Val informs us that there are eight guys at his house from three different companies trying to repair the damage that he did to his kitchen during his recent do-it-yourself-if-you-are-a-fool renovation ["Anecdotal Statistics," Babalú, May 5]. Most of them are recent arrivals from Cuba (for Val even the marielitos are arrivistes). As in the past when he has entertained other proletarians in his home, Val, having nothing else to do, took it upon himself to harass these men as they went about their work, grilling them like some political commissar about their lives in Cuba or prospects in this country, ready to throw them out of his house if anyone manifested some sign of diversionism. To the men themselves Val must have sounded like some little boy who thinks that the men in hard-hats in his house have been sent there to entertain him.
It has long been Val's contention that these recent arrivals are mutated Cubans, having a passing resemblance in the externals to the originals, but woefully deformed in their internal make-up. Val believes the Revolution has conditioned them to be without ambition, robbed them of all initiative and created the expectation that the State would do for them what they won't do for themselves, do it badly and incompletely, granted, and at a very high cost in human dignity and personal freedom, but, in the end, do it nonetheless. He is, therefore, beside himself to discover that despite his worst expectations Cubans raised on the island do have dreams that transcend the ration card and are willing to work 16-hour days to give their children a better life in this country. In short, he is shocked to discover that they are just like us, more, they are us.
So why is this so extraordinary to Val?
It is only the opportunity that the newcomers require; the ambition and initiative have always been there, despite the regime's efforts to crush individuality and stamp out self-sufficiency. But why would Val doubt it and be flabbergasted at the evidence of it? Does he believe that his parents and their generation discovered the work ethic when they arrived in this country, Val in tow, forty odd years ago? Ambition is an innate quality; it can be suffocated in man but can never be extinguished.
At least these latest Cuban handymen were not the great disappointment to him that another ambitious newcomer was last year. Imagine! This guy wanted to save his money so he could visit the island and see his parents, and, horror of horrors, get "laid right and left!" Since he didn't mention a spouse and supposing that he wasn't raping little girls, why the hell should it matter to Val if the guy gets laid from one end of the island to the other? It is not a crime (as yet) for Cubans to have consensual sex on the island. Should it be made a crime to turn up the valve on Val's proverbial pressure cooker? No food, no freedom and no sex, will that do the trick, Val? Will that make you feel better? Of course, Cubans shouldn't have sex because they need all their energy to throw themselves in front of tanks in order to pave the road so that Val himself may be able to return to Cuba some day, and, maybe, even have sex there, when that, of course, is no longer a "revolutionary activity."
The Cuban whom Val berated for wishing to visit and help his family on the island, and, btw, according to Val, for wanting to "get laid right and left" there, supposedly called Val a "gusano." This I doubt very much. Many other words would have been more appropriate. You are thinking of many right now.