Paula Henriquez

Paula Henriquez: Since childhood I have been told I should be careful what I say in public. “Think before you speak, especially in front of others,” my mother would say, and it was more of a plea than a scolding. Even today I hear her and I obey her, just that I do not speak, I write. Letters and words are my escape, my exit and daily catharsis, which printed on paper, revive me. And this picture is my refuge.

The Answer to a Routine Question Here in Cuba

Paula Henriquez

Foto: Adita Viero

HAVANA TIMES — I have been asked whether I want to leave the country on more than one occasion. It had been a while since I had forgotten the issue, but somebody insisted that I speak about it again a few days ago and once again, the same answer came to mind.

The truth is, I believe I’ve never wanted to leave. That doesn’t mean that I don’t want things to change. Of course I do, I want a better life for everyone here on this small island and plus I’m sure I’m not the only one who does.

Leaving the place where I was born and raised would mean giving up a lot of things, like I know many people have renounced when they left. I have never judged anyone. It’s not my place.

Everyone knows what is best for them and their loved ones and everyone has always known their reasons for doing something and these, no matter what they are, should not be judged. There are people who live their entire lives outside of their country longing to return, there are others who start over with a clean slate, and there are people who tolerate it… In short, there are many different kinds of people.

Meanwhile, I think that I could tolerate it, but that’s one thing, it’s a completely different thing to accept it. Of course I would love to visit other places, meet other people, learn about other cultures and, on the other hand, have many things that I could never even dream of here. I would love to see how I progress, along with my family, thanks to new technology, the evolutionary development of a countless number of spheres in society that we don’t have in this country.

On the other hand, on a spiritual level, I would like to see all of us feeling proud of being Cuban and of living in Cuba, that those who live abroad feel proud of being Cuban, but live abroad; that we don’t mistreat each other, that we stand in solidarity with one another, that we don’t put anyone who comes from abroad above ourselves just because they have more than we do here.

Lastly, leaving the country would mean to lose all of my contacts, my roots, my parents, my relatives, my home and maybe even my memories. We forget things, a lot people say we don’t but I have already realized that we in fact do and I say this because I know friends who have left and, without wanting to, I think, they have forgotten many things.

I don’t want to feel like this, that’s what I will say to this friend who insists on talking about the subject. This feeling of possible nostalgia might weigh heavier than all of the opportunities that living in another country offers. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m not.

  • Carlyle MacDuff

    The penultimate paragraph details the reasons why so many thinking Cubans continue to live there despite the repression of the Communist regime. My Cuban wife and I live there for the very reasons that Paula gives. But the natural longing for freedom remains within Cubans who are compelled to live under the imposed one party communist system stuck in the morass of 19th century Marxist ideology. The reason for the repression is FEAR, the Cuban regime is frightened to allow the formation of any other political party, it is frightened of allowing Cubans to openly express their views and it is frightened of the potential for spread of information through the Internet. The regime continues to pursue that which was declared by Dr, Ernesto Guevara de Serna Lynch:

    “Students have to learn to think as a mass, to think as an individual is criminal.”

    Despite pursuing that view for fifty eight long weary non-progressive years, Cubans brought up through an indoctrinating educational system, surrounded by Party propaganda, overlooked by the Stasi based CDR, still yearn for the freedom and opportunities possessed by those who live in the free democratic countries.
    Refugees do not seek refuge in communist countries as most are endeavoring to escape totalitarianism, not to embrace it. The only reason for the Castro regime embracing relationship with Islamic Saudi Arabia, is the ever lasting need for cash, for their system has not been self-sustaining since its inception. But where are the refugees from their ally Syria? Like Kim Jung Un, Fidel Castro in his blind hatred, sought the use of nuclear weapons and to make nuclear strikes upon the US.
    These are but some of the answers to that routine question posed by Paula Henriquez.

    • Hans Frankfort

      It is strange, Carlyle, that Ernesto Guevara always thought of himself as an individual often disagreeing with his own family and friends with a mind of his own, i.e., “Do what I say, not what I do!” Cubans need to be wary of Saudi Arabia’s intentions on that island; is it true that a mosque will be build in Havana on Saudi expense? They have the worst alternative to Communism where everyone supposed to think alike! I wouldn’t want to live in Saudi Arabia either.

      • Joseph Marti

        Hello Hans. Carlyle is what an intellectual, on the ground in Cuba, with freedom of thought, inquisitiveness, and access to information sounds like.

