Alejandro Rodriguez Rodriguez* (Cafe Fuerte)
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