This blog's title means "Cuban-hearted woman" (very loosely translated!). I settled on this name because it had a nice ring to my unschooled ear and, more importantly, because I think the Cuban people seem to have so much
heart, and they're in my heart for that reason. In general, the people I've met in Cuba are quite consistently open-hearted and big-hearted in the way they relate to each other or to visitors in their beautiful land. A piece of my heart now resides in Cuba, with the warm, wonderful friends I've made there. This blog is not intended to be a guide to Cuba, just a forum for my eclectic bits of writing – poetry, opinion pieces and information gleaned from my personal experience and reading.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Cuban Revolution and me: love and freedom

I have something in common with the Cuban Revolution: 1959. Cuba was officially freed from Batista's bloody dictatorship in January of that year and, nine months later, I was born. 

We're both over 50 now, the Revolution and I, but we don't always act our age, and we certainly don't look it! Maybe I'm just speaking for myself. I'm not sure how Revolutionaries are supposed to behave after five decades as the Government. Maybe they're not sure either. And, regarding looks, well...most of those freedom-fighting young men who rose to power are now 80-something old men, if they're alive at all. So, no matter how well preserved they may be, they're going to have gray hair, wrinkles and saggy body parts – more than me! 

After 50 years, what's different? I can't speak for the CR, of course, but I tire more easily and sometimes wake up a bit stiff. My mind's still sharp, obviously (haha!), but I have noticed it's harder to remember names and what I was looking for when I opened the fridge. Again, I can't speak for the Revolution. Despite the significant milestone we share, I'm not sure how much the CR and I actually have in common, except for this: the love of Cuba and desire for freedom.

Cuba gained freedom from a cruel dictator in 1959 but, after 50 years, is the country truly free? That probably depends on who you talk to and how you define it. I think there are many different shades of freedom. It's not a black and white issue. Nor is it strictly red, white and blue. The U.S. embargo or blockade against Cuba, begun in 1960, has certainly limited the country's freedom to trade internationally. But, there are always ways to do business, if you really want to.

Wikipedia notes this: "At present [2011], the embargo, which limits American businesses from conducting business with Cuban interests, is still in effect and is the most enduring trade embargo in modern history. Despite the existence of the embargo, the United States is the fifth largest exporter to Cuba (6.6% of Cuba's imports are from the US). However, Cuba must pay cash for all imports, as credit is not allowed."

Cuba's relationship with the States is complicated, to say the least, but it can't be denied that Big Brother Sam carries a lot of world-wide weight and this embargo marathon has had a huge impact on the people of Cuba. I'm not a political scholar by any stretch of the imagination – mine nor anyone else's  – but, if I've understood the history of this correctly, the trade blockade was intended to gain freedom for the Cuban people. Hmm.... When does one say this plan is not working?

Whenever people talk about Cuba, the embargo looms large. That monstrosity, however, is not the only shadow on freedom. Americans have not been able to travel freely to Cuba since 1963. The U.S. government does not completely ban its citizens from traveling to Cuba but there are severe restrictions and, from my reading, spending money seems to be a primary concern. (Here's a good link on this topic: Americans in Cuba.)
Cubans, however, live with even more restrictions regarding travel than their American cousins, and the restrictions apply to everywhere – not just the hulking chunk of land to their immediate north. (Here's a good article from Havana Times about this: The (Non) Right of Cubans to Travel.)

I love to travel, especially to Cuba, and I wholeheartedly wish my Cuban friends could travel too. Some would want to come here to Canada to work for awhile, to help their families get ahead financially. Others would just want to visit Canada and other countries briefly because they are simply curious. Why shouldn't they have the chance to do both?

I've thinking about this a lot lately, wishfully, because I know of a little girl who was born with an illness that will dramatically shorten her life. She wants to know what snow is like. How can I explain "snow" to an eight-year-old Cuban girl? Right now, I have such a lovely landscape outside my wintry window, I can imagine her looking at it with awe and playing in it with glee. It would be wonderful if she could apply to Make-A-Wish International and be granted a trip to Canada to see this beautiful snow, and maybe Niagara Falls while we're at it. But, Cuba is not on the list of participating countries. Why? I don't know, but I did notice that the parent foundation is based in the U.S. Hmm....

