Photo: Gorki leaving the court in Playa in August 2008, by OLPL
I’m not going to deny that it worries me more to answer a BBC journalist than to criticize the government, paradoxes of life: If one day I go to prison for saying what I think I hope, it will be Fernando who reports the news. I want to comment on Fernando Ravsberg’s post "Poor Cubans" in his blog. I am not going to enumerate the MANY cases of absurd misery I see every day from my apartment in Vedado, the numerous friends who have to live in poverty, the soup kitchen for the poor in the corner of my house, and much less my needs (it seems I’m in the 50% who don’t receive money from the United States and I don’t have “pull” with the shady rich). However, I don’t want to avoid wondering where is this 50% who don’t take buses, who don’t travel by train (who then don’t need improved transport, or does it refer to the 50% of Cubans you know?), who rent suites in hotels (and the tenement dwellers, what percent do they represent?), who make a million working the land (am I crazy or is what I see when I go to the countryside not misery?). Speaking professionally, I’d like to encourage you, Ravsberg, to read the study, “A Cuban Family at the End of 2006*,” by another journalist, Reinaldo Escobar; and a little more informally extend another invitation: travel with me on vacation to Santiago by train, I’ll pay all the costs.
Even so I vote for the “Poor Cubans” who don’t have the right to dissent, who don’t have free elections, who have no political rights, who don’t have a free press, who cannot buy or sell houses, who can’t have Internet, who can’t make investments abroad, who can’t leave the country without permission, who need a “Yuma”--someone from the US--to take on their economic projects, who don’t have the right to contract as individuals with any company, who can’t move freely within the country, who need a temporary living pass to stay a few months in the house of a friend, who can’t change the government of their country, who have only one party, who can’t have more than two houses, who can’t buy a car, who can’t pay to ride in someone else’s car, who can’t rent or make arrangements in homes, who can’t recruit domestic workers, who can’t NOT be Pioneers, who can’t, in the end, do what they wish with their own money.
But still, I believe that the poorest, dear Fernando, are the foreign correspondents accredited in Cuba, who live in the paradox of reporting the news or being journalists.
Translator’s note: Escobar’s article reports on a three-generation Cuban family of five people with a total income of approximately $70 a month, received from one pension, two salaries, and money sent by family abroad.
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.