Cuba: Giving Up Revolutionary Pleasures

By Martin Guevara

Photo: Stan Raucher

HAVANA TIMES — Cuba has entered a new and encouraging stage in the building of a new kind of socialism, a system notably different from that “real socialism” it once tried to force into the relaxed and festive Caribbean spirit of Cubans.

What will the Party’s Central Committee do to change the whole range of tastes that are deeply rooted in the revolutionary, austere and nearly ascetic spirit they claim took hold of Cubans’ collective desires after the revolution?

For more than half a century, Cubans looked down at the vice-ridden ways and customs of the capitalist world with contempt. As such, rather than endure their situation, they were happy with only one pair of shoes, a stoic jar of water in their fridges, a sunk mattress impaled by springs and having to co-exist with mosquitos and cockroaches instead of employing an environmentally unfriendly bug repellent.

It is therefore important to forewarn visitors and hapless tourists, those who are unaware of the aesthetic parameters and the heights of sacrifice of the Cuban people, such that they do not confuse the pastel-colored ruins, the drunk vagrants, the minimalist fashion, footwear and lifestyles, with any kind of problems, so that they understand this is a sovereign and thought-out decision by the people of Havana, who would rather see their once intense and photogenic city collapse than witness its development into a comfortable place.

That is where the authentic nature of Cubans lies. Cubans prefer to spend the night in the aged and dilapidated tenements of Havana (known as solares), where, in the form of an identity trait, there is no electricity, no water and no shortage of families.

Photo: Stan Raucher

Because of their adventurous spirits, Cubans enjoy every minute of uncertainty as to whether their roofs will collapse on top of them, something that happens every month in the said tenements.

What’s more, Cubans truly feel consolation, joy, pleasure, even happiness, to know that foreign visitors are resting at a hotel with all of the comforts they could never afford (which they of course also don’t want). Cubans are happy to know their sisters, aunts and even wives leave their homes at night to become the delicacies of foreign visitors, so that they may return to their country with a comprehensive and complete experience of the island.

Cubans hate lobster, all kinds of seafood, good fish, tasty sauces, rum and quality cigars. Of course, they can’t even see beef in pictures and the sight of a juicy steak can sometimes give them a heart attack. Cubans simply hate meat.

Instead, they love that amorphous and pungent mass people call “goose paste,” the revolutionary alternative to perverse bourgeois pleasures advanced by the Comandante, our bearded spiritual leader. Cubans are thrilled by weevil-infested rice, coffee made out of roasted chick-peas, and pizzas with melted condoms for cheese. Cubans are happy as long as they can see foreign visitors (those who enjoy their sisters at night) ingesting all of those taste-filled things that are the enemies of the proletariat, those things many people long to have.

And another thing: Cubans love bicycles, single-speed bicycles preferably, and what they enjoy most is pedaling under the summer’s most intense sun, to go in search of a head of garlic, a handful of nuts and bolts or a can of paint stolen from a State shelf at the other end of the city.

Photo: Stan Raucher

They love waiting for public transportation for hours. It’s not that the system doesn’t work well, Cubans love standing in line and wrestling with others, getting home late and exhausted…and with an empty stomach.

As long as they see foreign visitors traveling comfortably in their rentals and perfect, air-conditioned buses, eating well, drinking the best of the best, having fun with their wives or sisters, bathing at the best beaches, enjoying a game of golf, going scuba-diving, yachting about, then Cubans are happy and feel realized as revolutionaries.

What evil plot could the government now have in store for the people, so that they will begrudgingly give up such delicacies as “goose pate” and weevil-infested rice?

I only beg of them, on behalf of the people of Cuba: let it be anything but the imperialist imposition of lobster and ham!

