In the years 1986 and 1987 an unusual enthusiasm proliferated, in our country, for what was happening in the Soviet Union. The weekly News from Moscow, which for years had piled up in the kiosks, came to be sold in the black market for 20 times the cover price. In October of 1988, at a meeting of the students from the School of Journalism, the then youngest prince Carlos Aldana predicted that the restless perestroika boys were not looked upon kindly by the leaders of the Revolution, but Pepito, the sage protagonists of our best political jokes, had already alerted us to this: “What is expected of us is stoicism.”
Having have had more than 20 years to meditate on that time, our leaders announced some changes whose main purpose is to keep the socialist system afloat. On the night of October 12, 1960, Fidel Castro announced that 382 large corporations, many of them American, “and also the banks,” would be nationalized. At dawn on the 13th, the controllers were to make themselves available at each one of the confiscated entities. In another speech, on March 13, 1968, he proclaimed the nationalization of all private businesses. That same night, from their encampments, the new administrators of “Ecochinche” (which is what people then baptized what could be called the Empresa Consolidada de Chinchales*) emerged to take, by assault, the last remnants of capitalism. The speech on the university steps had not yet ended before the lights went on in bars and nightclubs to let the customers know that the party was over, because all these establishments would be closed as part of the Revolutionary Offensive.
The velocity was dizzying because it was the pace of demolition. Everyone knows that a building that took years to erect can be demolished in day, or even hours or minutes if explosives are used. Now it’s about searching through the rubble to look for usable bricks and that takes time. Raul Castro’s speech before the National Assembly of People’s Power to detail the nature of the changes proposed was in December, the Communist Party “Congress” will be in April, and then we will have to wait for the measures to be implemented, with a long view and short steps, as those who have reached old age are wont to say.
Pepito hasn’t shown up and in the absence of his ingenuity for naming things we seem to be, once again, waiting stoically. What I don’t know is if the patience will last.
*Translator’s note: “Chinchales” is a slightly derogatory Cuban term for small businesses. “Empresa Consolidada de Chinchales” translates as “Consolidated Small Businesses Company.”