Cubans of Milkless Coffee Put Their Feet on the Ground / Ivan Garcia

vendedor-de-periódico-La-habana-_mn-620x330Ivan Garcia, Havana, 14 December 2015 — “The truce ended,” bawled a newspaper vendor on the bustling central Calzada de 10 de Octubre, in south Havana.

Leaning against a peeling wall in the lobby of an old neighborhood movie theater, the vendor offers the newspaper Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth) to passersby who read, while they walk, an article by the historian Elier Ramirez calling for Cubans to be cautious about the dark intentions of the United States.

At the door of a farmers market stained with reddish earth, and with stands overflowing with pineapples, sweet potatoes and yucas, Roman, a market clerk, reads the article seated on an iron chair.

“It’s more of the same. They want to crush Cubans’ widespread expectations after the 17 December accords. The other day the newspaper Granma also was marking territory, saying that our sovereignty is not negotiable. Those people (the regime) are scared shitless. If the doors really open, the system is going down. It won’t last as long as an ice cube in the sun,” says Roman.

After noon, the old newspaper seller, sitting on a cardboard box in a doorway next to an art gallery, eating a serving of rice and beans and a slice of an omelet.

In a bag he still had more than thirty unsold newspapers. “We Cubans don’t care much about the news any more, good or bad. There are people who buy the newspaper to wrap up their garbage or to use as toilet paper. The enthusiasm awakened by the December 17th news has died down. They (those in the government) want it that way. And that’s why they’re saying the Yankees are the enemy and the people want to go to the US,” says the old vendor.

At El Lateral, a private restaurant on Acosta Avenue, a group of friends were drinking Cristal beer while waiting for their Hawaiian pizzas. They preferred to talk about soccer, Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo or “The Flea” Messi.

The government’s political manipulation of the issue of relations with the United States. They haven’t written even a comma to implement some of the measures that could favor the owners of private businesses. They don’t want to leave the throne. They don’t want people to live their lives independently and to have a better standard of living. My advice: leave Cuba. The sooner the better,” says a boy with a quirky haircut.

In a park in the Havana neighborhood of Sevillano, Daniel, retired military, looks after his grandson riding a bicycle. “People aren’t happy with the Cuban government’s treatment of Obama’s policy toward Cuba. Most want the tensions to end. We’re tired of the same broken record. Cubans want to prosper,” he says, lighting a Popular brand cigarette.

“I wonder if the government thinks about the future. For the youngest people, the Cold War is ancient history. Our differences are not theirs. Cuban youth see the United States as an aesthetic reference and a model life,” says the ex soldier.

When asked about the issue of democracy and human rights, the silence is profound. “I don’t think you can pressure Raul Castro on that topic. That political rights aren’t respected in Cuba? It’s true. But the world, expect some dozen nations, in one way or another also violates human rights. You have to wait for this generation of leaders to die for there to be an opening in this land. The government has one last option: get on the train and normalize relations. If they don’t do it, it’s obvious to the people, who are already tired of everything,” says Daniel.

In an Internet surfing room in the old part of Havana, a twenty-something employee who sells mobile phone cars has her own therapy to escape the political.

“For my mental health, i don’t read the newspaper. I prefer to rent the “packets” with soap operas, serials and movies. My personal goal is short-term. Tonight I’m going out with a delicious “mango” (boy) who has a car and money, and enjoy a disco. It is my present and my future. In Cuba you can’t pick a fight. Otherwise those old guys (the Castros) will kill you with a heart attack,” she says laughing.

The good vibrations provoked among many ordinary Cubans by the news of December 17th is being displaced by the permanent indifference of the olive-green regime. The desire for a radical change that could transform their lives was just that: an illusion.

Photo from Cubanet

13 February 2015