Margarita Alarcón Perea
Giordano Bruno was burnt at the stake in the year 1600 because, among other things, he openly claimed that knowledge was possible. I was thinking of this the other night during a dinner with a group of nine North Americans visiting Havana.
I am sometimes asked by a member of these groups to join them and offer my perspective on both the island and the US given my unique circumstances. First time visitors will usually have the same question on their minds and this one was no exception: what will it take for normalized relations to come about between both nations? The group was pretty convinced that the final solution would one day come once Fidel Castro was no longer around, physically, in person, in existence, bluntly put: breathing. I beg to differ and I have been “begging” for quite some time now, even before, when Fidel Castro was not only breathing but completely, totally and absolutely without a doubt in power. Since the early 90´s I have been nurturing a theory that I have shared with anyone who will listen: what if the problems were not just the Cuban American Ultra Right Wing Community in South Florida and New Jersey and the confiscation of properties and the nationalizations and whatnot?
What if the problem was much simpler? What if the gist of it all laid in the fact that Cuba with its social revolution of 1959 which has not only lasted but survived rather decently (when you compare it to the rest of Latin America and parts of the US), had somehow proven a point? Universal health care and education has to account for something, no? Yet it’s more than that, it’s an industry of biotechnology in a third world nation, a generation of scientists that rivals some in the western hemisphere and at the very least can sit with them and hold their own. It´s dance companies that fill international arenas year round, sports competitors that have become the reason many athletes from all over actually feel their knees shake when the time comes to confront their Cuban counterpart, its music schools, Universities, policlinics, paved roads, new housing, even shampoo and cologne!
Cuba has not only carried on it’s a revolution of social justice for as many as possible but it has also garnered respect in the fields of science, the arts, sports and politics the world over, and it has done so in the face of one of the most powerful nations since the Roman Empire, the very nation it had become a neo colony of since its game show “independence” from the Spanish Crown in 1902.
The Cuban Revolution has been educating since the very beginning with the literacy campaign of 1960-1961 when every single person on the island who knew how to read and write left the sanctity of their home for the rural and mountain regions to teach for a year. Most of these make shift teachers by the way were in their teens. Two young teachers were brutally murdered by counterrevolutionary forces intent on undermining this effort, rather than desist, more followed and the national campaign grew. Ever since those days of solidarity, in Cuba a general attitude of internationalism that exists to this day was born. When the Angolan and Ethiopian governments required our help, hundreds of Cuban doctors, teachers and soldiers left for Africa. This mission, brought with it as a direct result the independence of Namibia, Angola and something I never thought I´d live to see: Nelson Mandela not only free, but the president of an Apartheid free South Africa. When the earthquake hit Haiti, Cuba didn’t send doctors, there were already over 400 working on that island. Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil and most of the Caribbean are benefiting from Cuba’s most potent weapon: its people and their solidarity. This wave of solidarity has reached the South Pacific where the Cuban teaching method is being applied in New Zealand. Five thousand doctors sat waiting for President G.W.Bush and his administration to authorize their entrance into the US after hurricane “Katrina” devastated the gulf coast, they were never given a visa so they left for Pakistan instead.
Cuba doesn’t export revolution or wars it exports solidarity and hope.
In times or social unrest at a magnitude unseen in ages, this island is as still as the waters in a bathtub. It has nothing to do with police brutality or armed guards on the streets at all hours, it has nothing to do with any form of army or armada it has to do in my opinion with a healthy although far from perfect social system where yes, human rights are violated – and please I beg the reader to give me the name of a place on earth where this is not the case – but if you take a minute to check the charter you will see that Cuba abides by most found in the declaration.
So, I said to my dinner companions the other night, maybe it’s not so much about what they lost and left behind but more to do with what so many in the US would do good to know about and learn.