A childhood in Cuba: Constant crisis, mass marches, acts of repudiation, and hate filled speeches

By Pedro P. Morejon via Havana Times:

A Glimpse of My Generation’s Childhood in Cuba

It was Saturday morning; I didn’t have school. On those days, I wouldn’t wake up until almost 9 AM, but this time it was earlier. It was the late 1970s and the TV was broadcasting a mass march in support of the Revolution and against imperialism.

You could hear slogans like: “Fidel pichea, que Cater no batea” (Pitch Fidel, Carter can’t hit) or “Pin pon fuera, abajo la gusanera” (Out with the worms) etc. My young brain didn’t understand any of that display, or about the Mariel exodus (1980), but that’s when I became aware of the reality around me. Namely, living in a country in constant conflict.

Ever since then, I used to nh that Fidel was good and that the Yankees were sons of bitches. Whenever a plane passed by, I thought Fidel was traveling inside, and like many children of my generation, we’d go out on the street, look up at the sky and wave, shouting his name, jubilant.

At school, we were taught that we should be like someone called El Che, that US Imperialism was our enemy, that we were constantly being threatened by it, but that we would always win, and more importantly: Fidel Castro was the greatest and anyone who didn’t stand by his revolution was a worm, sell-out, traitor, counter-revolutionary… a bad person, in short.

I used to think that was true because on TV, worms were presented as murderers, torturers, people without any mercy or heart.

That’s why I was shocked when Jose Maria and Blanquita, my friend Juanito’s parents, were labeled “worms”. I knew them and they were very nice, at least to me. Whenever I went around his house to play, they would treat me like a son and used to give us candy. One day, we were coming back from school when we saw a group of people (most of whom weren’t from the neighborhood) standing outside his house, and shouting insults. I saw the terror on Juanito’s face, and his mother’s concern. They had committed the crime of wanting to move to the turbulent and cruel north.

We didn’t talk about politics in my house. My grandfather was an atheist and liberal, and my grandmother was a Christian in her own way, who didn’t practice.

“God exists, he is the Almighty and Creator of the Universe. Whenever you have a problem, speak to Him and ask him for whatever you need, but at school, don’t talk about God and if they ask you, say you don’t believe. Later you apologize,” she used to advise me.  

And, I remember being under that canistel bush and praying: “God, if you really exist, I ask you to strike down every US person tomorrow. Because the US is to blame for everything. Plus, they attack countries and kill people.”

It was a time when we lived in great fear. Under the threat of a US invasion. People were told to build shelters in their backyards. “I dreamed about planes that clouded the sky…” Silvio Rodriguez once said in a song, and that scared me more than any horror movie.

It was also the era of Proletarian internationalism dressed up in lead. Young people were sent to Angola and other countries. Many complied out of fear, others out of convinction, but the few Cubans who refused to go were added to the betrayal list. In a nutshell, sons were sent off to war and mothers were left behind crying.

There was always a crisis, mass marches, acts of repudiation and hate-filled speeches.

This was my generation’s childhood.

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