This link will lead you to an amazing website, desdecuba.com, "a portal of citizen journalism" from Cuba. If I'm not mistaken, it is an online magazine with blogs included, written secretly while the authors sneak from internet cafe to internet cafe. It is not filled with awful tales, but rather with a mosaic of articles and posts and sometimes stories written by people (young, I think) deeply engaged in their country: her problems, her potential, the anxieties of living in it. It is in Spanish, unfortunately. If you read Spanish, take a long look at it. I hope someday someone translates it into English
I was just reading that John McCain and his Republican friends are trying to tar Barack Obama with being "soft" on Cuba. Well, it's about time someone was, if it means a more realistic perspective.
Just after I read that, I came upon this article, the main one in the Community and Culture section of today's "Diario de Xalapa." It is an article describing an interview with Che Guevara's daughter who gave a presentation about the new book her mother, Aleida March, has written about Che, her father. It is called "Evocación." It will appear
shortly in the U.S. in English and in Spanish and is already being offered on
Amazon. I’ve taken the liberty of
translating the article for you below.It’s
probably not quite like an article on Che that would appear in the U.S.
Tokyo, Japan. – Aleida Guevara, daughter of the legendary
Ernesto “Che” Guevara, presented the book “Evocation,” written by her mother,
Aleida March, at the Cervantes Institute in Tokyo. In the book, her mother tells of her
experiences with her husband, a “complete” human being.
“Reading the first version of the book was a very powerful
experience because all my life I had asked my mother to tell me these things,
but she never would, and I didn’t know why,” explained Aleida Guevara to the audience
that filled the hall at the Cervantes center.
Aleida, a child of the second marriage of Che with Aleida
March with whom he had three other children, said that when she read the book
written by her mother, she understood “the intense pain” her mother felt and
why she couldn’t speak “without breaking the dike that held back the memories.”
For that reason, and because she “always had great respect
for my father,” Guevara explained, her mother wrote this book forty years after
the death of Ernesto Guevara.
“Little by little, time showed her it was necessary to do it
because, if she didn’t, people would be able to recount things that weren’t
actually true,” she added.
She suggested that her mother was the best person to write
this book since it was she who best knew
him as a full man.
According to Che’s daughter, for Aleida March it was arduous
work to recount these memories: “She cried continually, but I believe that she
succeded in producing something beautiful."
Among the episodes in the book, Aleida highlighted the “honesty”
of her mother in revealing that she began a relationship with her father without
being married to him, and that she emphasized the moment in which Che asked her
mother’s help and understanding so that he could continue fighting.
My father was very much a complete man, extraordinary, a man
who know that some things were more important than others, said Guevara, visibly moved
at remembering when Che abandoned his family to follow his ideals, when she was
four years old.
She also described her mother as a “cavalry sergeant” who “ordered
everyone around” and emphasized that the effort that she made so that her
children would be revolutionaries at the
same time formed them professionally.
“If we are this way today, it is because she guided us. She is the foundation of the family. She can be very critical, but you can always
count on her. It is life's gift to be
the daughter of someone who was loved and loved so intensely,” she pointed out.
Equally, she revealed that “her mother’s tongue has caused
problems for her because she is very frank, she says what she thinks, and she
would never be a good diplomat.
Regarding Cuba’s ex-president Fidel Castro, she indicated
that the book offers a hymn of thanks to the sensitivity and solidarity he showed
towards her family.
According to Guevara, her “uncle
Fidel” was the driving force behind the awaited and delayed honeymoon which her parents
enjoyed in the Congo.
Jim took the photo of the photo of Che Guevara at the top of the post
in Chavarrillo, a pueblo I've written about before. I mentioned then
that it is an ejido, a collective, living on jointly shared land. The
Cuban Revolution for many in Chavarrillo remains an historic and heroic
event. Here is a link in Spanish from Chavarrillo about their history.
Che Guevara met Fidel Castro in Mexico.
It should be remembered that Fulgencia Batista, whom Castro overthrew, himself came to power through a coup.
Mexico was the first country to recognize Fidel's government.
It seems to me that Mexicans don't react with rage to labels and to symbols the way folks in the U.S. do. It sometimes seems that folks in the U.S. feel that expressions of rage somehow legitimize their perspectives. Sometimes Americans seem to equate a calm demeanor and approach with wimpiness. I think it is rage that makes real perspective and real discussion impossible.
We have two sets of friends who recently traveled to Cuba from Mexico as tourists. They reported that they found it an interesting and complicated place, a pretty poor one. None of our friends either fell in love with it or hated it. All felt the presence of dictatorship, none felt it made life impossible, though in some ways it did make it quite difficult. There are all kinds of odd restrictions on life, some resulting from the poverty that grew by leaps and bounds after the Soviet Union fell and Cuba was cut off from their assistance. For instance, our friends reported that people can only obtain very exact amounts of food. Generally it seems that it is frightened, unfree governments that try to prevent access to other countries.
