November-December 2014 … The Global Online Magazine of Arts, Information & Entertainment … Volume 10, Number 6
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Politics

Quizas

(Perhaps)

By James Palombo, Politics Editor


It was less than a two-week visit. One could argue that this was hardly enough time. And I was mainly in one city, more to argue in that there was so much more to see. Yet, I’ve been around the world, Europe, the Middle and Far East, Central and South America, but nothing has affected me quite like this. A truly profound experience you might say.

Havana

Photos by Jim Palombo

It’s not a large island, but it’s a country with a storied past. Its beauty and riches are well documented by explorers and visitors throughout its captivating history. Its dangers have been equally chronicled via the days of pirates, mobsters and revolutionaries. It’s a place of contrasts and contradictions, with its people having all of this compressed into their souls.

I was awed by the mysterious influences of time and place on the people. I noticed this almost as soon as I arrived, especially with simultaneous and contradictory feelings being elicited; inspiration-deflation, caring-non-caring, right-wrong, beauty-beast, ahead-behind, all of these overwhelming my senses. It was like being in the space between the right thing to do and the right thing to think, between preach and practice, or social man and economic man – a gap where a God and even sin might find value. Again, it was a quick yet powerful sensation. In fact, I notice the feelings again in recall, with the notion of “tearing a smile” coming to mind. Perhaps in some unexpected, existential way, I stumbled upon a piece of myself or mankind in coming to this place.

But I couldn’t get lost in all of this, not on this particular visit.  I had my sights set on a particular purpose. I was hoping to find out if what I thought about the place in terms of its ideological underpinnings would lend itself to further exploration. In other words, I knew of the politically difficult situation there, and I also heard of the socially romantic character. I was hoping to find that perhaps the twain might meet.

And it did; there was a convergence of what I hoped to see and feel with what actually transpired. I quickly felt that my purpose had some real ground, it was not just fanciful thinking. In fact, I was reminded to some extent of my own country, one also filled with contrasts and contradictions, buoyed by revolutionary spirit, a place where the entirety of its experiment seems to have somehow been lost in translation.  My purpose involved wanting to know more about the similarities of our countries, and if the similarities could overcome our differences, could in fact be fuel for a better understanding. I am more certain now that perhaps they can.

Let me say more about this, about the elements surrounding my purpose. On initial examination, it was fair to reason that we were two countries laboring in the midst of our revolutionary beginnings, especially in the context of the post WWII world. In terms of the spirits of those revolutions, one has been couched within the frame of democracy, the other in communism. And by principle, neither of these frames ever seemed so at odds with the other. Both revolutions have also been enormously affected by the nature of capitalism, almost in the sense of being two sides to the capitalist coin. With one revolution, historical variables seem to have been on its side – there has been substantial political, economic and military growth, progress. This is while the other has struggled to maintain its identity, some argue as an effect of the other revolution’s success. In any event, as we speak, both sets of revolutionary principles seem distorted by the nature of market influences — it’s now hard to recognize the true intent of either revolutionary experiment.  So we actually appear to share a great deal. My purpose was to sense the actuality of this, and again, I’m hopeful that this “similarity” can actually bring us together, each of us learning from the other relative to what has transpired in the modern world. Perhaps it’s finally the time when this can happen.

With this in mind, I would like to present a review of “the model” that I was considering prior to my trip. I actually took the idea around to community related agencies in the city I was visiting to ascertain what interest might be generated.  Despite the often offered caveat about discussing politically focused endeavors in the country, I met with success. The “initial project” idea developed as discussions unfolded and it seems a perfect fit in terms of developing future projects.

In the reading of both, I expect you’ll get a better sense of what is being considered, and what I’m hoping to develop as I now speak with those in our own country. It could be – perhaps – that something of value may be in the offing.

The Model

During my initial trip, I intend to build on contacts in the academic/art/civic/governmental communities, garnering an interest in the idea of developing a dialogue, and then returning in the near future, hopefully with a project in hand. In this context, I would like to develop an interest in what can be termed an ideological-educational model from which any number of projects can grow. In short, my professional and personal experiences (documented in my last book, “Criminal to Critic-Reflections Amid The American Experiment,” Rowman and Littlefield Publishers) tell me that we share some mutually important concerns pointed at our political, economic and social structures. This “mutuality” can be framed in the imagery of a large circular intersection, with a center from which several directions can be taken. In this center lay, among others things, the concerns of capitalism, socialism, communism, and democracy. No doubt, these concerns – and all their implications — have prompted a great deal of separation/conflict between the two countries over the past half century. Yet both countries must now legitimately and openly address these concerns in terms of proceeding in directions that can speak to better futures. Therefore, it is at this “crossroads” where projects might be best developed. This is underscored by the belief that in sharing information while we are both there, we will not only help address and repair our separation/differences, but, in taking the best informed directions, we can also move toward bettering our respective countries.

With these ideas at the model’s center, what is developed via dialogue and the sharing of literature, or art, or research, etc., can be expressive of/serve these educational ends. Although small in nature this type model, in the course of its development, will legitimately and clearly speak to the long-term interests of both our countries.

