Dariela Aquique

HAVANA TIMES — Today is my birthday, the day when most of us are filled with joy and are ready to celebrate yet another coming year. But I have to confess that what I’m feeling is something between happiness and sadness. The feeling of nostalgia is what has overcome me.

It’s not midlife crisis, the crisis of the 40s, with the fear of old age creeping up ever closer. It’s the inevitable evaluating of life that we do (sometimes even unconsciously). What have we accomplished? What remains to be done?

I forget the pat phrases about how “life will be complete if we have planted a tree, had a child or written a book.” I’m being more pragmatic, and I imagine that the same thing is going to happen with many of my contemporaries.

I was born in 1970, the year of the ten-million-ton sugarcane harvest, with that unfulfilled aim having been a sort of the fate for those of us born just 11 years after the triumph of the revolution, in turmoil but with still many supporters.

So I was a revolutionary Pioneer, a young revolutionary, I read the works of Marx and Engels, I studied Russian, I saw the troops leave for Angola, I recall the images of the Peruvian Embassy, the Mariel boatlift and the Ochoa trial.

From here I found out about the fall of the Berlin Wall and that in the Soviet Union, things called glasnost and perestroika happened. I witnessed the fervent and long speeches of our Comandante and was also later a witness to his disjointed babbling and his sad appearances as a senile old man.

I confess to my friends that I don’t know if I’m getting old, and this makes me more apprehensive. But with the years I’ve lived and the birthdays I’ve celebrated, I’ve seen my country deteriorate like an old book.

I even cast to one side all my frustrations about being a professional with a truncated career, of being able to release myself only by writing for an unofficial site, never being able to see snow, and… But I’ll get over the longing and I’ll toast to life with my partner, my two neighbors, my sick father and whatever odd friend happens to come by the house.

My mother, who died at 54, after participating in the literacy campaign in the mountains, after being young rebel, a member of the Committee for the Defense and the Revolution and the Federation of Cuban Women, won’t be there after having ended up a prisoner of disappointment in her later years.

My brother, who left on a raft and my only niece who emigrated with her mother, won’t be around either. Just like a lot of friends who live in different parts of the planet.

Nevertheless I will raise my glass and blow out the candles, giving thanks to life like Violeta Parra, and I’ll ask with strength for providence to permit me future birthdays not so far away from my loved ones. And my Cuba will be less sad.


Dariela Aquique

Dariela Aquique: I remember my years as a high school student, especially that teacher who would interrupt the reading of works and who with surprising histrionics spoke of the real possibilities of knowing more about the truth of a country through its writers than through historical chronicles. From there came my passion for writing and literature. I had excellent teachers (sure, those were not the days of the Fast-track Teachers) and extemporization and the non-mastery of subjects was not tolerated. With humble pretenses, I want to contribute to revealing the truth about my country, where reality always overcomes fiction, but where a novel style shrouds its existence.

5 thoughts on “It’s Not a Midlife Crisis

  • Dariela,

    I’ve written before of how reading about Cuba has caused me to have new insights about the country I live in, Canada. The insights are due not to new information that I’ve learned but are more in the nature of awakenings. Writers on HT, like Dariela, writing about what they would like to see changed – many times the same things Canadians would like to see changed but don’t have an outlet to express it nor hopes for success, makes me aware of what we lack here in Canada.

    I think there are two reasons we don’t express our despair openly – one due to external reasons, the other, internal.

    No mainstream media here would carry material that contained the despair that is regularly expressed on HT, just as Granma wouldn’t carry it and for the same reason – it would be seen as too negative. No matter if true, we can’t support negativity, both would argue.

    While there are valid reasons for not being negative all of the time – it leads to depression and giving up – it seems obvious that the powers that govern us – the Cuban government in Dariela’s case and the 1% elites in mine who control media here – are more worried that citizens will demand changes they are reluctant to support.

    I feel it is more appropriate to have a ‘ pollyanna-ish’ government – cheerful, pleasantly, even unrealistically optimistic – based on principles of the common good – not true in Canada – than an elite class, representing selfishness and greed – the ‘common bad’ – desiring to delude the 99% into being happy with their lot.

    The internal reason Canadians don’t express their despair about the way their country is going is, we are reluctant to talk about it. It’s too depressing. We know, but don’t want to acknowledge it – that the principles of the economic system we are under don’t offer hope for a change for the better, only hope that some may beat the odds and come out ahead.

    The absurd theories that were formulated by the neoliberals have all been shown up for what they were – totally ridiculous. No one talks or writes about the “trickle down” theory anymore. A few diehards dare mention “the invisible hand of the market” that was supposed to result in good economic times for all. The dire consequences of removing regulations to ‘free up markets’ resulted in the biggest economic debacle since the Great Depression. Experience has invalidated all of them, yet capitalism continues following them, with few alterations.

    So how can Canadians acknowledge despair when the dire consequences we are in are not reflected in our media and knowing that we are living under a system that wreaks havoc on our lives but our government refuses to acknowledge the principles it is based on have been discredited?

    We MUST be happy, right? Wrong. And there is no way to make it right until we come to terms with a system where there is no hope for ever making it right.

    I feel the despair I see registered on HT is much healthier than the denial that Canadians are currently in. Cubans have reason for hope. The Canadians I know feel they don’t but we keep trying for change, as futile as it is.

    Like Dariela, Canadians have seen a vast slippage in the standards they were raised with. Many date it starting in the decade she was born – the 70s – the ‘Reagan era’. Canadians are no longer ‘peacekeepers’, but warriors, supporting agendas of the American Empire.

    We used to worry about being a ‘branch plant’ of the US. Now, we ARE a branch plant. Our businesses are being taken over or being put out of business by powerful American corporations.

    Privatization of public services continues unchecked, a strategy for union-busting. ALL of out political leaders – those that stand any chance of being elected – are unpopular due to servicing the interests of the 1% – those who pay for their election campaigns.

    I could go on but I’m getting depressed as I write!

    Dariela, it is very bad here. It’s not often talked or written about in public, we don’t like to think about it and it’s disguised with a veneer of consumer goods, as if they really matter. I’ve been to Cuba and saw how one can get by without them. Change is inevitable. The blockade WILL eventually be lifted. If I am correct, what I see here in Canada – the economic crisis and the crisis of values – will hasten that day.

    Happy birthday! Somehow I have hope that we will both see better days in our respective countries!

    Thank-you for providing me with insight and allowing me to express my despair!

  • Can’t even wish someone a happy birday without getting in your American proaganda it seems. Typical of capitalism. Turn over any Hallmark card and you see the price that was paid for the good wishes.

  • HAPPY BIRTHDAY! May all your wishes come true.

  • Be of good cheer Dariela. Today makes you one birthday closer to the day when Cuba becomes a free and democratic society. That day is surely coming.

  • Happy Birthday, Dariela, Many Happy Returns of the day and may all your birthday wishes come true.

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