Haroldo Dilla Alfonso

From the series Thinking on Cuba by Yasser Castellanos.

HAVANA TIMES — I am convinced that the one redeeming virtue of Cubans is our excellent sense of humor. Without it, we would quite frankly be unbearable, for our other face, our dark side, is marked by boundless narcissism.

We imagine ourselves to be such an important part of the world that we believe that those who neglect us miss a good opportunity to be better. We believe we have written singular pages in history, when, in fact, what is most unique about our history is that we’ve been subsidized by other countries for three quarters of our existence, a record only Puerto Rico can compete with.

This means there’s always been someone working for us, from a native forced to work for the Spaniards in Guanajuato, Mexico, through a Soviet worker in Baku to a Venezuelan oil company employee. There is a veritable wealth of documents listing all of those things where we have allegedly come in first, always at a worldwide or continental scale, for being at the top merely in the Caribbean is not even worth mentioning (for obvious reasons).

When we hit rock bottom in the 1990s, we interpreted the situation as a lesson in dignity for the entire world, as though being malnourished, badly dressed and cut off from the virtual world were dignified in any sense of the word. As genuine Argentineans of the Caribbean, see, we have compensated for our discrete existence with ambitious and soaring dreams about the future.

This, curiously enough, is true of each and every one of the political camps into which Cuba is divided today. While watching the at times hilarious and at times repugnant videos showing the feasts staged by Cuba’s official delegation at the Panama Summit, what always caught my attention was the way in which the livid soldiers of the Castro regime swore they were safeguarding the dignity and decorum of the continent, all the while defeating the “age-old enemies of popular causes,” enemies who were finally defeated at the picturesque battle of Porras Park.

During the tribute paid back home to these political hooligans, a Cuban vice-minister affirmed they had thwarted the maneuvers of the continental Right, and Pastor Raul Suarez declared that, while vociferating at Panama’s convention center, he had felt what Genghis Khan had felt while besieging Samarkand: the presence of God. “I felt,” and I quote, “the presence of God in Panama, when I engaged in a just struggle against those who wanted to turn that house of prayer into a den of thieves, against those who want to curtail the right of Cubans to choose their own system of government.” Amen!

From “Thinking on Cuba” by Yasser Castellanos

Putting aside the Panama Summit (which I only mentioned as way of an example), I believe an exaggerated sense of self-importance also plagues the opposition, either because loneliness leads of spasmodic illusions or because selling an image of social leadership broadens political markets. I still recall dissident Guillermo Fariñas telling his spellbound listeners in Miami about his conversations with the Cuban vice-president, and about how disaffected army generals told him of their concerns about the country’s future. I also recall the loquacious participants of a round table debate (particularly Antunez) who called Obama a traitor for not having previously consulted with them regarding the decision to re-establish relations with the Cuban State.

Not even Yoani Sanchez, someone who has combined political intelligence with the gift of pertinence, has managed to steer clear of narcissism. In this case, the renowned Cuban blogger appeared in Chile next to the Independent Democratic Union (UDI) and its think-tank, the super-expensive and elitist Adolfo Ibañez university. I am not suggesting that it is a sin for someone of Sanchez’ political stance to rub elbows with the Right, but I do consider it a monumental blunder to hold hands with a pro-Pinochet Right (as the UDI is) which has an absolutely negative record on the issue of human rights that she champions. There isn’t a single negative stance – homophobia, patriarchalism, xenophobia – which the UDI hasn’t supported with the same devotion with which Augusto Pinochet annihilated Chilean democracy. This political organization, I should also add, is going though one of its worst moments as a result of the extreme political corruption that has gnawed away at all of its structures. In short, Sanchez went to the worst place at the worst imaginable time.

Yoani was not received by President Bachelet, as she requested. Bachelet explained her agenda was full, and I believe there was some truth to that (a political crisis, two volcano eruptions, lava flows that razed part of a city to the ground, etc.), but it is clear Bachelet didn’t receive Yoani because she didn’t think it convenient. It is also clear Sanchez understood as much when she declared, with marked resentment, that “President Bachelet’s agenda is very tight, there is no room in the agenda for me, but the important thing is to be among my colleagues and with common citizens.” According to the Chilean press, which wasn’t particularly wordy in its coverage of the visit, this was met with applause from those congregated, and a student leader described the situation as political chicanery typical of the government’s alliance with the Communist Party.

The leaders of Cuba’s opposition do not appear to have grasped a sociological reality which, despite being explainable in many ways, continues to be quite hard-hitting. Manuel Cuesta Morua, who I consider to be the most incisive, discrete and enlightened leader among Cuba’s opposition, carries out a sincere analysis of this in his last book (Ensayos progresistas desde Cuba, “Progressive Essays from Cuba”), affirming that Cuba’s opposition is ideologically structureless, politically weak and vulnerable to de-legitimation. That is the reason, I believe Morua claims, that, despite its courage and its provable moral values, it is incapable of capitalizing on the discontent that the crisis faced by the Cuban system generates.

Cuba’s opposition has yet to produce figures such a Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa, Rigoberta Menchu or Aung San Suu Kyi – not because they are lacking in intellectual or ethical caliber, that isn’t what I am suggesting, but because they have been incapable of mobilizing a significant part of society. Again, the reasons for this may be varied, but that doesn’t change the facts. That is why Bachelet considers that not receiving Sanchez is not a costly gesture, why Obama didn’t even think to consult with Antunez about Cuba policy and why Fariñas will have to continue imagining his intimate exchanges with disaffected generals of his beloved Santa Clara.


3 thoughts on “Cubannes, Narcissism and Petulance

  • Guillermo Fariñas recently described himself as a “leader of Cuban civil society”. A good example of what this post is talking about.

  • Oh yeah it’s true….we’re narcissists for sure!

  • A very interesting and challenging article.

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