HT and its Younger Contributors

By Circles Robinson

photo by Caridad
photo by Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, Feb. 4 – Running an alternative website in a country not used to such endeavors is a complicated matter. Our Cuban readers are surprised to find a source that is pro-revolution but at the same time is not apologetic and prints criticism -sometimes strong criticism- of different government policies.

A fellow editor reminded me the other day that Cuban media professionals draw a danger line for themselves, based on their own or others’ past experiences. The line keeps them from stepping onto shaky ground, where some higher up might perceive their subject matter or focus as too controversial or too negatively critical of an official, institution or organization.

The rationale is always that internal problems should not be divulged or discussed by the Cuban media, because such writing “helps the enemy.”

In our “Diaries from Havana” section, Havana Times brings you slices of Cuban life from a wide variety of citizens. You may have noticed that some of the younger contributors present a bleaker view of the country and express an urgent desire for changes.

Some of my over-fifty friends resent such a tone, questioning their unconstrained criticism of government policies or structures. They believe the youth should go easy on what they see as dysfunctional aspects of the country’s political and economic system and day-to-day hardships, taking into account the blockade and half century of hostility from the United States as sufficient reason to do so.

Motivated by sincere concern, some colleagues have warned me that by publishing these young voices I might be stepping too close to the imaginary line that no authority has defined but everybody knows is there.

Should Disgruntled Young People Have a Voice?

photo by Caridad
photo by Caridad

The issue of whether young people should be allowed a voice if it differs from the establishment is one of contention. You get the feeling there are many in positions of power that dismiss the younger generation’s vision of life on the island, arguing that they lack experience and historical perspective, condemning them to either play the game or silence.

The resulting lack of participation in this society for such young people is a glaring reality. Despite the local media’s glorification of the rebel youth of the 1950s, who risked their lives to break all the rules and challenged the Batista Dictatorship, the young rebels of today are criticized instead of encouraged.

While their parents or grandparents may have dedicated their lives to the victory, survival and advance of the Cuban Revolution, many from the younger generations  -while respecting their elders’ feats- show a disconnect between those historic struggles and the concrete incongruities of today.

The result is a considerable number of young people alienated from work or study and who privately express an ardent desire to leave the country; many young professionals have that same wish. The emigration of these talented young people only fuels the troubling situation of Cuba’s aging population.

The difficult economic situation, with severe material shortages, is not the only reason for the desire to emigrate. Young people who would like the country’s socialist system to be more participative and less dogmatic want public debate on the great contradictions they see in their society. Instead, they find themselves on the sidelines, with their main concerns considered taboo subjects in educational institutions and at workplaces.

I don’t think that the disgruntled have all the answers, but I do defend their right and need to express themselves and I try to encourage them to put forth their ideas and make suggestions. The failure to allow such critical feedback is often cited as one of the reasons for the collapse of the European socialist camp.

So, sometimes you may read Havana Times diary posts that seem quite dark and depressing. But I assure you that what is expressed is representative of numerous other young people in the 16-40 range to whom I have listened.

HT will continue to bring you a wide range of perspectives on life in Cuba, including the Revolution’s many accomplishments and the unresolved problems facing the country. And yes, some of the younger writers will be pushing some buttons that not everybody is going to like.

5 thoughts on “HT and its Younger Contributors

  • if you guys have a say it will be first directed at your american no so called friends who made you suffer more. but so far you are only on the negative find something positive. whenever you criticize well give us the alternative to it. one way to show that you are mature enough and that you have the acumen to do the job better. the site or blog is depressive. i am a foreigner i have been to Cuba many times (14 times about 2 months) i spend my money (£ 3000) there i share it with the people and do not care about building falling and crying like little girls about food.First wake up earlier earn a good day of work , contribute and moan if things are not better. remember you are the only country been subject to a harsh embargo and it is still in place you have yet to mention it in your ridicule site. there are no other country where people go to discotheque everyday of the week i wonder where the money come from. i do not see people drinking in the morning while working in my country but in Cuba especially Havana yes at all time, you go to the malecon at 5 pm they all have a bottle rum coca cola cigarettes etc… i wonder from where they got there monies to buy these expensive drink if you may say on a regular basis. people blame the state. I pay rent 25 dollars and the mar-icons declare only 9 dollars so who fault is it when people does that.( if you rob the state you are robbing its people) in my country it is a fraud and you will pay a harsh penalty adding to that you lose your business and also lose your house. i can denounce them but i prefer you do it. you talk about it show that you are aware of it. so don’t steal and talk about the government you need to cure decease too. stop moaning because you are showing signs of disability and needing attention and help all the time. you were given opportunities to go to school and how many other countries independent and still do not have enough school for everyone. health is free but Cubans abuse it. old folk and young walking from cafe to restaurant selling Viagra, dorahina ( not sure about spelling just heard that so many times as people approaching me). people filling there tanks and letting water wasting. if i was employed there in Cuba you wouldn’t have a wash in a while i tell you. wasting. people at the age of work wondering and selling themselves and talking bad about cuba just to gain my sympathy so that you offer them a drink. that’s taunting and begging and they flash themselves i am Cubano. para mi un mente pollo un payaso un melocoton. si quieres mas tengo mas a decir. la culpa es el pueblo que no quieres ver su ciudad limpia. ya llega el tiempo a levantarse temprano y a hacer un esfuerzo mayor para superar todas las dificultades. anda guajiro

  • U have every right to continue these postings & to maintain the editorial policy of this Web publication: & the cuban state has every responsibility to keep its mitts off your experiment in participatory democracy. & of course some of the criticisms blogged here would indeed grate on the sensibilties of many marxists: both cuban & those in the still-imperialist countries. However, there are many roads to socialism; & the cuban state has certainly run up more than a few dead-ends in its struggle to blaze its own path to that socialist future. So the state really requires advice like this valuable input however criticial it may be. IMO what would motivate the newer generation of cubans to sacrifice as the older generation did, would be the growing success of the process of transformation of the still-stalinist model which the cuban state presently suffers: to one which is indeed truly socialist, democratic & egalitarian. But does it have to be wealthy too? seems to be the issue.

  • Circles, the following are your words not mine: “A fellow editor reminded me the other day that Cuban media professionals draw a danger line for themselves, based on their own or others’ past experiences. The line keeps them from stepping onto shaky ground, where some higher up might perceive their subject matter or focus as too controversial or too negatively critical of an official, institution or organization.”

    So you’re conceding that Cuban higher ups draw danger lines that no one in Cuba is allowed to cross? Even your diarists? ‘Open-minded writing from Cuba’ obviously has its limits.

  • I appreciate what you are trying to do, Circles, and also what your diarists are doing. In essence, you are all trying to make sure the Revolution is a dynamic, living, organism, by increasing and incorporating participation (a.k.a. real democracy, from the bottom up–not that you or your diarists are really at the bottom…those voices are still inarticulate, but it should be the goal of any real revolution to allow these voices a…, well, a voice!). This is exemplified especially by the current entries of your younger diarists on school and work-place participation in the mass- and leadership-development organizations. What kind of leaders will be developed when all the initiatives come from the top down? When policies are propagated from on high, but there is little-or-no grass-roots input? What kind of society can be created when real problems are ignored, or hushed up? These, of course, are rhetorical questions to which we already know the answers. For the Revolution to remain (or more truthfully–to regain its dynacism) vital, it must allow a voice for everyone, including those with whom the leadership feels uncomfortable. Besides, it makes life more interesting!

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