Obama in Cuba: A Lesson in Bridge Building

Veronica Vega

It was worth it!  On Dec. 17, 2014, San Lazarus Day, Barack Obama announced renewed relations with Cuba.

HAVANA TIMES — Following President Barack Obama’s visit, there’s been talk as explosive as gunpowder, giving off sparks of hope.

That a foreign leader should speak of the real needs of Cubans for the first time in more than fifty years is much more than one of the numerous “surrealist” details of our history. It is the implacable victory of time and logic.

An old aphorism says that “you can run a lie but the truth will always catch up to you.” The same, of course, holds for nearly six decades of mass suggestion.

The simplicity of truth cleared a path for itself through Obama’s visit, particularly his address at Havana’s Gran Teatro, the venue chosen to conceal the sympathy that this political leader had secured among the island’s inhabitants, a sympathy that sparked off the shouts and cheering heard during his visit to the old town’s cathedral, a spontaneous choir formed by an invisible, contained and held-back crowd.

This is a population accustomed to political functions that do nothing to change their quality of life, merely guaranteeing the basic to scrape by, a population deprived of the right to express opinions about their situation or their future that followed a diplomatic development with interest for the first time.

Through a speech that the Cuban media immediately labelled “superficial and sensationalist,” Obama offered us a lesson in the building of a bridge on a foundation of past conflicts, beyond resentment and differences. This way, he dissolved, not with a blow but with a smile, that ghostly wall set up by the “eternal anti-imperialist enemy.” To do this, he turned to the viability of reason, our countries’ geographical proximity and the history the two nations share.

It’s shameful that a foreign president should be the first to speak openly about the pain endured by Cuban families, pain which the government encouraged in the form of resentment, psychological rifts brought about by confrontations that cared nothing (and had no respect for) families ties, affection or human needs.

EXILE. Illustration by Yasser Castellanos

It’s shameful that a foreign president should be the first to have a frank exchange, not with the opposition (unthinkable within a system that allegedly needs to protect itself by discrediting all who dissent), but with the private sector, the first to make an appearance on a comedy show and demonstrate that he is, not a demiurge that has no other family other than “the people” (an absurd proposition), but a flesh-and-blood person with a wife and daughters (visible to the naked eye), a person who can use Cuban slang and salute us with an informal “whaddup.”

Most importantly, he showed himself to be a politician concerned with concrete problems and immediate solutions, who doesn’t pretend we are equal and suggests getting along in our differences, a man who speaks without exaggerated or theatrical gestures, who doesn’t read a prepared speech, who doesn’t invoke an unchanging past or remote future, eternal ideas that do not put food on the table or clothes on our bodies and, what’s worse, have stripped us of the dignity of acting and living the way we deem right.

Of course, a single visit and speech aren’t enough to build the bridges Cuba needs after so much moral and physical destruction, but the spell was broken for a few hours, demonstrating that the truth is here and is the only road, not towards an idyllic future, but to a concrete present.

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.

11 thoughts on “Obama in Cuba: A Lesson in Bridge Building

  • Emily, you need to open up a dictionary.

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