My Thinking about Cuba

By Rosa Fernández   (El Toque)

Photo: Sadiel Mederos

HAVANA TIMES – Cuba robs me of my sleep. Sometimes, I tell myself – and I’m lying – that I won’t think about her anymore, that I’ll leave her behind and I’ll worry more about other things, rather than this toxic relationship we have of a placenta and a baby who cries for the first time. I have to cut the cord because she isn’t letting me grow.

I almost convince myself that I’m doing it, because it’s best for me, because I don’t live with her and her heat, I don’t get my feet dirty in its rocky earth, waiting for them to break properly so that new crops can grow. Also, because it steals time from me, it makes me sad, old.

I publish almost nothing on my social media, I’m always reading, I read a lot and I suffer with every word. I don’t share anything, I don’t comment, and I don’t take a stance – not out of fear, or because I don’t want to denounce the situation Cuba is in, or because it doesn’t affect me. Reading hollow comments is really draining, taking a stance in one group or another, having to define who I am and prove it.

Sometimes, I want to escape from all of this – and physically I have – but Cuba doesn’t let you. Even if you leave, it never leaves you. It’s an anchor, a magnet, it’s North on your inner compass that always brings you back to the same place and embraces you forever; it makes a martyr out of you, it weighs you down with worry, in every level of need.

The thing that annoyed me the most the last time I went wasn’t that you couldn’t find anything, that everything was dirty, that people were rude and you’re treated badly in public offices, or that every day becomes an exhausting battle to find something: a product, service, stamp, document, permit…

To tell you the truth, the thing that hurt me the most was realizing that few people care. They are all together, living the same reality and they are unable to unite in their own misfortune and change attitudes, ways, systems… Everything repeats itself in a cycle and it has become so normal that nobody questions anything. That’s the reality, you can’t come and change things, it’s just what there is, what we have, what we’re given…

Although there are more and more people who are trying to change this reality, even the way of thinking they’ve been taught, because they belong to a generation of the convinced, and they always run into walls that those protected by power raise, as they form part of something that allegedly works.

These walls have a name and surname; they are fines, regulations, confiscations, and the power in any authoritative figure telling you “you can’t”. My people’s willpower, their potential to change and their intentions are stunted when they see victims also becoming tools.

You can’t swim without a pool, you can’t plant properly and be productive without rototillers; no, no we can’t always do more with less. You can’t tie yourself to prosperity and do things badly. You can’t centralize everything, give out impossible licenses to just a few. You can’t distribute poverty. You can’t stop listening to what’s going on.

There are people who are trying to break down these walls and this force of habit, but the result is the same: their actions aren’t change. This is because every change that isn’t promoted from the spheres of society that have the power to establish and implement it, isn’t looked upon fondly and is suspicious. There is civic activism and it’s important to ask: why hasn’t more been done with this activism? This might be the answer to: why totalitarianism?

Abuse, insults, fear of what other people think, fear of what other people might say, fear of what might happen to you, of what they will say about you or charge you with something… This is how a society has been built, where everybody sweeps the dirt under the carpet; but they prefer to lift their neighbor’s carpet to show it off, because they were taught that this was OK to do and they even feel good doing it.

Cuba is also a script. It’s phrases that you string together from 5 years old, to have a conversation about political affairs worthy of adults.  I realized when I understood that there were things that weren’t right, that we weren’t going anywhere like this, that they were entertaining us in the short-term, with hunting down bread, cooking oil, just trying to survive another day.

I will always belong to Cuba, even if I’m not there, and it will always pain me. I am going to form a part of it, even though it doesn’t keep me in mind when it’s time to make decisions, and I won’t ever accept this. I hope that, one day, I can have a business in Cuba without red tape, that I can prosper without fear, make progress without being scared in my birthplace.

I hope that, one day, even if I am far away, that Cuba is interested in listening to the opinions of its children who are no longer there. Their comments, their ways of making progress; and listening to us and sharing a responsible dialogue, that contributes something and helps us get somewhere.

Instead of threatening us with the idea that we can’t go there anymore, or that we won’t be allowed to leave; seeing us like inflatable wallets that pay remittances, top-up cards, passports… giving, giving, giving, without ever receiving. If only, one day, this all changes and thinking about Cuba makes me happy.

