Dawn Pisturino's Blog

My Writing Journey

Reflections on My Visit to Cuba 2000

Havana Cuba

I did not know much about Cuba; in fact, I never really thought about it until I had an opportunity to go there as a U.S. Delegate in 2000. Prior to leaving, I did research into Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and the Cuban Revolution — fascinating stuff!

I did not know, for example, that Che Guevara was a medical doctor who suffered from severe asthmatic attacks. Fidel Castro came from a land-owning family and studied to be a lawyer. Cuba had been marked by political upheaval for about 75 years prior to the Cuban Revolution. The final insult came with the Batista dictatorship, which was fully supported by the U.S. government and U.S. companies, who owned large amounts of land, industries, and other resources in Cuba.

Poverty was widespread among Cuban workers. The Batista government tortured and murdered huge numbers of Cuban citizens. A wide gap existed between rich and poor. Political elections were rigged to favor Batista and his cohorts.

Fidel Castro was a charismatic young man who became a major critic of the Batista government. He led a successful military campaign, along with Che Guevara and other guerilla fighters, which ultimately forced Batista and his supporters to flee the country.

With the Agrarian Reform Act, agricultural tracts were seized and divided up among the peasants who had worked the land and suffered great deprivations at the hands of large companies and land owners.

In retaliation, the U.S. government imposed an immediate economic blockade against Cuba. The blockade has been successfully kept in place for decades at the behest of Cuban-Americans living in the U.S., right-wing conservatives, and companies such as the Bacardi Rum Company.

Over 4,000 people attended the 5-day conference, representing more than 115 countries around the world.

The first two days were devoted to speeches by government officials who explained the blockade, how it was hurting the Cuban economy, and what steps were being taken to adapt to the continued sanctions.

The next two days involved participation in various committees and listening to speeches by delegates.

One afternoon, we were encouraged to visit various medical and educational facilities. I chose to tour the Latin American School of Medical Sciences. In the evening, we were treated to cultural events and a neighborhood block party.

On the last day, we participated in an outdoor rally attended by Fidel Castro. Speeches by delegates and performances by Cuban artists were featured. That evening, we attended a five-hour speech given in person by Fidel Castro.

He explained how loans by the IMF and the World Bank impose harsh conditions on Third World countries,which gives power over these countries to larger, prosperous countries like the United States. He adamantly reinforced that Cuba and the Cuban people would not bow down to these conditions. They would prefer to remain poor and continue to fight the blockade rather than give up their independence to a foreign power. Although the speech was long and tedious, quoting lots of statistics, the information he gave was very valuable.

We were told we could not leave Cuba the next day, so some of us participated in various tours. Some people drove out to the countryside to visit the Che Guevara Memorial and to investigate the agricultural industry. Others chose to visit a cigar factory. I went with some others to Old Havana to explore the Museum of the Revolution and the Floridito Bar, where Ernest Hemingway used to hang out. We also saw the beautiful old Bacardi Rum building, which is now used for other purposes.

We were never restricted from going anywhere or talking to anyone. The only limitation was language, since most Havanans do not speak English, and most delegates did not speak Spanish.

It was fascinating to be part of such a multi-cultural experience. There were many people from Latin America and Africa. Many delegates came from India and Bangladesh. Six hundred Americans participated in the event. My group donated a large supply of antibiotics, antifungals, and medical journals. Quite a large number of Canadians were present, as well as a few people from Australia and Great Britain. One delegate from Israel spoke about the atrocities being committed by his country against Palestine. About ten Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon represented Palestine and received great rounds of applause. Other delegates came from Italy, Germany, Spain, Norway, Russia, China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Iran.

Delegates represented all adult ages and socioeconomic groups. There were laborers, students, ministers, teachers, doctors, nurses, and retired folks. Disabled people included a 91-year old gentleman, a blind man who brought his seeing-eye dog, a man bound to a wheelchair, and a young man who could only communicate through sign language.

We were all required to wear special badges and could not attend events without showing them. These badges also identified us to the general population as participants in the conference. People would stop us on the streets and thank us. Children would cheer us and clap their hands. We were always treated like VIPs.

