Donald Trump has just enlarged the Cuban government, at least from the international perspective that Cuba is a failure. If history is any measure, the Cuban government will now respond to his new policy by taking advantage of this newfound antagonism — as it did in 2003 — by clamping down on the pockets of independence and information that have taken seed in the past four years. Autocrats find it hard to resist being a victim and blaming outsiders for political and economic failures.
Forty-three year-old Osmany and his family, living in the heart of the island’s Ciego de Avila province, may not feel the heat anytime soon but certainly will not be getting any relief from the heat either. For the past four years the effects of climate change on the island have stressed his croplands, diminished rainfall and made it economically less probable for him to raise and save $300 USD to get a Cuban passport for his nine-year-old boy. He already has a Spanish one, at a cost of $65 USD, but without the Cuban one, it’s useless to leave the island. Osmany wants to travel for a few months to Spain, to work and return with a thousand euros to invest in his farm. It could dramatically change his possibilities. He wants to visit his father, who left him his farmlands and escaped Cuban society to the origin of his ancestors in the Spanish Canary Islands. Thousands of Spanish immigrants from the Islands have come to the Caribbean island since it’s colonization as part of either a whitening of the island or as economic refugees. For Osmany, the controlled economics of Cuban agriculture continue to hinder the family’s potential. On a small scale, there a simple dozen mango trees in the front of his house he ferments into a soda pop he bottles and keeps at home or gives away, because he is prohibited from selling it to the neighbouring province of Sancti Spiritus, literally less than a kilometre away. This is the same situation for any farmer in the vicinity and for any crop, they must remain within the province unless government controlled.
Abelardo, is a well-known “Santero” (Santeria priest) in Santiago de Cuba, but he is also an accomplished and well published anthropologist who forms a central part in organizing the international local cultural Caribbean Festival. Abelardo is an exception in Cuban demographics, as he has had several opportunities to travel outside of Cuba on cultural exchange programs, where he often relies on providing spiritual aid and guidance to Santeria followers abroad, that provide him a few extra hundred dollars a year. These opportunities have been diminishing over the years and Abelardo was excited they could increase not only with international tourism increasing to Santiago (currently over 75% of American tourism doesn’t venture too far from Havana or a beach) but with him being able to expand his scholastic knowledge. Abelardo has been seeking international economic contacts and support where he could form a cooperative participation on an international project on African culture in Cuba linking “Santeria” and “Canomble” from Brazil to form a triangle to one of its little unknown origins with the Bantu in Congo.
Farther east in the predominantly black populated hills of Guantanamo, thirty-six-year-old Alexei, father of two and working in a small sugarcane co-operative 15kms from the city has just left the island for the first time and is bound to Rome to visit his brother. Alexei held a relatively safe and sufficiently well paid position, by Cuban standards, in the co-op, but the living conditions in the Guantanamo hills are getting complicated for the education of his two daughters. The family wants to move closer to Guantanamo city to ensure their fourteen-year-old daughter Laura, can get to school every day and not just when the local train route can operate. Laura, who wants to join the police, is finding resistance from her mom, who doesn’t see it as the most promising job, but guarantees a higher salary. Laura’s mom, a trained veterinarian, works the local drugstore, because it’s the job no one else wanted or could do. The roof of the drug store collapsed a year ago and has not been repaired to date. To build a new family home, they need a mere $4,000 USD. Alexei is currently working nights at a facility on the outskirts of Rome as security during the three month tourist visa he obtained for the summer.
Alexei, Abelardo and Osmany are all highly respected members of their communities who are recognized as leaders and at hand. They live happily in Cuba, with hardship and struggles like anywhere else, there is fresh and sufficient food on their tables and healthcare conditions are adequate. As far as human rights go, it would be hard to find an uncommon difference from any other Latin American country, except that the levels of violence in Cuba are significantly lower. However, the sole desires of all three, to move forward and remain inside Cuban life have been highly dependent on the lives, consequences and resources of either family or friends living abroad. Trump’s initiatives now are an emotional, personal and economic uncertainty, that is once again determined by Cold War and Imperialistic ancestry. Where the Cuban government has failed to assist and provide them, the Obama administrations decisions at least gave them a better perspective. Trump has now simply, created a new additional whirlwind and given the Cuban government an excuse to tell these three families, that someone else and not them is responsible for their uncertainty.