Irina Pino

Obama’s arrival to Havana. Photo: Ismael Francisco/cubadebate

HAVANA TIMES — Without a perfectly blue sky and under a persistent drizzle, Cubans awaited the arrival on Sunday of US President Barack Obama. There was no glamour to the proceedings, only a cold array of journalists standing on a platform set up in front of the plane, quite far from it, incidentally.

The captivating smile of Barack Obama, holding a black umbrella to protect his lovely wife and daughters, was, however, enough. The fleeting moment was over when he boarded a limousine and disappeared, followed by other limos and cars. What many had hoped for didn’t happen: there were no people at either side of the street, cordoned off and holding the flags of both countries, cheering and screaming with joy.

An afternoon visit to the Havana Cathedral, so Obama could see the colonial architecture and meet with the cardinal, had been planned. Why did they not think to take him afterwards to a poor neighborhood like the one on Cuarteles and Aguiar streets, in the same Old Havana?

I like Obama. He’s a man who has brought about social change, who, in his youth, during his career as lawyer, senator and later president, worked to secure rights for African-Americans and immigrants. He’s also secured benefits for the children of underprivileged families. The fact he’s a writer makes him even more appealing to me.

While the news broadcast his agenda in Havana, I asked my mother for her opinion. She replied: “He’s a beautiful black man, but he hasn’t done anything for Cuba.” So I went in his defense and told her about the actions he’s undertaken on behalf of the people of his community. She says she has no faith in him, but she has no faith in anyone here either, to be sure.

I laughed and told her I would like to invite him over, just like the 76-year-old woman invited him to have coffee in her home, to spend 24 hours in my humble abode (at which time I would take Michelle and the girls to the apartment that my neighbor rents downstairs).

I would lay it out for him:

“Obama, here you have to have the terrible coffee they ration out to us and eat sour-tasting bread. But, don’t worry, that’s what the Pepto-Bismol you brought with you is for.”

“Oh, and another thing. If you like bathing with warm water, you have to pour it over yourself from a bucket.”

“I can offer you a bit of guava or papaya juice, but fruits have weird flavors these days, flavors you might not recognize.”

At night, I would perhaps invite him to Havana’s Art Factory or, better, the Yellow Submarine club, since I know he’s a fan of rock music. The first two beers would be on me, of course, but he’d have to pay for the rest.


Irina Pino

Irina Pino: I was born in the middle of shortages in those sixties that marked so many patterns in the world. Although I currently live in Miramar, I miss the city center with its cinemas and theaters, and the bohemian atmosphere of Old Havana, where I often go. Writing is the essential thing in my life, be it poetry, fiction or articles, a communion of ideas that identifies me. With my family and my friends, I get my share of happiness.

5 thoughts on “Our Dear President Obama

  • Nope. There’s lots of things Cubans can do for themselves even with the embargo in place. Increase productivity. Decrease corruption. Clean up the environment. Allow for greater individual expression. And so on.

  • Isn’t it kind of unfair to say Cubans will have to rely on themselves with the embargo in place.

  • How can you say Obama has done nothing for Cuba. Open your eyes. He is doing things right now. I understand that 3 million visitors came to Cuba last year and if the US flood gates were to open that would soar to 10 million almost overnight. The news here said there will be over 100 daily flights from the US to Cuba soon. One of the largest hotel chains in the world will soon be operating in Havana. These people bring disposable income and jobs. He is not oblivious to the plight of the poor. Is the President of the United States supposed to wallow in their wretchedness? He is the Head of State and even the Pope draws the line (Okay a sort of curvy one) about where is goes and what he does. But Obama is not here as a social missionary. He is helping you enormously. Your attitude is akin to Puerto Rico’s where decades ago they convinced Congress to stop sending Food Stamps and just send cash. Now the PR government says they can’t pay the $80 Billion they are in debt and the US government must bail them out. Ask yourself what he really can do and keep in mind we live in a very political world. (Thank your lucky stars you’re not wrestling with Trump or Cruz or Rubio …lol!)

  • There it is again. ….another Cuban writer who reflects an unabashed desire to have someone do something for Cuba. Her mother complains “but he hasn’t done anything for Cuba.” Nor should he! Cubans must begin to rely on themselves. One day there will be no Soviet Union, no Venezuela and no other country to dole out the freebies. It’s exactly what former British Prime Minister Thatcher said. Cuba will “…run out of other people’s money”. And then what?

  • Irina, mixed bag all around. I’m more optimistic but also living an entirely different lifestyle. One day at a time!

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