May Day in Cuba and an Offended Journalist

Rogelio Manuel Diaz Moreno

May Day in 1996.  Photo: Bill Hackwell
May Day in 1996. Photo: Bill Hackwell

HAVANA TIMES — One day, I was in a certain office and a journalist from a fairly important official press publication entered the room.

She came in without any formalities and greeted the people there who knew her. Everyone was extremely cordial to her at that moment. She explained that she needed to conduct an interview. She wanted some of the employees to talk to her about the reasons they had to attend the imminent May Day rally.

A couple of workmates asked to be excused, alleging they were embarrassed to talk or that they didn’t express themselves well. It seems I have a reputation as something of a loud-mouth, because everyone immediately turned towards me.

Honestly, the one reason I could think of for attending the massive rally the government organizes every year was the opportunity to show up with a sign showing a picture of my kid, reading: “He turns 7 next year. Don’t take away his milk ration.” As is logical to assume, I can’t buy this product on the free market with my salary alone, and this causes me great unease.

Of course, such a reason would not be well regarded by government supporters, who could accuse me of ideological diversionism, subversion, being a counterrevolutionary or something along those lines. So I decided not to mention this to the journalist. Instead, I told her very calmly that I wasn’t planning on attending the rally.

As a last resort, they called in another workmate who was in the office next to us, where you can hear everything that goes on in ours. This workmate agreed to talk to the journalist about his reasons NOT to go to the rally.

That was all the journalist could take. She went into an emotional crisis and reproached us for our attitude. Curiously, she didn’t call us gusanos or counterrevolutionaries, but rather accused us of an inadequate dose of irony and sarcasm.

We were inconsiderate, she insisted, because we couldn’t see she was doing her job, the job that was her livelihood. In addition, we were so fiercely confrontational, that we continued to offer her statements we knew very well “could not be published.”

Left speechless, we replied that those were our truthful opinions. We asked her whether she wanted us to be hypocritical just to provide her with the statements she needed for her report. She said that we already were hypocrites anyways, or we would have otherwise brought up these issues “at the Party or Union meetings.” After a rather sterile discussion, she left, fuming. She was so worked up that I think she didn’t even think of looking for more accommodating people in nearby departments.

Poor journalist, that one. She had internalized Cuba’s system of double standards to such an extent that her frustration, the anger she showed us, didn’t stem from our socio-political opinions or positions (which she didn’t care about), but from our refusal to take part in a farce that we “ought” to have accepted as necessary, whatever we actually thought. She was angry because we refused to lend our voice to the “publishable” slogans, the declarations in favor of a government that requires the praise of the media.

This doesn’t mean we can discredit those who defend the Cuban State a priori, for some may do so sincerely and honestly. There may be those who do so opportunistically, and those who’ll refuse to do so no matter what. Everyone is entitled to any position. The only legitimate judges will be history and their own consciences.

A good reason to join the May Day rally, or any other public demonstration, would be to demand people’s right to honesty. However the State, which could keep the milk ration for minors and even give me a raise, cannot be responsible for the exercise of that right. It depends on all of society.

10 thoughts on “May Day in Cuba and an Offended Journalist

  • May 1, 2015 at 3:05 pm

    You are correct in describing the May Day events in Cuba as a pro forma exercise as participation is not voluntary.

  • April 29, 2015 at 9:28 am

    For the employees of the Havana Las Vegas Cabaret on San Lazaro, attendance at the May Day desfile is mandatory. One of the waitresses will have an attendance sheet and her job is to put a check by the names of the other Las Vegas employees she sees at the march. You often make comments about a Cuba that I believe that you sincerely believe exists. The truth is that the Cuba you and Fidel want to exist and the Cuba that really exist are two different Cubas. May Day attendance is mandatory for most Cuban workers. People who say different are either lying or delusional.

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