Incident on the Train in Pinar del Rio, Cuba

By Pedro Pablo Morejon

HAVANA TIMES – A rundown, dirty and lumbering train is the means of transport that not only I, but hundreds of people use to travel on a journey that begins in the Pinar del Rio provincial capital and takes us to a distant municipality.

Many trains have been canceled recently because of a lack of fuel, and that’s when people find themselves forced to hitch a ride on the highway, which we call “coger botella” around here.

But that’s not what I want to talk about today. Instead, I’d like to tell you about a scene that happened a few days ago, in one of the train’s wagons, full of people including myself.

Three men were talking out loud about the situation. They complained about medicine shortages, about prices, widespread shortages and lastly, the conversation turned towards the thousand-something political prisoners that protested on July 11th and 12th last year.

I joined the conversation, and, in a few minutes, I had approximately nine people listening to me as if I were leading a political rally.

A few meters away, a 60-something-old-man was watching me and made comments that I couldn’t make out over the train’s loud engine. However, judging by his facial expressions, you didn’t have to be a smartass to understand the hostility in them.

At one point, when the train stopped at the first town, I asked him what he was saying. He moved forward to where I was and raising his voice asked:

“If you don’t like your country, why the hell don’t you leave?”

I had an elderly man just a couple of meters in front of me, who had lived a hard life judging by his many wrinkles, and he was telling me off with no respect whatsoever. A man who wouldn’t stand a good punch or two from me. Trust me, the desire was there.

The three men from the beginning began to make comments with words like “There’s always someone,” “It isn’t easy, there are still people like this around.”

Given his age, people booing him, and given the fact I’m not a violent man… because of all this, I tried to be assertive, initiating a conversation as best I could.

I lowered my voice and forgot the insults.

“I like my country, what I don’t like is the dictatorship that oppresses it, I was born here, it’s my country, I don’t need to leave.”

“You’re talking badly about the Revolution and our country.”

“What you call revolution is a dictatorship and that’s not what Cuba is, nor is it the Communist Party, or socialism. Cuba is this land, its people.” My voice was firm, but my tone was soft, educational.

“What dictatorship are you talking about? Dictatorship is Capitalism,” his voice had also calmed down in aggressiveness by now.

“About this dictatorship, the one that has ruined the lives of thousands of young people, locking them up for up to 20 years because they protested on July 11th, this wouldn’t happen in a free country, but here something as basic as freedom of speech isn’t respected.”

“We do have freedom of speech here, what we don’t allow is raising our voices and giving rallies like you are, and those criminals weren’t peaceful, they took to the streets to beat people and throw stones.”

“Oh, Mr, please, everybody saw the protests, most of them were peaceful and the people going around beating other people were the police and some people like you, everybody saw that, because it seems only you, the minority, are allowed to raise your voice, hold rallies, and even give out beatings. You yourself came here to shout at me.”

Almost every passenger in that train wagon was looking at me and they nodded with their heads as a display of their solidarity.

“Because I can’t let you talk badly about this revolution,” he replied with renewed hostility.

From that moment on, everyone around me began to jeer at him, raising their voices to call him a snitch, among other compliments. Luckily, the train picked back up again with its normal sound and the man moved away, annoyed, given my lack of attention to his shouting and the commotion coming from the crowd.

This all happened in a matter of minutes, things went back to normal. It seemed like nothing had happened. My adrenaline levels began to drop. That’s when I was able to process the importance of what had happened. For the first time ever, I had publicly talked about my opinions on the system.

The reality is that I’ve got in a scuffle or two before, but there had only been two or three witnesses. This time, the auditorium had over 40 people.

“I was a hero in some people’s eyes, a crazy man in the majority’s eyes or an idiot for exposing myself.” “For others, I was provoking him because I work for State Security.” “Thank God there were no police around, I’d have been arrested.”

That’s when negative ideas began to settle in my mind, which I brushed off with a stoic thought that I always turn to when I feel like I’m in danger. “I’m a ball of balls.”

I reached my destination. A few hours passed by, but I couldn’t shake the fear in my body.

Read more by Pedro Pablo Morejon here.

7 thoughts on “Incident on the Train in Pinar del Rio, Cuba

  • Dear Pedro, I fell in love with your country and its people – everyone I met were wonderful human beings. I tried my best to understand the revolution and heritage, with the insight of a seasoned guide. Your country and its people touched me in a way I will never forget. I read your posts and suddenly, I’m transported to the place I fell in love with – but also with an appreciation that paradise has much work to do to be perfect. I am extremely lucky to live in the UK where freedom of speech is a birth right, but even here you would experience conflict of opinion and always twisted by the ‘free speech’ media. I feel your situation and hope that the people of cuba benefit more than the rule of the government. The government should always serve the people, not the other way around. You are right in everything you say in my opinion, and my hope and prayers are for all Cubans that someday they will get the quality of life that others enjoy in other parts of the world. Stay safe and stay strong – Pedro you are invincible.

  • How can I say this to Pedro in a nice way, you have more balls then brains with talk like that when you are Cuban living in Cuba. Get your family out & make a difference in your Cuban world. If I could I would give you 6 months of trade in locations, mine for yours to get a head start. I think & I am very sure you would not waste the change to make a life for your family & as your commitment would continue for a Free Cuba will Never Stop even in Canada & you would help more then just Cuba. A Turn Key Canadian Home for a Cuban Trying to make life better where no one wants it, or thats what I ran into or got runover from in my 10 years of life in Cuba. Stay out of prison I like how you write the truth.

  • Criticising the government or the system in Cuba?
    People do it all the time. Every bus stop. Every bar. Every street corner. Everywhere you go people criticise this and that.
    Totally normal to criticise out loud as Dan very rightly suggests.
    If people organise and have a big old demonstration or something, that’s when they get whacked. That’s when they try and make an example of those that get caught out.
    Like these ridiculous sentences for July 11th.
    People should have the right to protest everywhere in this world.
    My understanding of Cuba is that you can say what you want. Way more so than in a great many other countries.
    But once you try and organise a big public anti-something shindig, then that’s when you’re gonna get f**ked over.

  • Yes I’m serious Noel. You must not know Cuba very well. You can say what you want in Cuba w/ surprisingly little risk relatively speaking.

  • Thank you for your courage and forthright words on that train. Cuba is a wonderful place and it’s a tragedy that the Cuban government is ruining the noble and justified ideals of the Revolution.

  • Dan, are you f(((ing serious? to be locked away for 10+ years, speak of Cuba only

  • I’ve seen this a million times in Cuba. Sorry, Pedro, but it takes no bravery whatsoever to publically criticize the government in Cuba. People do it all the time. If you want to play hero, try the same thing in Honduras.

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