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Rebeca Monzó, twitterer: “Through the needle’s eye”

Rebeca Monzó, twitterer: "Through the needle's eye"

November 21, 2012

Alfredo Fernandez

HAVANA TIMES – Rebecca Monzo's , "Through the needle's eye", at the

"Voces Cubanas" (Cuban Voices) portal, represents an exquisite example

of what some are already calling Feminine Cyber-culture.

Every week at Rebeca Monzó offers us

her opinion of the most important events of the country, of her life and

of the lives of those around her, as well as a delightful glimpse of the

concerns of a woman of refined tastes for haute couture, cooking and the


Those who follow the blogs and twitter like to compare them to a

casserole dish: left without a lid, the becomes tasteless. As it

turns out, Twitter is the perfect lid to lock in the flavor of each post.

Each Tweet of 140 characters, or around two sentences, can be posted on

the Web 2.0 in a few seconds, allowing the writer to give the news, make

an announcement and sometimes pronounce an opinion.

Rebeca Monzó is perhaps one of the people who makes the best use of

Twitter in Cuba, with some memorable Tweets to her credit, like that

which won the Twitter Free Expression contest in the category of women's

liberation. Her tweet at @lamonzona: "Women's liberation is a

mathematical operation in which our difficulties were multiplied, our

salaries were subtracted and our families were divided".

Or this other one that was entered in a contest on the #CubaEs platform

where she tweeted: "Cuba Is: a true ecological disaster not due to the

currents of "El niño" nor those of "La niña" but to the lashings of the

old man.

One recent November day, Rebeca received me in her house in the Nuevo

Vedado neighborhood. At the beginning of our conversation, she

recognized that she tried to reflect her barrio in her blog in the same

way that the writer Leonel Padura had portrayed his Mantilla

neighborhood. "Nuevo Vedado is a barrio that I knew at its time of

greatest splendor, but that today is living perhaps its worst moments,"

she told me.

HT: Rebeca, you've told me that your life has followed a winding path.

You graduated in ; you were in the diplomatic corps in Paris in

the sixties; you were a peddler in Madrid, and later a teacher of

pottery and ceramics in that city; a worker with UNESCO until the

eighties; a craftsperson and member of the ACAA (Cuban Association for

Artist and Craftspeople) through the present; a journalism student at

the "Ñico Lopez" party in the sixties, later abandoning that

career because – according to your own words – "there is no journalism

in Cuba"; a radio announcer at the beginning of the nineties and now a

and Twitter user.

So my first question is: How difficult has it been to be a woman who is

true to herself in Cuba?

Rebeca Monzó: It's been very difficult, since in Cuba jail time is often

the payment for sincerity. That is, here we are used to being sincere at

home, with friends, in very close circles, but almost never in public.

Sometimes, when it's impossible for me to be fully honest, I just try

not to lie: simply put I don't tell the whole truth. That's when I use

irony, which in reality isn't the whole truth, but isn't a lie either,

and I believe that that's what's important.

As you mentioned, I studied journalism, abandoning the field with only

six months left until graduation. In addition to the fact that I had to

leave for Paris to work in the Cuban embassy, I had suffered a great

disillusion when I discovered that the profession doesn't exist here.

Over time I learned that whenever a sticky topic was involved, one first

informed the superior authorities, then asked if the topic was approved,

meaning whether its publication was authorized or not.

Often the issue was approved when it was no longer news. A person who

works this way could be called anything except a . We won't be

able to speak of real journalism until the reporters in Cuba are free to

write about any topic they desire.

HT: While you were taking a computer class at a Youth Club, four years

ago, you couldn't keep silent when your teacher stated very

enthusiastically to the class: "Now we can speak out in Cuba, because

Raul has authorized us to do so.". To which you responded before a

stupefied classroom: "Raul isn't the one who can authorize us to speak,

that's a human right that people are born with; and from the age of one

and a half when I learned to do so, I've never stopped."

In your understanding, what is missing in Cuban society to end this

lobotomizing that we Cubans have been the victims of for so long?

Rebeca Monzó: The first thing is to let go of the fear: that induced

fear of which we've been victims. I've been losing it little by little,

above all as I have become more familiar with my rights. For example,

during the elections I know of many people who didn't want to

participate in that farce, but nevertheless they go and they vote.

