Adapting to One’s Country

Veronica Vega

HAVANA TIMES — Whenever I ride or walk through the central areas of Havana, I have a funny feeling. It’s as if I don’t recognize the places even though I can identify every building, every park and every corner.

There’s something new in the rhythm of the city, though it doesn’t involve trains that speed along at 180 miles per hour, the erecting of gleaming skyscrapers, or enormous and deafening malls.

But there are changes of course. One might see a hard currency store suddenly born, as if by magic, from a pile of rubble. The faded walls of a portico will in an instant enclose a clothing store, a cellphone repair shop or a cafeteria. Any space serves to line up tables covered with electronic accessories, books, shoes, pots or whatever.

But the speed I’m referring to isn’t in these objects, it emanates from the people. It’s breathed in the air.

I used to look at those old folks and feel sorry for them. They would be left behind when one needed to chase after a bus that stopped away from the established bus stop. They would remain there, stunned by the flow of people around them shouting and swearing. They remained there perplexed by a society that has left them behind.

Now I’m the one who feels stunned, out of place.

As someone who lived for decades between the country’s present and future (which will never be Cuba), I felt lost like when I was in the streets of Paris, with the labyrinth of its metro and the plague of automation. Now I wonder if I can adapt to a First World country at this point. I feel lost in my own country.

“How can I adapt?” I ask myself.

The ‘60s generation of the “new man” is facing a terrible predicament: adapting to a country where people are wolves pitted against people. This is the nightmare that they struggled so hard to warn us about.

I was sitting on a wall along the edge of a street while four kids were playing with an empty can of soda, kicking it with their feet. It got stuck in the corner and the kids almost slammed into me trying to get it out. They shouted, scaring me, and I couldn’t tell if they were happy or angry.

Sometimes I’ll go up to a teenager with a question and the answer is in their face. It’s a common gesture, almost uniform, a grimace ranging somewhere between indifference and absolute disdain. However, it never ceases to bother me. I’m not accustomed to those codes.

Curiously, a few days ago I read about how the lyrics of certain popular reggaeton songs were going to be censored. It’s a musical style that I for one detest, but I must admit that even with its obscene words and its merciless pace, it perfectly measures the pulse of our society.

It’s likely that censorship in many other respects was accumulating; a resentment that now thrives in those songs that don’t attempt to think about, analyze or question anything. Their goal is to escape – from poverty, political saturation and the lack of freedom.

This takes flight through that only freedom that’s available: sex, loaded with all its inherited machismo. However they won’t succeed at eliminating this by merely banning video clips that denigrate Cuban women.

Degeneration will find other ways to express itself, such as on buses, where forced contact between people seems an ideal outlet for that accumulated anger.

I can’t help thinking of a nurse friend who loved her profession but decided to retire because she could no longer tolerate the frequent injuries from accidents and street fights, nor the ethical degradation of the health care staff.

The ‘60s generation of the “new man” is facing a terrible predicament: adapting to a country where people are wolves pitted against people. This is the nightmare that they struggled so hard to warn us about.

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.

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