Cuba: Moving Backwards

Veronica Fernandez

veronica2HAVANA TIMES — While the common Cuban is beating his or her head trying to figure out what they will throw together for dinner tonight, the Ernest Hemingway Fishing Tournament, a competition that has been held in honor of the renowned American author for many years now, is underway in Havana’s municipality of Cojimar. I feel that, more than paying tribute to Hemingway, the contest is an insult to his memory.

Like most things in Cuba, the tournament had a good start but, in the course of time, has been degraded more and more. I say this for many reasons.

Today, you won’t come across the game that used to be put up on display at the end of  tournaments. You won’t even see anything remotely resembling a fishing vessel.

What you will see, instead, is a house painter touching up Hemingway’s bust, in a public gathering that combines entertainment for children with dispensers of beer and hard liquor.

veronica3What has this event been turned into? As is the case with many other so-called popular festivities in Cuba, today it is dominated by stands offering alcoholic beverages, a few junk-food kiosks and ear-splitting reaggeton that assails your ears, makes any normal or pleasant conversation impossible and forces people to shout.

There are some who enjoy these gatherings, rather inaptly called “festivities”. There are some who wouldn’t be caught dead in one. And then there are some, like me, who go for a little a while, thinking it could be different from last year’s and, struck by the crude reality, immediately leave.

The “fun and games”, as Cubans say, turned the Cojimar park, located east of the Havana Bay area, into a rather depressing setting, in every sense of the word. Not far from this place, in front of a bakery, there was another “spectacle” I was also able to capture with my camera.

veronica1More than a month ago, a state construction brigade tore open a good stretch of road to conduct some repair work there. You would think the aim was rather to mess up the street, for I have yet to see the road back in working order again.

There is no shortage of such examples, which reveal the extent to which Cuban society has deteriorated.

I am convinced these stark contrasts are not accidental, that there is a deliberate effort to keep people entertained, to make robots of them, to keep them from thinking, analyzing or reflecting on their lives, to keep them from seeing beyond, from noticing what our lives have become and, heaven forbid, developing the capacity to think critically.

We are going backwards in time, journeying back to the bud, as Alejo Carpentier would have put it. This regression is gnawing away more and more of our integrity every day. In Cuba, Darwin’s theory about the evolution of the species is proven wrong again and again.

Veronica Fernadez

Veronica Fernandez: I was born in the town of Regla, on the other side of Havana Bay. Over the years, many people from Regla have gone to live in Cojimar, fleeing the contamination from the petroleum refinery in Regla. That's what my family did when I was just four years old. Since I was a little girl I have been drawn to the arts and letters. Poetry and narrative writing are my favorites. I had the good fortune to study philology, a branch of the human sciences dealing with language and literature, at the University of Havana with top notch professors. As a Capricorn, I adore organization, people who are mature, the romantic things in life and the lack of self-interest that is the backbone of these times. I enjoy our typical Cuban food, (white rice, black beans, pork and yucca with garlic sauce) and also Italian food. I also like chocolate and drinking a mojito (rum cocktail) in the historic center of my city.

20 thoughts on “Cuba: Moving Backwards

  • There is many differnt kinds of grass. Or should they eat sea-grass? Maybe Cuba should cultivate sea-cows?

  • Luis: The same thing happened in Europe. On top of it the “salesmen”, alltogether right wing governments , of course put their little pocket money for having sold the state firms to some of their friends on very lucrative banc accounts in Liechtenstein and Switzerland. Just in my country about 32 billions (!!!) of euros.

  • I guess it`s Castro`s fault again.

  • Actually with the recent economic reforms and the rise of private cattle farms DROPPED the production of milk.

    This is the typical neoliberal ‘consensus’ we were told in the 90’s – that everything that’s Statal is less productive and the private sector – from ‘magic’ I suppose – is more efficient. We in Latin America swallowed this myth and sold out our most productive State firms at banana prices.

  • And oil is cheaper than water in the middle east o.O

  • Hi Micheal,

    I believe this was Plato’s myth. Or that may have been taught by his master, Socrates, who left no written records (at least none that survived), the one who was sentenced to drink poison for ‘distrusting the Gods’ and ‘corruption of the youth’. And refused to take pardon on that, preffering death rather than to dismiss his ideals.

  • I don’t know about how cows feel about communism, but I have met a number of sheep here who think it’s the greatest thing.

    And then there was that pig who used to run around squealing, “Two legs bad, four legs good!”

  • Whether here to the North, or in Cuba, I agree, Rosa, “there is a deliberate effort to keep people entertained, to make robots of them, to keep them from thinking, analysing or reflecting on their lives, to keep them from seeing beyond, from noticing what our lives have become and, heaven forbid, developing the capacity to think critically,” and this process is accelerating ever more rapidly. Towards what end? Control. Stupification. Hyptnotism. Still, as Socrates taught us, in the parable of the cave, this process has been ongoing since quite early in our history. The search for truth and beauty is ever an active process, and only the few “escape” from the illusions of reality projected upon the cave’s walls and into the dazzling sunshine! For every dozen mindless street fairs , however, you can find at least one cultural event in Habana which either enhances your ability to think critically, or develops your appreciation of beauty (such as the dramas I enjoyed at the Teatro Hubert de Blanck, or downstairs, at theTeatro Brecht, or at the Teatro Jose Juaquin Palma in Bayamo, or the classical concerts I enjoyed at the Oratorio San Filipe Neri or Basilica Menor de San Francisco de Asis in Habana Vieja. In some cases, you might make your own cultural events. (e.g. For the past twenty-two years I have facilitated a monthly discussion group on classic texts and films.) In the meantime, it seems as though pop culture is in an accelerating downhill spiral, like Edgar Allan Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death.” We, however, have the choice of using our valuable–and limited–time to look for Truth and Beauty!

