Another year is about to end and Cuba is still in uncertainty. “One little step forward and one little step backwards”, as people say showing their ancient wisdom. Despair hounds us. Suspicion about the process of gradual changes grows. The true structural changes are more and more urgent and cannot be put off any longer. An immense majority of us are experiencing it. All Bishops in Cuba acknowledge it. Even the government knows it but it doesn’t accept it publicly in a transparent and lively way.
However, that very popular wisdom cries out loudly in every corner in Cuba: “Until one day!” And those very voices with less and less fear and more daily urgencies predict very rightly: “All changes, all passes and all comes”.
At the end of the year 2013 we must listen to that popular clamor, that deep and daily dissatisfaction, that growing desperation, that distrust in the bureaucratic structures, that extremely clear wish for change. Not to listen to them is a rash thing to do on the part of the authorities. Not to understand them is irresponsibility on the part of the indifferent ones and finding solutions is a responsibility of all Cubans.
If we look back, these 55 years show that everything changes even the things we believed couldn’t be removed from their places. Let’s say some examples among many others that can be recalled by the readers according to their age:
-This revolution was green as the palm trees and it changed its color quickly to Marxism-Leninism and the dictatorship of the proletariat.
- It was said, in 1959 that very soon elections would be held and the progressive Constitution of 1940 would be restored but it was not until 1976 that a socialist and atheist constitution was established, 17 years after.
-To go to church, to declare in the mass media that someone was a believer or to mention God; to carry religious symbols in public or to declare oneself as a believer at the school or in the army used to be frankly a serious ideological problem and the person used to be discriminated for this: he couldn’t study humanities or social sciences… This was always a violated human right. One day all this stopped being counterrevolutionary and another stage started in which you can go to church, carry out processions with a permit, you can mention God in public. But the believers that dissent civic or politically because of their faith, are still considered counterrevolutionaries.
-That very Constitution of 1976 was changed one day in 1992 and it was changed again in 2002 in order to eliminate the references to the former socialist field and the USSR and to change from a State of atheist denomination to a lay State. The believers stopped being considered counterrevolutionaries in the eyes of the law.
-The persons who left the country were considered unpatriotic ones, “warms”, counterrevolutionaries and they lost everything even the cutlery. This was always a violated human right. One day, that changed. Now these persons are the Cuban community abroad and the ones who leave can keep their properties.
-To listen to The Beatles, to have long hair and to wear jeans were outrageously harmful things to the revolutionary ideology. This was always a violated human right. One day Lennon sat down at a park in Havana and the monument was inaugurated by the very head of State at the moment. All that stooped being considered counterrevolutionary.
-The persons who had in Cuba a sexual preference different from the official “male chauvinism” were considered the “dregs” of socialist society. This was always a violated human right. One day, the daughter of the following head of State founded a Sexual Education Center for Cubans. The homosexuals stopped being considered counterrevolutionaries.
-The persons who owned or received dollars were considered mercenaries and they went to jail. This was always a violated human right. One day the possession of dollars was decriminalized and the ones who own dollars are not treated as criminals and are not considered counterrevolutionaries anymore.
-To sell something or try to set up a small private sale was considered illegal and harmful to the revolution; it was even approved and reverted in the 90’s. This was always a violated human right. One day this changed partly and a list of medieval private jobs was approved and these stopped being counterrevolutionary jobs and started to be considered necessary for the “updating” of the system.
-To have a cell phone if you were a Cuban meant to posses a “technology” opposed to the revolution as it still is to own a parabolic antenna. This was always a violated human right. One day this changed and what was normal in the whole world and a sign of progress stopped being counterrevolutionary.
-To enter a hotel was considered dangerous for Cubans and beneficial for foreigners. This was always a violated human right. That “apartheid” changed one day and entering hotels stopped being counterrevolutionary.
-To sell or buy houses, telephones, or cars of acknowledged property used to be a crime and an ideological deviation. This was always a violated human right. One day that blockade stopped and buying and selling stopped being counterrevolutionary things.
-Only to express the wish to travel to “the capitalist world” first and to travel to the only existing world later used to be considered a dangerous ideological deviation. This was always a violated human right. One day, the 14th of January, 2013, this stopped being considered counterrevolutionary, at least legally; and with only some unfair exceptions, all who want to travel and can do it in a material sense, have been “authorized” to travel.
