By Rogelio Manuel Diaz Moreno
HAVANA TIMES — I took this picture recently. Those who know Old Havana will recognize the luxurious “Kempinsky-Manzana de Gomez” hotel which will open very soon, with a lot of fanfare. Something in all of this particularly caught my attention, so much so that I thought it would be the right time to pass on some of the echoes which have been deafening me.
On this building’s ground floor, there have always been retail stores. It was only natural that in the latest remodelling of the building, it would be used for the same end. But make no mistake, its new stores will be up to international investment standards. They aren’t going to be hard-currency stalls where neighbors can buy cooking oil, soap and a pair of shoes, with the kilos of coins they’ve saved in different currencies. The brand-new luxurious 5-star shopping mall will be home to the most famous world brands. Our official media even takes pride in this. And the name of this space reveals all: the El Progreso Bazaar.
How wonderful! Who would have thought that, after so many years, Progress would finally reach our streets? We’ll be able to visually swoon at those luxurious items soon enough, clothes which cost hundreds of dollars; similarly priced shoes and bags; millionaire’s cosmetics; at least that’s how it seems from the wrong side of the display. It will surely also have medicines for the elite, with medicines that the working class can’t find in the stores they have to buy from. In our dreams, this world of dazzling lights might seem like a few steps closer to our messed up reality.
It’s true that there are still some government bloggers out there, ardent spokespeople against the “culture of having”, or with selectively open eyes. We won’t let ourselves worry about their diatribes; they won’t stand in the way of Progress.
The acceptable use policy is moving our country towards “the normal”. Global capitalist forces have been summoned by the Cuban government so as to save what they call “socialism”. Investments like that of Kempinsky’s Manzana de Gomez Hotel are celebrated by both parties as an example of cooperation, as “proof” that such a hybrid is in fact viable.
In fact, this construction project is an example of all the obstacles development and modernization face which have been carefully separated. In the old building, there used to be several social and cultural institutions, schools, etc., which didn’t contribute to Progress enough. Well, they went.
During the remodeling and building adaptation process, they came across another obstacle. The Cuban work force didn’t understand the envisioned wonders for the future, the value of the new Manzana’s sweet and succulent meat. They insisted on not taking on the ideal of Capitalism’s work pace, for the same wages we get here. Another obstacle that had to be gotten rid of! Workers brought from India, fulfilled their strike-breaking role in a disciplined manner and paved the way to normality, development, Progress.
In this way, a very clear message from those who rule the current Cuban classist landscape was sent. Foreign investment in Socialism’s transition process isn’t complete nonsense, at least not from a Marxist standpoint. Ever since the old man Lenin began to understand the chance he had to dialectically interact with private capital, as a possible and necessary component in socialist transition. However, this, of course, always under the working class’ supervision. On the contrary, here, Cuban workers were put aside. Once this building project is completed, other Cuban work forces will also be carefully separated from foreign investors and managers, via the well-known and much-hated employment intermediary agencies. That is if the hotel staff isn’t brought over from the Dominican Republic or Mexico. Farewell workers’ control. You don’t contribute to Progress.
This new hotel, this symbol of the new Cuba, will open very soon. There won’t be any other message as clear or of such great impact in the public’s mind, no matter how many roundtables about altruism and austerity are given which is what they want to transmit to us. And whoever doesn’t get a taste of the good side of Progress, well they shouldn’t complain out loud; so as not to annoy guests at the Manzana Hotel as it might damage their soft ears.