Rejection in Cuba for Being/Thinking Different Is Not a Thing of the Past

Veronica Vega

Illustration by Yasser Castellanos

HAVANA TIMES – Martin Guevara’s article “How it felt to be a child of worms” made me reflect on where and how the distorted feelings that make people believe they have the right to publicly humiliate others originated in Cuba.

It is one of the darkest aspects of the Cuban revolutionary process, something that has no defense.

It all began from the moment that those born here ceased being Cubans to become “revolutionaries” by force.  Fidel set the example by publicly labeling “betrayal” all divergence, protected by the effervescence of the moment and his popularity. In that way the foundation was laid for a system without respect for truth or differences.

Then there were extensions of the same intolerance that were assumed by the population candidly, or by inertia or a self preservation instinct, because the “right or wrong” was already clearly marked. What emerged and fell into the realm of doubt such as religion, the relationship with emigrant relatives, or the creative work of artists and intellectuals, was restrained in due course. The famous “words of Fidel to the intellectuals” are in themselves irrefutable proof of extremism and anti-democracy.

But to dispel doubts are his speeches which address how to treat rock lovers or homosexuals, and his reaction to the event of the 1980 Mariel boat lifts where he spared no offenses against those who sought refuge in the Peruvian embassy as an alternative to leave the island. Many did not do so because they wanted to leave their home and their homeland but because they lived in a system that did not allow them to give their opinions about what they considered dysfunctional or unjust.

The way in which the discontents were to be treated was made very clear by Fidel throughout his long term: those who leave are not emigrants but stateless, scum, lumpen, and any insult that occurred to the authorized repudiator.

Now, many who identify with the process they called “socialism” or the late leader, try to dilute guilt by attributing it to inexperience, confusion or even misrepresentation of government guidelines. However, Fidel’s own speeches reflect a thought absent of inclusion or reconciliation.

Not that long before Fidel’s death, Barack Obama, then president of the United States (not in an open space and before a spontaneously gathered audience, but in a theater and before a select audience in Havana), spoke of how the politics of rapprochement have made possible “reconciliation between individuals and families, seeing how Cubans and Cuban-Americans have been able to collaborate together.” And he added directly: “I think citizens should be free to speak their opinion without fear, to meet, to criticize their government and to protest peacefully.”

The reflections on Obama’s statements that came from Fidel, appearing in the official newspaper Granma, did not leave any doubt on his posture of eternal confrontation. Put into practice it would invalidate the sense of such a visit and any diplomatic rapprochement with our neighboring country where, a growing community of Cubans lives and prospers.

But following the thread to which the post of Martin Guevara led me, I think the germ of repudiation is so deeply rooted in Cuba that it is very easily activated. As even today studying or working in state institutions requires political trustworthiness, it is enough to point to someone as “different” from above (the direction of a school, a company, etc.), and cooperation with their rejection is instantaneous.

Trasgresión.  Ilustración por Yasser Castellanos

When my son was in the eleventh grade at the Lazaro Peña pre-university in Alamar, and he and another student claimed their right to enter classes without cutting their hair very short, as the rules presumably demand for boys, the school management prepared a group of students to “get ahead” of the two rebels, even with physical violence if they tried to enter their classrooms. They were only very clear that no adult should intervene since the “repudiated” were minors.

Incidentally, when the drastic measure was taken, I had asked my son and his partner not to go to school any longer, and wait for the result of the legal claim we had filed. However, classmates lectured on the “different” did not stop jeering when they saw them on the street.

As revealed by Maikel Paneque’s post “Fanaticism against a White Background“, the rallies of repudiation are planned much more sophisticated, since the goal is always to give the impression abroad that they are spontaneous reactions of a people loyal to their revolution and its undefeated commander. Part of a people that has already weakened their morale living by stealing state resources and who has never had a salary that allows them to live, nor is it questioned whether the aggressors are defending rights that should also belong to them.


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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