One of the mistakes most often made by those who say they care about Cuba is what could be defined as taking the part for the whole. A kind of geographical and ideological synecdoche, which makes them assume, when they use the term “Cuba,” that they understand it correctly.
Too often I have heard something like, “I am a friend of Cuba,” on the part of many foreigners whose ideological positions, almost always on the left, bring them to the island in tight solidarity groups which they believe will allow them to know our reality.
I say they believe, and not idly: they believe they know it from their air-conditioned buses, taking pictures of Cubans who spend hours on the roads, scorched by the merciless sun, trying to travel from one place to another. They believe they know our reality staying in camps designed to sell them on the idea that they are haphazard, the same as any native might inhabit, when in fact their facilities and comforts are ensured with mathematical precision.
And they never tire of repeating, these pink-cheeked gentlemen, that they are “friends of Cuba.”
I must admit that the feeling that these naïfs inspire in me varies between pity and resentment. Pity because the blinders on their eyes prevents them from seeing that they are a part of a skillfully staged choreography; resentment because thanks to their excited reports of the marvels they have seen, they support, from abroad, a system they neither live in nor suffer.
How are they friends of Cuba? It is a question worth asking. First we must clarify if, in their own minds, Cuba is all of our Island, or if it is just the portion of paradise that the Government dictates they may learn about. If they are referring to the Cuba they perceive from their Transtur buses, always so shiny and nice looking, or that of the old people who sleep on station floors in hopes of getting some kind of transport.
But the oddest thing is when we actually put this question to them – Why do you call yourselves friends of Cuba? Or, What do you mean when you refer to Cuba? – their answers speak of ideological struggles, and thus, we understand something: these people with their cottony minds have robbed us of our country and have given it to those who govern us.
Of course it’s not too hard to understand the genesis of this mistake. A country that projects internationally an image of strict unanimity, that year after year elects the same Party leaders, that accepts what its mass media says with hardly a murmur (in public), must concede that for uninformed brains, Cuba is a single concept of rum, tobacco, mulatas, and Socialism or Death.
It is precisely for that reason, however, that I find the position of much of my compatriots illogical. Those who know better, those who have suffered to a greater or lesser extent.
A friend I admire recently posted a comment on this blog. It can still be read under La Felicidad del Corredor de Fondo. This friend now lives abroad, and on analyzing the conditions of my firing from the radio station, said, “It got a little out of hand (referring to me). We shouldn’t air our dirty laundry in public; we shouldn’t speak ill of our own home.”
That is to say: if one doesn’t agree with the way my country is governed, if one doesn’t accept the anemic freedoms they allow Cubans, and if one fights the hatred that emanates from the powers-that-be toward those who exercise their right to dissent, this is speaking ill of our own home.
I wonder what divine or earthly plan gave our leaders the ownership of this beautiful Island, such that those who don’t share their point of view are treated like those who speak ill of their own home. My home is my parents and friends. My home is Cubans of good heart, honest, smiling. My home is this beautiful country with its angry sun and its young, impetuous in their love. I also think it is the home of all of us. But under no concept can I identify The Battle of Ideas as my home, or the efforts of a few men to manage the whole country as if it were their private plantation.
In 1988, before a packed square in Santiago de Cuba, an Archbishop who, in the aftermath, many began to call, “His Excellency,” said a few works that still have a painful effect. His name is Pedro Meurice. Before Pope John Paul II summarized it in an electrifying way, brave and precise, what I could not say any better:
I see a growing number of Cubans who have confused the Fatherland with a party; the Nation with an historical process we have seen in recent decades, and culture with an ideology.