Some time ago, in 2011, when blogger Yoani Sanchez was being vilified and celebrated with equal hysteria, I commented that what was truly valuable about her blog, Generation Y was the effectiveness of its message regarding Cuba’s Kafkaesque and uncivil reality.
Armando Chaguaceda’s Diary
From time to time, a friend, acquaintance or taxi driver in Mexico will tell me that they want to travel to Cuba and get to know the country. The myths surrounding the revolution, the stories about sizzling sex, tourism or health offers or quite simply the wish to tour Old Havana and go for a dip in Varadero.
A number of foreign defenders of the “achievements of the Cuban revolution” invoke the people’s access to decorous housing as one of the virtues of the social system currently in effect on the island. Other “friends of Cuba” maintain a prudent silence on the issue, which is one of the country’s most serious of social problems.
Cuba’s ongoing reform process is widening the gap between the individuals and groups favored by the structural changes and those who, caught between a market that turns its back on them and a State that continues to manage and curtail their rights, have ended up at the bottom.
Now, after a live performance by Cuban musician Roberto Carcasses, where the artist dared accompany the call for the release of four Cubans currently imprisoned in the United States and the lifting of the embargo with demands for change on the island, the allergic reactions of some enthusiastic government supporters are mind-boggling, to say the least.
In a post published in Havana Times a year and a half ago, I addressed the situation of Cuba’s Catholic Church, its similarities and links to the Communist Party and its contribution to the reform process on the island. With time, as is often the case, my enthusiasm has waned.
It’s not every day one comes across a book which combines a captivating narrative style, academic rigor and an invitation to rethink the very basics of the history and political culture of the Cuban revolution. Lillian Guerra’s most recent work fuses these three elements into a unique and masterful piece of historical and sociological prose.
The congresses organized by the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) are like Persian bazaars, places where you can come across all sorts of people: wisemen and charlatans, guards and buffoons, jewels and cheap trinkets. This is what I had the opportunity to confirm during my participation, as a speaker, in the last gathering held in Washington, D.C. at the close of May.
The reason it took me this long to begin was that I was trying to convince myself I could write something different, beyond the bounds of the conventional travel narrative or the reductive analysis of a complex society (like the US), something like the first impressions a Gaul or Breton might have shared after visiting the heart of the Roman empire.
Political extremes tend to curtail our better judgment and, on occasion, our sensibility as human beings. A few hours ago, I read an article by Mario Vargas Llosa, in which the award-winning writer issues a kind of praise-filled obituary for the recently-deceased Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher.