Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. -

January 8, 1999, Cuba Free Press.


HAVANA - Few Cubans could be found shouting with joy at the celebration of the four decades of the rule of President Fidel Castro.

Stressed by the official propaganda barrage, which with gothic letters celebrated the revolution's triumph of January 1, 1959, the people on the street left ideology to one side. Instead, they expressed the hope that the next to the last year of the millenium will somehow improve something for themselves and their families.

Cuba in 1999 is not the same as 25 years ago. Most people have lost faith in the Revolution. The apologetic speech convinces fewer and fewer. Yet the Cubans rebelliously express neither dissent nor unhappiness. Instead, with an inexplicable patience, they wait for things to change by themselves. They have developed a veritable art of waiting.

In the meantime they express their disagreement silently: By working less and stealing more from the government, meanwhile remaining incredibly detached from what is happening in their country and the world.

Our citizens are now attracted by frivolities. The national interest has turned toward dressing "a la mode!" Many dream of having "Tommy Hilfingers," or "Levis" or any product that says "Made in the U.S.A." But for their dreams to materialize, they need dollars.

And to obtain dollars they will do anything. From placing hysterical calls to their families in Miami or offering tourists anything and everything they have for sale. For Cubans the synonym for foreigner is "cow," and they try to milk it to the last dollar.

Some obtain the dollars violently: Assaults on foreigners have increased at an alarming rate.

The socialist paradise which the Unique Commandant pretended to create 40 years ago is now a day of pure surrealism. Marx and Washington go hand in hand. The press boasts of selling the system. But the people only try to get the enemy's "greenback," because the dollar is what provides the improvement of the standard of life on the island.

On the eve of the 40th anniversary of the Castro revolution, the people spent the most dollars of any day. The cash registers rang happily. All the foreign exchange establishments in Havana on January 1 broke retail records. In the "Pain de Paris" (Bread of Paris) bakery in the municipality "10th of October," a loaf of bread or a sweet roll costs one or two dollars, the equivalent of two days of work by a middle class Cuban.

At that bakery, more than $2,500 was spent in eight hours. In Carlos II Plaza, the only mall in the capital, 29 stores sold $14,000 worth of merchandise in two days, December 31 and January 1.


The year's end showed the cult of the dollar. The people celebrated Christmas after 30 years of prohibition, buying cases of beer, cider and champagne. The toasting was not for the triumph of the revolution. On the contrary, many wished for changes toward a free and democratic society as opposed to this wild and out-of-control semi-capitalism in which we live.

Meanwhile, early on the morning of January 1, the remains of the Argentine-German Tamara Bunke and other guerrillas felled in Bolivia in 1967 were buried in a mausoleum in Santa Clara, 300 kilometers from Havana. The tomb was to honor "Che" Guevara and his companions, killed 31 years ago in a failed South American adventure.

In the meantime most Cubans were watching the American film, "The Most Hunted One," a Category B flick, where violence rules a party.

At 9 p.m. that night, while the maximum leader addressed the people from Santiago's City Hall, the spot where 40 years earlier he delivered his first discourse to the nation, a significant percent of the population turned off their TVs. They continued to drink rum, while waiting for the speech to end so they could watch a excellent French film, "The English Patient."

Few were interested in the 90-minute discourse of President Castro. During that time, he surprisingly called for the democratization of the Security Council of the United Nations, a process that he has not done in his own country during the past 40 years.

The Cuban's leitmotiv is different. They are tired of slogans. They have taken pitiful refuge in that electronic opium, the televised romantic series. The last one, from Columbia, "Coffee with a mistress smell," has more summoning power than any revolutionary act.

After four decades of "Fidelism," the regime boasts of its achievements in health, education and sports. But the deterioration of the cities, morals and spirituality of the Cubans is obvious, even though the official smokescreen during 40 years of revolution has tried to cover it.

There is this obvious truth: Cubans are not the same. They do not believe in their leadership. The hopes stirred by Fidel Castro's arrival have long died. Now they wait for history to change their destiny. And when it comes to waiting, the Cubans on the island have proven that they have won first place, hands down.

Ivan Garcia, Cuba Free Press.

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