Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Cubans Are Trapped In A Myth

Cubans Are Trapped In A Myth
Posted: 03/26/2013 8:24 pm

It's cold in the Hague. Through the window I can see a seagull find a
piece of a cookie on the sidewalk. In the warmth of a local bar several
activists are speaking of their respective realities. From one corner of
the table a Mexican journalist explains the risk of exercising the
profession of reporter in a reality where words can cost you your life.
We all listen in silence, imagining the newsroom shot up, his colleagues
kidnapped or killed, the impunity.

Then a colleague from the Sahara speaks up and his words are like sand
in your eyes, reddening them until the tears flow. The anecdotes from
the North Korean also make me cringe. He was born in a prison camp from
which he escaped at age 14. I follow each of these stories, I could live
them. From whatever culture and geography, pain is pain anywhere. Within
the space of a few minutes we pass from the midst of a shootout between
cartels to a tent in the desert and then to the body of a boy behind
barbed wire. I manage to put myself in the skin of all of them.

I hold my breath. It's my turn to speak. I tell about the acts of
repudiation, the arbitrary arrests, the assassination of reputations and
a nation on rafts crossing the Florida Straits. I tell them of divided
families, intolerance, of a country where power is inherited through
blood and our children dream of escape. And then come all the phrases
I've heard hundreds, thousands of times.

I've barely said the first words and I already know what is coming: "But
you can't complain, you have the best educational system on the
continent"... "Yes, it might be, but you can't deny that Cuba has
confronted the United States for half a century"... "OK, you don't have
freedom, but you have a public health system"... and a long repertoire
of stereotypes and false conclusions taken from official propaganda.
Communication breaks down, the myth prevails.

A myth fed by five decades of distortion of our national history. A myth
that no longer appeals to reason, only to blind belief, a myth that
accepts no critics, only fans. A myth that makes it impossible for so
many to understand us, to be in tune with our problems. A myth that has
managed to make many perceive as good things in our nation that they
would never accept in their own. A myth that has broken the channel of
ordinary sympathy generated for any human being who is a victim. A myth
that traps us more strongly than the totalitarianism under which we live.

The seagull takes a piece of candy in his beak. At the table the talk
turns back to North Africa and Mexico. The sense of explaining my Island
to them is lost. Why, if the whole world seems to know everything about
us, without ever having lived in Cuba. I cringe again on hearing of the
harsh lives of these activists, I again put myself in their place. And
who puts themselves in ours? Who unravels this myth in which we are

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