by Martin Guevara

Illustration by Yasser Castellanos.

HAVANA TIMES — I remember how, under this same president and his entire government without any changes other than the merciless stopwatch put on elderly members’ lives, the children of those who had requested to leave Cuba for the United States, were treated. I can’t even imagine the post-traumatic stress that many of them have today because of that.

They were happy children, classmates, friends, who became sad and introverted overnight. Teachers used to call them by the semi-epithet “child of a worm”.

Can anybody defend this behavior today? I don’t take comfort in hearing people tell me that some things were handled badly over the last half a century, that’s just defending them 100%. The vast majority of things have been handled wrongly, and cruelly too. They weren’t mistakes like people try to disguise them to be, they were acts of cruelty, abuses of power, the same methods used in Fascism.

For a kid who studies worms in biology, calling him/her a “a child of worms” when not directly being called “a worm”, reveals the shared and collective nature of this vile deed.

Except for the differences because of the aforementioned, this is the same technique which was used in Nazi Germany and the occupied territories. The German people hated Jews and called them out, wilfully and enthusiastically helping them to be killed. In Cuba, people who today try to forget this shame helped the Communist assemblies, militia, etc., the MININT, the G2 and State Security to do their dirty work, from their positions in CDRs, the UJC and the PCC. They helped by reporting on neighbors, friends and even relatives, and worse still, they helped by turning their backs on the outcasts, those stigmatized with the simple mark of “wanting to emigrate”, being religious, or being “gay”.

Today, this all seems unreal, but that’s not the case, this was as real as night and day, and the people who did this are now in our government.

I will never forget the look in the 5th grade Jehovah witness’ eyes at the Orlando Pantoja School in Vedado, and how this boy became a walking ball of depression which increased as the days went by. He was already separated from the rest of us because he never saluted the Cuban flag, but when people found out that his family was leaving, it became too much.

His teachers, the school director, and of course his classmates, made his life a living hell. Only the tough kids dared to be his friends. Many of these would later become criminals, but I must say in their favor that on more than one occasion in our everyday lives, when I saw the sensitive and well-pressed or polite ones shit their pants in the face of wretched acts carried out against their classmates, these tough kids would shout out nobly in unison to defend those being attacked, in this case the Jehovah’s Witness. And they did the same thing when the Mariel emigres were being beaten in 1980, without worrying about the consequences.

I also remember a student at the Arturo Montori School, where we semi-boarders used to stay and eat. He cut himself really badly in a suicide attempt, because as well as his condition which was already quite obvious by then as he already looked like a girl, his parents had decided to leave Cuba. And then people made his life at school and in the neighborhood impossible. They would whistle and harass him saying that he was leaving because he was gay and that the revolution was for men.

This is why I’m particularly annoyed now that the president’s daughter, Mariela Castro, is taking control of the suffering that all of these people have experienced over so many years, trying to keep this all in the past, swept under the rug and forgotten, which she has been successful in doing up until now.

The same goes for her father Raul and uncle Fidel ingratiating themselves with great businessmen from Western Europe, Canada and Asia, and with Popes and every kind of religious leader so that the world forgets the suffering they inflicted on their parishioners.

This is why it’s very important to remember that within the struggle to return democracy to Cuba, what should be ignored from all points of view is any intolerant, authoritarian and tyrannical discourse.

If we have learned anything it’s that the only possible way forward is with tolerance, harmony, inclusion, healthy and open competition, living peacefully together along the path to progress and the personal freedom of everyone in society, in every aspect of their lives.


26 thoughts on “Cuba: How it Felt to be a “Child of Worms”

  • Exactly

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