Delegates visited the homes of local Cubans and were hosted for dinner and lodging. One American girl lived with a family for three days.

During the conference, delegates were provided with transistor radios and earphones which could be set to receive the English translation.

Transportation and lodging were provided by the Cuban government, but delegates were free to walk around Havana at any time of the day or night. Although there were scores of police, most of them only carried a night stick. They did not hassle delegates. Their main function was to provide security and control the flow of traffic.

 My delegation stayed at the beautifully-restored Copacabana Hotel, which was a famous luxury hotel and yacht club prior to the Cuban Revolution. It was also one of the hotels controlled by the Sicilian Mafia, which was kicked out of Cuba by Fidel Castro after the Revolution.

Local Cubans were very open about their poverty and devotion to Fidel Castro. In their minds, the Cuban Revolution is on-going. They are very proud of what they have accomplished under difficult conditions. They reiterated over and over again that they would defend Cuba to the death.

There was a great deal of hatred expressed among delegates and by Cubans themselves toward the U.S. government, and the presidential election of 2000 became a hot topic when the possibility of election fraud came up. We watched the news coverage daily on CNN.

The Cubans have created a very stable society based on solidarity and mutual cooperation. The basic unit is the family. Families are assigned to neighborhoods. Neighborhoods are assigned to a district. Each district boasts a health clinic, schools, senior center, and police force. A committee elected by the people oversees the district. Committee members ensure that children are vaccinated, seniors are cared for, and families receive adequate housing and food.

Food is rationed, with pregnant and nursing women, children, and senior citizens required to receive an adequate amount of calories everyday. There is a ratio of one doctor to 170 residents. In the schools, classroom size is limited to 10-20 students.

Education and healthcare are free. 85% of Cubans own their own home, and there is no property tax. Rents are kept very low. The prices on basic commodities are kept at 1960s prices. The average wages are ten to thirty American dollars per month, and there is no income tax.

Travel is limited by a shortage of oil and gasoline. Tourists from Canada and Germany are commonplace.

November 20, 2000

Dawn Pisturino, RN

Copyright 2000-2015 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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I WENT TO CUBA

copacabana Copacabana Hotel, Havana, Cuba

In 2000, I went to Havana, Cuba with a group of activists seeking to end the U.S. embargo. This is the letter I wrote to the State Department, U.S. Senators, and several newspapers after my return to the U.S.:

“In a global economy, the U.S. sanctions against Cuba make no sense. They were imposed 41 years ago in defiance of the Cuban Revolution, which toppled the U.S.-supported Batista dictatorship and robbed American companies of great tracts of land and other valuable resources.

“The fear of a Soviet influence so close to home made it reasonable to impose such sanctions; but that threat no longer exists. The United States can no longer justify these radical measures.

“For four decades, the Cuban population has struggled with severe poverty and the great weight of bringing an idealistic social experiment to fruition.

“While the spirit of the Cuban Revolution continues to motivate and inspire the general population, the Cuban government has been forced to adapt the economy to the conditions imposed by the U.S. sanctions. According to Carlos Lage, vice-president of the Council of State, there is a new movement toward opening Cuba’s borders to tourism and commercial exchange. This year alone, 1.8 million tourists (including 100,000 U.S. citizens) are expected to visit, and this number is expected to rise by 19 percent annually.

“Cuba is now accepting foreign investments, with restrictions; entering into joint ventures with private companies; and contracting with private foreign companies to manage state-owned enterprises.

“Representatives of the Cuban government freely admit that the country lacks the knowledge and technology necessary to create profitable enterprises. Over the last few years, they have accepted $4.5 billion in foreign investments of capital, technology, and marketing expertise.

“While publicly upholding the ideals of socialism, the Cubans are gradually leaning toward the realities of capitalism. They prefer to use their own resources, if possible, and privatization at this time has been condemned. But they are realizing the need to market their products in a global economy.

“The current trend is to create associations (Rum Association, Tobacco Association, Nickel Association, etc.) with foreign companies that agree to market the designated product in exchange for cash or social services (doctors, teachers, etc.)

