Is the Table Set? / Yoani Sánchez


Although journalism has managed to absorb me much more than philology, for its dynamism, its direct connection to reality, and its immediacy, it involves bitter pills I would have preferred to spare myself. One of them is having to watch all the official news, to be aware of every government statement, and to listen to whatever discourse comes from the halls of power. Sometimes I remember my former life with nostalgia, turning off the TV, lowering the volume, and paying no attention to specific anniversaries. But that time is over for me. Although I continue to run into people who don’t know if it’s Monday or Friday, nor even if the National Assembly has already met this year or has yet to meet. People who float in apathy, lacking any interest in what’s happening; and their apathy becomes the best breeding ground for government control.

So yesterday, Thursday, very early, I made the effort to listen to the address by the first vice president of the Councils of State and Ministers. Weeks earlier the streets simmered with rumors that on the 26th of July the long-awaited travel and immigration reform would be announced. But I only had to confirm that the speaker of the day would be José Ramón Ventura to know that there would be no news, much less news of substantial changes. Instead, the orthodox politician asserted that “the enemies of the Revolution, both those inside as well as those outside – under the umbrella of criticizing the supposed slowness or lack of boldness in the adopted measures – hide their true intentions of restoring the dishonorable regime that existed in Cuba until 1959.” In short it seems that, to this gentleman, those who criticize the lack of depth and speed of changes under Raúl’s regime, are really surreptitious Batista supporters. Of which it appears there are many, because I don’t hear anyone going along with the pace of the transformations taking place. I estimate that the internal “enemies” – according to this extremist definition – could be around 11 million people, in other words the entire population of the Island.

But when I got to the point of talking back to the screen, was when I heard Raúl Castro say that “the table is set” for a dialog with the United States. A phrase of appeasement, of indulgence toward the foreigner… which is an insult toward those of us who seek a truly sovereign Cuba. How is it possible that a government is disposed to talk with a foreign administration but plugs its ears against the critics in its own backyard? How can system of bitter “anti-imperialism” prefer to sit at the table with its neighbor to the north, before listening and debating with its own people? The extremes always end up touching and in this fifty-year contest against the American administrations, the Castro regime has been more concerned with – and dependent on – the White House than with Cuban voices.

Anyway, sometimes I would like to return to living in the years when I didn’t turn on the TV, listen to the speeches, investigate official statements. Times in which I didn’t know if it was July 26 or August 15, nor hear local politicians talk about our nation as if it were a tablecloth, a plate, a spoon.

27 July 2012