Remember Sri Lanka

Takeover of the presidential palace by Sri Lankan protesters. (EFE/EPA/Chamila Karunarathene)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Generation Y, Havana, 15 July 2022 – “What we need here is Sri Lanka,” “Remember Sri Lanka,” and “We’ll see you at the pool… like in Sri Lanka,” are some of the phrases Cubans are using right now to greet their friends. The mention of the Asian nation is not accidental: after several weeks of protests, thousands of people entered the luxurious residence of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and forced him to flee the country.

For months, the protesters denounced the mismanagement by the Sri Lankan Executive of the economic crisis, long power cuts and inflation, three evils that also fuel outrage on this island. It is enough to read the reports of foreign press agencies accredited in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s major city, to easily find the coincidences between the discomfort of its residents and the weariness that is heard in every Cuban corner.

In our case, the allusions to Sri Lanka are also a form of social self-criticism, recognizing that in the face of inefficiency and crisis there are people who choose to pack their bags and remain silent, while others go to the house of those responsible for so much disaster and force them to resign. Nor is it the first time that we Cubans have made use of the parallels offered by other geographies to denounce our situation and, incidentally, evade censorship.

A few years ago, the monologue The Problems in Cyprus, performed by the humorist Nelson Gudín, alias El Bacán de la Vida, became a sharp metaphor for our Island. Taking the headlines of the official press, given to reporting political problems and economic in other latitudes while silencing the national ones, the artist used that point in the eastern Mediterranean as a synonym for “Cuba.”

After his excellent performance, which was requested wherever he appeared, it was enough to say “how bad things are in Cyprus” for all of us to understand that he was talking about our own reality. Until today, in the popular speech of this Island there have been several phrases that allude to the Cypriot situation and that feed the surprise of some foreign students who come to practice Spanish in our country and do not understand the reason for this closeness with Nicosia.

Sri Lanka has now been assumed as a dream mirror, as a symbol of the power of a people when united and also as a verbal joke to warn the olive-green hierarchs that no palace full of comforts is safe when the citizen’s anger is overflows. Nor is the water of the presidential pool enough to quench the annoyance accumulated for decades, nor can the stately beds, with their soft pillows, calm a massive protest.

“See you in Sri Lanka,” a neighbor yelled at me yesterday from across the street. “We are all Sri Lankans,” I replied, while some children who passed by on bicycles also repeated the name of a country that a few weeks ago was barely mentioned in Cuba.


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