According to our friends, Europe is starting to make not just tourist but economic connections. The U.S., by its policies and actions, begs to miss out.
Aleida Guevara, Che's daughter, is a pediatrician today in
Havana.She appeared in Michael Moore’s
movie, “Sicko” though I didn’t know about it at the time. Here is a link
to an op-ed piece she wrote in the NY Times concerning her experience with Motorcycle Diaries.
Here is a link
to an article in the Guardian she wrote concerning George W. Bush and
U.S. policies vs. her own understanding of how we should view the world.
Wikipedia has a very good article on Che Guevara here.
A quicky. This link goes to an article about an urban garden that seems an excellent model for our neighborhood. We don't live in an URBAN area, but in an area surrounded by ejido, or federally-owned lands in the custody of local folks. At this point, many people just want to sell it since coffee isn't doing too well. But most of the fresh produce we get comes from further afield. This land is just waiting for sustainable agro-forestry projects.
Here is a very good post on why we should be skeptical about the importance of religion to happiness in spite of assertions/beliefs to the contrary in the U.S. I found the link on my old favorite blog, Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish. So what do you all think?
Right now loads of large, heavy, coarse-coated, ovoid zapote mameys are piled on pickups and wheelbarrows, some cut open and shaped as flowers or stars to show their deep salmony flesh, on the streets of Coatepec. They are grown in enough abundance to provide such heaps, but I don't think they have yet become a commercial crop of the industrial agriculture sort: I don't think there are giant orchards of them anywhere. They are, in fact, referred to in a UN publication as a "neglected crop." But they are being considered for use in restoration of local agriculture for providing for local people. AND some consideration to the development of an export market is being given. The questions people ask for this possibility include the use of preservatives on the skins, effects of refrigeration and so forth. AND there is a need to know whether there would be or could be a market abroad for such fruit. Just ask me! There already is a small market abroad for frozen mamey.
I love zapote mameys, scientifically known as pouteria sapata. They are indigenous to the lower altitudes of Veracruz as well as humid, warmer areas in a number of other Mexican states and some of Central America. Here is a picture I took to show you a whole one, some slices, and the seed. The seed, except for a natural split area in the outer coating, is quite shiny, like polished dark wood.
Sometimes I just cut one open and scoop out and eat the flesh. It has a kind of sweet-potatoey-peachy flavor with an avocado texture. Sometimes I cut hunks to put on cereal. One will last me four days.
Here is a good basic article on mamey zapotes from Wikipedia. A more detailed article can be found here. You'll recognize this as the source for a fair amount of what I say about them.
You don't see them so much anymore, but there used to be tons of street vendors that sold pieces of fruit wrapped in paper with various kinds of chili powder sprinkled on top. We always avoided these because of fear of germs. On our part, this was definitely reasonable, but most Mexicans I know ate the stuff freely. I think a good investment would be to develop some easy to use knife and fruit cleaning solution and to maybe encourage use of hand sanitizers and have a renaissance of these stands....so much better than junk food, to buy a shell of diced zapote sprinkled with chiles! And they are loaded with nutritious stuff.
Otherwise, you can pretty well use them for the same things you use other fruits for: syrups, smoothies, ice cream and so on. The seeds, ground up, can be used in making chocolate and in making soaps and shampoos and other skin products as well as for a number of pharmaceutical products as can the leaves and unripe fruit. The sap can be used in chewing gum. The wood is strong and useful as lumber.
The hope is that mamey zapote trees, which can also shade coffee plantations will increase in importance in the development of sustainable forestry/agroforestry projects. Not only is the tree and its fruit useful as product, but the tree itself contributes to soil improvement and mitigates erosion and apparently is beneficial in keeping away insect pests from other crops planted with it.
Mamey and other fruits from the Caribbean-Mesoamerican area are finding homes in South Florida. Here is a clip of a talk on Mamey trees from Fruitscapes, a University of Florida extension website. It has lots of information about mangoes, avocadoes, and other fruits, too.
While I was zipping around looking for online information on mamey zapote, I came across this delightful cooking site in Spanish. Check it out!
I have been writing about how hot and dry it has been. Last week A coarse polvo seeped into the house and covered everything every day anew. I swept up sandpiles and wrote with my finger in the dust on the coffee table before wiping it off, again, every day. People in our Colonia have been complaining about the heat.
On my way home from dropping Jim at his bamboo classes, I tuned into a discussion of the state of the weather on Radio Más, the official Veracruz station. The guest was an expert on cattle and was discussing precautions ranchers ought to take before the dry season annually since droughts like this year's occur over the winter with some frequency. He was talking to small-scale ranchers who are just learning better commercial practices, telling them about the need to stockpile hay and to store water for the health and thus the saleability of the animals. He said this year's drought was nowhere near a record drought, and in fact was similar to what seemed to occur on a five year cycle. He mentioned, however, that though the averages seemed more or less normal for the dry season, the high temperatures were higher, the lows, though not this winter, lower, and the rainfall came in big downpours rather than spread out, all of this being possible signs of global warming.