44 thoughts on “Cuba: Giving Up Revolutionary Pleasures

  • The Castro regime will certainly benefit “from the arrival of the Americans and their money.” I agree whole heartedly with you. I was writing about the ordinary Cuban people. How will they benefit? I directed my challenge of leaving the confines of a hotel room to a poster who plays Stana Claus by handing out trinkets to Cubans. When Americans discover than they have to register with immigration before they can stay in a casa particular or in a “friend’s” casa, there will be a few (a lot?) unhappy campers. Let’s do what we do best: thinking of the plight of the underdogs of the world and how we can really help them. In this case, the Cuban people.

  • If two million tourists has brought this economy, how can another two million more really change, for the better Cuban situation???

  • The Castro regime will benefit from the arrival of the Americans and their money. Raul cannot believe his good luck at Obama’s naivety.

    I think you missed the bitter irony in Martin Guevara’s essay. As for telling him to leave the confines of his hotel and see how Cuban’s live, did you notice his family name? Can you guess who is uncle was? Martin Guevara grew up in Cuba and witnessed the Revolution from a ringside seat. He knows what he is talking about.

    I share Martin Guevara’s sarcasm about the changes coming to Cuba. When I hear my fellow Canadians heading to Cuban beaches for a vacation complaining about the horrible Americans who will soon be “spoiling” the wonderfully under-developed, oppressed, impoverished Cuban paradise, I want to scream at their hypocrisy, insufferable condescension and indifference to the suffering of the Cuban people.

    I hear people condemn the US embargo in one breath, and then turn around and complain about how US tourists and investments will ruin Cuba! Talk about cognitive dissonance: those two thoughts are mutually exclusive, and yet they happily co-habitate in the minds of millions of selfish American & Canadian liberals.

    The Cuban people have just the same right to freedom, human rights and a decent standard of living as Canadians do.

  • What?!? What kind of comment is that and what does it mean Sonrisita?

    Please, stick to the article!

  • Amén, BJ.

  • The pot calling the kettle black, Mac; you spend a lot of time focusing on me instead of the articles we are discussing because I am the gadfly on your case and you have not been able to counter my postings. Recently you were singing the praises of Harper, the Canadian Prime Minister and his re-election, we all roam in our discussions, you do it regularly and so do I so stop trying to bully John.
    I, however, agree with your advice to John, he should visit Cuba. Also, this will come as a surprise to you, I agree with your observation about lack of tidiness and civic consciousness among many Cubans regarding garbage. It is usually much worse in the rest of the 3rd World. This is also the legacy of slavery, you find it in the African-American neighborhoods all over the USA, you also find it in poor areas all over the world because how can you have civic pride when you live in a hovel, without civic services in a place that discriminates against you?

  • Except that the form of “democracy” you promote has never existed and likely never will as long as human beings continue to want shiny new toys. If you want to tilt at windmills all your life, that’s your choice. It’s almost charming and cute. What’s annoying and ugly is that rather than promote your fantasy democracy by detailing it’s merits, you spend a lot of your time on this blog denigrating the US. The very system that gives you the freedom to live in your la-la-land of socialist utopia. You should visit Cuba for the first time post haste. Spend some time with Cubans who live only off the income they earn working for the Castros (if you can find such a person) and see what your utopia looks like in the real world.

  • So why is “the time rapidly declining”? Seems to me the best is yet to come.

  • I would bore you people to tears were I AGAIN to take the time to explain what communism is and isn’t and why free-enterprise capitalism isn’t any better than state capitalism( the only other form of economy).
    You can try to tell me that people do not prefer democracy all you want. It’s just not believable.
    Circles said I was putting you to sleep by repeating the same boring factual details so you just go on and spout.
    Besides, for me it’s like trying to teach a pig to sing: it annoys the pig and it wastes my time. .

  • Anyone close to me knows that I am always looking to be proven wrong .
    Next to my computer is a sign that actually says ” Always look to be proven wrong”
    This is because my views are in a very small minority and for that reason, I am always considering if I am wrong .
    Really, it would be almost impossible not to do so given the huge amount of opposition I generally receive.
    It IS reality that an overwhelming majority of the people in the USA support free-enterprise capitalism and the form of electoral system that currently exists. i.e. the status quo so, of course I can’t miss the obvious; that most people disagree with me. .
    I’ve lived my life under those same circumstances ever since the 60s , the Cuban revolution and the Vietnam War and believe me I’ve been on a number of forums since the late 90s and since I’ve heard all the opposing arguments many, many times over, I have evolved ready and highly effective answers for most of them because of all the time I do put in checking out my belief systems for holes.
    I just don’t think that I’ll find anything more moral and intrinsically human than democracy
    So it’s been for some 50 years.
    Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose .

