A few years ago, at a friend’s picturesque home, my least favorite type of conversation sparked… a political one laced with the idealogical views of a mystical Cuba. I have had enough conversations with far too many people who have gathered their information on Cuba’s utopian possibility from fanciful movies or hopeful and limited news reports to know that this conversation would go nowhere.
Because the truth is that you could only really know what it means to live in Cuba one of three ways:
- You were born there.
- Your parents were born there.
- Your grandparents were born there.
I fit into categories 2 & 3. As the kid of two Cuban parents, you have no choice but to be bombarded with the status updates on Cuba’s present state of affairs that your parents post. It’s like Cuban Facebook. And in order to understand the whole story, you have to be logged in all the time. Because like all things Cuban you have to patch together pieces from different cars to make a boat.
In these conversations people talk about Cuba’s FREE healthcare and FREE education and FREE public programs and it all sounds so tempting, so attractive. I understand their position; living in the states you can see plenty of discrepancies from the top to the bottom. A small percentage of beyond billionaires own two and three and four + outlandish properties while some poor sap works his hardest to provide for his family only to lose his only home is enough to make you itch at the filthiness of it all.
But without sounding cynical, there isn’t much these days that doesn’t come with a cost.
When people talk to me about how they would rather live in a country like Cuba where all people live with equal rights as opposed to in the United States where there are the haves and the have nots I smirk and stifle a quiet snicker because at that moment it is clear to me that they have no idea what it really means to live in Cuba.
You spend your life standing in lines and stretching things out. You stand in a line at the panadería when the bread is being rationed. You stand in a lines at the butcher when the chicken is being rationed. You stretching out the life of that chicken by using every imaginable piece on that sucker down to the beak. You stand in a line at the market when the toothpaste or soap is being rationed. You stretch out a piece of gum by placing it in sugar water overnight to hold some of its flavor. Careful not to use too much sugar though – they’re not rationing that out for another 2 weeks.
Still – people say, at least we would all be eating. At least we would all have access to FREE healthcare and FREE education and FREE public programs.
Okay. Although I’d argue that as my mother says, “What good is FREE healthcare, when there’s no medicine?”
And what about so many other freedoms. What about the freedom of speech? What about the freedom to come and go as you please? What about the freedom to believe in your own religious faith? What about the freedom of press? What about the freedom to protest, to speak out, to be against, to choose?
La Bloguera Cubana, Yoani Sánchez, knows first hand what it means to really live in a Cuba where utopia is something out of a book and an ideal that doesn’t exist in reality, where she lives in “the absence of freedoms [we] Cubans suffer.” Just recently she has been granted the freedom to travel out of the country for 80 days. Although, putting a time limit on her travel goes against the definition of “freedom,” I suppose. The strength in her words has shaken me to my core:
Hence my intention to continue “pushing the limits” of reform, to experience first hand how far the willingness to change really goes. To transcend national frontiers I will make no concessions. If the Yoani Sánchez that I am cannot travel, I am not going to metamorphose myself into someone else to do it. Nor, once abroad, will I disguise my opinions so they will let me “leave again” or to please certain ears, nor will I take refuge in silence about that for which they can refuse to let me return. I will say what I think of my country and of the absence of freedoms we Cubans suffer. No passport will function as a gag for me, no trip as bait. (From Sánchez’s post “What Will Be“)
“No passport will function as a gag for me, no trip as bait.” Wow. Just wow.
Even more wow! is that she writes her blog under the beard of a government who doesn’t tolerate a difference of opinion. She writes her blog, Generacion Y, despite censorship in Cuba by emailing her posts to friends outside of Cuba who post them for her, who translate them into other languages.
When I combine the two sides of the spectrum of people who say they’d live in Cuba to be equal with everyone and Yoani Sánchez, I am overwhelmed by the contradiction. I leave my house everyday to write and create whatever I want with no pressure about what I write besides the pressure I attach to myself. I am not fearful in way of my words, of who I will offend, of who I will piss off. It’s not a thought for me. That fear doesn’t live in my world. But it lives in hers to some degree. She is brave to write as she does about what she writes about but make no mistake and don’t be fooled… she takes a chance every time she writes anything about Cuba.
If this is what you mean by wanting to live Cuba, a country that provides an idealistic “equality” for all, by all means, go. Be Free… but be careful what you say.
I for one, as a fellow blogger and lover of my freedoms to say what I say, write what I write, and be who I be… I’m good where I stand.