Laughter is still an effective cure for the daily trials. Thus, on this Island, we bend our lips into a smile more for self-therapy than for happiness. Then the tourists take our pictures and go home saying we are a happy people, that we haven’t lost our sense of humor before all the difficulties. Ahh! The tourists and their explanations! We tour the world with the instant of that laugh on our faces — a laugh that preceded a gesture of disgust — or with the image of satisfaction that overwhelms us on resolving, after a year’s effort, a pair of graduated lenses for a child.
Splitting our sides laughing can also be preventative medicine to avoid disappointments to come. Perhaps for this reason, every time I ask someone about the possible reforms likely to grow out of the Sixth Communist Party Congress, they answer me with a giggle, an ironic “teeheehee.” Next they shrug their shoulders and come out with a phrase such as, “Well, no one should have any illusions… and maybe they’ll authorize the purchase of houses and cars.” They end their words with another enigmatic grimace of pleasure, confusing me still more. It’s difficult to know if the majority of my compatriots today would prefer that transformations be approved at the Party Congress, or for it to be a fiasco to demonstrate the system’s inability to reform itself.
Although expectations have faded considerably in recent months, some part remains, especially among the most materially destitute and the most ideologically fervent. The image of a pragmatic Raul Castro has been replaced by that of a hesitant ruler, trapped by a situation beyond his control. The Congress some assumed would lead to reforms, has come too late and forfeited, with this waiting, many of the hopes it once unleashed. Behind the enigmatic smiles of the taxi drivers, pizza sellers, students, and even Party militants, is now concealed the insolence of those who know how little things change, and who use silent mockery to vaccinate themselves — in advance — against the frustration.