Yusimi Rodriguez

Relaxing. Photo: Matthew Siffert

HAVANA TIMES, Nov. 17. – We don’t have yellow journalism in Cuba; and we don’t we need it.  Every day we hear the sensationalized details concerning some armed robbery or a rape.  These days people are talking about a daring bus holdup.

Some will say it happened on the P-15 bus, while others will insist that it occurred on the P-3 or the P-1. The rumor mill fills the hole left by the official press, which reports absolutely nothing in this respect.

Accuracy cannot be expected.  But what’s certain is that as we approach the end of the year holidays, there’s always an increase in crime, and the recent announcement about mass layoffs across the country has contributed to worsening the situation.

It’s becoming frequent that whenever a group of people get together to socialize and chat, someone will immediately start telling a story concerning a violent crime that they witnessed or heard about.  And since no one likes to be outdone, someone else will then follow that up with their own story.

Everybody seems to have one, and so do I. Mine is not as spectacular as an armed bus assault or a Hollywood-style robbery of a currency exchange store in broad daylight.  My story is a simple unarmed assault of a woman to snatch her gold chain.

What was interesting is that this incident didn’t occur in the dark pre-dawn hours along some deserted street, but around 9:00 in the evening.  What’s more, it was at a fairly crowded bus stop located in front of a 24-hour bakery in which all the workers are men (or at least 99 percent of them).

Thinking About Making Lunch. Photo by Nina Hooker

Out of all the people waiting at the stop, no one intervened.  The bakery workers sprang into action, but it was to lock all the doors and windows of their place. Everyone watched the woman struggling with the man as she as she got slapped around and punched, and finally lost her chain.

In fact, this assailant could be described as considerate; he could have raped and even killed her without anyone coming to her aid.

I know people who have traveled to other countries to study or to live outside of Cuba for good.  They always make comments like: “People won’t help you there, even if you’re dying,” or “if you faint in the street, no one comes up to up to see what’s wrong,” and “people don’t look at each other in the eyes,” “no one will offer their seat to an elderly person,” “if you’re getting your butt beat up in the street, people will simply lock their doors.”

Once abroad, people miss the human solidarity characteristic of Cuba.  But is seems that soon there won’t be anything to miss.

This is the country where the neighborhood Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) were created; a nation where people united to reject verbally (and with blows) the enemies of the Revolution (meaning those people who left the country at the beginning of the Revolution and in the 1980s).  This is a land where many were willing to give their lives completing internationalist missions.

Yet those same citizens doing night-watch duty today as cederistas (CDR members) on their blocks, can stand motionless before any attack on a defenseless human being.  And they’re within their rights.

No one will put them in jail for not helping a person in difficulties.  When any background check is carried through a CDR on some citizen, they won’t ask the president of that chapter if the individual is capable of intervening when someone is assaulting a woman.

What they have in mind is whether that individual is an active member of the Committee, if they participate in voluntary work days and if they do CDR night-watch duty. People don’t want problems.  No one is willing to risk being killed or hurt for a woman stupid enough to go around with an attractive necklace.

People always point the finger saying things like “who told her to put that jewelry on,” or “who told her to be walking around so late at night” and “who had her to go out with so much money.”

Havana kids. Photo: Noelia González Casiano

It’s the same old story of the blame ending up being placed on the victim. Others say that the police are the ones who should take care of such problems, since that’s what they’re paid to do.  And they are right.  But is the value of a human life then equal to a police officer’s wage?

As I’ve said before, I’m not brave; however, I don’t know if I could sleep after having seen a man assault a woman and myself not having at least tried to throw a rock at him.

Could it be that due to the differences generated by the dual currency and unequal access to new luxuries (like cellphones, video games and entry into hotels), combined with the uncertainty of the country’s future,  we are acquiring the traits of savage individualism?

The streets are dangerous and it scares me.  But those who scare me the most aren’t the ones who commit the crimes, but those who simply watch.  What’s next?  Laughing about what’s happening?  Participating?  We’ve climbed into the driver’s seat of “save yourself if you can.”

Very soon, instead of chanting like the Young Pioneers affirming “We will we like Che,” we will begin shouting: “We are becoming less human.”

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