I proudly belong to a generation that when we were both young, we and the Cuban Revolution marched, singing with all the enthusiasm and ingenuity, “Cuba yes, Yankees no.” We also sang “Fidel, Fidel, what does Fidel have that the Americans can’t defeat?” and “Cuba, how beautiful is Cuba, whoever defends you loves you more.” We recited from memory the verses of the black poet Nicolas Guillen and the songs of Carlos Puebla.
Now that you have granted the long-cherished dream of old Miami exiles, it is worth asking which Cuba is yes and which Yankees are no, because there are many Cubas and many Yankees, from the rum drinks to the baseball players.
Yes to the Cuba that came out of the most ominous underdevelopment and ended illiteracy in a spectacular campaign, a mixture of enthusiasm and social coercion. Yes to the Cuba that promoted an exceptional world-renowned system of medical care. Yes to the Cuba that got rid of the very rich and the very poor, spreading poverty more evenly even if it preserved a high-level bureaucracy in the positions – and houses – of the previously rich.
No to the Cuba that led to the betrayal and the spying of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, a system of neighborhood espionage that opened the door to settling scores and personal quarrels under the disguise of patriotic duty. No to the Cuba that replaced the prostitution of before with the prostitution of now, providing the girls and boys the price of jeans from tourists, and providing many Mexicans with $20 bills in their pockets; an ominous combination that led you to say that the whores of Cuba were the most prepared in the world. No to the Cuba that repressed dissidents even to the point of the firing squad, which ended every possibility of free expression and which sent writers as brilliant as Reinaldo Arenas into exile.
That Cuba is the one that is necessary to end now, now that you no longer obstruct the view with an enormous shadow of being the unquestioned protagonist of modern world history.
But Yankees yes. Yes to those in the novel by Burdick and Lederer, which was made into a film in 1963 with Marlon Brando.* Yes to the naive Yankee who tries to understand other cultures and societies. No to the racist and obtuse intolerance that will put its hand on a Bible next January on the steps of the Capitol Building in Washington. Those Yankees: No.
Without pretending that the problems we have caused ourselves with our inertia will be solved abroad, these Yankees, no.
Strangely, esteemed commander, your rise to world popularity and widespread admiration was largely caused by the obsessive hostility of 10 consecutive U.S. presidents who could not stand the affront that a small Caribbean island and its bearded ones were inflicting – a rebellion and a new dependency that almost caused nuclear war, a hostility that paved the way for the inefficiency of the high bureaucracy that caused the economic backwardness of Cuba and consumption problems for the masses.
It is obvious that Donald Trump will continue on the path that these 10 presidents laid out for him. One more obstacle so that we can again say enthusiastically, “Cuba, yes.”
* Editor’s note: The author is referring to the novel The Ugly American by Eugene Burdick and William Lederer.