False Paradigms

Print encountered on a street in Havana.*

The five spies serving sentences in the United States, four in prisons and one on parole (for two years he can’t leave the country), together with their families, have been converted, at leat officially, as a result of a massive media campaign, into paradigms of the politically correct citizen.

When one speaks of courage and sacrifice, they constitute the supreme examples. On Father’s Day, they are proclaimed fathers par excellence. On Mother’s Day, their offspring emulate Mariana Grajales, Maceo’s mother. And on Valentine’s Day (here the “Day of Love and Friendship”), they and their partners rival Romeo and Juliet or Tristan and Isolde. A real soup of sentiment! To see for yourself, just follow the propaganda — written, on the radio, and on TV.

A neighbor of mine — one of those few who still believe unconditionally in “the model”, who perform surveillance duty for and attend the meetings of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, unconditional model, participate in the Delegate Accountability meetings of their dsistrict, and even vote in the so-called elections — told me the other day, “It seems to me that The Five, instead of being in prison, are enjoying holidays with pay in the United States, paid for by U.S. taxpayers. In addition, their family members travel at our expense, and even receive a few dollars to stock up on odds and ends.

At first I was shocked and didn’t know how to answer. Was he being serious, or provoking me? When I realized it was the former, I totally agreed with him.

These characters live better and eat better than most Cubans, play chess with the children here, enjoy Internet and telephone communication, offer interviews to be broadcast and published, are visited by Hollywood stars and other personalities, develop their artistic skills, publish books of poetry and put on art exhibitions and, perhaps, one of them might even be writing a book, sure to win the Casa de las Americas Prize. In addition, they enjoy first world medical care and receive regular visits from their families (for those who don’t receive visas to do so, it is because they were deported for espionage activities). As you can see, my neighbor is not very confused in his judgment.

Anyone who knows anything about publicity knows that a campaign, when it reaches the degree of saturation, should be discontinued as it may obtain results diametrically opposed to those expected: people begin to reject what is offered so insistently, as a mechanism self-defense.

And so it has happened with The Five: Cubans, weary of such absurd and cloying propaganda, they get the joke. As usual, the authorities have gone too far, without observing the effect. Again, Maximo Gomez proves to be absolutely right when he said, “Cubans: either they go too far or they fall short.” The most common is that we fall short.

*Translator’s note: The poster says “GIVE BACK! My 5 Euros.” The number 5 is the image the government uses for all of the posters and propaganda relating to the 5 spies, and the whole poster is a play on that campaign. El Sexto is a graffiti artist and Translating Cuba blogger.

February 17 2012

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