I Too Am for ‘Another Cuba’

Alfredo Fernandez

HAVANA TIMES — A few days ago I learned about the incipient group “Sociedad Civil Cubana” (Cuban Civil Society) having submitted a manifesto to the People’s National Assembly under the title “Citizens’ Demand for Another Cuba.”

The members of various opposition groups, civic associations and ordinary citizens who have signed the document so far have done so solely under the supposed protections afforded by Articles 3 and 63 of the current Cuban constitution. These articles read as follows:

“Article 3: In the Republic of Cuba sovereignty lies in the people, from whom originates all the power of the state.”

“Article 63: Every citizen has the right to file complaints with and send petitions to the authorities and to be given the pertinent response or attention within a reasonable length of time, in keeping with the law.”

When I first read the letter, I reacted like any “ordinary Cuban,” feeling a mixture of fear but also envy for those brave few who live here on the island and signed the letter.

Then I had a feeling of self-pity, thinking to myself that “if I didn’t work for the government, maybe I too would have signed the statement.” Nonetheless, despite my fear of the statement, I couldn’t forget its message.

Then a rare effect occurred. What started bouncing around in my mind was an idea by Gandhi: “If you want to change the world, change yourself.”

As a result, I signed the letter. Yes, I signed it, and I did so despite my shameful fear and despite working as a researcher at the Cuban Academy of Sciences – though this could well mean me losing my job.

I could easily see the hand-tied Cuban union, at the request of the State Security forces, kicking me out following a meeting in which I’m sure that no colleague would stand up in my defense.

But I also feel that I don’t want to wait for others to do something that is also my responsibility. I’m tired of waiting for a miracle from God or for the changes that the leadership is promising — which have not come and will not come — so that I can really improve my life.

In any case, whenever I visit my parent’s house in Santiago de Cuba, what I see is them raising a pig just a few yards from their bedroom. Their home in a sad situation with respect to their health.

However, since they retired this has been the only option by the Cuban government for them to eat a piece of meat in December and the only way for them to ever see more than 240 pesos (12 usd) at any one time. In this situation, it’s easy for me to realize that the situation in Cuba is now unacceptable to me.

As I can understand the courage of those who signed the demand for change — done at their own risk — I too am doing the same.

I too must admit the difficulty of thinking differently in a situation in which entire generations, like soldiers, became accustomed to obeying the orders of the leaders, no matter how controversial or awkward these were.

For this reason the country became involved in wars that were as unnecessary as they were distant, just as it pursued business plans that not only destroyed the national economy but now force us to import over 60 percent of our food.

Meanwhile the few expectations for living a decent life have turned emigration into the only solution for our youth to realize a life that would be impossible in Cuba.

If there is something negative about the “Citizens Demand for Another Cuba,” it is the few signatures that were collected, because even if it was signed 10,000 people, this would leave out the vast majority of those affected.

But if there is something really good about this letter, it will be that it demonstrates to the Cuban government that the list of those of us who are losing our fear of speaking without censorship is increasing every day.

When the history of freedom of expression during the Cuban Revolution is written, there’s no doubt that fear — unfortunately — will be a main topic.

 

Alfredo Fernandez

Alfredo Fernandez: I didn't really leave Cuba, it's impossible to leave somewhere that you've never been. After gravitating for 37 years on that strange island, I managed to touch firm ground, but only to confirm that I hadn't reached anywhere. Perhaps I will never belong anywhere. Now I'm living in Ecuador, but please, don't believe me when I say where I am, better to find me in "the Cuba of my dreams.


8 thoughts on “I Too Am for ‘Another Cuba’

  • June 27, 2012 at 9:08 pm
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    Very touching insight into the every day fear that Cubans live in every decision they make.

  • June 27, 2012 at 7:49 am
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    Felicidades Alfredo! Eres un ejemplo por los otros que todavia tienen miedo. This is a wonderful first hand report into the minds of so many. I will be glad to share this with my friends as well, to prove that they aren’t alone & that everybody can take steps towards freeing themselves in hopes of improvements.
    Nadie duda que al menos tienes ese trabajito aqui igual que la Academia, pues no te va a perder todo; lo mas importante es que compartiste tu voz.

    Be the change you want to see in the world.
    Fuerza!

  • June 26, 2012 at 10:14 am
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    Bravo for your bravery, Alfredo! One of my friends once said that there are no sleeping Gandhis in Cuba; I think there are, and they are waking up.

  • June 25, 2012 at 10:53 pm
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    Gracias alfredo, ignora esa vieja que no sabe de lo que esta hablando, every single post from her is very negative. Congratulations in letting your voice to be heard, and thank you for your article.

  • June 25, 2012 at 1:37 pm
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    I may have missed it, Alfredo, but you don’t seem to be saying anything constructive as to what specific reforms ought to be made in the socialist economic model of Cuba. Such reform ideas are the important thing to be discussed. Perhaps you are all out of such ideas (except perhaps restoring capitalism and becoming a landlord or some other type of social parasite).

    I sincerely hope that you can keep your job, because all democratic rights should be protected and promoted. Socialist Cuba should occupy first place in this. But it would be much better if you would advance and discuss what is most important, that is, perfection of the Cuban socialist program.

  • June 25, 2012 at 9:19 am
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    Congratulations on your decision, Alfredo.

    It is time to overcome your fears and I wish many other people would join that initiation.

    Cuban people have already suffered and sacrificed their past, present and future.

  • June 24, 2012 at 4:34 pm
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    Thank you for this post. During the civil rights movement in the US of the 1960’s, many southern blacks were also afraid to participate in marches and sit-ins within their towns organized and populated by outside civil rights groups. They were afraid their white bosses would see them participating and fire them from their jobs or worse. As a result, many of the earliest protest marches were staged by blacks who lived outside the community where the marches took place. However, over just a few short years, more and more blacks came to realize as you did Alfredo, that you have an individual responsibility to help bring about change, By 1968, the trend had reversed, and most organized protests were populated by locals from the community where the protest took place. The need for the “Freedom Riders” or people like my mother who rode buses throught the South to attend protests had largely subsided. More and more Cubans will hopefully also come to accept their personal responsibilities to help bring about “another Cuba” so desperately needed.

  • June 24, 2012 at 4:30 pm
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    If all you fear is losing your job, then your fear is indeed “shameful”.

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