Language and War / Fernando Dámaso

Cubans, historically, have been a peaceful people. Since our emergence as a nation, the actual time devoted to war has been relatively little: a combined total of no more than twenty years. This does not mean we are cowards, it happens that we much prefer to live in peace. Our bellicosity of recent years is more cyclical than real: it responds to political constraints.

  1. Why bring this up? Well, because the military terminology fills all the days of our lives: we combat the Aedes aegypti mosquito with battles; the fight against cancer is a struggle; the economy is in the spotlight of the leaders; the volleyball matches, the boxing matches, the baseball games, etc. are all fights; street cleaning is an operation; collecting recyclable materials is a campaign; to recover the coffee production is a strategic battle, and so on.
  2. This militarization of everyday language, in addition to distorting the real meaning of words, further complicates grammar for our students, giving a negative impression on our society, which is actually quite peaceful.
  3. The Spanish language is rich. Why not use the words that go with things? Epidemics are treated with medication and health measures; similarly cancer; with the economy we take measures; in sports we compete; the streets are cleaned; the recyclable materials are collected; and the coffee harvested. This would enrich rather than impoverish.
  4. A Spanish friend told me a few days ago, “Fuck, to understand you guys you have to go to military school.”

October 16, 2010