First-person memoir of Mark Plimsoll's
on a philanthropic mission to Cuba.
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An American 'Christian' philanthropic
movement in yellow rental trucks fingers Mr. Plimsoll as a CIA operative!
These philanthropists hope to deliver used computers as 'high technology'
to Cuba, and help end the trade embargo, sanctions, and rumors about Cuba's
Human Rights violations. What these philanthropists don't know, is that
many have paid over $1,000 to a leadership with a secret agenda- to embarrass
the U.S. government into acceding to their 'demands.'
If you are NOT comfortable with us, U.S., using
Cuba's Guatanamo peninsula as our "jail beyond jurisdicction," then you
qualify as a sentient being.
The United States does not educate citizens
in Human Rights. They think Human Rights means "Don't kill journalists or
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO.
If the United States represents Capitalism as
the jungle where competition rules, then Cuba is Communism as a human zoo.
Where would you rather walk around alone at
night? Where do you get better health care, social security, and a guaranteed
job with a living wage (all Human Rights as defined by the 1949 Declaration
of Human Rights)?
In this intercourse-drenched first-person account of Mark Plimsoll's
BILINGUAL participation on the tour, he describes
the group's confrontations with police, little old ladies, the FBI, professional
protesters, altruists, and U.S. Customs agents-
and in Cuba,
the sexual magnetism between
people with money, and people without.
Excerpt from Mark Plimsoll's
Fidel's White Voodoo Dove
Richard says "Tell me about your religion."
Wendy stares for a moment, shakes her forest of
wavelets back to reveal her gypsy hoop earings, and begins. "There are seven
African Powers, las siete potencias Africanas. Oshun, Yemayá, Elegguá, Changó,
Oggún, Obatalá, and Orúnla. Obatá the God of air creates the sky, and fresh
air blows away problems, negative energy, bad emotions, and other harmful
spirits. Orishas Aganyú and Changó exist in fire, to burn away impurities
and transform the spirit, to build character the same way fire tempers steel.
Yemayá lives in sea water, the mother of all life. Oshún controls water to
wash away evil energy and vulgarity of dirt and filth, to cleanse both body
and soul. She came from Africa with her people, and in Cuba, she straightened
her hair and her skin became lighter, like polished copper."
"And like voodoo, they can curse people, to hurt
people, to make them get sick and die?"
"No. Santaría cures people, and heals their spirit.
Only the secret societies of ñañigos practice Brujería. Societies that call
themselves Palo, like Palo Monte, Palo Mayombe, and Abakuá, and Reglas de
Congo, they kidnap and eat people, like the Cucúi, the monster that parents
use to frighten children into behaving. Only men join these societies. They
won the war with Batista for Fidel Castro. They stopped the United States
from defending Batista, stopped the planes and the navy and the armies."
"Why do you believe that?"
"The white dove of the orishas blessed Fidel.
The people of Cuba gave many offerings, called Ebbós, so that the orishas
would help Fidel Castro defeat Batista and liberate Cuba. When the guerrillas
came to the city, they wore the colors of Elegguá, the trickster and Holy
Warrior, with their red and black flags. Red and black, the colors of the
26th of July movement. We know the Orishas support Fidel because on January
eighth, when Fidel Castro gave his first national speech, a white dove landed
on his shoulder. The white dove comes as Obatalé, like he came when Changó
fought with his brother Oggún. It was an act of Providence."
"Even so, a white dove, what does that prove?
It might be a butterfly, would that mean the same thing?"
"For hundreds of years, the Cuban people served
as slaves, and when the powerful became too cruel, the masters would find
a headless white dove in front of their door as a warning."
"How do you know all this? They teach you t hat
in Cuban schools?"
"Sometimes, but I am a priestess of Santería.
I practice the bembe. In bembe, an orisha comes to mount me, and through me,
finds a voice to speak to the people, to tell the future, to see things far
away, and show hidden things to give power, or do anything a person can do.
