In What Corner of History Did We Forget Happiness / Lilianne Ruiz

Bus. Photo from

HAVANA, Cuba, May 14, 2013, Lilianne Ruiz / A bus in Havana is a greasy oven, smelling of sweat; something we would like to avoid. Especially in the month of May at 4 pm. If you get a seat and can escape the crush a little, it seems a touch of fortune. But Cubans have forgotten many important things in the midst of so many speeches.

The buses have yellow seats which people call “for pregnant women and kids.” There are six seats, no more; on some routes there are only three. The picture above of these seats shows they aren’t for old people and you can see grandmothers standing, waiting for the awareness that often takes too long.

A woman who has managed to get on the bus with a child of about seven in a school uniform, after crossing the aisle, is standing in front of a lady of about 50, carrying a pink meringue-covered cake. She’s sitting in the children’s seat. The mother says she will take the cake, but to allow the child to sit because he’s very hot and very tired. But the lady answers that it was an older child and he has no right to take the seat.

The mother’s eyes light up with anger. We try to imagine what time she had gotten up to go to work and bring the child to school, how she copes with the paltry wages to procure food for the family, school snacks, shoes; at what moment fear failed her and she dared to say:

“What you say is the size of the rights of my son, is the size of your humanity. This is what Communism has done to our people: it has made us forget the most important whys of life.”

The seated lady erupted in threats: that she should, “be careful what you say because you have a son to raise and they can make you pay for your words.”

These threats are written in the revolutionary tradition. What one can’t do is convince a significant portion of the people of the “humanitarian intentions” of the regime, where freedom (freedom to disagree!) is not recognized as the most important value of the person.

The lack of a custom of freedom has led to a lack of awareness of individual responsibility.

In an article by Carlos Alberto Montaner, regarding violence perpetrated in the National Assembly of Venezuela against eleven members of Democratic Unity Party, he says: “That’s the logic of Castro in a nutshell: the enemy is intimidated, beaten up or imprisoned to obey. And if he stubbornly resists they can always shoot him as a form of collective punishment.”

Our history is full of examples, that the young mother probably did not take into account when she spoke. That Communism dehumanizes and is incompatible with the International Bill of Human Rights, are further considerations: a mother may, in 20 seconds, destroy the official Cuban discourse.

In addition to being right — about the forgetting cultivated in this system — I continue to wonder in what corner of history we Cubans have also forgotten our happiness.

6 July 2013