3, 4, & 5. A SENIOR
COP, A PURCHASING AGENT, AND A WOMAN WHO RENTS ROOMS IN HER HOME TO
TOURISTS: This was a large 2nd floor apartment in a shady
1950's vintage neighborhood. The owner was one of a growing number
of Cubans participating in the tourist sector, renting a room or two,
paying taxes, responsible for costs of upkeep that meets standards,
even employing housekeepers. They've become small-scale capitalists.
But they don't necessarily think of themselves that way. This
woman didn't. The cop was her boyfriend. The purchaser,
a woman who traveled to other countries in her job, was a visiting friend.
I asked the cop why I saw no jinoteros (hustlers)
or chicas (hustlerettes) in the places they'd been very visible in '01.
I was privately wondering if they'd been rounded up before Carter arrived.
Someone had suggested the night before that "maybe they're taking job
training." Cubans tend to sound like Republicans when they talk
about their ne'er-do-wells.
The cop said that, after 9-11, tourism had slumped and
the profits of hustling had dried up. He said they were starting
to reappear, but slowly.
Hearing that the woman had traveled even as a child,
because her father was a journalist, I told her of the complaints a
friend of mine had about Granma's crime coverage.
She'd seen excessive crime reporting in Brazil and Mexico,
she said, and she didn't agree. She understood wanting to know
what dark streets to avoid in Brazil, but she didn't think there's that
much crime in Cuba. The cop said things happen but not on "certain
dark streets" and there isn't nearly as much crime as in other countries
He said Cubans aren't desperately poor and they're
united by the revolution. I said Americans don't believe
Cubans are so united that 98% had freely signed a petition to lock in
She started telling me about poverty in Brazil, pointing
out that there's nothing like that in Cuba, and then they launched into
a chorus of what they didn't believe about Americans.
How could Bush steal an election, break his own laws and
world law, too, be unable to speak his own language, and still be president?
(This probably hasn't occurred to many Americans but, since Fidel has
always been president, Cubans have never had a stupid president.) Why
don't Americans know the Miamistas (Cuban exiles) are mafiosi, that
most Latin Americans are exploited and miserable, that they themselves,
the Americans, exploit them, and that Cubans are fine because the Americans
can't get at them?
Well, aside from that, I told them Americans heard of dissidents
not being allowed to speak and...
"Not allowed to speak!" She said I'd find Cubans very ready
to speak (in fact I'd often found it hard to get a word in). The
dissidents' problem, she said, was that they had no one to speak to.
I'd find they were a very small group. "Nobody will agree with
them here, so they talk to the ones who will."
The cop was telling me almost all the Cubans always voted, even
during the depression of the early 90's, and everyone had signed the
petition because Fidel had promised it meant capitalism would never
return, and I think he had more to say, but when he took a breath,
the woman of the house took the floor to wrap it up in her mind.
Counting off points on her fingers, she declared that,
one, it was easy to sign, with so many tables ("It was like a party
in the street," she said); two, they all think Bush is a monster, killing
people with no respect for other countries; three, all Cubans over 50
remember how capitalism was, and all know how it still is in other places,
and they know they don't want it; and four, everything is fine and they
don't want to change it.
She said a friend of hers had gone to Florida and come
right back when she saw how they treat blacks there and because Americans
have to lock themselves in at night and are afraid to go outside.
Well, not everywhere, I started to say, when the cop asked why
Americans didn't believe everyone signed when American tourists had
seen it and wanted to sign, too. I'd read about that on the internet,
and the irony did strike me that those tourists may have been afraid
to speak freely in America.
But I asked if it would have been different with a choice
of yes or no in secret. The purchaser pointed out they have secret
votes all the time (which, of couse, they do) and, in spite of constant
Miami propaganda to spoil their ballots, very few do that.
The cop said people in jail and seriously disabled mental
patients were ineligible, but even people overseas and people away from
home on the island had "sent" their signatures. With 100,000
CDR's involved, the process had been thorough. All three said
they thought that everyone had signed.
He had signed, of course, as one with revolutionary consciousness,
as had the woman of the house. I put the purchaser down as a militant,
since she had previously been in the Juventud. In Cuba, only members
of the Communist Party and the Juventud are called militants. Anyone
who sounded militant but technically wasn't I decided I'd say
signed from revolutionary consciousness. That's a well known term
to anyone who was in Central America in the 80's. It means the
person has really thought about economic issues and rationally
and seriously favors socialist or communist revolution.