The Critical and the Exotic: You Gotta Love’em

Yenisel Rodriguez

Square in Old Havana, photo by Caridad

I’m not a mulatto, nor do I dance salsa well, smoke cigars or sell fruit.  Nonetheless, it’s demanded that I too should somehow be “exotic,” that I should be a revolutionary and exotic blogger.  This is the implicit demand I’ve received from some people commenting on my articles, particularly foreigners.

The problem is that the situation in Cuban attracts greater international interest to the degree it differs from the rest of the world, which is understandable.  To venture to distant and incommensurably unpredictable realities is one of the most momentous experiences that one can confront.  When disembarking after a dangerous transatlantic voyage or clicking on the screen of a high-end computer, many people expect to find “El Dorado.”

Here, we live through worn out and Stalinist socialisms, paternalistic authoritarianisms, puritanical prohibitions in the era of transsexuality, reversions to outdated technologies, the most inefficient of economies, the transnationalizing of demagoguery and the televising of science fiction.  This means we have all this exotic capital to contribute to our being heard by everybody.  Whose self-esteem wouldn’t be bolstered by it all?

However it’s not so easy to exploit this exotic capital that we Cuban bloggers possess.  Since what is exotic can also be experienced by others, we have to keep up-to-date with what is not daily for them so as not to commit the worst of errors: to speak of a reality that also exists outside of Cuba.  To be like other nations, experiencing the same violence, the same pessimisms and the same optimisms can trigger the most varied reactions.  “Sacrilege!” – it seems I’ve heard it called.

Who would have embarked with Columbus toward uncertainty if on the other side of the world there awaited a similar empire in decay but without gold.  What sense is there to get on the Internet to get updated about police violence in Cuba if in Germany the police need only an anonymous tip on a cell phone to stop you in the street?

Why interrupt a celebration in a Brazilian cybercafé to read about assaults on a Cuban city bus if attackers there leave a hundred passengers nude every day?  Why so many tantrums over Cubans not having access to the Internet if in Argentina youth have turned into jerks from online porn and video games?

It’s not something easy to be revolutionary and exotic at the same time, especially when the most important thing is to express what you feel.  Repeatedly denouncing daily problems will never be the “monotony of anguish” for those who experience it.

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.



One thought on “The Critical and the Exotic: You Gotta Love’em

  • Thank you Yenisel,
    You have pointed out what must be a very difficult problem for Cubans who have legitimate complaints to voice but who do not want to make the mistake of having those complaints equated with the much bigger problems in the capitalist societies.

    In debates I have had with counter-revolutionaries from the States, they have used pictures of Cubans sleeping on a sidewalk or in a building entrance to try to make the point that homelessness not only exists in Cuba but that it is comparable to the homelessness seen in the Third World outside of Cuba.

    AlthoughCuba placed 51st or so on the U.N’s Human Development Index along with the other first tier of wealthy nations, the critics will only point to the faults of the Cuban revolution while overlooking the fact that the revolution has done what is impossible in capitalist Third World countries of similar resources and against which the United States is not waging the crippling economic war that it is on Cuba.

    The right to complain about the trials of life in present day Cuba is absolutely necessary and should be a right and perhaps the very existence of the Havana Times and it’s critical content given the sometimes unreasonable if often necessary suppression of dissent is a sign of the kind of changes that Cubans need and want.

    As the expression goes, you should not throw the baby out with the bath water. The Cuban revolution obviously will need many more evolutionary steps to get to the democratic socialism needed for a better Cuba and so as to provide a model for the poor nations of the world but we must never lose sight of the wonderful things for the advancement of humanity that the revolution has achieved.

    It would be good although not easy to do thing if every complaint would be accompanied where possible and relevant, with a countering praise for the overall good done for the people of Cuba (and the world) by the revolution.

    Complaints that are justified are very often used out of context by the enemies of the revolution and those added to the 60 years of lies they already have in their arsenal make the struggle for the survival of the revolution more of a problem.

    Again, please don’t stop working for improvements and speaking out where it is needed. That is the essence of democracy and democracy is essential to socialism but always be aware that there is a massive and brutal force that would destroy the revolution if Cubans let it happen.
    Cubans need only look at countries like Zimbabwe and Honduras to see Cuba’s fate if its very real enemies win the war against Cuba.

    Tens of millions starve to death in the rest of the Third World or die from preventable or curable disease because they had no Cuban style revolution.
    Those facts must be considered with every criticism of where the Cuban revolution is today.

    It is something that the overwhelming majority of the dumbed-down and brainwashed U.S population will not and cannot do but which every Cuban must.

    Reply

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