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Erasmo Calzadilla: I find it difficult to introduce myself in public. I've tried many times but it doesn’t flow. I’m more less how I appear in my posts, add some unpresentable qualities and stir; that should do for a first approach. If you want to dig a little deeper, ask me for an appointment and wait for a reply.

Cuba’s New Middle Class Identity

January 10, 2014 | Print Print |

Erasmo Calzadilla

New cars for sale in Havana. Photo: cubadbate.cu

HAVANA TIMES — The way people in Havana have reacted to the high prices of automobiles in this new State market is staggering. People who don’t even earn enough to get through the month are appalled with the news, as though the real possibility of purchasing a vehicle had been ripped from their hands.

Could it be that a middle class mentality is gaining ground in the popular imaginary? I can’t find a better explanation.

In the first days of January this year, a new Labor Bill that legitimates exploitation and continues to transfer power from worker to employer came into effect. What was the reaction of Cuba’s workers? Nearly null: no one on the street said anything about it.

In cyberspace (dominated by what I refer to, with no derisory intent, the “counterrevolutionary perspective”), it barely ticked anyone off.

The counterrevolutionary and middle class perspectives are similar, though they do not agree on all points. For instance, if the police mistreat the Ladies in White or detain a dissident who’s expressed his longing for freedom in public for an indefinite period of time, people’s reactions tend to be rather pale.

There is a long list of elementary rights the government tramples on unabashedly, but people keep a stiff upper lip.

It is very funny, then, that the “people” should get stirred up and develop a sense of indignation and belonging, not because the markets are under-stocked or the government sells crucial consumer products at 250 % their market price, not because of the declining quality of education or healthcare, not even because of a lack of freedom and democracy, but because the class they feel they belong to had its wings clipped.


What's your opinion?

  • Moses Patterson

    I marvel at the tepid reaction of most of the Cuban people to the Castros crass and insensitive style of governance. Especially in view of the change in reaction these same Cubans will have after they have migrated to Miami. In Cuba, nary a word spoken against a weak and incompetent regime but in Hialeah, when a Target store runs out of an advertised sale item before the end of the sale, that same Cuban goes ballistic. A single scrawny palestino PNR cop in Havana can blow his whistle and a group of strapping young mulatto teens comes screeching to a halt. In South Beach Miami, it takes a high-tech well-armed SWAT truck to stop and question a couple of EMO Cubans trolling the Malecon. I don’t understand how the Castros have instilled and maintained the fear that exists today in Cuba.

    • ac

      Isn’t sensible government an oxymoron? It seems that your complaint is more about the US than about Cuba, after all the scrawny palestino PNR officer don’t even carry a whistle, but can screw people as effectively as your Kevlar armored officer a little north and in general is good advice to comply with law enforcement officers regardless of where you are, so your point is moot.

      As for fear, their police is not seen as particularly repressive by Cubans and in general is pretty mild compared with the heavily militarized law enforcement in the US,

      The only fear they usually have is of the officer noticing them doing something illegal (that for one reason or other most Cubans do regularly), so they simply try to keep a low profile to not attract the attention, thats all.

      • Moses Patterson

        Cuban cops DO carry whistles as standard-issue equipment. The problem is that there aren’t enough whistles to go around.

        • ac

          AFAIK, only traffic officers carry whistles in Cuba and even those seldom use it. At least I’ve never ever seen a Cuban cop blowing a whistle (and they DO make them even at school workshops, so I don’t think that shortage is the issue)

          • Moses Patterson

            Disagree. All cops are supposed to get steel whistles but they don’t. I learned this from a drunk cop in front of Casa de la Musica in Playa one night waiting in line. I have heard lots of cops blow whistles. A couple times at me!

          • ac

            LOL, just admit it. Is not discrimination based in skin hue, you just look like a character from breaking bad :p

            More seriously, the vast majority of the cops you see over there are those with the light blue shirt and wither the funny bonnet or a blue cap; those don’t carry whistles at all because as I mentioned before the whistle is not part of their standard issue:

            http://thecommune.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/oldcarpolicemancuba.jpg

            http://www.cubanet.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/policiascubanos23.jpg

            Then you have the low level MININT special troops that looks almost the same except that the bonnet is dark and it has a rooster sewn in it and somewhere else in their clothes:

            http://www.conexioncubana.net/imagenes/noticias/2011/dic/0rq5fi72.jpg

            http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_Vtmqy94URdA/R8d7nIWoZ_I/AAAAAAAABNg/X7-16yVpwAc/s1600-h/Policia2.jpg

            At difference of the regular cops that have a general “to protect and serve” mandate, these are deployed with specific goals and they change their equipment based on that goal and based on that they may or may not carry whistles.

            Finally, you have he traffic corps aka the “caballitos”, usually in dark blue and THOSE always carry a whistle:

            http://www.conexioncubana.net/imagenes/noticias/2011/nov/73id2x11.jpg

            http://www.bengalatravel.com/uploads/Gallery/InformacionGeneral/22/policia-nacional-revolucionaria.jpg

          • John Goodrich

            Nonsense.
            Cuba is a harsh military dictatorship where heavily armed troops and ubiquitous police and government spies dressed like regular people watch the move of every Cuban .
            They beat and torture people who just litter.
            Don’t you read the Miami Herald ?????

          • Moses Patterson

            Your attempt at sarcasm is a poor substitute for honest debate. Worse still, Cuban secret police don’t just arrest adults, now they are rounding up children. http://www.capitolhillcubans.com/

          • Dan

            La Lobo Feroz & Co.. What an unbiased, unimpeachable source for information on Cuba !

          • Moses Patterson

            That website certainly has an editorial bias, but a video is a video is a video…..Hard to argue with that, no?

          • John Goodrich

            Again, a gross understatement from you.
            The Cuban secret police are regularly sent out to scoop babies out of their mother’s arms, taken back to one of the 20 or so palatial estates owned by Fidel Castro’s where they are spitted and barbecued.
            I read that in Forbes or the Miami Herald so it must be true .

          • John Goodrich

            Thanks for that link . I spent about a half hour reviewing the website .
            It’s good to know where you get the information that you post and what underlies your thinking.
            I was unable to find anything about the children being rounded up but did love the slide shows.
            All that said, I much prefer scholarly and objective websites when I cite a source.
            I am not at all surprised that this website is one of your primary sources .
            Neither am I surprised that you fail to realize how much of joke it is .

        • John Goodrich

          I bought a wooden whistle but it woodn’t whistle .
          Then I bought a steel whistle and it steel woodn’t whistle.
          Then I bought a tin whistle
          and now I tin whistle.

  • John Goodrich

    In the end Erasmo, the answer is democracy: rule of the people; majority rule .
    When society is dictated to by its elected leadership rather than having the electorate dictate to their elected leaders, you wind up with a disenfranchised and unhappy electorate .
    That applies to both the electorate in Cuba and the electorate in the U.S where the government is ranked by that electorate down with smallpox because it is neither representative of nor responsible to the electorate .
    Absent functioning bottom-up democratic processes, EVERY government ultimately becomes self-preserving, corrupt , totalitarian, arrogant and unresponsive to the electorate .
    It’s the central tenet of anarchism and it’s quite valid both in Cuba and in the U.S which ostensibly are polar opposites. .