In Cuba, and only in Cuba, there is a profession that is learned very young; we all know it as “chivatón” (or “chivatona” if you want to brag about gender equality), and it means “snitch.” This “work” is even more important for the government of Cuba than any doctor serving on a foreign “mission” or the architects associated with Eusebio Leal, the man in charge of restoring Old Havana. For someone who is not familiar with the term, a chivatón is nothing more than the person responsible for betraying to the police or the authorities any doubtful action undertaken by a neighbor or a co-worker, simply for the benefit of watching them fall.
This is learned in school, where to continue on to the university you need more than good grades. Careers in Cuban are awarded through a comprehensive roster. This roster includes scores based on each student’s participation in revolutionary marches, political activities, whether they hold positions in the Young Communist Union, and if they attend and participate in all the political and cultural activities held by their school or the Cuban government. After being scored on these activities, then come the grades in subjects like math and literature, but the leading role is played by the political character of each student.
Now, how to accumulate these points? Each student gets the maximum points by standing up in an assembly with their classmates and exposing, or snitching on, things that a person didn’t do. For example, I stand up and I say, “Juanita didn’t go to the Anti-imperialist Bandstand two years ago for the rally to support the Five Heros, and I did.” Then Juanita loses 5 points. Then Pedrito stands up and says, “On May 24, 2010, Juanita came to school wearing the uniform incorrectly.” Juanita loses another 5 points. So everyone stands up and exposes Juanita and, in the end, they give her the final score. Then going on to the next person, Juanita, indignant, stands up and snitches on Pedrito, because he said something bad about her.
Thus, they create envy and hatred among the students themselves, and this is extrapolated to each and every one of the country’s workplaces. I remember when they distributed the Chinese-made Panda TVs to all schools in the country. There was one TV per school and it would be given to one teacher. So all the “contestants” had to debate who would be the chosen one by saying bad things about all their opponents.
Then we have the example of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) which is the “university of snitching,” for the Party members in each area, workplace, municipality, province, etc. After all this we become natural snitches; the neighbor who has lived his whole life unable to earn more than 10 CUC (a little over $10 US) a month and who calls the police because he can smell the aroma of beef cooking coming from the house of a neighbor. I experienced this particular example in Santiago de Cuba.
I don’t know what is more dangerous on the island: the police, Castro, or the network of snitches.
These people are going to have a big problem the day the system changes. I even know Cubans who, after leaving the island, continue snitching at their respective capitalist jobs, and it has caused them big problems. It’s like a sickness, like going into a zombie state, like not having a life. They become snitches to the point of emptiness.
We have to live with these people day after day and they are nothing more than a kind of parasite created by the Cuban government to repress Cubans from within. A source of self-drowning, self-censorship, of collective fear and envy of your neighbor.
26 January 2013