Water shortages this winter have been marked, occurring even up here in the cloud forest, and not just in the lowlands. This is because the few sudden, intense downpours just wash away in torrents instead of soaking into the ground like the soft, misty chipi-chipi that used to be common. In our colonia, normally there are days during the dry winters when it is the habit to turn off water on a rotating basis to parts of the neighborhood for a day or so. This year we were spared because of the spring water that is now being pumped into our system. It is not a powerful enough stream to completely supplant the original flow, but it allowed us to have some water every day.
Things are changing, though. Over the past few days we have had some long-lasting, powerful thunderstorms that have flashed over the sky with lightening and filled the air with booming, cracking thunder and poured down sheets of rain. These aren't the summer rains which come up from the south as the doldrums move north, but rather a tail-end of the season norte that has some staying power. According to the forecast, we can expect cooler temperatures and some rain through Tuesday which is almost time for the summer rains to start. Here is a picture looking out our window at the waterfall during the rain yesterday.
Right near us there have been neighborhoods with no water at all where people have depended on trucks to bring them their supply. Here is a photo from Diario de Xalapa today showing people bringing every manner of container they could find to the trucks.
If you want to practice your Spanish, you can read the whole story about water problems in Jiltopec here.
Some of you have been to or through Jilotepec. It on the road to Naolinco near the main highway to Mexico City from Veracruz, the one that goes through Xalapa.
¡Preparaciones aterrorizades! Get a load of this descriptionwhat went on for Bush to visit Merida in the Yucatán in March. And then look at the rest of this charming expat newsletter. It'll cheer you up.
My absolutely favorite food writer, Mark Bittman, made a presentation which you can see here.
It is excellent and even retains some of his characteristic humor, though it is Very Serious Indeed, dealing as it does with how we eat vs. how we should eat and how we grow our food vs. how we should.
One of the biggest problems for the planet, for the animals themselves and for our health is industrially-raised cattle. Here in contrast, is a picture of happy grass-fed cattle where we walk our dogs.
Bittman also has a blog called Bitten which I never tire of. AND three arrogantly titled cookbooks I'm aware of and have: "How to Cook Everything", "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian", and "The Best Recipes in the World". I have them all. They all are excellent with the possible caveat that the vegetarian recipes, for my taste, could use a bit more seasoning with herbs and spices.
By the way, Jim came home from his bamboo school and reported that ALL the meals were vegetarian, and were delicious. This is high praise coming from Jim, and was I happy to hear it! I don't think I want to be a total vegetarian, but we find ourselves eating less and less and less meat and not minding. As you'll see in his presentation, Bittman lumps cheese in with the no-no's. I can't quite see myself giving up cheese: our major sin is Tillamook Sharp Cheddar which we get at (gulp) Costco. If I remember correctly, cheddar is REALLY bad for you. The other cheeses which I like a lot and Jim is a little less ecstatic about are the Mexican cheeses we buy at our Mercado de Sabado, or Saturday market, which are locally produced at a dairy free of hormones and antibiotics and such. I also love the yoghurt from the same vendor. It REALLY tastes tangy!
Anyway we eat awfully well here. If not always organic, our produce is always fresh and available just a few blocks from our house if we're lazy or in small fruit and vegetable stores or stands or the Coatepec market or the mercado de sabado where it is organic. And I have my own abundance of fresh herbs, often greens, now some Italian plum tomatoes started with seeds from the North End of Boston, and hopefully, soon we'll have beans and peas. This is organic. And of course there is the fresh trout.
This is mango season again, and the mangoes are once again hanging on their long stalks like Christmas ornaments from their fat, round trees.
So watch the Bittman presentation and get excited: preparing good, fresh stuff is fun and it tastes wonderful.
beef, Bitten, Bittman, cattle, grass-fed cattle, How to Cook Everything, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, industrial animal production, mangoes, organic food, The Best Recipes in the World, Tillamook, trout
Within the past week Edward Luttwak wrote a really weird op-ed piece in the NY Times (which should never have published it -- never, never) mournfully and completely incorrectly asserting that Obama was an apostate meaning someone who betrayed his original faith, Islam. Luttwak says this means that the Muslim world would NOT welcome Obama as president.
Several writers have shredded this assertion completely and effectively. Obama is not, by Islamic law an apostate. None I think has done it better than Juan Cole, a distinguished professor at the University of Michigan with particular expertise in the Middle East. You can read his response here.
One of the interesting points he makes is that neither his religion nor his sex have much to do with whom Middle Easterners favor: Pakistan favors Clinton, apparently.
If you have friends who still manage to believe that Barak is somehow a Muslim or ex-Muslim, show them this Juan Cole post.
In his blog today, James Fallows of The Atlantic Monthly provided a link to a supplement with background information on Burma. The supplement was written in 1958, but Mr. Fallows says much of it is still relevant. It is definitely interesting, and given the context of the tragedy engulfing the country today, particularly poignant.