Taking stock of the end of the year allows us to take a look of this time interval to try to summarize the main traits that characterized it. It is not a futile exercise, time is the most precious and the most irreversible asset for anyone to utilize in their life project, such that each human group, nation or entire international community may be able to assess their performance, recognize their errors, become satisfied with their advances or identify what still remains to be done. It is true that at times time presses us, and on occasion anguishes us, as human existence is limited, as we have only one life to live, and since time marches on and so when we are confronted with an opportunity we need to take it seriously to hold ourselves responsible for our own future. In Cuba we often hear the phrase: “Life is but one, and I’m not wasting it on this.” Other older people express a certain sadness: “I have wasted my life between promises and frustrations.” Increasingly we hear younger ones say: “I’m leaving, I have the right to make my way where I am able to strive for my dreams.” Each Christmas the party of life begins anew, a celebration of the new, and the end of the year, a celebration of a year that ends that calls us to take stock, to celebrate what we have accomplished, to lament what we have not reached, to make plans for the New Year. Convicencia also wants to take the opportunity of the publication of the last issue of our 12th year to highlight some old things and some of the new from 2019 in Cuba:
Despite the conservative endeavor to dig in on “the old ways,” human history is unstoppable, life is pregnant with new realities that no amount of will can arrest. What we celebrate at Christmas and the start of the New Year is the ability of human beings to begin new projects with renewed ideas, creative initiatives and flashes of the millennial news that we celebrate in each anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ. All human time, everywhere in the planet, is measured precisely from the approximate date of the birth of Christ. Human history has been divided for purposes of study into two stages, an old and a new: Before Christ and After Christ. That is why each year we celebrate the strength of the return of the nascent sun, the innovative way of life by which newness marks the beginning of an era which was announced to all the inhabitants of the planet by which a new way of living together was proclaimed, different from “the old ways” of hatred, vengeance, oppression, confrontation among the children of a common people or wars between nations. It is the announcement of an era of peace, freedom, justice and love based on three pillars of human coexistence: We are all equal on account of being children of the one and same Father, we are all brethren, making up a single and indivisible human family on this Earth. Whether we are believers, atheists or agnostics, these three universal human values prevail in the world: the equality of rights in law of all men and women without distinction; the organic fraternity found in human coexistence; and the inalienable vocation to gather as a universal family in respect of the individuality of each human being and in the diversity of cultures. In this spirit of novel living we highlight some of the trends that have begun to emerge in Cuba during 2019:
1. A decrease in fear by the citizenry and a greater expression of discontent.
1. An increase in awareness of human rights and of the ways and means to defend them.
2. Growth and maturity in civil society and in organizing ability in the face of increasing repression.
3. A greater differentiation in the roles of various groups within civil society: definition of their identity, mission, vision, and objectives, all signs of maturity and not of division or confrontation.
4. An increasing and gradual consensus on the practical meaning of the principle of unity in diversity: respect for differences and those different, reduction in disqualifying language, search for common denominators and for the ultimate goal towards which we are all converging: real change achieved by peaceful means.
5. An increase in affective and effective solidarity among the various sectors of national and international civil society, not allowing normal differences to get in the way of assisting those that are suffering or abandoning them to their fate.
6. A greater use of new technologies by citizens in order to communicate, denounce abuse, and propose solutions.
7. Success of what we might call “connected groups” which became able to get organized in social media, mobilizing, evaluating what has taken place, and consolidating communities of interest such as: the “No” campaign opposing the new text of the Constitution whereby two million Cubans disapproved of it, despite government actions taken against any type of vote other than “Yes”; The San Isidro Group, and those that gathered around to reject Decree 349 by the Ministry of Culture; the independent March undertaken by around 300 people at the Prado Promenade as part of LGBTQ Day; the demands for the liberation of political prisoners arbitrarily imprisoned or the prohibitions to travel by the cessation of “regulations” and “exit prohibitions” for political reasons; campaigns to avoid limitations on freelance workers’ rights, such as taxi drivers, owners of home-cooking “paladares” and rooms-to-let, which are only allowed one-site-license per owner; campaigns in favor of animal protection laws; among other campaigns easily corroborated in social media.
8. The success in the use of social media to build consensus, demand rights and drafting documents and demands, for example, when more than 20 Cuban independent media were able to publish in the same day and hour a declaration regarding the situation, limitations and repression of journalists and their publications that used truthful content, respectful language and efforts to achieve a minimum ethical consensus.
9. The gradual and effective growth in awareness by churches to participate in the public square, demanding what they consider to be their rights as well as those of the citizenry at large, giving their vision about society, their values and their laws, as was the case of the participation of various religious denominations and the Catholic Church in the constitutional debate.
Lessons from This Year
Many other new attitudes, actions and visions were born and grew during the year that ends. We can draw some useful lessons and story morals going forward:
1. All these new realities are peaceful, civilized, purposeful and respectful of diversity.
2. These, and many others, increasingly demonstrate the will of the Cuban people, our own, and of those of different groups in civil society to participate in the changes that Cuba urgently needs.
3. The exclusive use of peaceful means, dialogues among various projects, proactive, discarding and condemning all expressions of violence, be it physical, verbal or institutional are very visible qualities, ascertainable and meritorious of the character of the Cuban people, of their goodwill, of their vision for change and of their conceptualization of the future of our Nation in an orderly, peaceful, just and prosperous coexistence.
4. There is still plenty of room for growth, for maturity, for awareness, but the direction of the change, its peaceful countenance, its inclusive character, are hopeful trends.
Therefore, due to these and many other insights that our people hold deep in their souls, we can fuel the hope that we hold. These are not pipe dreams, or hallucinating “opium,” but rather a hope entrenched in reality and sustained by the goodwill, dedication, actions and symbolic gestures of many and varied Cubans.
Keeping all this in mind, Convivencia wishes all its readers, all Cubans, and all men and women of goodwill around the world, a Merry Christmas 2019 and a better New Year 2020, hopefully truly new.
Pinar del Río, November 20, 2019
231st Anniversary of the Birth of Father Félix Varela