Will We Cubans Reconcile?

Haroldo Dilla Alfonso*

Terminal 2 of the Jose Marti Airport where most flights from Miami arrive. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, Feb 15 — Recently I had the privilege to be invited to participate in a workshop in Santo Domingo on the issue of national reconciliations. Obviously some ideas were exchanged concerning what should occur in Cuba at some point in time – I imagine in this century.

It was a meeting of very diverse people in terms of gender, age, race, residency and occupations, although everyone there could have been described as being situated on the soft edge yearning for change, but without fatal disruptions, even when they had substantial differences in defining what direction to pursue and how to achieve it.

It was really a moving and intelligent meeting for which we need to thank the organizers: the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and Baruch College (CUNY).

For me it was very important because it forced me to weigh an issue for which I’ve never felt a special inclination (probably because I don’t belong to that group of respectable people who mourn their banishment and always keep a sentimental focus on where they were born).

I also think that it’s because I’ve had to spend much time outside my country of birth (sometimes for very long periods, with this latest one for twelve long years and going). In addition, I’ve learned to adopt new homelands (where I link to the same causes that continue tying me to Cuba).

A friend of a friend said that his homeland was wherever he laid his laptop. That’s a prickly statement, excessively hardcore. Nevertheless, I think that is — as one would say in good Dominican — “anda la vaina” (a pretty good way of looking at it).


But back to topic at hand, I think the issue of reconciliation can cause serious misunderstandings, even between those with the best intentions. Therefore it’s healthy to clearly define what we mean by a term that’s so emotionally charged.

Photo: Caridad

In a plane that I would call “systemic,” reconciliation can never mean returning to a pre-revolutionary Cuba – a land that in the minds of many exiles is seen as the best of all possible worlds.

It’s possible that it was indeed like that for some exiles, but I don’t think that was the situation for the majority of people, those who enthusiastically applauded the revolutionary negation of that state of affairs.

However, it’s undeniable that many virtues will have to be rescued from that past, though the party line and post-revolutionary historiography have endeavored to reduce all of this to purely outmoded sludge. Likewise, it will also have to be defined what should be preserved from post-1959 period.

These are decisions that of course don’t belong to the elites on either side of the Florida Straits or to their second rate intellectuals, but to all Cubans residing on and off the island.

Reconciliation cannot mean the blurring of political ideologies in a political embrace. These will continue to exist, fortunately, with many opposing ideological (political, historical, positional) positions.

But all of them — and their political expressions — will have to accept clear rules of the game to facilitate democratic and pluralistic processes.

Reconciliation cannot omit a priori either the communists (the real ones) or the neo-liberals or any political faction that accepts these rules of the game, because if someone remains outside of the game, reconciliation will be weak and the resulting democracy will be misleading.

Politically, therefore, reconciliation makes us not sisters and brothers, but simply guests.

But if I concentrate on the most intimate plane — which is what I want to discuss now — reconciliation must be, above all, recognizing that we made mistakes, but we did so believing that we were doing what was right, and there’s life ahead that has to be addressed without the baggage of animosity.


This is indeed the case, because reconciliation already began a long time ago.

Photo: Caridad

First it was with families, who despite political pressures never broke their ties. Though occasionally contact was broken or became frozen, this was usually re-established with the smallest opportunity to do so.

Our Caribbean culture — particularly our Andalusian and African mixture — is always prone to understanding if there exists any possibility of realizing it. And we forgive and forget, because our hearts are not prison cells of long periods of emotional punishment.

While I agree that forgiving and forgetting is not enough, I think that to be willing to do so means having traveled a good part of the way.


If today there remains a lasting strip of separation and resentment, this is due to the existence of external political factors that act to obliterate — with increasing difficulties — understanding and reconciliation.

The first location of these factors is among the exiles/emigrants and in the policies of the US government.

But I don’t stop with them, since it’s well known that among them are people who are deeply resentful (with or without reasonable grounds for being so). These include opportunistic politicians looking for Floridian votes, right-wing activists and business entrepreneurs who can thrive without working thanks to their having discovered a goldmine in anti-Castroism.

