Pssst…. Young cubanito, did you hear what the old man said?
No, not political fossils Castro No. 1 and Castro No. 2, but the second-in-command of the Communist Party in Cuba, the grave, sharp-suited octogenarian comrade José Ramón Machado Ventura.
Just in case you needed to be reminded how to behave when those Americans come ashore on their $3,000, 200-nautical mile cruise, Ventura calls on you — the faithful sons and daughters (heck, grandchildren by now) of the Revolution — to meet a new challenge: Young Cubans, he said, shouldn’t allow themselves to be “dazzled” by the shine of all that American glitter shimmying up and down Cuban streets.
“The first challenge [of a new era in Cuba-U.S. relations],” Machado Ventura said in an interview with the Communist youth newspaper Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth. Now there’s a name for the times), “is not to be dazzled by the consumerism and the pretty things that attract the attention of young people.”
How dare you, rank-and-file Cuban, dream that any of the spoils of this new epoch are for you?
The dollars will defend, Ventura said, the only thing on the Cuban table – a “prosperous, sustainable socialism,” meaning that there’s more to come of what you’ve already lived through all your lives.
And you heard him loud and clear.
That’s why you’re investing your extra convertible pesos in Styrofoam.
On the eve of the July 20 date for renewed diplomatic relations, you, young Cuban — in whose name all of this good stuff is happening — need to understand clearly that the cash infusion of this Warm War is headed where the other resources from the Soviet Union and Venezuela went: to beef up the nomenclature, their families and close supporters, who are no longer scoring points with the government to get a washer or an electric rice maker but for permission to operate a chic restaurant or post a room on Airbnb.
What more evidence could you possibly need that razzle-dazzle is a sin against socialism than what happened to the youngest Fidel progeny in Turkey — and that you saw with your own eyes via any one of the ingenious ways you’ve engineered to tear down the Cuban government blockade on information?
If you arrive like Antonio Castro Soto del Valle in a mega-yacht with your entourage in the swanky Turkish resort town of Bodrum, the paparazzi will stalk you, soccer-punching hooligan security be damned, and capture you frolicking like an anti-Communist billionaire from Miami.
Listen, young cubanito, to Ventura and his bosses who are grooming their grown children and grandchildren to inherit the fiefdom, Ottoman style. Stay away from pretty things!
Your only allowed dream is to use that polytechnic education to build a rickety raft that will carry you all the way to Key Biscayne, or to save the tips you hustled in Varadero to buy a plane ticket to Ecuador (no visa required) and trek it all the way to the U.S. border.
On dry land here or in Laredo, you can declare yourself Cuban — and be truly dazzled by how it’s the one place where you, self-exiled from sustainable socialism, still have some rights.