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 In addition, we were so fiercely confrontational, that we continued to offer her statements we knew very well “could not be published.”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
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    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
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    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.

  • April 28, 2015 at 11:21 am
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    Participation in May Day should always be voluntary, as it now is in Cuba; otherwise, it just degenerates into a pro forma exercise. Here in Vermont our own home grown May Day demonstration, in Montpelier, grows ever larger, year-by-year, and its composition becomes more diverse. Now it is composed of an ever-growing number of young people (and not just us refugees from the 1960’s), and there are several thousands participating, which is quite an accomplishment for so rural and small a state.
    Back in 2006 I had the privilege of participating in May Day in Habana , the last time Fidel spoke to a mass audience.
    May Day greetings to our brothers and sisters in Cuba, from their counterparts here in the “People’s Republic” of Vermont!

  • April 28, 2015 at 10:44 am
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    May Day ? Interestingly, that non-holiday was amended or subsumed by, I think, Eisenhower, into Loyalty Day. That’s right, a date commemorating the death of workers in Chicago fighting for an 8 hour day, replaced with the capitalist version of Patria o Muerte. Will the real totalitarian regime please stand up ? You can ask 100k Americans about what they know about this “Communist” holiday, celebrated almost everywhere else on earth, from Switzerland to Korea, and I guarentee you, they will , despite living in an open, “free society”, where information is not managed by the state, have as Yumas say, have no clue.

  • April 27, 2015 at 11:11 pm
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    ……another proud Castro sycophant.

  • April 27, 2015 at 6:21 pm
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    As the majority of mass population globally struggle with sexual deviants , and prostitution of young boys , a small population living on an Island with GOD called
    CUBA, some of the proudest people with the most honor trifle about this and that
    and dont realize the medals their hunger and pureness will bring them like CHE.
    Human struggle to achieve an end as good as the Cuban experience for the guests of your safe country will grow into something for your grandchildren and you will find a special place with God because of your struggles like Jesus .
    I personally am on my own front line throwing a pen at Mack trucks, losing my work , ridiculed and led to leg traps for a bear. I am not alone and I would say to CUBA “CHE is alive and your Country is blessed” Celebrate everyday for it is a present.
    I accept my posting and am pleased to see the wonderful progress but I realize what got Cuba to this excellent position so I agree with the firmness and more for the end wich is rightchous and the blessings as miraculous as Cuba itself a present for all the world. MAY DAY EVERYDAY
    Thank you

  • April 27, 2015 at 5:10 pm
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    Further testimony that Cuba has reached eastern-block-in-the-80s malaise. Apparachiks pal around with dissidents. You don’t even have to pretend to believe. But they would appreciate it if you would be so kind as to pretend to pretend.
    ” Viva the 756th anniversary of the triumph of the revolution!”
    “Now the latest round of privatisations and layoffs is complete, socialism is more irreversible than ever! ”
    “Are you being sarcastic, coño?”
    “I don’t even know any more.”

  • April 27, 2015 at 3:38 pm
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    LOL…enough said!

  • April 27, 2015 at 3:09 pm
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    So it goes in totalitarian countries with controlled media.
    Imagine , if you will, a reporter in the USA going out to interview people about what the Fourth Of July ( U.S. Independence Day ) celebration means to them and running into people with serious criticisms of the US government which, I am sure they would.
    Those complaining people would not be seen on the US corporate media because that’s not what the corporate media wish to project anymore than a negative image would be what the government -controlled media in Cuba would want to put out.
    The media in both countries can be relied upon for giving accurate sports reporting and weather results.
    That’s about it.
    Of course , in the (wealthy) U.S. we have the internet and some very accurate and reliable sources for info on politics, capitalism, imperialism which the general public assiduously ignores.
    In Cuba , the better educated people want information but are not granted access to the net.
    In the USA we have total access and most don’t use it to educate themselves preferring a 6th grade level of (mis)understanding. .
    So it goes.

  • April 27, 2015 at 2:52 pm
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    The owner of my casa particular is proud of the fact that she has not attended the May Day nonsense in 15 years. On the other hand, during the hours when the rally takes place she closes her front door (otherwise always open) and her curtains and turns off her TV and her stereo. You would think that no one was home if you were to walk by. Jus’ sayin’….

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