As for the American government — no matter who’s in the White House, and for which Cuba is a side issue from all points of view — it’s more beneficial to maintain the current blockade/embargo than to assume a unilateral lifting, which would always be costly.


However I think that the main factor that obstructs reconciliation now underway resides in Cuba.

It is not in the bands of thugs who beat up dissidents and throw stones at houses. Nor is it the underpaid bloggers (my favorite pet peeve) who have made defamation a way of life.

These figures are ever-diming political embers that serve the cause more out of their own convenience than conviction. They won’t hesitate in switching to the other side when circumstances change, or rather when there is a shift in the determining factor: the Cuban government.

I think the main factor that currently acts as a prod of hate, separation and resentment between Cubans is the set of repressive policies and the expropriation of citizens’ rights practiced by the government of the island against all Cubans, those on the island and those abroad.

Photo: Caridad

One hypothesis that comes to mind with respect to this is that according to the economic “updating” by Raul Castro, there continue to be advances being made as well as new needs for support, such as the one that motivated the alliance with the Catholic hierarchy.

Indeed, the Cuban government could begin opening some specific gates, for example, by facilitating investments by Cuban American capitalists or facilitating exchanges with the most liberal wing around issues of immigration.

In this manner we will begin to see a dynamic whereby the Cuban elite will begin to promote reconciliation as a slogan, though obviously in the most grotesque spirit of lampedusiano (change that is more apparent than real). In this, the Cuban elite appear like God in that dialogue with Lucifer as imagined by Saramago – they cannot live without the threat of the devil.


I’m afraid that unless we recognize the complexity of this situation, we cannot advance a serious debate on the matter. Cuban society is not represented by bands of hotheads who beat up opposition figures in Cuba or threaten artists in Miami.

It does not consist of those who planned or triggered the bomb on the plane over Barbados, nor is it those who ordered and carried out the sinking of the 13 de Marzo tugboat.

For a long time this society displays itself in reunions between families and friends at airports in Miami and Havana. These encounters — noisy, genuine and unprejudiced — are those that mark the course of reconciliation.

It’s always useful to be familiar with methods for approaching the alienated, including reunification and forgiveness. Sometimes resentments run deep and, as Freud once said, what is repressed always returns. However, I don’t think that at this stage of the game that this need is so pressing.

What we need is decisive action to force the Cuban government to cease its discriminatory, divisive, repressive practices against the entire Cuban nation.

In the foreground I believe we should demand the normalization of immigration to put our country at the same level of most contemporary societies – nothing more, nothing less.

“Ramdomly tweaking the situation isn’t going to change the current situation. What’s most important, in this sense, is that everything we do at the micro level of understanding be aimed at making our society strong.”

Either we are direct our actions and demands above the scaffolding, or we will end up — despite our intentions — propping it up.

(*) A Havana Times translation of the original published by Cubaencuentro.com


2 thoughts on “Will We Cubans Reconcile?

  • Volvemos a las mismas categorias y definiciones sobre la reconciliacion de los cubanos de la Isla, con los que hoy viven en variados lugares del mundo. Volvemos tambien a realizar analisis llenos de buenas intenciones, como de lo que esta empedrado el infierno, pero poco realista y muy alejado de las condiciones que rodean esta categoria denominada reconciliacion.

    Cuba es el unico pais del mundo que se ha mantenido durante mas de 50 anos, luchando a brazo partido para evitar que el gobierno de los Estados Unidos destruya estos anos de sacrificio, dolor, muerte y destruccion, veamos algunos ejemplos, que el senor escritor ha pasado por alto en aras de llegar a donde el queria, cargar toda el fardo de las causas y los efecctos, al gobierno de la Isla, su partido, sus organizaciones de masas, y por envima de todo a su proceso economico-social.

