Life was so miserable in americanised Cuba that the starting point of the Cuban revolution was not just ideological: it was mostly nationalist, and aimed at getting rid of the North American occupation and all its negative consequences.
What did Cubans dislike about the North American occupation? Oh, all of it. The exploitation of the whole country to enrich just a few fat asses. The corruption that went along with it. The lack of possibilities of development for the Cuban people. The fact that rich U.S. citizens were using Cuba as a playground for short but wild debauchery breaks.
Americanisation was worth fighting against. It was worth all these years of deprivation preceding and following the revolution. Worth these violent fights and casualties. Worth these long decades of poverty imposed by Uncle Sam by means of an utterly unfair blockade.
But whilst the world is now wondering what will happen with Castro dead and Trump in charge, there are very obvious signs that the poor Cuban people are more than ready to be colonised again.
Don’t imagine that it hasn’t started already anyway. Western goods circulate a lot in Cuba: clothes of course, as Fidel’s well-known Adidas outfits, but much more than that, smuggled more or less openly from family established overseas or other non government sponsored channels. For example I found remarkable that many teenagers had smartphones from a much more recent model than mine.
The inhabitants of the cities are all gathering on public squares where public WiFi has been installed; and whilst access is granted against a fee and by using a unique code, so the government knows what you are doing on the Internet, this is very unlikely to prevent the flow of ideas from the rest of the world to permeate into the Cuban society.
What surprised me most, when I visited Cuba in August 2015 and had good discussions with the local population at several occasions, was that people felt really ready for a greater openness of their country.
There is this widespread belief in Cuban society that the blockade should be blamed for the immense majority of the difficulties Cuba is facing today – this is what propaganda says and I think Cubans are probably right to believe it is true. And what’s most: friendly talks with Obama meant that the end of the blockade, and of the problems, was probably nearby.
I visited Cuba in August 2015, before the country was opened to visits from U.S.A. citizens again; and the main form of worries I heard locally were related to the crowds management rather than ideological: how were we going to be able to host masses of additional tourists when the country was already hardly able to put up with the large current number of visitors?
But I also heard some locals who feared that the country would be pulled back to its pre-revolution situation of dependence and almost slavery to its Northern neighbour.
Alas, we live in a post-democratic society where owning an iPhone that can connect to the Internet is much more important than the right to vote for an idiot unlikely to do a good job anyway, so I doubt Cubans will massively fight against Americanisation 2.0 in the coming years.
How well off Cuba will be in this new era of economic colonisation will depend on how the U.S.A. will treat them; and with such leadership as Trump, there is a lot to fear. But history has shown it: every time the U.S.A. treat a country like shit, it ends up bouncing back against them. Can’t wait to see Revolución 2.0 in the years 2040….
Imagine for a minute that you are North Korean. Have lived in North Korea all your life, never travelled, and never would imagine leaving the country. You were a pioneer at school, you learned the history of your country and studied the exploits of your great leaders.
And today, on your way to work, you see the following scene: a bus stops on the street, a bunch of foreign tourists get out of it, they are all smiling and obviously very impressed.
They have travelled from really far to see your country. They look absolutely amazed. They take plenty of photos, so they plan to share their wonderment back home with their friends and families!
Wouldn’t that reinforce your faith in the regime?
But what you don’t know, little North Korea citizen as you are, is that the wonderment actually comes from how odd your country is. Giant statues of the great leaders? People bowing in front of them? You actually use your free time to chant propaganda songs or wipe the floor under the propaganda statues?
This is just absolutely incredible for us. We will show the photos, oh yes, but that’s because the world needs to know how unbelievably weird things are in North Korea.
You also probably don’t know that we are not allowed to take photos everywhere in North Korea; so whenever we’re being told the magic words by our guide: “You can take photos here”, we go wild.
There’s something else that they did not tell you: before entering your country, we received a briefing. They told us how to behave.
We don’t admire your regime; we’re just curious and polite, and trying not to get kicked out of your country before the end of our holiday.
As all visitors to North Korea, I went to the Kumsuman Memorial; I did see the bodies of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il; and I did bow, following the rules: in lines of 4, bowing in a sync’d way, first facing the leaders, then at their right, (then walking behind them but not bowing), then at their left.
I did not do this because I admire them or have respect for what they did. I did it because it was a unique chance to get under the skin of you, a North Korean citizen, and to get an insight of what it can be like to live in a totalitarian regime.
But you, little North Korea citizen, do you know all that? Or are you simply proud that I flew so many miles and broke the bank to come and witness your country’s and its leaders’ glory?
This week, Ailsa‘s photo challenge theme is Pairs.
I have chosen the most surrealistic pair I have ever seen: those two giant statues of Kim Il-Sung and Kim-Jong-Il in Pyongyang, North Korea.
Originally there was only one statue here, the second was added by current leader Kim-Jong-Un after his father’s death, as it would help increase his own legitimacy.
On many occasions, citizens of North Korea gather here, typically as work or school teams, to come and present their respects to the previous supreme leaders. They bring huge flower wreaths, get in line, and bow all together.
I took these photos at the occasion of the Party Foundation anniversary celebrations in 2014.