Seeing in Order to Affect Change

Veronica Fernandez

Main St. in Cojimar. Photo: Caridad

Next door to me in Cojimar, a community located to the east of Havana Bay, lives one of the delegates of Popular Power [similar to a city council].  These representatives are chosen by people to deal with problems that confront the area.

Periodically these delegates hold meetings with their constituents; the gatherings are called Rendiciones de Cuenta (Report-back Sessions).  In fact, these are currently taking place all across the country.

The meeting for my area was just held.  In this gathering, people generally raise their concerns by identifying certain problems that are occurring – anything from conditions at the neighborhood level to society in general.  This time they didn’t raise or propose anything.  This was astonishing for some but not for the majority, and especially not to me.

In the beginning we thought that this was the most effective road along which solutions could be found to difficult and challenging situations facing us.  I was a supporter of the idea that many problems could be addressed through this “democratic” route.  I now hold a different opinion.

Though the delegates are the ones who directly face the concrete realities of people, there’s little they can do.  They are merely made aware of a problem and are able raise those public concerns to a certain level with the State.  Despite being quite capable, diligent and professional, they don’t have in her hands the necessary or minimal resources to execute solutions or improve conditions.

Thus, these representatives are limited to explaining, arguing and insisting to intermediate level State superiors about the issues that affect us daily.  However in many cases these problems cannot be addressed solely through explanations; meanwhile the situations worsen and no changes are made.  This is why many people no longer see the point in wasting more time saying the same things in each of these meetings.

My delegate is a fine person, but he’s not permitted to do more.  He listens to whatever person comes to him, and he sincerely wants to solve their problems, but the answers are out of his hands.  Fixing the streets in our neighborhood is out of his hands.  Improving public transportation is out of his hands.  Keeping the streets clean is out of his hands – to give only a few examples.

We know that real limitations exist because of the blockade and the world financial crisis, but we also know that a great deal of negligence also exists and that a great many people hide behind excuses so they don’t have to work or so they can misallocate resources.  All of this creates considerable unease among the population.  It produces disappointment, discouragement and ultimately resignation.

It’s true that we have major economic problems, but it’s also true that many problems we are able to solve have not been solved.  Nothing has been done and nothing continues to be done.  What’s worse, these meetings keep being organized while what people want is that they quit having them because it’s simply no longer worth the trouble to say or propose anything.

The truth is that what returns to my mind is the famous concept whereby “Revolution” means “to change what should be changed.”  But I continue to think that it’s not enough to make changes.  What’s first necessary is to be able to SEE so that we can then make those CHANGES.

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.



One thought on “Seeing in Order to Affect Change

  • The whole “top down” structure you describe sounds like a recipe for alienation. If one of the definitions of being crazy is “doing the same thing over-and-over again–but expecting different results,” then who in their right mind would want such a thankless job as that of your local “Poder Popular” representative? Some time back I urged a friend of fine, who lives out in San Augustin, to run for the local Popular Power, but he declined, citing many of the same reasons you give here. Still, I’m an eternal optimist. I believe in the lyrics of Bob Dylan, who once sang: “The times, they are a’changin!” I believe that if the same behavior is tried over-and-over again, but does not produce the desired results, that eventually we humans are capable of changing our behaviors!

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