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'Don't Stand Out,' Cubans Tell Their Children, Perpetuating the Repression

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Photo: Silvia Corbelle

You're getting your bag ready for school and listening to your mother nag. "Don't get into anything that's going to make a ton of trouble for you later," she shouts from the kitchen. So you go to the morning assembly at school, withdrawing into yourself so they won't notice you. The bell rings to enter the classroom and there's the history teacher with her Manichean version of the past. You know it wasn't like what she says because you've read other versions in your grandfather's books, but you keep quiet... so as not to look for trouble.

Your voice went hoarse and then you were a soldier serving your time in the military. You had to learn the lesson of survival. So when the officer shouted and demanded greater dedication, you mentally repeated, "Better not to be noticed." Get by unscathed, don't get involved, avoid them noticing you, were your premises at that age. Don't offer an idea, don't suggest a change, the only thing your bosses will hear from your mouth is "at your service!" Later you made it to the university, where the objective was to get a diploma, to graduate, without any complications.

Your children were born and when they were little you read them the riot act about simulation, how to fake it. "Make sure you don't stand out, it only brings trouble," you counseled them from the time they could understand. With this action you prolong the cycle of simulation in your offspring, as your parents once did with you.

But you have not come out unscathed. You're not a crook who has deceived others, but you have cheated yourself. With so much self-restraint, limiting your expressions, and avoiding speaking up, you have become the mediocre man you are today, a being tamed by the system.


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