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    The Grandchildren Of The Revolution Aspire To A Normal Life With Neither
    Utopia Nor Frustration / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

    14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Guatemala, 12 October 2016 – This will be the
    story of at least three stages my nation has lived through. Three
    moments when the young amassed hopes, collected frustrations and used
    their ingenuity to overcome obstacles along the way. Without this
    renewing energy and a capacity to defy the established, we would very
    likely be sunk much more deeply in a lack of rights, in surveillance and

    They opened the window when the door was closed, but the challenge is to
    cross the threshold of freedom without subterfuges or ideological

    The first generation I want to talk about is that of my father. A train
    driver, a Communist Party militant, a member of the political process
    that came to power in Cuba in January of 1959. He could not choose, he
    just followed the course designed by others who barricaded themselves
    behind the name of the historic generation and came down from the
    mountains, bearded, young, possessors of hope, in a convulsive and
    memorable era.

    My father was a child at the time and saw how the country around him
    skipped a beat. The streets were euphoric, anthems filled every space
    and in the photos from that time his contemporaries are smiling and
    optimistic in front of the platform where the Maximum Leader speaks for
    hours, with his index finger defiantly extended. To my father’s
    generation fell the heroic tasks, like the literacy campaign, the
    voluntary labor to catapult the country to the highest standards of
    prosperity and knowledge.

    However, what most marked that time was the sensation that they were
    working for the future, that all this sacrifice and energy would end up
    building, for their children, a better tomorrow. They were young, they
    wanted to have fun and be together, but they accepted being led and
    reduced to the attitude of mere soldiers, so that those who came later
    would inhabit a more prosperous and more free Cuba.

    In order to achieve that dream, that generation set aside in great
    measure the rebelliousness that belongs to that age, accepted a foreign
    doctrine as distant as Marxist-Leninism, and offered their best years on
    the altar of history. No contribution was enough, so the government
    asked for more sacrifice, less individualism and above all, no complaining.

    Their names were the first signed up for the so-called libreta, the
    ration book for food and manufactured products that were distributed to
    Cubans in identical amounts, to avoid social differences and the
    appearance of that demonized middle class that Fidel Castro’s regime had
    erased through confiscations, stigmatization and exile.

    My father could only choose atheism in a Cuba where families hid their
    prints of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at the back of the room and avoided
    even saying “thank God,” and postponed for several decades the
    celebration of Christmas. For the prevailing ideology, religion wasn’t
    just the opiate of the people, but endowed the individual with a
    spiritual world to which the Party had no access. When Cubans escaped in
    a prayer, in a supplication, the bureaucrats and materialistic theorists
    lost ascendancy over them.

    In every form you had to fill out to go to school or start a new job
    there was the question about your religious beliefs. Many hid their
    crucifixes under their shirts, emphasized that there were “trusted
    comrades” and marked “no”… saying they believed in nothing other than
    the Revolution, its leader and the Party. In this and other ways the
    basis of the double standard that runs through Cuban society today was set.

    These were the Cubans who, on becoming young adults a decade after
    January 1959, filled the ranks of the soldiers who left for
    internationalist wars in far off Africa. They didn’t know it, but they
    were just canon fodder, “toy soldiers” that the Soviet Union deployed at
    will in the turbulent war scenario of the Cold War. Thousands went mad,
    died, and wept in those latitudes, without a good understanding of how
    the people on our island got involved in such a conflict.

    But those who were also young back then had to say “goodbye” to many of
    their relatives once more, when they were forced to emigrate from
    Camarioca or through the Port of Mariel. Many of them, beardless and
    confused, were used as shock troops to scream, at their own family
    members, that official slogan with which Cubans confronted Cubans, “Out
    with the scum!”

    Uniformed, with military haircuts and optimistic about the future, these
    young people began to have their own children, whom they nursed on the
    belief that they would live in Utopia, with absolute equality and
    happiness for everyone. It was my generation that would arrive in a
    world where everything was decided and programmed.

