( Editor’s note : El Nuevo Día toured Cuba to gather the opinions of Cubans about the process of presidential change in the country. We visited Arroyos de Mantua, on the western tip; Hershey, on the outskirts of Havana; Placetas, in the center of the island; Second Front; town founded by Raúl Castro Ruz in Oriente; and Punta de Maisí, at the eastern end of the island. This is the first delivery.)
Streams of Matua – The Cuban president Raul Castro Ruz He will leave his post next Thursday, which will be the trigger for a generational change in the government that keeps the Cuban people expectant, which places high hopes on the transformation that the new president will bring, but warns about the need to guarantee the integrity of the achievements made by the Revolution that overthrew the government of Fulgencio Batista in 1959 .
Castro Ruz will leave power after 12 years in the maximum chair, because he fulfilled two terms officially and replaced his brother Fidel with illness for two years, before he formally handed over the presidency in 2008.
For the first time since Cuba established its socialist model after the armed triumph of the “Barbudos”, a Castro Ruz will not be in the presidency and neither will a member of the so-called historical generation that fought in the Sierra Maestra, which will mean a Substantial change in the management of the country, where most of the people, despite their disagreements and discomforts, have essentially a high level of respect for those who fought in the mountains and in the urban guerrilla.
The generational transition, dictated by the natural passage of the years and by recent provisions of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) who put as a cap 70 years to occupy senior management positions, finds Cubans swimming between two waters: on the one hand, hopeful that change will bring evolution in the country and, on the other, suspicion that the achievements hitherto achieved by the socialist model are falling apart and the population ends up at a crossroads.
This dual feeling is felt in the country from end to end, starting with the village of Arroyos de Mantua, a fishing settlement of 3,500 inhabitants in the province of Pinar del Río that is considered the most western populated place in Cuba , where The new day He began an extensive journey that ends at the other end of the island, in Punta de Maisí, more than 1,000 kilometers to the east.
Here, 315 kilometers from Havana and facing the Gulf of Mexico, the population, in the middle of its dusty streets and a life devoid of luxuries or excesses, is alert about the process that comes and faces it with pragmatism.
“On April 19, there will be a movement that, as comrade Raúl Castro Ruz said, will give the possibility of the new generations assuming the main positions. Almost always the changes generate development. There are figures with the thoughts and ideas that the commander in chief, Fidel Castro, bequeathed to us. The young people are aware of the task they have and the only way to survive is to defend the Revolution and support its leaders, “he said. The new day the president of the popular council of Arroyos de Mantua, Leonardo Castro Miranda , something like the mayor of the town.
With his dark complexion and the green cap of the Pinar del Rio baseball team fixed on his head, Castro Miranda is one of those who think that the changes are positive, but his success will depend on the people themselves.
“This town is characterized by being revolutionary and combatant, and has many historical roots. At this moment he is engaged in a process of transformation, always with popular participation … In this context, a community like this what is needed first is a change in mentality of people. That people understand that the only way to get ahead is by working, “he said.
Those who remember the years prior to the arrival of the Revolution, assure that this area had shades of the outskirts, where fishing was lived, but there was no medical dispensary, school, roads or basic services. Residents say that despite the modest appearance of the town, the advances have been remarkable, although they lack fanfare or aesthetics, as residents have been able to educate themselves and pursue careers in medicine or sports.
“This was a small fishing port, which was administered by four or five magnates who decided the life of the workers. The workers’ life was precarious, bad, what they fished was worthless, they did it in sailboats of bad conditions, with bad medical attention, because there was only one doctor, and if you did not have money you died “, explained the former administrator of the fishing port of the town, Graciliano García Escandel, who is retired at 76 years of age.
“Remembering that is terrible, because there was no road, only a real road. Today this looks like a city next to that, there are elegant houses, the fishermen have another life, they go fishing in other conditions that even look like tourists … The youth of today do not know, because they did not live it “, added the man .
That longing for not losing what has been achieved is the only concern that persists among the citizens, since one of the hallmarks of the Cuban socialist system has been to bring to the population in the most remote regions of the country basic services of health, education, sports, security, food and infrastructure, from road to electric.
Poverty is latent for Western parameters, especially in towns far from urban centers, such as Arroyos de Mantua, where some of the children play barefoot football and the streets lack pavement in many areas.
In places like these, despite the limited resources of the Absolute State, there is no lack of a school, a dispensary, free food and coaches prepared to teach children to play baseball, basketball, volleyball or football at the height of the best in the world. region.
Sport, for example, is the main source of pride for Arroyos de Mantua. Members of the national soccer and table tennis teams, as well as members of the provincial baseball teams, have left.
“In order to continue developing in this area, this community would need to continue improving the sports facilities, have access to more sports equipment, and prepare the teaching staff to make the work more effective,” said the municipal sports director. María Elena Riveiro Otero, born in Arroyos de Mantua.
“Fidel’s death was a hard blow for the Cubans, but we have to follow his legacy and move forward, moving forward, because all those ideas that he conveyed to us must be reflected in results for society. He liked sports a lot and that is why in all the activities we do, his thinking is present. Although soon Raul will not be there, he will continue with us and we will continue the same, every day improving. The ideas we already have internalized, we already know what we are going to do and we will be better, “added the fiery woman, who heads a municipal sports system that makes champions with very few resources.
That idea of living your days without one of the Castro Ruz brothers in power sounds strange to many Cubans, since the custom causes an adaptation, voluntary or not, that becomes routine.
The mere fact of Fidel’s physical absence and the departure of Raúl’s presidency, even though he prevails as secretary general of the PCC, represent a major change in the Cuban social scene, for which citizens from all over the country are prepared, including from the most western corner of the island.
“I am convinced that things are going to change here, I do not know if for good or bad, but it will be a 180 degree change. There are proposals for work, a different world, and you have to prepare yourself because it is an opportunity, “said fisherman Oriván Zambrana Fiallo, 37, who emphasizes that the transformation scenario will not change the essence of towns such as Arroyos de Mantua, where humility is worth more than ostension.
“The Mantuanos are humble people, that is the word to describe us. When I say humble is because it is the word that encompasses everything, because you can get to the house of any mantua and they will receive you with open arms, whether they have the best or the worst, but they offer it to you with their hearts in their hands “Said the young man from the sea.
And it is in this breeding ground, where the main ingredient is popular humility, which Raúl Castro Ruz will hand over power on April 19 , an event that marks a milestone and to which Cubans await with a single certainty, that of generational change.