Food politics in Cuba
Michael C. Moynihan from the February 2010 issue
In early August, Juan Carlos Gonzalez Marcos, known to his neighbors as Panfilo, consumed a large amount of alcohol and went for a stroll in Havana. Upon encountering a foreign documentary team—in Cuba to produce a film about the local music scene—the well-lubricated Panfilo jumped into the cameraman’s shot with a slurred but serious message for foreign viewers.
“What we need here is a little bit of jama,” he bellowed, employing a colloquial Spanish term for food. “We need food. We’re hungry here. Listen to what Panfilo tells you from Cuba. Food.” The video was later uploaded to YouTube, where, as of this writing, half a million people have watched it.
A few days later, after Panfilo mania gripped the Cuban exile community, a second video appeared, this time on Cuban state television. In a scene that seemed plucked from an Arthur Koestler novel, a sober Gonzalez Marcos, looking agitated and depressed, performed a ritual retraction for his fellow citizens.
If he thought this apology would appease the dictatorship of Raul Castro, Fidel’s brother and heir, Panfilo was mistaken. In a trial closed to the public, he was convicted of “precriminal social endangerment” and sentenced to two years in prison.
"Nobody is in agreement…It’s that, no one says it and no one takes the risk to say it, to speak the truth. That’s what is happening. In other words, one of the foundations, of what are the regimes in the entire world, in all of history, has been fear and lies. In other words, once you are in fear that's when you don’t take a risk, where you collect yourself and don’t unite…understood? To be in fear is not to offer help to anyone because that signifies risk." -Gorki Águila Carrasco, lead singer, guitarist of the music group Porno Para Ricardo and political prisoner
"Socialist ideology, like so many others, has two main dangers. One stems from confused and incomplete readings of foreign texts, and the other from the arrogance and hidden rage of those who, in order to climb up in the world, pretend to be frantic defenders of the helpless so as to have shoulders on which to stand." --Jose Marti