Nov 23, 2009

Cuba: a fifty years old "1984"

Once upon a time, in a super-hot summer, in a tropical island. A young and strong man, sporting a plaided shirt, knocks in the door of the apartment.

It's the middle one, on the second floor, in an ugly block-type of building from the glorious years of the German and Soviet "fashion" in the island's construction.

It barely holds any color of its walls. For a building, the simple fact to exist merely feet from the shore of the Caribbean island is a challenge. A daily challenge to survive - more or less in the same line that its own human inhabitants.

The aforementioned young man asked for Lola. Her mother is in the kitchen, trying to fix something to eat in the middle of a murderous blackout.

Lola walks to the door and stands in the hallway - shared with other two apartments - with a face of really don't wanting to know anything about anybody. Summer heat it's not her best ally.
  • Digame? (Yes?)
  • See, we're coming from the municipal committee of the communist youth, because we're recruiting youngsters for the recently created "Rapid Response Brigades".
  • And?
  • Since you recently graduated from La Lenin, we thought you could be an ideal candidate -or something along those lines.

With her now more disgruntled face, Lola asks: what are those brigades for?

  • We need to step up to the plate in front of all these counter-revolutionary worms that are leaving in boats to la Yuma. We need to demonstrate them... bla, bla, bla...

At this point, Lola is not listening anymore.

Everything is blurred in her mind. It might be the hot. It's this damned hot August, no electricity, no fans in this house... my head is going to explode. There are the blurred memories from a four year old, seeing people marching to the amphitheater in the coastline neighborhood, people shouting things she can't remember, setting on fire huge fabric and wood dolls resembling the face of a man... they shouting "Reagan, cabron, acuerdate de Giron".

People are mad because other are living. This child wonders what's wrong with leaving. Herself is going to leave with her parents, in a matter of days, to a country somewhere in Africa, she is being told. She has no idea where is it. Will her neighbors also get mad at them? And there is the smell of the sea, right behind the amphitheater. It's a beautiful view, but nobody in that mob of people, she remembers, is paying attention to it.

And Lola's Mom voice jumps right in the memories. Memories that are flying through her head at light speed, while the young man in his plaid shirt is still staring at her. "I don't have to go to nobody house to throw eggs or anything like that," always shouted Lola's Mom. Out loud and clear, for every body to hear. "They did try to force us to go to Maria Elena Cruz Varela's house directly from work, and I refused. They will never get me to do that!"

Lola wanted to quote her Mom and her childhood memories directly to get rid of that annoying dude. She was thinking on her childhood friends she have seen leaving in home made rafts, right there, a few feet from her house. About the friend from elementary school that jumped in a raft, pregnant, and toting a two-year-old. About this super-cute friend from high school that also left and she later learned he died in the Florida Strait.

Lola wanted to scream in front of this plainly stupid sycophant from the communist party that she was among the ones that, hidden in the dark of the night and the blackouts, would scream with all her voice - fed with a fake ground beef made of textured soy of dubious origin - "Abajo Fidel!", "Me c&^% en la madre de este hijo de p%&$!", "Aqui lo que hay es que acabar de irse de esta m$#@%", "Me voy pa' Burundi!", every single time the electricity got cut off.

But she didn't.

The soft voice of her mother trying to keep her quiet during those outrageous moments was resounding in the back of her mind. "Mija, por tu madre, callate la boca, que te van a meter presa". "My dear, for the love of your mother, shut up, they are gonna get you in prison."

She rather told the guy she was way too busy with her studies at the university and that she didn't have time for any extra activities. He sported an ugly face and left. He was a neighbor who had recelty moved to Lola's building. It was around that time she decided she had to leave. Otherwise, sooner of later, she would ended up in prison.

I have never read "1984".

But I lived in Cuba until nine years ago.

I am Lola, and Lola is an entire generation of Cubans born under a regimen that knows no decency or shame, to say the least.

Lola and I, myself and Lola are the Cubans that blogger Lia Villares describes - so far only in Spanish - are living amidst a distorted set of moral values, in bizarre world of censorship, repression and government controlled-lives.

We are some of the ones that, due to a wide variety of reasons, didn't agreed with being forced to participate in those repudiation acts or rallies. Waving the little flag in la plaza? Well, yeah, we may be guilty of that.

We were being blackmailed to lose our jobs in the tourism industry, the survival of our families if we didn't go. Or that we would not received our graduated diplomas from the university if we didn't attend. Sometimes we just could nto sneak out on time and, at the end, we harmed no one.

We are the ones who early on saw the light and right there, knew we had to leave.

I didn't have a computer back then. I didn't even have any idea how computers looked like. Blogs and the internet didn't exist for us, back then in the gulag.

I just had my rudimentary and young gut instinct and the contradictions I saw between my books in law school and my real life, between my mother's advises and the political round-tables on TV, between utopia and the last advise my dear uncle, Tiototo, gave us - my three cousins and I - on his death bed:

"Get the hell out of this mess while you can, while you are young. This s#$% is not what I fought for. Get the hell out of here and don't you dare to look back. It is not worthy."

I am Lola.

And it is Cuba, between 1992 and 1995.

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