Isbel Diaz Torres
HAVANA TIMES – Cuban golf has made international headlines again this October. On this occasion, we read rumors that the island may create a Cuban Golf Federation.
During a gathering held at the beginning of the month (probably very elegant and refined, as the “updating” of the revolutionary process demands), The Iberian Culture Day Golf Tournament was held under the auspices of the Spanish embassy in Havana.
According to the magazine OnCuba, the vice-chair of the Cuban National Sports and Recreation Institute (INDER), Gladys Becquer, attended the gathering, and Antonio Castro Soto del Valle, the enthusiastic golfer and son of former President Fidel Castro, was among the VIP guests.
In the words of Juan Francisco Montalban Carrasco, Spanish ambassador to Havana, the son of the former leader is “yet another Cuban golf enthusiast.” Let us not forget that, in addition to race cars and exotic vacations, Castro has a keen taste for golf. In Varadero, he won the Esencia Cup during the 2012 Montecristo Cup tournament.
Antonio is one of 65 competitors from 11 different countries who signed up for the 14th Iberian Culture Day Tournament this year.
Different press agencies report that representatives of the US Professional Golfers Association, such as Rich Beem and Gary L. Schaal (who has been an industry leader for more than 30 years) also attended the function.
The president of the Spanish Golf Federation, Gonzaga Escauriaza, and the head of the newly reopened US Embassy in Havana, Jeff DeLaurentis, were also in attendance.
According to international press agencies, the vice-chair of Cuba’s sports institution did not offer any details about the creation of a national golf federation or about the candidates being considered for its leadership. “That’s being assessed at the moment,” she replied.
What seems certain is that the old slogan which proclaimed sports as a “people’s right” is being left out of these new plans to implement the Guidelines of the Cuban Communist Party.
There will always be those who say I am opposed to progress. This is understandable. But I won’t cease to express my dismay at seeing how the effort to make sports a popular right – an activity free from the vulgar professional mechanisms where money and personal glory reign supreme – is being betrayed.
Perhaps the government never took this effort seriously in the first place, but that’s quite simply their problem.
To top things off, they aren’t satisfied with exporting team and individual sports that are part of our country’s traditions, and insist on importing one that is intrinsically destructive of the environment and foreign to our culture, a sport that is reserved for a wealthy elite (which, in Cuba, is intertwined with political and military cliques).
An 18-hole golf course consumes about 1.5 million liters of water a day. Can you imagine what that would mean for an island like Cuba?
According to the book Cuba: “Impact of Climate Change and Adaptive Measures”, rainfall will continue to diminish towards the island’s eastern regions and draughts will become more common, intense and protracted. Coupled with high rates of evaporation, this will contribute to the deterioration of soils and the dwindling of water reserves.
The intense and prolonged draught has hit Cuba’s south-eastern regions most severely. Since 2012, scant rainfall has increasingly led to the partial or total exhaustion of more than 350 sources of water in the region.
Closer to the island’s center, 90% of the province of Cienfuegos has suffered the consequences of scant precipitation since November of 2014, a situation which persisted until April of this year. All the while, Cuba’s Ministry of Tourism is developing nine golf courses there, with over 22,400 hotel rooms around it.
Cuba’s west has not lagged behind and has presented record high temperatures and water shortages. There, they have already announced the construction of several golf courses within the Ganahacabibes Biosphere Reserve. This is a place, incidentally, that Cubans are not allowed to access.
Little by little, without consulting the public (and sometimes not even the experts), making it impossible to effectively oppose any of these measures, the Cuban government moves forward in its self-preservation efforts, no matter what the costs.
If it has to hand over its culture and natural resources on a silver platter to achieve this, these will quite simply become collateral damage that the powerful can bemoan, while gracefully swinging their golf clubs and drinking a refreshing mojito.