The Children

Glancing at the TV I was caught by a phrase from Zenaida Romeu, director of the chamber group that bears her name. It’s Tuesday and the energy of this woman, a guest on the program With True Affection, Two… had me sitting in front of the screen while the potatoes burned on the stove. She answered the questions skillfully, with a language far from the boring chatter that fills so many other spaces. In a few minutes she told of the difficulties in creating an all-woman orchestra, how bothered she is by the lack of seriousness in some artists, and of the day when she cropped her hair to appear with the maestro Michael Legrand. All this and more she told with an energy that calls forth an image of her, baton always in hand, score in front of her.

It is not her own story, however, that has me thinking when I return to the pot on the stove, but that of her children. She is the third or fourth guest on Amaury Perez’s program who has admitted that her children live in another country. If I’m not mistaken, Eusebio Leal* also spoke of his emigrant kids, and a few days earlier Miguel Barnet* described a similar experience. All of them speak about it naturally. They discuss it without thinking that it is precisely this massive exodus of young people that is the principal evidence of our nation’s failure. That the children of a generation of writers, musicians and politicians — including those of the Minister of Communications and of the director of the newspaper Granma — have chosen to leave, should make them doubt themselves, make them wonder if they have contributed to building a system in which their own descendants don’t want to live.

This migration is a phenomenon that has left an empty chair in almost every Cuban home, but the high incidence of among families who are integral to the process, is very symptomatic. The number of children of ministers, party leaders and cultural representatives who have relocated abroad seems to exceed that of the offspring of the more critical or discontented. Could it be that in the end the dissidents and nonconformists have transmitted a greater sense of belonging to their children? Have these famous faces noticed that the babies born to them are refusing to stay here?

I look at Teo for a while and ask myself if someday I will have to talk to him from a distance, if at some moment I will have to confess — in front of a camera — that I failed to help create a country where he wanted to stay.

*Translator’s notes:
Eusebio Leal is the Havana City Historian, director of the program to restore Old Havana and its historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Miguel Barnet is a Cuban writer.


18 thoughts on “The Children

  1. who wuld be stuped enouhg to let a cuban doctor operate on him. when they are products of corrupt goverments like castro’s cuba. were the universities are run by corrupt ofitials .not the best qualified techer.
    every maradona of the worold that loves the cuban goverment should send there sons & doughter to cuba to live like the comon cuban.without help from there out side relatives. & see if thats somting they will love there country to be like. maradona & oliver stone love castro & his regime. but both of them are millioners. how came they don’t distribute there millions to the people of cuba. & show there love to cuban people not to castro.

  2. Cita

    Please cite an example of a communist government/country that in your words “succeeded and left behind it’s gloomy past” (a contradictory premise). No such animal has ever existed. Communist governments do not cede power of their own volition, they either collapse under the weight of their failed ideology or are shown the door violently. It is a repugnant and ignorant ideology that is based on the fallacy that human rights and basic human tendencies and desires can be subverted for the “greater good”. It has served as nothing more than a cynical means for a series of 20th century amoral, power hungry megalomaniacs to usurp power and hold onto to through brute repression and the force of arms. A “successful communist government” is indeed an oxymoron.

  3. Cita

    Please cite an example of a communist government/country that in your words “succeeded and left behind it’s gloomy past” (a contradictory premise). No such animal has ever existed. Communist governments do not cede power of their own volition, they either collapse under the weight of their failed ideology or are shown the door violently. It is a repugnant and ignorant ideology that is based on the fallacy that human rights and basic human tendencies and desires can be subverted for the “greater good”. It has served as nothing more than a cynical means for a series of 20th century amoral, power hungry megalomaniacs to usurp power and hold onto to through brute repression and the force of arms. A “successful communist government” is indeed an oxymoron.

  4. Cuba remains one of the very few countries in the World where it’s Citizens must obtain, and pay for, a permit to re-enter his/her own country. This is a type of totalitarian control and a good source of revenue as well for the regime.

