About Freedom and How it Relates to Cuba

Veronica Vega

Cuban national hero Jose Marti.
Cuban national hero Jose Marti.

HAVANA TIMES — I was inspired to write this post by a recent conversation I had with other HT colleagues.

We were talking about countries where people have freedom of speech. A colleague mentioned that having lived outside of Cuba, she discovered that democracy was useless even though people can criticize the government and have freedom of association and a multi-party system. The majority of citizens aren’t interested in exercising these rights or in actively contributing to the improvement of their country, she said.

Another colleague insisted on the need for Cubans to be able to express ourselves 100% freely as soon as possible, an opinion which I supported.

Reflecting on the subject a little later, I came to the conclusion that comparisons are always inefficient and tend to distort reality. Freedom of speech (and its by-products: freedom of association, freedom of beliefs, to create companies… etc.) don’t resolve every social problem because it is just the first building block in focusing objectively on how a system works.

However, the impossibility of talking about problems freely and in public, even about the real causes behind an economic disaster, can indeed worsen the social landscape, like it has in Cuba.

A Cuban friend who lives in Austin, Texas, told me that a part of the reason that Trump won the election was the US people’s indifference, those who didn’t vote, I believe it was 56%.

This reveals that even in democratic systems, the large majority of people choose civil unconsciousness. And that is also exercising freedom; however, it is founded on ignorance unfortunately.

We are all responsible for how things work at home, in our city, in our country and in the world. Of course, not all of us have a political background or what it takes to lead or organize a country, but there is always a way for us to support what is going on, from our own plane of action.

The interpretation of freedom as the capacity to do everything that we please comes into conflict with all kinds of restrictions from the outset: spatial, time-related, material, physical and even psychological. Without taking into account the restrictions that are imposed by social laws themselves, even in the most advanced countries, when it comes to human rights.

A young man once told me that for him, freedom meant not feeling suffocated by obligations, and he gave me the example of first world countries where people live at a non-stop pace. This stress was the loss of peace for him and he believed that without peace, you can’t enjoy freedom.

I kept on collecting ideas and I gathered these:

-Freedom is the capacity to adapt, to accept even that which might not please us.

-Freedom is the capacity to understand, to identify ourselves with others.

-Freedom is not clinging to something or someone. To live this life as if it were a show, a theater performance, because soon the event will end whether we want it to or not and we will have to leave the stage.

-Freedom and happiness are the same thing. And for me, happiness is the absence of contradictions.

This last opinion reminded me about what Gandhi said about happiness manifesting itself when “what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” Then the necessity of freedom of speech hit me again.

What can work in an individual, or in millions of people, in harmony when truth itself is blocked, censored and left out? When the understanding of what surrounds us is distorted through the lens of less than subjective, manipulated interpretations? It’s like changing the air we breathe.

Truth is just “what it is, what exists, what is happening” and the malicious interpretation of it, the mental or verbal construction of it, can’t replace what it is and the only outcome is confusion, a standstill, apathy.

Truth is the start of everything that is born. For progress to be natural, healthy, what has been created needs to continue growing with this truth.

And returning to the subject that started off this post, in my opinion, freedom is simply an extension of truth.

Veronica Vega

Veronica Vega: I believe that truth has power and the word can and should be an extension of the truth. I think that is also the role of Art and the media. I consider myself an artist, but above all, a seeker and defender of the Truth as an essential element of what sustains human existence and consciousness. I believe that Cuba can and must change and that websites like Havana Times contribute to that necessary change.

4 thoughts on “About Freedom and How it Relates to Cuba

  • December 23, 2016 at 6:23 pm

    I have frequently expressed my views about the communist Castro regime’s repression of freedeom and opposition to human rights as defined by the UN. But Cuba has a long sad history of oppression of non-whites for centuries. The white predominantly Spanish population under Spanish rule not only virtually eradicated the native Taino Indians, but imported hundreds of thousands of black slaves.
    Eventually the numbers of slaves created concerns about how to maintain white domination. In 1796. the Marques de Casa Penalver suggested the “maintenance of equilibrium” by limiting introduction of negroes and by importing whites – he suggested from the Canary Islands and Indians from Vera Cruz.
    Francisco de Arange y Parreno agent of Havana said in response:
    “We tolerate and have always tolerated the entry of negro infidels but we cannot suffer the entry of white Catholics unless they be Spaniards.
    In 1814, a plot to free slaves by a free negro Jose Antonio Aponte was discovered and the leaders executed,
    In 1815 concerns about encouraging white immigrants led to adoption of a new policy. Foreigners of the Catholic faith willing to take the oath of allegiance were allowed to own four and two sevenths of a fanegas (1.59 acres) for each member of their family and half as much for each slave imported and were exempt from tax for fifteen years.
    But in 1817, Britain and Spain made a treaty to end the slave trade, which Spain ignored landing 56,000 slaves in Havana between 1818 and 1821.
    in 1835, Britain extracted another treaty from a reluctant Spain.
    In 1835, Spain determined to promote white colonization which was followed in 1843 by 93 planters petitioning in 1843 about their concerns that of Cuba’s 660,000 inhabitants, 498,000 were slaves.
    In response, Spain imported 600 coolies from China in 1846.
    By 1852, 125,000 Chinese coolies had entered. Slavery was eventually abolished in 1886.
    Between 1899 and 1905, 150,000 Spaniards immigrated.
    In 1913 the Cuban government paid a bonus of $5 for every person imported from Panama.
    In March 1914, the Cuban President Mario G. Menocal appointed Senator Manuel Fernandez Guevara as special commissioner to Spain to investigate”the best way to promote immigration to our Republic on a large scale.
    In 1917 President Menocal signed a law permitting entry of contract labourers and 150,000 Chinese were admttted.
    Apart from thye obvious and logical conclusion that the Spanish did not like physical work themselves, the history of rampant racism is apparent and with it the denial of basic freedoms.
    The difference in today’s Cuba is that freedom and human rights are denied to all except the Castro family cabal.

  • December 15, 2016 at 2:24 pm

    Frank, please change your final line to:

  • December 14, 2016 at 4:20 pm

    Freedom is the capacity to to disagree with the powerful without fear of consequences.

  • December 14, 2016 at 12:28 pm

    bravo bravo well written…..you are indeed on the road to to understanding this island of cuba..it is so sad to see a race(yes i have to use this word because they have become a race of people) of people who do not know how to dream…to have no hope…to believe and accept only what they are told.the exciting thing is that the young cuban will not go down this road but will question thier fathers and grandfathers untill they too after searching for the truth will decide for themselves what the futur will be….my wife and i were out walking one night and i seen in a house a very young musical band and they were singing a song that had a memorable chorus….i asked my wife to translate as my spanish is not all that great and she said that they are singing these words”were not going to take it anymore”….vive cuba

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