Raw Cuba

“Cuba is being eaten raw, with no salt or condiments. Dictators have to be called dictators. Enough of this intellectualizing the topic of Cuba. Once and for all, we have to accept it is the end of utopia.”

Sixty-two years later, standing in front of a squad of policemen dressed as civilians, hundreds of shirtless Cubans, professional, doctors, workers, young people in shorts and flip flop, scream using a mix of “bad words” and positive actions for the president and government that neither they or their parents elected resign.

Hunger swallowed fear and people decided to risk their lives because the other option was to die in silence. There is famine everywhere in the country and our hunger is not the same as that of Mexico, Guatemala, or Brazil, where someone begs for alms in front of a supermarket and a good Samaritan offers him a tortilla, a roll, or a cookie. Cuba’s markets are completely empty; there is no aspirin, no antibiotics or ampules; and even though official figures say the opposite, more patients abandoned in their homes or thrown onto hospital floors die from the Coronavirus every day, in subhuman conditions. The cruel reality that Cuban officialdom tries to hide and the independent press gets out using extraofficial means do not seem to be images coming from a Western country.

Last Sunday July 11th, President Díaz-Canel, the least charismatic man ever in the history of Cuban politics, said From the Council of States and Ministers that was “very criminal to call for protests at this time in which we have to see that people stay home, […] that people protect themselves.” As he said this, his voice was trembling and panicked about getting to the centrally located Televisión Cubana on Twenty-Third Street, and he was surrounded by guards and official journalists. Yet, after his statement, the Cuban dictator ordered ordinary Cuban citizens faithful to the Revolution to hit the streets; he disguised armed military personnel as civilians; and officially inaugurated a civil war in times of Coronavirus. ¿Who, the, in the criminal?

While the Cuban government tried to complicate matters by bringing up the embargo and the U.S., alluding to possible intervention by Yankee Imperialism, the reality is that this conversation is about us, ourselves, about what did with the country; it is about fear, prohibitions, the lack of freedom of expression, the economic disaster, the thievery and disrespect to which the citizenry is treated; the deep indoctrination and the unending game with our lives, which have been kidnapped, trapped in a roomful of mirrors, a labyrinth that leads nowhere else but to a failed, asphyxiating, and brutal ideological process from which escape is not possible with a massive and spontaneous reaction comparable only to the ones that took place during the Gerardo Machado regime.

How did we allow the decisions of a dynastic government kidnap an entire people? When did our parents, grandparents, and older siblings give in, believing that the only option for a country to be sovereign is to accept a one-party system?

Ever since we were kids we’ve hummed the same song: “Cuba, territorio libre de América” [Cuba, a free territory in America], “El primer territorio que derrocó al imperialismo en el continente” [The first territory to overthrow imperialism on the continent]. That very same Cuba today is a prisoner of its own government, which at the end of a gun imposes on us a useless ideology, useless even for surviving as captives.

The heavy silence of artists and intellectuals on the island is noticeable. However, the work being done by independent journalists and media is admirable, as is the strength of a new generation of visual artists, playwrights, writers and filmmakers, all them singular agents of change; creators between fifty and seventeen-years old who are risking their lives on the streets and challenging prohibitions.

All of them are being looked for, if they’re not already in custody, but their will for telling the story, does not weaken. Like in a dangerous reality show, the events are happening in real time. Cubans are going out onto the streets armed with only their cellphones, becoming the principal narrators and protagonists of the moment.

Now it is the NGOs,’ United Nations, ‘International Red Cross,’ and other entities turn to demand entry into Cuba to save lives at a time of critical a health crisis and terrible hunger. Do not believe the official rhetoric, or its skewed statistics; listen to people speaking from their homes, broadcasting live and in desperation.

A motto is not worth more than a life. We must destroy this socialist realist idea of the smiling Caribbean island, because that is not our reality.

Accredited foreign journalists in Cuba are threatened with losing their credentials if they tell the truth about what’s happening. At times like this they are asked to be moderate with their headlines. That is why it is recommendable to listen to and follow the independent media in and outside Cuba.

Presidents, ministers, diplomats, businessmen, and opinion leaders all around the world: understand the profound crisis to which we are being subjected and leave your political prejudices to one side. This is about saving an isolated people adrift. Our only frontiers are water and our exits are militarily controlled.

We need transparent journalism about what is happening. Cuba is being eaten raw, with no salt or condiments. Dictators have to be called dictators. Enough of this intellectualizing the topic of Cuba. Once and for all, we have to accept it is the end of utopia.

Let us go beyond the olive green utopia, bury the historic bad luck we have had to endure and forever marked our lives.

The people, those who guide and embody all revolutions, is already on the street. All over the island one can hear the following loud and clear:

Viva Cuba Libre!

Wendy Guerra

Wendy Guerra Torres (1970), formally Wendy Guerra Torres, is a Cuban poet and novelist. After a brief career acting in Cuban film and television, she turned to writing and won recognition more readily abroad than within Cuba. Her works have been translated into several languages. She has been described as "a kind of diva of contemporary Cuban literature".