Cuban Frustrations

Francisco Castro

HAVANA TIMES — Cubans can justifiably feel frustrated about many things. This, however, is not what I want to focus on right now. Rather, I want to touch on the way these frustrations are externalized. Specifically, I will comment on a conversation I had the displeasure of overhearing at one of the waiting areas of the Cuban Radio and Television Institute (ICRT).

The conversation, as one can expect of any exchange between self-respecting Cubans, dealt with every topic under the sun. It wasn’t interesting until it got to the topic of the Brazilian soap opera currently being aired on Cuban television in the evening.

I’ve seen a number of episodes of the soap, titled Avenida Brasil (“Brazil Avenue”), and I was surprised these people had such a negative opinion of it (I hope to show you why below).

The two insisted that the soap opera was not believable, as it depicted permanent residences built in a garbage dump and people who exploited minors, making them “dumpster-dive” in search of discarded objects of value.

I’ve never traveled outside of Cuba, so I can’t exactly refute their claims. However, it’s hard to imagine such details could be made up, particularly when the soap opera was hugely successful in Brazil.

One also needn’t be that well informed to know that many people around the world live in garbage dumps and/or dumpster-dive in order to survive, Cuba included.

The other point they emphasized – and this is the main reason I decided to write these comments – had to do with the young main character in the soap.

In their opinion, it was inconceivable that such a petite, thin and pale woman should be given the lead in a soap opera. Nor could they buy her character’s morbid conflicts. To them, the character wasn’t only poorly conceived; it was also rendered horribly by the actress.

It is not my intention to refute these opinions. I only want to point out the indisputable fact that these individuals who were so vehemently tearing Avenida Brasil to shreds are actors who have never (not once in their very long and not exactly fruitful careers) been able to be part of the cast of a production that remotely resembles the Brazilian program they were criticizing.

For a moment, I was very much surprised that these actors – already in their old age – had such opinions about this successful soap opera, which has been aired by hundreds of broadcasters around the world.

Immediately, however, I remembered that, in Cuba, and perhaps everywhere, such criticisms were a way of venting frustrations, that people often unload their anger on those things that represent the goal they never reached, those things that remind them they never accomplished what they set out to do, those people who have attained the glory they wanted and which slips like sand between the fingers of the frustrated.

This is perhaps the most innocuous way of venting one’s frustrations. I can think of more (self) destructive ways that could have fatal consequences for more than one person.