Guava Jelly Sandwiches and the US-Cuba Agreement

Jorge Dalton*

Discos-voladoresHAVANA TIMES — The much-talked-about agreement to reestablish diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba has awakened much enthusiasm, but it has also prompted a number of doubts and questions.

In recent weeks, I have read several declarations that tacitly reveal the vehemence of Cuba’s official circles. Some categorically affirm that the “revolution is only now beginning”. Another written declaration reads, verbatim: “The re-establishment of relations between the United States and Cuba is, before all else, fruit of the heroic and victorious resistance of the Cuban people.” Yet others claim – or so my knowledge of the Spanish language allows me to infer – that, following the arrival of the Americans in Cuba, the revolution will last forever.

Under these new circumstances, and as the logic behind this process appears to demand, the unquestionable agreement will not even enjoy the benefit of the doubt from any of the parties involved – that is to say, no Cuban will hesitate, express distrust and much less disagree with this political concert that aims to erase 57 years of conflict in one fell swoop.

Those Cubans who demonstrate any kind of wariness will end up like Cuban artist Tania Bruguera. In her case, as in so many others, her background, awards and international prestige (secured through a solid artistic career) were of no importance. Nor did it matter that she is a woman who has received Cuba’s National Culture Award, or that she is a member of the Association of Cuban Writers and Artists (UNEAC). None of that was worth a crap. Bruguera was thrown head-first into a prison cell.

The new, empathetic face shown by Cuba’s official circles has brought to mind an unforgettable Spanish film, made in the times of Franco by the renowned and satirical director Jose Garcia Berlanga: Welcome Mr. Marshall.

The fact of the matter is that the outcome of that hearty welcome Cuba is giving the United States has yet to be seen. As I see and connect things, I feel it is the end and beginning of many things, not only for Cuba, but also for the way the traditional Left in Latin America and the world has regarded the Cuban revolution in the course of history.

Cuba may cease being the “model” for the “socialist revolution” that it has been for more than half a century, but I don’t dare predict this. We don’t know what repercussions and consequences this new stage in history will bring average, run-of-the-mill Cubans on the island, nor what benefits it will garner for the political and economic elite that has already taken root in the country.

So as not to fry my brains over this, I have decided to prepare myself a popular Cuban snack: a guava jelly sandwich. To do this, I used a guava jelly bar made in Miami that I bought a few days ago at supermarket on Flagler Street, and an iron and wooden contraption made in Cuba sent to me by my friend Gustavo Echeverria. I use this contraption, a sandwich maker, with caution, because, if I were to drop this device on my foot, I would have to be rushed to the hospital.

Once I finished preparing my popular Cuban snack, I started thinking that, though the agreement may be political and diplomatic and its clauses may have been rigorously calculated in advance, it was nonetheless arrived at in secret and without consulting anyone.

I believe that, today more than ever, Cuban civil society must find a space to implement new civic formulas and agreements, and that this may need to start with a strong embrace that speaks to a new unity and composure of the two Cubas.

Cubans don’t need a re-establishment of diplomatic relations. They need a definitive reconciliation, something very similar (though this is merely a culinary metaphor) to the way in which guava jelly and bread fuse together when inside a rustic sandwich maker.
(*) Jorge Dalton is a Cuban-Salvadoran filmmaker.

8 thoughts on “Guava Jelly Sandwiches and the US-Cuba Agreement

  • Don’t confuse authors and other intellectuals who are often dissidents under authoritarian regimes, with politicians in liberal democracies. Nobody, least of all Solzhenitsyn himself, ever expected Solzhenitsyn to go into politics in post-USSR Russia.

    Likewise, Yoani Sanchez is a writer, not a politician. Her best contribution is as a journalist. Perhaps Oswaldo Paya could have gone into politics in a post-Castro Cuba, which is why the regime feared him enough to eliminate him.

    Yes, I know about Urrutia. He was Fidel’s patsy for as long as Fidel needed him, and then he was brushed aside.

  • I have lived in Cuba and we are not yet friends. There is a saying in Cuba: What are the three worst things from the Cuban revolution? Answer: Breakfast, lunch and dinner. By the way, Esplendidos are far from “shit sandwiches”.

  • Here’s a thought, while we’re talking yanqui dollars, sugar daddies, desserts etc. Put the right to run the island’s national frozen-milk-substitute parlour chain out to competitive tender, open to US firms. Keep the (undeservedly) beloved Coppelia brand, but start selling decent ice cream again. Watch the convertible pesos roll in.

  • He will be remembered as a famous dissident, and we will keep reading the Gulag Archipelago, but Solzhenitsyn (thankfully, he was a nut) had no influence whatsoever on the course of Russian politics, his TV show was cancelled, and no one read his later works.Havel and the other Charter 77s were figureheads. The transition, as everywhere else was managed by big business, the old apparatchick bureaucracy, international financial institutions, and organised crime.

    I don’t doubt that some individual dissident (Yoni Sanchez!?) might take a figurehead role in a transition and be invited to lots of fancy UN dinners. My point is that the the dissident culture and its long cherished heterodox political ideas (thinking especially of the left-dissisdents who write on HT) will likely never shape their country’s future as they hope.

    Back to Cuba. Remember Manuel Urrutia Lleó? The brave liberal dissident and civil society hero who Fidel Castro appointed “president” in 1959 (naturally enough, having carried out a revolution promising to restore the old republican constitution). And then…

  • To you Moses, everything made in Castro’s Cuba is nothing but a shit sandwich. These so called Cuban ’empanadas’ are enjoyed regularly by many serfs under the oppressed tyrannical hand of Castro’s communism. And they taste just as good as those in deluded minds of those who think Capitalism is king. Come to Cuba Moses, my tourist friend and enjoy our food!

  • Czech dissident and author Václav Havel became President of the free and democratic Czechoslovakia.

    Many of the former leaders of the East bloc states ended up in prison or, like the Ceau?escus of Romania, shot.

    Solzhenitsyn’s books are just as good today as they were when he won the Nobel Prize.

  • I suspect that the sad, sad, truth is that Cuba is now where the Soviet Union was in the 80s. The dissident “civil society” of non-conformist artists and intellectuals on which Jorge and many HT writer pin their hope derives its stature entirely from the persistence of the communist regime. Feted abroad, alternately courted and persecuted by the authorities, they feel ready to change the world. How important one must be, to have one’s books burned! But when the transition suddenly comes, it will be money and guns that count, and in whatever new order emerges they will find themsleves forgotten and invisible. After 1989, who listened to Solzhenitsyn?

  • The author is correct that Cuba does not need yet another feckless embassy in Havana. What Cuba really needs is another Sugar Daddy to replace their Venezuelan wetnurse who is rapidly circling the drain. But should the US step to the plate to keep Cuba from drifting over the economic abyss it will come at a price. Americans love free speech and we love even more that our partners share in this God-given liberty. Cuba will need to better understand that to work with a large and open country like the US, the degree of openness in Cuba must increase. The mistake many Cubans make is to see the world with Cuba at its center. A fruit-filled pastry is as universal a dessert as likely exists in the world. Most of Latin America calls them ’empanadas’ and the English have their ‘pasties’ just as an example. The author calls it a Cuban snack. The truth is something else.

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