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Veronica Vega: For years I had a hard time deciding between writing, painting or dancing. It was writing that proved to make the most sense financially in the short term. I live in Alamar, an aborted project for a city that only breathes from what’s left of nature, from the alternative cultural scene, and above all, from the infinite will of the human soul. I’m not a journalist. Writing in HT has been an opportunity to say what I believe can be improved in Cuba.

Getting Off the Cuba Merry-Go-Round

September 12, 2016 |

Veronica Vega

Going against the current. Illustration by Yasser Castellanos

Going against the current. Illustration by Yasser Castellanos

HAVANA TIMES — When I notice that weeks have gone by and I haven’t been able to finish off an article for my diary, I examine my conscience and I’m forced to admit that I’ve fallen into the general apathy of the Cuban people.

It’s not because I don’t have opinions, but because it’s impossible that my opinions influence anything that keeps our society running poorly, very poorly.

After many years of online forums which have served as a beehive for differences of opinion and which have been transforming into more civilized discussions, agreeing on many of the points made doesn’t mean that changes will be put into effect.

And I say “mean” not to sound overly radical. At times, I’m haunted by the idea that these debates are the perfect kind of entertainment we need to make ourselves feel useful, to believe that changes will come soon which only really take place in our thoughts, our words and in this other dimension of reality known as “cyberspace”. By the way, the internet is so limited and expensive for those of us who live on the island that it has become an example of what little real progress has come from the discussions revolving around Cuba’s problems.

At this point, I chide myself up for having finally adopted my friend’s philosophy, who says: “What does it matter if you tell the truth if everything carries on the same.” Well, without being able to give you any tangible proof of these changes, I must insist in the fact that telling the truth is always better than remaining an accomplice to lies. Even if nothing changes around you, something does change within you.

And even though it seems like I’m contradicting myself with what I said before, I’m not. Every truth said out loud, every opinion expressed sincerely and with a noble purpose has a positive impact, but isn’t this supposed to be just a first step?

The editor of Havana Times has said that readers of the website prefer to read opinions which include proposals for solutions. I remember that my first reaction to this comment was to ask myself what solution could successfully manifest itself in the real world, but I took this opinion as a healthy challenge.

When I published an article entitled “The power of doubt”, proposing that Ayurveda medicine be introduced into Cuba, so that this proposal wouldn’t remain in words on a page, I did some research and even contacted somebody who has run a scientific project which is linked to some embassies, including the Indian Embassy. She told me that even though there are doctors who have contacted the AYUSH (the organization which dedicates itself to the practice and dissemination of Ayurveda in India), the Cuban Ministry of Health (MINSAP) isn’t interested in introducing the practice into Cuba officially.

Of course there’s always the option of gathering up people who are interested, establishing contact by our own accord and get specialists to come on a tourist visa to give courses in a completely alternative way. This would all be much more expensive, more risque and if any results were to be seen, they would be on a tiny scale. However, there are still paths we can take. I’m giving you this example just to prove to you the distance there is between proposing something in an article and making it reality.

I regularly read the Havana Times newsletter and the comments made, I agree with many of my colleagues and readers’ opinions; I’m always moved by the articles written by Irina Echarry which are always so well balanced, objective and brilliantly written. I frequently write down comments in my mind supporting the comments made by Osmel Ramirez Alvarez, Pedro Campos, Haroldo Dilla… but time and time again, I’m disheartened by the feeling that we’re just running around in circles.

I know that my life isn’t worth less because Cuba continues as it is, nor that of my colleagues, HT readers and even the trolls out there. We will continue on our journey inward and outward, regardless. However, it would make us feel so much better if even just a fifth of what we (the majority sincerely) discussed here were to become a direct living experience for the Cuban people, especially ordinary Cubans, who don’t even know about these debates.

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  • Carlyle MacDuff

    Sadly Veronica your comment about running round and round in circles has much truth. All the talk about ‘change’ in Cuba for the average Cuban is just that, TALK.
    The illustration by Yasser Castellenos reflects the apathy of which you write, After so many years of continuing to hope for change and for some opportunity to have a brighter future, many have given up hope and sunk into the mental morass of accepting Castro communism.
    When writing ‘Cuba Lifting the Veil’ I concluded;
    “For the people of Cuba there remains only that faint hope which they have tenaciously clung onto for so many long years. Hope for the younger generations that they may yet know freedom and opportunity to live in their beautiful country free of repression, with freedom of expression, freedom of the media and freedom to vote for political parties of choice. Cubans deserve no less, for only then will they become members of an open society in a free world that waits to welcome them with open arms. Liberty and that poignant cry for freedom beckon and humanity demands.”
    Viva Cuba libre!

    • Carlyle, that hope you speak of is becoming very faint. I just returned and it seems to me that every friend I have has a little less. As for the young people, well I have a goddaughter who just turned 19 and her only wish is to leave, somehow, some way, and for all her friends they live without hope.

      • Gordon Robinson

        If one thinks – negative – negative – negative ::: Negative things will happen. This site has too many negative posters – Si !!!
        Gordon Robinson – abuc12@yahoo.ca

        • Carlyle MacDuff

          Yes Gordon, let’s be positive and hope that the Castro regime is but an historical failed aberration and that the future for Cuba is an open free society! Sorry that that will remove opportunity for your children to pursue their political power ambitions, but let’s put the citizenry first.

          • Cubakingone

            Just think – a nice house in Vancouver starts at $ 1 million !!! Average family income in Vancouver – r Ca. $ 72,000.00 a year. My Canadian – Cuban children are in the right country at the right time – Si !!!

          • Carlyle MacDuff

            As you well know Gordon, Vancouver house prices do not reflect Canada in general. What about house prices in Winnipeg?
            You are certainly correct about your children being in the right place in Cuba – with ambitions to be President and Minister of Finance and with the tutelage of Machado Ventura making them extremely privileged – but where else can one have ambitions to be a dictator – certainly not in democratic Canada!

