Yenisel Rodriguez Perez
HAVANA TIMES – I once saw ethnologist Miguel Barnet, Chair of the Association of Cuban Writers and Artists (UNEAC), in a bout of ill-intentioned perplexity. The man of letters was giving the opening speech for a social sciences symposium that addressed the issue of illegal settlements in the capital, mostly populated by immigrants from other provinces.
His remarks were mostly a condemnation of those places and their inhabitants, but his criticisms were unclear, particularly because he left it up to the audience to work out the inquisitional lesson of his speech.
The academic asked those present why such precarious shanties existed in socialist Cuba, as though these were a kind of spontaneous mutation with no apparent cause.
All the while, he claimed to be in a state of “profound confusion”. After all, an ethnologist doesn’t make a habit of attacking impoverished and marginalized populations, least of all someone like Barnet, who is known as the biographer of Cuba’s last run-away slave.
This way, he washed his hands like Pontius Pilate and left the dirty work in the hands of his audience, government academics in their majority.
This experience was a kind of foretaste of the radicalization of Cuba’s internal migratory policies, whose most radical directives are something of a dirty secret, today masked with the discourse of a sustainable urban planning that is being promoted at all levels.
When we read between the lines, we note that one of the chief interests of the campaign is to continue with and extend the forced deportations of internal immigrants.
How much have these immigrants contributed to enriching the daily life of Havana? Why are we only shown the negative aspects of this illegalized immigration?
These are the questions that come to mind when I see the complicity of scientific thought and common sense in forced deportations.
One of the causes of this are our classifications. What does being a fourth or fifth generation resident of Havana, a condition many defend with pride, actually mean? Does it signify a kind of urban or cosmopolitan purity?
All of this is born of the fallacy surrounding one’s place of origin, a double-edged sword that is deliberately used in the case of illegalized immigration, as it is applied chiefly to the poor, the marginalized and the excluded.
Many people and sectors of the population who were not born in Havana become residents of the capital through official channels (most are government officials and institutional staff), on the basis of incoherent arguments that contradict migratory directives themselves.
The government uses the terms “legal” and “illegal” immigrant, and the category of resident and many others, according to its interests, relying on popular superstitions and traditional negative stereotypes.
That is why we must question the exclusive and discriminatory terms and concepts that are diluted in our common sense.
Similarly, we must overcome popular prejudices that assign regionalist, racist and xenophobic attributes to people, attributes that facility people’s complicity in these forced deportations.
I make special emphasis on the logic applied to single men devoid of families, who are subject to very unjust treatment during deportation, including imprisonment and physical mistreatment.