19 thoughts on “My Thinking about Cuba

  • Thank you Arsenio. You seem to agree with the huge majority of Cubans who continue to Democratically vote back in the revolutionary government. tRump, as many before him, have tried to overthrow the will of the Cuban people. Lately the strangling policies and propaganda are bringing SUCH suffering.
    I know the USians pay millions each year for words to be written like I just read.
    The only bit I agree with is wondering what Cuba might have been like to not have been waring with the world’s most egotistical imperialist capitalistic and manipulative power. Corporate power.
    The United Nations and I wonder that too.
    Carry on caring

  • Sounds like trumps admitted plan.

  • Reading this made me think of Cuba’s filthy toilets. It’s a sign that, as this article says, few people care.

  • Stop exaggerating, I can take you to parts of Havana where it looks as bad as any 3rd world s hole, who are you kidding.

  • Cuba is a paradise, tell that to parents taking care of handicapped relatives without any resources from the Cuban government,I could go on from there,but why bother.As for embargo,Cuba can get anything in the world they want without going to the USA, the problem, ever since Fidel they believe they don’t have to pay their bills and instead conveniently blame that terrible habit on the USA.

    I have never in my life seen people in the US throw themselves into the sea to escape the US,have you?

  • Will the Cuban government admit that they’re lying about corona virus infections to protect their fragile and ridiculous tourism business even if it kills the tourists, inquiring minds want to know.

  • F Cruz offers the same old excuses that sycophants offer up in defence of the repression of Cubans by the communist regime!

    (1) Things are even worse elsewhere.

    (2) Its all due to the embargo.

    (3) The US is a hell-hole – but people keep on fleeing to it!

    (4) The falsehood that life expectancy in Cuba is higher than in other countries – factually incorrect.

    i wonder what F Cruz’ reaction would be to a tour of the none-tourist less salubrious parts of Havana and other cities in Cuba? Ghettos? The last time I sent a photograph of a Cuban home to HT, it wasn’t published – I conclude because it was unattractive as it showed reality.

    May i advise F Cruz to take a visit to a well-run zoo! The animals are not starving – nor do they have liberty!

  • My experience of Cuba is very much as you say. Always waiting for even the most basic of products. Cuba lacks accountability in the most basic necessities, not because of any blockade. The regime is built on repression of any opposition. The workers steal from the hands that are suppose to feed the nation from the top down. I have witnessed people with money bribe government workers for diesel in a jerry can to fill their cars. Siphon gas from government vehicles to fill their own tanks. Doctors will do whatever they can for you if you bring them a token gift such as a sandwich or a soda. Education is never free for the Cuban, they pay for it for the rest of their life. Working for $11.00 a month while the elite, namely generals, pocket the money to fill their wallets and their extended families live in luxury in other countries like the USA. I have seen the rice the government gives to their citizens, a cup of rice has a handful of stones; beans have twigs and stones; bread has little or no oil; coffee is half burnt beans. The lines for a pound of chicken are endless. If you need a document, you need to go to the bank to purchase a stamp, where again you suffer endlessly waiting to get into the bank. When you go for the document with a stamp in your hand, you are almost assuredly told to come back at another time. To get in on any appointment a Cuban will have to get up before dawn and travel to whatever office is awaiting to wait in line half the day, to get the document. Oh and don’t forget if you buy anything electrical, whether it is a toaster, a lamp or a television, the paper work and warranty is absolutely absurd. Sorry if you are the next person in line, you may decide to come back tomorrow to buy that toothpaste you do desperately need. That reminds me, toilet paper is a real luxury. Many times stores run out for weeks on end. Now you know why you pay for those three sheets at the airport washrooms. Of course I can go on for a long time on the toilet paper issue. My wish is, if anyone wants to travel to Cuba, don’t go all inclusive, you are only robbing the people of Cuba of their basic necessities of life, and feeding the regime. Cuba also has Covid-19, chichygunia, Zika, Denge, Cholera, very limited medicine, and very poor drinking water.

  • Never a reference to how American actions against the independence of Cuba affect the lives of Cuban people! Dirty? What an insult that is untrue. I cab show you more “dirty” in any US town or city. BTW, as a free Canadian, I have visited every part of Cuba in at least 25 visits from 10 days to 3 months.

  • We really miss our “cuban” families whom we have met in different resorts throughout the entire island, the beautiful beaches and everything Cuba so very generously offers to its guests.
    When flights start up, we will book!
    Well written article, so true…
    Thank you! Hola!

  • Ben, keep drinking the KoolAid that the Cuban propaganda Department served for you. I’m exile in USA for 40 years never been back my escape was too painful and my memories in Cuba to horrible to ever go back when the the Castro monarchy and the horrible system still in power. You go back there get you monitor and your Mulatota And I’ll support the embargo until the Castros are gone or I die.

