Something More Than Numbers

CENSUS of Population and Housing

CENSUS of Population and Housing

Two smiling young people explain in a TV commercial the advantages of the 2012 Population and Housing Census. They speak of the need to have updated and reliable statistics about our society. To end the brief spot, they chant in chorus a phrase where they claim that, “Between September 15th and 24th we will count everyone.” Which immediately leads the viewer to reflect that it’s not the same for them to count us as to count on us. But beyond the “Freudian slips” that are evident in the official language, concern takes us down another path. Cubans don’t trust inspections, we have a strong suspicion of counts and inquiries within our homes. We divide our existence between the legal — and public — zone, and the other, plagued with illegalities in order to survive. This is the main explanation for why we don’t always greet polls with pleasure.

Under other conditions, a census shouldn’t worry us but rather please us. Because it’s a statistical tool that provides the citizenry with data about itself. The number of houses, how many inhabitants of one gender or the other, the growth rate of the population… and so many other figures that reveal the achievements and shortcomings of a nation. However, in the case of our country, it is very difficult to separate a simple inventory from the consequent State control it generates. Impossible to unlink an inquiry — however ingenuous and anonymous it seems — from its most feared counterpart: surveillance. Especially with regards to all the objects and resources of “doubtful provenance” that underpin our daily existence. Thus, a good share of Cubans will end up lying on various questions posed by the enumerators, and others will refuse to participate in the census altogether. The final results, then, will be a mix of the approximations, omissions and falsehoods offered by many of the respondents to avoid revealing the reality of who they are or what they possess.

After inquiring of several friends and neighbors, I corroborated that people are not disposed to confess everything that the National Office of Statistics wants to know. One friend, who has been able to repair her house from the profits of illegally selling clothes, explained to me, without embarrassment, “I’ll put the flat-screen TV in the bedroom and tell my son to hide his laptop.” She immediately added, “When they ask what we live on, I’ll tell them the 420 Cuban pesos (less than $20 U.S.) my husband earns each month.” And then, “Ahh… and if they inquire about the brand of my refrigerator, I’ll lie to their faces and tell them it’s a Chinese Haier… even though from the living room you can see the South Korean LG logo.” But most complicated for her will be if they ask about her brother, his wife and their little girl, who will try to not be at home when the census takers come because they are living illegally in Havana. When the enumerators leave her house they will surely have a very different idea of the standard of living and way of life of my astute friend. And that is precisely what she wants, that they think black is white, up is down, and today is tomorrow. Because from the time she was a little girl she was taught that to tell the truth is to single yourself out and to give information to the State is self-incrimination.


20 thoughts on “Something More Than Numbers

  1. Simba, I care a lot, couldn’t resist responding to troll, that’s all. And Humberto posts relevant news.

    You’re right about why Cuba doesn’t work, everybody is forced to lie about everything, Cuban statistics mean nothing.

    Only Yoani and a few hundred dissidents have the courage not to lie

  2. Simba Sez: Of the 15 previous “comments” not a single one is an actual comment on Yoani’s blog. Yet she deals with some of the basic reasons why the Cuban dictatorship doesn’t work, but nobody cares. Ah well, she writes nice anyway, even if no one bothers to read. Carry on.

  3. CL, re: #10

    How is that equivalent to state sponsorship of terrorism? Ben Ali’s family may or may not be nice people, they may or may not be guilty of past crimes in Tunisia, but giving them refuge in Canada, which may or may not be a good idea, is not the same thing as state sponsorship of terrorism.

    Do you have difficulty understanding these concepts?

  4. I`m just like you Humbertito. You also keep posting articles from your favourite newspapers always expressing others opinions and never yours. I always said you were a good journalist, but now I am beginning to wonder. Can you for once post something that comes from your mind instead of copying some article from your favourite newspapers like the Huffington Post, or the L.A. Times to name just 2.


    MIAMI HERALD: Cuban defectors choosing Tampa over Miami – Hoping to avoid the anti-Castro maelstrom in Miami — and spies for the regime — some important expats are choosing to live in Tampa. – By Juan O. Tamayo

    TAMPA — One was a senior Cuban government official who handled more than $700 million in U.S. imports in one year. Another is the son of a top Cuban army general. And then there’s the daughter of the island’s powerful vice president.

