Has Courage Emigrated Too?
Posted: 29 April 2011 12:04 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Joined  2011-04-29

In the last few months, the entire world has witnessed uprisings and protests in the Arab World against current regimes. The protesters have had only one demand, the establishment of a government that protects people’s freedom instead of taking it away. Egypt is not the first country to lead such revolts, but Egyptians’ courage and determination, when the government resisted giving up the power, were the key to their victory. One day, as I listened to the news reporter explain the causes of the revolt I thought, “Why hasn’t that happened in Cuba, my homeland?” The idea of publishing this question as my Facebook status wandered my mind. What if that single status ignited a Cuban revolution? But the more I thought about it, the faster my hopes disappeared.
    For the last fifty years, Cubans have been ruled by a Communist leader who has suppressed as many rights and liberties as he has desired. When he took power, Fidel Castro received the support of the lower classes by making concessions to them. However, he alienated the upper classes by taking most of what was theirs. These people were the first to leave the island and build their new homes in exile, crying over the memories and the loved ones left behind. Their existence as immigrants was not easy; images of how their lives could have been had not Cuba changed so abruptly constantly flooded their minds. The sadness of being a foreigner and the undying hope of seeing their homeland free again were tattooed in their souls. But why did they not rise up to the vile ruler? Why did they not fight back? They chose to leave rather than confront the new regime.
    Today, half a century has passed and the tyrant’s brother is in power, maintaining the communist political agenda and – as many recognize – being el títere manipulated by Fidel. Cubans are now victims of hunger, poverty and very little freedom. Prices are extremely high compared to the extremely low salaries. Propaganda keeps the government alive. “Communism gives free education, free health care, and free everything.” Is that possible? With hospitals falling apart, there is little sign of new technologies, while the older machines are inhaling their last breaths. Doctors are being sent abroad to promote communism in the world even though they are needed in their homeland. Schools are in the same decadent state. Many teachers choose to work in other sectors with higher salaries or access to more resources. Students get new teachers barely three or four years older than they are, who know only as much – or sometimes, less – than they. The promises of communism have become fantasies and Cubans have witnessed the destruction and ruins of their country.
    Everybody is aware of the economic and political situation, but only a few overcome the fear of going to prison and speak up. Most Cubans desperately look for the way to get out of the country and see it as the solution to their problems. Why do not they stay and promote change? They acknowledge the fact that just saying anything against the government can result in spending the rest of their lives behind iron bars, so they prefer to wait for a miracle. While waiting for that miracle, many depend on the monetary help sent by relatives and friends who have already left. All that money, however, has obviously helped keep the system alive since the fall of the Soviet Union. The option to stop supporting family members is cruel, especially when one has experienced the needs all Cubans have, yet leaving and becoming the financial supporter of the ones left behind, and thus of the government, constitutes the easy way out of the situation for the people and the government. The latter has used the emigration of its opponents and Cubans in general as a resource to prevent social crisis that could lead to the fall of the system. By letting people leave, the government releases the accumulated social and political pressure that if retained would cause revolts and force it to make changes. The government has given the option and Cubans have taken it. What could have happen had they refused to leave? Half a century of pressure would have been enough time to cause an explosion that would have shaken the entire world.
    On the other hand, there are many people who believe that a change in the Cuban government can ignite from outside. In the United States, Cuban-Americans have strongly influenced US policies towards Cuba, hoping they would cause the fall of the communist system. But in reality, policies such as the embargo have only strengthened the government, allowing it to justify the poverty prevalent in the island. Many dissidents also emigrate to Spain, a country that has constantly negotiated with the Cuban government to grant asylum and freedom to the opponents of the government. Being in a democratic country allows them to denounce the situation in Cuba, which otherwise would hardly be known by the international community due to the government’s strict silence about the topic. Nevertheless, a country is unlikely to be freed by people who are fighting outside of it.
    In school, all Cuban children are taught how brave Cubans are, but what has happened to that bravery? The government found its ways to control everything and plant dread among the people. However, Cubans should face their situation and manifest their opinions, just as the Arabs have been doing. Leaving is not the solution. Emigration has only helped the system survive. Do not escape. Stay and fight to give a free country to the future generations. Those who have left and those who live on the island must work together to do more than what few dispersed individuals have done. It is time to change that regime which has not proved functional and advantageous. This change has to come through Cubans themselves, and arming themselves with courage is a key to accomplishing this transformation.


Tania Alfonso