A Grain of Sand for the Castle of the Arbitrary

Osmel Almaguer

Photo from Holguin, Cuba by Caridad

My cousin was living in Holguin and worked at the provincial headquarters of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) as a maintenance attendant.  One fine day a special meeting was organized for workers at that office who were having housing difficulties.

At that time my cousin lived crammed in a three-room house occupied by three families, one in each bedroom.  Living in the most spacious room was his sister-in-law along with his mother-in-law, who was the owner; in the second was the brother-in-law and his family, and in the smallest was he with his wife and son.  He had to pay the mother-in-law 70 pesos in domestic currency for the room.

At the meeting, six workers raised their hands, including my cousin.  They assigned them some used materials so they could build their own houses.  Twenty sacks of cement, a cubic yard of sand and another one of stone and some concrete blocks (which my cousin turned down because he wanted to build using bricks he already had).

The process was going through the various bureaucratic steps with the usual slowness, but everything indicated that the acquisition of those materials was ensured.  Then, to my cousin’s misfortune, the end of the year was coming and everything was put on freeze until after New Year’s.  However, in the stretch of that time a new PCC secretary was assigned to the province.

Like all authorities who move in to occupy a position, this one tried to revolutionize the province, taking measures that my cousin found extremist and therefore opportunistic.  One of his first decisions was to suspend the assignment of materials to workers at the provincial PCC headquarters.

My cousin’s protests were vain.  Before requesting permission to quit, he found out that some of the managers not only received materials but also totally constructed houses.  To him, though, he was told categorically that resources didn’t exist to address his problem.

Why do we harm ourselves with such ease?  My cousin questioned when seeing his faith in that boss smashed along with his image of the majority of our leaders.  We must ask ourselves whether someone insensitive to an underling’s problems is capable of helping an entire population take care of their difficulties?



Osmel Almaguer:Until recently I would to identify myself as a poet, a cultural promoter and a university student. Now that my notions on poetry have changed slightly, that I got a new job, and that I have finished my studies, I’m forced to ask myself: Am I a different person? In our introductions, we usually mention our social status instead of looking within ourselves for those characteristics that define us as unique and special. The fact that I’m scared of spiders, that I’ve never learned to dance, that I get upset over the simplest things, that culminating moments excite me, that I’m a perfectionist, composed but impulsive, childish but antiquated: these are clues that lead to who I truly am.

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