Lola and Lalo are a senior couple who live near my house. I visit them almost every night around 8 o’clock to take their blood pressure, and Lalo, who is half deaf and almost never uses the hearing aid that the specialist prescribed him, never fails to yell at his wife: “Darling, get the grocery bags because the evening news is on.” He always says that because the broadcast news on national television always shows a different Cuba than the one they are familiar with.
Every day there is news of accomplishments, medicines filling the shelves at pharmacies and plenty of various cheap products that are available at stores and farmers’ markets. Also, according to the news, every day Cubans have a proper breakfast at home as well as two full meals. Not only that, but Cubans “understand” and can even justify the reasons why the authorities, from time to time, raise the price of food. Every person interviewed on television is in favor of the government, and although they cannot elect their president, they coincidentally sympathize with the reelected one, — who inherited his position because of a blood infusion more than anything — as well as with the parliament whose members belong to the only existing Party, where everything has been historically approved by unanimous consent.
I would love to immigrate to that televised Cuba, propagandistic and virtual, where there is no repression, and where people are not persecuted or imprisoned for the way they think, where human rights and fundamental liberties are respected, and where political prisoners do not exist. Unfortunately, in the Cuba where I was born and that I love so much, medical attention in clinics and hospitals, though free, is not good, food consumption is deficient, available goods have poor quality and products often disappear off of the shelves of stores and markets.
Yes, of course, I would love to meet the other Cuba that the loud official government propaganda machine produces. The Cuba manufactured especially for foreigners, the Cuba in which they live in power, with their families, bodyguards and friends, the Cuba that depends on us, the exploited. But even under these circumstances, I would always want to come back to this other Cuba, so that I don’t lose perspective — like they have already — and therefore lose the solidarity and humanity of my fellow countrymen, and to scoff at the empty grocery bag laying on the floor and fermenting during the news hour over an empty chair.
Translated by: Eduardo Alemán
October 19 2012