They behave this way because they think that something very bad will

happen to them if they don't. They aren't aware that in our Constitution

voting is listed as a right and not as a duty. No one can do anything to

them if they don't go to the polls. But their fear is so strong that

even if they want to put in a null vote they don't dare to do so,

because they're afraid that there are hidden cameras, or that the

ballots have been numbered in invisible ink. It's really pathetic.

HT: Rebeca, the "Special Period" signified for you, among many other

things, the division of your family, watching your children leave and

facing the fact that you would see them again on very few occasions,

barely knowing your grandchildren. Even so, you live a very active life,

always creating and above all learning, to the point that it's difficult

to read more original Tweets than yours on the web.

Why this need of yours for Twitter when the only thing that it can bring

you are problems? Would it be because of that Tweet of yours on

@lamonzona hijo: my son, fearful of everything, I take refuge in Twitter?

Rebeca Monzó: Imagine, in the now far-off 1990, my house was a bee's

nest of youth. My boys and my niece would be studying with all their

friends, so that it was practically impossible for me to walk around the

place. I would get them snacks the best I could, many times inventing

them, and I would attend to their needs so they could study.

Then, suddenly, I was left with just my own soul. My children left, and

the house was left empty. That solitude was an experience that I had

never before lived. At that time I had a barred door installed on my

room so that if a thief entered, at least he couldn't get to me.

The result was that I ended up locked in that room several times because

I couldn't open the bars, and had to throw the keys to my neighbors

through the bathroom window so they could come to my rescue.

Later Fernando appeared in my life and the first thing I did was to get

rid of the barred door. It was like an exorcism for me when I did it,

since they had made me feel like a in my own house; as if it

weren't enough that life had separated me from my own, I was then

imprisoned within the four walls of my house.

As for your question about why I use Twitter, I could tell you that I

use it a lot to alert people to the mistreatment of the trees and the

animals, something that pains me greatly. Unfortunately, this has

proliferated in today's Cuba, for the reasons I've mentioned that we

have become a very violent society.

One anecdote I could share is how I prevented a Tamarind tree from being

cut down two blocks from here. I happened to be passing by and saw that

they were stripping the bark in a circle to kill the tree, the famous

"belt" technique, and I began to take pictures.

Then three ladies from the [Committee for the Defense of the

Revolution: neighborhood organization] arrived, all of them well on in

years. The sight of me with my camera in hand had attracted their

attention and they asked me why I was taking pictures, "When even the

man from Bohemia magazine who lives on the hill, is in agreement."

When I inquired further into the matter, they responded that they wanted

to do this because they were concerned that the roots of the tree could

affect the building's underground water tank. I told them that it would

be enough to cut the roots that went in that direction.

It turned out that the mentioned gentleman from Bohemia was the director

himself. I told them, that I was going to send the photo to the

newspaper Granma with an article attached explaining the events.

Although this never came out in the paper, something happened to stop

the killing of the tree. I won that round, I believe, thanks to technology.

HT: The myth exists among men that beautiful women are invariably dumb.

Rebeca, you were not only the toast of the Havana Carnival, but also a

muse of Korda. Your beauty was even admired by the top leaders of the


From your point of view, how much has the Cuban woman lost in these

fifty-four years of the Revolution, and what could she do to recuperate?

Rebeca Monzó: Many men make the mistake of believing that attractive

women are incapable of thought. A while ago I saw a photo on the

of the new president of Interpol; you can see that she was a

very beautiful woman in her youth.

As for the Cuban woman, I feel that what has most affected her is the

loss of all of those comforts that ease the job of housework: a space

where you can go when you're tired, to invent something to cook, in the

middle of a sea of wants and lacks that also extends out onto the street.

Cuban women have generally lost their taste for dressing well, for

elegance, for walking attractively, due to the lack of models and in

fact many have fallen into vulgarity.

I consider myself a strong woman, but I won't ever use profanity in

public nor am I accustomed to using it in the privacy of my own home. I

don't believe that the use of these words makes anyone a liberated woman.

To my way of thinking, these things will recuperate when the material

comforts are within the reach of everyone. The way of thinking of both

men and women reflects the way they live, although some would say the


An improvement in her material conditions would help the Cuban woman

feel capable of recuperating the space now occupied by want, fear and

spurious dependencies.

I am convinced that in the not so distant future not only the women but

all of Cuban society will become a great country where all of us live

together with firm values and respect for our neighbors, without the

need to emigrate in order to satisfy the most elemental needs.

HT: Rebeca, many thanks from HT for your words.

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