The Problem is Cultural / Claudia Cadelo

Leandro Feal

I get up in the morning and get my bath of unreality watching the morning news on TV. In Morning Journal, the first news of the day, they never lose the thread of surrealism. We are treated to a reading of Fidel Castro’s latest “Reflection” titled, “The Shoes That Pinch Me” — I’m quite intrigued, by the way, with how fixated Fidel is on Obama, having for months now dedicated all his “Reflections” to him — where he offers a review of an art contest titled, “Little Friends of the People’s Revolutionary Army.” It’s impossible to describe the feelings one experiences on watching Cuban television at half past seven in the morning.

The other day they aired a short report about the standardization of products for sale in Cuban pesos. A voice-over showed businesses and tried to convince us that the country has been making efforts to improve the quality of products, and that this could be seen in much of what’s for sale in the markets. It lasted a few minutes, serving as an introduction to an interview with a specialist on the subject. The goal of the program was to show the tremendous quality of our own products, which also suffer from the pressure of international standards imposed by the West (sic), and as it ended the specialist said: “In Cuba the standard isn’t met, the problem is cultural.”

I paced back and forth, coffee cup in hand, and couldn’t help spilling a bit on the floor. I’m in the habit of talking back to the TV, a practice I developed as a teenager. I suppose that was how I managed to externalize my dissatisfaction with official establishment journalism: by carrying on my own debate with everything appearing on the screen.

“What do you mean, culture?!” I cried.

It is not the government policy of economic statism, nor our shattered economy, nor the dual currency, that are responsible for the questionable quality of bread and soap, according to this specialist in economics, it is Cuban culture that is responsible for this evil.