Nothing at All

Veronica Fernandez

A CDR fiesta. Photo: Dariela Aquique

This past September 28 marked 51 years since the creation of Cuba’s Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), a mass organization that arose after the victory and that has had as its primary objective organizing and maintaining vigilance by the people on every block across the country.

During the first years of revolutionary fervor, these objectives were met.  However with the fall of the socialist camp and our entry into the “Special Period,” events occurred that eroded the main task of this organization — CDR guard duty — in a society where that organization suffered a loss of credibility and confidence.

People slowly stopped participating in these night watches either because of lack of motivation or ebbing trust in society, among other factors.

A few years ago the top leadership of the CDR organization began working on its reactivation.  For this, media campaigns were carried out promoting the revival of anniversary celebrations.  Each CDR was supplied with soda and candy for children, beverages, various foods and a pig’s head for the famous caldosa (soup) – the main dish of the festivities.

These products were placed in certain places where people came to buy them at a discounted price with funds raised during the year and from other financial contributions made by CDR members themselves.

On this latest occasion, more than half a century after the creation of this organization, the president of my CDR informed me that the government was no longer going to provide anything; absolutely nothing of what had been distributed to people in previous years would be supplied.

I was surprised to hear this, in fact I thought he was joking with me, but he wasn’t.  It was quite true what he was communicating.  He immediately told me that for this reason we needed to have every home contribute a plate of sweets, croquettes, chips, juice, etc.  But they would also have to contribute money.

I looked at him very seriously and thought that the idea was a big metedura de pie, or screw-up (as we say in good Cuban).  The order was that while nothing was being provided by the government   we still had to celebrate the anniversary be that as it may.  I didn’t like that at all but nor did most of my neighbors.  Some contributed under protest, though others were never convinced.

During the Sixth Party Congress held earlier this year, they discussed the issue of improper gratuities.  But we can’t go from the sublime to the ridiculous.  If they want to see worthwhile celebrations, why not continue distributing these products to people?

There’s no need for the Cuban people to have to deal with issues like this.  Rather than bringing joy to the date, they’re promoting inconveniences and hassles.  These products can’t be classified under the famous heading of “improper gratuities” because they’re paid for by the same people who celebrate the CDR’s anniversary every year.

Also, why weren’t these changes reported by our media?  Do we really desire to celebrate the event in Cuba’s streets?  A people who have sacrificed so much, do we deserve this?

I’m convinced that instead of adding followers, they are losing them.  I think this is another one of so many arbitrary measures that have been taken over the years of the revolution.  The country’s leaders have recognized that many mistakes have been made, but they also say that now there’s no margin for further errors.

I’m sure that we’ve made another mistake, but who pays for these mistakes?   It’s among the people where these errors impact.  Why is it so hard to give a little joy and happiness to the Cuban people?


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.