  • How did they amass the most wealth? You do see where I’m going with this right? Our system works because, within certain rules and guidelines, people are free to peruse their interests and create wealth and opportunity. Is it perfect? No. Is it better than what’s out there? Yes. Your idea is simply unworkable. Fore example: Much of the technology you take for granted now would not have come about under your preferred system. There would have been no incentive to creat it. It’s human nature. It’s why communism will never work.

  • Estimado Martin- are you implying that solares and cuidadelos are socialist phenomena ? Never heard of places like El Africa ? El Ataud ? Drug and violence saturated buildings w/ hundreds of inhabitants. What about Ilega y Pon ? Not to say that the government hasn’t may gigantic mistakes, but you seem unwilling to recognize any accomplishments.

  • The reason he repeats himself is because you guys don’t get it and I guess will never do!! LOL

  • Martin, there’s nothing comedic about Cuba so I will not be sarcastic and only
    state thank you for your article and especially your comments. you are educating me and hopefully many others as well. The future for your country
    is with those who stayed and in many cases suffered. Stay the course and
    hopefully hear more from you in the future.

  • Answer:
    By having amassed the most wealth of any country.
    This enabled by 100 years of preventing democratic economic systems everywhere in the world .

  • Please do explain how the U.S. embargo , put into place long before the Helms-Burton Law went into effect- does not cause the island-wide poverty that it was designed to do and which some 12 or so U.S. presidents have kept in place precisely because it does work to inflict the poverty it does .
    What the embargo set out to do but did NOT achieve was having the Cuban people rise up and overthrow the revolution because of that severe deprivation.
    I am VERY interested in your thinking on this subject.
    Anything factual you have to say will always be given due consideration by me and will help form my opinions

  • A rant is usually considered to be meaningless speech delivered in an incoherent rage.
    If you’d care to attack me on a factual and intellectual basis then do so and counter any or all of my arguments .
    As a totalitarian, you will always have a hard time doing so
    because I am a democrat and have logic and morality on my side.
    As to the relevance of my references to U.S. systems to Cuba , in fact, were the United States to inflict its will upon the people of Cuba then the problems of those U.S. systems would ( once again) become the problems of Cuba. Barak Obama is of no relevance to the U.S. systems except as one to maintain the status quo as do all presidents.
    The central point being made is that multi-party electoral systems are eminently corruptible. but you are apparently having difficulty getting this.
    Lastly , I have plenty of time to visit Cuba since I plan on living forever.
    So far, so good.

  • The Soviets appropriated the term communism for their failed model. They where selling a false promised of shared prosperity. Human nature beat them. Then they tried to stay in power via what you may call state capitalism, but trying to centrally control a complex economic system proved too much. The American system is not perfect, but it works. It is the most dynamic and adaptable economy in the world. I do not see why differences in income matter. People on the lower end of economy do very well by world standards. Barack set a record for small donations. He won by organization that got the vote out. He out hustled Mit. The guy has all sorts of flaws, owned by oligards is not one. Did the oligards want all those EPA rules ? Did they want the tax increases on high income earners ? Did they want the health care changes ? Did they want him to cut and run from wars in Middle East ?

    Barack is no empire builder. He made the deal with Iran and Cuba because he believes in working out differences. 100 years ago, the U.S. wanted Cuba. No more. Those days are in the past.

  • Have you ever stoped and considered that you are wrong? I must admit that I am always full of doubts. You on the otherhand live in your own private echo chamber. You consider anyone who disagrees with you as being deluded. Even someone like Martin who has lived the reality. At least visit Cuba before commenting further

  • Question. How did the US become the richest country in the world?

