Talking about Trump at a Havana Barber Shop

by Vicente Morin Aguado

Havana barber shop. File Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — There are few places where so many opinions come together such as in a barber’s shop here in Cuba. Trump, the White House’s “furious red-faced man”, has become our great enemy thanks to Communist political propaganda, and he is to blame for all of our misfortunes.

To what extent should we be worried about the 45th US president? Reality is one thing; media’s influence both here and there is another.

Far from the friendly image of Obama, his predecessor, this furious and threatening face in Cuba is repeated by popular vision, something which we haven’t got rid of in all of these years because it is hard for us mentally to get outside of this mindset of skin colors which we inherited from Spain: Black, Mulato, Jabao, Blanconazo, Red-faced – Trump – and white? Who knows if someone is really that color.

Yes it’s true, Donald Trump spoke in Miami, ranting, appearing alongside old survivors from the ‘60s, when the option to take on Fidel Castro’s revolution was armed struggle, just like Fidel had done. Another thing we have to assess objectively is just how much this argumentative and unpredictable US president has done up until today. Let’s take a look at concrete facts:

It’s been seven months of what is called the “administration” in the United States, an excellent word which we need to adopt in Cuban political culture, and so far nothing significant has been changed in our country. Nothing which we should attribute to the face of this over-mentioned US president and at the same time billionaire.

Even though his fortune is huge, disproportionate for any fan of equality, he doesn’t figure among the top 20 richest people in the world. Oddly enough, Cuban state-owned media kid around with Trump while they say nothing about China, where a single Communist party also rules and stats from Forbes magazine and The Economist affirm that there are between 108 and 271 Chinese billionaires. That is to say, leaving out mistakes and or exaggerations, there is still no doubt that the concentration of wealth and private property exists in China, which is proclaimed in Cuba to be the political alternative to US mega-exploiters.

Let’s go back to the Havana barber’s shop, people are going bezerk, far from any conversation that doesn’t refer to our everyday reality. A maybe 50-year-old man, waiting to get his hair cut, summarized the matter like this:

“Here, we continue having the same monthly ration of chicken – 1.75 lbs per person – for 30 years now, while tourism continues to grow, it’s already attracting more than 4 million visitors per year. Where does all this money go?  Nothing has changed and this US president isn’t the one to blame.”

A brief analysis reveals that Trump, beyond his media performance, has done very little which implies change with regard to Cuba:

Financial persecution of companies and banks connected to Cuba’s militarized state-owned economy has been a US OFAC practice during many previous administrations.

It was Obama’s decision to repeal the “wet-foot/dry-foot” policy, just before handing over power to Trump, which was clearly a mutual agreement and in line with the governing elite’s anti-immigrant vision in the US, which ended up putting this “red-faced man” in the White House.

In Havana, people keep saying that this is the end of the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act but that’s not true, it’s just the dangerous incentive to emigrate via extreme channels that has been removed. The paradox here is that the vast majority of these refugees don’t even dare to publicly declare their obvious upset with the government and prefer to risk their lives by jumping onto a raft and cross the sea or undertake a long journey through all of Central America’s jungles.

In Havana, boneless pork meat continues to cost 45 pesos per pound (2,25 USD), malanga, a food which is recommended to wean newborns onto solids, now cost 10 pesos per pound. Half a kilogram of powdered milk means 2.75 USD, which is the equivalent of two days’ wages, according to government statistics. Even for those who have the money, buying chicken at the hard-currency stores is an odyssey. The shortages and long lines increase people’s general anxiety and hoarding is a brutal practice.

So what responsibility does Mr. Trump have for any of this reality?

Just like government political propaganda insists, Washington doesn’t rule in Havana. OK, we are proud of our independence.

It’s the 12th US administration since 1959, a popular song which says that Juana and her sister are the same to me. It’s time to stop our media fights with our neighbor in the north, please, let’s concentrate on our own issues. Up until now, recalling the words of singer Julio Iglesias, in Cuba, life goes on the same.
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Vicente Morin Aguado:  ememultiplicada@nauta.cu

  • Stephen Boka

    This article raises some valid questions; why doesn’t the US embargo China, for example?

    • larrybudwiser

      It may be coming with the recent developments in North Korea. And the Chinese leaders seem scared to death over it.

      • Nick

        I read somewhere recently that 60 cents of every US dollar belongs to the Chinese.
        I don’t know how accurate that is.
        But isn’t it a fact that the US is financially propped up by China to a very large extent?
        Probably why the US would never contemplate an ’embargo’ on China.
        It would amount to economic suicide.

        • larrybudwiser

          It’s not that high-US pension funds own about 60%. The Chinese are around 10% after the Brits and Canada. But do keep in mind it is the safest
          place for anyone to park money and should a war break out, world wide markets are going to be trashed anyway. And what the heck, how are the Chinese gonna collect if we don’t want to pay them? (please keep in mind I’m not some crazy hawk but rather a crazy philosopher)

          • Nick

            Thanks for this clarification.
            I don’t think a war is gonna break out.
            I definitely think it’s better to be a crazy philosopher rather than a crazy hawk!

    • Sergio Virto

      Embargo was set for all the industries and properties that were claimed in the US by corporations and individuals alike for all that Castro “nationalized” so how about I steal your property with no compensation and then say why is there an embargo. China is a whole different situation and did not steal. If your not of Cuban origins please read up before commenting.

      • :-!

        That was not the reason for embargo.

  • Moses Patterson

    Trump is the least of Cuba’s plethora of problems.

    • Raphael Stephen-Pons

      Yes he is when he is coming down on the right to travel to Cuba blocking them from tourism income, and extending the blockade.