      • Carlyle MacDuff

        i agree totally Hans that dictatorship whether of the left as in Cuba, or of the right as in Saudi Arabia is evil. It is sickening to watch this love-in between Saudi Arabia, Cuba and now Venezuela. It is understandable that there is a love-in between Kim Jung Un and the Castro regime, they are old totalitarian amigos – remember Cuba breaking the UN embargo upon supplying weapons to North Korea – but the increasingly urgent need for outside financial support has overcome any scruples that Raul Castro may (I only say may) have had regarding Saudi Arabia.
        Shortly I shall be back home in Cuba and cut off from access to international information with no Internet and only State controlled sources of information. I can tell you that Cubans know little of what actually goes on with their government. That position is however gradually being eroded by students using their cell-phones. When information is gleaned from visitors or family living overseas, it spreads by cell-phone. Students are however aware that their communication is through ETECSA the state monopoly telephone system (27% owned by RAFIN SA) and the eaves-dropping of MININT. So my sources in Cuba are Cubans including students, the State controlled media and including TeleSurTV, the Venezuelan state puppet. There are some foreign contributors to TeleSurTV, of left wing persuasion – folks like Tariq Ali the British former agitator of Pakistani origin, so one can read between the lines of their comments.
        One interesting consequence of being opposed to the repression of the Castro regime is that some of the contributors to these pages of left or extreme left wing persuasion, paint one as being of the extreme right. In my case that is utter nonsense. Anyone who has read my book, will know of my very critical comments regarding the history of the US in Latin America and in particular Cuba. They will know of my commendation of Barack Obama’s endeavors, But with such people, there is no reason, only blind faith in communism and an inability to address the reality of it inevitably leading to dictaorship. History demonstrates that claims of communism being concerned about the people are totally bogus.
        Che Guevara quarreled with the Castros because they were adherents to the Stalinist form of communism, whereas Che favoured the Mao form. It was evident to him that the Castros were entrenched and so he renounced his honorary Cuban citizenship and went off the Africa in pursuit of further agitation leading to revolution. In that he failed, so he went under false identity to Bolivia, where he again failed and was shot. If anything was to his credit, it was that his belief was genuine. But his history of sending some 357 people to the firing squad in Havana with little concern for trial indicates his true nature.
        “To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary. These procedures are an archaic bourgeois detail.”
        The President of Bolivia in ordering the shooting of Guevara, was perhaps only following that opinion.

      • Carlyle MacDuff

        The intended construction of a mosque funded by Saudi Arabia was reported in Havana Times Hans. Strange bedfellows the Sauds and the Castros. But since the revolution the Castros have shown a willingness to prostitute their beliefs for money. Obviously they are not influenced by morality.

    • Ken Hiebert

      “Students have to learn to think as a mass, to think as an individual is criminal.”

      I googled this quote, but haven’t found anything. Can you tell me where to find it?

      • Carlyle MacDuff

        I found it Ken when researching the history of the rural indoctrination camps that Guevara held. As you may realize, when researching I went through screeds of information both in books, on the web (which can for example be unreliable like Wikipedia and Google is dependent upon information fed to it, not research) and from Cubans. As a non-professional writer, I did not record every source for every quotation and every detail of which book – there are several by Guevara, or who provided what and make an index. But, to do so would in any case have endangered some of the Cubans who contributed information. I realize that not providing the page of which book or which individual may be frustrating for critics, but can assure you that the comment was made and recorded. It is as you will also know if you are a student of communism, that it fits in with the drive to eradicate individual thought and action and to create a mass of the proletariat.
        If I find the source when searching my papers and if it does not endanger anyone, I shall provide it to you. Funny that it has been questioned by others, but none of the other numerous quotes I gave has Maybe it touches a sore spot for believers. I note similar questions about the source of information about the numbers executed, again an area that the sycophants dislike being brought to attention, but I am certainly not going to endanger Cuban sources.
        As you may also know, the book has now been published in Spanish, but the name of the translator has not been given. Information – as the Castro regime demonstrates – can be dangerous.

        • Ken Hiebert

          “Students have to learn to think as a mass, to think as an individual is criminal.”
          As far as we can tell, this quote does not appear in any of Che Guevara’s published works.
          Has anyone else on this list come across this quote?

          • Carlyle MacDuff

            As you are busy tracing quotes Ken, here are a couple of others. Both from the Apostle of Cuba, Jose Marti and both in contradiction to the dictates of the Castro regime:

            “I believe citizens should be free to speak their minds without fear.”
            and:
            Liberty is the right of every man to be honest, to think and speak without hypocrisy.”

            You won’t find either in all the stuff about Marti promoted by the regime.

          • Carlyle MacDuff

            I am steadily digging through my notes Ken. Two quotes which follow the same train of thought as the one I gave are:

            “Youth must refrain from ungrateful questioning of government mandates. Instead they must dedicate themselves to study, work and military service, they should learn to think as a mass.”

            That was to University students, and:

            “Individualism must disappear.”

            That was to Communist youth.
            Other interesting quotes include which I did not repeat in my book include:
            “The peoples cooperation can often be coaxed by the use of systemic terror.”
            That if I recall correctly was in a Penguin book, and demonstrating racism:
            “The black is indolent and a dreamer, spending his meager wage on frivolity or drink.”
            In pursuing the eradication of individuality and the creation of a proletarian mass, Guevara was being true to Marxism/Leninism.