HAVANA TIMES, Oct. 1 – Ever since I was little my friends used to say I was headstrong because I always went against everything. The truth is, though, I don’t think I’m like that at all. I only stand up for my ideas, my principles and my preferences – tooth and nail.
Evidently on many occasions my reasoning and tastes contradicted those of my comrades, but it didn’t create too many problems back then. My classmates and friends from the neighborhood would only laugh at my crazy ideas.
The situation began to get a little more complicated when I got to high school. Thinking differently from the majority of people had already become a problem, but I insisted on doing what my father had always taught me.
He noted that, “Saying what you think can sometimes bring you problems, but it makes you a bigger person. Looking different can seem strange, but in it lies what’s important.”
So I tried to grow and develop in all possible ways – reading, studying, always giving my sincere opinion and being myself (though sometimes it earned me jeers and scowling looks).
The fact that I didn’t like to speak poorly of Yankees, or wear miniskirts or tennis shoes (very popular at that time), or even enjoy the latest dance (the “lambada”), those peculiarities still didn’t make people reject me completely.
There were always those who said I was a little strange, but it was only a question of getting to know me. Those who did know me knew there wasn’t anything so very strange about me; I only had different tastes, different preferences. After all, we all think differently at some time, be it for cultural traditions, religious beliefs or simply because we prefer a different baseball team.
In senior high school and at the university was easier for me to express myself freely. I found many people who thought the same as me, although it didn’t stop me from bumping heads with lots of other students.
The fact was that differences and contradictions were very beneficial for everyone; they helped us understand each other and ourselves better. They allowed us to learn to tolerate each other and to grow as human beings, coexisting in harmony.
What I’m most thankful for was the university level. In addition to the knowledge of my profession, I learned to get along with people who were different in all senses. I coexisted with communist extremists who didn’t even accept criticisms of the dorm food (which was outright disgusting). “At least you don’t have to pay thousands of dollars a month to study at the university, because if weren’t for the revolution you wouldn’t be here,” they’d say.
I had comrades who were homosexuals, Seventh-Day Adventists and jineteras (meaning hustlers, if not out-and-out prostitutes), as well as those who were against any and everything that smelled of socialism.
Nonetheless, due to respect for individuality we managed not only to survive those five long years, but we also learned to love each other – despite our sexual differences, musical tastes and our political outlooks.
If we were able to live together back then so harmoniously while being so dissimilar, I wonder why in today’s Cuba it seems so difficult to understand those who think differently.