They knock on the door, Rafael Gonzales opens it, his face completely changes. The chairwoman of the Committee of Defense of the Revolution (CDR) just gave him a ballot which announces the day, hour and place where he should attend to exercise his right to vote.
Gonzales was born and raised in Calvary. A village of more than three and a half centuries of existence, currently located in the marginalized municipality of Arroyo Naranjo, in the capital Havana. The town has its own Catholic church, a cemetery and a polyclinic. Its properties, like its population, are predominantly old.
Rafa, as he is known in the neighborhood, is a neighbor of Bitterness Street. Just like you feel, every time you have to go to the polls. What sense does it make to go vote, if you cannot ask for “the impossible” from the delegate?, he says. That was the request of municipal authorities to the voters, when they began the assemblies to nominate candidates in these elections.
It is impossible to fix the broken roads and street lighting. Gonzales is tired of posing the problem in the accountability assemblies. It directly affects him, his block is completely dark. Everyone is in agreement, but at the next meeting nothing has been accomplished, “We have to understand that the energy problem of the country keeps us from taking on this task.”
It is absurd, that the water supply in the locality is stabilized or that a physician provides services as night guard at the neighborhood clinic. Gonzalez has to walk more than three kilometers on foot, on roads in darkness (night public transport is almost zero) every time his little child has an asthma attack. “Right now there is no doctor. We must wait, to see if in the upcoming graduation of physicians one is assigned to the locality.”
Gonzales knows he has to keep his disappointment in his pocket. It makes no sense to exercise his right to vote, but neither should we fail to vote. He’s not in a position to get into trouble with neighborhood agents: the president and the vigilantes of the CDR and the secretary of the Communist Party in the zone. Much less now when they are reducing payrolls at his workplace.
Rafa is in charge of a state wholesale food warehouse. The direction of the company for about a month now, is conducting research to reduce the payroll. He can’t run the risk of being fired. He needs the job to pay for food for his family. A dim view about you by the agents is enough to lose it.
Under these circumstances, it doesn’t matter how tired you are. He will continue assisting with volunteer work and accountability meetings. Within two and a half years he’ll go back to exercise his right to vote. For him, only one thing will change: he will not go back to complaining and lamenting the impossible.
Translated by: PB
Thank you very much for your comments. It’s a shame that I can’t read them and share with you in real time. One day I’ll be able to. Nevertheless I want you to know that I read them all and learn from you, mainly because they have become my eyes to an unknown world. Your criticisms make me see that I should improve my work and be more accurate in my focus.
I don’t want to justify myself, but my writings speak of the reality that I live every day inside Cuba. I do not intend in any way to compare Cuba to other societies, primarily because I have no basis for argument, I haven’t experienced any others, I have never left this country.
Prostitution in Cuba is not in itself the problem, but how the Cuban government reacts to it, and how it is unaware of this social reality when it comes to regulating it in laws. Is it fair to punish prostitutes and not those who benefit from them? Is it fair that some women end up in prison and others who do the same thing don’t?
With my work I really try to give some elements of reality that go beyond the law. For example, official warning, antisocial behavior and pre-criminal dangerousness are legal elements that transcend the life of citizens and not infrequently lead them to suffer imprisonment. Occurring in several cases, prostitution is one of them. That is what I try to describe in my work. That is true of the economic initiative, illegal acts and the confiscation of property.
When it’s time to show that connection, I share an idea: in Cuba few people know the law. The legal rules seem an abstraction, but in fact they show and are applied to a social reality. I just try, although I don’t always succeed, to link them for better understanding.
My primary goal is to open the debate for a tomorrow. Sometimes I have the impression that they are crying out for change, but very few know or are sure what it is that they want to change.
Nor do I want to elevate Cuba’s problems, as if they were the worst in the world. There is no perfect society free from evils, but imagine that ever since you were a kid they tell you that you live in a paradise and don’t let you leave because out there is a monster that wants to swallow you up. Nevertheless, you feel yourself inside the stomach of one. How would you react?
Maybe some of Cuba’s problems are not as serious, compared with those living in other societies. But after all, they are problems that should be solved, not put off because they seem insignificant next to others of greater magnitude.
Translated by: PB