Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The future of Cuba is capitalism

The future of Cuba is capitalism
By Nicolas Briscoe | 03/20/2017 7:42pm

The greatest blessing of my life has been my Cuban heritage. The warmth,
love and fun that accompany every aspect of Cuban family and culture are
incomparable forces for good in my life. In my hometown of Miami, there
is a neighborhood referred to as "Little Havana," named such because it
was one of the first outposts of Cuban life in the United States
following the Cuban revolution of 1959. Now, however, the neighborhood
serves as much purpose as a little Italy in Rome, or a Chinatown in
Beijing. All of Miami is Little Havana, and we Miamians wouldn't have it
any other way. Miami is a city more alive than any other, as the vibrant
tapestry of Hispanic culture is interwoven in every colada, cortadito,
and café con leche. It is a town that is totally unique and unrivaled.
One might imagine, then, that I have special insight into the suddenly
red-hot issue of Cuban-American diplomacy. Unfortunately, I have little
more insight than any other American watching the news.

What I do possess, however, is a glimpse into pre-revolution Cuban life.
I recently returned from a family reunion back home in Miami (quick tip
from the author: if you are ever extended an invitation to a Cuban
family reunion; GO). The reunion was filled with loud conversation in
Cuban (a separate language from Spanish altogether), laughter, plenty of
flowing alcohol, delicious food and a radiant joy that was likely
unimaginable to much of the family in the throws of the 1959 revolution.
Inevitably, story time began.

The stories of my grandfather always leave me beaming with pride. In his
youth, his story reads like that of Roy Rogers, walking into town with
his spurred boots, guitar and Smith and Wesson six-shooter, ready to
tame the Wild West. Though he passed when I was just six years old, he
remains forever etched in my memory as an amazing man, respected and
adored by all. Using sorcery referred to by some as "Google Maps," we
were able to locate the ranch in Santiago de Cuba where the entire
family lived. Just down the street from the original Bacardí ranch, it
was an enormous piece of land, tended to and cared for by the family. It
was at this moment that the tone began to change. A silence wholly
uncharacteristic of Cubans washed over the room, as those who recognized
the land gazed at the television screen. This was the land they had
lost. This was the land that was taken. The memories come flooding back,
and the jovial mood turns angry as they recall what was, and what should
be still. Inevitably, the suggestion at storming the island with a
single rifle and re-conquering the land is made, an idea that sounds
entirely reasonable with the trusty assistance of enough rum. At once,
however, it is understood that the time to be angry is over, and the
party resumes.

The essence of the Cuban people, wrapped in one rambling anecdote, is
resilience. The resilience to pack up their entire life, get on a plane,
move to a new country, learn a new language, understand a new culture,
live as outcasts and still enjoy life to the absolute fullest. The Cuban
community has since begun to thrive in the United States. Cubans are
influential in business (Roberto Goizuetta, Jorge Perez), entertainment
(Andy Garcia, Pitbull, Gloria Estefan, etc), politics (Marco Rubio, Ted
Cruz, Bob Menendez), diplomacy (Lino Gutierrez, Alabama alumnus), and
the list goes on. The Cuban people thrive no matter where they are, or
in what conditions they find themselves. In Cuba, on an unlivable wage
and with rationing of every human necessity, they display incomparable
resourcefulness and unflappability. They are ready, willing and able to
fight for themselves. They will be ready, willing and able to fight for
their country. They need only a spark.

There is an old story about the Soviet Union involving an ill-fated
advertisement about American poverty. As the story goes, the Soviet
Union was beginning to internally acknowledge that socialism leads to
overwhelming poverty, and decided to rely on their own propaganda rather
than trying to fix the problem. As such, they distributed flyers and ran
advertisements on radio and television of a Great Depression-era family
in a tiny home huddled around a television in the dead of winter,
clearly in the depths of extreme American poverty. The Kremlin was
confident that this would prove that even in the wealthy and
capitalistic glory of the United States, poverty was equally as
prevalent and intolerable. The attempts backfired, however, when the
Soviet citizens began noticing that even in the direst of circumstances,
the Americans could still afford a television, an almost unattainable
luxury in the Soviet Union.

This is what capitalism is capable of. It is capable of lighting a spark
that pushes the people to, for lack of a better phrase, cast off the
chains of tyrannical oppression. Cuba is now nearing a defining moment
in its history. Following the death of Fidel, the last truly visible and
noteworthy revolutionary, there is little to remind younger generations
of his revolution. Raúl Castro never had the popularity or charisma of
his brother, or his associate Che Guevara. As such, his stranglehold and
that of the Castro regime is fraying. He has allowed telephone services
into Cuba. He has allowed limited Internet access. He has greatly
relaxed his grip on all media, even allowing certain publications aside
from the state-censored Granmá. He has even begun to privatize certain
sectors of the economy on a case-by-case basis, namely in the restaurant
and entertainment industry. While he still rules with an iron fist,
imprisoning and very recently murdering dissidents, he is well aware
that a new post-Castro age is coming. His actions are those of a worried
dictator attempting a crash landing rather than a nosedive. In other
words, he is the 21st Century's Gorbachev.

Whether Cuba will fall as the Soviet Union did is difficult to predict.
On one hand, authoritarian socialism is now and will forever be doomed
to fail. On the other, Cuba is a relatively irrelevant state on the
world stage, and lack of international pressure could allow it to
smolder in its current state for decades. The only thing that is
inarguable is that capitalism will pave the way for a new Cuba. Whether
this means lifting the Cuban embargo is up for debate. To lift the
embargo without any form of reparation claims service for those Cubans
exiled for what is now approaching 60 years would be a travesty. But to
condemn the Cuban people to an eternity of socialistic, tyrannical
misery would be a tragedy.

Nicolas Briscoe is a is a senior majoring in history. His column runs

Source: The future of Cuba is capitalism | The Crimson White -

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