  5. OTTOWA CITIZEN: Three Cuban doctors sent to aid Chilean quake victims defect-Doctors called it a “painful decision’, informed organizer via email-By Agence France-Presse, AFP

    SANTIAGO – Three Cuban doctors who came to Chile to provide aid in the days following a devastating February earthquake have decided not to return home with their delegation, an aid group said Friday.
    An emergency physician, a trauma specialist and an anaesthesiologist have decided to remain in Chile, Chile Solidarity with Cuba spokesman Dagoberto Hernandez told Radio Cooperativa.

    He said one of the doctors informed him via email, calling it a “painful decision.”

    “We do not agree with how they are going about this, because there are mechanisms for immigrating to Chile, but we understand the personal reasons behind the decision,” Hernandez said.

    Cuba’s Ambassador to Chile Ileana Diaz-Arguelles downplayed the incident.

    “For those who have decided not to return to their homeland, it is a personal decision, but what is important is that most people return,” she said.

    The three doctors were part of a 1,600-strong contingent of doctors assembled by Cuban leader Fidel Castro in 2005 to aid US flood victims after Hurricane Katrina.

    The aid was declined by Washington, which severed diplomatic relations with the Caribbean island nation following Castro’s 1959 communist revolution.

    Nearly 30 Cuban doctors were sent to Chile in the aftermath of the magnitude 8.8 earthquake that struck on February 27, causing a huge tsunami that swept away entire coastal villages.

    The twin disasters killed more than 500 people and caused some 30 billion dollars in damage.

    The rest of the doctors were expected to return to Cuba on Friday

  6. Persons of Cuban origin who are nationals of other countries need a Cuban passport to travel to the island. The regimen does not recognize dual citizenship. They have to solicit, through a non refundable pre-pay petition, permission to return to the country of their birth. The permission stamp in the passport is valid for 21 days only. The Cuban passport need be renewed every two years at a cost of $100 dollars. This has a double purpose, to generate revenue and screen who are not allow to enter the country.

  7. It’s possible for a communist country to succeed and leave behind its gloomy past but not in the way as proposed in the Cuba’s Rescue Plan (comment 3).
    Listen to Mart Laar:

    Cuban people need support of powerful democratic governements in their struggle for freedom and democracy. This will give people hope and courage and revolution will happen. Youth will have hope …

  8. Humberto– Reminds me of the old Soviet joke: What is a Russian string quartet ? Answer” An orchestra that has just toured abroad.

  9. @ John Bibb: BRAVO! I applaud your comment, loudly, Hitler and all the other shits that walked this earth await Fidelita and Raulita with open arms, ha ha ha.

  10. Let us agree to disagree:
    as parents of our children we hope to give w/all our love & care the best we can give them, the lessons of life & their education among many other things.
    We dream about a better future, we dream of the best of life & we strive for their safety, happiness & prosperity.
    In the worst of situations we never waver, even at the worst, they are our future, our homes & dreams.
    Then we are in the situation to choose the defined status of our lives w/limited freedoms, w/dictated norms for our lives, economically, educationally, politically.
    Is that what we want for our children?
    A controlled life for the sake of a socialist dream?
    A dream concocted by the ones in power, portraying themselves as liberators from another dictator?
    Are we to give our children the gift of opression without having a say?
    The ones who see the wrongness of the situation … let their children go …
    The ones who can afford the brives & favor calling … let their children go.
    The ones that can’t afford it take their children into peril rather than stay enslaved in the name of socialism.
    Lastly the ones that still belive in the dream, w/whatever personal motivation …
    what are they going to do?
    At any level, whe a parent chooses to let his/her children go, it is perhaps a judgment towards the leadership of a country who for the last 50 years has lied, opressed, exploited & repressed it people.
    The name this leadership gave them then was: “dictator & oppressor”
    Their motive of existence & grab of power: “freedom for & to the people”
    Today they exit: “oppression, repression & lack of freedom” still exists … what gives?

