The Myth of Cuba

Alfredo Fernández

Foto: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — I arrived at the Lago Agrio bus terminal in the Ecuadorian Amazon, worried because I hadn’t purchased a ticket to Quito in advance. Though I’d been told this wasn’t necessary, no sooner have I set foot in one than I think I’m going to be stuck there for hours, even days. Immediately, however, I realized my apprehensions are eminently Cuban in nature.

The bus to Quito is about to leave and there are plenty of free seats. I am told that, if I want to, I can also wait for the next bus, scheduled to leave in half an hour.

Inside the coach, I ask the gentleman sitting beside me at what time the guagua arrives in Quito. He asks me what I understand with “guagua”. I tell him it means “bus”, in Cuba. He smiles and explains that, in Ecuador, a “guagua” is a little girl.

I tell him about where I come from. The fellow, an oil industry engineer with a monthly salary of over 2,000 dollars, doesn’t believe me when I tell him what life is like in Cuba, saying, as way of a conclusion: “let’s hope Correa turns into a Fidel Castro.”

The trip to Quito involves ascending to an altitude of 2,800 meters above sea level, up winding roads with breathtaking views, so it was easy to direct my attention to something other than this gentleman, who longed for such a future for his country.

With my eyes fixed on the beautiful summits and bottomless precipices of the Andes mountain range, I asked myself, again and again, how someone could be made to question something that had become as deeply-rooted as a myth.

In Ecuador, I have conversed with people of different nationalities who have never set foot in Cuba but who believe they know the island better than I do, people who constantly refute everything I tell them about the country, and everything I claim to have experienced there. To them, I am at best exaggerating things and, at worst, lying.

How do you destroy a legend? When did the process which began in Cuba in 1959 acquire the status of a myth? It is next to impossible to describe Cuban reality today without evoking strong criticisms, from people who would not tolerate a brief day of the hardships we Cubans endure constantly but who, for some reason, have no shortage of arguments to justify the fact we do not have the right to access the Internet freely, travel outside the country for as long as we want to without losing our properties or that, residing abroad, we should be denied the right to invest in Cuba.

There are people who can justify this and much more, such as the abuses against dissidents that are perpetrated in Cuba with impunity. Most of the people I’ve spoken to are staunch opponents of their governments, all of which were democratically elected.

The bus pierces through a cold, drizzly fog as it enters Quito, a city whose architecture seems elevated by its mountain setting, a city which, today, ought not to be envious of Havana in the least.

The gentleman next to me gets up before I do and says goodbye. His farewell is jovial – I never did refute his opinion. I, on the other hand, bid my farewell with the sincere wish that, for his own good, his “dream” never becomes reality.

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.


20 thoughts on “The Myth of Cuba

  • May 25, 2013 at 6:10 pm
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    Marx socialism was only a poor prototype of old African socio-political systems. Capitalism and communism both are eurocentric in nature and are doom to fail. Both are tools of white supremacist agenda. Neither benefit wholeheartedly tHE Black collective.

  • May 12, 2013 at 12:17 pm
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    No. Don`t think so. was just surprised. The show is transformista. The bar is a gay bar. No problem. Just surprised me. Should know you best friend then.

  • May 11, 2013 at 9:02 pm
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    Transformistas to be exact. Thursday through Saturday last time I was in Cuba. My best friend works there. Are you a socialist AND homophobic?

  • May 11, 2013 at 9:04 am
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    hm sock puppet…hm , well everything is possible

  • May 11, 2013 at 8:58 am
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    OH , Las Vegas is a gay bar. Hm, thought you were narried. Well, does´nt really make a big difference. I `just a little surprised. After all that talk about gay repression in articles earlier……

  • May 11, 2013 at 8:25 am
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    not a very objective statement

  • May 11, 2013 at 8:23 am
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    Thousands of people can connect to facebook in Cuba.

