Where Do You Stand On Cuba?

Three vignettes from Adbusters Issue 80 capture the ambiguities of a political experiment.

Dixon and Rayid sit on bleachers in a well-lit courtyard waiting for the music to start. We've come to an open-mic night that is held every Sunday behind a darkened mansion that, from the street, looks as if it would not be out of place in a horror movie. This is not the kind of open-mic night I'm used to, where no-name locals practice their art hoping to gain a small fan base to get them started. Here well-known acts sing and play for pennies on a stone stage and you never know who might show up. We are surrounded by Havana's youth, legions of tattooed and pierced hipsters drinking rum from boxes and smoking hand-rolled cigarettes. Shauna and I have succeeded in crossing the invisible yet fiercely guarded border that separates Cuban nationals from the ubiquitous tourist. Suddenly there is excitement surrounding one man with tight curls dyed California blond. His name is David Torrens and we are told he is very famous in Cuba. I wonder what it would be like if my favorite musical artist regularly made appearances at our local hangout.

In Havana they have a different kind of advertising. Instead of billboards selling fast food, designer jewelry and beer there is graffiti promoting peace, love and socialism. This wall near the Museum of the Revolution says, "The moral of the revolution is still as high as the stars." But one phrase seems to stand out amongst the rest: Sociolismo o Muerto, – socialism or death. Shauna asks Dixon about these unavoidable reminders of the way Cubans are supposed to think. "This is a phrase that to me is very significant," says Dixon, "within it is a lot of energy. I should fight for something. But socialism is to encircle yourself with one way, one mode, one idea. We don't progress here in Cuba because we are surrounded by this one idea, one place a control of ideas. And progress is a revolution of ideas."

This phrase "Sociolismo o Muerto" seems uncannily similar to Patrick Henry's cry during the US revolution, "Give me liberty or give me death," and I find myself thinking about what it means to fight for something.

Deney, Shauna and I sit on the walls of El Morro, a fort across the bay from Havana, where Deney has brought us so we can watch the sun set over the city he loves. We watch as fishermen float in the bay and it is far too easy to imagine how tempting those rafts seem to the desperate. In the 2007 fiscal year the US coastguard reported interdicting 2,868 Cubans attempting to reach Florida beaches. So far in fiscal year 2008 they are reporting 1,804.

Deney points out a building in the distance that is blocked from view by hundreds of black flags. I can just make out an illuminated red blur on the building. "That's the US Interest building," Deney says, "They have a news ticker that tells us of things happening in the US and around the world. Fidel put up all those flags to try and block the words." Deney is laughing as he says this, he finds the attempts by his government to impede the influx of knowledge ridiculous, but there is sadness in his voice as well as if he feels betrayed that his country doesn't trust him.

54 comments on the article “Where Do You Stand On Cuba?”

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amanda clark

Why not ask a cuban who escaped what they think? seriously. Cubans in Cuba are NOT going to tell you what they think, because they are policed very heavily and the government relies on snitches - regular people secretly telling on their neighbors if they dare not say positive things about the government.

cubans are prisoners there. my girlfriend for 5 years was from cuba, her mother escaped in the 80s with her and her older brother when Castro let out prisoners from the jails and also let others go.

her mother says the cubans FLOCKED to the boats, and tried to squeeze as many as they could on board to escape the island and Castro's twisted idea of communism.

my information that i share in this comment comes from CUBANS, who are now living in Miami florida because they escaped. cubans are very poor, and are not well fed - that is a bald faced lie. well, unless you are a snitch who tells on people in your neighborhood who are doing something illegal - like talking about anti-Castro views or something like that. the snitches and their families are then well taken care of- they get clothing, better and more food, soap rations... it is a good thing to be a snitch in Cuba.

the food is kept tight by the government to keep people under control and it works. a family is given food stamps to get their rations and it is mostly of poor quality - the oil is so bad it evaporates as soon as it hits the pan, milk is warm and almost turning, meat is scarce, and there are barely any vegetables. they subsist on rice, beans, and fried plantains.

one entire family gets half a bar of soap for 3 months. one family can only own one pig at a time. you cannot own anything with a motor because you may use it to make a boat to escape. they have guards on the coasts watching the waters, shooting any who dare try to make it to the Keys. Google "Brothers to the Rescue" and see why they risk their lives to fly over cuba to drop food, medicine and newspapers to their brothers and sisters in Cuba.

Cuba is a prison state. The Cubans are the prisoners. they wouldn't die trying to get to America if it was wonderful there. every year i saw on the news about more cubans found dead washed up on the shore trying to escape.

my girlfriends' uncle, Angel, 70, was in the Cuban prison over 20 years because he and his friends were holding secret meetings in their homes to discuss a possible revolution or overthrow of the government. someone snitched, and he was sent to jail for 20 years. he is not a violent person, he was not a terrorist, he was simply a starving young man who wanted his country to change, and his government threw him in jail for decades. does that sound good to you?

to make money, blankita, his wife, sends her daughters and grandkids cheap jewelry so they can sell them on the streets. many cuban women have to make money by selling their bodies, and she wants something better for her girls.

or the baseball players - so many of them defect in other countries when the Cuban baseball team travels. they keep many players from doing that by threatening their families and friends back home with taking their homes, witholding rations, even beating them or killing them. Cuba is not a good place.

