Irina Echarry


HAVANA TIMES — No, I don’t want to go to Cuba, I’m not going to sit down damn you, shouted the young man who was standing, holding fast onto the seat of the plane that was taking him back; this was his way of resisting the force of Mexican immigration officials.

This scene is taken from one of the videos that are going viral on the Internet about Cubans being deported, those who were greatly affected by the elimination of the “wet-foot/dry-foot” policy while they were on their way to the US.

It’s sad to think about just how many people have been left with nothing, after selling their little belongings so that they could reach US soil, and now their futures seem so uncertain, so remote from the ones they had planned.

While the government goes on and on about their great achievement, about having won an important battle, etc., you can hear stories, comments and rumors about these unlucky people on the streets of Havana. And a metaphor is constantly being repeated on the Internet: the pressure cooker.

Cuba is the cooker of course, and pressure will build up when all of those deported return to the island. It’s a very good metaphor, and it’s true that it will be more favorable for social upheaval. But, – there is always a but -, those who think that this uprising will come soon and that it will achieve greater freedom, democracy and a change in our system… well, I believe that they should think about this again.

I have been witness to the decline of society over all these years and seen how apathy has taken control. Meanwhile, reggaeton culture is also the cause and effect of this. And, it pains us or doesn’t, because we form a part of this culture. The Cubans who returning to the island by force are also a part of this culture. What makes us think that they will come back any different? More stressed out and unhappy yes, it’s true, but will that have anything to do with how they channel their disappointment?

According to what I gather everyday on the street, the fact that there will be more unsatisfied people here doesn’t mean that there will be a change for the better. The people who are returning today, only left a few months ago, they were already annoyed and preferred to leave, for one reason or another.

It’s complicated, we’ve gradually been accepting this discomfort as something natural: “I’m at rock bottom, just imagine, this isn’t easy.” This is a common phrase but, although it seems a little stupid, the fact that this happens on a daily basis, shows we’ve learned how to live with this discomfort permanently. We don’t try to understand this discomfort, we just experience it. That’s why, when it comes to protesting, people only complain on a superficial level, to the person next to them who is in the same position as they are, but it’s tangible. I can insult and even hit them if I want to, that way I can vent my anger. At the end of the day, it’s not even made clear that I should answer for my actions.

A lot of the time, social matters, which involve all of us, become diluted into something personal which is then vented out on the street in the form of rudeness, abuse and sometimes even acts of physical aggression. This is how we act in extremely different situations: when the driver passes our stop, the neighbor puts on really loud music, teachers sexually harass our teenagers, when we’re not seen properly at the hospital, some people smoke in enclosed areas, or when the butcher steals half of the chicken meant for rations.

The abuse we suffer is continuous. However, expressing annoyance or respect to another person in a public space comes down to guidelines, general consensus, laws, regulations, etc., and not rowdy behavior. Because this is how the strongest, the person who shouts the loudest or the person who deals the hardest blow wins; justice will just be put aside. It doesn’t make sense to deal with it as an insult or personal humiliation; we have to resort to our legal channels. I know that this might seem impossible, worthy of a script for a heroic fantasy novel.

We have stopped believing in, trusting and valuing the justice system which governs our society. We disregard and constantly violate it. For many reasons: crises create chaos; the majority of our laws don’t suit our people; the government, conveniently, turns a blind eye to the offences they consider to be less serious. These are some of the most important reasons, in my opinion.

Especially the one which concerns the government that prefers to lead you to believe, for example, that you are free to cut down a tree if you don’t like it; put music on however loudly you want to, even though this annoys others; to determine when you stop the bus and pick up people; to con your work colleague; set a garbage can alight whenever you want to; to throw a dog out onto the street so that it can live on its own and deal with other people’s abuse; or to ignore hygiene regulations at some kind of food sales point.

We, naive and apathetic people, enjoy this small dose of freedom and don’t go beyond that. It’s the perfect strategy to uphold the current status-quo.

That doesn’t mean to say that, as citizens, we are free of blame, but one thing leads to another. When we move to other countries, we don’t behave like this because we know that if we don’t respect the law then there will be consequences.

In Cuba, we are living a phenomenon of aggravated individualism, thinking about ourselves first and then maybe, about those we love. We forget that we form a part of a society and that we could work together to make it better. Honestly, the majority of people don’t care, my closest neighbors don’t even know what society is, other people joke about it.

That’s why I don’t expect there will be any positive change when the pressure cooker explodes. Can a society really progress when it doesn’t have laws? Where individuals don’t recognize themselves as citizens with rights and duties? Well, yes, advance backwards, like you do in the bus.

Irina Echarry

Irina Echarry: I enjoy reading, going to the movies and spending time with my friends. Many of the people I love are dead, or are no longer in Cuba. I will do my best to transmit my thoughts, ideas or worries via these pages so you can get to know me. I will give an idea of my age, since it helps explain certain things. I’m over thirty-five, and I think that’s enough information. I don’t have any children yet, or nieces or nephews. There are days when I transform myself into a child with no age at all in order to see life from another angle. It helps me break the monotony and survive in this strange world.

6 thoughts on “Where will the Pressure Cooker Blow?

  • Are you promising, N. J. Marti, that the NEXT imperialist domination of Cuba will bring the island a world-class democracy instead of a return of the Batistianos and Mafiosi? How nice of you.

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