Are Cubans Pissed Off?
By Servando Gonzalez (2008)
Are Talking,” a recent report by Mark Potter, NBC News Correspondent
in Havana, has brought to the attention of the American public
the existence of a popular Cuban musical group, Moneda Dura
(Hard Currency). The report mentions how one of the group’s
music videos, became an instant hit in the Island until the Castro
government banned it. It also mentions how some Cuban in exile
put it in YouTube video, and thousands in the Cuban underground
have managed to watch it.
Another report by NBC producer Mary Murray, “Cuban Band
Battles Censorship,” tells how Moneda Dura is in trouble
with government censors because of its latest music
video Mala Leche.
But Murray erroneously translates the title of the song as “Evil
Intentions”. Actually, mala leche (literally bad
milk) is Cuban slang for “bad mood” or “pissed
The lyrics of the song expose a litany of complaints about things
that are not right in Castro’s Cuba. And, after every stanza
in which the singer describes a Cuban facing a particular problem
-- like the lack of adequate transportation, food, clothing, health
care, and daily blackouts, as well as why Cubans do not enjoy
the most elementary freedoms--, he asks the viewer, ¿Cuál
es tu mala leche? (Why are you pissed off?) The instant success
of the video among the Cuban people evidences their agreement
with the song’s lyrics.
For decades, Castro-friendly Americans visiting the Island have
mentioned their opinion that, despite the scarcities and the difficulties
of daily life, Cubans are a happy people. But Moneda Dura’s
video shows a very different thing: The Cubans who are experiencing
close up and personal the marvels of Castroism are not happy at
all. Actually, they are in a bad mood. They are pissed off.
Blinded by their ideological biases, American self-proclaimed
“progressives” (I rather call them “regressives”,
but that’s another story) see Castro’s Cuba as a paradise
on earth. It is true, they claim, that there are scarcities in
Cuba, but it is because of the U.S. embargo. It is true that Cubans
lack the bare essentials of civilized life, like food, clothing,
freedom of expression, and access to information, but they have
plenty of free health care, and education. It is true that the
Castro regime is repressive, but Cubans are proud of not being
any more pawns of American imperialism. It is true that food is
scarce, but it is produced organically. It is true that there
are scarcities, but Castro’s Cuba is an egalitarian society,
and the leaders face the same problems as the rest of the people.
It is true that Cubans cannot access the beaches, or the good
hotels, or the stores in which only hard currency is accepted,
but this has the positive side that this way they are no corrupted
by the evils of capitalism and consumerism.
It seems, however, that Cubans have a different opinion. Far from
being happy, Cubans are angry. They are in a perennial bad mood.
As “Mala leche” graphically puts it, they are pissed
off, and their anger is centered in none other than Fidel Castro,
the tyrant American “progressives” love so much. According
to most Cubans, Castro is the only one to blame for Cuba’s
never ending economic and social problems.
The Misery Specialist
I remember that, in the mid-sixties, a small group of writers
and actors used to go to the Caballero funeral home in Havana’s
Vedado district to have a wee-hours cup of coffee after waiting
in line for several hours (which had nothing to do with Cuban
surrealism, but with coffee shortages). One of them, playwright
Alfredo Pons, in order to help our waiting time go faster, developed,
tongue-in cheek, an interesting theory: the “misery specialists.”
Everywhere you go in this country, reasoned Pons, people treat
you like dirt. Bus drivers, office clerks, restaurant waiters,
hotel staff, deliberately do all kinds of things to annoy you,
and they have become experts in their profession. Therefore, continued
Pons, there should be some special schools where they get their
training in the misery trade. Graduates from those schools become
certified “misery specialists,” and they land good
Pons and the rest of us loved the joke, and continued developing
the concept for several weeks.
But one day, almost unanimously, we arrived at the same conclusion.
We were dead wrong. There were no such people as “misery
specialists.” As a matter of fact, there was only one misery
specialist in Cuba: Fidel Castro!
Now, with the benefit of hindsight, I think that our conclusion
was not far-fetched at all. Castro is a true misery specialist.
Out of pure envy, he has always managed to destroy anything that
gives the people around him any pleasure or makes them happy,
from food for their stomachs to nourishment for their souls. One
of his main purposes in life has been to inflict as much pain
and suffering as possible on any people he can reach, and he has
accomplished it to a remarkable extent.
Singer Carlos Puebla, a strong supporter of Castro, never guessed
how right he was when he used to sing in the early 1960s: “Se
acabó la diversión / Llegó el Comandante
y mandó a parar.” (The enjoyment has finished / The
Comandante arrived and ordered a stop to it.) Gabriel García
Márquez commented that Castro “is one of the rare
Cubans who neither sings nor dances,” adding that as soon
as Fidel arrives to a party, “Inevitably the dancing is
interrupted, the music stops, the dinner is put off.”
Carlos Franqui believes that,
What Fidel has done is to impose in Cuba all the punishments
he suffered as a boy in his Jesuit school: censure, separation
of the sexes, discipline, thought control, a Spartan mentality.
