Viernes, 15 de Diciembre de 2017
19:50 CET.
Cutbacks

'Special' should not be a negative term

We Cubans who still vividly recall what we went through in the 90s remember the short "lightups" when we had electricity, the droves of bicycles, the traumatic camello (makeshift bus), the mass exodus in ‘94, the Maleconazo ... with a shudder, and there is already talk of a new economic downturn of the kind that spawned that nightmare.

"Is it true?" my neighbor asks, her eyes full of fear. A youth tells us that it is: "If we're already using next year's oil, just imagine ... it's back to the 'Special Period.'"

It occurs to me that he is so matter-of-fact about it for two reasons: because he was born in the mid-90s, and his parents bore the brunt of the crisis, and because in a few months he will be reading the news about Cuba from the other side of the sea.

But it has always bothered me that collective pain is talked about so flippantly, that degeneration is glossed over with euphemisms, and that the word "special," on someone's whim, instead of meaning "specific, ideal" has become synonymous with "undesirable."

I am convinced that the havoc wrought by that fateful "period" in Cuban history has yet to be thoroughly studied.

The marked rise in divorce rates, alcoholism, drug addiction, crimes of aggression, suicides, diseases like optic neuritis and neuropathy, and others caused by malnutrition ...

The increase in depression rates, the number of people killed trying to emigrate in flimsy rafts, in bicycle accidents, in carjackings, or traffic accidents caused by blackouts during which cyclists pedalled around in the dark ...

Children whose feet were caught in spokes and mangled because they struggled to ride on the racks.

The high cost of drugs (as essential as anesthesia). The boom in prostitution, the proliferation of "shooters" (men who masturbated in public areas because they lacked the means to pay young women, who went with tourists), sexual harassment, rape ...

The number of abandoned pets, and cats that became food, after being "euthanized" by God-only-knows what horrible methods ...

The stats in the diversion of resources shot up, as did the different ways food products were adulterated. I remember one alert issued at some companies warning people not to buy chocolate powder on the black market because they had detected mouse poison in it. Not to mention the floor cloth sold as a steak, or the condom as cheese. It is a well-known fact that State gastronomy never recovered. People still remember with nostalgia those pizzas and sweets from the 80s; the authentic, satisfying bread you could get; the long list of flavors at the Copula ice cream parlor ...

The devastation of morality led to a degradation of terms and concepts: pimping was just “machismo,” infidelity was just “financial cooperation,” and stealing was just “struggling.” Sham marriages proliferated ...

Homosexuality for economic gain (the pingueros consider themselves heterosexuals, but prostituted themselves to men for specific rates).

The demographic damage. Many young women prefer not to have children, or  to do so off the island.  The ageing population.  The inestimable losses in Art, Literature, Science ... faces and names, lost to exile, the editing of history, induced amnesia ...

The many anonymous victims of repression for descrying the reality of such a "special" decade, that marked a watershed in Cuban history, even though the term "Special Period" was never even officially used ...

The magnitude of a crisis of faith that left its mark on all Cubans: those of us who went through it, and those who inherited an obsolete society that threatens to slip back into the same paralysis ...

It should be pointed out that the economic openness initiated, although insufficient, has also marked a turning point. And that "we, those from back then, are no longer the same," and young people, far less so.

And now, because of the rapprochement with the United States, it is not possible to count on an authorized exodus in rafts as a safety valve.

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