'Obama's speech, not Raul's, gives hope to Cubans'
Today's edition of Granma, the official daily of the Cuban Communist Party, had not arrived to newsstands at 10 am this morning. But when it arrived, its great headline was “They Returned” and three pictures just below it: Raul Castro and the “Five Heroes”, and Raul and Obama. Laughing, the newspaper seller commented, “it's true, the “Five” returned and so did capitalism.”
People are happy, but they are not partying. The celebratory events that have taken place have been “those organized by each workplace,” says a worker in Havana's historic center.
Taxi drivers are more concerned whether the end-of-the-year tax may reach 50 percent. The discussions in Havana's Central Park are mainly about baseball and not politics. Secondary school students have not been mobilized to march. They were not forced to watch, on the first day, the presidential speeches.
According to a journalist from the official newspaper Juventud Rebelde, students at the University of Havana “have offered some of their class time for pay homage to the heroes.” This is topic that only the official media focuses on because everyone in the streets is talking about nothing but the relations with the US.
Revolution Square is not getting ready for any public event. And Fidel Castro continues to be absent.
Anyone who analyzes the news images shown on national TV and Telesur of the alleged popular celebrations will notice that they are all close-up shots. There are no large crowds.
Habaneros are divided into two camps: those who are pessimistic and prudent and those who are optimistic and also prudent.
“Forget about individual freedoms. The negotiations have only been on economic issues,” says a young write who prefers not to stay out. “I do no know who's celebrating. It was enough to watch yesterday's news to realize that those who were celebrating outside of the Higher Institute of International Relations were just a handful.”
Like this writer, many prefer to remain prudent and not give their names or reveal their faces on camera. They prefer to wait and see what happens. Because, as one put it, “the alleged conversations are still pending.”
A female doctor from a clinic on Reina street believes that people have misinterpreted things. “Let's see what music we dance; Cuban son or charleston,” she says. “People think that they'll be able to go have lunch to Miami,” she tells me and laughs. “When my mom found out, she told me with nostalgia 'ay, the ferry', and I ask myself, will she be able to see it again, or will she just see a cruise ship that she'll never be able to get on because my salary is not enough.”
“Yes, diplomatic relations will be reestablished, but it will like with any other embassy. We will have to deal with the paperwork because we will be seen as potential migrants,” says a Cuban women who has been living in Angola for fourteen years.
A self-employed artisan in the Obispo crafts fair said: “We've been asking for many years for it to fall and now that it did, people don't realize it. Yesterday, when I returned home and saw the satellite antenna on the side of La Punta Square in Old Havana, I told myself, the Cuban wall has just fallen.”
“I don't doubt that people are happy. Damn, after all, it's been more than fifty years of blockade and fifteen of the Battle of Ideas campaign [advocating for the return of the five spies].”
A well-known plastic artist says that “Obama's speech, not Raul's, gave a sense of hope to the Cuban people. There will be no going back now. Before December 17th, there was no future. I was in the Havana Libre Hotel when the speeches were announced and I realized that, even though people did not react, I was witnessing a radical and positive change for my country.”
According to another artist, “Raul's image sitting behind a table, as if he were Gorbachev, giving his speech, was the vivid portrait of defeat. But the best thing about all of this is that we can start moving in some direction, no matter what it may be.”
“The five [spies] brought some stuck on their shoes and we like it,” says a young hipster on G Street, to refer to the US.
People are wondering what will happen now with all the anti-American propaganda. The TV news has begun to refer to the US as a nation, not as an empire. Some communist leaders begin to concede on the desire for democracy.
The New Year's Eve cultural show was already scheduled: a jazz festival, an electronic music jam session, rap concerts in the Palacio de la Rumba, Xiomara Laugart's concert in Casa de las Americas Center, and a Silvio Rodriguez's concert in the Latinoamericano baseball stadium.
The good number of those interviewed believe that the prisoner exchange has been important, but what's most significant is that we have a country to rebuild.