“Tourism is now being touted as the No.1 revenue-producing enterprise in the country so there is much new construction and restoration taking place. The government has mandated a dual economy that freely accepts and circulates both American dollars and Cuban pesos.

“The Cuban government openly acknowledges that inequalities exist and that complete equality between people is not possible. To pacify the anxiety of the Cuban people, prices on basic commodities are deliberately kept low and wages are being raised, especially in the revenue-producing sectors of the economy (such as tourism). There is no underlying feeling among the general population of widespread discontent; in fact, it is estimated that 80 percent of the population supports Fidel Castro as a leader and national hero.

“Fidel Castro is Cuba, and there is concern among the Cuban people that when Fidel Castro dies, Cuba, as they know it now, will also die.

“Ordinary Cubans do not understand why the U.S. government hates them and deprives them of necessary food and medicines. It is not surprising that the U.S. government is generally characterized as “an evil capitalist monster” that seeks to destroy the Cuban people.

“Like people everywhere, the Cuban people want to be recognized as a legitimate society within the global economy. They want to sell their products in the global marketplace and raise their standard of living. Therefore, the Cuban government is negotiating with other countries to create a Latin American-Caribbean Trading Bloc.

“The embargo has not stopped Cuba from procuring American brand-name products for resale to the general public. Familiar tobacco products such as Salem, Winston, and Marlboro cigarettes sit openly on vendor shelves. Coca-Cola and Sprite are sold freely in restaurants and stores. Kellogg’s cereals are proudly served in hotels and restaurants. Famous brand-name candies like Snickers and M&Ms are sold in shops. These products come into the country through private companies in Panama and Mexico.

“Even relatively new Dodge Caravans can occasionally be seen on the streets of Havana. Some of the corporations doing business in the United States that also have offices in Havana are DHL Worldwide Express and Benetton.

“The real losers in this political game are the American companies that are prevented by the U.S. government from negotiating lucrative contracts with the Cuban government for trade and commerce. Increased foreign investment into the country can only lead to widespread economic and social change.

“The recent vote in the United Nations (167-3) condemning the U.S. sanctions against Cuba prove that the U.S. government does not receive worldwide support.

“As a man from the United Kingdom expressed it, “It is America that is in the darkness . . . While Cuba is economically blockaded, America is morally blockaded and out of step with the rest of the world.”

Dawn Pisturino, RN

Member of U.S. Delegation to Cuba,

November 10-14, 2000

Copyright 2000-2015 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Published in the Kingman Daily Miner on December 1, 2000

Published in The Standard on November 29, 2000 

Published in New Unionist, January 2001 issue

Senators who responded to my letter:

Senator Jesse Helms and Senator Jon Kyl

Closing Thoughts: Other countries have been doing business with Cuba for decades. Obama’s push to ease sanctions may or may not benefit Cuba and the United States. As long as the Castro family remains in power, the possibility of democratization of Cuba seems remote.

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FDR’s Four Freedoms

The Four Freedoms

(click to enlarge)

January 6, 1941

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivers a speech which is now remembered as The Four Freedoms Speech. His goal? To involve the United States in World War II.

The Four Freedoms

1. Freedom of speech, which is protected by the First Amendment in the U.S. Constitution, has been a fundamental right of all American citizens since the thirteen colonies broke away from British domination and established a new country: the United States of America.

2. Freedom of worship, which is also protected by the First Amendment, found its precedent in our Puritan forefathers, who left Europe for the New World in search of religious tolerance and liberty of conscience.

3. Freedom from want, which is the most controversial component of his speech, proposes that economic opportunity, employment, social security, and adequate healthcare are fundamental human rights. Although these conditions are not guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, the battle over what constitutes a basic human right rages on, seventy-three years later. Roosevelt proposed these concepts as an incentive to fight against Hitler’s aggression in Europe, arguing that all people across the world are entitled to these basic human needs. President Obama and members of the Democratic Party use these arguments as an excuse to give amnesty to millions of illegal aliens while ignoring the fundamental rights of American-born citizens. Republicans traditionally view the social safety net set up by FDR as government overreach and a burden on taxpayers. Right or wrong depends on personal opinion.

