HAVANA TIMES — I used to enjoy reading the Cuban magazine La calle del medio (“The Middle Road”) and even had some comments published there (using a pseudonym) on one occasion. It is sold to the public as an editorial and debate magazine, but I don’t agree with that description, as I don’t come across many opinions, much less any debate, in it.
It started out as a showbiz magazine that published articles about the soap opera of the day or about TV shows made in Cuba and abroad. It had interviews with actors and singers and a section devoted to everything baseball-related.
I have no problem with any of that. Now, I’ve noticed that, as of a few months ago, the magazines reach the stands late and, when they do, they do so three issues at time, making it impossible for readers to express any opinions about any issue. In addition, not many readers have access to the digital version of the magazine (for reasons that needn’t be explained).
The worst part is that the supplement has become politicized, to the point of publishing ludicrous materials (in my opinion, at least): it now publishes only what is convenient for our one Party and silences all other voices. Even the central pages with comic strips on them repeat the same formulas again and again.
I am in possession of issue 62 of the magazine, which ran an interview with Spanish actor Willy Toledo conducted by Iroel Sanchez who originally published it on his blog La pupila insomne (“The Insomniac Eye”).
There, we see a full-color photo of the actor with a caption, rendered in bold white letters, which reads: “I HAVE ENDURED CENSORSHIP AND POLITICAL PERSECUTION.” The Spanish actor, we should point out, has decided to come live in Cuba.
Dear sir, you should ask blogger Yoani Sanchez and many other Cubans, living in Cuba and elsewhere, whether they never endured censorship and political persecution at home.
Willy, I respect your decision of living where you choose, and I am sad to read that the things you describe in this interview are happening in Spain. You say that you were detained in Spain for the first time for going into the Congress to protest.
You won’t have any problems like that here because people hardly have any access to Congress, let alone the right to protest – I don’t have to explain to you what would happen to them if they did. Everyone who belongs to the Party in our country has the same mentality, and anyone who thinks differently prefers to keep quiet to avoid problems.
The second time you were detained was during a strike. Mr. Toledo, I can assure you that you won’t have any problems like that either, because there are no strikes in Cuba. Nothing may be working properly here, everything may be going down the drain, but strikes have never been in vogue here – they don’t exist. I don’t know whether you know this already.
We’re a happy people, who only take to the streets when our leaders tell us, and, on May Day, we stage a big rally, not to protest or demand our rights, like higher salaries, but to tell the world we’re doing fine – at least, that’s what we think or make others believe, when, in fact, that’s not the case.
With time, you’ll get to see the entrails of this, our great, green caiman of a country. It doesn’t matter how much money you have: that will only keep you from going hungry and will allow you some luxuries, like staying at five-star hotels and visiting beaches destined to tourists with money.
I have foreign friends with a fair amount of money who have realized that life here is unbearable, even if one has money. They’ve only needed fifteen days to realize that there are things that aren’t the way they should be.
What I find curious is that what you’re fleeing from, censorship, is what we have the most of here.
I have a question for you: Why have no interviews with Yoani Sanchez or Edmundo Desnoes ever been published in La calle del medio? Those are only two examples. The number of people I would like to see published in this magazine is immense. What I have to conclude is that they only publish what’s convenient for them, and they show us the ugly side of other countries to make us believe that, despite all of our problems, we’re doing better – and that’s not the case.
The actor’s attitude strikes me as daring and brave. I only hope that, a few years from now, he doesn’t look back on his decision to come live in Cuba as a mistake. It’s true that, when one has money, life is easier and our decisions are also easier to make. He may be in Havana today, but could well move to New York tomorrow.
And as Willy Toledo himself said during the interview, he will live better than most Cubans in Cuba, and in the US better than most Americans. Seeing things from the comfort of a balcony somewhere, sitting with a pair of binoculars, one eye set on Cuba and the other on Spain, that’s just too easy.