Tag Archives: truth

Chango

In Santeria, my orisha is Chango, one of the guerreros or warriors.  His colours are red and white like Santa Barbara, he wields metal weapons and is often depicted with lightning.  He is often thought of as a virile–a Casanova and all that is mean.  Why are those synonymous in Cuba?  Or Anywhere?  But that’s not how I identify with him.  Each orisha has many paths  that they can take, and ways you can be like them.  I like that when syncretized with Catholicism, Chango has some gender–bending, and his tendency to mete out divine justice.

I have a strong sense of Justice.  Whatever is good and fair compels me, regardless of how it favors or whether it directly affects me, which sometimes confuses others.  It isn’t as noble as it seems, and can often be annoying, like a compulsion.  You see for me, the absence of truth, facts and fairness is offensive.  Facts and justice are my religion, so it effects me whether the disservice concerns me or not.

I greatly dislike situations like this one, where there is no right answer.  The writer in me thrives on ambiguity and grey area, but ethically it makes me uneasy in daily life.  There’s just so much we can’t make sense of, from child labour to servitude that borders on slavery, the attention we receive from men as well as our very presence here.

Even if there is no right answer for everyone, I like to at least have my own rules, my own personal sense of what’s best.  that’s the beauty of Chango–he delivers his own swift justice, not anyone else’s.  My fiery Chango is down to its embers when I can neither come to grips with a situation nor make it right.

But Are They Happy?

Since my return, many people have asked me if Cubans are happy.  Some ask without judgment, while others convey that they believe Cubans are silently outraged or depressed, yet others still assume that they live happy, simple, carefree lives.

I have a hard time answering this question.  No, they’re not depressed about being from Cuba.  They’re proud of it, and they’re proud that their country has succeeded, despite America’s best efforts.  They’re proud of Cuba being their own man, so to speak.  They’re proud of the music, artes plasticos, films and athletes that come from their island.

But I don’t want to infantilize them, either.  They’re not living some blissfully ignorant life.  Many people have commented to me flippantly that if only they knew what we have, they would be sad or jealous or want to be Good Capitalists, instead of Good Communists.  But that it isn’t so. They’ve seen House and Grey’s Anatomy and Gilmore Girls.  They have the internet, albeit slow, and American radio.  They are not ignorant of our way of life, yet many of them do not covet it. There are many who do, of course.  Some want to not be discriminated against because of the color of their skin.  Some want to be able to make a decent living.  These are the ones who I think are the most deluded, the ones who are fooling themselves in thinking they can get these things in America.

I think there’s something to be said for sticking around with your family and friends.  Not that I hold anything against the so-called guzanos or those who want to Jump Ship, I just mean that I respect someone who has seen the “streets paved with gold” and had the intelligence to see past the illusion or the heart not to give up their Home for it.

Cubans are happy: they dance, sing, drink and tell stories.  But they’re not ignorant.  They’re not these sad little simpletons who don’t know they’re poor, or this entire island of people too terrified to speak their mind.  Cubans are pretty opinionated, and definitely long-winded.  I think most of them want more from their government, but who doesn’t?  Even Libertarians want something more, it just happens to be that that something more is for their government to exist less.

I think Cubans are optimists.  I think that they choose not to dwell on the bad parts: to tell you about the domino game on the roof, instead of the valuables lost, when the floods come waist high in their houses.  I think they want the revolution to continue in new, ever-changing, ever-evolving forms–not capitalism.  I think communist values are inherently good and worthwhile, and it would be as hard to remove them from Cubans as it would be to ingrain them in Americans.

So try not to think of a country in such simple, blanket terms.  Are Americans happy?  Are Americans any one thing?  Rarely can you say yes, unless that one thing is “complaining” or “individualistic.”  I think many more Cubans are happy than you think, but I don’t believe it’s for any lack of intelligence or awareness.  I think they actively decide to be happy; I think it’s a cultural value the way we value cynicism and sarcasm.

I think happiness is a state of mind and a decision, and that theirs, which is more or less collective, and is a greater measure of their culture than of their government or GDP.

¿Te Gusta Cuba?

As I mentioned before, I’ve been stealthily gathering intel from all my roommates and some of the tourists we’ve encountered.  I’ve wanted to ask expats but haven’t had the opportunity.  I was fortunate enough to be able to ask the question at the Special Interests section as well.

One universal reaction was to assume that my question held an inherent judgment, though rarely did any two people assume I was making the same judgment, even if they were responding at the same time.  Some were offended that I would even call into question whether they like it, or that I could possibly imply (by virtue of my question) that not loving Cuba was possible.  Others were flabbergasted, asking how anyone possibly could enjoy Cuba.

Another bit worth noting is that most people had to pause and collect their thoughts for a moment before speaking, regardless of how they felt about the place.  Cuba just isn’t black and white, I suppose.

I think on this one I’ll just present you with a few anonymous quotes from the group, without my judgment, since you already got it (sort of) in the form of my response to the question.

“Interesting, different from my first experience I got here”

“It’s really day to day here.”

“[long pause]…um, yeah.  Yeah, I like it here.”

“I’m just kinda frustrated, I cant understand as much as I’d like to.  I guess I’m just frustrated.  It’s kinda holding me back a lot cuz I’m embarrassed.  I’m just embarrassed that I don’t know more.  I don’t like to talk”

“This was my first choice, and some days I wonder why.”

“There definitely is good days and bad days though.  I mean I don’t really have bad days in Boston; there’s always something to do.”

“I feel a lot of pressure to like Cuba.  I think I can not like Cuba and still have had a positive experience.  But I don’t think I can tell people that.”

“I think I could stay here for a while.”

“I’m counting down the days…”

“I don’t think this place is about that, truth.”

“There is no right way to experience Cuba.  If you enjoy how you’re spending your time at the moment, then you did it right.”

“I don’t like it here, but I don’t think that’s the point of coming here.”

“Ohmigawd I wanna live here!”

“I think it’s different when you’re somewhere for a long time.  It’s hard to stay so excited to be there for three months.”

“_____ wants to live here.  How?  Has he been here?”