Apartheid en Cuba
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    Foreigners and Cubans: Princes and Paupers

    Foreigners and Cubans: Princes and Paupers
    FRANCISCO ALMAGRO DOMÍNGUEZ | Miami | 15 de Junio de 2017 – 15:39 CEST.

    A woman friend of mine who lives in Miami recently traveled to the
    Island with her children. As her father is Cuban, she wanted her
    children to meet the family members who are still there. She had
    postponed the trip again and again, without knowing why. Something told
    her that it could be an experience full of run-ins and incidents.
    Fortunately, the family relationships unfolded with pleasantly
    surprising spontaneity: the children and their Cuban relatives on the
    Island got along as if they had known each other their whole lives.

    The sad part of the trip was not the family, or the odyssey of
    travelling to what was once the Paris of the Caribbean – today a
    ramshackle city strewn with garbage. She was prepared, or at least
    aware, of the blackouts, the potholes, the smell of kerosene, the jug
    and pail of water for bathing, and the most elementary food
    deficiencies. What she was not prepared for was seeing how Cubans treat
    their own.

    And she does not understand it, among other reasons, because only 90
    miles away, Cubans are like “princes.” There, Cubans are able to do what
    no other Latin American can in the US, or an Englishman, for that
    matter: legalize his immigration status and become a citizen in a short
    period of time. In the south of Florida they control politics and the
    economy. In fact, upon marrying a Cuban, he achieved a different
    migratory status, one allowing him to find good jobs and continue
    studying. And offending or humiliating a Cuban citizen because of his
    nationality can land an American in some very hot water.

    She claims to have detected, beginning right at the airport, a culture
    of apartheid, discriminating against those Cuban nationals who,
    unmistakable with their suitcases, beads and hats, were returning to
    their own country. They moved her and her children up in the line,
    passing other mothers with small children, because she was “not Cuban.”
    After that, and occasionally, it was harassment: the relatives who
    accompanied her to restaurants and shops were considered potential
    jineteros, or swindlers.

    Very perceptively, she made a sad observation: despite all the snubbing
    of Cuban citizens, who have nothing to give, and the fawning over
    foreigners (outsiders thought to have it all, to be able to do it all),
    Cubans are still, at heart, friendly people. They know how to love and
    to give. They are, like Havana, a ruined city that is falling apart, but
    that can still be rehabilitated.

    Somehow, the Cuban capital today is faithful to my friend’s observation.
    Cities, their buildings, parks, theaters, schools and hospitals resemble
    their inhabitants, their people. It is they, and their spirit, that
    shape the atmosphere, and this, recursively, returns to the people the
    magic of living in peace, and hope. This is what anyone notices when
    they go to Madrid, Paris, New York or Mexico City: tourism is not all
    about the Gran Via, the Eiffel Tower, the Empire Estate or the Angel of
    Independence. The essence of tourism is the local people, as foreign
    visitors are often treated better than the country’s own citizens.

    In an effort to expunge the legacy of the Gómez-Mena family (Cubans
    whose crime was to be millionaires who actually got the country to
    produce something), they have established a centenarian foreign company
    just a few steps from the statue of José Martí in Central Park. The
    luxurious Hotel Manzana – no longer belong to the Gómez clan, but rather
    the Kempinski family – is surrounded by icons of Cuba’s republican
    culture and politics, as well as dozens of buildings and houses propped
    up to prevent them from collapsing. Allusions to the past, the slap in
    the face perpetrated by the Marinesthat produced such outrage,are not
    mere coincidences. We may always suffer from a strange neuroticism,
    hating and loving all that is foreign at the same time.

    Staying at luxury hotel in the middle of a city devastated by
    abandonment, and a population suspected of being a band of rogues, is
    not really tourism. There can be no true tourism where there is no
    water, or street lighting, or care for the environment, because
    everyone’s prime concern is to have a plate of food to eat. As my friend
    said during her brief visit to Cuba: what most disturbs and pains the
    tourist are the people who live on the island. They seem to be destroyed
    inside. And yet, at the same time one can see that, with adequate
    restoration, the Cuban people could shine. Like five-star hotels.

    Source: Foreigners and Cubans: Princes and Paupers | Diario de Cuba –

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