The Talk of the Town in Cuba, Bigtime

Haana Photo: Juan Suarez

By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez

HAVANA TIMES – Living in Cuba, staying here, not leaving the land where we were born indefinitely, has become the worst option for Cubans. Especially for the youngest of us. Very few think about anything other than emigrating.

It’s the most common subject of conversation in households right now, because we all have a family member and many friends and acquaintances who are already planning to leave or have left in recent months. If not, we’re thinking about it ourselves.

Unlike the virtual reality that government media transmits, Cubans’ greatest concern isn’t whether there is any chance that MSMEs will be approved – which is being pushed, supposedly-, or the 63 measures that they want to try and revive agriculture with for the umpteenth time, or Diaz-Canel’s promoted but unbelievable government “based on science and innovation.”

People are more than convinced that there is no present or future here with the Communist Party; that science and innovation won’t be good for anything; or a thousand new or dressed-up measures are going to push anything forward, because none of this means real change, it’s just continuing with the same old that hasn’t worked up until now.

People’s hopes for the Government to react and create positive change are as scarce and non-existent as their hopes of removing them from power and wiping the slate clean. So, emigration seems like the best choice. That’s because the disappointment of living in Cuba is huge and will only end with a transition to democracy.

Those who have already “thrown in the towel and escaped” don’t want people to keep emigrating, as they will lose potential agents of change. When they reach other countries where there is freedom, where it’s very easy and normal to act as a citizen and defend your rights without the need to pay dearly for it or flee, they forget why they had to leave and the sick fear they had because of the system’s repression. They attack Cubans for emigrating instead of “taking to the street and overthrowing the dictatorship.” That’s the vicious cycle we find ourselves stuck in.

As I’m in Cuba and I understand what’s happening to us, I don’t question anyone for emigrating. I should have done it and I’m holding out, while I do what I can to push for change, without bursting into flames. I’m not recriminating anyone for not having the courage, (almost suicidal socially), of coming out of the political closet and standing up to the system.

I’m not pushing anyone onto the stake, I just applaud those who do and call them “brothers”, because I know that things are very tense. I understand why the struggle here isn’t big enough.

I know that democratic and liberal changes are essential for us to have a Better Cuba, but the right conditions for this to materialize haven’t matured yet, in any way.

Even though it seems like it will still be a while, I know the process is in motion, it’s inevitable and is our hope to not falter. We will still watch the country let go of many of its children before we can have the chance to live a dignified and prosperous life on this land.

Read more from Osmel Ramirez’s diary here.

4 thoughts on “The Talk of the Town in Cuba, Bigtime

  • First off, let me say that I don’t understand the rationale for staying in one of Cuba’s so-called 5-star resorts. Nearby Cancún hotels are loads more luxurious, better food, and better service. By the way, there are so many Cubans in Mexico now, and specifically working in tourism in Cancun that if you are thinking about answering my comment with “I just love the Cuban people”, you can easily find them in Cancun everywhere you go. Second, I don’t think positive changes are inevitable in Cuba as Osmel implies. On the contrary, as long as the Castro regime keeps enough people so busy thinking about what they are going to have for dinner that day, there will be no energy left to apply any type of pressure on the Castros to leave town. And as long as the Castro regime is around, they have no incentive themselves to change. From personal conversations with some high-ranking scalewags in Havana, I can tell you that they know that life in Cuba sucks for 95% of the population. They don’t care! It’s like the majority of Trumpsters in the US know their guy is a narcissistic idiot. Cubans in leadership, like Trumpsters, as long as they are getting their personal agenda met, don’t give a flying frog about anyone else.

  • Thanks to Osmel for his observations that help us understand the realities of Cuba and to Stephen for responding to offensive generalizations about visitors – Canadians in particular (of which I am one).

    Many of us have visited Cuba many times. The older ones among us remember and have studied the inequalities and abuses of pre-revolutionary Cuba and watch with hope that the economy and political openness will improve. We don’t come to Cuba for resorts and beaches but to spend time (and money) in established neighbourhoods and to witness change.

    Over 13 years, every visit showed changes and a seeming improvement in living conditions and access to internet and cell phones and evidence of growing enterprise.

    But recent years have been disappointing as change was outstripped by the demand for change and repression has tried and failed to suppress discontent. My optimism for the people of Cuba has been greatly diminished.

    However, my faith in the Cuban people is strong and I will come back with hope that the government is listening to them.

  • I agree with Osmel’s thesis. Cuba today is in such an economic mess and has been for years despite what the few political communist cadres say. The only viable option for, and especially, young Cubans is to emigrate.

    Young Cubans have been witness to years and years of economic struggles, economic stagnation, sheer misery endured by their grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles all the while the politicos keep plastering incoherent propaganda that is absolutely unbelievable and unacceptable by the majority of Cubans.

    There is a clear disconnect from those few who rule with an iron fist and the majority who work hard, pay their dues yet at the end of the day feel totally worthless. So, as Osmel says: why stay? Every Cuban needs to process that question for themselves. Many have and have left. Others like Osmel are undergoing cognitive dissonance: “I should have done it and I’m holding out, while I do what I can to push for change, without bursting into flames.”

    Good for Osmel. I too hope it works out for him and others like him.

    I totally disagree with Olgasintamales when he writes that Canadian tourists are indifferent to pain being suffered by Cubans. He states: “ . . . the Canadians tourists taste mojitos indifferent to the pain.” Absolute nonsense.

    Olgasintamales does not know what he is saying by making uniformed generalities about Canadian tourists. Many Canadian tourists are more than welcome by the very suffering Cubans when tourists come down bringing with them in their suitcases medicines, clothes, shoes, toiletries, items inaccessible to the majority of Cubans and unaffordable to boot.

    Let me edify Olgasintamales about those Canadians who do visit and financially contribute to ordinary Cubans’ lives.

    Those Canadians, or any foreign tourist for that matter, who choose to stay at a “casa particular” in a Cuban community contribute significantly to the betterment of that poverty stricken Cuban landlord who rents out a bedroom or two to travelers. The home owner is able to receive much needed currency which s/he then uses to pay bills and support the family. There is the obvious tangible benefits to deal with pain indifference.

    There are also many intangible benefits. The friendship that develops between the landlord and tenant is more often than not is long lasting. Many, many of these habitual relationships continue for years as the same tourist(s) come back to the same friendly home owner for a renewed visit. The psychological satisfaction to the Cuban homeowner of offering a helpful hospitable service to a foreigner and receiving financial compensation plus receiving continues rental reinforcement is immense.

    Invariably any tourist visiting the island will contribute to the continuation of the present political Party elites and their inept economic policies detrimental to the average Cuban on the street. To simply state in a broad stroke that Canadian tourists contribute to the present pain is ludicrous and insults those very Canadians who go knowing full well the suffering on the island yet do their best, within their means, to help.

    Every Canadian tourist makes their own moral decision of whether a trip to Cuba helps the poverty stricken ordinary Cuban with their plight, or simply helps another authoritarian regime. From my personal experience and many Canadians like me, a “casa particular” visit helps Cubans innumerably deal with poverty and I know the tangible and intangible benefits provided alleviates some of the economic and psychological pain. Better some help than zero.

  • Younger generations of Cubans just needs to look around them and see the people who sacrificed theirs lives for that regime today they have nothing , after 62 years not only economic misery but lack of freedom, association, and more repression. The people that peacefully protested on July 11 today they are sentenced to long sentences of up to 20 years. While tourists have more rights than the natives and the Canadians tourists taste mojitos indifferent to the pain. Cuba is a Living hell.

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