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Cuba and the Problem of Marginality

Cuba and the Problem of Marginality
November 25, 2013
Janis Hernandez

HAVANA TIMES — A great many Cubans express concerns over the rise in
misdemeanors, public vulgarity, vandalism and other phenomena associated
with people or groups whose conduct suggests social exclusion.

The media have also been showing much interest in delving into the
causes of the problem and have set a broad campaign in motion to somehow
contain this ill, which seems to be growing unchecked.

A Round Table program was devoted to the issue of marginality some weeks
ago. The guests were two psychologists and a journalist.

What caught my attention was how the phenomenon is attributed to causes
that are almost subjective. It was said that, in our country,
marginality constitutes something akin to an attitude by the individual
in certain contexts. Much less was said of other factors.

The journalist was the only one who touched on the deterioration of
social relations in Cuba brought about by the economic crisis of the
Special Period in the ‘90s and of the repercussions of this to date. He
was also the only one who emphasized that the pronounced differences in
income have created great gaps between social groups.

He spoke of the low salaries, the lack of motivation (particularly among
the young) to work for such inadequate remuneration and of the need for
more intensive community work.

The psychologists, though expressing agreement with this, showed
themselves more conservative when they spoke of the genesis of the
problem. The most alarming thing, for me, was when one of them said that
the Cuban State and the revolution had, from the very beginning, made
social inclusion one of their chief dividends.

In my opinion, this is debatable for, while it is undeniable that the
government gives everyone the same opportunities to obtain an education
or better themselves, it is also true that this same government has
marginalized many people.

Back in the days of the Military Units for Aid in Production (UMAP),
some 25,000 young men of military age were confined in work camps for
being religious, gay or dissidents. These people were dubbed parasites,
slackers and antisocial scum. Though efforts were made to correct this
mistake later, the episode was burnt into the country’s collective memory.

Expressions of commonness, vulgarity and aggressive urban behavior were
at their height in the 80s, when the country’s leadership itself
organized and encouraged large groups of people to take part in violent
reprisals against fellow citizens.

Eggs, stones and garbage were hurled at people and large paper and
rubber worms were burnt on the porches and in front of the houses of
those who had decided to leave the country. These people were referred
to as scum and lumpens.

These shameful actions are still practiced by so-called Rapid Response
Brigades, whose ranks are filled with people willing to physically
attack others, for the sole reason that these others do not share their
ideology, or because they demand freedom of speech.

To give the semblance of “cultural plurality”, radio and television
shows have promoted grotesque and vulgar singers and genres, some of
which are a direct copy of foreign trends (this includes most of Cuba’s
reggaeton performers).

On occasion, however, highly-talented artists like Frank Delgado or
Carlos Varela have been censored or denied promotion because they are
considered anti-establishment. Other Cuban artists like Amaury Gutierrez
or Pancho Cespedes have also suffered this, simply because they live abroad.

It is true that marginality, as the name suggests, is nothing other than
the characteristic of that which is marginal or secondary, the condition
of a person or social group that hasn’t been integrated into society at
large. The phenomenon has a historical background that involves certain
racial or socio-cultural groups.

It is true there are those who marginalize themselves, who choose to
behave in negative ways, to make a living out of illegal activities and
other types of infringements.

But there you have the mistakes of the family as an institution and even
of the educational system, which has been quite dysfunctional in the
past decades, what with the massive deployment of “teachers” who do not
have the calling, education or talent for the profession.

Another reason behind this problem could be the absence of laws aimed at
ensuring civility and/or their enforcement, a strict set of rules
designed to guarantee respect among people.

In short, even though everything described above is everyone’s
responsibility, the authorities and people of Cuba have a lot of work
ahead of them if they have any interest in reducing marginality.

Source: “Cuba and the Problem of Marginality – Havana Times.org” –

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