Daisy Valera
Daisy Valera

About a year ago I had the opportunity for the first time to associate with some young people from Latin America: a Chilean girl, a Columbian boy and an Argentinean guy. Thousands of Latin Americans are currently studying in Cuba. It’s very interesting to note the conception that the majority of the Cuban population has of them.

I can count myself among those who had erroneous ideas about those who populate the rest of Latin America. When these countries are mentioned on our television news, the majority of the time they talk about what Cuba is doing to help them, for example in health and education.

The images that we generally see show sick and illiterate people being helped. As a result of this, an idea has been generated in Cuba regarding the rest of Latin America. If you were to ask many Cubans about these countries and their populations, they wouldn’t hesitate to describe them with words that would inevitably prove condescending.

They would describe them as an ignorant people, lacking any kind of culture. It’s true that there are high levels of poverty and illiteracy in many parts of Central and South America, but that doesn’t justify the generally discriminatory conception that has been created amongst Cubans.

When Cubans see a Latino in the street or at a hospital, we see only a student for whom Cuba is doing a favor. In reality, they are people who come from countries with cultures thousands of years old, which could dwarf the little that Cubans have in comparison.

In Cuba we tend to prefer European culture because it is supposedly better, forgetting that we are a Latin American people who also have tons of problems that are nothing similar to those of Europe.

We have a sense of superiority which lacks the least touch of humility. We are a population that is the fruit of a socialist revolution, but doesn’t understand that the help we give to Latin America shouldn’t be with the goal of offering palliative assistance to “backwards Indians.”

Our intentions as a socialist country shouldn’t be that of the savior who offers aid from a position high above. Likewise, Cuba’s policy shouldn’t be aimed only at governmental agreements that in the end may or may not correspond to what the people want.

The dialogue should be between peoples, and should form a consciousness that only together can we develop a socialist project, which is the only way of getting ahead.

The solution will never lie in only creating medical schools or educational programs. What we have achieved with this is to make everyone believe that Latin America is dependent on Cuba, when really it’s impossible for us to advance if we don’t do it together. Only with a larger grade of awareness will Cubans be able to speak with Latinos and discover that they have many things to teach us.

7 thoughts on “<em>Cuba: Near or Far from Latin America</em>

  • While many cubans may not be perfectly humble, it’s also a relative thing and a matter of perspective too. Cubans have *nothing* on many, many north americans and europeans — and the petit-bourgeoisie of almost any “Third World” nation-state for that matter. The easy, crude and unconscious arrogance is not to be believed, if you haven’t experienced it; even from those who should know better, or who are in a very questionable position when it comes to matters of being ‘superior’… On the other hand, many people often comment on the modesty of many cubans compared to people generally, from other countries. Someone I know, for instance, recently returned from a cuban vacation and told me how they were struck by the relative modesty of cubans — versus the more aggressive individualism they were subsequently exposed-to in nearby Jamaica… And so there you are.

    Clearly, as is implied here, Daisy and other cubans should travel outside the country more, and meet with the many different sorts of peoples and cultures out there. Dialectically-speaking, it is generally not possible to develop one’s consciousness and intellect when one is not presented — consciously or otherwise — with some contrasting fact or experience with which to compare one’s previously unexamined beliefs and practices. Thus the importance of dialog with strangers, and the positive good of travel to other places, for instance. However, the ever-present threat of imperialist intrigue has me caution against simply opening Cuba up, like any U.S. latin-american client state. So I think that working to make the ALBA confederation a concrete living reality, for instance — where the people of these countries can easily move amongst them all — would be an excellent start; and a compromise with the necessity to maintain vigilance against this relentless, ever-present, ever-awake threat to socialism and freedom.

    I also want to add that AFAIC it is not correct to accept the liberal “identity politics” line, which attempts to paint most-all organized and structured attempts at social change to be inferior or wrong or ‘out-dated’ — and most-all individualistic or pre-capitalist orientations to be superior to these in some way. Such thinking is itself backwards — and actually serves imperial interests in that it leads directly to ‘divide & rule’ opportunities. Socialism is about bringing Humanity together in its common interests — not fixating on what makes us different. Like our nationalities or our color, however much we have pride in what we individually are and where our families hail from. And so it is quite correct to organize people to empower them. To show leadership to them, in fact. People are not rare, exotic species we must reverence from afar: they are actors in their own right, each and every one of them. And since we are dealing with real people — hopefully democratically — they will soon enough let us know if they do not appreciate our efforts on their behalf. The goal is always indeed to empower all people. That’s the very essence of socialism.

  • This is one of those issues that we should have in our schedule as a matter of everyday reflection and concern.
    You say: “In Cuba we tend to prefer European culture because it is supposedly better”.
    This is the ruling world way of thinking, that the western model of society and it’s “civilized” human ideal are the only and best alternative. In the case of Cubans, we don’t know enough of the global society to make an impartial evaluation, to understand their complexity. We don’t have much information either about the diverse countries of America, I mean, cultural information rather than political. Neither we have the living reference of an ancient culture which would make us closer to the continental countries and would allow us to understand the history and present life of many American nations.
    You also said: “The dialogue should be between peoples, and should form a consciousness that only together can we develop a socialist project, which is the only way of getting ahead”.
    Of course, a real integration of America begin from it’s roots and it’s own people. It’s possible only if people become aware of what they have, such a great continent, and if we all participate in a process of constructing an authentic identity, of finding simple solutions to the basic problems of survival, recognizing each other, being curious about other American countries’ experience, opening ourselves not only to the western world but also to our unknown continent and it’s ancient knowledge which has so many answers. In America, lots of people have found ways of solving problems by their own means, this is an experience important to us all, important to the construction of a practical paradigm that can be born, as once Martí said, not from any imported model but from our own potentials and the conditions of our countries.

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