Ernesto Carralero Burgos
HAVANA TIMES —This past December 17th was one of the most important days in Cuban history. During surprising official declarations, the governments of Cuba and the United States announced they were re-establishing diplomatic relations, broken off in 1961.
Though opinions on this differ, the truth is that the vast majority of young people in Cuba are optimistic. The first thing many friends and acquaintances thought was: “the island is going to fill up with gringos!”
Evidently, young people in Cuba do not feel any particular resentment towards the people or culture of the United States.
The relief that this will mean for our depressed economy is, without a doubt, something people anxiously await. The possibility of US investors settling in Cuba and offering a broader scope of jobs and higher wages is something most hope for. Someone said to me:
“It’s crazy, and I don’t know why the government is saying that, for every dollar a foreign company pays, they’re going to give you 2 Cuban pesos. I don’t know what they’re going to come up with, because no one can tell me that, if I earn 500 dollars a month (10,000 Cuban pesos), my salary’s going to 1,000 pesos, not unless prices go down considerably.”
The White House’s announcement that it will help improve Internet access in Cuba has also created expectations. To be able to chat with relatives in other parts of the world, connect to the web and play the occasional Dota 2 game and, who knows, maybe even participate in the competition for the millions in prizes they give out in that tournament, use Facebook and Twitter, and to do it in the comfort of one’s own home, is quite the exciting prospect.
Many, however, remain skeptical. A friend who is planning on leaving the country was saying to me:
“Things may get better here, but you won’t be seeing the difference overnight. If things go well, it’ll be years before everything gets back on its feet, so I’ll be waiting for that somewhere else.”
An acquaintance said to me:
“Who knows! You can never know with Americans. Those folk don’t do anything for free. We’ll have to wait and see what happens now.”
Despite these and other negative comments and reservations, the majority of young people are expressing a kind of hope that seemed to have been lost in Cuba: the hope of a future on the island.
We could say that many in Cuba are beginning to have a “Cuban dream”, beyond politics and ideology. People expect changes. The US government has gained massive popularity with this gesture.
Though I respect that many in other parts of the world or within Cuba there are those who feel betrayed or oppose these developments, the truth is that young people in Cuba do not identify with those who condemned the measures.
Another acquaintance was saying to me:
“Those people (the ones criticizing the agreement) are sons of bitches. Since they’re not the ones who have to live in this mess, they don’t care whether things get better or not. Ultimately, I just want to have a good life, I don’t give a crap about politics.”
We obviously can’t expect people who have lived under such tough conditions for so long to share in the enthusiasm of many Cubans.
Much is also being said about the Cuban Adjustment Act and family reunification:
“They’re sponsoring me and my interview is in a very long time. If they repeal the Adjustment Act, I may be left hanging.”
The issue of the three Cuban agents and the release of Alan Gross has also prompted a number of debates:
“I don’t really care about any of those people, but getting three life-sentences is a bummer.”
“And what about that other guy, why was he in prison again? He got 15 years. At his age, he was going to get out in a pine box.”
Others are glad to see the three Cuban agents return home and have expressed sincere happiness over their release.
In short, Cuba’s youth, and many others in Cuba, feel that something has changed or is about to change. The months to come will tell us whether we are wrong or not.