After 4 years, 1 month, and 6 days (but who's really counting, right?), something BIG has finally happened on this island.
Friends are messaging me about being a witness to history. Fidel is dead. What's going on in Cuba?
Well folks, my guess is as good as yours. As you probably know, we live in US-Cuba, not Cuba-Cuba.
That being said, we are subjugated to endless rhetoric and propaganda every morning on Cuban radio. "This day in history" on one of the local stations is always something about either a) the Revolution, or b) the Spanish-American war. Cuba is always on the victorious side. The Heroes are brave and strong, and Cuba is morally superior to the dirty haters of liberty.
Or something like that.
In reality, Cuban radio is not going to broadcast the truth.
Please remember that the charismatic old man was also a ruthless dictator.
Please research and know the Damas en Blanco ("Ladies in White") still peacefully and silently march every Sunday for the release of their loved ones who have been imprisoned close to our little base. They are protesting the detainment of dozens of journalists and librarians who dared to think they could express freedom of speech and press. Hours before Obama visited Havana, the Cuban regime had them whisked away on house arrest so the US press would not cover their story.
Please think of the people here living in third world conditions. Since we've been here, there's been an outbreak of cholera in the area right outside the gate. There are lines for food and people still use rations cards. This is hidden from the tourists who pay lots of money to see Castro's sanitized version of Havana, but in the poorest area of Cuba (our part), it's common knowledge.
And here in GTMO, one of the most reviled places in the world for its prison (which residents here will explain---ad naseum---is not the main reason this base exists), we have international organizations which help dissidents who brave shark-infested waters, Cuban marksmen who are trained to shoot anyone they see swimming towards the base, or mine fields to seek asylum. They come because they have been persecuted for their religious or political beliefs. Many times, if your family member is imprisoned, you are persecuted, as well. It sort of reminds me of the N. Korean system of punishing future generations for the "sins" of its dissidents.
|A trio of Cuban musicians, |
hand carved by Cuban asylum seekers on GTMO,
and my favorite thing I've ever bought here.
Don't hold your breath for normalized relations between the US and Cuba until Raul is gone. Don't think the people of Cuba are going to rise up and have a revolution now Fidel is gone---he's been "gone" for years now, and unless you are part of the military, you don't own a gun, anyway. Don't count on the gate opening and those of us in GTMO being able to flood into the nearby provinces---including Santiago, where Fidel's ashes will be scattered---any time soon.
Meanwhile, don't fall for the accolades of Fidel, who brought education and great health care to his little island paradise. He kicked out what many believed were American imperialistic leaders, and tried to bring autonomy to the country of Cuba. He did those things in an astonishingly effective and successful way.
But the human cost has been too great, and several other smaller (and larger) countries have done the same, without the human rights violations. President Obama said, "History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him." Let's hope the future will be kinder to the people of Cuba and bring about change into the 21st century that they so desperately need.