Is there a Crisis of Values in Cuba?

Rogelio Manuel Diaz Moreno

Business. Photo: Juan Suarez
Business. Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — I frequently hear or read about a presumed crisis of values in our modern day Cuba, and it generally stirs up the same nausea in me. Let’s go over some simple facts that deserve to, at least, reconsider the alternatives a little.

In the city of Trindad’s Historical Archives, the oldest document that they keep is a criminal proceeding. In the first few decades after Cuba was colonized by Spain, a certain authority was accused of corruption, smuggling and these kinds of activities without the King’s authorization, which is very familiar to us.

A series of famous figures from the times of Colonization, who have been called patricians, great men and founders of the motherland, were well-known slave owners. Francisco de Arango y Parreno, Domingo del Monte and quite a few other dignitaries, fall within this group. According to some academics, these figures could have invented the famous pioneer work in Cuban literature, Espejo de Paciencia. The odyssey narrated in this Espejo, in the calmest manner, carefully omits the reflections of caos and smuggling that people lived out in Bayamo – another of Cuba’s first Towns.

One of these Catholic Kings calculated, when he counted the expenses it took to build Havana’s fortifications, that he should be able to see such impressive buildings from his balcony, in his palace in Madrid. Administrators, engineers and builders happily bartered so they could fill their pockets. On another occasion, one of those Kings sent a man he trusted to go there and establish order. The serious figure arrived and his loyal subjects – or rather, the most powerful – gave him a sugar plantation with his own troupe of slaves, in the propitious name of Friendship.

Memoria de la Vagancia en la isla de Cuba was the title of another book that stood out at the time. Jose Antonio Saco suggested a remedy for “moral diseases” such as gambling and alcoholism in its pages. In passing, the learned creole called to put an end to the “disgrace” that would befall him if a class of black-skinned people showed signs of prosperity, because of their ventures in the arts and crafts.

In short, this is what they went through with the independence wars, intervention and a Republic was founded, with its breakthroughs… and its “small problems”. The second President, General Jose Miguel Gomez, was known for his nickname “Shark”. He bathed, a lot of his admirers used to say, but he splashed. This implied that the popular leader allowed his followers to imitate his scams with public money, on a smaller scale.

A short time after the Capitolio building had been completed, a mysterious person robbed the diamond that marked Kilometer Zero of the country’s roads. The thief’s identity was never discovered, however the famous jewel “appeared”, by itself, on the desk of an official.

For many years, a pimp became a widely popular figure in that society. Alberto Yarini embodied macho ideals, of the successful entrepreneur, of fame and glamor, with his power – which was not at all underground- over prostitutes and other shady businesses. After he ended up murdered by a rival, he received mass funeral celebrations.

The Communist Party back then was – like many in Latin America – was a strong member of the Comintern. And it had some seminal ideas. For example, the most famous and detestable of all the dictators we had had up until then was defeated by a general strike. The Party hadn’t called for it, nor did it lead the majority. However, during the height of this uprising, they offered to calm the situation down if this dictator changed national legislation and gave them political recognition.

With regard to social prejudices, progress was only made very slowly. Unfair differences were established among people, stemming from factors such as gender, skin color, sexual orientation and the religion they followed, among others. These kinds of discrimination were widely accepted by society back then, a society which people so frequently want to put as an example for us to rescue.

The best received US businessmen at the time were the Santos Trafficantes, Mayer Lanski and his mafia friends, with their offers of wealth and investment in luxurious joints. The last political party at that time to gain a certain prestige was the Orthodox Party which had a broom as their emblem. With this, they invoked the idea that they would sweep away all of the rest of the political body’s discredit.

The 1959 Revolution caused a lot of breakthroughs. And then we were faced with other phenomena. Too many families allowed politics – or rather, convenience – to break the ties that they should have assessed better. In some cases it was out of fear, but in many others it was also out of opportunism that many believers disguized their spiritualities shared by Frank Pais and Jose Antonio Echevarria [1].

In the afternoon,. Photo: Juan Suarez
In the afternoon,. Photo: Juan Suarez

A new era was ushered in a few years later, which is remembered today with nostalgia, when a certain material prosperity came to Cuban society, which was relatively better distributed among the social classes than in previous times. That wealth was founded on completely debilitating grounds, on massive Soviet subsidies. People unwilling to work and produce isn’t such a recent phenomenon as some people like to claim: back then, bringing tomatoes from Bulgaria and similar things were invented.

To enjoy the best cuts of those cows, they fed on extremely low instincts. With real McCarthy style witch hunts, but against the other side. Do you remember, how “ideological weakness” used to be reported? The image of political-social correctness was practically the same as that of the excessively prudish Western bourgeousie, who were afraid of hippies and rock music. In this same time period, certain mass fraud scandals at important universities were also well-known, with signs of martial arts movies. This, if we don’t consider that the greatest fraud they pulled off was massively practiced graduations, because of superior orders and easy going subordinates. If these are the values that we have lost, then let them go with the wind.

At that time, public resources were also stolen, however they weren’t controlled as well and the Russians were always willing to send more. Therefore, nobody really noticed and, furthermore, why would they risk doing something illegal? Quite simply, deals were made a lot of the time with the appropriate corresponding boss and then this boss gave out gifts to his acquaintances. By the way, with regard to use and consumption goods, there also wasn’t a lot to steal but you could buy them with any salary they gave you for acting like you were actually working.

At the end of the day, the modest Cuban population is only doing what it has always done, survive and try to have a good time, in the few ways it has learned to do so or within their means. Without worrying too much about the elite’s morals, they are only concerned with this so-called “moral” in applying it to the rest of us. Like they have always done.

[1] Leaders of the revolutionary movement, who fell in the fight against dictator Fulgencio Batista.

One thought on “Is there a Crisis of Values in Cuba?

  • I would dearly love to see the outcome of a vote in a general election if only the Castro clan had the balls to give the people of Cuba an opportunity to vote on their future!

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