This Sunday in the news the secretary-general of the Cuban Workers Confederation announced a 1st of May celebration where the ‘creative ingenuity’ of our people will be recognized. His words were accompanied by the well-known images of thousands of people parading in a Plaza full of posters, flags, and multicolored clothing. Seeing so much exuberance, my old doubts returned about where all these bright and colorful things, so dazzling under the May sun, are manufactured.
If we are guided by the words of Salvador Valdés Mesa, we would think the initiative comes from the citizens to design, paint and color the posters and clothing. However, we all know that it is not possible to buy, in Cuban pesos – the currency in which wages are received – neither a Cuban flag, nor oil or acrylic paint, let alone shirts or caps. Nor can one legally purchase a printer to achieve the perfect lettering that is displayed on the posters of the demonstrators. Where, then, do these signs come from that purport to be the fruit of mass spontaneity?
I know the answer and I know that it has little to do with the courage of a worker who writes his demands on a canvas. Nor does it have to do with the decision of an independent trade union to organize its members to demand better working conditions. The majority of these signs are directed and designed by those who look back at them, “spellbound,” from the platform. They know that if the workers were left to themselves to make the posters, they would probably say other things.
Photo caption: Selling flags for convertible currency.