Sunday, June 12, 2005

A house divided cannot stand

These words come from Abe Lincoln during a time when the US was torn and engaged in Civil War. Thankfully, Cuba is not in civil war, but it is undoubtably torn in all sorts of directions: Between the exile community and those still on the island. It is a tear that even causes the various dissonances within our own exile community, and even within the various dissonances on the island.

One non-dividing myth I'd like to point out: It is common for fidelito lovers to boast that communism rid Cuba of "regionalisms" and "racisms". A myth that there is no bias among the Cuban people in regard to color or location.

This is in fact a lie.

I first stumbled upon this in reading Raul Rivero's "Pruebas de Contacto." A selection of short factual stories (much like a book version of a blog.) In his book there is one story about a person from Santiago de las Vegas in the Havana Province looking for "Palestinos" and to force them off his land. WHAT I thought to myself? From Palestine? Then as I read on I realized that this was the slang, in Havana, for those Cubans from el Oriente. I didn't get it, but I didn't forget it either. And just recently I discovered it's meaning.

When I was in Miami, about a week ago, I was drinking with a large group of friends. Admist the beer I noticed that there were also to new faces, friends of a friend's cousin thing. Both of them, though they really didn't know each other, just arrived from the island. Bueno, being the outgoing person that I am I spoke to both of them: one un negro de Santiago de Cuba y el otro un blanco de la Havana.

Okay, the three of us got to talking, and in our conversation the reality Cuba's division became more and more apparent to me. One example is that el Habanero couldn't understand and was appauled as to the Santiaguero wearing a Guayabera. I've never seen anyone look down so harshly at someone. A mini, but heated argument, came about over that silly shirt as they argued if anyone in Cuba still wore them. The Habanero said it was a waiters uniform, and the Santiaguero said que no hay otra cosa mas fina que una Guayabera blanca de hilo.

The Habanero was clearly shocked, and was continuely shocked in the mannerisms and accents of el Santiaguero. Seeing this, I recalled what Rivero had wrote about, and so when el Santiaguero left to get a another beer I looked at el Habanero, rolled my eyes, and said "Palestino". And his response was an overwhelming ageement saying: "En cada sentido de la palabra." And it was in that phrase I understood the prejudice, and being a santiaguero myself (he didn't know that), I too was slightly offended.

You see, the real Palestinians don't have a country. They are seen by many in Israel as being uncivilized. And in contrast to Israel, with whom they are always at odds with, they are of darker complextion. "En cada sentido de la palabra," en esa palabra the prejudice of color, culture, and nationality came through y me quedó frio. The division is very deep.

Yet it is things like this that strike at the core of fidelito's power. Divide and conquer, so long as we stay divided (those on and off the island.) fidelito will have his way.

So though Raul Rivero will later state: "Our problem is the absence of a common strategy," and another journalist, Manuel Vazquez Portal, would add: "What Cuba needs is broad agreement around a common objective: to finish off Fidel Castro's government," (Efe News), "common strategy" and "broad agreement" can only happen when we all realize that we are Cuban first, over and above being un exilio, un negro, un niche, un blanco, un mullato, un jabao, un gusano, un palestino, un liquado, or whatever name divides and seperates us.

"Todo lo que divide a los hombres, todo lo que los especifica, aparta o acorrala, es un pecado contra la Humanidad." -Jose Marti

No podemos sacar fidelito o promover una Cuba libre, independiente, y democrata hasta que borramos profundamente de nuestra alma colectiva ese pecado contra la Humanidad.


Alberto Quiroga said...

Amigo Songuacassal:

Your piece is spot on and goes far in explaining why "we" have been our own worst enemy.

My take on it I published earlier on; forgive me for being lazy and not adding anything new, but will post it here too, as it seems relevant to what you are discussing here:

I keep going back in my mind to the dignified Cuban gentleman I was interviewing in "my" (actually the US taxpayers') office 3-4 years ago. Unlike fortunate me, he was forced to live in kagaSStro's wonderland many years. He had suffered persecution there because he "would not adapt." Yet he was calm, seemed to harbor no resentments about what had happened to him...we started talking about Cuba, and soon the conversation gravitated to "how the hell did this happen?" I think his answer, in its elegance and simplicity, hit the nail on the head:

"El pueblo de Cuba se olvido de Dios. Y Dios se olvido del pueblo de Cuba."

