Absurdities of the Week / Fernando Damaso
Posted on September 14, 2014
Cuba is like an exaggerated version of the fictional village Macondo,*
as is clear to anyone with half a brain. For evidence of this, one need
only spend a few minutes reading the country's state-controlled press.
On Monday new customs regulations went into effect. On Tuesday there
were articles by two of our seasoned journalists, who reported how
successful these measures were, so much so that they had both travelers
and customs officials applauding in unison. It is striking how effective
these regulations turned out to be, and in such a short period of time,
especially if we consider that it took a full year and a trial run in
three provinces to lower the price of natural gas and distribute it for
The International Freedom for the Five Day — there are now only three of
them — has occupied the front pages of the two main state-run
newspapers. This year it will run until October 6, with vigils, marches,
exhibitions, book sales, an international symposium, and demonstrations
at universities, community centers and workplaces. This will include an
event dubbed Kids Paint for Peace in which "all the nation's children,"
which can be interpreted to mean "all children without exception," will
paint asphalt and and fly kites in support of the Five.
It seems that all is going well considering that this campaign will
represent the loss of vast amounts of time – including that of private
citizens — and a waste of resources in pursuit of a new national
pastime. If the state-run media is to be believed, this issue is of
concern not only to Cubans on the island but to Cubans throughout the
world. Please, let's not get carried away! Remember that overstatement
usually ends up being counterproductive.
As though that were not enough, it seems we must now celebrate the 69th
anniversary of Fidel Castro's college admission, the tenth anniversary
of his historic speech at the Aula Magna and the fifth anniversary of
his address to university students warning them of the threat of
extinction to the human race. Remembrance has its place, but I do not
remember any remembrance of the day on which Carlos Manuel de Céspedes,
Ignacio Agramonte or José Martí — to mention three examples — began
their university studies, much less a remembrance of many of their truly
It seems that a large segment of today's Cuban youth — at least the ones
who appear in the official media — find time to commemorate almost any
event. Many years ago the cult of personality as practiced in other
countries of the former Soviet bloc was severely criticized here. In
light of all the damage it caused, people swore this would never happen
in Cuba. Has this been forgotten? It might be a good idea to remind our
young student leaders of this.
It is noteworthy that this summer, which was certainly quite a hot one,
there were no new measures taken to stimulate the economy, unless you
count the new customs regulations. We hope that September brings some
new changes, though they are unlikely to meet the expectations of most
Cubans. Nevertheless, something is better than nothing, even if it comes
in dribs and drabs.
*Translator's note: The setting of Colombian author Gabriel Garcia
Marquez' novel One Hundred Years of Solitude.
6 September 2014
Source: Absurdities of the Week / Fernando Damaso | Translating Cuba -