amanda clark

Why not ask a cuban who escaped what they think? seriously. Cubans in Cuba are NOT going to tell you what they think, because they are policed very heavily and the government relies on snitches - regular people secretly telling on their neighbors if they dare not say positive things about the government.

cubans are prisoners there. my girlfriend for 5 years was from cuba, her mother escaped in the 80s with her and her older brother when Castro let out prisoners from the jails and also let others go.

her mother says the cubans FLOCKED to the boats, and tried to squeeze as many as they could on board to escape the island and Castro's twisted idea of communism.

my information that i share in this comment comes from CUBANS, who are now living in Miami florida because they escaped. cubans are very poor, and are not well fed - that is a bald faced lie. well, unless you are a snitch who tells on people in your neighborhood who are doing something illegal - like talking about anti-Castro views or something like that. the snitches and their families are then well taken care of- they get clothing, better and more food, soap rations... it is a good thing to be a snitch in Cuba.

the food is kept tight by the government to keep people under control and it works. a family is given food stamps to get their rations and it is mostly of poor quality - the oil is so bad it evaporates as soon as it hits the pan, milk is warm and almost turning, meat is scarce, and there are barely any vegetables. they subsist on rice, beans, and fried plantains.

one entire family gets half a bar of soap for 3 months. one family can only own one pig at a time. you cannot own anything with a motor because you may use it to make a boat to escape. they have guards on the coasts watching the waters, shooting any who dare try to make it to the Keys. Google "Brothers to the Rescue" and see why they risk their lives to fly over cuba to drop food, medicine and newspapers to their brothers and sisters in Cuba.

Cuba is a prison state. The Cubans are the prisoners. they wouldn't die trying to get to America if it was wonderful there. every year i saw on the news about more cubans found dead washed up on the shore trying to escape.

my girlfriends' uncle, Angel, 70, was in the Cuban prison over 20 years because he and his friends were holding secret meetings in their homes to discuss a possible revolution or overthrow of the government. someone snitched, and he was sent to jail for 20 years. he is not a violent person, he was not a terrorist, he was simply a starving young man who wanted his country to change, and his government threw him in jail for decades. does that sound good to you?

to make money, blankita, his wife, sends her daughters and grandkids cheap jewelry so they can sell them on the streets. many cuban women have to make money by selling their bodies, and she wants something better for her girls.

or the baseball players - so many of them defect in other countries when the Cuban baseball team travels. they keep many players from doing that by threatening their families and friends back home with taking their homes, witholding rations, even beating them or killing them. Cuba is not a good place.

American Histor...

Just a little comment on this: "This phrase "Sociolismo o Muerto" seems uncannily similar to Patrick Henry’s cry during the US revolution, "Give me liberty or give me death," and I find myself thinking about what it means to fight for something" One of my "buttons" that this and anyone else that refers to the "Give me Liberty or Give me Death" speech, hit is just how little we all know about Patrick Henry. he's lauded by libertarians and americans as starting the civil war, and how he has been preserved in American history as the greatest advocate of liberty and freedom. Truly a hero of the revolution of 1776. Little known fact people: Patrick Henry was a slaveholder, a violent and brutal one at that. When it came time to sign the US Constitution he refused to sign it because his home state of Virginia and the rest of the American South might have the slightest possibility of losing their institution of Slavery to the majority of americans who were starting to think Slavery was wrong. He publicly denounced any thing to do with the Constitution because it might deprive him of his own personal "liberty' to own slaves. He continually yelled out that the Federal government had no business interfering with his plantation and his enslaved African Americans. So lets rectify this, Patrick Henry, you weren't a true hero, and you can't continue to be remembered as the defender of liberty when he was nothing more than an irked Slave holder who considered himself in bondage to the British because he had to pay taxes without a representative governement. Robin Einhorn has written an Article on this whole issue: "Patrick Henry's Case Against the Constitution: The Structural Problem With Slavery," Journal of the Early Republic 22 (2002) -end rant-

American Histor...

Just a little comment on this: "This phrase "Sociolismo o Muerto" seems uncannily similar to Patrick Henry’s cry during the US revolution, "Give me liberty or give me death," and I find myself thinking about what it means to fight for something" One of my "buttons" that this and anyone else that refers to the "Give me Liberty or Give me Death" speech, hit is just how little we all know about Patrick Henry. he's lauded by libertarians and americans as starting the civil war, and how he has been preserved in American history as the greatest advocate of liberty and freedom. Truly a hero of the revolution of 1776. Little known fact people: Patrick Henry was a slaveholder, a violent and brutal one at that. When it came time to sign the US Constitution he refused to sign it because his home state of Virginia and the rest of the American South might have the slightest possibility of losing their institution of Slavery to the majority of americans who were starting to think Slavery was wrong. He publicly denounced any thing to do with the Constitution because it might deprive him of his own personal "liberty' to own slaves. He continually yelled out that the Federal government had no business interfering with his plantation and his enslaved African Americans. So lets rectify this, Patrick Henry, you weren't a true hero, and you can't continue to be remembered as the defender of liberty when he was nothing more than an irked Slave holder who considered himself in bondage to the British because he had to pay taxes without a representative governement. Robin Einhorn has written an Article on this whole issue: "Patrick Henry's Case Against the Constitution: The Structural Problem With Slavery," Journal of the Early Republic 22 (2002) -end rant-

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