A Pebble in Your Shoe
by Eduardo Cerviño
Cuba has been to the United States like a tiny pebble in a soldier’s boot: not big enough to stop and remove, yet increasingly bothersome as the soldier marches on. The Caribbean island’s geographical location has made her attractive to Spain, England, pirates from the old world, and of course the United States – different times, different nations, different flags, but the same plundering intentions.
The island is a tropical paradise whose incredibly fertile land produces bountiful crops of fruits, sugar cane, tobacco, and coffee. A victim of the above-mentioned controlling powers at various times in its history, it has been unable to become a human paradise, regardless of the heavenly implications of the nickname.
These days, wherever I go, sooner or later someone asks my opinion of the new Obama policy about Cuba. I wish I owned the proverbial crystal ball. I don’t.
What I have is the experience of having lived through the period of transition from the typical United States-inspired questionable democracy prevalent in the Western hemisphere, to the militaristic dictatorship of General Batista – an American puppet – to the Russian sphere of influence.
What these nations have in common is their ability to exploit the masses by dividing them according to the level of religious superstition, cultural ignorance, greed, envy, and lack of scruples of each individual.
Regardless of their ethnicity, the process by which a minority’s ruthless class ends with absolute control over the majority of any population has never been more beautifully expressed than in Animal Farm, the dystopian novel by George Orwell. If you have not read it, or seen the 1954 British animated film, you have missed an enjoyable opportunity to augment your understanding of human behavior and psychology. And without detailing the myriad instances of abuse, beatings, inhumanity, murders, and massive incarceration the Cuban revolution has used to maintain its grip over the people, I would say that Orwell’s novel is an accurate representation of Cuba’s history over the last 50 years.
The film was shown again in Cuba two years after Castro’s theatrical, victorious entrance into Havana. For those like me who saw the movie, it was an eye-opener. It was suppressed within days.
Of the political systems we have around the world today, Cuba’s is among the most successful at implementing repression and coercion of the people’s aspirations while rewarding loyalty to the Castro regime. Cuba has also been able to hide, to a great extent, the abject misery growing all over the island. Tourists go and see the choreography the revolution presents for their entertainment, but none takes the trouble to visit the ever-expanding barrios. One such barrio is Pogoloty, barely outside the city of Habana, where men, women, and children live in abject misery comparable to the worst concentration camps of the war-torn Middle East or Africa.
At this moment, Obama and other blind, unrealistic American liberals are once again extending an oxygen line to the suffocating Castro regime. But then again, in my lifetime, there hasn’t been a foreign dictator the American presidents have not helped as long as it served America’s economic or political interests.
Nothing will change in Cuba as a result of Obama’s diplomacy. The overwhelming majority of the island’s bureaucrats do not earn a living or travel abroad legally with money earned from their professional capabilities; rather, their income is a reward for their contributions to the oppressive Castro regime. Professionals unwilling to compromise their principles must make do with a “generous” salary, equivalent to $20 US a month.
Notice, please, that when I say “blind liberals,” I’m referring to individuals who go through life searching for validation of their preconceived political, religious, and pseudo-intellectual ideas. I proudly declare myself to be another kind of liberal: a citizen of the world, in love with all my fellow human beings, grateful to nature, enthralled by its beauty, and without expectations of any reward now or at the end of this short chemical reaction I call “my life.”
Eduardo Cerviño Alzugaray is the author of Crocodile Island, a story based on the transition of Cuba from Democracy to Communist dictatorship, and one person’s dream of escaping the island prison.