    Desde Enero de 1959, comenzo el via crucis de la revolucion cubana, y digo esto por lo siguiente:
    – Comenzaron las bombas, las quemas de tiendas en la Habana, la quema de centrales azucareros, la
    organizacion de grupos dentro del pais, todos apoyados desde un principio por el gobierno de los
    Estados Unidos de America.
    – Se crearon los bandido en el Escambray, con elementos que, en su gran mayoria sin ser parte de la
    burguesia y sus hijos, si eran elementos que participaron en la tirania de Batista y alguno aunque no
    tenian delitos de sangre, si habian participado en la represion, la tortura y la muerte de muchos de
    los que apoyaban la lucha contra el tirano.
    – Se crearon las organizacion contrarrevolucionarias en el exterior, con el conocido caso de Posada
    Carriles, Orlando Bosch y los batistianos que habian huido de Cuba ante el empuje de las Fuerzas
    Rebeldes en 1959. Estos grupos, se convieriteron en la columna vertabral de los ataques terroristas’
    contra la Isla, todos organizados, financiados y apoyados por el gobierno de los EEUU.
    – Se produce la invasion por Playa Giron, por los grupos de cubanos exilados, la mayoria eran los descla-
    sados, los sacados del poder y los torturadores y asesinos de la tirania que recidian en Miami, el resul-
    tado de la Invasion, todos lo conocemos.
    – Se organiza toda una red de operaciones terroristas y de inteligencia, para tratar de destruir le economia
    del pais, hacer atentados a los centros economicos y a los dirigentes del pais, esto aun no ha culminado
    pues los principales terroristas y sus organizacion, se mantienen intactas, Posada Carriles y sus socios
    del negocio de la muerte, siguen vivos y conspirando, bajo el ala del aguila imperial.
    – Se introducen armas biologicas en la Isla, tanto para causar dano y muerte a los seres humanos como
    a los animales, recordemos el dengue hemorragico, la fiebre porcina africana y otros que todos cono-
    cemos y que haria muy largo este articulo.
    – Se atacan las embajadas, los consulados cubanos en el exterior, y lo mas emblematico es la explosion’
    en las costas de Barbado de un Avion de Cubana de Aviacion con 73 civiles a bordo, todos fallecieron
    y el autor de dicho macabro y criminal hecho sigue vivo, libre y gozando de la proteccion del gobierno de
    los EEUU.
    – Se establecio una cadena de leyes en contra de la Isla, que hoy forman el cuerpo del bloqueo mas
    brutal, inhumano, genocida y largo de la historia del ser humano, de un pais poderoso contra una
    Isla que no cuenta nada mas que con el 4% de la poblacion del norte revuelto y brutal que nos despre-
    Quedan muchas cosas por decir, pero yo le preguntaria a este inteligente y sagaz escritor, todo lo anterior, que hoy se mantiene y se apoya por el gobierno de los Estados Unidos, los cubano americanos en el congreso, la Fundacion Cubano Americana, los terroristas y sus organizacion en Miami y Madrid, aun
    activas y pujantes por el apoyo de los Estados Unidos y la Uion Europea, yo le preguntaria: es posible bajo las circunstancia imperantes, lograr un dialogo y una reunificación?

    Si se es honesto, digno y honrado en todo el concepto que est implicito de esos principios, la respuesta es NO, pues el gobierno de los Estados Unidos, lo unico que aceptaria, es rendir las banderas y entregarle el pais en bandeja de plata, cosa que el pueblo, el gobierno, el partido y sus organizaciones de masas, jamas aceptarian, y aqui surge la predica del general Antonio Maceo y Grajales, la unica aceptable en las actuales circunstancias y contingencias, – EL que intente apoderarse de la isla de Cuba, recogera el polvo de su suelo anegado en sangre, sino perece en la lucha.

    Senor Aroldo, se necesita una carga para matar bribones y para acabar la obra de las revoluciones….
    como dijo nuestgro querido Martines Villena, concepto y contenido que completa el de Antonio Maceo,
    todo lo demas es demogogia de la mas barata y de la mas baja calidad politica que se pueda pensar.

    Que tenga usted un buen dia, si la vida y sus realidades se lo permiten.

  • As a non-catholic, I contend that the Roman Catholic Church will be the conduit for communication and
    reforms that will reconcile the differences between the hardliners in Cuba and expatriates in the USA.
    It gives everyone a way out and should nudge along the changes needed to enable Cuba to succeed
    and prosper. I’ve been stating this now for over a year. The Pope’s visit next month should be a preview
    to this.

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