Imagine you're a Cuban who has somehow managed to catch the cablecast of Melissa Harris-Perry's MSNBC show today. The topic is President Obama's opening toward Cuba. You're scraping by on the average Cuban monthly salary of $20/month and are thrilled at the prospect of getting a better-paying job if and when American tourists start coming in numbers.
Then suddenly you hear Harris-Perry fretting that there could be a "downside" for Cuba in letting in those American tourists. They could be a "plague" for Cuba. Impose their cultural "hegemony." !Ay caramba!
Yes, Harris-Perry is worried that Cuba's wonderful workers paradise could be despoiled by those invading yanqui tourists. Fortunately, a sensible guest, Prof. John Gutierrez of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, was there to politely tell Harris-Perry to stop "fetishizing" the Cuba of old cars and delapidated architecture, adding "Cubans are entitled to a good standard of living. That may mean having a Home Depot in Cuba. And I think we need to respect that."
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY: On the one hand, it is great to reopen these relationships. On the other hand, I worry about American tourists and the ways we can sometimes be a plague on the rest of the world, particularly in these nations that become high-tourist economies. And I'm wondering if there's a downside to our economic ties opening up with Cuba, for Cuba!
JOHN GUTIERREZ: For me, let me take the opposite position here, which is that I think we have to stop fetishizing the Cuba of old cars and run down architecture. Cubans are entitled to a good standard of living. That may mean having a home Depot in Cuba. And I think we need to respect that. So before we worry so much about whether or not the arrival of American capitalism changes something in Cuba, I think we need to recognize that Cubans have for 50 years been denied many of the basics of modern life.
HARRIS-PERRY: I hear you, I do, but there's still this kind of cultural hegemony clash that can exist.