What Are We Missing Here in Cuba?

By Gaby Rabassa

Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — “When somebody understands that obeying unjust laws goes against his dignity as a man, no tyranny will be able to enslave him.” -Gandhi

We are a strong people in the middle of the Caribbean Sea who have been prized by the world’s greatest powers as a port for the Americas throughout history. We Cubans are natives and creoles, a mix of colonization and slavery. We have lived through wars, military interventions, blockades, the Special Period and socio-economic changes so as to create real socialism.

Need and desperation have forced us to apply the “law of the jungle”: the law of the strongest, and the constant loss of values which troubles us.

After half a century, negotiations for reestablishing diplomatic relations between Cuba and the US took place for the first time. We maintain trade relationships with China, Venezuela, Canada, Brazil, Vietnam, etc.

Supposedly, we find ourselves at a crossroads right now, of necessary sacrifices for the wellbeing of our country.

We still have an infant mortality rate of less than 5 per 1000 births. We have the lowest illiteracy rate and the highest education rate in all of Latin America.

Photo: Caridad


As our Apostle, our National Hero, Jose Marti once said: “While there is still a single poor person, unless he’s lazy or an addict, there’s unjustice” and in Cuba, there are many working, struggling people who live in awful conditions.

So, what are we missing?

We have the drive and energy to strengthen the Malecon seawall again if need be, but we use this instead to destroy one another on a daily basis.

We have acquired new buying and selling possibilities, such as with private businesses, however, we continue to exploit our own people, our fellow Cubans, while we give a fake smile and a cold beer to foreigners.

We repair some streets, but we dig up others. Customer service improves in one place and gets worse somewhere else.

All of our people’s rebelliousness and strength, of our masses, which was once used to gain our independence, is now working against us. How? This is still a mystery that we don’t have the answer to. The truth of the matter is that at some point in history, we stopped fighting, we stopped demanding and we gave in. We gave in to laws that don’t favor us. To changes that weren’t “discussed in length” with the people. To a democracy which is far from participatory. To an imposed regime.

Photo: Caridad

Where is the fissure? Where do we put the patch? What are we missing?

Could it be that so much desperation has made us immune to change…? That in the middle of having to struggle so much just to survive, we forget what is moral, about our principles and dignity? That the history of the Cuban nation is to stain the floor we walk across?

I think we are much more than this. We have survived in the face of adversity. We are stuck on our caiman (our island is called that because of its similarity to this reptile seen from a satellite) with all of its war wounds still fresh. We remain firm and -some of us- won’t abandon it.

That’s why we must ask ourselves this question and reflect upon it:

What are we missing?

5 thoughts on “What Are We Missing Here in Cuba?

  • Marti as a Cuban writer and poet and later a leader of revolution in Cuba wrote of what he observed. I think that to understand the full import of his view, we have to compare the conditions he observed in the US and those which he experienced under Spanish rule in Cuba.
    There were successive revolutions commencing with Cespedes in 1868 in that oppressed country by those who wished to have independence as a nation, to have freedom -which US citizens possessed – and to be rid of slavery – which did not occur until 1886 – and of dictatorship.
    I deliberately quoted Marti, as the Castro family communist dictatorship has endeavoured to exploit the reverence in which he is held by Cubans by suggesting that he would have favoured their regime. There is everything to indicate that he would not have done so. It is significant that the memorial tomb of Jose Marti at Santiago de Cuba was constructed by instruction of Batista – another dictator who endeavoured to sully the reputation of a great man. You enquire whether Marti was reflecting agrarian society, but although he was well travelled, much of his time was spent in New York where he had a relationship with Carmen Migures de Mantilla and had a daughter Maria Mantilla, who in turn was the mother of Cesar Romero, the film star who played ‘The Cisco Kid’.
    It is evident from numerous comments by US citizens in these pages, that in their dis-satisfactions with their own society, they fail to comprehend how fortunate they are compared with much of the rest of the world and in particular compared with Cubans.
    The impression given by many of those who moan and complain about the US is that they are too indolent to apply their energies to creating change within their own country and that accounts for their interminable use of the Havana Times to vent their spleen. For those of us who are not American it is boring and irrelevant.
    What individuals do with their freedom is up to them, but Cubans have no choice, for they suffer oppression and are denied freedom.

  • Carlyle,

    What is special about conditions in the U.S. 125 years ago? I know the railroad transportation system was pretty much in place by then, allowing individual agrarian families to participate in the money economy. That actually turned out well for the U.S. because as families lost their farms, they found jobs when they moved to the cities (and we’re talking one job pretty much per family–the kids didn’t have to street-peddle to provide extra income for the family). So, is Marti seeing the self-sufficient agrarian families, the comparatively gentle urbanization, or what?

  • Cuba needs freedom. Nothing is more precious than individual freedom within limits that does not hurt others. Serfdom is an unnatural state. Education, health care and things of such nature are part of an advanced society. But so is freedom. Average people having jobs that let them earn a living is a great start. Some measure of self sufficiency is the first step to freedom.

  • The people of Cuba are still enslaved, yes the anklets and chains are not visible, however the Cuban people lack the most basic need to move forward and the thing that is missing is “Freedom”. Freedom to vote , to have a say in how they would like to see their people going forward. It suits Mr Castro and others to keep a tight rein on the Cuban people Mr Castro does not trust the real people of Cuba to make decisions for themselves. Please Mr Castro let your people make decisions and have representation in government departments, trust your people and they will repay that trust 1000000 times over. Cuba and the Cuban people are bursting with so much of a desire to succeed. Mr Castro just invest in the real spirit of the real Cuban people, provide decent places to live, repair the backstreets and get a handle on corruption in government and I can promise you that the Cuban people will respond wholeheartedly. Trus your people to make the right decisions, after all this is what they deserve.

  • To answer the question posed by Gaby Rabassa in the final sentence, the answer is:
    Gaby quotes Jose Marti as Apostle of Cuba.
    Marti also said:
    “Being good is the only way to be free. Being cultured is the only way to be free. With human nature in general however, to be good one has to be prosperous.”
    Marti also wrote of:
    “profound admiration for those many basic liberties and opportunities open to the vast majority of American citizens.”
    No doubt if Marti was alive today, he would be seeking for the Cuban people those conditions which he observed in the US a century and a quarter ago and would still be seeking:
    “the welfare and prosperity of all Cubans” which has been denied by the Castro family communist regime.

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