Somos+, Susana Acosta Diaz, 12 March 2019 — To be born and grow up in a country that is dreaming, a country that is asleep and seems not to want to wake up. A dream country that lives in a constant nightmare. An island that looks out to sea, to the infinite, because it does not find answers in its fields covered by the invasive marabou weeds but in the promised future ninety miles away.
To be Cuban is to know what it is to go to school with a glass of milk (in powdered form) for breakfast. To get up early for the “morning assembly” in order to shout out, “We will be like Che!” To be a selfless pioneer who battles the “enemy” from the school’s assembly room. To not think. To repeat, always repeat to the point of exhaustion, the same worn-out slogans.
But I was and am very obstinate (as well as sleepy). I asked my second mother, the one who gave me life, “Do children in Germany also sing the anthem (or anthems) every morning?”
My father explained to her what I meant and she laughed, she laughed a lot, and told me, “No, children in Germany go to school to study, not to recite anthems. Schools are for learning, not for memorizing slogans.”
It turns out that in Germany they don’t have morning rallies, and children learn the national anthem is for soccer games, not something to be forced on them at school. It turns out that in the country of the Nazis there is no cult of personality. No child who wants to be like Müller, Schneider, Fischer or Merkel… or like those whom one might call “martyrs” or “heroes of the fatherland.”
But we had to be “revolutionary” students, with no options, or else. We had to write glowing reports when the subject was Fidel and the Revolution. We had to go to political demonstrations, to meetings where we discussed new legal statutes or “revolutionary initiatives.” And as I heard countless times, “Here we educate revolutionary students who, first and foremost, will defend Fidel, Raul and socialism.”
Yes, in Cuba we were indoctrinated to be communists, to be submissive to a party unwilling to change and which acted against the interests of its people. We were indoctrinated to support a dictatorship that regulates and misrules freely, that constantly violates basic human rights.
I never understood why my mother used to tell our neighbor, “Girl, talk lower. Saying that out loud is going to get you into trouble.” But she was only saying what the rest of the adults in my life were whispering: the same message, the same doubts, the same needs.
Nor did I understand why my teacher, who had the same complaints as my neighbor and complained quietly about the same problems, used to scream energetically during May Day celebrations, “Viva al Revolución!”
No, I did not understand it then and do not understand it now. We are still like prisoners of a system in which freedom of thought is a crime. Worst of all, we are not doing enough to change it.
That is what we were and what they still want us to continue be: lambs who praise false gods, false leaders, false heroes.