damned close to heat stroke, because of dehydration -- a side effect of his blood pressure meds in this very hot humid situation. As he's over 6 feet, him falling over backwards would have been difficult to deal with, but el V and others noticed immediately that K seemed to be passing out. Fortunately, T, one of the Travelers, a repeat Postmamboist, is a full-fledged M.D. -- OB-GYN is her specialty, but she's really good with people getting sick while traveling, knows exactly what to do in these situations, has all sorts of medications in her bag, and our guide, Jesús, is, of course, like Julio the bus driver, trained in first aid. T sent Jesús for COLD water to bring down K's body temperature by drinking, soaking a bandana to wrap around his neck, and apply to his face.

She also ordered fanning. My Cienfuegos 2018 fan was called into service for this, as the other fans present were, T said, "Very pretty fans, but they don't do much.  Constance's is the one." When I go to Havana next month with el V for the Havana Nocturne tour, I'm going to get a special one at the Casa de los abanicos (fans), with her name, the date and place where K nearly passed out painted on it. I also found two more wood stake fans from a vendor, though not quite of the quality of my Cienfuegos fan, are good.

K recovered so well after this episode though, that not only did he refuse to go to a doctor or the hospital, but danced with with wife to the music being played by the Congo Paseo Franco (this Postmambo Oriente trip was heavy on the French, i.e. San Domingue-Haiti connections and heritage, which includes Vodun). I got, I hope some sweet photos of this.  He did not parade with us and the musicians through the neighborhood streets though in the mid-afternoon sun. It also showed the Cubans that white Americans can actually operate quickly and efficiently as a team, as well as with compassion

Ah, el V's going out to bring lunch back.I don't have to move! It is cool in Fort Lauderdale in comparison to what we've been experiencing, but I have no desire to go out in the noonday sun right now.  Or, well, do anything, or go anywhere.

I'm not doing another long trip of this nature again, no matter what -- and that includes not going on the Postmambo Haiti trip in March. I could handle it physically pretty well, because everybody was treating la reina de rubia so helpfully.  But, still.  However, most of all -- I've seen as many casa templos and heard descriptions of all of them translated into English for hours and hours on end, that I never need again to see, experience and have described any of it. I've watched so much ritual, cultural heritage dancing and drumming since 1990, that I've a hit the wall on this sort of experience.  But! for the others, for which it was new, and the musicologists and musicians and dancers among us -- they couldn't get too much (and that includes el V).

Gads, was eastern Cuba ever BEAUTIFUL! There had been months of drought here back in 2017, but now all was as lushly, densely green as one thinks this part of the world is. I loved the drives. Baracoa was, again, enchanting. As part of our activities in this province we toured a cacoa farm run by 5 women -- who were so sexy, hip and hot -- and lordessa can they wield machetes! One of them saw my fascination with her blade and proudly stated (in Spanish), "I am a warrior!"  We bought LOTS of chocolate, of all kinds, literally made by hand there. This is organic, integrated diverse farming, from the chickens and swine who also eat the leavings of the organically cultivated coconut trees and fruit such as mangoes, to the coffee trees, under whose shade the cocao trees and fruit can grow -- and without which shade they cannot.  (Coconut and mangoes as such, are fruit too heavy, for as they fall, they crush the young cacao fruits, but coffee berry trees are just perfect.)

This is incredible chocolate.  Among the purchases we made were individually wrapped bonbons, with centers made of a powder of dried plantains, cinnamon, and something else I didn't quite catch, held together with coconut oil.  There is at least 4% caffeine in this chocolate.  Everybody ate a bonbon when we got back on the bus and -- woo, the chatter, so clearly there was caffeine, because lunch and coffee of any kind had been long ago that day. I got a lot of bars wrapped in foil, and some more of the carved hardwood little pots of hard coconut oil. There just isn't anything better for the skin. I've used up what I brought back from Baracoa two years ago, so happy to refresh the supply.

We had so many adventures it's going to be hard to readjust, the Travelers say, to mundane life. After all, not only did they hear a vast range of music and religion indigenous to Oriente (well, Santeria only arrived in the 1930's and 40's, but it is very powerful and still growing), not only did they participate, they also were present at the rituals surrounding the reading of 2019's Odu at the Casa de Caribe, by the regional babalawos, after la Letra del año 2019 (a/k/a Odu) was cast, to determine which forces -- orishas -- would be dominating the new year --  and the results released by the island-wide council earlier in Havana -- they were at a ceremony in which the information of the Odo was given out to all of Oriente's Santeria 'families.' Thus, there they were when the huge goat and many chickens were sacrificed --- cooked and eaten later, though not by us. We went back to the Meliá to prepare for dinner at the night's scheduled restaurant and pick up the Travelers who opted out of this event, which was, needless to say, quite acceptable.  Others opted out of the a company dinner though, in favor of sitting on the hotel's quiet courtyard patio alone and thinking about what they'd seen, and to a degree participated in. For those of us together at dinner the discussion was all about life and death, life growing out of death and death devouring life.  It was philosophical to a high degree -- plus there were quite a few vegetarians among us, and several have vegan children or grandchildren.

