Tag Archives: solidarity

The Cuba No One’s Writing About

Early adopters of my blog may remember my post (many moons ago) where I listed the reasons why I love Cuba. Considering I’ve opted to make this crazy place my home for the past 13+ years, this is a question I get fairly often. For several reasons – the superficial fluff being published about Cuba with frightening frequency, the tsunami of clueless tourists, the stress Cuba’s new economy is generating – I think it’s time to revisit why Cuba rocks. This is the Cuba no one is writing about – the deep, below-the-surface substance that makes this place so special. Let’s dive in:

Our diet is largely chemical- and preservative-free.
Sure, you can spend $5 on a can of Pringles or $3 on a can of Red Bull, but when you can whip up fresh plantain chips for mere cents and buy fresh-pressed guarapo for pennies, aside from the novelty, why would you?

The country is popping with wonderful eye/soul candy. Human, architectural, artistic, natural – this place is a visual and spiritual feast.

There is music everywhere
. Literally (and whether you like it or not).

Havana’s tactile nights.
Once you catch that savory-sweet wind laced with gardenias, plumeria and sea salt, moonlight glancing off the waves crashing into the Malecón? No tiene nombre as we say here.

Foreigners ask me pretty often if Cubans’ willingness to share, lend a hand, empathize, and the like is real. It is. I think this is one of those things – if we can retain it (dare I say strengthen?) – will go a good way toward saving what’s really admirable about this society whatever the next few years may bring.

Abortion, free and on demand.
Ever wonder why it’s so hard to find an orphanage in Cuba? This is it: almost 100% of children born in Cuba is a wanted child.

Cubans are shame-free when it comes to bodily functions. Got diarrhea? Your period? Hemorrhoids? Feel free to share (over-sharing and TMI are concepts which don’t translate here); seek advice and resources; vent. Interestingly, this is one of the few areas of discussion and interface which is completely free from gender considerations. Just today I was talking with a Cubano friend about finger probing prostate exams, while another guy lent a kind ear to a friend waxing cathartic about her crippling hot flashes.

Embracing bodily (mis)functions is something I came to appreciate very early on: one of my earliest memories after moving here occurred at a family barbeque at Playa Larga. A couple of hours after meeting everybody, one of the teen girls emerged from the ocean and appealed to men and women alike: ‘does anyone have a maxipad? I just got my period.’ (Yes: there was blood running down her leg. Did I mention that TMI doesn’t apply here?!). And she felt no shame because of it. Why would she? She got her period unexpectedly – one of the most natural things in the world (and what keeps the human race going, incidentally) – and it was entirely not her fault. It’s like how Cubans view disabilities: it’s not that person’s fault, so it’s just downright cruel to shun or otherwise judge someone for a condition or circumstance which is completely out of their control.

But I digress.

Back to how Cubans view bodily functions and how this perspective implicitly rejects Puritanism and gender paradigms. I’ve been in conversations with friends – male and female – about: being a man-whore; circumcision; boob jobs (for both aesthetic and medical reasons); to what size the cervix must dilate to pass a baby; bowel movements – lots and lots of shit talk (frequency, consistency, color, remedies for, causes of); hemorrhoid operations; and penis operations (thankfully not related and not on the same person).

And then there was this recent exchange between some (platonic) friends as we headed out one night:
Her: Shit. I don’t have another Tampax (pronounced in Cuban: Tampac).
Him: I’ll go get one from my sister.
Me: =)

Cuba: it makes you laugh. It makes you cry. But it never leaves anyone indifferent. And this is the #1 reason I love this crazy place: it arouses passion.


Filed under Americans in cuba, Cuban customs, Cuban idiosyncracies, Cuban phrases, Cuban Revolution, dream destinations, Expat life, health system, Living Abroad, Travel to Cuba

An Ex-Pat Occupy Manifesto

[tweetmeme source=”connergo” only_single=false]

I know there are a lot of us out there. Recent statistics show at least four million US-born folks live outside their native country – the so-called “ex-pats.” I’m one of them (though I’m not sure I’d call myself a patriot, let alone an ex one). I left the States in October 2001, just after my hometown was attacked.

This November I was back in New York and marched with 35,000 others of the 99% across the Brooklyn Bridge, occupied Liberty Plaza (AKA Zuccotti Park), and helped broadcast a bilingual people’s mic for the Women’s March. I got dangerously addicted to the live stream and followed news from Occupy cities across the globe.

But now I’m back in my adopted country and far from what’s happening back in the States. Just like millions of other expats, many of whom I’d guess, like me, were driven to move away (at least in some shape or form), precisely by the same forces against which Occupy stands and shouts and fights and films (keep filming! Keep filming it all!)

So my question is what can we do? What can the 99% living outside the States contribute to the movement?

Here’s what I’m thinking:

1. Spread the word. Use social media – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube – the information is out there. Inform yourself. Share the knowledge. Go to the live feeds and blogs of cities you love and tweet, like, and recommend whatever strikes a chord. Keep the wheel turning.

2. Translate. When I was in New York, the Occupied Wall Street Journal en Español lagged behind the English version for lack of translators. You live abroad – perhaps you speak the language of an immigrant community in your home city back in the States. Consider offering to translate some web pages or content, posters, or flyers.

3. Donate. Many Occupy cities have specific needs lists – in New York it was everything from books (after the People’s Library was trashed by authorities) to plastic bins for storage; in Denver it was winter gear. Visit the web pages, poke around, pony up.

4. Tell your 99% story. I’m 42 and still carrying over $40,000 in student loan debt. In the States, I couldn’t afford healthcare, to pay off my loans, and keep a roof over my head. So I moved to somewhere I could. Maybe you have a similar story. Tell it here.

5. Share your ideas. Maybe you’ve seen effective slogans, campaigns, or direct actions in your adopted country (Bolivia anyone?). Throw your ideas into the ring – go to chat rooms on the live feed or write a manifesto of your own!

6. Vote in local elections, for progressive, social justice candidates (where they exist). This applies only to those still maintaining residency in the States (I know many of you do and this goes for your spouses, too). A corollary to this is that electoral authorities must be compelled to count all ballots in a fair, transparent way.

7. Banking. This is one area, I’m afraid, where expats feed the 1% Hydra daily, incessantly. So much has to be done electronically when you live abroad, it’s hard (impossible?) to wrestle free of the corporate financial chokehold. For this, I have no suggestions, so leave it for future musings.

For now, I urge those of you reading this on screens far from your former home, to not remain mute and immobile. Support the demand for a more just, equitable, and harmonious society. Add your voice to the chorus.

For those of you in Occupy cities around the United States and the world: we are watching, we are with you. Let’s make that more just, equitable, and harmonious global society happen.


Conner Gorry

Havana, Cuba

December 2011


Filed under Expat life, Living Abroad