Obama’s Visit: The Last One to Jump is a Yank*

Alejandro Rodriguez Rodriguez*  (Cafe Fuerte)

Alejandro Rodriguez
Alejandro Rodriguez

HAVANA TIMES — “Did you sign you up already?” an old man from the neighborhood asks me.

“For what?” I ask, raising an eyebrow. That whole business of “signing up” for something is always a sign they’re about to take something from you, be it change to pay for a flower wreath or free time for volunteer clean-up work.

“For a ride in the buses that will take people to the airport, to welcome Obama.”

This is the peculiar way in which one finds out about President Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba.

I log onto Facebook and confirm the news. “Habemus Obama,” Paquito announces in Latin, to express what the average Cuban would surely sum up with an “at last!” “This is your home, Obama,” another commentator writes, recalling those metallic plaques that many people posted outside their doors during Cuba’s effervescent years, reading “This is your home, Fidel.”

The news have been talked about a great deal on social networks and on the street, without much of an analysis of the reasons for and repercussions of this visit. I would say that’s normal, something similar to what happened when Hollande came to Cuba – more interesting than Maduro’s visit, but less intense than Pope Francis’.

From what I’ve perceived, no one expects Obama to come offer magical solutions to our problems. The price of tomatoes will not go down, teacher wages will not be raised, our phone company, ETECSA, won’t stop treating us like chumps and buildings won’t sprout from the earth to offer those in shelters and living with families decorous housing just to please Obama.

Nor will a modern fleet of buses that people can take to the headquarters of a newly-legalized Green Party materialize out of thin air, and I don’t think we’ll be able to buy a printed version of 14ymedio at our neighborhood newsstand.

That may explain why the news have had less of an echo, because people don’t want Obama to visit but better salaries, cheaper food, their own home, efficient transportation, access to the Internet and freedom of expression and association.

That said, everyone knows that Obama, and the way his administration manages relations with Cuba most significantly, will be very important to the fate of the country.

If I were them, I would lift the blasted blockade once and for all (telling Congress that the Cuban billboards now covered with political propaganda need to be used for commercial advertising), thus giving the Cuban government the opportunity to prove they can turn this into a prosperous country (though the government hasn’t even announced how much time it would need, post-embargo, to make Cuba the kind of place that retains its youth, artists, baseball players and medical doctors).

We Cubans have lost the habit of welcoming foreign presidents with proletarian glee, but, if we hadn’t, this could go down like the reception of Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere, where, I hear, people sang something along the lines of “Niyerere, Niyerere, we came to greet you and we don’t even know who you are-re!”

Today’s chorus could perhaps sing something like: “Obama, Obama, thanks for the diplomacy, but did you bring us any grub-a?”

As for the “pro-Yankee” photo up there, if you’re interested, it’s not a recent photo. I took it shortly after December 17, knowing I’d use it one day.

Note: “The last one to jump is a Yank” was a frequently used slogan in the early decades of the revolution.

*Cuban journalist from Camaguey. Author of the blog Alejo3399

4 thoughts on “Obama’s Visit: The Last One to Jump is a Yank*

  • So this is a point of view from someone looking in. I can fully understand, or at least I’d like to think that I do understand where you are coming from in regards to president Obama’s visit, as this may come as yet ‘one more political visit’, from someone wishing to fulfill his curiosity about Cuba, and has no real agenda in mind. However, I also would like to think that something good, something perhaps sincere, may come out of this…yet.
    I realize that all Cubans want and need change, be it political and/or, socio-economic, but, and most times there will be a ‘but’, though I do wish these changes do happen, they must happen at a cautious pace.
    I believe change is coming to Cuba. It will happen in yours and my lifetime; and we both have seen it occur in the past 5 years, though not quite life-changing in most areas, still change nevertheless. It poses a positive outlook for the future and, who knows, maybe this presidential visit has or, will have, more than meets the eye! – Rooting for Cuba!

  • This post highlights what I believe is a fundamental weakness in Cuban thinking. Cubans are always arguing for or against what some other country, some other president or some other external activity can do for them and how much it will help life in Cuba. Cubans need to focus on what they can do for themselves. Obama’s visit should be window dressing at best. Improving agricultural yields, inspiring entrepreneurial initiative and raising worker productivity are internally-driven and should be where the national focus is placed. Instead, it appears that Cubans are looking for the next sugar daddy to replace their previous Soviet and then Venezuelan pimps.

  • Interesting take on Obama’s visit. When a president visits here (in southern California) all I expect is traffic problems and the opportunity to see a grand choreographed procession or function. I do not think that anything said will have a beneficial surprise. There is an old joke that says “I am here from the government and I am here to help you.” It never fails to get a laugh. No matter, I think that more choices for Cuban people to get tourist derived income or trade goods from the US can be good. But if you expect the US government to turn your situation around in ways you want, then you are waiting for Santa Claus, not Obama. They always have strings attached to the carrots.

  • Your post hit me quite hard. Didn’t know that was the feeling throughout Cuba with Obama’s visit.
    Agree that what the average citizen in Cuba wants is what you wrote but also feel that this visit will
    move the pendulum to the side of folks like you vs. the present regime in charge.

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