    I was born in the midst of the absolute Sovietization of Cuban reality.
    The Three Kings of our Christmas celebration, olive oil and privacy were
    all simply memories from a past that should not return. We were the New
    Man that knew nothing of capitalism, the exploitation of man by man, the
    market, the law of supply and demand, respect for privacy and, of
    course, we also knew nothing of freedom…

    We all knew, in that Cuba of the seventies and eighties, how our
    classmates dressed or what they ate, because it was exactly the same, a
    carbon copy, of what we ourselves ate and wore. Using the first person
    singular, “I,” became a problem, so we talked about “us,” we were
    comrades and projected collective dreams and the longings of the platoon.

    With the concept of the “masses” that need to be be managed from above,
    my generation was sent to schools in the countryside. A social and
    teaching laboratory where we would be Cubans more committed to the
    cause, people disinterested in all material things, and ready, at any
    moment to exchange our schoolbooks for a gun, if the fatherland – or at
    least those who called themselves the fatherland – needed us.

    However, the human being in an environment of excess indoctrination
    always reserves a piece of themselves, where the cacophony of power is
    not heard and where no ideology has access. That redoubt, defended with
    masks of complacency and hidden from colleagues, relatives or the
    neighbors who might denounce you, was the refuge of our generation.

    They, the powers-that-be, promised us Utopia, but we wanted to enjoy the
    present. So we pretended to obey while we incubated rebellion. We yelled
    the slogans like automatons and minutes later we’d already forgotten the
    words we shouted. We learned to lie, to put on a mask, to unwillingly
    applaud, and to promise eternal fidelity when inside there was only
    apathy and doubt. In short, we learned to survive.

    We came to puberty and the Berlin Wall fell. We weren’t the ones
    wielding the chisels and hammers that brought down the symbol of an era,
    but every blow against the stones echoed in our heads. My father cried
    for that communist East Germany that he knew from a trip he’d earned as
    a vanguard worker, designed so he would know the future. But my
    generation felt a tingling, a satisfaction…our Sugar Curtain could also

    With the Communist Party Congress in 1991, in which it was accepted that
    religious believers would be allowed in the only political organization
    permitted in the country, we saw how our parents pulled out their old
    hidden religious objects.

    The hunger also came, that burning stomach that doesn’t let you think
    about anything else. With the implosion of the Soviet Union and the
    “socialist camp,” Cuba lost the subsidies and the “fair trade among
    peoples” that had kept the country afloat for decades. That currency
    that had bought our fidelity, that gravitational field that we orbited
    around the Kremlin, vanished.

    We came up against our own reality. It was hard, sad, without
    expectations. Nothing resembled those projections of the future with
    which my father put me to sleep when I was a little girl. His generation
    had inherited a moribund doctrine and to us fell the heavy task of
    burying it.

    The Rafter Crisis that erupted in August of 1994 was one of the many
    ways that my contemporaries found to bury that mirage. We didn’t
    confront power in a public plaza, nor tear down the walls of control
    surrounding us. A good part of Cubans preferred the sea, the waves and
    rickety boats as the path to escape.

    On Havana’s Malecon we watched them assemble the rafts of
    disillusionment, people my father’s age and the new shoots, energetic
    and young but frustrated. They left, we said goodbye and the cynicism
    began, the nothingness, the stage of not believing, of no illusions but
    also no rebellion. We arrived at this moment in our national history
    that could be called “every man for himself.”

    Between the sound made by the oars of the rafts that sailed the Florida
    Straits and the stubbornness of the power that kept calling us to resist
    the economic vicissitudes, my generation began the difficult task of
    being parents. Those we brought into the world were the babies of
    disenchantment: the grandchildren of those who cursed having given their
    best years to a failed project and the children of a generation that
    should have been the “New Man” but didn’t even manage to be a “good man.”

