Haroldo Dilla Alfonso*
HAVANA TIMES — One of the things that surprised me about Canada when I was there was it had peaceful heroes. Its historic cemetery is full of lawyers and poets, and although I don’t deny that there’s more than one charlatan among them, the fact is that none of them were represented on horseback with a sword in their hand.
Their statues represent figures holding sheets of paper in their hands, which could have well been draft laws or incomplete poems. I remember one day, while having coffee with a friend, I asked about the national hero of that multinational melting pot. After thinking for a few seconds, he said it should be Terry Fox.
Their heroes are different from Cuba’s, since the island’s heroes are national, or epic, or they don’t function. Or they can be heroines, like Mariana Grajales, who sent her children to fight and die in battle, which still makes people’s hair stand on end.
It’s not that we Cubans are inferior; I’m only emphasizing the difference. But I think just like peaceful Canadians cleared the way in Normandy, Cubans must learn that there are times when an epic out of place leads to rudeness, bad manners, and still worse – lost opportunities.
This applies, for example, to what I read in an article in the Granma newspaper (March 11). It was about a visit to the daily from the US Interests Office in Havana, led by its general consul, informing the public about requirements for obtaining visas following recent immigration reforms on the island.
It was a nice gesture that would have been worthwhile for one to take advantage of, especially since the number of Cuban descendants living in the US is equal to 10 percent of the Cuban population and that this group constitutes the most economically active population of transnational Cuban society. No big deal: just let them talk and pass on what the Americans said.
But instead of that, what the Granma article described in a third of its succinct extension was the fighting spirit of Cubans, supposedly putting the gringos in difficult situations where they couldn’t replicate anything…like Antonio Maceo in Peralejo.
Therefore it talked about how its reporters asking about the Cuban Adjustment Act and the program to recruit Cuban doctors serving in poor Third World countries – two issues that, whatever the readers’ views, all will agree had nothing to do with the objective of the visit or with the powers of the officials interviewed.
To top off this epic apotheosis, Granma’s reporters — in the face of their visitors — brazenly criticized their guests saying that “US immigration policy toward Cuba has caused painful losses of lives and its sole purpose is to promote subversion and destabilization in the country, justify anti-Cuban propaganda and to distort our situation.”
Finally something caught my attention in the Granma article. There was a moment when the American consul stated that the US is accepting fewer visas for visits by young people, because they tend to stay longer than the elderly.
The Granma article replied by saying that this wasn’t the case because, according to the Cuban government, only 13 percent of Cuban visitors stay in the US. Needless to say, this didn’t respond to what the general counsel said about the greater frequency of “stays” by young people compared to those of older people.
Nevertheless, it’s not my intention to delve into the mental wanderings of those who write these articles or those who approve them. Instead, I’ll focus on the tremendous public irresponsibility held in that statement.
In the last twelve years, in terms of non-immigrant visits alone, a whopping 120,750 Cubans have stayed in the United States, just over one percent of the national population. And if we can believe the general counsel, these are mainly young people of optimal working age who are going to have their children in the United States.
If this amount is added to the many thousands who come to the US with immigrant visas or cross the border somewhere else, then we must understand that we’re talking about a serious issue that must be addressed ideologically.
The island’s society today demonstrates a demographically regressive bulb-shaped pyramid, and the population is continuing to decline because women aren’t having children, or they have them when they migrate. This is leading to a bottleneck in which the pyramid is going to become inverted in a society with low levels of productivity and capitalization. It’s an unsustainable situation.
I know that asking Granma to say something serious may be hoping for too much. They never have and never will as long as the blinders of the party’s ideological apparatus remain in place.
But frankly I worry about so much levity in the middle of a disaster, as well as the very rude behavior with those gringos who, whether we like them or not, are only doing their jobs.
They were only representing the country where many Cubans live; those who produce babies as well as the wealth that some of them send to Cuba…two things that there are increasingly fewer in Cuba.
(*) A Havana Times translation of the original published in Spanish by Cubaencuentro.com.