HAVANA TIMES — From the compilation of Miami broadcasts that people on the island can pick up on banned satellite antennas and dishes, I found a documentary about Elian Gonzalez.
What Cuban doesn’t know that name? Even my son, who was only four years old at the time of that incident, knows the story.
I clearly remember the wave of televised hysteria that erupted when the story broke in 1999. It was impossible not to get involved in the drama.
In a flash, a totally anonymous and innocent child from the provinces became the focus of international attention. He was turned into the object of struggle between two nations.
At least that’s what I thought back then. However, in the documentary it was a big surprise not to see any evidence that Bill Clinton, the then US president, refused or even objected to the return of the child. He merely supported US law. His actions were fair and precise.
Where did this challenge come from that caused Cubans to respond by pulling students out of schools and having them shout slogans in front of the US Interests Section?
It came from the bitter sector of the Miami community made up of émigré Cubans and Cuban-Americans joined into a sudden demand for revenge. Was it for the child who had suffered the clandestine departure, a shipwreck, the death of his mother, and now the scandal? Was it because of the tragedy he sustained when attempting to live in a “free” country?
No, it was about the stigma of exile and uprooting. It was an opportunity to discredit the Cuban revolution, communism, and to redeem the victims who hide those mythical 90 miles between Cuba and USA. It was because politics is perched on human dramas, with their pain, for building legends and statues.
But what got me thinking, what came to my mind as I finished watching the documentary, in insistent flashes, were images of Cubans carrying signs and shouting in the city of Miami, and of Cubans carrying signs and shouting in the cities of Cardenas and Havana.
Like a reflection, it was a screening of Cuba attacking Cuba – and with such anger!
And, as if awakening, I thought that this war that seemed to hang like a shadow over the island has actually been here, and among us.
It was consolidated with political classes, induced accusations, becoming visible in repudiation rallies, acts of piracy between rafters, and conflicts carried out for privileges including microbrigade apartments, telephone lines, positions of responsibility, etc.
It’s exercised by the repair technician who steals parts from your computer, the vendor who waters-down their merchandise, the baker who rigs their scale, the clerk who doesn’t give the correct change, the delinquent who attacks a taxi driver, the “anonymous” masses who accept to take part in “rapid response” harassment.
Why do we need an invading Yankee? The anger and uprooting are not only in Miami. “Homeland is humanity,” said Marti (an aphorism that’s hardly ever mentioned), but we don’t feel ourselves connected to the world, part of that extension of humanity, nor are we able to recognize ourselves as one people.
A Cuban doesn’t stop being Cuban because an arbitrary law snatches away their citizenship. The fibers of identity and nationality are much deeper. In the education we received, we were taught that nationalism is restricted to a subjective and detachable mold (you can call this Fidelism and it has been called Cuban). They didn’t teach us to accept or respect each other. They didn’t strengthen the bases of an objective integrity.
The result, of course, is counterproductive. Except for alternative groups like rappers or reggaeton musicians (who use Cuban insignia to identify themselves), the majority of young people don’t even feel proud to be Cuban.
At least here on the island, they prefer to wear caps or T-shirts with foreign writing on them (right now one can see British flags on handbags, sunglasses, shoes…). The Cuban flag only attracts tourists.
For us to feel united in the excitement of a sporting victory, or to feel nostalgia in exile, isn’t enough. We need unity that takes into consideration our differences and hopes.
Is such a thing possible? I’d like to think so, but when I try to look to the future I can’t see anything.
And it scares me to think that the same anger that made those people in Miami throw objects at the car that recovered Elian is also latent in our streets here in Havana.
It’s exploding right now, fueled by the trick of refraction (left, center, right), by demonization and euphemisms, by mirages of “national security” and distress levels that put us Cubans not hand in hand, but face to face – but we’re only Cubans against Cubans.