Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Census, the Counted, the Censored… / Yoani Sánchez

The Census, the Counted, the Censored… / Yoani Sánchez
Translator: Unstated, Yoani Sánchez

Today we are: Friendly, Supportive, Kind, Cheerful, Happy, Loving,
Affectionate, Optimistic

I was not a number in the last census taken in Cuba. I didn't appear in
the figure of 11,177,143 people who — by choice or by resignation —
inhabited the country at that moment. Asphyxiated by the lack of
expectations, I had left my country some months earlier, before the
start of the great national count. But I remember my family and friends
writing me, frightened, about the social workers who knocked on the door
and asked a ton of questions. In a country where the great majority have
something to hide, every inquiry on the part of the State is suspect.
For example, on that occasion they asked whether the family had a
computer, six years before Raul Castro authorized stores to sell them
legally. People lied and lied, in order to conceal from the census
takers — or censors? — where their income came from, the number of
appliances they owned, or how many people actually lived in the house.

Recently they've announced a new population census and the television
has no lack of commercials, programs and reports to dispel the suspicion
this generates. They announced that they will not ask for identity
documents, and that the information will only be used for "statistical
purposes"… not handed to the police. But tearing down the wall of
distrust is not so easy, especially in a society where privacy in the
home has been greatly invaded by official institutions. Thus, the
widespread tendency to deceive the State requires a question mark to be
added to each piece of data extracted from a house-to-house survey.
Almost comical situations arise when, in a building like mine, the
survey takers arrive at a building and neighbors pass the word to hide
under a blanket — or in the closet — those objects that are prohibited
or whose origin is illicit.

Notwithstanding the apprehensions and doubts, taking such an inventory
would be quite useful right now. We could confirm with the numbers some
obvious trends. Among these is the marked aging of the population, the
low birthrate, and the growing emigration. Probably, even if the
sociologists manage to get the numbers, we will never be informed about
the rate of suicides, divorces or abortions, because these figures
disrupt the image of the "island paradise." Also, for each number
published — as in every study — we will have to add a margin of error
and subtract a certain percentage for falsehoods, those saving lies with
which so many will respond to the detailed questionnaire of the upcoming

19 October 2011

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