  11. It explains the fear they have of allowing cubans to exit cuba freely. I wonder if all were given visa how many will really stay?
    Yes sandokan we voted and keep voting with our feet until we are allow to vote and put this terrible regime that have steal power out of it.
    When power returns to the people of Cuba thru a democratic election.

  12. ***
    Things will get better for the Cuban People when the Castro Brothers die and leave Cuba on their trip to Hell.
    Cosas van a mejorar por la Gente Cubano cuando los Hermanos Castros mueran y salgan de Cuba en sus viajes al Infierno.
    John Bibb

  13. FUNNY ABOUT THIS POST OF YOANI’S ABOUT ZENAIDA ROMEU AND THE YOUNG WHO FLEE/DEFECT FROM CUBA! I live in the Los Angeles area and attend many of the Cuban events and Cuban artist’s who pass through this great cosmopolitan city named
    “El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles del Río de Porciúncula (The Village of Our Lady, the Queen of the Angels of the river of Porziuncola” also known as Los Angeles, California or L.A. for short. Enough of the history lesson, but I do want to share a “history lesson” of the not too distant past as it relates to The Camerata Romeu! Zenaida and her group has played in Los Angeles multiple times but what strikes me about Yoani’s posts is that it brings me back memories of a Camerata Romeu concert about 10-12 years ago at Cal State Northridge where Zenaida had to make an announcement just before the program that she was short around 3 or so musicians, because they just DEFECTED! THIS EXODUS WILL NOT STOP UNTIL THE CASTROFACISTS LET GO OF POWER!

  14. Cubans vote with their feet when they escape from Dr. Castro’s island paradise. There are 1.7 millions Cuban-Americans living in the US, and 600,000 Cubans in the rest of the world, for a total of 2.3 millions. The actual population in Cuba is 11.4 millions. The 2.3 millions living abroad represent 20% of the population in the island.

  15. UNFORTUNATELY NPR HAS BEEN THE CABOOSE ON THIS STORY! BUT I STILL LIKE THEM! SOMETIMES! MY FAVORITE QUOTE IS “”The concentration of property will not be allowed,” the guidelines firmly declare, lest anyone think Cuba might try to copy China.” UNLESS YOU ARE A “CASTRO” OR PART OF THE OLIGARCHY! (La oligarquía)!!

    NPR: Cuba’s Rescue Plan Opens Doors To Market Reforms-by Nick Miroff-November 18, 2010

    With President Raul Castro warning that Cuba will fall “off a cliff” if it does not fix its floundering economy, his government has issued a rescue plan to pull the country back from the edge, offering some of the most significant policy changes in a generation.

    In a 32-page booklet titled “Guidelines for Economic and Social Policy,” the Western Hemisphere’s last communist government has laid out a 291-point plan for a reformed Cuba.

    It doesn’t exactly embrace capitalism, but still represents a major departure from the egalitarian ideology that has ruled the country for decades. Copies of the booklet have been sold out at newsstands in Havana since its release on Nov. 9.

    The guidelines call for an expanded private sector and opening the country to greater foreign investment, as well as the elimination of the long-standing food ration system and a liberalization of the real estate market.

    They propose to build golf courses and marinas for tourists, liquidate state-owned companies that don’t turn a profit and create Vietnamese-style “special investment zones” to attract global industry.

    The Economist magazine calls the measures “bold changes intended to preserve Cuban communism” that, nevertheless, “may herald the beginning of its end.”

    Sensitive to such I-told-you-so jeers from critics abroad, and stung by detractors on the left who accuse Cuba of “abandoning” socialism, the guidelines insist the firm hand of central planning will remain at the tiller, not the market’s invisible one.

    “The economic policy in this new phase will follow the principle that socialism is the only way to overcome our difficulties and preserve the gains of the Revolution, and that as we update our economic model, planning will be paramount, not the market,” it states.

    Failing Economic Model

    Still, the measures aim to reduce state bureaucracy and create a more heterogeneous economy, with a mix of public-private business, cooperatives, private leases on state property and self-employed entrepreneurs, while making clear that the government won’t allow anybody to get too wealthy.

