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Work 4 Peace,Hold All Life Sacred,Eliminate Violence! I am on my mobile version of the door-to-door, going town-to-town holding readings/gatherings/discussions of my book "But What Can I Do?" This is my often neglected blog mostly about my travels since 9/11 as I engage in dialogue and actions. It is steaming with my opinions, insights, analyses toward that end of holding all life sacred, dismantling the empire and eliminating violence while creating the society we want ALL to thrive in

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Day 6 Money money money

I visit Josefa again today and meet another of her sisters and her sister’s grandchild who is hanging onto her knees. We speak together but when he gets restless and lets her know he wants to go, she immediately says goodbye and heads off with him.

Several of the womyn in the village want me to give them something. Two womyn especially look so terribly thin, their clothes hang in ragged folds around their tiny bodies. Josefa has water from a pipe emerging from the ground from a huge tube outside her home but doesn’t have a bathroom. She also has a single burner hotplate and has borrowed a rice cooker from her son.

I wonder about how I look like a dollar tree to the womyn here: they are always asking me for money or clothes – one peso, will I leave my clothes when I go, do I have something to eat, do I have a school bag for the children? And the hardest one, the children are hungry.

To me, it looks like the children are getting all the food the mothers and grandmothers are missing. 

Every womon suffers patiently through my Spanish and even speaks English with me, probably after they see how I murder Spanish, they are not so shy to speak English.

I wish I could feed everyone. I wish I could fix everyone’s roof and provide a toilet and bathroom for everyone. I wish I could make the minimum daily needs for everyone more accessible all around the world.
The money I am thinking about spending to rent a car is probably more money than 10 families live on here in Cuba for a year. 

There is two systems of money: the CUCs which are pesos for the tourists, and pesos which are the money for the people. Those Cubans closest to the tourists make so much more money than those people farthest away.

Of course, giving people money while I’m here will not sustain them in the long run but might quell their hunger temporarily. I wish we could have a ‘adopt a grandmother, mother, grandchild family’ program where we in the u.s.ofa. can share our huge wealth with the poorest people here. It is obvious which Cubans work around tourists, and which Cubans have so very little.

Coming out again

As I walk down the street heading to the small village west of the hotel, three people working at the guard shack come out of the shade into the heat of the direct sun to talk with me over the 6 foot chain link fence. I lean against the top of the fence and it gives a little, as if many people have made this pause in their journey before.

There is one older man who could be somewhere around my age, a younger womon, and a younger man, all in light brown uniforms. They all talk to me at once: the same are you Canadian? when did you arrive, is this your first time in Cuba, do you love Cuba, when are you returning, where are you from?

In Mexico, when people assumed I was Canadian, I was flattered and pleased: who wants to be from a country who is behind all the drug violence there? But here, when people assume I am Canadian first and then European, it is not because I’m struggling to communicate in Spanish and therefore appear to be’ unamerican’, but because probably few u.s.ofa. folks have been here, this far from Havana. I imagine most of the ‘tours’ to Cuba stick pretty close to Havana.

Cubans respond with much excitement and love when I tell them I’m from the u.s.ofa. When I try to warn them that most tourists from the u.s. will not be like me, they always respond that it is the government that is bad, not the people.

When I tell them the government cannot do anything without the consent of the people, I believe they understand if not agree. 

We have this conversation again and I ask if it is this way in Cuba, that the government is bad but the people are good. They all thoughtfully say the government is mostly good and most of the people are good, but there are some that act against the people and there are a very few people who are not good. But it is drugs and/or alcohol that drive those few people.

I tell them, as I tell everyone, that I’m an activist for the rights of womyn and children, and to fight against war: that I’m not typical u.s.ofa. 

When the womon nudges the old man and tells me I should be his companera, I say oh no, I’m looking for a companera also. I’m a lesbian. She about falls out. Her face distorts, she cannot look at me, she almost runs away but ends up only taking a few steps backwards before silently holding her ground.

The two men take what I say in stride as if I was pointing out the beautiful blue sky. They don’t mention or react to me coming out, other than to nod their heads and say “oh yes, lesbiana". We talk some more about the heat, about the beauty of California and how it compares to Miami.

Which leads us to a discussion about violence. Everyone in Cuba talks about how peaceful Cuba is – the majority of violence comes from the tourists in the hotels calling the police on Cubans if they are afraid or worried about Cubans hurting them, entering ‘their’ spaces, stealing from them. 

I ask about the police killing people. I’ve seen a few police and I cannot tell from the tiny black objects hanging off their belts if they are armed. They certainly do not have billy clubs, steel-toed boots, or a menacing (to me at least) uniform. They appear relaxed but vigilant in short sleeves and sometimes shorts. I’ve heard the ones that might have guns do not have bullets anyway.

When I ask about police killing the people, folks act as if I’ve said do you get your hands cut off or your legs amputated when you cross the street. They appear shocked and say no, Cuba is a peaceful country.

When I ask about jails or rehabilitation centers, people tell me the government was stricter in the earlier days so maybe more people were put in jail but not now. They explain that back then, the government had to be vigilant for two reasons it seems: one, there was vast inequality amongst the people and the elite. Now that inequality still exists but has been bridged in most parts of Cuba. The other reason is that people were not educated and now they are.

Every older Cuban I’ve talked with seems to sparkle with happiness and fond memories when they talk about all the schools they went to, they can go to, their children went to, are going to, and I guess even with surprise and then pride when I tell them our u.s.ofa. education costs, especially for the young pre-school and the adults.

I get around to asking about violence against womyn and children in Cuba. The men vehemently deny that husbands or boyfriends are violent. The young womon jumps back into the conversation finally with a huge laugh and says any man who tries to hit a womon would be hit over the head with the largest frying pan she has. She said that Cuban womyn are strong and do not need men. She says that often food and clothes are a problem for womyn whose husbands have been kicked out or have left, but that because school is free, housing is free, and there is always some food every month, that womyn do not mind living without a man. 

I’m surprised she is talking this way after her clearly homophobic response but it doesn’t seem to occur to her that lesbians choose to live without men. 

At the end of her speech she pantomimes picking up a frying pan and hitting the young man next to her over the head. We all laugh.

On that strong happy note, I take my leave for today.