Watching, Rooting, and Supporting this thing called "The New Cuba" (Cuba Specialist | Production | Sensei)

I’m posting this message today from a young rapper I met in Cuba. He was 17 years old in 2001. Among all the other rappers in the hip hop scene, Edgar is a white kid, surrounded by a primarily black hip hop movement. Edgar is a triple-hitter artist — rapper, producer, and graffiti writer. Of all the cuban rap I’ve heard throughout my years of research, I can describe Edgar’s music as being the least angry, and the least confrontational. He is, however, a deep thinker and seeks to find truth. In my early interviews with him, his passion for hip hop was deep, but he still had that innocent belief in his government to take care of him and his family, along with a dutiful respect for his President.

(Edgar Gonzalez, Havana, Cuba. Photo by Angela Boatwright for East of Havana)

Today is 8 years later. Edgar is now 25 years old. Still rapping and still expressing himself through fine arts, Edgar is also a conductor of the weekly television show called “Cuerda Viva” (Sundays) for the last 3 years. Hip hop runs through his veins. Edgar is one of the few rappers that works in perfect harmony with the Cuban government in terms of working with its agencies, organizing shows, and not being overly controversial with his lyrics in terms of protest.

The following story illustrates the blatant lack of rights most Cubans experience in the face of foreigners (not only for black Cubans, but all Cubans!). Since tourism is the only industry keeping the struggling economy afloat, it is customary for the Cuban government to treat foreigners better than the locals. This is one of the heartbreaking realities of Cuban society today.

(Edgar and Irak of Doble Filo. Photo by Estevan Oriol for East of Havana)

Here is a story told by a local — one that took place last Sunday night, on the corner of Linea and L street.


How much is a Cuban life worth?
(by Edgaro Gonzalez, Havana Cuba, 25 yrs old)

Above all else, I love my country, my culture, my idiosyncrasies, our origins, our history and I have been and am part of the revolutionary process.

Last Sunday the 30th of November, at 8:25pm in the Cuban night, two of the island’s important artists were traveling on Linea street on the way to work. Driving the car was Osdalgia, an award winning singer, actress and composer, and then there was myself.

Suddenly, while they waited for the traffic lights at Linea and L to change, and in front of numerous witnesses, we were terribly rear ended by a large black car with a black license plate #198009 from the South African Embassy, situated in 5th and 42nd in Miramar. Stunned and dizzy, we got out of the car to find themselves face to face with four very inebriated South Africans. A heated discussion began in English when the South Africans say that they have to go to the airport without waiting for the police to arrive.

I stand in front of the car to take the license plate number down while Osdalgia asks for the men’s identification. This is when Erick Chist Well Makhubela, C. diplomat 192\2007 of the South African Embassy takes control of the wheel of his car and drives straight toward me running me over and dragging me for more than 50 meters before the eyes of a multitude of Cubans who were already present at the scene of the accident, and who quickly let out a scream of terror: Murderer!”

With some agility and luck, I was able to climb onto the hood of the car and throw myself onto the pavement without suffering great injury. The first South African diplomat fled leaving his companions at the scene.

Two police cars (numbers 115 and 240), who happened to pass by the location, were surrounded by the crowd who tried to explain the terrible incident. These policemen asked for the artist’s documents and handled the situation with callow depotism: “Osdalgia be quiet and stand back or I’ll put you in the car and take you to the precinct and Edgaro, quit being so angry and calm down because you can’t prove anything” while they treated the South Africans with the courtesy and respect with which an official should always conduct themselves.

The crowd, witness to everything that happened, accused the police of vehement impropriety and harassing us artists who were the real victims of agression, believing the cynical words of foreign “victims” instead… Isn’t the police uniform supposed to represent the Cuban state and the history of Cuba- one where hundreds of young people gave their lives to create a society where the people matter?

Osdalgia called on other policemen who arrived on the scene immediately and who did take proper action with respect to what happened. They made the South Africans contact the fugitive and tell him to return to the scene of the crime. But once he arrived, he said clearly in Spanish “Diplomatic Immunity!” Osdalgia, me and the people present felt the humiliation, the impotency and the devaluation of being Cuban take power over of all of them.

Finally the policemen in cars 115 and 240 left without making it clear to the South Africans the grave sin they comitted by making an attempt against the artists’ lives. This emphasized the obvious shroud of “immunity” and made it clear that a Cuban’s life is actually NOT WORTH ANYTHING.

The special police collected details, statements, the names of witnesses. The South Africans did not wish to make a statement nor accompany the special police to the closest precinct and left with another car from the same embassy with the license plate number 198008, amidst their laughter and loud music.

I was taken to the hospital. Later me and Osdalgia went to denounce the accident and crime to the precinct located at 21st and C, Vedado where we were not helped. Then we went to the precinct located at Zapata and C where we were helped quickly and effectively but, with the surprise and shock of the news we received. Basically, I could not denounce the attempted murder until the special police force investigated whether or not these deeds had transpired even though the incident actually occured in front of a security camera located at Linea and L and many witnesses gave their name to the police.

Though the public continues to have questions about the incident, there are still no answers. What continues is the latent discontent and uncertaintly of the victims and the Cuban witnesses.

1. What value does a Cuban’s life have in comparison to a foreigh embassy’s worker?

2. How can we walk confidently through the streets, go to work, or allow our children to play in parks if we know that any of these “IMMUNE” men or women can commit atrocities even in the face of truthful witnesses and have the benefit of the doubt, up to the point of remaining unpunished?

3. This man shows off his diplomatic immunity, an immunity that rests under the trust our nations have placed in him, making him a watchman over bilateral relations. Nevertheless, with this brutal act, he has become a traitor to his country, to ours, and to the honorable mission which brought him to our land.

4. If this is possible where then can we place our trust, our peace of mind as city dwellers, our security as citizens and our confidence in the peaceful course of political relations?

5. If this man continues to have impunity after having intentionally run over a young person of 25 years of age on Linea and L before tens of witnesses, tragic events like this could be countless with fatal consequences.

City of Havana, Cuba, December 3rd, 2009
50th Anniversary of the Triumph of the Revolution.

Un testigo
(A witness)

Translation by Diana De La Torre.

2 Responses to “Eyewitness Story”

  1. Fixatedpictures

    What a commonplace tragedy this is! I feel like many young people outside of Cuba have a tendency to romanticize the Cuban revolution as having brought about a completely positive change in the country. To many, Fidel is a rock star and Che is an icon to be silkscreened and quoted with endless adulation and repetition. The reality is far more nuanced. Your article underscores the fact that, for many young people who actually reside on the island, the Cuban revolution has resulted in a legacy full of empty rhetoric and broken promises.

  2. lajauretsi

    Thx for your note. I try not to underscore or overscore it.. it sorta “is what it is” — on my trips to cuba, I hung out with lots of youth. they were not privileged, not connected to government, just good ol’ fashioned youth from Alamar, and this happened to them everyday. Right in front of us. My crew of New Yorkers had more rights than they did when stopped by Police. It is the tourist who cannot be disenchanted, thats who brings in the money.

    I think its healthy for International students who visit Cuba (especially those who study Communism), to live with this youth and see the reality of their day-to-day lives… and witness the ideology in practice. Sure, they are educated, but they are also frustrated. Plain and simple.

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