Cuba After Obama’s Speech

Nonardo Perea

Photos: Linda Klipp

HAVANA TIMES — I’m a homosexual and there was a time in my life, during my adolescence, when I went through rather unpleasant experiences (both physical and moral abuse). I would cry a lot at the time and ask myself why there were people who attacked me for the simple fact of being different.

Nowadays, I no longer cry as I used to, perhaps because I’ve become stronger and have learned how to remain afloat. In a way, I can now understand those people didn’t have the tools to understand I was different, because society had taught them, since birth, that people like me had no place in a society like ours.

All of the people who at one point mistreated me – teachers, classmates, my stepfather and people in general – have receded to a corner of my mind. I don’t mean, with this, that I’ve forgotten everything that happened, only that I have come to understand that, unless one forgets, one cannot make any headway. Not forgotten would mean dredging up a past that was too painful for me and, doing this time and time again would affect me.

That is why, despite one’s memories, one tries to forget and to forgive, because everything in our lives is part of the moment and the circumstances we live in. In my time, the 1980s, people had different mindsets about homosexuality. Then, one could not even dream of seeing a homosexual be a character in a soap opera. Today, things have changed for, as people rightly say again and again, change is inevitable. I don’t think a homosexual today will go through the same ordeals a homosexual in the 60s, 70s or 80s went through, and this is only natural, as people’s mentalities have changed.

Following Obama’s speech, different people have come on television to express their opinion about the address, and everyone is of the opinion that Obama is suggesting we forget what happened between Cuba and the United States in the past and start from scratch, that this is impossible because the things that have taken place between the two countries cannot be forgotten.

As I see it, when Obama speaks of forgetting, he is not suggesting we erase the past. We all know this is impossible. The US president said this in the best sense of the word, meaning it is healthy to shed one’s resentment and begin a new stage, in which both countries can establish friendly relations, have talks and agree or disagree on different issues, all in conditions of mutual respect and in the exercise of each country’s rights.

Young TV journalist Cristina Escobar said there weren’t many surprises in the speech, though it was well choreographed and read.

I’ve seen a number of comments by this journalist and she does nothing but repeat what other journalists say. She’s the type of professional I’d call a parrot-journalist, repeating everything others say, and one that supports the system at that, a system that has no competition.

Till now, we haven’t seen a single journalist on television differ on this and, needless to say, no members of the opposition either. No sooner has anyone who doesn’t support the government appears than they silence them in some way. This seems to be the only country in the world where we’re all in favor of the government and no one’s against it, where a round table debate involves no disagreement. How could any debate exist if everyone supports the same party? If, by some remote chance, a thinking being should position themselves against a government position or policy, tis best to keep quiet, as we all know a single person can’t make a difference.

Others have said that Obama didn’t ask forgiveness, that he should have done so publicly. Please! Who in Cuba has asked the people who have been directly affected by the government, not the US but the Cuban government, forgiveness? When have either Fidel or Raul Castro taken a podium to ask forgiveness from the thousands of people who were affected by the Military Production Aid Units (UMAP), which, in case Cristina Escobar doesn’t know, she should go back in history and realize it’s not something that can be forgotten (though often is).
The UMAP were forced labor camps run by the military that existed in Cuba between 1965 and 1968. There, homosexuals and certain religious practitioners were sent. They were taken to Camaguey in trains and trucks and put to work in the fields under precarious conditions. At the time, our current president was the Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces.

Has Raul Castro forgotten this, maybe? Because, to date, the issue has not been debated on any Cuban TV program and I’ve never heard them apologize.

Why don’t they apologize to each Cuban citizen who served time in prison for having a one dollar note in their pockets, only to see the dollar decriminalized a few years later? They never speak of that either, and much less about the bloody episode involving the 13 de marzo tugboat, where 41 people (including 10 children) were killed. Who was responsible for that atrocity? Was it the Americans?

No, but not a word is said about this and no one makes any public apologies for it, and, in the same way, no one speaks of our many mistakes over time. They are simply forgotten, though they subsist in history. That is inevitable. We live on Earth, and Earth is round, it’s not a hard drive that can be formatted and left blank. Everything that happens at one point comes to the surface later, because history is always present, in this generation and those to come. That is why I would like to see our journalists work with honesty and, most importantly, with their own ideas, to avoid being manipulated by the interests of the State.

If the blockade hasn’t worked for the United States, this type of socialism hasn’t worked for us either. Perhaps we should start thinking about a different kind of socialism. One can’t ignore the obvious. People do go hungry in our country, our health system may be good, in the sense that it’s free, but medical attention and the mechanisms used are not the best. If you have a problem, they give you an appointment for the next month and, in this time, your condition can worsen.

One has to be an ordinary Cuban and visit a polyclinic or doctor’s office one day to realize how poorly everything works. I don’t know what standard of living some journalists have, or how the people who have said Internet may be negative for Cubans live. Yes, they are even concerned about this, that we may have unrestricted access to the Internet. They are worried because, what use could we Cubans give the Internet?

Some have shown fear. Many want things in Cuba to remain the same and feel the Internet is only going to bring problems. I heard something like this from a woman who probably has a full Internet connection at home and a car, someone who can eat a steak when they please and visit the restaurant where President Obama had a meal without any problems.

I apologize for this post, which may make some people feel bad. I have already forgiven many in the course of my life, so, those who dislike what I write should learn to forgive me, even if they can’t forget, as this post has already been written and history is history.

Nonardo Perea

Nonardo Perea: I see myself as an observant person and I like to write with sincerity what I think and live first hand. I’m shy and of few words; thus it’s difficult for me to engage in conversation. For that reason, my best tool for communicating is writing. I live in Marianao, Havana and am 40 years old.