The people of Cuba forgot about God. And God forgot the people of Cuba. I can't put it any better and do not have a better answer for "how the hell did it happen?"

Now, understand this is not coming from a bible-thumpin' "gimme that ol' time religion" type. In fact, am not sure, when my time comes, St. Pete ain't just gonna take one quick look, say "Whaaat?!!" and kick my culo downstairs quickly. But perhaps a start towards freeing Cuba from its satanic grip would be for Cubans everywhere to adopt a common platform centered on God, the Golden Rule, and the Ten Commandments. It's worked before in other places, folks, and it can work again and help defuse these passions which have divided us and turned us against each other for so long. Perhaps we can all start by asking the Master to intercede and come back into the heart of Cubans, everywhere. Perhaps, and I am borrowing this from the wonderful book by Carlos Eire, "Waiting for Snow in Havana," we should start our prayers towards this end thus:

"Forgive me Lord, for I am Cuban."

Robert said...


Hate to say this, but the encounter with your friends you described is human nature at its best (or worst). All of us have that ability to judge and look down at someone who is different (even if the difference is very little) from us.

As how this relates to a free Cuba...we need to put our petty differences aside. Everyone has a common denominator, so to speak. Cubans' common denominator should be getting rid of fidel. We need to focus on this. It's been done elsewhere and it can be done in Cuba.

tati said...


I couldn't agree with you more - you've penned my thoughts exactly.

kathleen said...

All societies have members who feel in one way or another superior to others. It is part of human nature. Your comments on Cuba are right on the mark, but I have to answer your comment about the Palestinians having no country and darker skin than the Israelis. Technically, Jordan is the homeland of the Palestinians due to the first partition. Before that the area had been ruled by conquering forces. The area known as Israel and the territories were under the control of the British. That was the Balfour declaration. After Israel came into statehood, the second partition, the Arab world declared war. The Palestinians could have accepted the partition as the Israelis did and could have built a prosperous state. Have you heard of Operation Moses? Israel airlifted over twenty-two thousand Black Eithiopean Jews to safety in Israel. Israel is a very diverse democratic country, it's citizens come in all colors. Hopefully, with Arafat gone and the beginnings of decmocracy in Iraq changing the political map of the Middle East this tragic history can have a peaceful resolution. I pray for this everyday, along with my prayers for Cuba.

The Universal Spectator said...

I have never read Martí as much as I should have, but I have read a lot of Shakespeare. In Act 1, Scene 4 of Hamlet, the confused prince has a speech just before the ghost of the murdered king (his father) enters. I think it explains the divisions within the Cuban exile community very aptly:

So, oft it chances in particular men,
That for some vicious mole of nature in them,
As, in their birth--wherein they are not guilty,
Since nature cannot choose his origin--
By the o'ergrowth of some complexion,
Oft breaking down the pales and forts of reason,
Or by some habit that too much o'er-leavens
The form of plausive manners, that these men,
Carrying, I say, the stamp of one defect,
Being nature's livery, or fortune's star,--
Their virtues else--be they as pure as grace,
As infinite as man may undergo--
Shall in the general censure take corruption
From that particular fault.

The fault lies within us and it is the sad reason for our exile.

Songuacassal said...

Kathleen, thank you so much for your prayers. It's the one weapon against fidelito we all have access to and seldom use.

Theuniversalspectator: nice analogy and I'm compelled to respond with Pololnius' advice to Laertes in Act I scene 3 of Hamlet:

This above all: to thine own self be true,
and it must follow, as the night the day,
thou canst not then be false to any man.

As you said, we do have our fault, but as a community we must not beat ourselves with "mea culpas." It is only when we become true to ourselves that we can over come this, and by over coming this we can over come our exile and over come Cuba's opression.

Songuacassal said...

Alberto... I like what you said man, and so I dedicated a whole post in response. thanks