"I believe that the Cuban Revolution dignified our country and our people. And that the Revolutionary Government has been the best of our history": Silvio Rodriguez (famous Cuban singer)
It's true: before the Revolution Havana was much more showy, potholes were rare, and you could walk for blocks and blocks of well-lit stores full of merchandise. But who shopped in those stores? Who could walk freely on those streets? Of course, those who had money in their pockets. The rest had to look at shop windows and dream, like my mother, like my family, like the majority of Cuban families. On those famous avenues only the "respectable citizens" (easily distinguished by the color of their skin) could go out for a stroll. The beggars, the rag-clad, almost all black, had to dodge about, because when a police officer saw them in a "decent" neighborhood, they chased them out with their billyclubs.
I saw this with my own eyes as a boy of 7 or 8, and I saw it until I was 12, when the Revolution triumphed.
On my corner there were two bars. In one of them, we sometimes drank porridge instead of eating dinner. On many occasions US Marines passed by, falling-down drunk, looking for whores and messing with the women from the neighborhood. One young neighbor of ours was thrown to the ground by Marines when he tried to defend his sister. When the police arrived, who do you think they took away? The abusers? No. The police kicked around the young university student, who of course was later active in the student uprisings.
We all know the photos of a Marine pissing, sitting atop the head of Marti's statue in Havana's Central Park.
That was Cuba before 1959. At least such were the streets of central Havana that I lived daily, the streets of San Leopoldo neighborhood, near Dragones and Cayo Hueso. Now they're destroyed. It shakes me o walk around there because it's like seeing the ruins of my own childhood. I sing about it in the song “Trovador antiguo”. How could we arrive at such deterioration? For many reasons. There's a lot of guilt on our part for not having seen the forest for the trees, but it's also the fault of those who want the Marines to return to defame Marti's statue and his memory.
I agree that we should fix our errors, get rid of authoritarianism and construct a solid, efficient socialist democracy, ever improving so as to ensure its own future preservation. But I refuse to renounce the fundamental rights that the Revolution won for the people. More than anything, dignity and sovereignty, but also health, education, culture, and an honorable old age for all. I would like not to have to find out what's going on in my country through the foreign media, whose focus often confuses me. I would like to improve many things I've mentioned, and others that I haven't.
But above all I don't want a return of that ignominious misery, that falsehood of political parties that would gain power only to deliver the country to the highest bidder. All that happened under the tepid watch of the Declaration of Human Rights and the Constitution of 1940. The Cuban experience before the Revolution, and the experience of many other countries, shows what consideration representative democracies give to human rights.
Many of those who attack the Revolution today were educated by it. Professionals who have left the country always compare the ideal conditions of "civilized Europe" to besieged Cuba. Others, a bit older, were perhaps able to "be somebody" thanks to the Revolution, and today they parade about like capitalist ideologues, learned in Law and History, disguised as humble workers. Personally I can't stand the fervent change-mongers, those new converts with their little courses in Marxism, who were the most zealous Revolutionaries and now they are the exact opposite. I don't wish them or anyone else ill, but such incoherence drives me crazy.
The Revolution, like Prometheus (I owe it a song by that name), gave light to the forgotten. Because instead of telling the people to believe, it told them to read. For that, as with the mythological hero, others want to make the Revolution pay for its insolence, tying it to a remote mountaintop where a vulture (or a bald eagle) eternally devours its viscera. I don't deny the errors and the excesses, but I can't forget the popular vocation of the Revolution in the face of aggressors that have used all manner of arms to hurt and kill, as well as the most powerful and sophisticated methods of diffusion and distortion of ideas.
I have never said that the US embargo bears all the guilt for our problems. But the existence of the embargo has prevented us from measuring ourselves fully.
I would love to find out clearly someday the responsibility for all our problems in Cuba.
For this reason I urge all those who love Cuba, and who desire dignity for Cubans, to yell with me today and tomorrow, all over the world: "Down with the embargo!"