A Glimpse of My Generation’s Childhood in Cuba

By Pedro P. Morejon

The marches and rallies against Carter and the United States tried to intimidate the thousands of Cubans who had entered the Peruvian Embassy demanding asylum in 1980.  They were the beginning of a series of insults and violent attacks and other forms of cruelty at the homes and work places of those who wanted to leave on what became known as the Mariel boatlift. Photo AP

HAVANA TIMES – It was Saturday morning; I didn’t have school. On those days, I wouldn’t wake up until almost 9 AM, but this time it was earlier. It was the late 1970s and the TV was broadcasting a mass march in support of the Revolution and against Imperialism.

You could hear slogans like: “Fidel pichea, que Carter no batea” (Pitch Fidel, Carter can’t hit) or “Pin pon fuera, abajo la gusanera” (Out with the worms) etc. My young brain didn’t understand any of that display, or about the Mariel exodus (1980), but that’s when I became aware of the reality around me. Namely, living in a country in constant conflict.

Ever since then, I used to think that Fidel was good and that the Yankees were sons of bitches. Whenever a plane passed by, I thought Fidel was traveling inside, and like many children of my generation, we’d go out on the street, look up at the sky and wave, shouting his name, jubilant.

At school, we were taught that we should be like someone called El Che, that US Imperialism was our enemy, that we were constantly being threatened by it, but that we would always win, and more importantly: Fidel Castro was the greatest and anyone who didn’t stand by his revolution was a worm, sell-out, traitor, counter-revolutionary… a bad person, in short.

I used to think that was true because on TV, worms were presented as murderers, torturers, people without any mercy or heart.

That’s why I was shocked when Jose Maria and Blanquita, my friend Juanito’s parents, were labeled “worms”. I knew them and they were very nice, at least to me. Whenever I went around his house to play, they would treat me like a son and used to give us candy. One day, we were coming back from school when we saw a group of people (most of whom weren’t from the neighborhood) standing outside his house, and shouting insults. I saw the terror on Juanito’s face, and his mother’s concern. They had committed the crime of wanting to move to the turbulent and cruel north.

We didn’t talk about politics in my house. My grandfather was an atheist and liberal, and my grandmother was a Christian in her own way, who didn’t practice.

“God exists, he is the Almighty and Creator of the Universe. Whenever you have a problem, speak to Him and ask him for whatever you need, but at school, don’t talk about God and if they ask you, say you don’t believe. Later you apologize,” she used to advise me.  

And, I remember being under that canistel bush and praying: “God, if you really exist, I ask you to strike down every US person tomorrow. Because the US is to blame for everything. Plus, they attack countries and kill people.”

It was a time when we lived in great fear. Under the threat of a US invasion. People were told to build shelters in their backyards. “I dreamed about planes that clouded the sky…” Silvio Rodriguez once said in a song, and that scared me more than any horror movie.

It was also the era of Proletarian internationalism dressed up in lead. Young people were sent to Angola and other countries. Many complied out of fear, others out of convinction, but the few Cubans who refused to go were added to the betrayal list. In a nutshell, sons were sent off to war and mothers were left behind crying.

There was always a crisis, mass marches, acts of repudiation and hate-filled speeches.

This was my generation’s childhood.

8 thoughts on “A Glimpse of My Generation’s Childhood in Cuba

  • June 6, 2019 at 7:25 pm
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    I care about Cuba , Christ Jesus bless

    Reply
  • June 6, 2019 at 8:49 pm
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    Indoctrination works!
    Fidel Castro described those of his fellow Cubans who took the Mariel boatlift in one word: “Scum”

    “El Che” said: “Youth should learn to think and act as a mass. It is criminal to think as an individual.”

    A revolution was inevitable in Cuba which was suffering under dictatorship. But as Jose Marti said:

    “Being good is the only way to be free. Being cultured is the only way to be free.With human nature in general however to be good one has to be prosperous.”

    The preaching of “El Che” and the actions of Fidel Castro combined to deny Cubans any opportunity of becoming prosperous.

    Reply
    • June 8, 2019 at 1:32 pm
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      Socialism or even communism has a thresh point, for example, if I lived in Cuba, and for 15 or 20 years I studied to become a doctor, I should have some luxuries.. I think that socialism is needed in every form of government, the United states form of super capitalism doesn’t work, especially when they see everyone as a dollar sign, no health care, no education it’s terrible… socialism is the way to go. I’m sure we could debate this further, and i would enjoy a nice conversation..

      Reply
      • June 10, 2019 at 9:16 am
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        No education? Yet we have the best universities in the world. No healthcare? Yet we have the best hospitals in the world

        Reply
        • June 15, 2019 at 7:17 pm
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          It cost over $400,000.00 if you get the loan and you will be paying a mortgage. The Chernobyl children were taken to Cuba for treatment in Cuba, 25,000.00 children from Ukraine, thank God they never completed the nuclear plant that’s standing in Cuba…

          Reply
      • June 10, 2019 at 4:36 pm
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        Just don’t get confused Cane Lee about “socialism” in Cuba. The Castro regime has imposed Stalinist type communism upon Cuba for sixty long dreary uncomfortable years. There is no relationship to democratic socialism.
        Secondly, the United States is peculiar unto itself. Other western capitalist countries do have health care, do have education and do have a multitude of social programs. Canada throughout its history has never had a socialist (New Democratic Party) government, but has a mass of social programs. National health service programs commenced in the UK, a capitalist country, in 1948 following the Beveridge Report produced during the Second World War.
        Above I quoted Jose Marti, the “Apostle of Cuba” and note that he said that to “be good one has to be prosperous”. Prosperity has been denied for Cubans for sixty years, not because Cubans lack talent or a desire for prosperity, but as policy. The Castros and Guevara were not – and are not concerned about the individual, their concern is to create a: “selfless and cooperative, obedient and hard-working, gender-blind, incorruptible, non-materialistic and anti-imperialist mass.”
        As an American you should note that even Bernie Sanders an avowed democratic socialist condemned communism within the last three weeks! If and when you have lived under (note UNDER) socialism, you will understand that previously given quote of Churchill:
        “the inherent vice of socialism is the equal sharing of misery.”
        Socialist academic thinkers will endeavor to explain away the misdemeanors and economic incompetence of communist/socialist regimes. But for those who live in the real world, “socialist” practice by such regimes is reality rather than adherence to the imaginary paradise of such thinkers, and to the lovers of freedom and democracy those forms of socialism in practice have proven to be ugly.
        Enjoying the conversation?

        Reply
  • June 7, 2019 at 12:21 pm
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    It looks like they put you through the ringer.

    Reply
  • June 14, 2019 at 12:15 pm
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    ” If there is Hell below, We’re all going to go,” as the song says.

    Reply

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