There Is Hope Here in Cuba

Veronica Vega

We need a reality without masks. Illustration: Yasser Castellanos

HAVANA TIMES — The truth that Cubans don’t dare to publicly speak in their own country, has been continuously manifested in an exodus which has lasted just as long as the Cuban Revolution has.

The number of emigres who prefer to undertake suicidal journeys across the sea, get mixed up in underground people trafficking networks, abandoning the country while on a government mission abroad, or fake feelings so they can get married to foreigners, reveal the level of mistrust which Cubans have about a successful and free future in their home country.

The faith in Fidel’s leadership was put to the test during different times of crisis and finally broke when we were faced with Raul’s ambiguous reforms. Many thousands of Cubans took advantage of this slim dose of freedom (housing law reforms) to sell their homes and to take off on a hazardous journey towards the United States.

The sudden repeal of the “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy has left many of them stuck half-way. Crammed into temporary camps in strange lands, without a home in their homeland and the threat of deportation weighing down on their shoulders, they are truly desperate. Some of these Cubans who have been in this situation for a while now are beginning to react: they are questioning, protesting… in Panama, 18 Cubans being held in a refuge have declared a hunger strike.

Since the beginning of time, political fasting has been an extreme resource of dignity and autonomy. And it’s still shocking that these are the same Cubans who chose to leave so that they wouldn’t be politically “marked” (stigmatized), if they were to express their non-conformity on the island.

The first time I heard about a hunger striker was when I heard about Orlando Zapata Tamayo. I used to work as a screenwriter at Radio Metropolitana and, in my presence; a writer was told that she should write an article where Zapata would come across as “an ordinary prisoner who had decided not to eat so that he would get a phone and internet in his cell.”

Everybody knows how horrible it is to stop eating, so the reasons for this form of self-destruction seemed to me absolutely absurd, not just insufficient. But, the writer sat down to write her diatribe without questioning the information she had been given.

This explanation was also enough for those who knew the news according to the official version of events. I didn’t manage to find anyone around me, or at my workplace, who was interested in finding out what was really going on with this person who ended up finally dying of hunger, while his real demands were being slandered.

This is where the key lies of what is incompatible with Cubans suddenly civil attitude, once they leave Cuba.

Not the person who chooses not to support a dissident, but the person who complies with a campaign of disrepute, no matter how ridiculous, without finding out the counter-argument. We have the innate right to seek out the truth and to support or reject something, fully knowing what that something which we support or reject is.

It’s sad to know that there are many Cubans stranded in a frustrated, aborted attempt to leave, and that they have burnt their bridges of return by having sold what little belongings they could accumulate in Cuba. The unexpected twist in the US’ immigration policy reveals that exile has been an escape valve which has just put off the solution to the great Cuban problem: building the society in Cuba that we seek in other lands, here at home. The risks we run aren’t any worse than the destruction we have witnessed to over all these years.

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.