I know changes are coming. There have been several significant changes in Cuba in the past year, and more are proposed. There is now greater freedom to buy and sell houses and vehicles. I hope more freedom to travel is on the list of what's to come, and I hope it will happen while my young friend is still able to travel. I'm just afraid it won't. Afterall, it has been over 50 years since the Revolution took power, and we are still only part of the way to full freedom for Cuba. If/when the American-made trade embargo is lifted, I'm sure changes will come more quickly.

There is little I can do to hasten change. However, I have come up with one small way to help my young friend understand what snow is like, aside from sending piles of pictures. When I travel to Cuba in April, I will be taking a very special present for her: a snow globe.
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If you are interested in traveling to Cuba with me in April, please send an email to jcgb@vianet.ca. I am organizing a group that will be based at Marea del Portillo, my favorite little resort. You can go for two weeks (April 5-19) or one week (April 12-19). Yoga on the beach, a Cuban-Canadian art show and many other optional opportunities for fun and frolic are in the works. I will provide prices and other details soon.

2 comments:

  1. Leony Castillo CastilloJanuary 23, 2012 at 11:22 AM

    Un beso querida amiga.
    Jenny. Thanks for this article and the eyes that look at Cuba and the Cuban Revolution. In five decades of revolution, as in any process I guess, there is progress, setbacks and even stagnation. No society or in this case is perfect revolution. So the Cuban Revolution must continue to solve many errors to make life better for Cubans. I'm so glad you mentioned the issue of the blockade, because the financial and commercial blockade of the United States against Cuba has done much harm, both to the country in and out. You're right when you say that the changes were faster if the lock already ceased. But while that happens, Cubans, led by the revolutionary government, need not only to change many things, but those changes are quicker to, for example, the Cuban girl you speak you can see snow falling from the window of your house or visiting Niagara Falls. I am a young and dream of visiting Canada or another country to work or learn about other cultures. Many changes our country needs for the nation to walk better.
    Jenny, I congratulate you, because although the topics that do not understand, do you dislike or would like to change in Cuba, have gradually become better known Cuban reality and that knowledge is reflected in your articles. Revolution is changing everything that should be changed.
    A hug from your friend Leony.

    Jenny. Gracias por este artículo y por los ojos con los que miras a Cuba y a la Revolución Cubana. En cinco décadas de Revolución, como en todo proceso supongo, existen avances, retrocesos y hasta estancamientos. Ninguna sociedad o en este caso Revolución es perfecta. Por eso la Revolución Cubana debe seguir resolviendo muchos errores para que la vida de los cubanos mejore. Me alegra mucho que hayas hablado del tema del bloqueo, porque el bloqueo financiero y comercial de los Estados Unidos contra Cuba nos ha hecho mucho daño, tanto hacia adentro del país como hacia fuera. Tienes razón cuando dices que los cambios fueran más rápidos si el bloqueo cesara ya. Pero mientras eso suceda, los cubanos y cubanas, liderados por el gobierno revolucionario, necesitan no solo cambiar muchas cosas, sino que esos cambios sean más rápidos para, que por ejemplo, la niña cubana de la que hablas pueda ver caer la nieve desde la ventana de tu casa o visitar las Cataratas del Niágara. Yo soy un joven y también sueño con visitar Canadá u otro país, para trabajar o conocer de otras culturas. Muchas transformaciones necesita nuestro país para que la nación camine mejor.
    Jenny, te felicito, porque pese a los tópicos que no entiendes, te disgustan o te gustaría que cambiaran en Cuba, poco a poco has ido conociendo mejor la realidad cubana y ese conocimiento se refleja en tus artículos. Revolución es cambiar todo lo que deba ser cambiado.
    Un abrazo de tu amigo Leony.

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