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Reports from Cuba: Disjointed Impressions

By Regina Coyula in Translating Cuba:

Disjointed Impressions

An old woman with a cane got on a Route 69 bus with seats set aside for pregnant women and the physically handicapped. Despite showing her card from ACLIFIM (the Cuban Association for People with a Physical or Motor Disability), and her entreaty and those of others who were riding standing up, no passenger gave up their seat. A woman who didn’t move gave a soliloquy about how she hadn’t eaten breakfast and needed to sit down; the rest didn’t even offer a reason.

When I wander away from home I define the country that I encounter with one word: jaded. In the country portrayed in the news, a tourism worker is publicly recognized for returning a wallet containing a passport and $2,500, which a tourist left behind in his bureau; our doctors intern in the Mato Grosso in order to take health care where it was never available before, not for the possibility of improving the living conditions that their salary does not provide them.

Theft and fraud are crimes that are often not reported because they happen within the illegality of so-called “resolving by the left” (the Cuban equivalent of the expression “under the table” — i.e. in the black market); I’ve lost count of the times that cashiers in hard-currency stores “accidentally” didn’t give me change. I’ve lost count of the times that in the produce market the grocer “made a mistake” with the weight, but never in my favor.

Television is full of public-service messages: keep off the grass; pay your bus fare; avoid noise pollution; don’t litter; save water; make politenesss fashionable – say “Good morning,” “please,” and “thank you.” But when you turn off the set and give yourself a reality check, reality tells you that the “New Man,” that result of successive pedagogical experiments, is more interested in his personal well-being.

All these years of solidarity by decree have produced a  predatory, unscrupulous individual (coarse and vulgar as well), who will survive this government more successfully than I. I would tell my readers, as did the popular Consuelo Vidal in his “Behind the Facade” (this is pre-television history): “Look over there!” and point to Russia.

In a speech last week the Secretary of Cuban Unions exhorted workers not to steal, consistent with the example set by the General-President in his talk about corruption and poor social behavior. In what other country do leaders give such messages in their speeches?

These disjointed impressions and something the so-called economy convinced me that not only did they not create a better society, but this experiment failed.

Translated by Tomás A.

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