It is 6am on Monday morning. When I woke up to take my children to school, I knew Havana was broken, injured, torn up; and I also knew, shortly after, about firefighters who saved the lives of several sons of the city; about doctors and nurses healing wounds while bleeding. The pictures of devastation and solidarity converged in front of me. In between, the voice of the President pointing out that no one will be left behind calmed me down. And he did so while embracing the people in the center of the disaster. He walked, saw, assessed, hugged…Boss and friend, Cuban and human. The rhyme is not casual.
However, not all of us woke up with the same news and it is here where my poem breaks. I writhe in pain when I see so many wolves hidden in sheep’s clothing. The scientific name is FAKE NEWS, but in my baroque neighborhood in Matanzas, where I learned the word “asere” (NT: Cuban version of the English term “buddy”) is not a four-letter word, we use to name it “a huge lie.”
First, it was the resources allotted to a march soon after the tornado hit the city. Later, “Martí would not have done so”; afterwards, better helping than marching; or Díaz Canel with a torch in hand instead of helping the victims…But sooner falls a liar than a lame, and the truth come out viral: the President’s outfit was the same he was wearing the night before. He was still dressed with the people’s tears, sweat. He had had a meeting with the Council of Ministers giving all of them instructions to work and act fast. And young students went from Fragua Martiana to Guanabacoa, Luyano, and Regla to shovel debris and give hugs for free.
Then, a rumor went round: the food is being sold to them. The government’s reaction is slow. No food guaranteed for those with in greatest need. On the other hand, my friends —who were in devastated areas— told me they had worked together with the government and had given hot meals for free to those in need.
Later on, a mass hysteria that, honestly, amid so much sadness, made me feel the impulse of sending many people to hell: their reasons were donations, private initiatives, Cubans living abroad, the government hindering the aid, or the campaign to remove Custom taxes. People with first-hand experiences from hurricane Kate to Irma, how can they take the bait?
Since I was a little girl I have been collecting donations to victims of hurricanes. Cubans, traditionally, share what they have throughout bodies such as FMC (Federation of Cuban Women), CDR (Committee for the Defense of the Revolution), the Union…etc., and such aid is sent to the devastated areas. No one must be stunned with this. I never went to Sandino or Baracoa to deliver my contribution.
However, I did it this time. Many of us have done it. My friend Dunia came from Matanzas and went to 10 de Octubre municipality. A group of young people gathered spontaneously to help in whatever was needed. She introduced herself as a Cuban woman who wanted to help, and so she has spent two consecutive days distributing water, food, clothes, every sort of aid from the government to every Cuban citizen —private workers, wage workers, artists and simple workers— who reacted to the call of solidarity.
I went to a shelter located near El Monaco to take the princess dress there and other special contributions from my children. I came quiet and the lady in charge quickly named them: the baby we rescued from the tornado, the blond girl who came in yesterday…Nobody asked me if I was a journalist or longshorewoman. I told nobody. I knew about this place from a study partner who wrote about it in Facebook. He does not write for any “pro-government” media and has been there from day one working hard and sharing his experiences on the internet along with young people from the AHS (Hermanos Saíz Association) and other artists.
Another drama with false elements: abused, not-recognized artists. The artists, those who went there from the heart, posted about emotions, gratitude. They were not there waiting for the word “thank you”, they thanked the possibility of being there and give, which is the supreme goal of art and I said so because I read in Facebook: artistic brigades exist thanks to Fidel, who taught to us the power of culture. Ten years ago, I slept in the open in Santa Cruz del Sur with a group of some of the best artists in Cuba led by Kcho. We sang, cleaned, built and painted; they created the most beautiful art work I have ever seen.
Nonetheless, these information posted on the internet by people who have been there, describing their experiences, look like ghost materials to certain news media and people, as if they do not exist. Luckily, there are exemplary actions such as Lily’s, who came from Miami to help her family and whoever may need her. And she did not make a scene about Cuba’s Custom Administration, nor protested against the order of things. She just asked how things worked as her goal was to help, not to create chaos within the actual chaos caused by the tornado.
A lie every 24 hours, said my Facebook friend Javier Goméz, but the information manipulation, half-truths and nonsenses are innumerable. I am only sharing some experiences I am aware of. But I have shared dozens of stories in my Facebook profile: from critics made by some of my friends who have been there, “fake solidarity” and charity, which do not characterize us and we will not allow, to news on how to be useful, gratitude to local authorities and the police department, bus schedule to visit the affected areas, and reports on heroism of electrical linemen who have worked day and night to restore electricity; or photos of Díaz Canel visiting neighborhoods, exchanging viewpoints, and monitoring details.
None of them have had room in some agendas, which have even set up false, last-minute, hysterical videos with zero credibility. And do you know what is happening? Lies, at any time, are unforgivable. They hurt and disappoint. But in this very specific context, lies are disgusting.
They cannot beat us. After all, bad actions are like boomerangs against insensitive people. When this nation cries, we become a compact unit and tears are dried away with our dirty hands. When this nation suffers a deep wound, I would not like to be in the shoes of those who betray or blaspheme it. And the new Havana is going to rebirth with everyone’s efforts and the endless guidance of the Revolution. Havana will be wiser and prettier. Hence, enough with such crazy stories!
Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Díaz/CubaSí Translation Staff