Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. -

October 15, 1998, Cuba Free Press.


CAMAGUEY - They may be found in sumptuous offices in hotels, corporate headquarters, or where the commercial representatives hang out. They look at their "inferiors" over their shoulders in the enigmatic manner of Humphrey Bogart and observe the women, especially, with "DonJuanesque" eyes as they try to project their prepotency and superior altitude. They are the new VIPs - Very Important Personages!

They are the successors of the class that had its roots in the 1960s or later; they metamorphized out of the "cowboys" of those days when the revolutionary class adopted fatigue shirts and pants, automatic pistols at the waist, high boots and five or six fountain pens and a cigar or two in their breast pockets. Left behind were the Colt 45, the rifles and the cartridge belts, inherited from the soldiers of Batista and used by the "rebels" during the first months of 1959.

With the initiation of the romance with the old Soviet Union, the clotheshorses began to vary their appearance. Those of the upper level abandoned the gray work uniform and began using ordinary pants but checkered shirts, along with other novelties of the moment.

With the 1980s came the zafari suits, the typical English costume for traversing Africa, and the blue jeans and the guayavera, which ceased to be the garment for everybody and was converted into the symbol of the nomenclature - until it began to be seen on the gastronomic scene - at the Bodequita del Medio, the Convention Palace, and the Protocol Houses, among others. At once, the high functionaries of the Party and the Government repudiated such garments.

These "directors of cast-offs," as Castro once called them, added to their actuality with an unmistakable agenda until they arrive, today, with a new formula for the VIP.

After the funerals of socialism in Europe, everything was renovated. The sickle was hung up in a corner and the hammer was put in a dusty drawer. The state automobiles' brand names changes and the official state buildings changed. The Toyota, the Hyundai and the Mitsubishi took the places of the old Volga, Lada and Moskvich. And although some are still kept in perfect shape, mainly at the central offices, they seem somewhat anachronistic among so many kinds of western autos that are invading the country's highways.

Even the police have transformed their parking lots, switching from the brands of communist origins to the Peugeot models. The taxis for the tourists, instead of being antique Ladas, now are ostentatious Citroens or Mercedes Benz machines.

And at hundreds of workshops, the Zil, Gas, KP3 and Mack - of "bola" fabrication, as the natives scathingly refer to the Russian makes, which helped the Cuban economy reach its current superior state, are giving way to the brilliant International trucks, whose cabins have the comfort of a deluxe automobile.

The VIPs are something else. Some show off a certain "foreign-ness," although they are really natives, Cubans, although they speak English. Many use the same uniform as their employers, such as the owners of stores, but there is a touch of distinction among many which makes them stand out as different.

As this class grows, they somehow augment their arrogance to such a point that one almost can read letters on their foreheads that say, "I'm a VIP!"

For them, even their vocabulary changes. Those who buy their merchandise with dollars are referred to as "mister," while those who use the national pesos are called "comrades."

Their vocabulary is not the only distinction, although it quite sets them apart. The VIPs are a consequence of the very changes that motivated their moving into place in the Cuban context. The new VIPs of native socialism are like their VIP clubs in the hotels, fashion salons or airports for tourists: Always perfumed and with a special arrogance. Yet they also adopt the commercial image of a businessman.

Although immersed in a planned socialist economic system, they try to act as if they were proponents of the market economy. They work in places which remind the older people of the representatives or salesmen for the antique trademarks such as Avon, FAB, or Colgate, who traveled through the little towns in the interior of the country before the arrival of Castro to power.

And there are others even more straight-backed who carefully inspect their surroundings, in the manner of a James Bond, before they descend from their automobiles. Some of them even refuse to associate with the ordinary people. They decline to participate in any "activity" with their subordinates because their hierarchy doesn't permit it. These have their special private gatherings or clubs, as did the highly criticized bourgeoisie.

Naturally, to be a VIP is not a sin. On this island where nothing is denied to someone who has US dollars, the opportunity to be a very great person comes cheap. What is disgraceful is to observe an unusual pose which in the olden days was ostentation but today is merely a joke.

What yesterday was attacked as "ideological diversionism" is today somebody's "opportunity. Or maybe, using our dialectic, we would call it "something of another era." Yet the business people always will have to exist.

But a VIP is usually a former chief, a former military, a former figurehead, or a representative of an old class that seeks to perpetuate itself in power, and, like his out-of-date marxist-leninist ideas, is an offspring of the so-called "Cuban socialism."

But a person with such an image and projection is really only a brutal insult to the sensibility of a common citizen.

Guillermo Álvarez, Cuba Free Press.

P.O. Box 652035
Miami, FL 33265-2035
Copyright © 1998 - Cuba Free Press, Inc.