  • May 11, 2013 at 8:22 am
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    There is something to it. Beacause even people who are not necessarily communist or socialist do admire Fidel Castro because he showed it – sorry – to th e damned yanks. Certainly one of the many reasons why he is so popular not only in Latin america but worldwide. At the other hand it shows how people hate the United States world wide.

  • May 10, 2013 at 12:08 pm
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    You explained network infrastructure to me? LOL. You have never visited Cuba and yet you are the expert? How does one come have so much information about paid trolls? BTW, I really could not connect to Facebook from Cuba. Cross my heart.

  • May 10, 2013 at 11:57 am
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    I can’t speak for Alfredo, but I don’t see the world as either being for or against Cuba and for or against ‘imperialism’. I recognize, especially as an African-American, that there are many aspects of my national culture and history that have served as a beacon to the world. Likewise, there are chapters in my national history that should serve as a warning to future generations regarding the pitfalls of near-absolute power. To support the ideals promulgated by US democracy is not to deny its imperfections. In the same way, to criticize the cruel and totalitarian Castro regime is not to ignore Cuba’s success in sports, literacy and universal health care. Being able to publicly challenge “myths” is the key to overcoming them. As Americans saw the lies told to us about WMD’s, the national conscience was changed to avoid repeating our mistakes. Syria and confirming its chemical weapons stores will test what we have learned and how far we have come. In Cuba, there is no capacity to challenge myths. As a result, no lessons are learned and Cubans are doomed to repeat past mistakes. Going from a Soviet patronage to a Venezuelan patron is proof that the lesson of failing to develop a self-reliant economy is yet unlearned.

  • May 10, 2013 at 9:35 am
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    The myth of the Triumph of the Cuban Revolution lives on because it fulfils a need for their continuing belief in Marxism.

    So powerful is this delusion, a common reaction among these people is to insists critics of Fidel must be something other than they say they are, or don’t actually exist as real people. The Marxist states which collapsed, such as the USSR and it’s Eastern European puppets are dismissed as “errors”, not the true “socialism”. So those failures don’t count. Next time we’ll get it right!

    Some believe the myth they can perfect socialism with a tweak here and fix there: next time it will work, you’ll see!

    Yet every time Marxist socialism has been applied, with whatever local variations, it has failed for the same reasons. The economic program doesn’t work in the real world. The corruption.The social program that collides with human nature (I know, I know…you will insist there is no such thing as human nature. But that’s precisely the problem isn’t it? You refuse to believe in the reality). And most of all, the brutality of an all powerful state unconstrained by morality or law, which speaks of “the will of the people” all the while treating the people like an enemy.

    The myth dies hard.

  • May 10, 2013 at 7:43 am
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    As for me, I never – ever – said that ‘life in Cuba is wonderful’ or that ‘Cuba is a paradise’ or anything like that. I just want to learn and share my thoughs through this site but parasites such as you keep the experience of the English section of HT less and less productive as alternative media. You on the other hand have claimed to co-own a technology company of sorts but failed to understand technical aspects of network infrastructure when I tried to explain them for you. Another example – you said you couldn’t connect to facebook in Cuba but people like Isbel and Elaine Díaz have profiles there, which means you lie. Speaking of the devil, there is a Black American named Moses Patterson on facebook but it doesn’t seem to be you at all. You’re hijacking a persona for paid trolling, it’s as clear as water. The paid propagandists do it all the time to seem more ‘credible’, and just grab information about people and places in Cuba from USINT. You don’t fool me.

  • May 9, 2013 at 8:56 pm
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    The next time you are in Havana, go to the Las Vegas Cabaret at the corner of Infanta y calle 25. Ask anyone who works there if they know a Black American named Moses. And you…?
    P.S. I have bungie-cord jumped. Is that the same as ‘boogie-jumping?’ Loved it. Never sky-dived though.