    All three defected and became part of a little-known trend among Cubans who escape their communist-ruled country and settle in Tampa, a city with strong historical ties to the island but not a major focus of current Cuban expatriate life.

    Why Tampa?

    To avoid Miami’s anti-Castro cauldron, analysts say. But also because the defectors are less likely to be recognized on the streets and because Miami has many knowledgeable FBI agents — and too many Castro spies.

    “They certainly can have a softer landing in this area,” said Ralph Fernandez, a Cuban-American lawyer in Tampa who said he knows of five mid- to high-level government officials living here whose defections in recent months have not been made public.

    Miami immigration lawyer Wilfredo Allen said his Tampa office was contacted by half a dozen middle-ranking Cuban military officers and government officials for help with their legal status over the past three years.

    Fernandez and other Cubans in Tampa agree that the total number of recent defectors living in the city of 346,000 people is high but unknowable because many of them are in hiding or keeping low profiles for various reasons.



  7. Actually, the thing about capitalist countries versus those run by dictators, is that the rule of law prevails, rather than some arbitrary whim of those in power. The family members who are in Canada apparently have Canadian citizenship already, and, if they do, and have committed no crime, they are free to stay, as it should be.

  8. Hey Humberto, my hermano, maybe Canada should be on the US Terrorist State list also. They allowed for the family of ousted Tunisian president Ben-Ali to remain in Canada. Thats the thing with capitalist countries, when their is a capital gain to be made, anyone can buy a stay anywhere. And I am sure all the millions of dollars the Ben-Ali brought with them to Canada is the sole reason they are allowed to stay.

  9. ” If everyone would do their fair share and participate in socialism, it would definitely be a way of life for all countries to learn on.”

    LOL, and we can all sit around a campfire and hold hands and sing socialist songs, and we can invite the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny.


    COLOMBIA REPORTS: Kidnap victims’ families indignant about FARC statements

    Families of Colombians who have been kidnapped by the FARC on Thursday reacted furiously on statements by the guerrilla group that it holds no more hostages.

    According to newspaper El Tiempo, nearly 400 families with missing loved ones from the past ten years cried out that if the FARC were not going to be sincere about their kidnappings, the expectation of a negotiation of peace would disappear.

    The outrage occurred in Colombia after a press conference in the Cuban capital Havana, held to reveal the names of the guerrilla members who were to represent the FARC during peace negotiations with the government, when the country’s largest guerrilla group claimed that they no longer retain any hostages.

    During the press conference, the political representative of the FARC Mauricio Jaramillo, said that the group had been ordered by the late supreme leader “Alfonso Cano” to cease all kidnappings and leave their “retained” free, to which reporters insisted on receiving continued complaints that the rebels still have hostages under their control, reported Caracol Radio.

    Rodrigo Granda, the named chancellor of the FARC, said that “in Colombia there are kidnappings by the organs of security, the paramilitaries, the common criminal, and they all accuse the FARC of committing these acts.”

    “In one moment it was said that we had 2,900 hostages. A sweep was taken block by block, front by front, and the accusations came out to be false that we were responsible,” Granda added. Within minutes, the Bolivar Plaza in Colombia’s capital Bogota filled with families of hostages that rejected the message.

    The families of the civilian hostages that are still in captivity assured that the peace process would fail if the FARC started with lies such as saying that they don’t have any retained hostages. Rafael Mora, president of the Association “The missing,” said that the process would be starting poorly.

    “If when the process of peace starts they don’t begin with the truth, it is a poor start. When they deny having in their control hostages it could mean several things: that they are ignoring their commanders, that they have hostages and they are denying it, or that the acts were done by a group trying to pass for the FARC,” said Mora.

    The association’s president considers it necessary to include at least one representative of the victims in the tables of dialogue that could negotiate above all the clarification of the truth and the liberation of the hostages that remain in captivity.


