Sunday, August 21, 2011

John Lennon and I met on a park bench in Cuba

The Day I Met John Lennon

In July, 2007, 130 of us, mostly nortamericanos, loaded 100 tons of humanitarian aid onto a freighter in Tampico, Mexico bound for Cuba. Then, defying the US imposed embargo, we boarded an Ilyushin 62 Russian-built jet, operated by Cubana Airlines, and made a quick flight across the Gulf of Mexico to Havana where we spent nine days exploring the Cuban psyche and culture. The freighter would unload the aid later at the Martin Luther King Center in Havana and the aid we had collected would be distributed to those most in need. After a three-day visit to the Sancti Spiritu Province, I was in Havana strolling through a public park in the El Vedado section when I came upon this bronze statue of John Lennon. I was a little taken aback because I had remembered that the Beatles were persona non grata, at one time, in Fidel's revolutionary Cuba. A friend took this picture of me pretending to be in conversation with Lennon and we moved on.

I didn't think any more about it until I looked at my pictures when I got back home. I was right about Fidel and the Beatles. In the early days of the Revolution, he had declared the Beatles to be symbols of Western decadence and had forbidden their music to be played in Cuba. Years later, he came to see John Lennon as a true revolutionary and so identified with him that in 2000, he dedicated this statue.

I decided to return to El Vedado in my mind and imagine what a conversation might have been like, if, in fact, he were alive and the two of us could have shared a few moments on that park bench.

For one thing, I would have asked him to say more about his song, Imagine. I would also have asked what he thought of Fidel dedicating his statue and claiming a visionary kinship with him.

I suspect he might have been a little uncomfortable claiming kinship with the belligerent and, at the least, one-time violent leader of the Revolucion. Maybe, I'm wrong but it would have been interesting to hear his response. Fidel is on record as regretting his persecution of gays and lesbians. That's something. And he credits Imagine with impacting his life. I would like to have a heart-to-heart talk with Fidel about that but I think I there's about as much chance of that happening as getting a response from a bronze statue.

Speaking of a response from Lennon, since it really did stretch even my imagination to have him sing, I found this rendition on YouTube and downloaded it for your reflection.

I resonate with the idea of Living for today. Somewhere in the Book of Proverbs there is the phrase, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” In our efforts to envision a future of a peaceable kingdom, it is so easy to put it all in the future. Living for today, pulls us back to the idea that we can begin living the vision in the here and now. Peter Drucker once wrote that the best way to predict the future is to create it.

John Lennon opens the dreaming to everyone who chooses to walk the path and share the work and wonder of a better world. One of the compelling reasons I chose to join with Pastors for Peace in their efforts to lift the economic blockade of Cuba is that I resent efforts by both governments to keep their respective citizens apart. I am committed to doing whatever is within my resources to make friends beyond borders.

I enjoyed my visit with John Lennon. I hope you will do the same.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Narrow Width
Posted By Yoani Sánchez On 9 Agosto 2011 @ 19:54 In Generation Y | 45 Comments

Image taken from Diana Nyad's Internet site:

I felt a shock on learning that Diana Nyad would make an attempt to swim across the Florida Straits. I recalled the days in 1994, when my neighborhood of San Leopoldo was swarming with people building improvised rafts on which to launch themselves into the sea. I especially remember one group that left, during that period in which the Cuban authorities stopped preventing illegal departures. A craft armed with pieces of wood, plastic tanks serving as floats, the image of the Virgin of Charity, and a patched flag that no longer knew to which nation it belonged. But the most striking thing turned out to be that on that flimsy raft were only the elderly. There was a very black lady with a colorful straw hat, a flowered dress and a smile, thanking in both Spanish and English the boys who helped her to set sail. I never knew if that rickety expedition made it to its destination, if all those seniors disposed to start again got the opportunity.
Seventeen years later, I hear the news that an American wants to try the same route, but this time protected by divers, a pair of kayaks and even a medical team. Her laudable intention was to highlight the closeness between the Island and its neighbor to the north, to help reconcile both shores. But the Straits of Florida is also part of our national cemetery, the graveyard where lie thousands of our compatriots. The omission by the athlete of such an important characteristic did not appeal to me. Nor the fact that with her nautical feat she would highlight the twentieth anniversary of a most exclusive club, the Hemingway Marina, where a Cuban, even today, cannot board a vessel and may not enter — on his own — such a beautiful landing. I would have preferred that the Gulf currents would be swum by someone who knew the pain sheltered in these waters and who would dedicate their gesture to the “unknown rafter” who died in the mouth of so many possible sharks.
When I learned, on Tuesday, that after a 29-hour effort the swimmer was unable to achieve her objective, my superstitions were confirmed. There are certain spaces, I thought, that need more than strokes or sports records to seem less sad. State television said succinctly that “insurmountable obstacles had emerged, among them winds of more than 12 miles per hour.” I can imagine Diana fighting against the waves, the sun gaining strength overheard, the intensely salty sea flowing into her mouth. I am going to go further and fantasize about the inexplicable detail of a straw hat, the colorful sombrero of woman who passed close to her, making her think herself delirious in the middle of the Florida Straits.

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