“Dignified” poverty, limitless sacrifice of Cubans

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By Laura Roque Valero (El Toque)

HAVANA TIMES — As Cuba went through one of its harshest crises in collective memory, in the early 1990s, the government media bent over backwards to encourage the population. It was not enough to give the crisis a unique name like “the special period”, a euphemism to soften and underline the circumstantial nature of the situation, but they also emphasized the representation of this chaos with excessive optimism. which we unfortunately continue today.

The romanticization of poverty, also called “dignified” poverty, was one of the resources used to call the resistance of the Cuban people, while highlighting the heroism of their professional and daily efforts. In the creation of this popular consciousness, of this bias around the “revolutionary”, sacrifice was invoked with stereotypical representations of social reality, reduced to a positive and watered down vision.

Speech constructs reality and influences people’s actions. The government’s ability to control increases if the media that inform us share the same political position and the same vision. The “voluntary” work in the fields was presented to us in the newspapers as a great merit, the shampoo with medicinal plants was sold to us as the alternative of the year and any innovation to try to appease the crisis was approached with praise and optimism, and that really hurt us.

Three things we need to keep in mind when analyzing how our poverty has been portrayed in the media: triumphalism, discipline and distraction.

If we retrieve articles from the past, to understand what we live today, we would find sentences like: “We suffer, but support [the Revolution]. They fight, fight, do not get discouraged, do not get discouraged, they are proud of what they do”, an article published in the weekly Cienfuegos September 5 reads, published in 1993. In fact, most of the time this daily struggle was presented as heroism. The capacity of the Cuban people to make sacrifices to face the crisis has been forced to death, as the only politically correct conduct possible, the only conduct allowed. The image of national triumph and success also implied support and loyalty to the Revolution, proof that it had to win.

1993 – With the same fighting spirit and the same confidence in VICTORY.

The triumphalist vision of the crisis we are experiencing today is interpreted as a way for the government to subject Cubans to an ideal of resistance that is increasingly removed from their daily lives. Sacrifice, effort and gratitude to the Revolution are the values ​​that are pushed with a romanticization of shortages, painting a model citizen who must respond to the lack of basic products with discipline, while performing a very useful function to the Government . They create silent obedience to the system that gave us “everything”: “free” health care and education.

The moralizing power of these messages in the press, centered on the “dignity” of the solution to misery, is a diversionary technique to dodge deeper doubts. Instead of wondering why we don’t have electricity, we’ve been adopting energy-saving practices for years, and; instead of wondering where the meat ended up, they tried to replace it with moringa, old chickens or decrepit viscera.

But no, that’s not fair. Being poor is not OK. A state that does not ensure food requirements, living conditions and quality services is not acceptable either. That doesn’t mean the two men who put two Lada cars together in the ’90s to create the Creole limo aren’t deserving of all our admiration and respect, or the person who thought of making some kind of detergent from the sap of sisal; but neither does that mean that we can forget what is the source of what we are experiencing in Cuba today.

Simplifying the fight against poverty to the personal story of a farmer who managed to produce on land with virtually no supplies is a very comfortable story for the government. Thus, they escape accountability because poverty is a structural problem that cannot be solved with the initiative and ingenuity of a privileged few. This individual response, this applause for over-effort distracts us from the problem at hand, creates stereotypes about what our response to shortages should be, and increases this pressure on the rest of the population.

The advantage of having less should not be the norm or “morally correct”.

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