  • May 9, 2013 at 8:01 pm
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    As a Canadian, I can relate somewhat to the anti-Americanism that seems so pervasive among many Latin Americans. In Canada, living next to the US is compared to an elephant sharing a bed with a mouse. If the elephant rolls over, the mouse is likely to get squashed.

    Some of the admiration of Castro’s Cuba seems more tied up with their standing up to Uncle Sam, than any honest appraisal of what they actually accomplished for the Cuban people.

  • May 9, 2013 at 3:35 pm
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    Alfredo may be honestly reporting his experience. Clearly he believes his “facts” are correct and the gentleman from Quito was wrong to believe in Myths about Cuba. Moses than chimes in, asserting his beliefs that foreigners don’t see the real Cuba, only more of these myths. I assume Alfredo and Moses both believe the things they state; Cuba is basically an economic and political mess because of undemocratic socialism gone wrong, and it is only believers in myths who think otherwise. But these gentlemen reveal that they have certain other beliefs that some might argue are myths themselves. They seem to think that countries with multiple parties and lots of internet access are democratic. Seems they also believe it is not a myth that capitalism produces societies that are “better.” And this “better” even if unevenly distributed, is inherently good and would spread to all the world – including the now very poor areas that are not socialist or dictatorships – if just given a chance.

    Alfredo is impressed when the buses run frequently, and dismisses the claims of foreigners he meets that there is anything comparably wrong with their societies. I wonder if he lived in any of these other societies for a time, would he notice the extremes that are so different from country to country. If he was impressed by the luxuries in the US – as am I – would he also care to check out the unrelieved poverty and desperation that coexists even in rich America?

    Reality is, in all these countries many people believe in and rationalize myths. In the US we long believed we were number one in everything. Arrogant and now quite wrong, but still believed by many. True in Cuba also, there are supporters in and outside the country who believe in myths, sometimes benign and sometime painful.

    The worst myths i have ever run across are those that justify greed and aggression. Weapons of Mass Destruction? Being rich doesn’t hurt anyone? The poor and unhealthy are just losers? Angels and capitalism will save us? Add your own myths, but don’t expect me or anyone who has learned to question and use a little science to buy your opinions as objective facts.

    When Alfredo and Moses can acknowledge that the factors of historical oppression as still existent in all our societies, then their complaints may have value, until then they are biased and whining at best and making excuses for imperialism at worst.

  • May 9, 2013 at 3:34 pm
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    You too have never set a foot Cuba. Why? Because you are a fictional character who says you’ve experienced everything – if we talk about sports for example you’d say you have already done sky-diving and boogie-jumping – in order to argument from authority. You’re paid to troll this site with US propaganda 24-hours non-stop. No wonder you’re always the first to comment on every single post.

  • May 9, 2013 at 11:48 am
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    Alfredo’s experience with this gentleman on the bus ride to Quito is repeated daily on this blog. Foreigners who have never set foot in Cuba or even those who have but have done so with a pocket full of euros or canadian dollars will argue tooth and nail about how wonderful life is in Cuba. From their “mythical” perspective, which means air-conditioned casa particulares, well-stocked refrigerators and all the Bucanero beer they can drink, the two whole weeks a year they spent in Cuba really was a tropical paradise. Just being a foreigner affords first-class treatment in Cuba. My assistant is a tiny blond and blue-eyed 24 year-old girl who joined my wife and I on our last trip to Cuba. One day at the beach in Guanabo while my wife was in the water with our boys, my assistant and I were left sitting together on the chaises we rented. In less than 20 minutes, three different police officers stopped to ask me for my ID. Did I mention that I am a black, over 6′, ex-college football player. What the f*uck is that about? To the average Cuban who has to figure out a way to buy food every day or decide not to eat in order to buy shoes or medicine, life in Cuba is a different story than the myth many foreigners want to believe.

  • May 9, 2013 at 11:00 am
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    hasta la victoria siempre; venceremos. great story. the ones who can make it in cuba are the ones who have relatives sending remittances.

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