National Geographic : 2012 Nov
' of this same debate---Eduardo is a crucial com- ponent of it, although not for the reasons you might think. "Dissident" is the right label for a subset of politically vocal Cubans, notably the bloggers whose critical online missives have gained big followings outside the country, but Eduardo is no sort of dissident. He's not eeing persecution by the state. He's just young, ener- getic, and frustrated, a description that applies to a great many of his countrymen. Ever since he was a teenager in high school, Eduardo told me, it had been evident to him that adulthood in revolutionary Cuba o ered exactly nothing by way of personal advancement and material comfort to anybody except the peces gordos. e big sh. (Well, literally translated, the fat sh--- the tap-on-the-shoulder parties.) Nothing works here, Eduardo would cry, pounding the steering wheel of whatever car he'd hustled on loan for the day: e economic model is broken, state employees survive on their tiny salaries only by stealing from the jobsite, the national news outlets are an embarrassment of self-censored boosterism, the government makes people crazy by circulating two national currencies at once. "I love my country," Eduardo kept saying. "But there is no future for me here." Over nine weeks of traveling around Cuba this year and last, I heard this particular se- quence of complaints so often, and from so many di erent kinds of people, that it began to form a kind of collective national lamentation: I love my country and it doesn't work. ere were loyal optimists among the complainers, to be sure, and a er a while, whenever I encountered one, I found myself marshaling ammunition to bring Eduardo. I wanted to hear how he'd re- spond, but when I was being honest with myself, I realized that I also wanted to talk him out of the boat. (Sharks swim in those Cuba-to-Florida waters. e currents are dangerous. ere are drownings, people never heard from again.) Optimist: Roberto Pérez, a shaggy-haired environmental biologist, lled with enthusiasm about the progress of Cuba's extensive urban Cynthia Gorney is a contributing writer for the magazine who frequently reports from Latin America. Paolo Pellegrin is a Magnum photog- rapher who lives in Rome and New York City. A passenger rides shotgun in a Havana taxi---not the kind used by tourists, but one of the geriatric American cars that carry only Cubans, who pay a fraction of the tourist fare.