      • Moses Patterson

        We should agree to disagree regarding the impact of Trump policy reversals. What is indisputable is the greater problem the Castro regime faces regarding low worker productivity and inefficient centralized planning and management. The abysmal current state of Cuban infrastructure and record levels of outmigration are also much bigger problems facing the Castro dictatorship. What the idiot Trump does with regards to Cuba is small potatoes.

        • Nick

          When you say ‘What the idiot Trump does with regards to Cuba is small potatoes’ I would agree.
          At least going by how the idiot’s policies re Cuba are shaping up so far.

      • Carlyle MacDuff

        Oh Raphael, come come, you know sufficient English to know the difference between an embargo and a blockade. Or is adherence to communist ‘thought’ slowly removing your ability to distinguish between the meaning of words?

  • Carlyle MacDuff

    The barbers shop shown in the photograph is unlike anything I have seen in Cuba. In our community folks get their hair cut on the patio. We have one hairdresser who actually has a ‘shop’ with two chairs, and his wife is his assistant. But prices have recently increased – up to 15 pesos.
    I was interested to see mention of the chicken ration of 1.75 lbs per month – without the key words “when available”.
    When writing of China, Vincente omits mentioning that although supposedly communist, it pursues state capitalism.
    Change in Cuba is not the responsibility of the US, the Castro communist ‘administration’ has merely used the US and the embargo as a scapegoat for their own incompetence.
    Stephen Boka raises an interesting question regarding the US embargoing China. Perhaps that may yet happen as a consequence of China not cutting off relations with North Korea – a close amigo of Cuba. Only problem is that Walmart will have no suppliers!

    • Nick

      Your community must be small town or fairly rural then?
      Looks like a pretty normal Havana barbers to me. It’s a touch larger than the one I use when I’m there but otherwise similar. Re-upholstered, pre-revolution barbers chairs I think.
      In the Havana barbers I always use I can guarantee that the jokes about trump will be as many and as hilariously vulgar the jokes about President GW Bush were, if not even more so.

      So you don’t think that the USA is economically reliant on China?
      At the very least it’s an economic codependency.

      China won’t do anything to risk any possible N/S Korean unification as that would bring US weaponry right up to their border and they won’t stand for that. There will no doubt be a Chinese pressuring of North Korea and this latest spat will die down.
      Unless the trump fool does something totally ridiculous that leads to mass murder.

      • Carlyle MacDuff

        I have not seen a barbers shop in Cuba with what appear to be four (4) seats. Have you?
        Trump is proibably I think universally a subject of humour in barber’s shops. In Cuba the law inhibits humour related to the Castro regime – the walls as you know Nick, have ears and criticism of the regime is a crime.
        I don’t comprehend the content of your second paragraph unless it is a crude endeavour to put words in my mouth.
        Whereas I do not argue that Trump(f) is erratic and narcissistic, he is not the cause of the United Nations concerns about North Korea. Kim Jung Un is the cause being a third generation communist dictator. This saga and any potential for “mass murder” is not a consequence of Donald J. Trump(f)’s actions, he has merely exacerbated a matter which is a direct consequence of actions by Kim Jung Un counter to UN resolutions. .

        • Nick

          I can guarantee you that the barbers I use in Havana had four seats last time I was there.
          I can also guarantee you that there is much humour directed at Cuban government and system in this same barbers. Although I recall significantly more humour and ill will directed towards President GWB who was widely known in Cuba as ‘el Asesino’.

          Second paragraph is neither crude nor putting words into your mouth. It simply refers to your surmising that a US embargo against China ‘may yet happen’.
          I doubt very much that US would ever do this for the obvious reasons.

          In previous threads you have stated your opinion that North Korea is entirely to blame for the latest rise in tension.
          I’m afraid I think the trump fool just as likely as KJU to escalate tensions to a ‘mass murder’ scenario. However, in such a circumstance I do think that someone in US may be brave enough to take the ‘long view’ and stop him in his tracks before he has time to do so.

          But as I say, I hope and believe that things will simmer down.

          • Carlyle MacDuff

            Is your barber’s shop in Havana the one shown in the photograph Nick?

          • Nick

            No.

          • Carlyle MacDuff

            So Havana has at least two four seat barber shops. Know of any others?

  • Raphael Stephen-Pons

    To answer Stephen Boka, the reason the US embargoes Cuba is not because ‘muh human rights’ or anything along those lines, come on think reasonably. The reason they do it is because they want Cuba to become a neo-colony when Cuba relied on America for 60% of exports and 80% of imports. They want to be able to pay off big capitalists in Cuba again and get cheap sugar cane at the expense of the Cuban people. Stop possible efforts at industrialization (something the Castros have not done) and to make Cuba invest only in agriculture, Cuba will be America’s sugarcane producer. America is salty at their loss of a colony, the exact same thing would happen regardless of Castro’s subscription to Brezhnevism. If Puerto Rico ever rose up against US colonialism the same would happen.

  • hairy reed

    Cuban fools living foolish lives. Good luck with that.

    • Carlyle MacDuff

      So ‘hairy reed’ do please describe your reasons for calling the people of Cuba “Cuban fools”. do I detect one who thinks of Donald Trump(f) as the very essence of wisdom? If so, hard luck!

  • christie coolidge

    Cuba can not steal what belongs to the Cuban people. Everyone knows that batista gifted all Cuban major industries to u.s. corporations and gave the scraps to Cubans.

    • Carlyle MacDuff

      Then christie coolidge, along came Fidel Castro to keep all the assets as possessions of the State, controlled by himself, and later by his brother and the Cuban people were left with NOTHING, the State and the Castros being synonymous.

  • :-!

    Obama was a man looking forward and ahead of time. The Trump looks backward to the bad old days where far right politics ruled completely. It is strange how Russia backed the US election with fake news and corruption. Putin is a far right politician. What was his motive?