Leaving or Staying in Cuba, That is the Question

Ariel Glaria Enriquez  

Cuban students. Photo: Juan Suarez
Cuban students. Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — On Tuesday, January 5, while standing at the bus stop on the intersection of Prado and Trocadero streets, right across the two bronze lions that keep watch over part of Old Havana’s promenade, I heard five young people – two girls and three boys – debate the reasons for leaving or staying in Cuba. They were speaking openly and sincerely.

The debate was started by one of the girls. I have named her “Girl A”. Her friend will be referred to as “Girl B,” and the boys “I”, “II” and “III”, respectively.

Girl A: What do you think about those Cubans stranded in Costa Rica?

The question left the others indifferent.

Girl A: I hope they make it to the United States.

No one replies. She insists until they do.

Girl B: My dad thinks Nicaragua screwed them over and that the United States doesn’t care about them.

Boy I: I think the same. But I’m sure they’ll get there. My dad really liked the Costa Rican president. He hadn’t heard him before.

Girl B: How could he have, when the news here always repeat the same things?

Boy I: I’m tired of hearing the same things over and over again. That’s why nothing interests me and I understand why everyone leaves.

Boy II: Not everyone. I’m not going anywhere.

Girl A: I’d go if my parents left or if I married a foreigner, of course. In that case, the first thing I’d do is get my parents out.

Boy I: That’s what you say now. From what you’ve told me, you like to travel a lot, so I doubt you’ll look after them much.

Girl A: Yes, traveling is one of the things I want to do the most.

Boy III (taking off his headphones): I’m dying to leave.

Boy II: You, who sleeps all day?

Boy III: I sleep ‘cause I’m bored of having nothing to do. If I manage to get out one day, I’ll be the person who sleeps the least. You may even hear about me.

Girl B: That’s true. There’s nothing to do here. That’s why I sleep a lot, also. This has become a country for old men, way I see it.

Boy I: You’re right. Old people’s homes, that’s what we have the most of. Sometimes, I feel we’re just in the way. (He turns to look at Boy II) You won’t leave because your parents give you everything, but that won’t last forever.

Boy II: Keep dreaming things are easy out there.

Girl A: I have an uncle who came back from Spain. He says he won’t go back, that things are tough there.

Boy III: And things aren’t tough here? I don’t remember the last time I had milk for breakfast. And everyone in my family works.

Boy II: That’s because of the blockade.

Boy III: Or perhaps because we don’t know how to breed cattle.

Girl B and Boy I hug and kiss. Girl A interrupts them. The bus is coming. They all run off.

An old man wearing a cap with the logo of Havana’s Industriales baseball team says: “If it were up to me, they would all leave. There’d me more to go around, then.”

Does this man know what he’s saying? Do others think like him? I wonder.

2 thoughts on “Leaving or Staying in Cuba, That is the Question

  • I wonder how they’d really do in the States? One boy sez he’s sleeping all day ’cause he’s bored. Old habits are tough to break. I suspect he’d be doing the same in the States. Meanwhile, many ambitious young Cubans are entering the new economy. Even if they don’t have the capital to start businesses themselves, they are working for a friend or relative who has remitted capital to start a business. I was heartened by many of the new restaurants, casa- and taxi particulares which are sprouting up all over the island. Unlike the state enterprises, these new businesses seem to be getting things right. Instead of “Go North, young man, go North!” I would advise to stay in place…or go North, earn as much $$$ as quickly as possible, then remit as much back as possible. The next decades will be ones of opportunities in Cuba…before the multi-national corporations begin to dominate the economy and crush the little guys.

  • Interesting about the uncle who was in Spain and decided to return to Cuba. I expect many Cubans will form their opinions about the outside world by talking to relatives and friends who have been abroad, They may trust the relatives and friends more that Cuban papers and Cuban TV.

    Also interesting to read that these young people weren’t afraid to express their dissatisfaction in a semi-public setting. Does this happen commonly throughout Cuban society? Or were the circumstances unusual?

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