Depressed But Happy? / Francis Sanchez
Francis Sanchez, 29 March 2017 – Cuba is the country with the second
highest levels of depression in Latin America, exceeded only by Brazil.
The statistics appear in a report from the World Health Organization
(WHO) released in Geneva. From this report, paradoxically, this data is
omitted by Cuban publications that otherwise echo the report.
The state discourse may not know how to handle this data, along with
another which places us among the countries with the highest suicide
rates. But, are depression and suicide not, in general terms, typical
disorders of developed societies? As is the aging of the population.
Why, then, aren’t our rates of depression, anxiety and suicides
considered, as is increasing old age, as national achievements?
Surely we Cubans are not depressed, nor do we suffer anxiety, for the
same reasons as Brazilians, Swedes or Japanese. We run little risk of
addiction to work. Rather, it is the complete opposite. Our work places
are a façade to “mark time” and “resolve things under the table.” A very
true and repeated axiom is: “We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us.”
Not having work to do, does not mean that we are exposed to leisure
(good for enjoying extreme activities such as family vacations or lying
on the couch of a psychoanalyst). We live day by day “struggling” for
Although our war is so asymptomatic that it does not deprive us of the
luxuries of sadness and the abysses of madness. In catastrophes, it is
often the case that the effort to breathe increases (during wars, when
fewer people commit suicide). Countries of Central America, where the
gangs swarm and great atrocities are committed, show more satisfactory
rates of depression.
Despite the regrets, we must have some self-imposed sources of
frustration. The truth is that we are taken for the cliché of the
tropical couple with the smile from ear to ear and the pair of
maracas. Might this have something to do with the permanent state of
pretending? With the naturalized and institutionalized lies?
Between immobility, lack of economic and political opportunity on the
one hand, and the state’s chauvinistic and triumphalist discourse on the
other, there are few reasons for hope. Our everyday problems, even if
they are the same as those inherent in life in any other country, may be
swallowed by us in a special and not recommended way. Never forget that
we have been the only people of this hemisphere politically and
ideologically converted into a “mass.” By discarding the individual
will, even the masks were eliminated from our carnivals.
Many want to assign us the role of the most amusing. Besides those in
power, as expected, including the Latin American peoples, their
academics, their social leaders who manage to constantly mobilize people
if they so much as raise the price of transport by a single peseta, they
say that they envy us, and they ask us to continue resisting.
But lately, for some years now, I have noticed that political jokes are
no longer whispered in the streets as they were, for example, in the
Special Period. After many turns of life or history, and a lack of
imagination to visualize the future, maybe everyone already knows the
end and no one is amused?
I remember that in the worst years of the 1990s we laughed at the
hunger, the blackouts, there were parodies on the quota of two
hamburgers for each identity card, at the infinite marches, etc. Then
came the anecdote of how, on a billboard, under a slogan that adorned
streets and roads (“We are happy here”), a daring soul wrote at night:
“Imagine out there.” The story included the curiosity that, at dawn,
even the policemen could not stop laughing.
Source: Depressed But Happy? / Francis Sanchez – Translating Cuba –