Of my two jobs, I’ve just lost one: that of associate professor at a community-based university campus. This has caused my already meager finances to feel the crunch of hard times even more.
As it turns out, the country’s recently initiated process of economic restructuring aimed at ending waste has hit higher education. The number of professors —by no means squanderers— has been reduced on various community-based campuses, a de-centralization effort that had barely started and had already demonstrated initial achievements.
A month ago restructuring’s first impact was felt among elderly citizens who had anxiously awaited their monthly ration of subsidized cigarettes so that they could resell them on the black market and in this way cushion their woefully inadequate pensions.
Two weeks ago the State also cleared up any doubts held by many teachers. “Will we have jobs next semester?” we were wondering. This was how the new school year began in the country’s far-flung university system as we learned, for once and for all, that there was no work on the horizon, at least for the time being.
The myth has circulated and expanded in Cuba “no worker can live off their official wages” (versus the underground economy). However that doesn’t include me, because I’m in fact one of those (and there are many) who do live off their wages. As an aspiring researcher at the National Museum of the History of Science, I earn 430 pesos a month in national currency ($21.50 USD). As a professor I had received a supplemental 252 pesos in national pesos monthly ($12.50 USD). Adding up the two salaries, I brought home around $34 a month, of which $18 USD went to pay my rent, leaving me with just $16 to live on, or better said to survive on for an entire month.
The State has just begun to implement its new economic readjustment measures and has now achieved a situation in which sectors of the Cuban population —who over the years had reduced their spending to the limit— have now had their purchasing power reduced even more.
I’ll figure out some way to recoup that part of my wage that allows me “to live” through the month. Currently I only buy the most basic foods. Plus I’ve always done without meat (though by no means am I a vegetarian); nor do I go in for other luxuries (such as extra toilet paper or tooth paste that’s not from the ration book).
Likewise my purchases on clothes are next to nothing (I always get more than enough from my friends who have emigrated abroad). Notwithstanding, in my case I need at least another $10.50 CUC (about $12.50 USD) to continue my very limited existence, which I usually spend on friends, music, books or some vice.
At the moment I’m crossing my fingers to not wind up being nominated as a potential candidate for firing from the museum.