The street is not the same, nor are the neighbors who usually gossip in the lines at the markets; today they speak of universal themes. They raise their eyebrows and point towards the north, while they make predictions about who will be elected at the polls in the U.S. I don’t remember having lived through such a commotion during the Cuban presidential elections last February.
The cobbler in my building took a stand for one candidate and the old woman who sells flowers has been wearing a shirt with the Obama logo. Our boring trajectory of two presidents in fifty years has exacerbated the curiosity over foreign elections. We also know that the decision of U.S. voters will reverberate here and not so metaphorically as the flutter of a butterfly in the Amazon. The remittances that allow thousands of Cuban families to get to the end of the month come primarily from the other shore, where a portion of this Island lives, and where the insults—“worms,” traitors” and “mafiosos”—have not managed to sever our emotional and family ties. The political discourse of our own leaders would lose effectiveness without the United States in the role of the enemy. Never, as today, has the destiny of Cuba been so clearly separated, and yet so dependent, on what happens ninety miles away.
So we are all waiting to see who will win this Tuesday, November 4th. Those who have children who can come to visit them only every three years are confident that the Democratic candidate will be more flexible in allowing visits to the Island. Others are betting that the heavy hand of the Republicans will manage to force the openings we have expected for decades. In the face of the “uncertain prognosis” we show inside our country, there are those who assert that today’s results will either launch or derail, definitively, the cart of reforms in Cuba.
I would prefer that we drive ourselves, but very few want to exchange the work of the forecaster for the hard task of making things happen. So when I write this post, the capricious vehicle of change seems to be stuck in a rut at the side of the road. I have my doubts about whether what happens this Tuesday will get it moving.