Living Off Promises

By Sara

HAVANA TIMES – Andres belongs to the generation that actually saw Fidel and his men take power when they reached Havana. He was just a young man back then, who had two changes of clothes as his father was a farmer and his mother a housewife. He was the eldest of nine siblings, and he was the only boy.

Ever since he was a child, he would help his father with sowing crops and taking care of livestock, anything that needed doing around the farm really. They were poor he’d hear his mother say, but even so, they always had food on the table for him and his sisters, as just a few coins were enough to buy all of the staple foods.

Andres’ family experienced the nationalization process, when owners were expropriated from their businesses and property became “the people’s”. The State arranged everything, establishing a new order. That’s how the First Agrarian Reform Law was passed, and the lives of these farmers gained new hope. The Literacy Campaign contributed to the end of illiteracy in the most remote places. The world saw it as a new dawn for Cuba.

Then, the darkness started gaining ground again, when the totalitarian regime held trials and implemented bans on anyone for thinking differently. That’s when one of the most terrible periods of our history came and Military Units to Aid Production (UMAP) were created to “reeducate” – in their words – homosexuals, people with bourgeois principles, the religious or anyone who simply refused to serve their compulsory military service.

That’s how it began to show its claws, after first presenting itself in Cuban homes as the hope for change for Living for the better.

Then came with the so-called “Five Grey Years” which were defined by cultural censorship, harassment of intellectuals and artists and the ostracism of the LGBTIQ+ community. It was coupled with growing financial influence from the Soviet Union, which pressured Cuba to adopt a model of cultural repression that was reflected in Cuba’s domestic policy throughout the ‘70s. This led to censorship of mass media, intellectuals and artists and other attacks which ultimately led to their forced exile. This has led many academics to say that Cuba has suffered cultural backwardness as a result.

Even more absurd measures followed with then “Special Period” (the 1990s post-Soviet crisis) and the alleged Reform that came later. Now, when the regime seems to be taking its last breaths of air, it still continues to implement laws, censoring and persecuting intellectuals and artists and their only crime is that they think differently and are demanding freedom. There has been a crackdown with persecution and heavy sentences. Hundreds of innocent Cubans have been condemned to prison.

Andres is no longer a young man, his parents passed away many years ago, hoping to see the promises made in ‘59, ‘60, ‘61 come true… All of the promises all of those years and in speeches when Fidel convinced the population with promises and then justified his actions blaming the “enemy”, the blockade, anyone else; then, there were new promises. Andres continues to work on his farm, but he can no longer buy the essentials with his earnings to put food on the table. After so many years, he’s still waiting for the Government to do good on these promises or to be able to turn back into the child he once was, before 1959.

Read more from Sara’s diary here.


Sara is enterprising, brave, loves to take on challenges, and is optimistic. She is an animal lover and defender of just causes and freedom.