Sometimes they get very angry, and say things I could never say. But I don't
know what an orisha says when mounted, like a horse does not know what the
rider wants, but must go where pointed. The people tell me later, the things
the orisha said and did, and even if they don't like it, they never blame
me. They know the words do not belong to me, but to the orisha who mounts
me. Sometimes I become egungun, possessed by the spirit of a dead person.
When people saw this happen to me, they say that one day, I might become an
Ilayosha, a priestess who can help people become olosha, santeros and santeras,
priests or priestesses. Chango mounts me most often, the god of lightning,
fire, and thunder, or sometimes Obba, his wife, but she's always very mad
at him, so I say very bad things."
Richard thinks about that for a while, then asks
"Where are you from?"
She smiles. "I come from Santiago." Her sore,
rasping throat makes her voice sound sexy. "You have been there? No? Well
eet eez a very beautiful place. I work there, and have my family. That is
said correct, yes? I work in a show there, as a singer and a dancer, but now
I take some time off, to come to Havana. You hear, I have a so-ar in my throat,
eez how you say it? So-ar in my throat, no?"
Richard helps her out, thinking of the pun for
a singer. "Soar throat. I have a soar throat. Probably from a cold." One of
the symptoms of syphilis, Richard recalls.
"Yes, probably from a cold. So I come here to
get some rest."
"Not a very restful place, is it?"
"I don't worry. My throat wheel get better."
"What is it you want to do in five years?"
"What?" she looks at him shocked, as if he asked
"It's a common question in the States, to decide
what you should be doing with your life. What do you want to do in five years,
and how can you reach that place?"
"I am a performer. I want to sing and dance, and
work as an artist. But there is no money in Cuba. The Government allows only
a few people to work as artists. Even then, you spend your days in the shows
inside the hotels, for very little money."
"So where do you want to go?"
Chapter 7: Santería Watches Over You
This evening, our Government Chaperones bus us
to a local CDR, a Committee for the Defense of the Revolution. The way they
explain these street-level autonomous units of government, they sound like
a Neighborhood Watch groups, full of concerned citizens that will write down
the license plate numbers of suspicious activity, like your house guests from
out of the neighborhood.
I expect something military.
Once inside the empty one-room house, they call
our attention to the 'task list,' a large poster displayed on one side of
the small stage. Crudely hand-lettered, yet very legible Spanish, under the
title of "Community Organization for the Defense of the Revolution," the poster
listed the tasks that one could do for the neighborhood, such as clean the
streets, help older citizens, go on a work detail, organize the communal properties,
etc. Each task earns a standard number of points. Each month the person with
the most points earns a special prize, either "metal" which means something
metallic (money), or a trip to the beach.
It struck me that the same go-getter might win
every time, and rob the incentive for others to try harder.
More Cubans come in. The meeting starts, the excited
crowd of Cubans and Caravanistas settle down in folding chairs.
With another sentence by sentence translation,
a ten year old boy tells us the story of how he cut his fingers with his machete
while on a work assignment, cleaning the tombs of the Revolution's war heroes.
This touching story serves to dramatize Cuba's free medical system.
Ellen compliments him on his "poise and leadership,"
and in her English translation, I hear 'Poison leadership.'
Our leaders coax us outside to witness a Folk
Dance. The drummers pound oversize congas, and out of the crowd bolts a young
barefoot boy, dressed in red long sleeve shirt and tight red calf-length pants,
a red kerchief tied across his hair, low on his forehead. He scowls, smokes
a cigar, and somersaults randomly across the open area in the middle of the
crowd, then stands arms akimbo, motionless, staring to intimidate someone,
then suddenly rolls away to repeat the insolence in front of someone else.
