Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Are There Reasons to be Hopeful in Cuba?

Are There Reasons to be Hopeful in Cuba?
February 23, 2015
Veronica Vega

HAVANA TIMES — Some days ago, a French journalist who was shooting a
documentary here told me he was surprised I could speak of hope when
referring to Cuba – not because he doesn't want to be hopeful, but
because the impressions he gathered during his visit to the island were
that Cubans are afraid to express themselves openly and aren't confident
in their country's future.

Among those anxious to leave the country (particularly those about to
embark on the journey and even burn their bridges), such optimism is
almost experienced as a betrayal.

It seems that considering the slightest possibility of improvement in
Cuba shakes the conviction with which they flee the island. Their aim in
life is to live "anywhere except Cuba." For those who have already left,
the only words that describe our country are dictatorship, State control
and decadence.

At the other end, the official (dis)information monopoly feeds us an
optimism sustained by omission and deceit. How, then, are we breathe
confidence into Cuba? How are we to detect any movement in a society
that seems to have come to a halt in time?

"And yet it moves," as the renowned astronomer once said. Today's Cuba
isn't the one many (or most) of us want (for different reasons), but
neither is it the same Cuba we had fifty years ago.

If we look deeply at Cuban history, we perceive the slow awakening of
civil consciousness – an awareness that is perhaps still confused and

We shouldn't forget the significance of the Peruvian Embassy incident
(1980) and the Mariel exodus and Malecon protest (1994), protests that
bordered on mass disobedience, or downplay the importance of the Varela
Project (1998), the first organized and legal civic initiative. The
first unplanned, spontaneous, pluralistic and non-violent protest Cuba
experienced was perhaps the "E-mail War" of 2009, which expressed the
unyielding refusal of Cuban intellectuals to cooperate with a
humiliating attempt to forget the victims of State repression and ostracism.

The blogosphere, an alternative to official information channels that
also arose spontaneously and has been growing through personal blogs and
journals, is one of the most tangible examples of Cuba's latent civility.

The performance dealing with freedom of expression that visual artist
Tania Bruguera staged in 2009; the protest over the arrest of musician
Gorki Avila we saw at Pablo Milanes' concert; the emergence of the
organization Estado de Sats; the letter published on the Internet
accusing the Cuban Ministry of Culture of theft and plagiarism in
connection with Cuba's Rotilla Music Festival; the call for rappers to
unite and demand the resignation of the Cuban Rap Agency director, and,
in 2012, the request that the Puños Arriba ("Raised Fists") festival
venue be restored are all examples of successful civil demands that took
place in Cuba.

One of the most clear victories of civil activism – one which nearly no
one knows about, not even people working in the public health sector –
was the hunger strike carried out by Dr. Jeovany Jimenez Vega. Through
his personal blog, Ciudadano Cero ("Citizen Cero"), Jimenez informed
readers of how his right to practice medicine and complete the studies
in his specialization he had started was taken away from him, for
having, along with a colleague, given voice to the opinions of 300
health professionals regarding their salary. He won his case and was
reinstated, including the payment of six years' worth of wages (the time
he was not permitted to practice). His colleague, exiled in Spain, was
able to revalidate his degree.

Other examples are the civil initiative named Por otra Cuba ("For a
Different Cuba"); the release of political prisoners (regrettably
transformed into a kind of banishment), and the successful campaigns
aimed at freeing dissidents, which average Cubans never hear.

We shouldn't forget the existence of a still-fragmented opposition that
begins to find a common ground; the demands musician Robertico Carcases
sung in a no less important venue than Havana's Anti-Imperialist
Grandstand (during a hermetically sealed government-sponsored
performance); the fact Samuel Formell, son of the renowned Juan Formell,
declared in Miami he wished "more than one party could exist in Cuba and
that free elections could be held;" the apathy people show towards
official events, grassroots organizations and gatherings of People Power
Assemblies; the emergence of non-State businesses, alternative galleries
and cultural venues; the artistic events that meet with censorship and
do not appeal to institutions, relocating to the privacy and freedom of
people's homes, and the emergence of independent film production houses
that divulge their uncensored opinions about Cuban reality.

The fact Tania Bruguera's call for participation at the performance she
planned at Havana's Plaza de la Revolucion sincerely touched many people
is another argument. This performance is now being carried out on the
Internet with personal, 1-minute videos. Then there is the example of
people whose homes collapsed daring to protest, carrying signs in the plaza.

The fact a group of rappers should get together to produce a song that
responds to an official accusation; that people should be expressing
their opinions out on the street more spontaneously; that independent
cooperatives should be surfacing; that popular discontent should be
taking on new and unpredictable forms – no matter how insignificant
these developments may strike our impatient gaze-, they are
unprecedented initiatives for Cuba's civil panorama, signs of movement
and – why not say it – reasons for hope.

Source: Are There Reasons to be Hopeful in Cuba? - Havana Times.org -

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