  11. hi everyone..I am just visiting Cuba…is still a communist country…or not…!
    Canada,Usa,EU are now the same as cuba and soviet union and the plan is to create the World Soviet Union kind or a World Cuba style and cuban the experiment can be chosen as a model for the world run by UN.A world leader is needed.Do you have any!


    PENULTIMOS DIAS: EXCLUSIVA: El arquitecto Vittorio Garatti ha enviado esta carta a Fidel y Raúl Castro, a propósito del proyecto de reconstrucción del pabellón de ballet en la ENA.

    ¿Cómo es posible, entonces, que un excelente bailarín cubano -Carlos Acosta- formado en la escuela de Alicia Alonso en La Habana y devenido famoso en Londres, pueda apropiarse de una de las Escuelas Nacionales de Arte (la escuela de Ballet), para utilizarla como escuela de baile personal y privada?

    Considero que esto alteraría en forma inapropiada no sólo la estructura arquitectónica existente, sino también el amplio significado de las Escuelas Nacionales de Arte, concebidas como un organismo unitario para la integración de las artes en el intercambio recíproco de cada una de ellas con las otras, y no como disciplinas autónomas aisladas.

    Según me ha comunicado Carlos Acosta en nuestro primer encuentro, durante mi viaje a Londres en el pasado mes de octubre, el quería modificar algunas partes del edificio para adaptarlo a su programa personal de enseñanza basado en un repertorio “clásico” y en su metodología “canónica”. Según esta lógica, se transformarían los espacios concebidos y realizados para las aulas teóricas, consideradas por él como superfluas, en habitaciones para el alojamiento de los bailarines extranjeros invitados o inscritos en los cursos de especialización, eliminando así esos espacios destinados al estudio teórico e histórico del ballet, indispensables en una escuela que quiere ser un laboratorio de experimentación.

    Según esta metodología de enseñanza “ortodoxa”, el teatro de coreografía con su estructura circular, concebido, proyectado y realizado con total libertad como “laboratorio experimental” sería transformado en teatro para el ballet tradicional, destinado a un repertorio clásico que como tal obedece a reglas compositivas predeterminadas, para lo cual había sido proyectado el teatro para la Ópera en la colindante Escuela de Música, que forma parte del complejo de las Escuelas Nacionales de Arte.

    Por último se plantea que en el área del parque entre la Escuela de Ballet y la Escuela de Danza, se quiere realizar una gran sala de cine en 3D que de hacerse, comprometería gravemente la unidad orgánica de las articuladas Escuelas de Arte. Este tipo de estructura, puede facilmente realizarse en áreas vecinas, fuera del conjunto donde se alzan las Escuelas.

    No se debe olvidar, que el conjunto original de las Escuelas Nacionales de Arte, además de haber sido declarado Monumento Nacional (por lo tanto no modificable), está en espera de ser declarado Patrimonio de la Humanidad.

    Quisiera tambien expresar mi preocupacion que no se aporveche el alto valor, no solo cultural sino tambien turistico y económico del conjunto de las escuelas nacionales de arte en el desarrollo y contexto urbano y social de la zona oeste, entendido como Parque de la Cultura del Tercer Mundo, unidas a instalaciones y equipamientos existentes, desde Marianao hasta la cercana playa La Concha con una óptica metropolitana.

    Por todas estas razones, y fuertemente preocupado por la visible deformación que implicarían las propuestas de intervención de la Fundación inglesa “Carlos Acosta Intemational Dance Foundation”, solicito como proyectista de dos de las cinco escuelas, que me sea dada la posibilidad de defender la integridad del conjunto de las Escuelas Nacionales de Arte de Cubanacán.


  13. NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Plan For Cuban Ballet School A Dance Of Art, Politics – by Nick Miroff

    A radical proposal to restore one of Cuba’s most important architectural landmarks is rekindling a 50-year-old controversy. At the center is ballet superstar Carlos Acosta, who left the island and went on to a lead role in London’s Royal Ballet. Acosta wants to return to the island and restore an abandoned ballet school with help from one of the world’s most famous architects.

    But the proposal has opened old wounds from the school’s past and stirred a debate about the future of Cuba’s state-sponsored cultural model.

