Class warfare,  Cuba

Yoani Sanchez, class warrior

Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez writes about the Havana neighborhood that houses foreign diplomats and many of Cuba’s privileged elite. (The area is dominated by the former embassy of the USSR, now the Russian embassy, a building which tells you everything you need to know about the Soviet-Cuban relationship.)

A meet-and-greet place that is also called the Avenue of the Americas, with its source of sirens at one end and its luxurious mansions on both sides. At that corner the retired colonel and the new corporation manager have just run into each other and talk about the weather, their children… how beautiful the morning is. Here comes an official’s daughter, with a childhood friend with whom she shared games and barbecues. Also, just crossing the street — carefully — the white-bearded poet with his purebred dog. And the actress who has returned from touring Europe joins the early morning calorie-burning procession. Because by ten in the morning the sun will want to offer them a free sauna, and none of them will be outside any longer.

Compared to the rest of Cuba, 5th Avenue stands as a rarity. And not because such urban beauty is scarce on this Island, not at all, because even the destroyed mansions of Central Havana maintain some of their former beauty. What is strange is this case is not the perfectly trimmed trees, the intact white granite benches, or the mansions with fences and gardens, but the people themselves. The most anomalous thing that strikes the eye is the behavior of these passersby who jog or walk their pets. There is a touch of comfort in them, an attention to their bodies and attire, a tranquility derived from the lack of daily annoyances. They are like some caricature of the bourgeoisie that official discourse tried to make us hate from the time we were little. But, there they are, with their relaxed trot, their athletic clothes, and those extra pounds gained through privilege that the diversion of resources or power have given them, behind our backs, and on our backs.

If Yoani wrote this sort of thing about an exclusive neighborhood in, say, New York or London, she would be accused by Republicans and Conservatives of engaging in class warfare. The difference between those cities and the Cuban capital, of course, is that the privileged elite in Havana is part of a system based on the premise that they want to do away with the very privileges they enjoy at the expense of others.