That was a particularly organic day to meditate on the relationships between the dead and living.  We began at the Cementerio Santa Ifigenia)  where Fidel's cremains are now interred in a modest monument. This viewing began with a description and discussion by the director of the cemetery explaining, as in cemeteries globally, space is short. So the bodies can be interred for two years, then the remains are removed, processed, so only the bones are left.  These can then remain with the martyrs of the Revolution, or be re-interred in family plots. After this we were given a brilliant presentation by one of the religious scholars and practitioner of the Palo, religion, which is all about the earth, what comes out of it, what goes into it,  the dead and how the living interact with them -- and this too included exhuming remains . . . . 

Two of the Travelers provided a heartfelt address last night at our farewell restaurant dinner, to el V, the other Travelers and the entire utterly surprising experience -- none of them really had any idea -- one cannot. They all agreed there was no way to describe the experience to their friends, though their photos, videos and recordings can help. Even, the Kid (to us), who has his Ph.D. in Cuban studies, lived in Cuba for three years, and traveled around it, was fairly gobsmacked.  His dad, M, is a maniac for Afro Latin drumming. He came from Albuquerque, to do this tour with J. There was W, a musicologist, specialist in Jamaica, from Harvard, who also plays music. As there is a lot of Jamaican derived culture and history in this part of Cuba, as well as the other stuff, he was so happy. He's also a really good musician. More than once W just got up, asked to join whomever was playing and played. He could really do it. He didn't make a fool of himself (as I've seen others do -- though never Postmambo Travelers) -- he represented Postmambo proud. And all the dancers among us -- they were able to partner with professional theater performer-dancers as in Baracoa with the brilliant Bara Rumba troup, and keep up very well. White Americans showing again who and what Postmambo is, building the brand's reputation throughout Cuba.

Such Travelers! All of them liked each other a lot. We had so many adventures it's going to be hard to readjust, the Travelers say, to mundane life, which may well be expected after seeing a goat sacrificed in front of their faces.. 

Now, have been checking the weather. At the least, we can say I'm looking at a very uncomfortable flight tomorrow due to what looks to be one major winter storm, which on our corridor will be located as I fly particularly in Virginia, Maryland and D.C., i.e between here and up there. Wish me luck!

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Waving From Cuba

     . . . . So dramatic, both intentionally, and unplanned. 

One of our elderly Travelers got dehydrated and nearly got hurt badly.  But among the'd emergency medic training our Cuban guide has, Ned's quickness in grabbing his chair as he and it were falling backwards -- after which he'd surely have hit his head badly on the concrete floor -- and that we have a physician among the Travelers -- who is also a long-time friend of the gentleman who was the patient, all was resolved. And he would not go back to the hotel.  He would not go back and sit in the a/ced bus.  When he felt hydrated and electrolyted and fanned enough by all of us ladies, he stood up, and then he danced with his wife.  He was going to hear this music that he loves.  But tonight he's staying in because they got back in their room, his wife said, "No more, today."
In the high 80's in the daytime.  The nights are magic.

Wifi is very iffy, very expensive, and besides, we are very occupied!  But Today Itook out the morning and slept for hours.  I went out with everyone this afternoon, during which K had his dehydration fainting spell.  I'm taking out tonight too.  Tomorrow, Guantanamo.

Little news is creeping in but --  Alexandria Ocasio Cortez -- You Go!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

¡Aeroplano! Into the New Year!

     . . . . Way back in time, in isolated Baracoa de Cuba, the early 1920's, came the first airplane ever sighted there.

Baracoa is at the very tip of the island on the screen's right side, i.e. the most northeastern, just above Guantanamo. See how far from Havana it is, which is at the top of the left side of the screen, looking at Florida.  Baracoa was Cuba's first capital, but it wasn't long before the capital removed to the bay of Havana, which was far more accessible.

So, of course, one of the music groups made a song and dance about it.  This song is still being played in Baracoa, and people are still dancing el aeroplano that goes with it -- though!  it has never been recorded.  Tomorrow we get on an airplane and begin the journey that takes us back to Baracoa to hear el Aeroplano played, sung and danced yet another time.

Ay-up.  Finally, all packed, only the inevitable tweaks as we wait for the car to take us to the airport at noon tomorrow. Whew!

We took out a chunk of time for a long and early dinner.  It was so pleasant.  The first time either of us has actually relaxed in a long time. We didn't even quite relax last night, despite having a very nice time with our friends in spite of the tropical monsoon that wiped out a large number of restaurants and clubs profits, most surely.  We saw more people on the streets when were were going home about 2 AM than we saw at all on our way out at 9 PM. -- and more fireworks too.  Couldn't see any fireworks at all at midnight from E's perfectly positioned floor-to-ceiling high up apartment.  Only water running down the glass. It was like that all day until about 1:30 AM.

Of course el V can't really relax despite being packed. His big job is a'comin' right up.  Already, in fact.  He's been e-mailing the Travelers from other parts of the country who are coming in via different airlines than ours -- bad weather in a narrow, constricted band, but enough snow and wind to delay or postpone flights, so people are going to have make new arrangements to meet up with Postmambo when planned. This could mean, of course, that we don't all arrive at Holguín at once, and that will throw the timing all off for the day.  Because somebody will have to stay to meet the late-comers and get them hooked up with the rest of us.  Fun never ends for the people running these sorts of shows -- you know?  But I think it will all be OK.

I am so looking forward to being away from insanity for a while.