  • Your response was as usual about the USA. Cuba was not mentioned. Despite the Editor twice requesting you to cease your US rants, you fail to pay heed. That demonstrates both ill manners and an inability to respond to a courteous request.

  • Your usual US rant, but you avoided criticism by Circles by briefly mentioning Cuba initially. Doesn’t work Mr. Goodrich, Martin Guevara wrote about Cuba, you responded by writing about the US – which appears to be the only country of which you have first hand knowledge.
    We who write about Cuba are just not interested in your opinions about Barack Obama. Martin made an error in mentioning him because it opened one of your Alice in Wonderland doors.
    Why not visit Cuba – at age 71, the time available to do so is rapidly declining.

  • Oh Dear Joh, I am not agree, that the fault of the lack of products and freedom is because the Helms Burton Law, I can explain to you my point when ever, but I am afraid that already you are not interesting in any answer, you will continue with your steady speech anyway!

  • Please John, try not to repeat yourself. It’s really boring for the readers. I will be reminding Carlyle the same.

  • Your failure to take up the challenge of proving me factually wrong is noted.
    I will bring it up in as many future responses to your empty posts as possible.

  • The U.S. is the richest country to ever have existed .
    It is the center or world free-market capitalism .
    It is the best capitalism can do .
    In this best of all free-enterprise capitalist economies , some 40 million U.S. citizens live in poverty.
    As for charity: it is necessary because the free-enterprise economic system does not work and almost every given free-enterprise country especially developing country has a 20-25 % poverty rate.
    The wealthy give out a few bucks but the system maintains 40 million in poverty because the system doesn’t work.
    At the same time Gates et al support free-enterprise capitalism and the government and it’s imperial foreign policy which is centered upon maintaining their freakish wealth .
    The charity given by the oligarchs is only insurance for them to keep the raging mobs of the poor from their doors.
    I don’t believe they really feel any pangs of conscience about their positions and beliefs creating the poor in the first place with very, very, very few exceptions
    It’s all about protecting their wealth and privilege .
    How do you feel about democratic economies where everyone gets to vote on how work will be done nd the profits distributed ?
    How about direct democracy in government of the sort Switzerland now has where the electorate must confirm any actions taken or laws passed by their elected officials..
    Do you actually believe that if an open and democratic vote were taken on the fairness of wealth and salary distribution in the USA that a majority would vote for that top 1% getting some 90% of all post -recession profits (since 2008)?
    You KNOW the answer to this is no. and if not ,you need to look up a few studies and polls on the matter.
    Lastly, you must remember that in the United States, where the wealthy have so much control, both the wealthy in government and the wealthy corporations who own some 90% of the U.S. media are in the active daily business of telling the middle class to blame it all on the poor so your support of the wealthy comes as no surprise to me.

  • The fact that Canada has so often participated in U.S. imperial operations is also true .
    Yes, like other CIVILIZED European countries, Canada realizes that health care is a basic human right and in this shows it is less in the thrall of its very wealthy corporations than is the oligarchy that is the U.S. government.
    My beef is with any totalitarian form and while Canada does retain enough of these , Canada is not a big problem in my world because Canada does not lead the world .

  • Martin,
    I clearly caught the intended sarcasm but since it amounted to hitting someone when they’re down , taking cheap shots at a Cuba which the U.S. has impoverished for so many years as if you were completely ignorant of the ways of U.S. imperialism, I was forced to reiterate the big reason for Cuba’s problems when you choose to ignore it.
    It goes without saying that the people in ANY developing country would want the better life of someone in a First World country .

