A CDR Whitewash

Daisy Valera

I said to myself that I wouldn’t write anything else about our Revolutionary Defense Committees (CDR)s.

I hadn’t the slightest intention of describing anything about destroyed plants for decorating buildings, and much less about that traditional-miserable caldosa (a huge caldron of soup made for residents on the block) that might be the only excuse for people to show up at the celebration.

In the second post that I published at this website, I mentioned the sharp decline in the ranks of our emblematic national mass organizations (soon it will have been three years since that commentary).

The CDR is the largest mass organization of its kind in the country, though it suffers from a chronic lack of a reason for being.

Given the precariousness of daily life, the formal/official slogan of “Defend the Revolution!” has fallen into disuse.

For quite some time now the members of the committee have implicitly operated under the motto “Everybody for themself!”
In neighborhoods where there now co-exist overindulgent leaders and wealthy lumpens at the same time as underpaid professionals and exploited workers, it’s pretty difficult to throw a block party.

It’s even more challenging if the organization is defending a revolution that was carried out for and by the poor, but after half a century is threatened by widening class differences.

In short, things on the block aren’t going so hot, but this past September 28 the call was that it was necessary to celebrate nonetheless.
Sure, more than a few people cranked up their sound systems and put on reggaeton – reacting more out of reflex conditioning.

I didn’t mean to start talking about the CDR.  I didn’t want to repeat what many know and others deny.

Yet what happened is that when I was walking through the streets of Vedado earlier this month, the events there made me change my mind.

On 23rd Street, where many important theaters and nightclubs of the capital are located, up until September 28 there had been a veritable exhibition for all those who wanted to learn something about graffiti in Cuba.

Predominating were the tags of “El Sexto” and the designs of “Bajo Condiciones Difíciles,” in addition to more complex images of dogs, people and faces.

Yet all of this disappeared prior to the grand national CDR day that must take place in every neighborhood across the country.
The graffiti wasn’t painted over by residents who gathered to do voluntary work in beautifying the block for the commemorative festivities.

The sloppy strokes that in all cases were painted in faded pink evidenced that the work to cover up the graffiti wasn’t done by those living near the busy street.

The uniformity of the paint’s color, like the smeared wall of a newspaper stand, allows us to say that what was intended wasn’t just a touching up of the tones in the community.

I imagine a brigade of painters armed with wide brushes receiving the order: “Everything cleaned up for the 28th, not one graffiti on 23rd!”

The image is laughable, yet I’m sure it’s not too far from the truth.  But what makes me laugh even more are those who ordered the paint over, victims of a panic that leaves no room for pretending.

These higher-ups know these designs well; over the years, Cuban graffiti has gained in critical and reflective content.

In the end young people will continue using this method to express themselves, which up to now has been contrary to the interests of such maladroit censors.

One thought on “A CDR Whitewash

  • Thank you Daisy
    Your column closely ties in with Erasmo’s in reflecting how the corruption of what could be a most democratic bottom up system has come to be just another in the chain of disintegrating democratic values held in the earlier days of the Cuban revolution and which has become an accepted part of Cuban life .

    The lack of wholehearted participation in the CDR celebrations and the omnipresent graffiti SHOULD be wake up calls for the leadership and that leadership really has to move on reforms while at the same time not surrendering to the aims of the capitalists in the USA and sycophant Europeans.

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