A la vista de todos. Foto: Bradys Barreras.

A la vista de todos. Foto: Bradys Barreras.

Cuba’s Constitution and our Chicken Ration

I went to the house of someone very dear to me and went into her kitchen right when she was “cleaning” the chicken from the bodega food rations store.

“Did you read the new amendments to the Constitution?” I asked her just to get on her nerves.

“No, but I will just to see if they double our quota of chicken,” she told me without taking her eyes off what she was doing.

I laughed out loud at this witty and light-hearted comment. Later, I thought about what had happened, I zoomed out on this person’s daily life and discovered that her comment had also distressed me.

How many people will go out to the kiosk looking for the tabloid with the draft Constitution? How many people will ask their neighbor or friend to get a copy for them? What do people want to happen with this document?

I’m guessing you have your own response or are at least asking the same questions. The truth is that the new Constitution is under the noses of many people who don’t take their eyes off the chicken at the bodega store, that is to say, their everyday lives. People who aren’t bothered at even guessing what new things it includes, apart from “same-sex marriage” and that “nobody can have dual citizenship.”

I’m thinking about going back to this person’s kitchen and, when she is least expecting it, I’ll ask her what she thinks about us having a President of the Republic. I’m sure she’ll tell me, “that’s exactly what the First Lady needs.” Or if I drop the news that we’ll soon have a governor in Havana. I can imagine her expression somewhere between ironic and tired telling me “that’s just a name, coffee will keep on coming in to the bodega store mixed with chicharos (chick peas)”.

Of course, there’s no way I would provoke her by telling her that they took the word “Communism” out of the Constitution. I can’t even begin to imagine her response. However, I will tell here that wealth accumulation won’t be controlled anymore… then she will lift her head and throw at me “ask yourself what the people who don’t go to the bodega store to get their rations eat and where they buy it from.”

Is it wrong to always ask her about politics from the perspective of the bodega store, or rationed chicken, or the almost coffee? Which has to approach the other? The Constitution or the bodega store? Or vice-versa? What needs to be done for one to do with the other? What needs to be done for one to be as important as the other?

Oh how great it would be if I arrived in this dear person’s kitchen one day, watched how she “cleaned” the chicken and asked her: What’s wrong? and she would answer, completely baffled, “I found out that there won’t be a Socialist Republic of workers anymore and it won’t even declare the fight against man’s exploitation of man. Plus, I don’t understand how a parliament almost entirely made up of PCC (Communist Party) or UJC (Communist Youth) members can leave out the word ‘Communism’!”

How great it would be if I went one day and she said, “I don’t get something, will this republic with everyone and for everyone distinguish between those who go to get their rations on the 1st of every month and those who never do?” Or, for example, if she tells me, “and to put the icing on the cake, with the number of women in the National Assembly, how can the draft Constitution and not include gendered language? Wait, I don’t even know if there will be a constitutional court or not”. I think it’s good that people can make demands, go straight to the point when they have to do  with the State, without having to write letters to the eleven thousand virgins.

How great it would be if this person saw me coming and sent me to hell because she is drawing up some proposals with people from the neighborhood to really turn up the heat against the draft Constitution and defend what they think without mincing their words. For example, that workers should be able to manage their social property; and seeing as there is going to be a President (which doesn’t really add up), at least we should vote for this position directly, as well as the governor.

How great it would be if these people, and the many others who aren’t aware, or motivated, or care about going to the kiosk, felt that the Constitution had to be in keeping with the everyday life they dream about, that they felt like now was their time too, no matter what they think and no matter what happens. How great it would be if they were to follow National Assembly debates like they do when they watch Sonando en Cuba(pop music program) and that they applaud popular lawmakers, that is to say, the ones who best represent them. How great it would be if they felt that the Constitution has to be the best knife they have to chop up bodega store chicken.

How great it would be if I could go to this dear person’s kitchen when all of this is over, and she receives me with a hug and says, “this Constitution is finger lickin’ good.”


This article was translated by Havana Times from the original published in Spanish.

Ariel Dacal Díaz
Educador Popular

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