“It’s Being Studied”: The Cuban Art of Making Excuses

Dariela Aquique

Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — With its abundance of synonyms and antonyms, Spanish is one of the richest and most complex of currently existing languages.

According to the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language, the word “justify” has the following (most common) meanings:

– Something presented as the cause or explanation for something else (often, or apparently, inopportune or reprehensible)
– A way of apologizing, in which a person attempts to explain one of their actions, understood as a mistake
– Something presented as the reason or excuse for someone’s behavior

The word “study” is defined as:

– To apply one’s intelligence in order to acquire new knowledge or comprehend something
– To analyze something closely, to observe or examine attentively

I bring this to mind because, for some time now, justification has become a common practice among Cubans.

Faced with the more common or urgent questions of the population, the authorities – or the officials responsible for this or that area – rely on a ready-made formula to answer. They say: “the problem is being studied” or “we’re looking into it.”

It doesn’t matter whether people are complaining about the quality of the bread at the bakery, grumbling about how bad public transportation is, expressing dissatisfaction with their salaries, criticizing shows aired on Cuban television, or protesting because they feel the country’s new economic reforms are not enough to overcome our real limitations.

These and many other criticisms are always met with the worn, hackneyed formula of “we’re working on it, we’re looking into different solutions”, to the point that these are used in popular jokes – if someone complains about something, there’s always someone who’ll ironically reply: “don’t worry, they’re looking into it.”

If we look into this whole business of “studying” a given problem, however, we’ll soon come to the conclusion that the construction of a better society has been a subject of “study” for over half a century.

So much “studying” has gone into the problem that the process is comparable to the preparation of an epic PhD thesis. People have seen their entire lives go by while waiting for this program of studies to come to an end.

Many have failed the course and have to repeat numerous courses. In light of this, we can either begin to question the intelligence of the “students”, or conclude that the one subject they’re good at is that of making excuses.