The Covid-19 Emergency in Cuba, Days 45-47: Animal Insults and Verbal Poverty

What Mariela Castro most betrays with such a blunder is that she lacks humility. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio Yoani Sánchez, Havana, 7 May 2020 — Just outside the Havana cafe which, until a month ago, was open on Tulipán street, a stray dog waits patiently. He doesn’t know why the place where some customers used to throw him bones is now empty and doesn’t even smell like food. In the midst of the pandemic hundreds or thousands of abandoned animals have been left even more helpless on this Island.

Meanwhile, the little stray we picked up when the Covid-19 crisis began in Cuba already has a name and seems to have forgotten the rigors of the street. We have named her Chiqui, although she threatens shortly to no longer honor that name, which means “little one.” One challenge has been trying to rid her of the fleas that she brought with her in the midst of this crisis, which has made scarce the few veterinary drugs that were on the market.

But with patience, we have also removed all the tiny ticks from the puppy. Blood-sucking animals that Mariela Castro tried, this week, to compare to the activists who promote platforms outside those hosted by the government. The animal-insult seeks to dehumanize the different, detract from the character of a person who thinks contrarily, and promote rejection of those who cannot even claim the category of homo sapiens, as suggested by the words of the sexologist.

I have not been surprised. Twelve years ago when Mariela, speaking as director of the National Center for Sexual Education, gave a talk in the building dedicated to universal works of the National Museum of Fine Arts, I asked for the floor and asked her, “When can we Cubans come out of the political closet?” After an evasive response, days later Ms. Castro threw a barrage of expletives at me online and called me “gallita,” a “cocky hen.” For her, I was reduced to a farm animal, confined in a body with a beak and feathers.

Attacking another with adjectives like gusano, burro, puerco or garapatilla (worm, donkey, pig, tick) puts on display the characteristics of the person who launches such insults. One of them is her deep verbal and mental poverty, unable to find more sophisticated and even subtle ways of criticizing the behaviors that she does not like. If “honor, honors”… denigration, denigrates and nobody is more muddied than the one who growls an insult of this type.

On the other hand, such attacks denote the arrogance and haughtiness of those who launch them. If, in addition, it comes from a woman born in a powerful crib and surrounded by privileges all her life, comparing others with tiny animals cannot fail to be read as the conceit-filled gesture of an aristocrat for whom anyone who is not at her social or economic level is a little less than a parasite or an insect.

However, what Mariela Castro most betrays with such a blunder is that she lacks the humility to surround herself with advisers who would advise her on her public image. Like her father and her uncle, the sexologist does not seem to listen to recommendations on how to speak without transmitting hatred, tension or contempt for others.

Chiqui, the little dog who arrived in our house full of garapatillas, seems more closely related to our house cat who is so different from her, than does Mariela Castro to the activists who demand more spaces for the LGBTI community in Cuba: freedom of association to be able to represent themselves without being in the shadow of an official institution, and the legalization of equal marriage, among other demands.

Anyway, animals give us many lessons and this morning I found the little stray and Totí the cat asleep, huddled in an embrace. I have thought to send a photo of that ability to coexist kindly to the director of Cenesex… But better not, so she won’t gift me with another insult, one with with four or eight legs.


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.