Secrets to Success

Yenisel Rodriguez

Lately I’ve had the surprise of “discovering” people who I know on national television. Each one of those encounters has made me reflect in one way or another. Here’s one of them.

On a television spot concerning the sense of belonging to the Communist Party of Cuba, I recognized an ex-mother-in-law, a famous lawyer. Her tirade took up 80 percent of the message. She monopolized the television hollering well-thrashed ideas about people’s morals.

What was most revealing was that since I knew her personally, I knew she didn’t believe in any of what she was saying.

It was like finding a new way of unmasking — perhaps in the most resounding manner — the true interests of many party leaders like her, especially those who now belong to the bureaucratic middle class after having risen from their working class origins.

They seek to accumulate as much individual power as possible through faking their adherence to the false ideology expounded by the Communist Party of Cuba.

“All recyclable materials are still not being collected in neighborhoods!” shouted this staunch activist, who used to casually leave behind dozens of beer cans and bottles on weekends jaunts in the countryside.

I recognized that tone of revolutionary temperament in the voice of this person who used to regale herself at wild bourgeois parties in five stars hotels and worship capitalist development.

We never did get along well. I always noticed a certain air of suspicion in her look. And due to my own inexperience, I didn’t know how to hide my rejection of her ways, which had a big effect on my relationship with her daughter. By the end I understood that we both sensed a class struggle fermenting between the two of us.

This party leader designed a sophisticated strategy for personal and family enrichment. From the provinces she found a sufficiently crude and sexist husband with some experience as a leader.

She then got him a strategic position working in the capital, leaving him with the dirty job of supplying the house with consumer goods. In this way she would avoid being exposed to corruption and at the same time avoid amassing money directly, something that always ends up unveiling a person’s addiction to personal accumulation.

She was proud of being a lawyer who didn’t accept extra money from any client. Nonetheless, gifts assured her greater benefits than any sum of money. She gained relationships whereby people were indebted to her for a lifetime.

I remember that once while at the Varadero beach resort, on the spur of the moment she went to some hotel — one reserved for government leaders — and after speaking with the manager for only a few minutes, she had complete access to the complex.

One would have to see the way she would turn the volume up all the way for the speeches of Cuban officials and on May Day. Everybody in her house secretly made fun of her. I discerned a certain degree of recognition of her double standards on the part of the family members. They weren’t able to engage in that the same way.

I also recall her egocentric monologues:

“Me, I’ve made it in life. Not like my uncles; they’re still stuck in their backwardness out there in the country. That’s why it’s necessary to be trained as an official. Image is key,” she told me at the end of more than 20 minutes in the lounge at CIME, the most prestigious hospital in the country.

I never felt comfortable around that family. The grandparents were indoctrinated with the “personality cult”; the head of the family was a sexist to the extreme and very violent; my girlfriend lived in her self-conditioned political naiveté; and my brother-in-law was a puppet to video games and global fashions. Their car went here and there, between political assemblies and high-quality purchases, etc.

Now that I recognized her in this ideologically manipulative TV message, I can verify the efficiency of her rise to prominence through her empowerment strategy.

Yet with time, the radicalization of class contradictions in Cuba will again put us face to face, though on different terrain. I hope that by this point she has enough courage and reasons to express her true interests in power.

Perhaps then I can direct my look at her, one that previously I never allowed myself out of consideration for her daughter.

It will be a look of radical combat.

Yenisel Rodriguez

Yenisel Rodriguez Perez: I have lived in Cuba my entire life, except for several months in 2013 when I was in Miami with my father. Despite the 90 miles that separate Havana and Miami, I find profound reasons in both for political and community activism. My encounter with socio-cultural anthropology eight years ago prepared me for a commitment of love for cultural diversity.


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