In one of those confusions so common in children, I thought for years that the logo of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution was an enormous eye carrying a machete.  As I was unaware of the origin of this aggressive iconography, I saw it as an indiscreet pupil, watching me on every block.  Some time later, a friend clarified that what I saw as a cornea and an iris was just a sombrero seen from above.  Despite his kind remark, I continued to feel the weight of that look every time I passed in front of a sign with the acronym CDR.

The seventh congress of this organization is now underway, with its more than seven million members, of whom a good number have not been consulted about joining its ranks.  You are enrolled in the Committee completely automatically, the same way we women are included in the Federation of Cuban Women and the children are entered into the ranks of the Pioneers.  Rarely does anyone publically refuse to be part of these groups which, in Cuba today, are more formal and bureaucratic than effective.

My confusion between an eye and a hat showed a touch of childish delirium, but also a strong nose for danger.  I learned that within the doors bearing the alarming slogan, “Always Vigilant,” lived the most adroit editors of reports to denounce other neighbors.  I also knew those who, because of a false report—a stroke of the pen from the committee president—lost a promotion, a trip, or the chance to have a new home.  I even knew someone who wore the title, “Vice President of the CDR,” who was also the biggest criminal in the neighborhood.

In the Palace of Conventions, the pupil with the machete is holding a new conference.  I sense that what was once a many-eyed Argus is today a Cyclops with cataracts, a vigilant body that can barely see all the mischief we get up to.

Translator’s note:
Cuba’s network of Committees for the Defense of the Revolution was formed in 1960.  Out of a total population of about 11 million, its more than 7 million members represent the vast majority of Cuba’s adult population.  The CDRs keep files on each resident of their respective blocks.


  1. A free society does not need 7 million domestic spies reporting every action and F**T the people make.

    Una sociedad libre no necesita 7 milliones de espias domesticos reportando cada accion y P**O que haga la gente.

  2. >>>>EL TRADUCTOR DE NOTA, CREO ESTA EQUIOCADO: Active memers of CDR, are the same comunist, the same federadas y de same juventud revelde… Son los mismo organismo en decadencia manifiesta desde mucho tiempo atras…existen miembros incristos en los CDR. que no saben que los han puesto alli…. todos no hacen millon y algo de personas que forman los CDR…. Saludos y Gracias…..Fabian….

  3. Gotta love the CDR (note the sarcasm)… It’s like have a citizen version of the secret police where everyone might be a snitch. It’s a great way to make sure that people’s opinions are kept far away from the public and are only spoken behind closed doors for fear of being heard by the block captain.

    Defense of the revolution? It’s more like forbidding evolution.

  4. Well, actual symbolism aside, it’s a very confusing image, and one that I still can’t really make heads or tails of. No wonder it ended up being a kind of Rorschach test for you, Yoani.

  5. It is sad to see people scared to trust their own family members and careful of what they say in their own homes. The windows are always open as few have air conditioning. Opression is the M.O. I say a prayer every night that Cuba one day has a government who cares about it own people. A new REVOLUTION is in order. A mans home is his castle. The world has some new eyes that is also looking down from above.

  6. MOSKA NEGRA: It’s true that a man’s home is his castle… that’s why, for the most part, Cuba makes sure that no man/woman owns his/her own home. As long as it’s in the state’s possession: it’s the state’s castle. Keep praying, the Cubans need it!

  7. I am an American who, many years ago, had a good friend whose family fled Cuba because the father was an afficer in Batista’s army.
    As I look at the designated symbol, I see a handgun over a platform upholding a single star. I see this as symbolic of a self propogating, self-defending,military dictatorship, which is what the Castro regime has always been. Has Castro always been all about communism, or all about Castro? There is the saying that power corrupts & absolute power corrupts absolutely.
    I pray for freedom in Cuba.

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