Living One’s Time in Today’s Cuba

Erasmo Calzadilla

This is how I looked when the Barbados plane was blown up.

HAVANA TIMES — I am unable to access the Internet regularly for now and I don’t know whether I’ll enjoy this marvelous privilege again. I will try to continue writing for Havana Times, even if I have to do so blindly, unaware of what is going on in cyberspace and without feedback. It is because of this that I discontinued my work on cancer in Cuba.

Things, however, are not as negative as they sound, nor have I suffered bitterly over this. On the contrary, I am availing myself of the situation to re-connect with my non-virtual environment. I will turn the lens on me this time around.

History is one of the things I’m passionate about lately. I don’t mean the historical, historiographical or philosophical analysis of facts. I mean a rather odd obsession with jotting down dates in a kind of diary / chronology I’ve been keeping.

My family came out of poverty thanks to the revolution. That is why I began training to defend it against imperialism at a very early age.

I’ve spent my life recklessly squandering my time. I was perfectly happy this way until certain signs drew home the fact I am also getting older. Since then, I am quite stingy with my minutes. To ensure they do not simply slip through my fingers, I give my dear diary a full accounting of how I used my time at the end of every day. I know it sounds a bit oppressive, but, in practice, it keeps me entertained as thoroughly as a new toy.

Now, I know exactly what crazy scheme I was involved in a week or month ago. The diary is also an excellent way of getting to know my biological rhythms and the duration of my menstrual period, to call it that.

I began by jotting down isolated personal experiences, but, little by little, my attention has shifted towards the past and the universe in general (I may need some kind of anchor so as not to wander too far afield). What was happening around the world while I was innocently playing with my toys as a child? I was dying to know.

Thinking about my neighbors after watching Polanski’s The Tenant.

My birthdate, 1975, was a terrible year. Spain got rid of Franco and the war in Vietnam came to an end, but there was genocide in Cambodia, armed conflict began in Angola and Latin America was trampled by the boots of murderous military regimes trained by the CIA. A short year later, a handful of terrorists working for this notorious agency blow up a Cuban commercial airliner off the coast of Barbados.

Blood was in vogue in the mid-seventies – only that helps me explain how a terrible film like Spielberg’s Jaws enjoyed such overwhelming success. In 1976, mind-bending Polanski indulges in a film about violence among neighbors (with The Tenant) and, in 1980, Kubric capitalizes on our morbid fascination with blood, madness and infanticide and fries our brains with The Shining. Two years later, the dead rise from their graves to dance next to Michael Jackson in Thriller, and the Rambo saga kicks off.

My beloved father. Could he be thinking about disemboweling me?

That was the long and the short of it on the big screen, but what was happening out in the real world? In Cuba, we had bunkers in every neighborhood, fathers who went off to a distant continent to kill and die and violent reprisals took place against our very neighbors, encouraged by our supreme leader.

Little Erasmo was not deaf to the message that came from this poisonous environment: nature is full of monsters who want to eat me, a bomb may go off anywhere, my neighbors could torment me to the point of madness, thinking differently is an expedient way of being killed, even my parents could go mad and disembowel me and not even the dead are to be trusted. In short: the Other constitutes a mortal threat and everyone is potentially an Other.

Becoming aware of the way in which so much violent madness came to envelop me in my early childhood has allowed me to understand a number of things. One of my favorite games was playing scientist and dissecting live lizards. Is it surprising that I was indifferent to the pain and death of other creatures?

A diary also makes you look towards the future, and it should help us face up to it. The problem is that an abyss separates the present and future and to extrapolate events from the past would be of little use – not because of the great pace of developments, as futurist Alvin Toffler predicted, but, on the contrary, because of the slam on the breaks we will soon experience.

It doesn’t matter. I will continue to fatten my diary while it proves useful and fun. When it ceases to be either, I’ll sell it for recycling.

2 thoughts on “Living One’s Time in Today’s Cuba

  • Remember that at the time of the Mariel boat lift when questioned Fidel Castro Ruz said that those who did not wish to comply with his version of Socialismo should leave – in short – it’s my way or the high (seas) way.
    I too am unable to access the Internet when at home in Cuba with my wife. She takes advantage of it when here in Canada for her summer vacation to access academic information to aid her teaching. Unfortunately the Castro family regime paranoia causes them to believe that knowledge of the free world by their subjects is a threat. I miss the Internet, open TV and radio and free independent press when at home and in consequence understand the isolation of Cubans. But I guess things could be worse as the Castro family regime has yet to achieve the level of dictatorship enjoyed by their friends and allies, the Kim family regime of North Korea. The porky Kim Jung Un wields his power far more openly than Raul Castro Ruz and the military presence is more obvious.

  • “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” 1 Corinthians 13:11. Whether or not you are a Christian, this scripture should resonate with you. Erasmo’s fears of disembowelment and monsters were the fears of a child. His post implies that to some extent these fears have continued and that should not be so. Now he seems to fear “the slam on the breaks”. Hidden behind his fears is the brainwashing that the Castro regime continues to use to maintain the status quo. The sky is not falling Erasmo. Time to grow up.

Comments are closed.