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is a blog to give a fresh angle on a fascinating and beautiful Caribbean Island country that, despite being relatively small and with only 11 million people, has been a major player in American and world politics for a half century. I also suggest you try

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Blogging from Socialist Cuba

By Circles Robinson

Back when I was growing up in Los Angeles, California in the 1960s, most US media painted Cuba as hell on Earth. I remember the air raid bells ringing and getting under my school desk because a bearded “Satan” had allowed the Russians to station nuclear missiles barely 90 miles from peace-loving Florida.

Of course my third grade teacher didn’t fill the class in on any of the details, but she did let us know there was plenty to be afraid of. In fact, for nearly a half century, generations of US citizens and people around the globe have been fed the story that Cuba is a permanent threat to peace, democracy, religion and everything we hold dear.

I always wondered how an undeveloped island country with barely three percent of the US population could really pose such a threat. Having been offered a job revising Spanish to English journalistic translations I finally got the chance to see for myself in 2001. I moved to Havana with my partner, daughter and one-year-old grandson.

After living in Cuba for several years, I decided in 2005 to start this blog. My main objectives in writing are to break through the black and white portrayals of colorful and diverse Cuba, and at the same time support the island’s right to be a little different from the rest of the continent.

It’s not easy to write objectively about Cuba. Two polarized views often distort any rational discussion.

One comes from the United States government and media, obsessed with its characterization of Cuba as a “Communist menace and police state.” Trashing the island in these terms is a decades-old lucrative business, thanks to the continuing flow of dollars from Washington and Miami to journalists and politicians.

No reality, not even the end of the Cold War in 1991, has modified this distorted view of Cuba.

Equally far from reality however, is the rosy picture Cuba has painted of itself; influenced by a belief that it’s not in the besieged country’s interest to share its problems with a hostile outside world.

Those who question the horror stories and somehow manage to visit the island, usually come away feeling that they’ve been duped by the mainstream media.

On the other hand, visitors expecting to encounter a revolutionary utopia encounter a complex country with many achievements and just as many problems. Some leave disillusioned.

With a new president (Raul Castro) and a new parliament in Cuba, and with the US heading into a November election showdown, it seems to me that this might be a good time to take a broader look at Cuba.

In the coming weeks I will be interspersing my news commentaries with several posts on life in Cuba and some of its main challenges for the future.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts! Reading from New York with great interest.

8:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It makes a refreshing change to read a balanced account of Cuba. All too often the country is either portrayed as an evil empire or a socialist paradise. I have been there and it is neither of these things. It has many problems and there is much that needs putting right. However, it still remains an inspiration to many millions of people, particularly in the developing world, and shows that human needs can be put before private profit.

7:15 AM  
Anonymous Lynden Long said...

I have never visited Cuba but I am well aware of the contending views of that country. We understand the motives for each point of view.
I don't think we can speak about the "objective reality" of life in Cuba without accepting that this reality is itself conditioned to such a large degree by its relationship with the "West" (and other countries that don't share its ideals.) Not even North Korea has been beseiged as Cuba is.
Just as importantly, what is our own mental model or frame of reference at work when we try to see Cuba "objectively"? Are we comparing conditions in Cuba against those found in the so-called "West". Is it against the "Asian Tigers"? I'm from the Caribbean and for me, the more useful comparison would be between Cuba and other countries of similar population and resource endowments. How do they compare? The UN Human Development Index goes some way to providing a useful basis for comparison. That Index, understandably, still does not consider that country's relationship with the rest of the world (where even friendly countries are threatened and bullied by "Western" powers.)
I remember reading recently that some international NGO had described Cuba as the only "sustainable" country in the world. Whether or not it is, is not really the point. What matters is that it is an example of what the ENTIRE world should be moving toward, if we expect to survive the environmental challenges now unleashed by the 20% of the world's population that consumes 80% and more, of the earth's resources.
Cuba has tried to create equitable conditions for ALL its people. No other country has sought to do so. Let us ask ourselves, 'Considering current circumstances, which model of development is in the best interest of mankind? Can the 4 billion without, ever hope to live like the 2 billion who have? Cuba is the world's best example of how 6 billion human beings can expect to live and still have a future.

1:49 PM  

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