  • Ben, you are (perhaps unintentional) proof that the Castro regime’s propaganda works. Your innocence of the reality of Cuba is reflected when you write:

    “The shortages and Deprivation of the Cuban people is mainly born from your awful and I’ll (sic) advised embargo.”

    That simplistic explanation that “it’s all because of the embargo” ( in short any problems for which the Castro regime holds actual responsibility is the fault of the wicked US) for the dismal failure of the communist totalitarian state’s dogmatic policies, has been propagated by sycophants for almost sixty years.
    It is bogus, and the very reason for my own wish for many years to see the embargo removed to enable people like yourself, to observe where the actual fault lies. Remove the diaphanous curtain of the embargo and let it be seen that the Cuban Emperor has in fact no clothes.

    Covid 19 holds no responsibility for Cubans plight, it merely emphasizes conditions that were already entrenched. It is the system itself that is rotten and that has spawned problem after problem for sixty one years. Individual initiative has been ruthlessly crushed. Management by people appointed because they are adherents to the political cause, rather than proven to be capable in such roles, inevitably breeds incompetence and when one lives in Cuba, is daily evident.

    The sycophants inevitably and with regularity trot out the commercial medical system (which is the largest single economic contributor to the Cuban budget) and education (the defined role of which is given in the Constitution, as indoctrination) as successes as if they excuse the practiced repression.

    For some irrelevant reason, there are those like yourself, who choose to use HT to vent their spleen against the US. Why not China, or Russia, or the European Union, or Timbuktu? The sins, errors and omissions of the US may be numerous, but they are not those of Cuba, it has its own!

    I share your hope that the Cuban people will be able to “find their own path forward” but that requires a degree of liberty and freedom currently denied. That has absolutely naught to do with the US embargo.

  • As a lluma. I have experiencia a little. But i totally agree with you with all your words that you have written.
    Pero yo siempre tengo esperanza y fe.
    Para Cuba. con amor en mi corazón.
    y poco simpático y frustrado con Cuba.
    yo amo Cuba

  • Well written article on your sentiments. Unfortunately people seem to compare everything to here in the U.S.A. Do they really know what’s under the carpet? Go to the ghettos here and see what’s it like to be poor. The poverty, infant mortality and literacy isn’t anything to be proud of. I’ve traveled to over 56 countries around the world. Cuba is a paradise compare to a majority of countries around the world. When you see people starving and dying in the streets around the world you’ll have a different take on Cuba.

    Yes Cuba isn’t perfect, but so isn’t the rest of the world. I’ve been to Cuba several times and compared to many other countries they’ll doing a pretty good job for their people. The embargo has caused hardship for the Cuban people. But I didn’t see people starving in the streets; the American Medical Association rates Cuba in a better position than the U.S.A. in healthcare.
    Yes Cuba can use improvement, so can the rest of the world. To me health and education always been an important indicator of a country’s well being. I give Cuba high marks for the support in this area. The life expectancy of a Cuban is as good or better than any country in the world.

    Give Cuba time and it will succeed in it’s plan to help it’s people to a better life. America is over 400 years old and still needs lots of improvement. Cuba doesn’t want to be a country of the few.

  • I left in 1961 ,I was 3 yrs old.
    I have returned several times. No matter how bad things are. I wish my parents would have stayed.

  • Beautifully written! I hope one day your thinking of Cuba will bring you happiness.

  • That’s a well thought out and well written article. Being a Canadian who’s only visited Cuba I have no right to speak for anyone there but I do hope the Cuban people continue to find their own path forward.

    Given what’s happening in the United States at the moment I think that’s actually the worst place to be, Cuban or not. As we watch the world’s wealthiest country collapse in a preventable health crisis, bodies stored in refrigerator trucks and military commandos abducting people in unmarked vans at gun point.

    To all the Cuban “exiles” in Florida I hope you stay safe and well. I also hope this has been a wake up call to you, the United States and their economic system is actively killing the poor and people of colour. The system you’ve advocated for all these years is collapsing while Cuba remains nearly Covid free. The shortages and deprivation of the Cuban people is mainly born from your awful and I’ll advised embargo.

    For now I’m grateful our border with your awful mess is sealed tightly shut.

  • Sentiments so wonderfully communicated. I went looking for a big LIKE button, but found none.

    So here goes: I really really LIKED your sad and heartfelt thoughts! Lets all hope the people of Cuba find what they are looking for and deserve, in their own way.

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