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When and Where Bureaucracy Got Started in Cuba

Published: 2012.07.08 - 09:23:08   /  /  Ana Elizabeth Rodríguez

When and Where Bureaucracy Got Started in Cuba The first women’s strike in Cuba occurred on May 1909, just a few months after the inauguration of José Miguel Gómez (called The Shark) as President, following the American Intervention, which ended on January 28, 1909.

On the morning of the 16th of May of 1909, a commission of the Union of Havana’s Laundromat Ironing Women, headed by Justa Martínez, went to the then presidential residence, at the Captain’s General Palace, to meet the President. They wanted to complaint about bad conditions at work and poor salaries.

The President refused to meet them. Instead they met with the Presidency Secretary, who used a polite rhetoric to shunt them to another high-ranking official. It was right there that the awful practice of shunting people around was born in Cuba. Here we use the word “peloteo”, derived from pelota/ball, refering to the action of tossing around the ball. This is common practice for bureaucrats at all levels.

Making a long story short, neither the government nor the Union of Laundromats Owners met the demands of the women on strike. Au contraire. The women, who had occupied the Marti Theater, were charged with incitement to violence, and imprisoned.

But the bureaucracy epidemic, for which there is no cure, was inherited from the Spanish colonial rule, from which we also inherited government corruption. Another corrupt practice was to include people in pay rolls without requiring them to ever show up for work. In this way, certain officials created a circle of people who were unconditional to them. This was a way to pay back for political favors, opportunism, and servility.

The flattering begun with Christopher Columbus. He wanted to name the isle of Cuba Juana in reference to the names of the King’s children Juan and Juanita (which was called Juana La Loca/Juana the Crazy). That very same King later on showed no mercy with Columbus, and removed him from all position of power. Ultimately, servility does not pay.(Juan Blas Rodríguez)

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