Dissidents in Cuba
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September 2016
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Thinking With Our Stomachs

Thinking With Our Stomachs / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 2 September 2016 – At the dining room
table the grandparents are playing with their two granddaughters. They
ask them what they would ask the genie for if they happened to stumble
on a magic lamp in the corner. “I want a plate full of chicken and
French fries,” the littlest one said immediately, while the older said
she wanted it to rain candy. Their second wish included ice cream by the
ton and the third wish concentrated on endless cheeseburgers.

National television broadcasts a report about a popular camping site
that has been renovated and reopened to the public this summer. One
customer smiles at the camera and says, “The food is good.” The
administrator of the recreation spot enumerates the dining options and
promises that culinary offerings “suited to all pocketbooks and well
prepared” await whose who book one of the cabins scattered in the

Education Minister Ena Elsa Velázquez, calls for moral and material
respect for teachers to avoid the exodus that profession is suffering as
teachers quit for other—more lucrative—jobs in other areas. The official
recommended holding agricultural fairs next to school buildings, with
sales of pork and produce, so the educators can buy food after work.

An opponent of the Castros visiting a market in Miami recorded a video
in which he says the only way his compatriots would be willing to
“overthrow the dictatorship” would be if they were promised that the
shelves would then be full of the same variety of beers on offer in
Miami. The well-known dissident lists the prices, the quantity of food
available in pounds and the high quality of the products that star in
his video.

A nouveau riche couple books two nights all-inclusive at a Varadero
hotel. They manage to polish off a lunch with two pork steaks each, a
serving of fried beef, several helpings of rice and beans, along with a
pile of succulent shrimp and lobster. Returning home they fail to
describe a single example of the scenery they admired during their trip.

When was it that we Cubans came to be ruled by our stomachs? At what
moment were we conquered by a mouth that swallows and a brain that
thinks only of food? Can our dreams and desires be reduced to filling
our bellies, whetting our appetites and cleaning our plates?

Unfortunately, yes. Decades of shortages and economic hardships have
brought us to a plane of survival where food is the center, obsession
and goal of millions of people who inhabit this island. That obfuscation
often does not allow us to see beyond, because “with an empty belly, who
will think about politics,” as any materialistic philosopher would say.

The problem is that “hungry once, always hungry.” When a tongue of flame
rises into the esophagus, when a few grains of rice are at the center of
wet dreams and some crumbs of bread are the be-all and end-all, it is
immoral to talk about something beyond whetting the appetite.

We have been condemned, as a people, to mastication, gastric juices and
digestion. In the process we have lost what makes us human and become
creatures of the feedlot, more focused on the dinner bell than on our
rights of free association or expression.

We are like Pavlov’s dog, whoever brings us a plate of food will make us
react and salivate. How sad!

Source: Thinking With Our Stomachs / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez –
Translating Cuba –

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