Activist Group Promotes Change in Cuba

Erasmo Calzadilla

The Critical Observatory network is concerned about preserving the environment. Photo: Caridad

Less attention grabbing than a hunger strike is the matrix of people that is expanding —node by node— among people in this country who are interested in change.  This is an effort that I would say is being directed toward true emancipation.

The “Observatorio Critico” (Critical Observatory) is the name of one of these networks, whose work is focused on the community, spiritual development and critical thought.

Several times a month we get together to work in some neighborhood, learn about the efforts of others, watch audiovisual presentations together, discuss various issues or simply socialize in the manner we Cubans know so well.

Founded more than five years ago, this network has been expanding around the country, maturing and enriching itself with new members.  All of this has taken place in a difficult environment, since non-official activism is often looked down upon with mistrust.

Every year the Critical Observatory assembles its members in a national gathering.  In these, people come to recount their experiences and to learn about those of others who are connected to the same network.

A few months ago the fourth such gathering took place in San Jose de las Lajas, in Havana Province.  This was a great opportunity for face-to-face contact between people who had only heard about each other but who had still never met.

At the meeting I presented the project that a group of friends and I are leading in the Reparto Electrico community on the outskirts of Havana, where I live.  For the past few years we’ve been planting trees in vacant lots, trying to secure these areas for green space before others lay claim to them to build pigsties or other private junk heaps.

That national gathering is past but we continue working, plugged into this network. At this moment I believe the Critical Observatory should be considered one of the most important social initiatives taking place in this weary country.

2 thoughts on “Activist Group Promotes Change in Cuba

  • Erasmo talking about the environment
    I understand that the oil refinery Nico Lopez is still polluting the environment in Havana. Is there any organization of Cubans that have call upon the government to ask for solutions to the pollution generated by this refinery?
    I remember in my years at the university of Havana witnessing the smog all over Havana city!
    Are there any studies about effects the contamination of this and other industries?
    I do remember how in school they said that in capitalist countries they did not care about the environment etc etc. But the truth is that I have yet to see a level of contamination here as high as the one I saw in Havana city.
    The reason is that people here do care a lot about the environment and they are allow to protest and organize against and act against polluters and ask the government to change laws so that the environment is protected. I guess the problem in Cuba is much harder since the state is the polluter!

  • Apparently you people are doing good work that the cuban government and its supporters are not doing. Fine. I hope you continue in that vein — as well as remain in your “critical” stance (in the best sense of that concept): both towards all of cuban society, as well as to yourselves and to the outside capitalist and anti-capitalist World.

    For its part, I hope the cuban government and its supporters engage with you — also critically; and do not attempt to take you over, from inside or without, or otherwise attempt to repress you. That would be another mistake of the Revolution. There have been enough of those.

    Just remember that you people are only useful to the imperialists as well — as long as you are useful — if it comes to that. Beyond that, they will ignore you — or even dispense with you, if ‘necessary’. So understand the limits of what you are attempting here. And it apparently bears repeating here often, too.

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