  • A few corrections:
    Cuba has a state capitalist economy.
    It is capitalist because it has a top-down structure.
    It is totalitarian.
    It cannot be communist because it is not run from the bottom up as any communist organization must be ..
    It IS Soviet -style state capitalism and not Soviet-style communism.
    Barack Obama was able to get elected because he was given over a billion dollars by the very rich and the corporations in order to run a campaign that could win.
    Long before he became the official candidate of the Democratic Party, he had sold out the U.S. electorate and made his promises to the very wealthy to maintain their status quo just as every president receiving similar sums in legal bribes must do.
    Without their campaign funding NO person, not even Jesus Christ stands a chance of getting elected.
    No person not pre-selected by the wealthy ever gets the nomination of their respective parties because the wealthy get to them first and if the Dems or Repugs don’t pick the choice of the wealthy, the one they do choose does not get the money and the party loses the election/.
    It IS how the U.S. electoral system works .
    You obviously have no clue as to how the real world works.
    The U.S. is not a nation that is about doing good in the world and its faults are major and systemic. How you can see U.S. foreign policy ( imperialism ) as something good shows just how much you’re missing..

    I would strongly suggest you take a daily read through ZNet’s current /daily stories so you CAN know what reality is .
    Pick any article on any subject with which you are familiar and compare what the author of that article has written with what you have already come to believe and then work out where the truth lies.
    ( “truth lies ” ??? is that an oxymoron ? )
    I would ask you for your sources but I most likely already both know and read them.
    Still, would you list your primary source or sources for the sort of stuff you posted above ?

  • So Holguinero, what’s the solution? We all know the problems but what would you propose?
    you seem intelligent. It would refreshing to read your response and not necessary to let me
    know how dire the situation is, we are all aware of this. Also, do you have any positives with what you see in Cuba?

  • Hey Martin, hang in there, the cavalry are coming! Great piece my friend!

  • John, probably best not to knock Canada. Canada has free health care for its citizens, and as my business partner who grew up in Canada states emphatically, it works. His mom had major surgery not too long ago and not only is she in perfect shape, it was free! This person speaks fluent French (mandatory) and English and is proficient in both and again, it’s free!!!
    Canada opened its doors for those who wished not to serve in the military during the Vietnam War, I know that from personal experiences. Canada has no embargo
    with Cuba and its citizens have been free to travel to Cuba since I can remember.
    There people are gentle and kind, I’ve never met a nasty Canadian. Their cities
    are pristine and well kept. Financially there tops and roads to and fro well kept.
    The only negative is there baseball team and they do have an unusual accent. Oh, Vancouver, voted always as one of the top places in the world to live. Perfect? You know the answer.

  • After reading your opening sentence (“I do hope the arrival of Americans will
    improve the lives of the Cuban people.”). The first word to come to my mind
    was, “What!!!!!!” You paint the arrival of the Americans as the cavalry being
    seen in the distance riding to save the day. As one who “has been visiting your
    wonderul island for many years,” did you shake your head and ask yourself, “Why did I write this?”
    There is the possibility that the shelves of the stores will overflow with American and foreign goods. However, have you thought about who is going to buy from these shelves. When, in Cuba, the average salary is $11 CUC a month who will be able to afford these items? The millions of pensioners whose pensions are approximately $7.00 a month? The nurse who works many hours for her paltry salary? The bici taxi chofer who works many hours to put a little bit of food on the table? The list is endless. The majority of people cannot afford what’s on the shelves now. How will they afford the items, when there is more on the shelves?
    Your playing Santa Claus (sigh) is . . . well . . .admirable. Trinkets, however, will not help a struggling family. Compensation in the form of higher wages may be the answer – not fuller shelves.
    Next time you visit Cuba, leave the confines of your hotel room and go into the countryside and see . . . really observe how many Cubans live.
    The arrival of Americans? The only ones who will benefit from their arrival will be Americans visiting the island and the Americans who are chomping at the bit to establish an American island: McDonald’s, Pizza Hut. I hope the readers will read the irony here. One can also point to the state of affairs in Puerto Rico. Is Cuba far behind? Amen.

  • The real irony in Martin’s post is that the protagonists behind the Castro revolution are the Cubans least likely to have enjoyed the “revolutionary pleasures” he listed.

