Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Thank you, Cuba

By Koldo Campos Sagaseta
Translated by Tom Whitney

And, yes, Fidel is one of history’s brightest, most worthy reference points, and so too is Cuba a worthy example: in fact, a gigantic example of a tiny people on an island floating in the Caribbean, in the very nostrils of the Empire.

And to know this and say it is for me a way also of expressing my gratitude.

Nobody in this madhouse that the world has been turned into by those in charge is using Cuba’s wisdom, its good sense and judgment, its capacity for struggle, its modesty. And all of this when aggressions, slander, sabotage, plagues, and invasions descended on Cuba even before she was done being born …

And the embargo, the isolation, the blockade … And also the necessity, with mere perseverance, to transform that Casino-Hotel Club into a country, one that in an evil time had been discovered, converted to the faith, made into a colony and condemned to the monoculture of bitter sugar.

Cuba, with no more help than a few years of trade with the USSR, had better conditions than those under the habitual usury of the so-called free world and was recycling, reutilizing, relying on ingenuity, and caring for what there was.

Traveling around in Cuba on a bicycle elicited the usual mockery from those who’ve ruined the planet. And even today doing so does not go well in a big capital city they take as a model, and that hardly encourages the use of two wheels with no motor, no gasoline, no smoke, no noise, and that’s the way Cuba keeps on going.

A little more than half a century has barely passed and still they’ve not dismantled threats and aggressions against Cuba. And, while I may go along with whoever is honest, to appreciate the difference, one only has to compare Cuban society with the rest of the Caribbean islands after more than a century of capitalist progress and development.

Newborns still die in Cuba, but much less so than in any other American country, including the United States. And, yes, it’s true: many buildings in Havana - not to speak of Santiago - need coats of paint on their front surfaces, but when night comes, there’s not a single poor person in Cuban streets looking for an entryway to pass the night, just as there’s no little girl without a school or a boy without medical care.

In Cuba it doesn’t cost one’s life to study teaching or be a teacher the way it is with the Mexican democracy; nor does journalism lead to death, like in Honduras; and membership in a union doesn’t kill like in Colombia. One doesn’t die from cholesterol in Cuba - or from hunger. In Cuba, the arts, dance, painting aren’t bad words, and theater is no mystery. The culture breathes, even though at times one may have to seek out help.

Cuba never makes the news because of students carrying out massacres in schools or because disturbed people acting alone as always and with no allegiances put out a daily blood note.

In Cuba you are not tortured. They don’t depend on all those euphemisms and calculations the way they do in Europe and the United States. Mass graves with hundreds of bodies don’t show up. Guantanamo would be inconceivable.

Their police don’t look like ghosts covered up in a diver’s suit with their dogs and horses and big weapons. I would even dare assert that in Cuba the police look like people. They don’t even carry a pistol.

During all these years in Cuba they’ve been chipping away at xenophobia, racism, and machismo – all those ancestral lies that keep us from recognizing each other as equals. And Cuba is still doing so. After all these struggles over a long course, progress in Cuba is clearly evident. Making the comparisons would help in understanding this.

And, in spite of the limitations of its scarce resources, Cuba has undertaken projects so beautiful (I was almost going to say “Christian.”), for example, a medical university where thousands of Latin American students with no personal resources learn, and there are schools of art and cinema with the same idea.

And Cuba has sent daring people to Africa who went in support of the legitimate dreams of peoples subjugated by racist regimes, or who were there fighting against Ebola. Or Cubans have been teaching people to read in many parts of America, and contributing to the health of neighboring peoples. And they keep on working, studying, doing research, and making significant contributions to health care and education in the world.

And, above all, they contribute to humankind’s most essential ideas - in particular, solidarity. Cuba has contributed more than anybody else to caring for the thousands and thousands of children afflicted by [the nuclear disaster] of Chernobyl, and that is continuing.

In the Sahara, there is that colony the Spanish State sold to Morocco with its people and everything even after it gave its word and commitment to the United Nations to leave the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic in the hands of its citizens. Now people know Western Saharans, thousands of them, as “the Cubans,” because it was in Cuba where they could grow, live, and form themselves as professionals. These Saharans who studied in Cuba are admired more for speaking Spanish than for having survived colonialism and Spanish treason.

A good part of the health system in Haiti has been in Cuban hands while all the time the Haitian people were waiting for help to arrive, as promised by the “international community” – the same entity that yesterday strangled Haiti and today is beating up on Greece.

And, yes, this is true too: Fidel once said that one doesn’t make a paradise on the shoulders of a volcano. I, more prosaically, would add that sometimes one breaks a plate, but, as the fools Silvio sings about also know, I am not going into a storyline of a weepy response, or of reckoning with results through arguing, or of going the way of sin not knowing about hell, or being silly enough to agree to punishment. Let a funeral remove blame at the cemetery, or let waywardness end up in excommunication.

I am not tearfully going to invite anybody to a burial, nor to soul searching through paid applause, nor to divine shipwrecks from human storms. I don’t move from a link to make a chain, nor am I suffering pain from one more bleeding cross at Calvary, nor am I bothered by an ember warning me about conflagration. Yes, a bead grieves me as much as a rosary. A single shot perplexes me more than a battle.

Finally, thank you Cuba. I owe my best dreams to you.

Translator’s note: Koldo Campos Sagaseta, born in the Basque region of Spain, joined the literacy campaign in Sandinista Nicaragua and then taught poor farm workers in the Dominican Republic, where he lived for many years. He is a poet, journalist, film director, essayist, and actor. See his work at:

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