4. Freedom from fear, which is also not guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, embraces the idea that all people are entitled to live in peace, free from the threat of outside aggression. Expanding this concept further, people would be entitled to live in peace without the threat of violence from internal sources, such as criminals, drug lords, terrorists, police, the military, family members, employers, and psychotic individuals.

How well has the United States fulfilled Roosevelt’s dream? Is it even practical? Can we really, as one nation, bring peace, prosperity, and equality to the whole world? Or is this obligation dragging us down as a nation?

Where do you stand in the public debate?

Dawn Pisturino

November 14, 2014

Copyright 2014 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Respect Your Freedom. Protect Your Rights.

betsy-ross-flag

Many Americans seem to forget that our forefathers, the great men who founded this country, were once Englishmen living under a despotic ruler.

These men knew what they were doing when they wrote the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. They had learned from personal experience how a greedy and self-serving government can rob citizens of their money and their rights.

The U.S. Constitution was written to protect American citizens from their own government. And yet, year after year, I see American citizens throwing away their freedom and their rights and allowing the federal government to control their lives.

Every time a hard-working American citizen accepts a federal income tax increase without protest, he is throwing away his right to adequately support himself and his family.

Every time an able-bodied American citizen accepts welfare unnecessarily from the federal government, he is throwing away the opportunity to improve his own life through gainful employment and education.

Every time an American citizen refuses to speak up, he is denying his own freedom of speech. Every time an American citizen refuses to vote, he is denying himself the power to choose.

Every time a law-abiding citizen turns in a gun, he is throwing away his legal right to protect himself and his family.

We need to remind ourselves of our own American heritage. There is nothing shameful in honoring our flag, honoring our history, and honoring our heritage of protest and freedom.

This is why our country was founded.

This is also why, after 200 years, we are still free. Our biggest enemy is not found in other countries. It is the ignorance and complacency of our own citizens.

Respect your freedom and protect your rights!

Dawn Pisturino

Published in The Kingman Daily Miner, February 13, 1994.

Copyright 1994-2014 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

 

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WRITERS: MIND YOUR MANNERS!

weneedyoubadge1

A MESSAGE FROM JON BARD, MANAGING EDITOR OF CHILDREN’S BOOK INSIDER:

“If you spend a fair amount of time online, perhaps you’ve noticed it:

People are becoming ruder. And angrier. And more entitled.

Really, I’m simply amazed at some of what appears in my e-mail inbox. Folks with whom I’ve never corresponded are sending me demanding messages such as “SEND ME THE EBOOK!!!!” and “I WANT TO GET PUBLISHED. TELL ME WHAT TO DO!”

People (non-customers) send us long, detailed questions out of the blue and expect immediate responses. If they don’t get one, we often receive an abusive message as a follow up.

And then there’s the magic words that many people seem to be using as a justification for curt, nicety-free missives:
“Sent via my iPhone.”

Look, I’ve been doing this a long time, and I’ve got a pretty thick skin. So I raise this not to prevent my feelings from being hurt, but rather as a cautionary message about how *not* to sabotage your writing career.

As a 21st century author, your ability to communicate is paramount to your success. Editors, agents, bloggers, book reviewers, distributors, promotional partners and readers are just some of the people who are important to your career. For goodness sake, treat them with more respect than “Here’s my new book. Write a review!”.

Here then, are my tips to help you be seen as a courteous author worthy of consideration:

• “Dear”, “Thank you”, “Please” and “Sincerely/All the Best/Yours Truly” aren’t archaic leftovers from the distant past. They’re still as important as ever. Use them. Please.

• Composing a message from your phone or tablet is not an excuse for overly-direct curtness. If you have a business message to send, wait until you have the time to write it properly.

• If you’re contacting someone for the first time, make the effort to introduce yourself, and clearly state the purpose of your message.

• If someone doesn’t get right back to you, don’t fire off an angry e-mail accusing them of ignoring you. Perhaps the message got lost. Maybe they’re on vacation. Perhaps they’re ill. Calmly send another friendly message restating your request or comment.

