Cuando me veo y toco,
yo, Juan sin Nada no más ayer,
y hoy Juan con Todo
(When I look at myself and touch myself,
I, Juan with nothing just yesterday
And today, Juan with everything)
For Nicolás Guillén, such were the fruits of the revolution. A man with nothing today has everything. Guillen elaborates further on the revolution. A revolution that has made the simplest of pleasures accessible to everyone. Of an afro-cubano descent, Guillén touches on a defining characteristic of
Batista’s regime: racism. For the likes of many like Guillén, a revolution promised a world without racism. Why have then things gone awry in the blink of an eye? What are Cubans protesting against, if at all they are protesting?
It would be juvenile to say that things are fine in Cuba. A lot has gone wrong, including the COVID crisis (especially in Matanzas at this point). Though the country has handled the crisis better than its neighbors, there is a shortage of food and medicines. In order to understand this, one would have to talk about the elephant in the room: the embargo. The reason for shortage is the embargo. The embargo has been in place since the revolution, ever since Cuba nationalized the previously American owned oil refineries. While the blockade prevents USA from trading, USA has constantly dissuaded non American firms from trading with Cuba as well. The Helms-Burton Act penalizes foreign companies that does business with Cuba. Soviet union used to one of the trade partners and thus, the fall of the soviet hit the Cubans particularly hard.
The progressives in USA, be it Biden or Ocasio Cortez, while stand in solidarity with Cubans have kept mum on the embargo, which even the U.N wants lifted off. It should come as no surprise that only USA and Israel keep thwarting UN’s efforts to lift the embargo. While the progressive media in the states have shown ‘solidarity’ with #SOSCuba, they have failed to even register the protests in Colombia against Duque. It is very fascinating indeed to see liberal media cherry pick anti government protests.
When liberal media highlights certain protests, one begins to question the legitimacy of the same. There have been some very interesting tactics to legitimize the protests. For starters, the media has covered the anti regime protests in Cuba and has conveniently ignored when thousands marched in favor of the government. Secondly, images from Miami have been passed off as protests in Havana. This can be verified by looking at the cars in the background. In Cuba, thanks to the embargo, one won’t find new models of Porsche or Lexus. It is not coincidental that those involved in the bay of pigs invasion are protesting against the government.
There have been enduring efforts to tarnish Castro and his legacy. Leaving aside many attempts to assassinate Castro, a barrage of misinformation about Cuba floods the internet every now and then.
His own sister worked with the CIA for his downfall. What is to be said about a man who expropriated his own property? The avarice of white landowners, them exploiting Haitian workers is what ignited the revolutionary zeal in Fidel Castro and now, 25,000 acres of his father’s land belongs to the state! The people who celebrated Castro’s death are the ones who are concerned about alleged Human Rights abuse in Cuba.
With constant attempts to tarnish Cuba and bring about a regime change (pro America obviously), Cuba has made progress. It eliminated illiteracy, put an end to malnutrition, ensured universal education and healthcare. As a sign of unwavering internationalism, Cuba sends its doctors wherever required, including pandemic struck Italy in 2020. All the strides made in spite of decades of embargo. A Cuba without an embargo would mean an infinitely better Cuba.
Leftists are not deluded. Support for Cuba is the least controversial position across all shades of the left. Sections of the left looking for nuanced takes on Cuba must do so without whitewashing the long standing effects of American imperialism as a section of protestors are indeed protesting for better living conditions. Cuba is no paradise, for there is no paradise on Earth. Cuba has its fair share of problems, that is not to be denied. But that should not result in supporting America as well.
The Cuban revolution offered, hope, dignity that had been robbed off by colonial masters. A new lease of life was long due. As Nicolás Guillén writes towards the end of his poem, tengo lo que tenía que tener ( I have what I had to have).