    Not much can be asked of them, but the young people of today have been
    better than us. The generation of my son, who is 21 now, suckled our
    disbelief, heard us blaspheme in front of national television, buy in
    the black market, surreptitiously escape from the public marches and
    hope – in a whisper – that the future wouldn’t be the one our parents
    dreamed of. Because we already understood that was a golden cage in
    which others had planned to lock us up.

    With a touch of indifference and a shrug of the shoulders in that so
    Cuban gesture that, translated into verbal language, means “Me? What do
    I care?” the new generation of young people is dismantling what is left
    of the Cuban system. It is doing this without heroic gestures, one could
    almost say with a certain reluctance and a touch of indifference.
    Nothing they say from the official podiums touches their hearts, or even
    instills fear.

    Unlike those who came before, today’s Cubans under 25 don’t know about
    the ration book for manufactured products, where you could buy a single
    pair of pants or one shirt per year. They barely remember hearing a
    speech by Fidel Castro and haven’t had to accumulate ideological merits
    or brownie points at or work to be able to buy a home appliance.

    Instead, they live on an island where the only valid thing is real
    money, which is achieved by doing the exact opposite of what my father
    once had to do to get a refrigerator, and where the black market has
    crept into all spheres of life.

    Almost from childhood, these Cubans of the third millennium have been
    glued to a computer keyboard. Their parents bought their first computers
    and laptops in the illegal market. Their first kilobytes and videogames
    have come through the alternative distribution networks and represent
    the exact opposite of the ideology taught to them in school.

    With haircuts inspired by Japanese manga, by figures from international
    show business or rebellion, today they populate our streets.

    My son’s generation does not seek revolutions because they already know
    what they cause. They have learned to be suspicious by nature of Robin
    Hood style discourses that know how to steal from the rich and divide
    the spoils among the poor, but have never learned to generate wealth, to
    make a prosperous nation, one with opportunities like those once
    promised by that band of outlaws that came down from the mountains with
    their beards and olive green uniforms.

    Today they have the appearance and dreams of any young German, English,
    Guatemalan. They look back with the necessary disdain and with a certain
    confidence that the future will not be as predicted in the science
    fiction books of the twentieth century, nor like that predicted by
    totalitarian ideologies. They believe it will be, at least, a more
    humane and pluralistic time, and a more free one.

    When someone tells them that the Castro regime is here to stay and that
    Cuba will never return to its democratic path – imperfect and risky,
    like that of any nation – these Cubans living on the island today smile
    and remember those impetuous young people who drove the changes in the
    far off Soviet Union. Like them, they say to themselves, it doesn’t
    matter that the historic generation has the power, because we – fresh
    and skeptical – have the time.

    They grow up, go to the gym, listen to pirated music like anywhere else
    on the planet, make love, take selfies, try to share their lives on the
    web, and continue to live in a country where officialdom fears
    information. In short, they are twenty-somethings while Fidel Castro is
    in his nineties. They belong to the twenty-first century, but the old
    caudillo remains a prisoner of the twentieth.

    These grandchildren of the generation of sacrifice and children of the
    generation of Utopia are the ones who, for the most part right now, feed
    the emigration that is crossing Central America. They suffer, die and
    are carried away in the hands of the coyotes while escaping the country
    that, by this time, should be the paradise once promised by their elders.

    These young people today are the future. They will do it their way.
    Without listening to the advice of their parents. Who, under 30, follows
    the path traced by others? Especially when those who preceded them were
    so wrong? They are the grandchildren and children of a chimera. They
    come with the necessary pragmatism of forgetting and with the indulgent
    balm of forgiveness. They will live in a Cuba we never imagined, or knew
    how to achieve. A country, finally, with room for everyone.


    Editor’s Note: Lecture given on October 6 by Yoani Sanchez in Juan
    Bautista Gutierrez Francisco auditorium at Marroquin University in

    Source: The Grandchildren Of The Revolution Aspire To A Normal Life With
    Neither Utopia Nor Frustration / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez – Translating
    Cuba –

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