-There was a time when the stand of the Cuban government was to fight with all means against the United States of America because it was the “monster” that stalked us. One day and now more frequently, this attitude changed. Today’s statement is that the Cuban government is willing to start a dialogue on the same terms with the United States and the so called cultural exchange with that country is being favoured though it’s not the same in both ways yet.
-If any person demanded to pay with only one coin, if he wore a T-shirt asking pacifically for the value of the Cuban peso, or even if he intended to pay with those pesos at the currency shops, his acts were considered hostile. This was always a violated human right. A few days ago this claim stopped being counterrevolutionary through an Official Note published in the national press unexpectedly.
-If someone only thought or spoke about paying to the Cuban sportsmen, not according to a bogus payroll of plumber or longshoreman, for example, but according to their performance and accomplishments, it meant to go against the revolutionary sport. This was always a violated human right. But one day that stopped being considered counterrevolutionary and by a decree, it turned to be a new way of stimulating the national sport.
-To have a duty-free zone inside the national territory or even “to open up” the Cuban economy to the international capitalist market which is stigmatized due to the “imperialist transnationals”; or opening and international Fair of Commerce to look for new markets and investors was unthinkable for a revolutionary Cuban in the time of the CMEA (1) and a little later. This was always a violated human right. But one day this stopped being counterrevolutionary and the “Special Development” Zone in Mariel is today the great offer to that very market.
More than half a century ago, the most famous and competent Cuban broadcaster, Consuelito Vidal used to say in an advertisement: “You’ve got to have faith because all comes”. It was another situation, another context, with no comparison. But the conviction is the same. Popular wisdom is completely right: All changes, all passes and all comes. A Cuban Christian farmer told us a few days ago:
“Heaven knows! maybe in a short time those dissidents who are pacific, good Cubans and good citizens, one day will stop being considered “counterrevolutionaries” and we will see them sitting at the same table with the ones who rule this country, holding talks and working together so that all the bad passes and all the good comes!”
Many will say that the most important thing has not changed yet. Others will say that all those changes are nothing more that regained rights and not gifts from the power. They are right but they are changes. Not to be thankful but reality must be recognized. Others will say that they are changing something to keep all the same. That is impossible in a closed and totalitarian system in which every opening up entails another one… or they must go backwards; as it happens sometimes. But the “step backwards” is bad for all and good for awakening from accustomedness and indifference.
We are convinced that very soon the day will come when the most important things will not be considered counterrevolutionary anymore: the exercise of criterion or what Martí used to say: the freedom to think and speak without hypocrisy. One day, as the born-in- Camagüey journalist Reinaldo Escobar says: discrepancy will be decriminalized. That is the course of the river; it’s the bottom of the stream. That’s the direction of the change.
No process of transition is linear. No itinerary of change happens without twists and turns. The natural characteristic of a river is its meanders. If it is straight then it is not a river but an artificial canal. The lamentable thing is to get lost in a twisting alley, to stop in the bend, to be afraid of the winding courses. The virtue of the citizen’s wisdom is to discover the course of the river, to persevere in the direction of its main stream, to get around the zigzags inherent to the process and keep trying, one time and another; to get back to the main stream of the river of life.
That stream is the change. It’s the human improvement. It’s the social progress. It’s the holistic human development. The rest is twists and turns and delay. And the worst thing for the ones who have chosen to renew the river is to distract themselves in the meandering path of their steps to the side or backwards. And it is even more serious if we stay in the darkness and the slowness of the twists and turns so we lose hope and we adapt ourselves to calamity.
All changes, just as the classic example of the river does, by the way, this is taken from the most pure dialectics. All changes; it’s a matter of time. It’s a matter of not losing the orientation of the stream of changes and come back to the direction and the fluency of the process after a curve.
Let us lift our sight. The direction of the change in Cuba is already visible and inevitable. If we look to the past the examples are more than convincing. If we look to the present, we will see that everything seems paralyzed and hemiplegic. The immobilism of what doesn’t happen must not confuse us; it must not discourage our pacific efforts for change. The changes should be true, deep and urgent. Cuba needs them already.
Let us consolidate our prospects based on a deep and objective analysis of reality. There must be no confusion about the bend and the unstoppable river. Let us support our views on the future in a serene and responsible way and the true hope will grow. The Bible and the Cuban Bishops make us remember that it’s the hope that does not “disappoint” us.
Pinar del Río, 20th of November 2013.
On the 225th anniversary of Father Félix Varela’s birth.
(1) Council of Mutual Economic Assistance.