“In a speech to the National Assembly, Mr. Castro said that Cubans’ behavior — from urinating in the street and raising pigs in cities to taking bribes — had led him to conclude that, despite five decades of universal education, the island had ‘regressed in culture and civility.’ ” The reporter goes on to cite Castro’s chagrin because Cubans have lost their “honesty, decency, sense of shame, decorum, honor and sensitivity to others’ problems.”
What the article doesn’t say is that those values have been lost not “despite five decades of universal education,” but because of it. After all, who was doing the educating in Cuba? Who has been in charge for more than five decades? In the 1970s, the only time in Cuban history where the island was truly isolated, to speak correctly and to address grown ups in the formal second person — usted instead of tu — was considered bourgeois.
My fifth-grade teachers made fun of my mother because she insisted on calling them señoritas rather than compañeras. On my walk to middle school, I was occasionally the target of kids who threw stones at my feet because I was “too white,” whatever that meant. And who can forget the acts of repudiation during the months of Mariel?
Many years have passed since, and sweeter memories have replaced the bitter incidents of my childhood, but Lucy’s film brought it all back — the envy, the chivatos (snitches) in the neighborhood, the fears — because the seeds of all the ugliness Castro is now complaining about were planted long ago, perhaps as early as when the children of my generation were taught to replace our loyalty to, and respect for, our parents with a silly slogan: “ Fidel es mi Papá y Cuba es mi Mamá.”
Fidel turned out to be a cruel and neglectful father. And Cuba — oh Cuba! — a very weak and defenseless mother.