Cuban-American author asks “What happens now?”

Braelyn Swan, Staff writer

Writer, journalist, and director of Mills College’s Master of Fine Arts program, Achy Obejas visited Linfield College this week, providing a lecture on Cuba in the 21st century, a writing workshop and a reading of one her books. As a Cuban-American, Obejas did not return to cuba until she was 39 years old.

Obejas’s lecture on Cuba in the 21st century was more of a discussion between the audience, Obejas and the moderator Dawn Nowacki, chair of the political science department at Linfield.

Obejas opened her lecture asking, “What happens now?” She explained that Cuba’s presidents and the Communist Party were entirely white males until the election of Barack Obama in the United States, when Cuba elected its first African-American leader. Since then, Cuban President Raul Castro has brought more people of color and women into the government.

She then went on to explain that Castro has recently named his heir, Miguel Diaz-Canel, who would be the first non-Castro and first non-rebel in power. The Cuban rebels were often from the provinces of Cuba and supported the revolution of the 1950’s.

Obejas then compared Fidel Castro and Raul Castro and their leadership. Fidel Castro was more concerned with foreign affairs and maintaining relationships with countries around the world.

Raul Castro has shown more interest in the domestic affairs of Cuba and leads the armed forces. “It’s the army that runs the Cuban hotels, telephone companies, the armed forces are extremely efficient,” Obejas said.

She discussed Cuba’s economic position and how their economy has functioned in the past.

During Cuba’s economic collapse, the government relied heavily on the Soviet Union to the extent that Obejas said, “every time I first meet anyone of an older age who is Russian and I mention being Cuban, I get bad vibes.”

She said that the Russians she would meet would blame the Cubans for losing everything because the Soviet Union put so many resources into Cuba that they struggled to support their own country.

From 1989 to 1995, Cuba went through a period of tremendous economic turmoil. “You could stand on a road in Havana and not see a car for 20 minutes because there was no fuel,” Obejas said.

Lastly, Obejas asked, “what will happen?” Today, Cuba is on the verge of another economic collapse and needs to trade with the United States but states like Florida and New Jersey are not cooperating. Raul Castro is stepping down from the presidency and Obejas stated that “Cuba will always depend on the American President.” With Castro stepping down as president, “Cuba will always depend on the American President,” Obejas said.