Alfredo Fernandez

Havana dog.

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.


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.

6 thoughts on “What Will Be, Will Be?

  • Luis I do not agree that Cuba should be expending their resources while ignoring Cubans.
    Cubans should be first in Cuba. If there is no resources for Cubans then it should be none for foreigners.

    Why should they use the resources of Cuba to graduate doctors for other countries? while Cubans do need their own? Cuba does not have the economy to sustain this. Is really a question of priority.
    Who is more important for the government? a foreigner or a Cuban?
    By keeping this school open they say they care more about foreigners than Cubans.

  • Alfredo, are we supposed to pity you? Here in Brazil, with an economy far more developed and diversified than Cuba’s – and yet with lower HDI – the average wage is about R$ 900,00. Depending on location, the rent can reach R$ 500,00 or more. People struggle to survive, it’s life.

    And Julio, to hell with your idea of “closing ELAM”. That’s the major problem with your criticism – you complain about the *good* things about Cuba!

  • here in canada we are lucky to have a system that works (and just barely) the students here are not happy that they need to pay more to get far less and expecially right now with a world wide recession going on.
    even my class was cut because the government here felt that writing was not an urgency and that there was little intrest in it .meanwhile there are over 30.000 writers and journalist trying to make the grade with little or no jobs at all so in reality alex our two worlds suffer the same if not common plight we all want to learn but where is the money to do just that
    lawrence

  • Cutting teachers’ jobs! What is next? With teachers’ jobs being cut, with oversized classes etc. etc. What incentive does a student have to go to school and receive an education?

    I know doctors, lawyers and professors who drive a bici-taxi or who are self-employed, doing other things than what their education trained them to do.

    How many Cuban politicians are going to be redundant? How many of these politicians have two jobs in order to survive? You cannot tell me that there is no waste in the government.

    Sure, get rid of waste. But, define waste first.

  • Alfredo
    I understand that in Cuba there is the International school of medicine and a few other schools that cater to foreigner students. The cost associated with this schools to the Cuban people is never published. I will assume that expenditures like those will be the first thing to go in a dire economic situation like now.

    Why are this schools still open? Who decides to keep them open considering they are a drain on the meager state resources?
    It seems to me that the reason for their existence is basically for the leadership to play international politics at a great cost to the Cuban people.
    I also heard that many Cubans will not be able to study on the university since the high education have been severely restricted.
    So should not this money expend on foreigners be expend and prioritized on Cubans?

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