    But there’s a slight problem. Garatti, the original architect, is still alive. He has sent a letter to Fidel and Raul Castro saying Acosta’s plan is a dangerous step toward the “privatization” of the school. Other architects in Havana are upset that Foster would potentially alter Garatti’s design without his consent.

    “You have to accept that 50 years have gone by, but the changes should be done by the architect who was in charge,” says Coyula, the Havana architect. “If this architect is no longer able, this is another thing. But the last time I saw Garatti, he was thinking clearly. So there’s no reason to put him aside. I don’t think it’s ethical.”

    Garatti is in Milan and Acosta is in London, and neither seems close to working out a compromise. Acosta has even suggested he’ll take his plans elsewhere if he doesn’t get his way in Cuba.

    It’s now up to Cuban officials to work out a solution benefiting the next generation of dance students, for whom the ruined ballet school is not a symbol of the moment when Castro’s revolution carried so much promise. To them, it’s just a ruin.


  14. Cube Libre, why don’t you do your fair share and participate in socialism and buy a house for foreigners?

    Right now they’re building beach condos just for foreigners like you.

    Is it because you’ll pay at least 10 time more what you’ll have to pay by getting your Cuban serfs to buy a house for you and renovate it on the black market?

    You greedy, lying, cheating, law-breaking, stupid hypocrite. Hey, just the qualities needed to join the communist party while you’re there.

    You make a fine poster boy for socialism.

    Best of luck!

  15. More proof why socialism isn`t working 100% like it should be in Cuba. It`s because of liers like you and your lieing friend who continuously hide facts to the government that is feeding them. If everyone would do their fair share and participate in socialism, it would definitely be a way of life for all countries to learn on.


    CHICAGO TRIBUNE:Cuba struggles with foreign investment, growth – Marc Frank

    HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba’s failure to encourage more foreign investment is crippling its economic performance and putting its goal of sustainable growth in danger unless changes are made, local experts and diplomats said this week.

    The communist island is in the midst of market-oriented reforms to its Soviet-style system that supposedly will make the island more investor friendly, but potential investors say the Cubans have not yet put out much of a welcoming mat.

    The National Statistics Office said this week that investment by Cuba and its foreign partners was 4.3 billion pesos in 2011, just 100 million pesos more than the previous year.

    The 2011 figure is equivalent to 15.9 percent of Gross Domestic Product, which is an improvement over recent years, but far below what the country needs, according to a local economist.

    Part of the problem is Cuban concern about maintaining its independence and sovereignty, said a diplomat from a friendly Latin American country.

    “The Cubans have an ideological problem, and it’s not Communism, but nationalism,” he told Reuters


    Cuba’s investment reform plan announced last year spoke positively of foreign investment, promised a review of the cumbersome approval process and stated that special economic zones, joint venture golf courses, marinas and new manufacturing projects were planned.

    But there have been more promises than changes and many obstacles to foreign investment remain, diplomats said.

    A number of countries and their companies, from China, Russia and Brazil to Singapore and various European Union members, have expressed interest in investing in Cuba despite the U.S. trade embargo against the island, but to no avail.

    They said the government is demanding a majority interest in all joint ventures and is dragging its heels or obfuscating in negotiations.

    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE!,0,4082746.story

  17. THE CUBAN “GOVERNMENT” SHOULD TAKE MOST OF THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THIS TRAGEDY! SEE THE INCREDIBLE VIDEOS I POSTED ON THE PREVIOUS POST! Six of the 32 people hurt last week in a fire at a gas station in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba have died, Cuban official media said Friday.
    Of the 17 people who remain hospitalized after the blaze, eight are in critical condition and three others are listed as “very serious,” according to Sierra Maestra, the official Communist Party daily in Santiago de Cuba.
    Most of the dead succumbed to “generalized infections” arising from severe burns, the newspaper said.
    The surviving injured people range in age from 16 to 49.
    The fire started the night of Aug. 28 when “a state truck collided with one of the gasoline pumps” at the service station in Santiago, Cuba’s second city, located about 950 kilometers (590 miles) east of Havana.
    The crash caused a fuel spill, with experts concluding that spark from a nearby motorcycle may have ignited the gasoline, state television said. EFE
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