    “The concentration of property will not be allowed,” the guidelines firmly declare, lest anyone think Cuba might try to copy China.

    The proposals were printed after Castro announced that Cuba will hold its sixth Communist Party Congress in April, the first since 1997. The occasions are typically used to unveil new policy and personnel changes, and are supposed to be held every five years.

    While some have speculated that 84-year-old Fidel Castro may use the event to formally retire from his position as the Communist Party’s top official, his 79-year-old brother said economics, not politics, would be on the agenda.

    Over the next five months, Raul Castro has said, Cubans will have a chance to weigh in on the proposals in their neighborhoods and workplaces, calling for “open discussions with the people on any topic, no matter how sensitive.”

    The guidelines present a grim portrait of a failing economic model. Exports have plunged. Fifty percent of state-owned land is idle and unproductive. The country suffers from “inefficiency, underinvestment in infrastructure and productivity, and an aging population that is stagnant,” the booklet reads.

    Cuba plans to lay off 500,000 state employees by April, and another 800,000 might also be trimmed in coming years, so the proposals indicate how the government expects to create jobs for those workers. Even after the cuts, some 60 percent of Cubans will continue to be employed by the state.

    University of Havana economist Juan Triana called the proposals the most important government document since 1975.

    “It reaffirms the revolutionary essence of our political system, but changes the philosophy of our economic management,” he said in an interview with Venezuela’s TeleSur TV network.

    Skepticism About Proposals

    Several of the proposals would have an immediate impact on the everyday lives of Cubans, such as the government’s plan to eliminate the food ration system that has been the cornerstone of the Cuban diet since 1962. The guidelines describe the ration system as one that “caters to those who need it as well as those who don’t, encouraging barter, resale and black market practices.”

    Item No. 278 proposes to allow Cubans to buy, sell and rent properties, transactions that now occur largely through underground, off-the-books deals. That would create the potential for a much more dynamic real estate market, but it’s not clear whether Cubans will be able to sell their properties to foreigners, or to Cuban emigres looking to return to the island or invest there.

    Dissident economist Oscar Espinosa Chepe said he thinks the proposals amount to a “wish list,” and calls the proposed measures “superficial,” saying they don’t go far enough to deliver the radical changes Cuba needs.

    “They don’t get to the root of the problem,” he said. “The mentality continues to be the same: tight control by the state and the party.”

    “These are changes designed to make sure that nothing really changes,” Espinosa Chepe added.

  16. Yoani, this is a very powerful message you have given to those in power!

    What kind of country have they created when even their own children do not even want to live in it?


    REUTERS: Fidel Castro says delegated powers as party head-Thu Nov 18, 2010

    HAVANA – Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro said his frail health forced him to delegate his powers as head of Cuba’s Communist Party, suggesting that he may have resigned his last leadership post.
    State-run press said on Thursday he told students in a Wednesday meeting he was not with them in his role as the ruling party’s First Secretary.

    “I got sick and did what I had to do — delegate my powers. I cannot do something that I am not in condition to dedicate to full time,” he said.

    In 2006, Castro, then president, provisionally ceded power to his younger brother Raul Castro after undergoing surgery for an undisclosed intestinal ailment. He officially resigned the office in February 2008 and Raul Castro, now 79, succeeded him as president.

    At least in name, he remained as head of the party, which is Cuba’s only legal political party and has scheduled a congress in April to determine the island’s future economic policy.

    Castro, 84, ruled Cuba for 49 years after taking power in a 1959 revolution.

    He transformed the Caribbean island into a Communist state at the doorstep of the United States and became a world figure for revolutionary causes.

    His departure as head of the Communist Party likely would have more symbolic power than real effect because his illness forced him to stay out of public view for four years, until he reappeared in July. He appeared to have little involvement in party matters.

    But his resignation would be another signal that Cuba’s aging leadership is facing transition.

    (Reporting by Jeff Franks; Editing by Stacey Joyce)

  18. Pingback: Tweets that mention Generation Y » The Children --

Comments are closed.