Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Cuba's revolution generation: few regrets

Cuba's revolution generation: few regrets
By Carlos Batista

Havana (AFP) - Communist Cuba's revolution has held sway for so long --
56 years -- that those who remember no other system are nearing
retirement age with a mixture of fond memories, and just a few regrets.

"We were part of a generation that changed everything, romantic,
contradictory and maybe one of a kind," journalist and author Manuel
Juan Somoza, 69, told AFP.

For political analyst Jesus Arboleya, 67, it was the revolution
generation under a young lawyer named Fidel Castro that fought hardest
to get Cuba on a different path -- and wound up the Americas' only
one-party communist nation.

"We were certain we were going to win. And that is precisely how we acted.

"We also are known for the personal sacrifices we have made, and for
honesty. Some people now call it idealism, but it was what made our
lives make sense," Arboleya told AFP.

Around the world, many remember the international role Cuba played in
the Cold War.

But inside Cuba, in the 1960s and 70s in particular, the revolution
generation ("GenRev") became known for its activist commitment to making
Cuba's divided and unequal society a symbol of equality.

They led the way on national campaigns to wipe out illiteracy,
organizing students and picking crops for the greater good.

As the generation nears the retirement age of 60, many GenRev are proud
they made change in Cuba, but realize mistakes were made along the way.

"We were a really committed and optimistic generation," Arboleya said.

Yet at the same time, GenRev took orders from authority, and did not rebel.

"We always were unconditionally taking orders from the generation that
won" the revolution, said Somoza, who wrote a history of his generation,
"Tales from the Belly of the Beast."

A legendary folk singer for the generation, Silvio Rodriguez, put it in
one verse: "virar esta tierra de una vez" ("change this country's course

"Our generation had a lot of goals. Too many, maybe. But even if we only
achieved some of them, that will do," said demographer Antonio Aja, 61.

- Looking back, and ahead -

Before 1959, Cuba was allied with the United States and was advanced
economically by Latin American standards. Socially however it was
wracked by inequality, illiteracy and lack of access to education and
health care.

In the Cold War era that saw Havana become a staunch US foe for over
five decades, GenRev was the leading edge of change.

There are over a million unofficial members of GenRev, about nine
percent of Cuba's population. Some are currently leaders in President
Raul Castro's government.

Thousands of people in GenRev, particularly in rural areas, were the
first in their families to learn to read -- then dare to dream of higher
education, and achieve it.

"We had an academic, ethical and social training that despite some
pressures was really valuable," said writer Leonardo Padura, 59.

In 2018, the generation that won the revolution, led by Fidel Castro and
now Raul Castro, is scheduled to hand the reins of the government to a
new generation.

Described as the generation of "institutional revolution," they are led
by Castro's designated successor Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel.
Economy Minister Marino Murillo and Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez are
also notable leaders from the next generation.

- Was it worth it? -

Meanwhile, Cuba's economy is in crisis; its leading political and
economic ally, Venezuela, is deep in its own economic morass.

As the downturn continues, Cuba's GenRev are looking forward to modest
pensions in a country where workers' average salary is about $20 a month.

Cubans for years have been awaiting changes that would mean a better
living standard. The government however does not want to aggravate
social differences or undermine the revolution's political achievements.

There is renewed economic optimism after Havana and Washington in
December announced plans to seek closer ties.

But US economic sanctions are still in place and what lies ahead is

It's not clear "if so much sacrifice was worth it, yet," Somoza said.

Others say they wouldn't change a thing about living their life
dedicated to one communist leadership.

"Some things did not go the way I would have chosen, sure. But I have
nothing to be sorry about," said Arboleya.

Source: Cuba's revolution generation: few regrets - Yahoo News -;_ylt=AwrBJSDJwe1U6TcAawDQtDMD

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