Reviewing articles on the Havana Times website, I found one comment to a post by a colleague that was a sharp rebuttal concerning regional differences.
We assume that such feelings have always been held by Cubans, but this isn’t a phenomenon unique to us. Rivalries between regions, states, cities and towns occur all over the world.
These always appeal to comparative terms, such as the inequality of opportunities created by different levels of economic, social or cultural development between regions.
Provincial capitals are obviously those areas that centralize the governmental offices and the most important cultural institutions. Therefore, these always attract people from the countryside in search of better working conditions and more pay.
But these cities as artistic and intellectual meccas are basically fed by all the talent and skilled labor that comes from less developed areas. Of course in these stampedes of migrants there always come criminal and sociopathic elements as well; they too are attracted by the supposedly better conditions.
Regionalism is a phenomenon worthy of in depth study. It has various aspects, indeed very curious ones, such as an implicit derision by capital city residents of their provincial cousins (I never refer to them as “provincial,” because provincialism is a condition, an attitude toward life more than a place from which one comes).
It’s as if those who are born in the capital feel “superior” to those people throughout the rest of the country. This is displayed in actions such as criticizing their manner of speaking, certain modulations of language, etc.
But there’s another regionalism; it’s the one between the western and eastern Cubans. Yet at the same time there are differences between easterners themselves, depending on the degree of importance of their city and, successively, between towns in relation to smaller villages.
The fact is that regionalism is noxious. It has left ugly scars in this country’s history, like the damage caused by this attitude in our wars of independence, especially in the Ten Years War.
Regionalism tends to be sectarian and can create biases that harm society if people look at others with disdain simply because they were born elsewhere.
Recently I heard the words of a former coach of Havana’s “Industiales” baseball team (expressed with an edge of indignation):
“What hurts me most in having lost my last game as the team manager is not so much having lost per se, but in having gone down to the team from Santiago – that’s the thorn buried in my side.”
Christ! – there’s an almost pathological regionalism in those words. But in the end, and what’s most ironic (and I’m not being regionalist), is that people in the cities other than the capital are the ones who have carried out the most significant deeds and accomplishments in the history of this country.
It has to be recognized that the vast majority of eminent personalities — whether in the fields of the arts, sciences, culture or national politics — were born in the provinces. And to top it all off, they were or are from my neglected east.