He hates culture, liberty, and any kind of literary or scientific
brilliance. All sensuality, of course, is anathema to him.
There are some indications that perhaps Franqui is not too off
the mark. For example, in mid 1998, just a few years after Castro
reluctantly gave orders again to loosen some economic controls
to allow the people to do limited business, he soon became envious
of their economic success. In a long address to Cuba’s National
Assembly, aired by state television, Castro criticized the appearance
of local “millionaires” in Cuban society, accusing
them of amassing private wealth while state teachers, doctors
and police had to survive on low salaries. He made clear he deeply
disliked the socially divisive effects of the cautious, market-leaning
economic reforms introduced by his government since 1993.
Some of the new private entrepreneurs, Castro said, were earning
as much as 1,000 U.S. dollars a month, equivalent to around 20,000
Cuban pesos, a small fortune by Cuban standards. (Cuban workers
average about 20 to 40 U.S. dollars a month.)
The idea that simple Cubans might be able to buy their own cars
appeared distasteful to the ever envious Fidel. “If we start
selling cars to all those who have dollars . . . [we will have]
a whole class of rich people driving around Havana,” he
said. Lately, Castro is blaming the enormous increase in street
crime on the success of capitalist-style economic reforms. Consequently,
he is seeking a crackdown on drug trafficking and criminals—and
probably on state-approved market-oriented reforms. On December,
2000, Carlos Lage, executive secretary of Castro’s Council
of Ministers, announced government plans to end most private economic
activities by mid-2001.
While the Cuban people lack adequate food supplies, Castro has
been exporting food to finance his military adventures and terrorism
abroad. Just a few years after Castro took power in Cuba, a strict
system of food rationing was imposed, and is still in force. The
daily diet to which most Cubans have been restricted for almost
37 years of rationing -- the rationing book was implemented in
1962, and it is still in force -- is not only inferior to the
diet of the 1950s, but also to the nutritional ration normally
allocated to slaves in the colonial Cuba of 1842. A final example
will provide an indication that the true reason for food scarcities
in Cuba is not the American embargo.
One can understand that, because of the embargo, Cubans cannot
drink Coca-Cola or eat Burger King’s hamburgers. But Cuba
is a big Island with plenty of fertile soil, and a climate that
supports four crops a year. Since the fifties, Cuba was self-sufficient
in the production of basic foods for self-consumption, including
beef, poultry, fish, vegetables, rice, beans, etc. Now, for the
sake of argument, let’s accept that because of the embargo
Cuban farmers lack the adequate machinery, fertilizers, and the
like to produce enough food from agriculture and beef from cattle.
But how about fish? Cuba is a long, narrow island with miles and
miles of seacoast where fish and seafood are varied and plentiful.
Why, one may ask, Cubans don’t fish to supplement their
meager food rations?
The answer is very simple. Cubans don’t fish because Fidel
Castro strictly prohibits it, the same way he prohibits them to
engage in almost any productive activity he cannot fully control.
Just casting a fishhook on a line over the Malecón, Havana’s
promenade facing the sea, would allow a Cuban to bring home a
red snapper or some other nutritious fish and have a wonderful
dinner almost free. But, although that would make him and his
family very happy, it would make Fidel Castro very angry, because
other people’s happiness is the worst offense one can inflict
on Cuba’s major misery specialist.
Some neighbors of the Castro family who were familiar with the
Castro house in Birán say that it was indescribable filthy.
Although there was a stream nearby, the Castros had no running
water or toilets and they seldom washed or bathed. Visitors reported
that chickens had the run of the dirty interior, sometimes roosting
on the beds. Gustavo Hevia, a friend of the Castros, related that
on a visit he once made to the Birán estate to stay overnight
a garden sprinkling can had been hung up for him in a corner of
a room to serve as a shower. The only bed in the house which had
sheets and a pillowcase was his own.
An American journalist, who visited Cuba before 1959, wrote: “Havana
was once the most cheerful city in the Americas, possibly the
world. The colors blazing forth from the most delicious Spanish
architecture anywhere, including Spain, made a tourist in pre-Castro
Cuba feel that just looking around was worth the admission.”
When he visited Havana again more than forty years later he only
found deterioration and decrepit facades. After forty-five years
in power, Fidel Castro has turned Havana into a larger version
of the Birán estate.
On December 9, 2000, the Castro government announced that it would
cut phone communications between Cuba and the U.S. by December
16. According to a brief note that appeared in Cuba’s official
newspaper Granma, the cause for the drastic measure was that U.S.
companies had failed to pay a 10 percent surcharge that became
effective at the end of October. But the timing for the cut gives
an indication that perhaps the true motives are not exactly the
ones stated in Granma.
In the first place, no one but Castro himself has the power in
the Cuban government to order such a measure. Secondly, despite
the Island’s proximity to the U.S. the rate charging to
callers to Cuba averaged 80 to 90 cents a minute, of which the
companies were paying 60 cents a minute to the Castro government.