  • The embargo was and is a grave mistake. It does not fully account or excuss the very many failures of Soviet style state communism. Victim hood is un becoming. In the U.S. we have a cottage industry of malcontents. Human’s love pet causes. I do not want perfection. I love America with all it’s minor faults. I would pay any price for the freedom of the American system. Barack Obama was elected by the people not a bunch of oligards. In 18 months he steps down. He has moved the country during his term in ways that can not be denied.

  • What an odd and depressing view you have amigo. I love the free market ways of America. In America I don’t feel at all contained. I have found and left jobs as I pleased. I live life on my terms. Many do better than I do and others make out less. It is of no concern. I have found the wealthy in America to be charitable. Look at the Gates foundation and all they do. Or Warren Buffett. Who are these oppressive oligards in America that bother you so much ?

  • Martin, Mr. John Goodrich knows naught of Cuba, it’s people and living conditions.
    He has never been there, hence his ignorance!
    It’s like banging an empty drum, a lot of noise, but irritating.

  • All the time and especially about Cuba where you have never been. To list where you are wrong would take many pages and would be a waste of time as you are non-receptive to the reality of Cuba

  • What absolute bunkum to describe education as a socialist program. Where did Isaac Newton obtain his education? It is correct that socialised medicine commenced in the UK IN 1948 (Minister of Health was Aneurin Bevan) under the Labour Party (Socialist). Canada has never had a socialist government, a good idea promoted by Tommy Douglas based on the UK system was adopted by a Liberal Government. Minimum wages history is difficult to trace, but enlightened mill owners had such a system in the 1800s – I refer to people like Titus Salt.
    As one married to a Cuban with our home in Cuba I can tell you that our living conditions bear no resemblance to each others. You and I live in freedom, Cubans have never experienced it!
    There is no reason to assume that the arrival of Americans will do anything to improve the live of the average Cuban. US history in Cuba tells a different story -from the Monroe Doctrine onwards. You obviously have swallowed the current media cackle about change in Cuba. Don’t believe it.
    Yes, the Castro family regime has a plan, that is to maintain power and control over their subjugated people.

  • Oh dear reader John. I’m sorry, I apologize if in English my post lost the ironic and sarcastic tune, It was supposed to be clearly exposed. Of course the Cubans hate having to eat those kind of foods, all the time they wish to live in the same way that the foreigners visitors with foreign currency! I say that because F.C. used to say that the cuban people felt very proud of their “way of life” you know?

  • “We have a democratically elected government, but we also complain about our politicans, and feel they don’t understand the average person”
    Nicely said.
    the Canadian scenario sounds quite similar to what passes for democracy in the U.S. .
    But In the U.S. the politicians fully understand the average person but the average person doesn’t donate the big campaign funding and it is the big corporate donors and the very wealthy donors who always have the ear of those whose election was due to their money.
    Maybe Canada too has become an oligarchy: a government by and for the wealthy .
    Free-enterprise capitalism DOES have that corrupting effect inevitably.
    because in a capitalist society, money is primary. Money is the end-all. be-all and the acquisition of large sums of it does take precedence over morality .
    and please tell me where I’m wrong

  • A really hypocritical piece.
    In your piece you did neglect that niggling detail and in doing so rendered your piece a really hypocritical and cruel P.O.S.

  • If you give Cubans cash, it will be gone before you can get back to you fancy hotel.

  • I do hope the arrival of Americans will improve the lives of the Cuban people. I hope your government has a plan and is not just crossing their fingers and hoping for the best. As a Canadian who has been visiting your wonderul island for many years, and who always brings at least one suitcase full of necessities for the Cuban people, I know many others who do the same. Playing Santa Claus, is fun, but it would be better if the Cuban people earned a proper wage. I often think that Cubans and Canadians have a lot in common, if you don’t count the weather. We have many socialist programs, health care, education, minimum wage, unemployment insurance, maternity leave, old age pensions, but we also have a strong free enterprise system. We have a democratically elected government, but we also complain about our politicans, and feel they don’t understand the average person.

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