On December 17, when the presidents of Cuba and the United States simultaneously announced the start of the normalization of the relations between both countries, many Cuban social network users shared lyrics from the song “The Happy Day That Is Coming.” In 1974, more than ten years after the rupture of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, Cuban singer-songwriter Silvio Rodríguez wrote: “A sunny day is moving in / a day of enchantments adjoining / a fierce bird approaching / buzzing to the pleasure of your scent / a time of rabbits is approaching.”
Despite the political antagonism between the two nations, the “time of rabbits” predicted by Silvio Rodríguez inexplicably summed up the emotions of many Cubans, both among those living on the island, and the almost two million scattered in the world for political and economic reasons.
While much media coverage has reflected frustration among Cubans in Miami, and concerns from local opposition leaders about the impact of renewed relations for human rights on the island, these were not the only themes that emerged in online conversations about the policy shift.
Cuban history since the 1959 revolution has been marked by emigration. In April 2011, a young blogger, journalist, and professor at the University of Havana shared on her blog, El aguacero: “the best of friends is leaving Cuba.” Her friend had told her one day, “people who leave die.”
The sense of loss, of upheaval provoked by emigration, has been a recurring topic in the Cuban blogosphere: “With time, I am coming to understand how bonds keep breaking and life continues to be disrespectful and people move away and away and away,” says the blogger.
But December 17 also provoked feelings of euphoria and closeness that some brought together with the phrase, “After today, nothing will ever be the same.”
Long before the first steps of the new road map drawn by the White House are implemented to “fraternize and empower the Cuban people,” the main transformation has occurred, according to Cuban journalist Carlos Manuel Álvarez, “in our psyche.” Álvarez writes:
We are not facing an event that will redirect just our economic, cultural, or social reality, which is already enough, but rather an event that will force us to renew our language, the words we tend to use, the concepts with which we were accommodating ourselves as a people.
This renewal is also accompanied by a certain uncertainty, which expresses itself in some cases through funny memes that flood social networks, and, in other cases, through questions pointing towards the future. “What happens when you've had to face an ‘enemy’ your whole life and suddenly they cease to be an ‘enemy'?” asks Sabdiel Batista.
According to Álvarez:
[first] we will have to continue managing our independence, but now with the Americans on board (which, in addition to being inescapable, makes the company more complex and interesting and leads to the only question that can truly measure us as a people, and that is whether, despite everything, we are prepared for it)
In the transformation of life in Cuba, which will happen now, Rafael González adds:
…we Cuban citizens will have to take part (…) not as mere spectators, but as those (…) who are going to be here suffering and enjoying a reality that at this moment I don't even dare to imagine.
Within this group of citizens, Cuba will have to begin to actively include Cubans who reside outside of Cuba, whose remittances constitute the country's second most important source of income. From Alta Gracias in Argentina, Alberto Manuel Pacheco refers to the need to increase the levels of political tolerance and inclusion. “We want to see a happy and prosperous homeland, where we all fit despite living in 200 countries,” he says. He adds:
Sé que puedo sonar ingenuo pero al menos este (…) cubano se cansó de leer sobre escorias, castristas, gusanos, disidentes y de ofensas mutuas. De ahora en adelante solo serán cubanos. No importa si son extrema derecha o izquierda o si son anarquistas, todos tenemos nuestro papel y nuestro lugar por derecho natural en eso que llamamos nación. Será muy duro lograrlo pero con el primer paso se hace más cercano el futuro, añade.
I know that I can sound naive but at least this (…) Cuban is tired of reading about scum, followers of Castro, worms, dissidents, and mutual offenses. From now on, you will just be Cuban. It doesn't matter if you belong to the extreme right or left or if you're anarchists, we all have our role and our place by natural right in what we call a nation. It will be very hard to achieve, but the future becomes closer with the first step.
The attitude of dialogue between both governments lays the groundwork so that “we can live in peace as the neighbors that we are, and for mutual respect and admiration from people to people to outweigh the differences that we undoubtedly have (…) A happy day has come,” concludes Silvio Rodríguez on his blog.
A happy day has not happened yet and probably won’t