Cuba: The young and the restless, connecting the dots

“Raul talks and does not say anything. Raul is not doinig anything.”  That comment from a young man sitting on the curb on 96Th street in Bay Harbor Island.  He an 17 other young Cubans had just landed on a dock next to one of the small cities many canals.  The were all young all fresh from Cuba likely having paid smugglers a hefty sum to bring them across the Straits of Florida in a overcrowded go-fast. 

The next day five of seven young Cubans who had defected from the Cuban National Under-23 soccer team showed up in Miami to meet with a immigration lawyer. Said Jose Miranda, “I have reached the top of the sport in Cuba and so did the other guys, when you reach the top in Cuba where else do you go?”  For these five young men I talked to their quest was very much about the future.

I could not help but remember a blog that I had recently discovered. Written by a young woman named Yoani Sanchez. She very much like the soccer players, and the young folks who landed in Bay Harbor Island.  She too laments about the future and notes how the aging Cuban leadership longs for the past. Every anniversary, every date of significant revolutionary events is remembered, celebrated, people pour into the streets praising heroes long dead.  Sanchez notes there is, in Cuba, never a celebration of the future:

“All of those references to that which was and we must evoke, contrast with the little time we dedicate to talk about the future. The big anniversaries remind us that today -about several years ago- something happened or someone died. Most of these acts happened forty, fifty or a hundred years back, while a void of events covers our closer periods. Those of us less than forty years old have not participated in almost anything, but have been just spectators of the glories of the past. Passive consumers of the fattened repertoire of dates past.”

Several years ago the professors at the Institute of Cuban and Cuban American studies told a group of NBC6 journalist that the Cuban Youth would be the biggest challenge to the Castro Brother’s regime. The told us how the Cuban Youth had no tie to the Castro Government, how they were just rudderless and restless, and, they added, the Castro government would throw the youngsters a bone or two to keep them out of the streets. 

Sure enough as we encountered the young soccer players the announcement came out of Cuba. Citizen would now be allowed to purchase computers, microwaves, DVD players, up to 24-inch TV sets, electric rice cookers and a host of other electronic items which were no allowed for sale on the island.  A gesture to be sure because most of the items are out of reach price wise for the average Cuban. But for sure a sign Raul Castro is aware of the issue of the unhappy youth.

Some how at the end of the day it came to me, no matter how many DVD players or rice cookers the Castro Brothers were going to put on the market, everyone of the defectors I had met in the past day or so would have come anyway.  A new microwave or electric rice maker was not going to get in the way of the future.


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