Monday, May 28, 2007

Black Sheep of Exile: A Review

This blog is older by one day than the Black Sheep of Exile. Our seniority allows us not only to review but to welcome to the Cuban blogosphere this latest and most interesting addition to it. Those familiar with the incisiveness and brazen originality of Killcastro, which is really sui generis among Cuban-American blogs for maintaining active contacts in Cuba and reporting firsthand on the quehacer cubano, will find the same and more at the Black Sheep of Exile, which draws with even a more personal and nostalgic brush the realities of life in Cuba as seen from the unique perspective of Killcastro and Charlie Bravo, who actually lived there for most of their lives and experienced in the only way they can be experienced the horrors that they report. That fact also has made them more understanding and compassionate towards those left behind, though not to the extreme of justifying conduct which should be censored here or there.

They are both formidable writers and both use English in the new and innovative ways pioneered by Cabrera Infante but taking him up a few notches. Their cubanization of English does not usually sacrifice correctness, but does make it do things that one would have thought impossible in this staid and emotionally-constrained tongue. This, of course, is a very different approach from my own, which is to out-English the English (I don't even think about the Americans). Two different approaches to English but both informed by the same Cuban spirit of rebellion which can manifest itself either by expanding the original (their case) or restoring it (mine).

Really, as most of you know, because you come in droves from Killcastro, Charlie and Killcastro are a joy to read, both for content and delivery, but, above all, for that in-your-face originality that both captivates and instructs. After a visit to killcastro or the Black Sheep of Exile one feels as if one has partaken of a hearty and substantial meal, a sensation altogether different from the lighheadedness that follows after sampling the fluffy and watery fare at other Cuban-American blogs. The difference, of course, is genuineness: the fact that one is and does not merely aspire to be. But let me stop here before this turns into another review of Babalú.

Those familiar with Killcastro know that I have differed with its editors on several issues in the past, but it has always been possible for us to reach consensus. When I think that there must be millions of Killcastros and Charlie Bravos in Cuba, it greatly consoles me. Without them, I would have no such consolation.

I urge you to read the following recent posts on the Black Sheep of Exile:

El hebreo (memories of an elderly Jew in Havana who taught Charlie Bravo the meaning of fascism and communism and how Castro was the fusion of both sides of the same totalitarian coin).

Momias Gallegas (On Charlie Bravo's boyhood excursions to Colón Cemetery, the Chinese Cemetery and the Protestant Cemetery).

Sí, España (a touching tribute to the mother country and a necessary tonic for those who think that one can possibly affirm one's Cuban identity by hating her).

A Voluntary Buzzcut (which Charlie and his friends got in Cuba to show their solidarity with U.S. troops in Kuwait during the First Iraq War).

I know you don't need an invitation or further inducement, so go there:


Vana said...

Thank you Manuel for your great post about Charlie's and KC's blogs, they trully are great, I have been reading them for about a year and a half, don't think I could start my day without them, they have great insight about what is happening in Cuba now, and great informants in the Island itself, I learned of your blog through theirs, you see Manuel I was at Babalu that fateful day when they kicked you out, so I was very happy indeed when at Killcastro I saw a link to your new blog almost the next day, Killcastro and yours are my two favorite blogs

Charlie Bravo said...

I am deeply humbled by your review....
I am about to write one story for each blog, but I am totally demolished, so the projects will have to wait at least one more day.
I have also to apologize because the Black Sheep of Exile doesn't have a blogroll.... I was fumbling with the code and I almost lost the whole blog and I decided to leave as is, but of course we share the KillCastro blogroll.
In the good news department, and as an exclusive advance on your blog: The Spaniards voted out Zapatero and his cohorts in Madrid, and the right is on the rise in the whole country -no, I didn't spend the weekend in Spain, but I would have loved it.
By the way, your articles on Spain are also very good and people should read more about the histories (or the history, since it's one well intertwined history) of Cuba and Spain before jumping on any particular bandwagon.
Your review comes as a very refreshing surprise, and I rise my wine glass to your health, and the future.....

Manuel A.Tellechea said...


It is my sincere wish that I could have as much good to say about the other Cuban-American blogs (including Babalú) as I do about yours. I will need many glasses of wine to write-up the others, and, with my senses sufficiently dulled, I may even be able to find something good to say about the others, although, as regards Babalú, no man can be that drunk and live.

Manuel A.Tellechea said...


I am glad that you remember that fateful day when I was booted from Babalú for challenging Val's edict against criticizing the Estefans. I do not know if they have continued to censor opinion (my instincts tell me yes) but if this little episode and its sequel has not cured them of their itchy finger then nothing will.

Once again I thank you for your generous words and unswerving support. It is for you and Agustín in particular, my two most faithful commenters, that I get up every morning at 5:00 AM to fight the good fight against the amassed forces of stupidity.

Vana said...


You have moved me to tears, you have no idea how much I treasure your words, and your blog, when you were ousted from babalu I wanted to come to your defense,for I felt as you did, but I was not commenting at the time on any blog for reasons you already know, believe me I kick myself now for not doing it, and Manuel thank you for getting up every day and posting for our pleasure, and you shall have my support as long as there is breath in my body

Manuel A.Tellechea said...


Your support here is all that I need. It would have been useless to remonstrate against Val anyway. You are quite right: Val did me a great favor and himself a great disfavor when he booted me from Babalú. People who do know him assure me that he's still kicking himself for it.