Finally, Castro made a conscious decision to cut service during
the Christmas holidays, one of the most important times of the
year for families who have been apart for decades.
If one is to believe the arguments offered by Cuban officials,
the rationale for the cut was simply money. But Cubans know better.
Listening to their relatives’ voices is a major source of
happiness for Cuban families and friends on both sides of the
Florida Straits, and this is something the misery specialist cannot
tolerate, even if it costs him money. No wonder Cubans created
a new nickname for Fidel Castro: el castrasueños (lit.
the castrator of dreams).
Pissed Off Cubans vs. Hypocrite “Progressives”
Granted, happiness is a very personal state of mind, and serious
studies have shown that it is not the result of the accumulation
of money, material things or power. As proof of it I would like
to advance my theory that perhaps the most unhappy of all Cubans
has been none other that the Misery Specialist himself. But pervasive
unhappiness among the Cuban people, undoubtedly the result of
a constant state of frustration and lack of hope in a better future,
is by far above the average in most countries in this planet.
The fact that Cubans are pissed off should come as no surprise,
because for decades they have been expressing their anger and
frustration, voting with their feet by escaping in masse from
the control of the Misery Specialist in anything that floats,
flies or jumps. Cuba, traditionally a country of immigrants, now
has close to 20 percent of its population living in exile all
around the world. And the problem is not the Cubans, but their
government, because most Cubans in exile are doing well.
One may argue that visitors to the Island have been duped. They
are shown a Potemkin village; a sort of TV set that has nothing
to do with the real Cuba. It is also true that Cubans are famous
for their hospitality and openness to foreigners. But just a cursory
look at the way they live should have been enough proof that,
despite their smiles to tourists carrying moneda dura
(hard currency), Cubans are not a happy people.
The fact that American “progressives” have ignored
the obvious, tells not only about a willful blindness but also
a lack of sensitive for the suffering of the Cuban people. As
a matter of fact, one of the main reasons why Cubans are pissed
off is because most hotels, restaurants, stores, and other services
only accept hard currency, while they earn their miserable salaries,
(averaging US $60 a month) in worthless Cuban pesos.
American “progressives” tell of the high level of
education of Cubans. They don’t mention, however, that many
engineers, physicians, economists, and Ph. D’s end up as
hotel receptionists, bell boys, taxi drivers, and jineteras
(street hookers), catering to tourists as the only way to get
moneda dura. No wonder they are pissed off.
American “progressives” mention the wonders of Cuban
free public health, but Cubans know better. The few excellent
hospitals are for tourists paying in moneda dura and for the Castroist
nomenklatura. But the hospitals and clinics assigned to give health
care to the Cuban people are worse than the ones one can expect
in a country like Haiti.
Moreover, thanks to the Internet, most Cubans now know that, while
they live in the most abject misery, the Cuban leaders, including
the billionaire Fidel Castro, live in opulence enjoying all the
material goods of corrupt capitalism. Cubans know that the Castroist
egalitarian revolution is an urban myth, and they are pissed off.
And I have the feeling that in the last weeks they have gotten
even more pissed off than normal, after knowing the brouhaha the
American mainstream media has created by the non-news of Fidel
Castro passing the torch to his brother Raúl. Cubans know
that there has been no change, and are convinced that there will
be no change in Cuba while the Castroist mafia is still in power.
Another good reason for being “de mala leche”.
In another NBC
report, Moneda Dura’s bandleader Nassiry Lugo explains
his motives for writing the song. According to Lugo, exposing
the bad things is the first step to correct them. In the same
report, Juanito Camacho, a Cuban DJ, expresses his opinion that
the reason why Mala leche was banned is because it is too critical
of the Cuban system: there is nothing positive about the system
in Moneda Dura’s song.
The DJ is right. But if Moneda Dura’s Mala leche doesn’t
see anything positive in the Castroist comuno-fascist system it
is because, despite the opinion of many American “progressives”,
there is nothing positive about Castroism. Actually, most of the
very few positive things that occurred in the first years of the
Castroist “revolution” happened not because of, but
despite of Fidel Castro, who was too busy killing enemies and
friends in order to consolidate his power. Once Castro felt secure
in his position as for life Cuban tyrant, he rushed to disassemble
these few positive things. Today, the unavoidable conclusion is
that Castroism has been a total economic, environmental, social
and cultural disaster for Cuba and its people.
What is puzzling, however, is that some senior members of the
Council on Foreign Relations and the United Nations have publicly
praised the Castroist regime, and claimed that it is the model
to follow. This explains why they are frantically conspiring behind
the curtains to guarantee the continuation of a sustainable tyranny
If the CFR conspirators really meant it, it seems that their idea
of the New World Order they want to impose over the whole American
continent is very similar to Cuba after almost half a century
of Castroism. But, as in Cuba, I see growing symptoms that Americans
are beginning to get pissed off. And I hope that implementing
the Castroist version of the New World Order in the United States
will not be as easy as it was in Cuba.
Note: The section about the Misery
Specialist is from my book The Secret Fidel Castro: Deconstructing