How can I be sympathetic towards the regime that stole my parents’ hard earned money and made them flee the country where they thought that they’d be able to raise their child? How can I not question a regime that brought equality in a totalitarian way? How can I be accepting of a regime that wanted to take away my little earrings because they were gold?
I think that what some Cubans feel, more than hatred towards Castro, is envy of what they think it’s like to live in a ‘free’ country. Isolation is a dream that creates monsters. While it relieves you of having to think of other possibilities, it also provides fertile ground for an imaginary ‘grass is greener’ mindset. I have mixed emotions towards my country of birth, ranging from admiration to irritation. Admiration for the Cuban spirit of survival and irritation for the Cuban victim mindset. Think of Scarlett O’Hara and you’ll begin to grasp it.
My Cuban family have been able to come to Spain and visit every four-five years for as far back as I can remember. The family here have paid for their trips and they’ve enjoyed one or two months’ vacation all expenses paid. We, the ‘free’ part of the family, haven’t been abroad quite so much, in spite of all the freedom we have and the money we make. In fact, I haven’t left Spain since I came here in 1981.
I believe many Cubans feel cheated out of a capitalist lifestyle, which they’ve idealised. They don’t see the truth of Spain because they only come every so often and everyone does their best to make them comfortable and welcome. They’re amazed that most of us have mortgages. They think we work too much. They are experts on anything and everything from medicine to history to cooking. They freely give their advice regardless of your interest. You feel like you’re being sized up and are not quite up to standard.
They have a way about them that at certain moments seems like entitlement. Their mostly unconscious reasoning goes something like this: I come from a poor country where we don’t have liberty so you owe me! It doesn’t matter that you have a problem making ends meet. You’re a free person! I like this, and this and this…and that dress over there…and I want to be wined and dined and taken for outings. If you need to cross the country for me to see whatever monument, so be it. If you wait up for me til one a.m. because I allowed myself to get sidetracked on my way to your house, deal with it. No matter if you’ve got to get up at 7 to go work and it’s summer and the heat won’t let you sleep. You owe me! I’ll give you these cheap souvenirs for tourists from the airport and you’ll give me a new phone, shoes and jeans. And of course, I’m sooo modest and humble that I won’t actually ask for most of these things. I’ll just look forlorn and mention in a soft whisper how much I admire technology and that the only restaurants in Havana are for tourists. I’ll guilt trip you into giving me money when I finally leave, after weeks of wreaking havoc in your family’s schedules, causing you to spend more money on food, drinks, sweets, trips and miscellaneous items.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s just my surreal family or my peculiar perception.
In any case the UN has acknowledged that Cuba has no child poverty, little to no homelessness and a good health system, lacking some medicines but universal. They also have an excellent education system which leaves no one out and consequently they have the lowest illiteracy rate in all of America, at least South America.
I cannot condemn the regime totally, however I may disagree with its totalitarian methods. Here in Spain, ‘free’ as we are, there’s a child poverty rate of around 20%, unemployment is also around 18-20% and more than half of Spaniards cannot afford to go on vacation in the summer, much less go abroad every 4-5 years.
I think that Cuba is not as helpless or naïve a country as it may seem. I see the population quite capable of heading full steam into capitalism and succeeding because they have that good ol’ Cuban charm…’Tu saabe, mi amol,…’ followed by a demure smile has caused many a foreigner to feel ready to fight any obstacle in order to experience that unique sugar and rhum cadence again. Their charm and inventiveness, coupled with their will to succeed and the great number of people with higher education will stand them in good stead in the future.
Castro evidently headed a failed revolution. It failed not only because of obvious flaws in the socialist system which forces equality among people by steam rollering over every shred of individual aspiration or merit and rendering useless the very human urge to excel. It failed because the predominance of capitalism in the world was too strong for it and other countries resented it having the slightest success as it would cause capitalism to seem too cold and heartless . And it ultimately failed because in the end too much power corrupts even angels and too much isolation, whether forced or self imposed can lead you to dream of what lies beyond your limited view and idealise it while denying the very real value of all you have within your grasp.
I love your article…so much honesty. I have to say that Cubans, if that is the general mindset as you described, do not know the advantages and privileges they are enjoying in socialism. Maybe if they get the taste of how an ordinary poor person lives under capitalism then maybe they will be happy to pack their bags and go back to Cuba for good. The medical and educational benefits are already a boon! And such service reach the remotest part of the country. That cannot be said in capitalist-run countries. I am of opinion that whatever system any country would adapt, its citizens would always be looking at the other side thinking the pasture is greener over the fence. Nicely written.
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Thank you for reading! While I can´t say I approve of the Castro regime in Cuba, there is a lot to be said about Cuban education and health and the ingenuity they have. I feel that they suffer from the ‘grass is always greener on the other side’ fallacy because they think that any capitalist country is better and as you rightly point out this is seldom so. Capitalism has been hijacked for the purpose of enriching a vast minority but most ordinary people don’t have it easy. Like I say in my post, my Cuban family are surprised that there’s so much homelessness and high unemployment and that people have mortgages if they want a house. They think, I fear, that we are faking it or something. They have become accustomed to coming to Spain and getting treated to everything because the family here has this vision of Cuba as dirt poor where they don’t even eat. I know because I have seen it that Cuban kids are as well brought up as Spanish kids, well fed and cared for. The comparative is worse for Spaniards as we still have 20+% child poverty, whereas in Cuba it’s practically inexistant.
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I think people everywhere, be they under capitalism, socialism or communism, are afflicted with the “greener pasture fallacy”. There is no perfect system in reality.
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