A torrential downpour forces everyone back into
the meeting hall. The Cubans let us work our way to the front near a small
open area in the center of the room. I walk along the back of a small, dark
stage where a pile of drums of various sized lay among the cushioned embrace
of some blankets. The drummers and singers wear normal street clothes, difficult
to know who is who. One of the female vocalists motions me over to a seat
on the front edge of the stage. Young and black, she takes her place among
the other black faces in the choir and smiles along. The five drummers take
the stage in front of the seven vocalists, and the show starts over.
The cigar-chomping red boy rolls around the floor,
and with theatrical rudeness, forces his way between and even under the folding
chairs of audience members, to much laughter from the crowd. The music swells
with vocal chants, as drum rhythms change to accentuate the boy's strange
impudent mood. He yells "Cak cak cak cak cak," like a jungle bird, from under
a chair, behind someone, or nose to nose with a befuddled Caravanista.
After about fifteen minutes of shenanigans, a
very pretty young woman sways out in a full white dress with colorful floral
midriff. Another pretty mulatta ties a matching floral cloth around this dancer's
hair. She dances, swirls and swirls, stops to stare impudently, arms akimbo,
and launches a derisive laugh at the vocalists on stage, then stares over
the heads of the crowd, as if watching some spiritual suitor begging for her
approval from a perch in the rafters above us.
The drumming and music changed, the complex and
well-practiced pace kept us attentive, whether we knew why or not. No one
appeared bored, more mystified, apprehensive, on edge. The final dancer, a
young man dressed in white, goes through the motions of planting a field.
His sedate performance carried none of the derisive intimidation of the boy
and the young woman.
After the folk dance, our leader Ellen gave a
speech of gratitude, translated sentence by sentence into Spanish, so that
she could speak for us Gringos in our native tongue. She looked like a Saint
onstage, her frank and honest expression framed by that tremendous mane of
brown hair, her sincere eyes dart about the audience from behind the twin
portholes of her glasses while both her hands move in perfect symmetrical
harmony. They bounce off her chest, the "house of my heart," as she implores
with every expression of her beautiful earnest face and expressive hands,
her "fervent hope that the equanimity and good will of the Cuban society be
carried back to the United States to perfect our society as well."
She all but cries with sincerity, as if the profundity
of her affection for her adopted Cuban people plummets far below mere altruism,
to the very depths of her most ancient soul. I wonder if she feels some genetic
imperative toward a Cuban male.
I talk to the musicians while they pack up their
drums. I try to pick out the leader, a tall slender black man whose face triangulates
into the protrusion of giant lips. With a demeanor serious as cancer, he looks
like a Caribbean gangster.
I approach him as a fellow musician, and hope
for the best.
After he packs most of the drums, he explains
the symbols behind the three dancers. It doesn't ring true to my observations,
but then he belongs to these beliefs, and whatever their origins, their meaning
must now come from the practitioners. Unfortunately, the veracity of historic
symbols suffers in the popular consciousness. Considers that Easter now symbolizes
the resurrection of Christ, and no longer represents an ancient Druidic fertility
rite, even with such potent symbols as eggs and rabbits.
They practice their drumming, their religion,
everyday from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM.
That explains their excellence with such complex
rhythm changes, the vocal stylings, and the practiced dancers. I wonder how
many different songs, or song-cycles, they know, and how many hours worth
comprise this one small group's repertoire.
Then everyone goes outside for a street dance.
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This book represents
the author's memories and opinions regarding events, persons and personalities,
situations, actions, and motivations. As a work of Creative Nonfiction, the
author sometimes uses the real names or nicknames of some people, and at other
times, invents or fictionalizes characters to create Art in an elegant, poetic
literature that conveys the human condition of the times we lived in.
If anyone believes that this work embarrasses, or causes undue concern or
damage to any parties, the author expresses regret that anyone should take
these inventions so seriously, and reiterates that the opinions contained
herein serve a higher purpose than petty politics, international or interpersonal.
This is a work of opinion; the author exercises the universal and world-wide
Human Right to self-expression as outlined in the 1948 Declaration of Human
Rights, and in the United States, enjoys protection under the First Amendment.