A reporter spends a winter in Cuba and takes a look at life in a post-Fidel era, which is changing gradually for some, but not fast enough for others who are still looking to escape to the U.S.:
‘Viva Cuba Libre,’ Eduardo muttered, mimicking a revolutionary exhortation we’d seen emblazoned high on an outdoor wall. Long live free Cuba. ‘Free from both of them,’ he said. ‘That’s when there might be real change.’
If there is in fact a Cuba under serious transformation—and you can find Cubans all over the country engaging now in their own versions of this same debate—Eduardo is a crucial component of it, although not for the reasons you might think. “Dissident” is the right label for a subset of politically vocal Cubans, notably the bloggers whose critical online missives have gained big followings outside the country, but Eduardo is no sort of dissident. He’s not fleeing persecution by the state. He’s just young, energetic, and frustrated, a description that applies to a great many of his countrymen. Ever since he was a teenager in high school, Eduardo told me, it had been evident to him that adulthood in revolutionary Cuba offered exactly nothing by way of personal advancement and material comfort to anybody except the peces gordos. The big fish. (Well, literally translated, the fat fish—the tap-on-the-shoulder parties.) Nothing works here, Eduardo would cry, pounding the steering wheel of whatever car he’d hustled on loan for the day: The economic model is broken, state employees survive on their tiny salaries only by stealing from the jobsite, the national news outlets are an embarrassment of self-censored boosterism, the government makes people crazy by circulating two national currencies at once.
‘I love my country,’ Eduardo kept saying. ‘But there is no future for me here.’