December Again / Yoani Sanchez

Twelve months and here we are again. Days to weigh our accomplishments and to postpone to the new year everything we failed to finish. What has changed in Cuba — and in each one of us — since December 2012 which we also put on the scales? Very little and so much. In the small space of my personal live, it seems that everything has moved at an unprecedented pace; in the life of a nation, however, it is barely a tremor, the blink of an eye. January started with the Immigration and Travel Reform, and in the following months there were many times we said goodbye; now without that sense of no return we had before, of final departure and exile for life, it’s true, but we continue to remove names from the telephone book at a worrying speed. Our condition of an “island in flight” grew, this time within a legal framework that allows and increases it.

Social differences were sharpened. The number of beggars and dumpster divers grew. However, many modern cars began rolling down our deteriorated streets and more than one nouveau riche spent their vacations on the other side of the Atlantic. If anything characterized 2013, it was the polarized stories about it that we hear. Anecdotes of families who opened luxury restaurants in the heart of Havana and of others who can no longer drink coffee because they can’t afford the unrationed price. Of some waiting outside a boutique to buy Adidas sneakers and others waiting outside a dining room to be given the leftovers to take home. We live in a time of high contrasts, days of photos discolored by the laboratory of life. A year, also, in which the ideological discourse distanced itself even further from reality.

Repression, for its part, increased. To the same extent that civil society grew and began to take certain spaces. The battle for the monopoly on information was lost by the government in 2013 and won by clandestine networks of audiovisuals, news and digital libraries. We were better able to learn what was happening, but, with that as a starting point, the power to convene ourselves and come together is still lacking by a long stretch. Life is more expensive for everyone, privileges and perks are concentrated in an elevated elite and the fight against corruption reached some but avoided others. Remittances from family and friends abroad, plus the subsidies from Venezuela, allowed us to avoid collapse, but the red ink proves that the economic reforms have failed. At the very least they have been unable to offer Cubans a better life, a motive for staying here.

The world offered us some lessons, among them the images from Kiev where so many have lost their fear. Fidel Castro faded a little more in his long living-death that has already lasted seven years. And freedom? This, this we are going to see if we win and achieve it in 2014.

24 December 2013