The Loss of Self Esteem / Rebeca Monzo

Some days ago I read in the international press a story entitled Serving, not servile, by the journalist from Juventude Rebelde (Rebel Youth), Jose Alejandro Rodriguez, where he laments the tendency of Cubans to appear servile to foreigners. In one of his paragraphs he said and I quote:

Neither can it be forgotten, in order not to repeat it, that certain public institutions have well matched this neo-servile tendency when in a political double standard they demand certain attributes and guidelines of a Cuban in order to access not a few sites, in contrast with the permissive submission with which they treats the foreigner.

If the Cuban were to travel more he would be able to see more and value more, by contrast, the good things of his country,” he continues in another paragraph.

If there is a guilty party in all this deformation of the Cuban, it is due principally to the government which, during the last half century, has treated its own people like third class citizens. At first they enclosed us on this little island, without permitting us to have contact with the outside: that lasted several decades.

The only valid references were the Cuban dailies and some Soviet magazines. We who worked were prohibited from writing to our family or friends in capitalist countries, above all in Europe, on pain of losing our jobs. Remember that the State was the only employer. Likewise, particular trips were prohibited or extremely restricted.

All this served to intensify the material misery and therefore morale. A feeling of distress began to grow because of not possessing the most urgent articles, which was transformed little by little into envy towards those who had access to them. The few trips to the outside were for the party militants or the youth with the most proven loyalty to the regime. Here it began to get worse and to develop the double standard.

One had to pretend and pretend well in order to be deserving of the trust and, therefore, of the little trip that would permit us to breathe a little and to be able to bring shoes and clothes to our relatives, and in a plastic bag the little food that the airplane let us ingest, so that the child at home or the old one could enjoy it. Economizing to the max on food, although that would involve hunger, in order to return to the fatherland with a little money, plus the little soaps gathered in the hotels.

With the economic crisis at the beginning of the 1980’s and the lack of tourism, flights from the Comunidad — Cubans abroad — were authorized. Those countrymen of ours who were denounced in meetings when they expressed the desire to leave, these same ones who were insulted and told never come back, now as if by magic would be converted from “worms” (the epithet that had been screamed at them), to butterflies and would come to save the country’s weak economy and to fill a little the empty bellies of the relatives and even some of the neighbors of those who had been insulted.

I have here other manifestations of the double standard: lying to keep a job,lying to earn a little trip,lying to be able to enjoy a reunion with family and friends and lying to try to contain proportionate happiness, at least publicly.

Now, many years have passed, the Special Period that started at the beginning of the 1990’s does not seem to have ended. Because of that, as soon as tourism began to increase, the siege of the visitors increased at the same time. The bid to see who is the most favored has made many men, women and even children seem like street clowns, trying to win over the foreigner, which is likewise a cunning way of begging.

One must not blame only the suffering people; one must consider the circumstances that have surrounded all this moral deterioration. When a society loses its civility, loses the family and all its values, anything can be expected from it.

Cuban pride is very battered. That national feeling that we used to have, that made us walk with our heads held high and treat others correctly, without difference, including the tourists, without having to lower our s ingratiate ourselves, we have been losing it almost without noticing.

The daily urgencies and the lack of good education, have made us underrate ourselves. I remember when I was a girl, for us a tourist was more ordinary. The only thing that sometimes made us turn our faces towards them was the bright attire that they wore.

As far as the flower vendors of Old Havana, I believe that the costume is excessive or unnecessary. It seems when one walks through the restored streets in that part of the city that one is moving on a movie set. This is too much for me, just like the flattery and mollycoddling that they dispense to the tourists provided that they buy the merchandise that they offer. It would seem that in the whole colonial zone, they were the estates of the big movie companies.

Translated by mlk

May 12 2012