  • Cows don’t take we’ll to communist systems it is true. grass however is just grass. I encourage you to check the UN figures for cattle and milk production prior to the revolution.

    It is truly inconceivable that after 50+ years of revolution agricultural production continues to deteriorate.

  • sure. the cows don`t like communist grass

  • The grass and soil are of perfectly good quality. Local breeds of cattle, adapted to the tropical climate, have been raised in Cuba for over a hundred years. The part of the environment that is inhospitable for farming is the communist government. Let the farmers own their own land, live on their own land and make their own economic decisions, then the production will improve.

  • Well as far as milk there are few cows in Cuba. Apparently the grass and soil is not such a good quality. was more meant as a joke. I mean, what wanted to say, that festivals of- lets say less intellectual – people very often has this characteristics. i do agree on many things with you, as far as young people not wanting to work or get fürther with education – a subject I discussed entire nights with my friends -, the greed forr quick an d easy money, the poor use of the Spanish language etc. I do agree on all of that. The same things happen here in Europe. But did any of you think about were lots of it come from : well easy to tell, just look to tghe northern neighbour of Cuba.

  • about the same as here

  • LOL! You have a way with words. Keep on sailing against the wind, my friend.

  • I think you’re correct, Griffin, about the selection process going on under the Marxian deviation from authentic socialism. I experienced the same sort of “organizational survival of the least fittest” when I worked for county government in the US.

    This experience helped me to suspect that the Marxist version of socialism must be incorrect, and perhaps even fraudulent.

    And I think you’re correct in saying that the “socialist man” that develops from the Marxian state monopoly formula is the opposite of what we sincere socialists have always hoped for.

    Where I believe you are incorrect is to think that the Marxian stupidity represents authentic socialism, i.e., socialism as it should and could function, in Cuba or any other country.

    In my view, the most revolutionary thing socialists could do is discard Marxism, and re-define socialism as a form of cooperative, social-capitalism under socialist state power. But as you know, my view is about as potent–right now–as a fart in a hurricane.

  • Friederich Joestl, given the spelling of your name, I fancy you may belong to a Germanic language speaking community, thus may be culturally Germanic to a degree too. Just drop by Havana or any other city in Cuba and live first hand what Verónica writes about. I am Cuban, as Cuban as they come, and I can’t stand the grossness my country has been driving towards in the last 20 years or so. The yelling, the loud poor quality music in public spaces and in means of transportation, the lack of manners, the increasingly poor use of the Spanish language, young people’s lack of motivation to further their education, the worship of junk food, the daily festival of poor taste in clothes and accessories (junk semi-legally imported by private store owners from other Latin American countries, bought cheap at the Chinese markets), the rise in alcoholism, the mockery of all things intellectual and spiritual, the political indifference, ignorance or sheer cynicism of the majority, the rise in prostitution (many young women no longer project themselves in the future as working and bettering themselves to conquer economic independence, as in the 70s or 80s, but marrying a guy with a little money, or a house, o an old american car o a Spanish passport), the loudness, the filth in the public spaces, and the overall sensation that we have lost our compass all together. The professional “middle” class, I dare assert, feels less and less at home in their own beloved island between the endless ban on free thinking and expression, the technological backwardness and the surge of vulgarity everywhere.
    And yes, rum is a lot easier to come by than milk.

  • Hahaha! Do you know what real (not powdered) whole milk costs in Cuba? It is cheaper to drink rum.

  • Darwin is not proven wrong. The mechanism of evolution which Darwin identified was natural selection, in which a species evolves to fit the environment. Traits which allow a population to survive in a given environment are selected for, while traits which lower the chances of survival are selected against.

    The open air social laboratory known as “Cuba” demonstrates natural selection is working as expected. People with personal initiative, integrity, or industry are selected against, either landing in jail or fleeing the island. People with the traits of passivity, envy or duplicity are selected for and thrive in the environment maintained by the regime. The socialist “new man” is exactly what the system is designed to produce, but nothing like what the designers thought they would get.

  • When I first arrived in Cuba, I marvelled at how it seemed like every day, there seemed like there was some street festival or santeria event or public celebration. There was always loud salsa or reggaeton music pouring out into the streets from private house parties with lots of old and young people dancing. At government-sanctioned parties, I saw beer dispensed from those huge aluminum tanks for 5 cuban pesos (about 20 cents US). If my trip had ended after a couple of weeks, I would have left believing how happy Cubans were despite the obvious poverty. I would have believed that in spite of the broken streets and buildings, the Cuban people have managed to find a way to be happy. And if that was all there was to it, Cuba, indeed, would have much to teach the rest of the world. But over time I witnessed first-hand exactly what Veronica writes about above. I understand how these many public ‘festivities’ are not a reflection of Cuban happiness but a substitute for where happiness should be. The Castros long ago incorporated the words of the early Roman poet Juvenal “Give them bread and circuses and they will never revolt” as a way to distract and control the people.

  • You think there is a dark communist conspiration when people drink beer or rum. Well, what would you say if they drank water or milk?

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