An Initial Project

I have completed my stay, and in terms of discussing the above “model”, it was clear that the ideas represent ones of interest. In this sense the following is proposed relative to actually initiating a “grass-roots” oriented bridge between our countries.

Bike race in Havana

Forming a “work group” developed from the organizations I have contacted (importantly, organizations which have a link to both the government and the University) and from similar organizations that can be involved from my country, we can together develop a “symposium on dialogue.” At this juncture, here is a general idea on what this would be. With students from both countries involved from the beginning/developmental stages, we could bring together individuals from academia, politics, community work, arts, media, entertainment, etc. to discuss the ideological issues that have been at the forefront of our mutual concerns. From this, attention can be garnered on the issues and the intent of continuing corresponding dialogue, perhaps a documentary or music developed, and certainly some shared research projects between students/universities could begin. This should not be seen in the context of necessarily resolving all our differences, but more as an open dialogue to facilitate better future relationships. In short, and as those I talked with seem to agree, it’s about time this happens.

There are certainly both procedural and substantive issues that will need to be tended to, and funding will be an issue as well. But given the issues (and their immediacy), and that we have universities and organizations poised to help, and that this will not require a burdensome sum of money to organize (especially given the potential rewards), I would strongly urge that the discussions and contacts already initiated be utilized to their fullest extent. In this sense, I am hoping to further integrate those who can help move the ideas/interest/energy forward. Again, what is being proposed is based on the value of education — the sharing of ideas and thoughts with the next generations in mind. As both an educator and a participant with issues that relate to bettering international understanding, I’m confident that this is a viable and timely way to proceed.

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So I imagine you have the picture. One might scratch his head thinking that this seems so obvious a course of action, that this type bridge must already have been built. But this is not the case. And you can well imagine the worn-out, archaic reasons for this may be the same ones used to deflate the spirit from this initiative – the same spirit interestingly tied to both our country’s beginnings. Of course, we shall see.

There is certainly more I could say about my visit – especially about the people, their problems, the daily goings on and the country itself. Perhaps I can get to all of this another time, perhaps after my next visit.  For now, I will only add this last piece of information. On my return flight, I was seated next to a woman from South Korea. She was fluent in English which allowed us the opportunity to chat about our experiences on the island. (This “spread” of our language certainly speaks to our post WWII expansion. It also speaks a bit to both our luck and our arrogance in terms of having other people speak in our native tongue.) She was a school teacher and she along with husband and two children (seated across from us) had been on holiday discovering and photographing the island. When it was my turn to explain my visit, I did so in the context of what you’ve read above. She seemed to take in the ideas I was expressing with a great deal of interest, and complimented me on what she perceived as some form of bravery. Shortly thereafter, and much to my surprise, she asked if she could have the piece of paper I was jotting some notes on. I gave it to her and she returned it with a sentence written on it. I found her consideration in wanting to write something surprising, and I remain inspired by the words she wrote. In closing, I thought I would pass them along to you.

“I hope you are healthy and happy and that you and your friends help light the world’s darkness.”

A rather profound way to end a profound trip – it seems the ideas must continue to be discussed. And perhaps some light will indeed follow … quizas.

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A Life in Cuba


As with circumstances in the U.S., there are many legal and extra-legal claims referencing injustices in Cuba. At the same time, and again similar to the U.S.’s revolutionary history, the Cuban experiment represents a great struggle to achieve objectives truly believed in and admired by many in the world. Herbert Zulu’s ink-penned poetry and design seem swirled somewhere in the mix of these conditions, perhaps making the black and white of his work appropriate. Zulu continues his life in Havana, struggling to make something out of his art and life. He wrote the following poems in English.


The Voyeur

The voyeur cracking his teeth

and all that you know what I mean

I am about to swear

he thinks of a frying pan the light is

to toast the woman’s titts for dinner

and that’s not neither fair nor right.


The Drummer

First one step, then another, then

the drummer runs away from the picture

of himself in the middle of a destructive night.

catching this image as it came from my memory,

Now, an image of downton in an old city?

The drummer is unreal and so the place where my imagination sees

these things. Ink and words even at midnight

make a seeming of a man, the imbecile, composing

a Southern breeze when rhythm cannot free it from desires.

First one step, then another , then

I reduce the player to my self, slow and naked,

and, acquiring each other’s thought, we are one.

My Niece Jennifer

Little by little my niece Jennifer hugs herself.

She does it hard and closes any entrance when being mad

at the shod feet passing by her side with its deafness

and too many words utters on behalf of silence.

Then she plays anger and she plays an ancient blues

that once we sang it never let us live.

All I need to do to feed her with a taseful ripe fruit pie or

can we talk it through right now or can I

help you hug yourself as a consolation?

She then tells me she gets made at what she sees.

No one has leter know how much we treasure her

how lovable and huggable she is

even when she hugs herself with down-headed anger

And I just look her in her eyes

so that she sees these words on mine

visualizing them neatly way out of her uncle’s tongue.



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