Cuba’s Chemically Aged Kids

Alfredo Fernandez

Photo: Irina Echarry

HAVANA TIMES, Feb 6 — Those of us born in the 1970s makeup perhaps the generation that was most affected out of all those born since the Cuban Revolution.

We were children in the ‘80s, a decade pregnant with slogans promising a “futuro luminoso” (bright future) that never came.

In the ‘90s, our adolescence or early adulthoods dissolved between blackouts, hauling buckets of water up the stairs, horrible food, illegal emigration, the tourist siege and the endless struggle for subsistence.

Perhaps we were the hardest hit by the curse that this island has suffered since 1990, what Fidel euphemistically termed as the “Special Period.”

Those of us born in the seventies were well educated, that’s true, by teachers who felt infinite respect for their profession. We too gave our utmost and did everything we were asked.

I remember that every night during my 1983 vacation, I would go with my father to do four hours of volunteer labor in the Antonio Maceo Grajales Revolution Square in Santiago de Cuba, which was then under construction.

I was a child and naively believed that it would be impossible for the country not to move towards a communist society where money wouldn’t be necessary, as I had heard my father say.
But the ‘90s ended all my naiveté and that of my generation, as we wound up having to mature with carburo” [a chemical used to ripen green fruit]and to grow up without experiencing our adolescence or youth.

Personally, I have no photographs of the period of my life between 1990 and 1995. That stage of my life vanished in blackouts, bad food and tacky clothes. The worst part about such scarcities was that they also penetrated my spiritual life, making me like so many of my generation question the meaning of life on more than one occasion.

Many of those who were born in the ‘70s have now left the country. For years they have lived anywhere in the world, distant from this reality. But like the rest of us they are all marked by disappointment and disillusionment.

If any good experience was left with us by the ‘90s, it’s having as a goal that of not leaving for tomorrow what can be done today, because we know full well that time is money and that everything can go bad in a moment’s notice.

This is how we are, full of a good amount of skepticism, believing very little in whatever isn’t achieved directly by ourselves.  Meanwhile, the political leader whose promises can convince us has yet to appear.

Many of us also learned to go through the motions and blend into the government to live better, the rest survive the best we can, hoping and waiting for better times.

The truth is that when the seemingly endless “Special Period” really does end, more than a few of us will be unqualified for the insights of future times. We were born too early to be seasoned computer natives and we’re not old enough to have ever “tasted” what Fidel called “the honey of power.”

It turns out that almost all of us born in the ‘70s are in some way “strangers everywhere” who still dream of the adolescence and youth that was taken from us by poverty and mediocrity.

For reasons beyond our control, we leapt from being children to old people, which is the same. They aged and matured us with “carburo.”


Alfredo Fernandez

Alfredo Fernandez: I didn't really leave Cuba, it's impossible to leave somewhere that you've never been. After gravitating for 37 years on that strange island, I managed to touch firm ground, but only to confirm that I hadn't reached anywhere. Perhaps I will never belong anywhere. Now I'm living in Ecuador, but please, don't believe me when I say where I am, better to find me in "the Cuba of my dreams.

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3 thoughts on “Cuba’s Chemically Aged Kids

  • Victor,
    of all the ignorant and arrogant things i have ever heard, your comment makes it right to the top.

  • Why Cubans like to complain and ask for handouts? Special period was good for you. Cubans started to eat high fiber, low calorie food. Now you all back to rice, beans, pork and diabetes. So many Cubans are overweight now.

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