Many things fascinate me about Cuba. However, nothing has the hypnotic effect of a clock radio on me. It is a state broadcaster that – like all traditional media in the country, other than blogs and social media pages – broadcasts “the news” punctuated by hourly advertisements.
I wrote “News” in quotes because, in fact, on the island of Fidel Castro, who died exactly five years ago, everything is processed by the regime and turned into ideological messages to justify the one-party dictatorship and attack any alternative.
The first time I went to Cuba, in April 2003, when Fidel shot three opponents and arrested 75 others, I wrote that on the island it always seemed like a Sunday: most Cubans were civil servants, kept at their doorsteps, or streets and squares waiting The passage of time or the search for a way to extract dollars from tourists or sell their bodies or products stolen from state companies.
This feeling of an island where time does not pass, for the eternal badger’s day, is surreally synthesized by the monotonous communication of Radio Relogio and its delusional messages. Since I discovered the station, on my first trip to Cuba, every time I return (the total was four times), the first thing I do after arriving from the airport is to listen to Rádio Relógio. Record it to prove later to myself and others that it really exists.
I will transcribe here the first message I recorded when I landed in Havana in 2016, to cover funerals and the impact of Fidel’s death. So I didn’t choose the letter, to make a bigger impression. Simply because any part of my recordings has the same content in the background.
“Three forty-five minutes. The great challenge of Cuba. Conclusion. Speaking to Rádio Relógio, author Juan González Riva said that it is very easy to say ‘I am Fidel’ (‘amen’ in Spanish) and therefore we feel the need to continue his work, but it is necessary to develop Our revolutionary position to confront the enemies of the revolution. He explained that it is necessary to commend Fidel for fulfilling his commitments in honor of his example, and means that the moment when the ashes of the leader in Martí Cespedes are laid in the cemetery of Santa Iphigenia will be historic. The Cuban revolutionary process must now be strengthened more than ever and ensure that no one will disappear details, where we will no longer have Fidel to advise us.This cultural figure in the Granma (a state newspaper) highlighted the need to preserve Cuba’s massive revolutionary work with the same dignity that Fidel has championed all his life.Interviewed with Jorge Luis Baptista.Radio on Clock. Forty-six minutes.
This does not mean that nothing changes for Cubans. When I left José Martí airport (the independence leader mentioned in the letter, next to whom Fidel’s ashes were deposited), I realized that something had changed since the last time I was in Cuba, in 2009, to cover 50 years of revolution. People on the streets were hotter, better fed and better dressed.
I spent the next few days investigating, and I realized it was the result of the economic reforms led by Raul Castro, Fidel’s brother and successor since his sick leave in 2006, which she also covered. They allowed Cubans to open small service businesses, rent rooms in their homes to tourists, expand private restaurants beyond the four-table limit (specifically the profitability threshold), and buy and sell cars and homes.
When everything is state-owned, there are no small businesses, such as appliance repair, machine shops, electricians, plumbers, shoemakers, tailors, laundries, hairdressers, etc. Cubans have learned to fix and fix their things. With the reform, these small businesses sprouted, generating income.
I was hosted on a scheme similar to Airbnb, which is not there because credit cards are not working due to the US ban. I booked the room with the help of a Cuban friend. Homeowner, electrical engineer. She used to earn the equivalent of $25 a month, the highest salary on a server. I paid this amount daily for the room.
I interviewed a lawyer who had changed her previously coveted job in the legal department of the state-owned World Bank to get a stall selling salad and fruit juice. She told me she now earns the $25 a week she was earning a month.
These are changes that brought a certain amount of luxury, although Cubans’ aspirations for freedom continued to be suppressed. With the pandemic, tourism, the main source of income for this emerging “middle class”, has disappeared. You are Then the protests intensified And with them repression.
The Madrid-based Cuban Observatory for Human Rights reported that it had documented “more than 400 repressive actions” to prevent the protests calling for November 15.
Playwright Junior García Aguilera, one of the leaders of the Movement for Democracy in Cuba, took refuge in Madrid with his wife after the protests were suppressed. Flowers and white shirts, the symbol of the movement for democracy on the island, were banned.
On the balcony of García Aguilera’s apartment, government officials placed a large Cuban flag to prevent him from flying a banner or white flag. People who tried to demonstrate were harassed by gunmen loyal to the regime.
“The Cuban people have been silent for a long time, and it is time for them to speak freely about what they think,” said Garcia Aguilera. CNN. For the system, as for Radio Relogio, there can only be one free voice: that of Fidel Castro.
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