The Blockade at 60 years and the Resilience of the Cuban People

By Alejandra Garcia on January 30, 2022 from Havana

graphic: Martinera

This coming up February 7th will mark the 60th anniversary of the beginning of the Blockade on Cuba, when the Kennedy Administration shut the door on any sort of normal commerce that most countries of the world enjoy even though sanctions and blockades have increasingly become a favorite weapon in the imperial arsenal. But the one on Cuba is the oldest and most comprehensive.

This dark milestone has prompted me to think about the first memories of my childhood in the Havana neighborhood, where I spent the first six years of my life in the 1990s. If I close my eyes, I can make appear before me every detail of that community located in the heart of the Cerro municipality. I don’t forget the building and its narrow balconies where my mother and I used to live in Vista Hermosa. I can’t forget its streets either, always full of people coming and going from the corner bakery, the hawking of the street vendors, the nearby park where I used to play with other children.

I don’t forget that little apartment, where I took my first steps, glued figurines on the walls and playing with puppets and handmade dolls. I slept every night to the clatter of my mother’s fingers on her typewriter.

Blackouts were very frequent in those years. We had no television or radio, so I didn’t feel much difference. When night came, we would light candles and, since my mother could not work in the dark, we would play or open the front door wide to let the breeze circulate, like the rest of the neighbors on that 4th floor.

If someone had told me then that Cuba was going through extremely difficult years, I would not have understood. It was just the way it was. As a child, I did not have any real perception of what it was like to live without that invisible economic fence, it was our norm, the norm of the nation that goes on to this day.  I just thought that the juggling my mother did to get food and medicine for her only daughter who was always sick was just the way it was. It was the same for my friends and contemporaries as well but yet somehow we were happy children.

Twenty years later, photos from that time reveals the every effort. I immediately recognize myself in that picture taken outside the kindergarten: a chubby little girl with frizzy hair, in the arms of a woman who holds me with difficulty, very thin and with dark circles under her eyes. I am 28 years old now, and I know no other reality than that of living in a blockaded country. In fact only Cubans over sixty years of age know of a time when there was no strict barrier around the country we love.

Over the past two years, I’ve been taking care of my paternal grandmother. Since then, I have had to go through the similar efforts my mother was forced to make for me in the 90s, but now it is amid an unprecedented pandemic, which has altered and complicated even further the life of Cubans and the world.

In these two years, I’ve spent hours upon hours in line to buy food or medicine for my grandmother. The pandemic, the blockade, and the over 240 measures imposed by Trump, and maintained with a vengeance by Biden since he came to power has created overwhelming shortages and a sense of suffocation that is difficult to describe.

But the Cuban people have an unsuspected and enduring capacity to overcome obstacles. Amid all these adversities, Cuba devoted all its resources to the fight against COVID-19 thinking not just of our people but how we could help the world with what we have. Despite the blockade and the US government’s attempts to strangle us, Cuba still managed to create its effective vaccines against the deadly disease to protect us.

My 88-year-old grandmother has had three doses of Abdala and received a fourth booster two weeks ago. She hasn’t been infected with the virus, but if it happens, I know she will be protected.

Today, Cuba is gradually returning to a level of normality, thanks to this vaccination campaign, which inoculated 90% of the population in record time. But this normality will not be the same as that experienced by most countries in the world because the shadow of the economic blockade hovers above all of our endeavors and interactions with the world and does not allow us to live our lives to the fullest, especially the youngest. But we are resilient people and we know the vast majority of the people of the world stand with us not with the barbarity of the blockade where cracks are appearing. We will prevail.

Source: Resumen Latinoamericano –  English