• Remember that you’re dealing with human beings. In our case, every piece of e-mail is read either by me or by Laura. We don’t have a building full of underlings to take care of that for us. When you send us kind words (and many of you do — thank you!), it feels great. When you’re rude or angry, it stings. Treat me with respect — I think I’ve earned at least that.

The vast majority of you are nothing but gracious in your communications with us. That bodes well for your future success. Keep at it, and gently work to correct those who aren’t minding your manners.
For the few of you who may have let your etiquette slip, please take heed of the points I’ve laid out, and make a resolution to make the online world just a little bit more courteous.

That’s it — venting over! Onward….”

THANKS, JON!

Dawn Pisturino

 

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SUSANNA’S SECRET

741236_10200175067315166_774457785_o735507_10200175067395168_1763698850_oARIEL PISTURINO (my daughter) and her friend, E. SCOTT LEVIN, recently formed CHAMBER OPERA PLAYERS OF L.A. Their first short production will be SUSANNA’S SECRET, a comic one-act opera written by E. Wolf-Ferrari in 1910. Originally written in Italian, the opera has since been translated into contemporary English. Ariel and Scott are both well-educated, highly-talented performers with the gumption and creativity to succeed. I am enormously proud of them both.

SYNOPSIS: A man who suspects his wife of fooling around discovers the real secret behind his wife’s strange behavior.

Starring ARIEL PISTURINO and E. SCOTT LEVIN. Directed by JOSH SHAW, Artistic Director of Pacific Opera Project.

BUT COME OUT AND SEE IT FOR YOURSELF!

January 25-26, 2013 at 8 pm

ST. MARK’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
1020 N. Brand Blvd.
Glendale, CA 91202
213-260-0007

performances in the Parlour Hall with reception to follow

ADMISSION FREE! Donations appreciated.

HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE!

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A great man who has inspired countless numbers of people around the world to work towards justice and humanity for all.

Author Thelma Cunningham

Martin Luther King’s Birthday

Americans honor the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. with a national holiday celebrated on the third Monday of each January.

The holiday was established to serve as a time for Americans to reflect on the principles of racial equality and nonviolent social change advocated by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As a political organizer and advocate of nonviolent protest, King was pivotal in persuading his fellow Americans to end the legal segregation that prevailed throughout the South, and in gaining support for the civil rights legislation that established the legal framework for racial equality in the United States. Dr. King created a powerful and enduring legacy for all Americans by calling upon our Nation to ensure equal justice under law and uphold our founding ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all people.

Since his assassination in 1968, memorial services have marked his…

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Right on, Bree Ogden!

this literary life

In 1912, Henry Gilbert released his epic novel, Robin Hood.

In 1922, released was the stunning Ulysses by James Joyce.

a_wrinkle_in_time_original_coverAldous Huxley published the ground breaking Brave New World in 1932.

Albert Camus brought us Existentialism with The Stranger and The Myth of Sisyphus in the year 1942.

1952, had us all crying over a spider with E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web.

A Winkle in Time, Something Wicked Comes This Way, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Clockwork Orange all blew our minds in 1962.

No one will ever love a book more than The Princess Bride which 1972 brought us.

Roald Dahl owned the year before I was born, 1982, with James and the Giant Peach and The BFG.

In 1992, The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey  by Ernesto “Che” Guevara had us rethinking our lives and the journey’s we have taken.

2002 had us evaluating family…

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The Underneath the Juniper Tree Anthology is coming soon! Can’t wait!

this literary life

It’s moments like these that remind me why I work hard on my passions for no money and little recognition. Moments like these:

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It’s coming, friends. 

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Poetry Magazine is a fine publication for poets and poetry lovers.

the Whole Garden Will Bow

bradbury

via

Lucie Brock-Broido : Father, in Drawer

Mary Karr writes about suffering in The Blessed Mother Complains to the Lord Her God on the Abundance of Brokenness She Receives

One of the most fun poems of the year is March by Richard Kenney

Atsuro Riley continues to write some of the best things you’ll ever read. The middle section of his poem Striplings is nigh perfect.

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