Photo: Cossett Perez

Photo: Cossett Perez

How Cubans Come Second… in Cuba

A few days ago, a Cuban friend of mine living in Ecuador told me that on a quick trip to Havana, it was easier for his young daughter, born in Cuba, to become an Ecuadorian citizen, than it was for a girl who was born in Havana, with her mother registered as residing in Santiago de Cuba, to become a legal resident of Havana.

It is also easier to drink Dutch or Dominican beer on hot nights in the Cuban capital than it is to drink Cuban beer, which is why that slogan of “What’s Mine First” seems to be more like the title of this article today.

For decades, Cubans have picked up on a kind of discrimination because of our national origins, which we have experienced not at the hands of any enemy power but at the hands of our own State.

We were the only ones who couldn’t buy in hard-currency stores for a long time, we were the only ones who couldn’t stay at hotels (all of which were state-run), and there are still hoops we have to jump through so we can use sea transport in national territory.

Cubans can’t invest in any business that is important to the country’s economic development because the law only contemplates foreign investment, and the new draft Constitution guarantees the latter but doesn’t accept the former.

Cubans, who can now stay in our hotels, which are built on the people’s land, can’t benefit from the tourist packages that allow foreigners to pay for an all-inclusive hotel in Varadero, with flights included, which is almost half what any Cuban citizen has to pay a state-run agency, located in any of our cities.

Born and raised on the Caribbean’s largest island, our State hasn’t defended us as you would expect them to when we receive irritating treatment at foreign embassies and consulates in Cuba, when we try to travel to other countries for different reasons.

I myself have seen the brutality that Cuban nationals have to suffer at embassies and consulates when they don’t have all their documents in order like the official on duty would like it to be, or when a nervous Cuban doesn’t properly answer the outrageous question the clerk asks.

I have watched how Cubans are forced to wait in line under the burning sun, for an interview or to receive news about their visa application.

Many of us have suffered the suspicion that people in these offices look at us with, offices in which we are forced to lie about our bank accounts because very few people in Cuba have them, about assets which can’t be proven with legal documents.

We have reached the absurd situation of having to take a suitcase in cash, loaned to us beforehand, from a loan shark sometimes, so that we can show the consulate that they can trust us to travel to their countries.

Foreign states can believe whatever they like about us, they can punish us for living in a Communist state, for not standing up against socialism, for being fun-loving or dilettante, but our country shouldn’t allow others to charge us over 400 USD for a visa on our own soil, as if we were dangerous citizens.

Depending on how you want to interpret history, many revolutions, or just one, have taken place in Cuba to win our independence, to be worth the same as a foreigner who had subjugated us, so we weren’t tied to a single crop, to a single form of wealth production, to one importer or one trade partner.

We have fought and lived making huge sacrifices in order to be sovereign, to not have owners or bosses, but there are still chains that we must carry with us, as if the machetes of yesteryear were only any good to keep museum displays intact.

Destiny is sometimes crude and screws you over. Instead of Cacique beer made in Cuba it has placed the Spanish Presidente beer in front of us, as if our past of leadership and force had been subrogated by another more modern, foreign and distant one, which still proposes that we live in dependence and discrimination.


This article was translated to English from the original in Spanish

Julio Antonio Fernández Estrada
Profesor titular. Licenciado en Derecho e Historia. Doctor en Ciencias Jurídicas.

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