A canon-blast, a stunt, a chutzpah. These are a few of the meanings of the word ‘cañonaso’, literally a ‘big canon’. But the word is as versatile as the Cubans themselves: intelligent, fast, contradictory, tricky, surprising, resourceful and inconsistent. That the word also has sexual connotations will surprise no-one.

A few examples. In the bookshop at the central plaza of Guines a slogan on the wall in huge letters reads: ‘Nosotros no le decimos al pueblo cree, le decimos lee’, by none other than Fidel Castro himself. ‘We don’t tell the people to believe, we tell them to read’. True, true, very true. And to make sure the people can indeed read, book prices are as low as possible, practically for free. This also is a very good thing. Consistent. But the cañonaso is that in the bookshop you will only find books about socialism, the Revolution, Fidel Castro, El Che, José Martí, or books written by authors who support the system, or at least don’t criticize it. Of course, you are perfectly free to criticize the U.S. A counter-cañonaso to this would be that you won’t find many books on the Cuban Revolution in American bookshops either. And he who believes that CNN and the mainstream media in the U.S. are ‘fair and balanced’, is as blind as a bat, or Fidel Castro.

The only free country in the Western hemisphere

That’s Cuba, of course. Life is easy in Cuba with lots of sex, music and chess. And don’t forget, there is always lots of cheap rum. You don’t have to work very hard, the State looks after most things. Health care and education are free, so you don’t have to save for that. True, wages are at starvation level. You just can’t survive on the State’s wages. But then, everybody ‘solves’ this by stealing a bit from the State one way or the other. But this is not theft. After all, the people own the State. How can the people steal something that is already theirs? Quite a cañonaso! So, yes, Cuba is free. Just don’t mention the taboo’s: free speech, free association, free enterprise, free elections and free travel. After all, even the slave is free as long as he does what his master says.

‘Las ideas son la arma esencial en la lucha de la humanidad por su propio salvación’, insists a government wall-message in Rosafé. ‘Ideas are the essential weapon in humanity’s struggle for its own salvation’. This means we don’t need God. Why not humanity and God? But we’ll skip that. True it is, ideas are important. We spoke for 2 hours with well-educated people we had reason to take seriously. We tried to discuss Solidarist ideas. We never got a word in between them denouncing the ‘genocidal blockade’. This they did professionally. Another cañonaso: The Revolution has the situation well under control.