A Cuba that won’t fit into History books

A different image of Havana. Photo: Lizabel Mónica

When the Word “Cuba” arises, it’s easy to think in USA’s economic embargo against the island, in the Cochinos’ Bay or Playa Girón battles (“first defeat of imperialism in America”, states offical propaganda), in the Castro brothers and in organopónicos. For some, Cuba still represents that left-wing icon where loads of tourists, impelled by an excessive enthusiasm, experiment an exciting approach to what’s somehow announced in Che Guevara’s T-shirts. Some others keep however a conviction: it’s a red and populist nightmare urgently needing capital injection. Truth is: for me (born when the Cold War started getting progressively warmer, raised up as a teenager in between disappointment and dispair –those seem to be the two new big rules of civic coexistence, in substitution of the common superior point of view of proletarian utopia-, and finally an adult just in the 21st Century), there’s no sense at all in my parents’ enthusiastic beliefs or in the epic and watered-down vision of a story quickly loosing credibility.

To state that national history promoted from a state, is not absolutely true is like agreeing on that we human beings have changed the planet’s ecosystem: both are irrefutable truths, and as such they have to be kept half hidden, half visible. Anyway, it’s not something about certainties, but about which policies are being applied. The disapproving look from state’s guards taught me mainly how to negotiate with my own opinion about facts. Here an excerpt. Cuba was the last colony that reached independence (end 19th Century), arriving just on time to be a neo-colony of the United States of America. After Gerardo Machado (who resigned from his post as President in 1933 due to demonstrations), all legal bonds to USA were revoked, and the nation just went through other governments until Fulgencio Batista’s dictatorship came with blood. He was defeated by a guerrilla war operated from Sierra Maestra and by Fidel Castro. The victory of the Cuban Revolution from 1959 was, until then, a national coalition of different opponent groups and a movement supported from the middle class; but it was progressively fragmented, depurated and finally turned into a monolithic whole, which took its political final path on April 16th 1961, when Fidel Castro declared “the socialist nature of the Revolution”, a few minutes after bombers played their prelude at Playa Girón. From there onwards, all had to be submitted to this political manifesto.

I’ve learned that History sounds different when it comes from a Spaniard, different in turn when it has a North American voice, and definitely racy when it comes from a carefree statement of a Cuban. And it develops unsuspected nuances when told from an immigrated to that parallel Cuban capital, geographically overseas: Little Havana. History will be different according to who tells it. Those who survived, who won, who have the power in their hands are the ones telling us how things happened. Now, behind the pen, there’s a Cuban woman (anybody saying that genre has nothing to do with geopolitical issues, please have a look in this Caribbean island through the Internet, they’ll find a more forceful answer than my arguments); a white Cuban woman (in this case I would recommend to add the cultural and imaginary category “race” when browsing); professionals’ daughter and myself a professional (you might have noticed that Cuban bloggers are mainly young and educated bachelors, no matter if independent or regime-supported); and not a resident in a poor, outlying area of Havana, but neither in privileged city downtown (nevertheless, living in Havana is already a downtown statement, try to add while browsing “Cuba+sex+race” the simple, and apparently innocent word “city”: almost every blog, specialized and institutional websites are generated from the capital, while upon the rest of the country lays a thick blanket of silence, that closes the road in bit-code). Of course, a complete profile story won’t be here reflected.

My first History lesson, which I remember with affection, was when a teacher told me: “relax and leave the books there, we’ll do a time warp”. I once found an odd passage in an alternative travel guide: “Cuba is a unique country with a lot of distinctive features. You don’t need just a passport, money and a tough backpack to travel here; you also require flexibility, creativity, a good mood, patience and a healthy feeling of adventure…”. Curious thing about History: it doesn’t talk just about the past, because it has the ability to transform radically our present’s experience. Do you want to know Cuba? Welcome onboard, bring your luggage, let your books at home… And if you’ve got any questions, do not hesitate to ask the Captain, but ask the boiler-man too.

Translation: Ralph del Valle

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