CubaNews notes July 13, 2003

Walter Lippmann walterlx at
Sun Jul 13 14:12:40 MDT 2003

CUBANEWS NOTES July 13, 2003
by Walter Lippmann, Moderator

This week has been a very difficult one since
my body was assaulted by I don't know what.
Perhaps it was unsafe water, or else a virus.

I have thus been experiencing what they call
in Mexico "Monctezuma's Revenge". I've no
idea what the source was, but the symptoms
have been extremely unpleasant. This is the
fourth day. I'm getting better. Today I left the
house for the first time since the assault and
feel I am on the mend. Hopefully I'll get well
in a few days. Sickness is very, Very boring.

On Friday we were treated here to the arrival
of the first commercial vessel to arrive on the
shores of this island since 1961, a normal
commercial boat. The news coverage of this
event was simple and straightforward. It's an
important first step and we can only hope that
we'll see many more like it as we move toward
eventual normalization of relations between the
two countries.

My work here involves trying to get the sense
of daily life for Cubans, primarily here in the
capital. I walk a great deal, looking at signs,
billboards and people, and stopping to talk
from time to time. People are very friendly,
sometimes mistaking me for a Cuba, though
this only lasts until I speak as my accented
Spanish, etc., clearly labels me to all who
know as an "extranjero" (foreigner).

Yesterday I walked over to the big municipal
bus station, a frequent stop. There are two
bookstores there: one in Cuban pesos and
another in dollars. I always look at both as
their contents are very different. The dollar
one, actually a stand and not a store, wasn't
open today. You can find all manner of books
and topics there, from cooking to astrology to
John Gray's Mars and Venus, all in Spanish.

The Cuban store has a considerable variety
of material, from the classics of Cuban and
world literature, at very inexpensive prices,
and a few office supplies, such as printer
paper, pencils, greeting cards and so on.

Today the big offer, put up on a special
table for everyone to see immediately on
entering is the new LOS DISIDENTES,
Agentes de la Securidad Cubana Revelan
La Historia Real [THE DISSIDENTS, Agents
of Cuban Security Reveal the Real Story].

It's published by Editorial Politica, a major
Cuban publishing house and is an extremely
attractive and professionally-produced large
format paperback. It's got 227 pages filled
with articles, interviews and photocopies of
documents, including those permanent open
passes which some of the "dissidents" had
to the US Interests Section here in town.
You can open this book up, for example, to
page 204 and see the actual open pass that
the US government gave to Oswaldo Paya
which enables him to enter the USIS here
at any time of day or night. Paya can even
be admitted with two other individuals, too!

The co-author. Rosa Miriam Elizalde gave me
my copy with an inscription, but there was no
price marked on the cover. But the price
of this remarkable book was remarkable
in itself: TEN CUBAN PESOS. While this
is not a giveaway, it's a book which has been
heavily subsidized by the publishers to make
sure it's easy for people to afford and thus to
encourage people to buy. Reading here in
Cuba is strongly encouraged, and titles like
these are only a small indication of what's
available. Many of the classics of world,
Cuban and US literature are available also
at these kinds of extremely low prices.

Given the island's concerns for self-defense,
there was a great bargain being offered on
the same literature table, for an even cheaper
presentation of the numerous responsibilities
and methods needed for national preparedness
by this volunteer organization here on the island.
I suspect it would make relatively dry reading as
compared to LOS DISIDENTES, but surely some
will pick it up and take a look. This 337 page tome
is available for the amazing bargain price of only
1.5 Cuban pesos. Yes. 1.5 Cuban pesos.

>From there I took a nice long walk around the
Plaza of the Revolution and beyond around a
few of the buildings close to it before walking
home. The city today is somewhat cooler, or
should I say at least that it's a bit less hot than
it's been recently. Surprisingly unhot for this
time of year in Cuba. I'm enjoying it today.

Cuban television, now that it has three channels,
is providing lots of public service programming
about health, nutrition, exercise and so on.

Friday night there was a long English-language
(but Spanish narration and subtitled) program
on diet, nutrition and exercise from some PBS
series in the US. It featured, among other things,
interviews with UCLA's professor Roy Walford,
known for his famous book "The 120-Year Diet"
and his theory of "caloric restriction". You might
think this makes for odd programming here in
Cuba where the traditional diet is high it fats,
oils, sugars and meat products. However, the
government here has been taking active steps
lately to encourage people to eat more in the
way of vegetables, and to both reduce its
consumption of fats, stop smoking and either
reduce or elminate alcohol consumption where
the latter is a signficant problem.


This morning (Sunday, one of the Cuban TV
channels has been showing an Argentine
movie, actually, it's part of a series called
DIBU. It's a mixture of animated and human
characters with a bit of a political message
about nuclear waste and a request to the
superpowers to curb its production. This
series has been shown here for three years.
It's in Spanish, but has English subtitles, so
I gather it's being circulated outside merely
the Spanish-speaking world.

Finally, it you didn't take the time to look at
the articles about the conviction in Florida
of hijacker Adermas Wilson, along with the
comments, please take the time to do so.
It's long and detailed, but I think you can
learn a great deal from the materials.

Enough for today,

Walter Lippmann, Moderator
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