Cuba's Landscape After the Thaw / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez
14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 15 August 2016 – The baby cries in her
cradle while her mother sings to console her. Barely three months old,
her name is Michelle, like Barack Obama's wife. This little Havanan who
still nurses and sleeps most of the day, came into the world after the
armistice: she is a daughter of the truce between the governments of
Cuba and the United States. A creature without ideological phobias or
hatred on her horizon.
In the history books that Michelle and her contemporaries will read,
these months after 17 December 2014 – "17-D" as Cubans have dubbed it –
will remain in a few lines. In these retrospective summaries there will
be optimistic tones, as if the whole island, stranded for decades on the
side of the road, had set out anew from this moment, putting pedal to
the metal and making up for lost time. But, for many, living through the
reconciliation is less historic and grandiloquent than was playing a
starring role in a battle.
A process that, one day, analysts will compare with the fall of the
Berlin Wall and perhaps define with high-sounding names like the end of
the sugar curtain, the death of the Revolution or the moment when peace
broke out, is losing brightness now, faced with the daily exhaustion.
Indeed, the truce quieted the noise of the slogans and has allowed us to
hear the persistent hum of the shortages and the lack of freedom.
The day when the presidents of Cuba and the United States announced the
beginning of the normalization of relations has been left somewhere in
the past. It will be a reference for historians and analysts, but it
means little to those who are facing a whether decision to spend the
rest of their lives waiting for "this to be fixed" or to choose to
escape to any other corner of the world.
17-D has increased apprehensions about the end of the Cuban Adjustment
Act. The number of Cubans who, since then, have crossed the United
States border has shot up, with 84,468 arriving by land or air while
another 10,248 have tried to cross the sea. The popular ironic phrase of
the latter for leaving the island –"turning off El Morro," a reference
to Havana's iconic lighthouse at the entrance to the bay – dramatically
foreshadows those numbers.
Why not stay in the country if the thaw promises a better life or at
least a more fluid and profitable relationship with the United States?
Because 17-D arrived too late for many, including several generations of
who had to face off against our neighbor to the north, shouting
anti-imperialist slogans for most of their lives and abetting the
commander-in-chief in his personal battle against the White House. They
don't trust promises, because they have seen many positive
prognostications that survived only on paper and in the mystique of a
speech, lacking any impact on their dinner tables or their wallets.
After a prolonged skirmish lasting over half a century and eleven US
administrations and two Cuban presidents with the same surname, the
nation is exhausted. The adrenaline of the battle has given way to
dreariness and a question that finds it way into the minds of millions
of Cubans: Was it all for this?
It is difficult to convince people that the confiscations of US
companies, the diplomatic insults, becoming the Soviet Union's
concubine, and the many caricatures ridiculing Nixon, Carter, Reagan and
Bush were all worth it, even with all the official propaganda that
controls every one of the county's newspapers, radio stations and TV
The American flag raised at the US Embassy in Havana just one year ago,
on 14 August 2015, put a final end to an era of trenches and to the
eternal soldier: the Cuban government with its still hot Kalashnikov and
a marked inability to live in peace. It is prepared for confrontation
but its ineffectiveness is clearly evident in times of armistice. In his
convalescent retirement, Fidel Castro noted how the country he molded in
his image and likeness was out of his hands. The man who controlled
every detail of Cubans' lives cannot influence how he will be
remembered. Some rush to deify him; others sharpen their arguments to
dismantle his myth; while the great majority simply forget he's alive:
he is buried while still breathing.
Children born since 31 July 2006, when the illness of the "Maximum
Leader" was announced, have only seen the president in photos and
archival materials. They are the ones who don't have to declaim
incendiary versus before him in some patriotic act, nor be a part of the
social experiments that emerged from the gray matter under his
olive-green cap. They live in the post-Fidel era, which does not mean
they are entirely freed from his influence.
For decades to come, the schism created by the authoritarian leadership
of this son of Galicia, born in the eastern town of Birán, will divide
Cubans and even families. The aftermath of this tension that has
infiltrated the national identity, otherwise lighthearted, will last for
a long time. There will be a before-and-after Castro for the followers
of the creed of political obstinacy he cultivated, but also for those
who will breathe a sigh of relief when he is no longer.
The Maximum Leader's 90th birthday, celebrated this August 13 with
cheers and a good dose of personality cult, has all the earmarks of
being his farewell. Now his closest family members should be exploring
the calendar to select a date to announce his funeral, because such a
huge death won't fit just any date. They will have to pick a day that is
not associated with the memory of some offensive in which he
participated, a project that he opened, or some lengthy speech that
hypnotized his audience.
There will be no need, in any case, to disconnect the machines or to
stop administering medications. To say the final goodbye, it will be
enough to give him his measure as a human being. Forget all those
epithets that extolled him as "father of all Cubans," "visionary," or
"promoter of medicine" on the island, along with "model journalist,"
initiator of the "water-saving policy", "eternal guerrilla," "master
builder," and a long list of other grandiloquent titles that have been
repeated in the days before his birthday.
Fidel Castro and Michelle, the little baby born after the visit of
Barack Obama to the island, will be together in the history books. He
will remain trapped in the volume dedicated to the twentieth century,
although he has made every effort to put his name on each page dedicated
to this nation. She will star, along with millions of other Cubans, in a
chapter without bloody diplomatic battles or sterile confrontations.
Editor 's Note: This text was published on Monday 15 August 2016 in the
Spanish newspaper El País .
Source: Cuba's Landscape After the Thaw / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez –
Translating Cuba -