The Government Encourages Migration and Xenophobia in the Capital / Laritza Diversent

Forty-three year old Ana Luisa Millares, a native of Holguin province, has been living for less than 8 years in a neighborhood in the capital. No one knows how, in such little time, she was able to get a phone line and a mission in Venezuela. She returned with all sorts of electrical equipment and with sufficient money to construct her house in less than 12 months.

Quite a few neighbors are actually bothered by the increased quality of life of Mrs. Millares. In an entire lifetime, many have not been able to achieve what this woman has. With a very disrespectful tone, and behind her back, they call her “the Palestinian”. This nickname has always been used by those who were born in the capital to refer to people who come from the Eastern region of the country.

Migration, mainly from the countryside to the capital, is determined firstly by difference in economic and social development from different regions of the country. Meanwhile, the government overlooks the Eastern natives, and they undertake the work which people from the capital reject.

Very little is spoken about this, if anything at all. At present day, there exist no sociological analysis which explain the mistrust of Eastern-born Cubans by Havana natives. In fact, legal norms installed by the government put in place to halt immigration to the capital, like the case of Decree 217 from the Executive Committee Ministry, actually promote this apathetic sentiment.

Some explain the situation through historical events. According to what they say, when the guerrilla fighters, who were mostly Easterners, arrived to Havana in January 1959, they destroyed the capital. As they became the dominant group, they took over all the best land and property of the city for themselves and for each of their family members. Since then, the situation is as the song by Los Van Van says, “Havana can’t take it anymore”.

Among Havana residents, there exists another hypothesis to explain this situation. Some suggest that it is an issue of idiosyncrasy. This notion states that Eastern natives are generally staunch supporters of the government, and at the same time the most hypocritical ones. In order to avoid the fury of inspectors from the Department of Confrontation because of her illegal structures under the Municipal Housing Direction, Ana Luisa assumed presidency of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution.

To back up such a thesis, they mention that the main government members of the island nominate and choose themselves through Eastern territories. Also, it is a reality that Eastern residents are the ones that mostly make up the repressive force against the people of the capital, the police. Such a job is rejected by capital natives, even before the Revolution triumphed.

This has even been acknowledged by the President of the State Council, Raul Castro, in his speech given during the closing of the first parliamentary session of 2008, when he assured that “if Easterners don’t come to take care of those in Havana, then robbery will thrive.” This phrase has more than just one interpretation.

In truth, it is the government itself that encourages migration from other regions of the country towards the capital. Castro, also the top General of the Military, asked, “Who will construct and build in Havana if people from all over the country don’t come, especially those from the East? Even teachers must be brought from the interior provinces, especially form the East. And I think the capital is the one which harbors most inhabitants.”

This situation has led to the phenomenon that in Havana, the capital of all Cubans, Eastern natives are more vulnerable from a sociological point of view. In fact, some attitudes can be considered as xenophobic. In all of this, the government is the culprit. On one hand, they halt migration by violating fundamental rights of people, while on the other hand they promote it, at their convenience.

Translated by Raul G.

January 2 2011