People from abroad are wondering how we Cubans see “the changes” that have been made by the government of Raúl Castro. I want to illustrate these changes with two random conversations, one that I had myself and the other which was transcribed for me so I could post it.
With regards to the hotels:
I was talking to a guy who works in a hotel for the Habaguanex company. He tells me things are very bad, it’s almost impossible to do anything illegal and as a consequence no one is making any money. He even told me about a foreigner who worked with the police to denounce those who were selling rum and tobacco inside the hotel (regardless of nationality and culture there are those who are born snitches).
But the best part was what he said about Cubans staying in the hotels; these are more or less his words:
“Look, girl, normally the hotel management doesn’t want Cubans, they have orders about this, so usually they’re told there’s no room and stuff. But nevertheless, if they do accept one, the front desk has to notify State Security that there’s a Cuban staying there. And if this person stays in a hotel three times in a year, then Security is going to call on him at home and interrogate him: where’d you get the money, why are you staying in hotels, and that stuff. Huge change, see?"
About the changes in government:
(Dialogue between a friend and her neighbor) My friend: Don’t you think it’s shameful that they dismiss a minister and a chancellor and don’t give even the slightest explanation of the reasons for dismissing them?
The neighbor: No. But you’re wrong, they do it for their own good, it’s to help them… if they gave the reasons they failed they’d have to put them in the slammer. For example, in the factory where I worked they caught me stealing, but my bosses threw me a line, they didn’t denounce me. They only punish you, and if it’s very serious they fire you.
This is an excerpt to a version of the song, Epitaph for Vladimir Visotski by Karsmarski Jacek (Polish dissident songwriter), which includes Ciro Diaz in his latest album, The Blue Slug, that I listened to compulsively for at least two months, especially on the street with my mp3 inherited from a friend who now has an I-pod. (Download the lyrics here) (Download the recording and album cover here) The song (in summary, which runs about ten minutes) is about a desperate artist going through the circles of hell in search of an answer or death, and at the end of his journey there is only loneliness and the weight of the supreme power above himself. So I found myself at times catching the bus across Havana at 12 noon in August under the perennial sunshine and with the distressing feeling of not going anywhere, or arriving too late, or going for pleasure ... I feel that I have already arrived at the eighth enclosure (this is the finale of the song) where there is nothing, and I feel useless and empty, and I look at people without faith who walk along the street and who have so much fear that they no longer know they're afraid, and who have seen so many Roundtables and so many news broadcasts that they no longer know what belongs to reality or just to the TV screen. They cannot discern that they no longer believe, but cannot disbelieve either, and just move along past me not going anywhere.