HAVANA TIMES, July 31 — I’ve spoken to several people in Cuba who have opened up to me about their political views and personal life experiences in this country. Each conversation is always proceeded by a verbal agreement to not repeat what is being told to me; the person then looks around to make sure no one else is listening, and, in a lowered voice, begins to tell me what things are “really like” for them here.
Fidel’s recent appearance on the Round Table program helped me initiate one conversation. I was curious to know what one individual thought about the show. This person complained that there were no questions pertaining to problems in Cuba and expressed how Cuban society has suffered under the Revolution.
“Cuba is a theatre,” the individual said. “There’s no work here. People go to work and talk all day. There’s free education but no jobs! What progress have we made? It’s sad what this country has become.” I listened intently. “Does everyone in Cuba feel this way?” I asked. “No,” the person replied. “Not the people that work for the government or the children of the Communist Party members. So be careful who you talk to. You can’t talk about these things with just anyone.”
A Cuban friend previously told me he or she wouldn’t mention anything critical about the government in front of this person I know; this person I know expressed the same mistrust and hesitancy to say anything critical in front of my Cuban friend.
One individual – who forbade me from sharing any personal details whatsoever about him or her on this site – reiterated just how quiet one must live in Cuba. “It’s dangerous to talk,” the person said, looking around. “With the politics here, you have to be really careful.”
Most foreigners don’t exhibit the same wariness and suspicion that seems to permeate the Cuban national conscience. One thing I’ve noticed is that people who are visiting for short periods of time tend to have more positive views of the country; non-natives who have lived here for longer periods tend to be much more critical.
I recently met one foreigner on vacation who shared his optimism about Cuba. This person said the “lack of racism” —sure to be a hot controversy— and religious harmony in this country make it eligible to be one of the most highly functioning and peaceful societies in the world; the only obstructing factor, this person said, was “the system.”
Another foreigner who has lived here for more than five years said that, in order to live reasonably well in this country, Cubans would have to earn at least $200 Cuban Convertible Pesos a month (US $250) in comparison to the average $20 CUC most Cubans earn (and in the regular national currency). This person said there is a sadness and despair beneath the happy facade of people in this country.
Someone told me to be very cautious in Cuba since I’m an American. This person advised me to make sure I do everything by the book with my student visa. “If you don’t,” the person said in a lowered voice, “they might think you’re trying to infiltrate!”
As a journalism student, not being able to get people to talk to me on record about what things are “really like” here presents a dilemma, so I’ve attempted to relay some anonymous opinions. I’m simply trying to understand a little bit about Cuba and what Cubans really think about things, apart from the propaganda I’ve been fed by both the Cuban and United States government. But remember … this is just between you and me.