          • Cubakingone

            I lived in Manitoba when I was in the RCAF – and also worked for Atomic Energy of Canada in Pinawa. Never again would I live east of the Rocky Mountains. Min. wage in B.C. went up today to $ 10.85. Many Canadian pension plans are in big trouble including mine !!!

          • Carlyle MacDuff

            Well Gordon, according to Ben Weaver you choose to live in:
            “a society that is crime infested, with an out of control drug epidemic, one in five children living in poverty. Failing schools. A lack of employment opportunity among the young, including those with a higher education. High crime rates and high incarceration rates. Homelessness.”
            As you infer that those who live east of the Rockies are even less fortunate, why not move to Cuba and take advantage of the 200 pesos per month pension?
            Why does Cuba have the fourth highest level of incarceration in the world if there is little crime?

          • Carlyle MacDuff

            So Gordon, a house in Vancouver costs 14 years average earnings.
            The average Cuban earns $288.60 per year. Multiplied by a factor of 14, that gives a figure of $3,457.92.
            So tell us Gordon, where can you purchase a house in Cuba for that princely sum?
            You maintain that your politically ambitious children are in the right country at the right time – they are going to have to earn a lot more than the average – in short exploit their political contacts which is the way to get ahead in a communist dictatorship. Si???

        • Informed Consent

          After almost 60 years, there are few positive things to be positive about.

      • Ben Weaver

        This might give you pause for reflection. You think you’re having a rough time. I just received a letter from Covenant House in Vancouver B.C. asking for funds to support their program to help homeless youth. It reads in part “My name is Sister Nancy Brown and I help care for homeless boys and girls at Covenant House-an emergency crisis shelter for abused, abandoned and runaway youth. Every night we shelter young people who have been living on the street. They come from everywhere-the next province, next town, even the next street from where you live.
        A frightening number of our youth have been kicked out of their homes by drug and alcohol addicted parents who don’t want to or are unable to care for them. They escape out the door and head for the city where they try to make it on their own. And in a matter of hours they are lost. Alone, cold, hungry and terrified . But we can’t save these young people on our own. We need help from caring individuals like you-”
        So, lets hope for the younger generation that they may yet know freedom and opportunity to live in their beautiful country free of abuse, drug addition, poverty and crime. Viva Canada libre!

        • Carlyle MacDuff

          Canada is free Ben, but why not address Cuba where it is unknown?
          Those who take drugs, like those who smoke made the choice themselves.
          Pity the people who suffer the consequences in their own drug producing countries consequential upon the market for drugs created by those who choose to take them.

          • Ben Weaver

            Yes, live in a society that is crime infested, with an out of control drug epidemic, one out of five children living in poverty. Failing schools, A lack of employment opportunity among the young , including those with a higher education. High crime rates and high incarceration rates. Homelessness. Ah yes, but they live in a free country.

      • Ben Weaver

        Getting off the Canada Merry Go Round! It has just been reported that a full 48% of working British Columbians surveyed said they were overwhelmed by debt and 53% said they would find it difficult to meet their financial obligations if their pay cheque was delayed by even a week. That’s how unaffordable our Province has become. That’s Capitalism at its finest You know what they say about greener pastures. I’d suggest you think twice about leaving Cuba.

        • Carlyle MacDuff

          Until you introduced it Ben, there had been no mention of a Canada Merry Go Round. Probably because this is the Havana Times.
          How are things in Manitoba?
          How are things in Tipperary?

          • Ben Weaver

            Self appointed editor? How are things in Fantasy Land?

          • Carlyle MacDuff

            You should know!

        • Informed Consent

          …and100% said they would not switch places with anyone on the island.

          A few months ago, my wife’s nephew legally immigrated from Cuba. He was one of the better off Cubans, working for a Saudi company in Angola and owning a car in Cuba, which a friend would drive around as a taxi for some serious extra cash. He could live there like a king, relatively speaking, and yet he left. As he said to me….there is no hope for a future.

          Every day people not only leave Cuba, but risk their lives to do so. They must know something that you dont.

      • Carlyle MacDuff

        My own assessment in my book armstro was that Cubans wishing to have a quiet life should:
        “Don’t challenge the system, accept it, stay mute and exist.”
        You sadly, are correct in saying that everyone now has just a little less. Not only have all the standards that we accept as normal such as of freedom of expression, freedom of the media and freedom of choice been eradicated, but even the pitiful living standards are being eroded.
        You speak of your God-daughter being 19, mine is only five, we must hope for both of them that in their lifetimes they know the freedoms which we are privileged to experience in the capitalist world.

  • Cubakingone

    Change is coming – The Prime Minister of Japan and the Premier of China will visit Cuba shortly

    • Carlyle MacDuff

      Are you implying Gordon that the Prime Minister of Japan and the Premier of China will provide even more credit to the Castro regime? Or, do you envisage any other form of the “change is coming” theory?

      • Cubakingone

        I believe there will be more investment in Cuba from both. Cuba needs a state of the art theme park with a pirate theme and China has just completed the largest theme park in the world.

        • Carlyle MacDuff

          To suggest that construction of a pirate theme park ought to be an economic priority for the Castro regime Gordon, reflects the folly of the regimes economic policies and your support of it.
          The people of Cuba struggle ‘resolver’ to exist day by day, but a theme park will allay their problems.
          Why not an agricultural ‘theme park” to bring into production all those hundreds of thousands of acres of good agricultural land reverting to bush? Or is that not a priority?
          Currently Cuba is a broken down communist theme park – with no one wishing to pay for admission.

    • Informed Consent

      ….And that will bring about change how?