It’s somewhat entertaining to be abrupt with rich loathsome
racist white men here. The man who previously challenged my shirt attempted to
engage me in another conversation today. Fortunately I was getting ready to
talk on the phone – which costs $1.20 per minute here – when he approached me and
began yammering at me as if I have nothing to do but listen to him.
He audaciously insists on talking to me again, even though I
say no and more politely than I feel, motion to the phone. He demands to know if
today I can have a conversation without getting mad. I tell him he’s a racist
and there is nothing left to say to him. He tells me he’s not a racist but he
is racially aware. As the phone begins to ring, I tell him no shit, his
‘awareness’ (in finger quotes) is obvious and makes him a racist.
He is not hanging around to talk with me after I finish my
phone call. No tears shed over that one – and no more dilemma for me, as I’ve a
commitment to confronting bigotry. What common ground is there to continue a
dialogue when he believes 1) there are lots of Black people who are criminals
in the u.s.; and understood in that is 2) these Black people criminals deserve
to be murdered by the police.
And his belief that the millions if not hundreds of millions
of people who were murdered in the pursuit and continuation of slavery has been
somehow beneficial for Black people who at least did not starve in Africa – as
if, as if, as if, so many as ifs, one being as if Africans were starving before
being colonized, gentrified, raped, tortured, and enslaved.
I just want to drum into him I know he’s a racist, a
skinhead – whatever they call those people in England – that his bigotry is not
hidden, and obviously, he seems to be sensitive to my awareness.
Later, another also 40 something year old white man who has
discovered I speak English, thinks we have something in common. He strikes up a
conversation because he has on tiva sandals and I have on keens. He claims he’s
going to give away his sandals. I tell him great and I will give away my
sandals too before I leave Cuba.
He asks me if I’ve made friends here and I say not really at
the hotel, but yes, I motion outside the hotel and talk about the little
village on the hill west of here. I offer to bring his sandals there before I
He tells me that even though the sandals are too big for
him, he’s now decided he’s going to keep them and did I know they’re worth $60
in Canada, and they are comfortable and really, after all, sandals in Cuba are
cheap ($20 CUCS that most Cubans make as a whole month’s salary….grrrrr) and
plentiful: understood in that sentiment is that his sandals are too good for
I let him know mine are worth $80-$100 (although I only paid
$10, but he doesn’t need to know that) and I’ve promised them to my friend from
I ask him if he is going to spend $60 on sandals here and
give them to his Cuban friends. He shakes his head, bewildered, and falters a
little before morosely confiding in me that some friends in Cuba are not good
friends as he declares surely I’ve found out this truth also.
I tell him I don’t know what he is talking about. He is very
uncomfortable trying to explain to me how he’s been coming here 12 years and
now, this year, his friends of so long are pushing him. To do what, I ask. Just
pushing him – he won’t elaborate.
I say pushing you to share your resources? He looks confused
as he says, “you know, gifts, they push me for gifts. Real friends don’t push
you for gifts.”
I nod in what I hope is an interesting way and not
affirming, to tell him there will probably be a lot more pushing as inequity in
inevitable in Cuba as privatizing businesses grow – let alone the greed of the
u.s., Canada, and Europe. He asks with what appears to be genuine astonishment
“there’s inequity in Cuba”?
Has he not seen the skinniest, short white haired, ancient
man with gnarled hands, no teeth and the same dark brown shirt and trousers
worn thin in more places then where threads are holding the fabric together,
day after day asking with such graciousness and humility for pesos, food, regales,
Or the crunched-over old womon as thin as her old wooden
crutches whose feet are encased in rags, hands outstretched, eyes imploring,
repeating only “por favor, por favor, por favor”.
He then says, oh it’s the u.s. embargo that has made
inequity grow in Cuba. I can’t help but say and men like you exploiting the
“cheapness” of Cuba for 12 years. His response is to jam his dark designer
sunglass onto his face and scurry off.
I call after him “real friends don’t need to be pushed to
share their abundance”.
Oh would I love to help him share those tivas.