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Viva La Revolución!

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09.JAN.09

Editor: I met this girl, no more than 19, on a serene night. Mid- July it was, on a Saturday, four years ago, somewhere near Toronto, at a club called Havana Nights, that proposes to replicate night life in Cuba. There are large aquariums at Havana Nights, with miniature sharks and exotic tropical fish with shells and fauna and coral reef, conjecturing the image of the resplendent waters of the deep blue Caribbean Sea. There is a patio, too, covered with reddish stone and a set of wooden benches and tables, shaded by palm trees, banana plants and a bright yellow and orange canopy.{{more}}

Smoke filled the atmosphere, cigar, but mostly cigarette and the chatter and the clatter of glass.

Beautiful women; black, white and yellow, gently swayed their hips, while the men looked on admiringly, before sauntering over with an extended hand, the other behind the back.

I was there, just digging the vibes, settled in certain beliefs, when I saw her. Her skin was the colour of almond. Her hair was black, thick and wavy and tied in one. A red strapless dress flowed downwards, resting above her ankles. She was Cuban, most likely the progeny of mixed parentage, and had left several years before that revealing night. “You know we admire Castro and the Cuban people in St.Vincent and the Caribbean. They have given us so much. Scholarships, technical assistance….”

“There are a lot of fears there, people are afraid to speak up; we can’t even get basic items…”

She told me of how much the people suffer and of the deep contrast in the quality of life of Castro’s family and the Cuban people.

I have since grappled with the idea that she could be wrong, maybe a descendant of one of the elites who had an old grudge. Then, I would remember those dark eyes, the bold eyes, that innocent looking face and the truthful conviction in her young voice and accept the fact.

I had to see Cuba with my own eyes. Not with those of the social activist or the NGO executive or the columnists or the man on the street who romanticises the Cuban Revolution. Sure, it’s a beautiful story; I have known that since my university days; Castro threw out the Americans and the greedy capitalists.

She helped me to see beyond the soul lifting rhetoric.

There is suppression of the Cuban people. There is hunger, hopelessness, fatalism.

Since meeting Isabella on that night, I have met other young Cubans who all spoke of a Cuba where the people are demoralised. Castro, one of the most charismatic men of his times, has ended up making George Orwell seem more clairvoyant than Nostradamus. See ‘Animal Farm’.

Yet, I still sing Castro’s praises. Cuba has done well, considering all else!

But, it’s time that he frees up the airwaves, let journalists write what they like and open the doors to democracy! All the aid and handouts from Cuba shouldn’t make us forget that we cherish our own freedoms. We see the external face of the revolution. But, again, that’s all that some may ever see; you travel as a government official, a friend of the party in power, a friend of comrade or a grateful student, past or present, and you’d see what you want them to let you see.

I see more clearly now. I see the two faces of Cuba, of Castro. Though, lately, I see one face. And, I imagine the road that leads where he is, as winding. It’s shaded by palm trees and coconut palms that are heavily laden with fruit. The grass is verdant. There is a pasture that undulates for miles, where thorough bred horses run wild. Beyond the great house, and the road that winds to it, is a stream, where the fattest of calves drink to their leisure. On the other side of the stream is a large expanse of land where tobacco flourishes.

The great house is made of wood, painted white, the chimney is stone from where a steady stream of smoke makes it way up the blackened walls and disappears beyond the trees.

I see a huge but elegant veranda that embraces the mansion. There are wicker chairs on the veranda with comfy multi-coloured cushions. On this day, like many others, the owner of this splendid respite is entertaining comrades from the Caribbean. I smell the rich aroma of the cigars being hand rolled for the guests. Near one of the kerosene lamps that line the veranda and that burn in the slowly approaching night is a barrel of whisky that is pure gold, reserved for such occasions. “Viva la revolución!”

There is a kitchen that is heavenly. It’s laden with all kinds of fruits and meats, not yet cooked but mouth-watering!

Meanwhile, far away, in a forgotten village, in a little shack, a mother is tossing in her bed; her children are hungry.

A journalist, by the light of a candle, is huddled over a typewriter, tapping away furiously, glancing around nervously, this time vowing to get the other story out; of a people muzzled, oppressed, and fearful, of a people yearning for change.

Yet, Jomo Thomas speaks about a perceived deteriorating state of affairs in SVG, but deifies Castro.

Marlon Bute
carimarlo@hotmail.com

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