Cuba is Havana

Daisy Valera
Daisy Valera

This is my fourth year in this university science faculty where people from all the provinces of Cuba come to study. Before beginning classes, they informed us that each one of us would be assigned a job related to our specialty when we graduate.

So for that reason we arrived here believing that we would be in Havana for only five years. But these years in the capital have changed greatly my way of thinking about the subject.

After getting more involved in the life here, visiting the institutions where graduates in Chemistry and Nuclear Physics work, I began to note something very alarming; there’s nothing similar in any other part of Cuba. As a result, I and all of my classmates who come from other provinces would have to resign ourselves to returning home to work at jobs with requirements that are very distant from what we had studied.

But the lack of scientific centers in the rest of the country isn’t the only thing that I see when I compare many of the Cuban provinces with Havana.

In the rest of the country everything that functions so naturally in Havana seems to be in a state of permanent decay. Some examples of this are the movie theaters, the Coppelia ice cream parlor, the theaters, the outdoor concerts and the weekly venues of folk and other types of music that are a constant in the capital.

In Sancti Spiritus, which is where I’m from, there are two movie theaters which don’t open very often and which people don’t attend when they do, not only because of the poor programming but because of the suffocating heat for lack of air conditioning.

I had the opportunity to ask the director of one of these cinemas why the problem of air conditioning had never been solved after all these years. Her answer was curt: for lack of resources.

Less than a year ago the ice cream parlor in my province reopened after being closed for approximately six years. During this entire period, while residents of the capital could count on their imperturbable Coppelia, and in Moneda Nacional (the currency people get paid in), the inhabitants of my town had to use CUC (the hard currency that circulates but only a minority of the population has access to) to buy ice cream.

In my city the theater is closed as well, and there are virtually no places where young people can go without having to pay an entrance charge in CUC.

Several months ago they converted a building that had traditionally been used as a recreational center into a Store for the Recuperation of Foreign Exchange, the shops in which people have to use CUC for purchasing basic products.

This happened simply because the cultural institution of my province didn’t have the funds to fix the place up and put it at the disposition of the population.

I have also noted a difference in the distribution of food products in the bodegas (shops where the state sells food to the public at subsidized prices). Havana residents receive more meat, eggs and provisions monthly than the rest of the country’s inhabitants.

After these years living in Havana and conversing with my classmates in the university about how people live in their different provinces, I can see that life in the other provinces is very similar to how we live in mine.

I have been able to confirm that the best jobs are concentrated in Havana, as well as the greatest possibilities for cultural enrichment, the best food resources and another series of assets that are indispensable for the population.

After seeing where the best possibilities for Cubans are centralized, now I better understand the phenomenon of migration to the capital. I believe this problem is the result of the poor distribution of goods and services in the country, which runs totally against the stated goal that all of us should enjoy the same resources and possibilities.

I really hope that I don’t always have to hear the phrase which many Havana residents repeat: Cuba is Havana, and nothing more.

3 thoughts on “<em>Cuba is Havana</em>

  • It’s just great to get this feedback from you, Daisy — even if many socialists consider any criticism whatsoever of their particular pet projects to be threatening. They clearly don’t make the proper — i.e. dialectical — distinctions, which any socialist worthy of the name should do as a matter of course. And as you are pointing out: it is the lack of dealing with such issues that is the *real* threat to any socialist revolution — whether under siege or not.

    It seems to me that resources in Cuba are not being properly distributed because the state is simply too centralized and hierarchical (being still based too much on the failed Soviet model). Besides being relatively inefficient, with insufficient feedback loops and democratic checks, such a setup allows too few people to profit handsomely from being well-placed in it (the rest just have to lump it) — leaving aside the basic problem of simple lack of information which leads to sub-par planning. Clearly, the people in the provinces need to demand their fair share of the country’s total resources — and then the provinces need to distribute these resources properly among the various collectives of towns, communes, etc. This is all complicated, of course, by the need for national planning; but here again, a truly “soviet” system of democratic control would see that national planning led to equality of development countrywide.

    For instance: whatever the democratic setup of any towns — and AFAIC these should be collectives of communes of various areas and workplaces, of various sizes and composition: IMO along the lines of the best that is conceived of for Venezuela’s ‘consejos comunales’ and ‘comunas’ — lists of priorities should be officially and transparently drawn up, according to the results of regular and systematic democratic debate and voting. Then, whatever is most urgent *anywhere in the country* will get first dibs on resources — everyone understanding that it will be a while before everyone will be satisfied with a standard of living which approaches (and hopefully eventually exceeds) Western norms. And IMO also: the Internet is one of the finest tools for presenting — and working thru — the results of these democratic debates and prioritizing decisions, taken collectively.

    There is so much that can actually be done *with proper organization, given the same amount of physical resources*. But hopefully you’ll be getting a lot more cement, equipment, etc., from the other ALBA countries too. More resources will certainly be a root of your future success. And then the cuban public can have its beautiful, elegant public spaces and institutions, everywhere on the island — and not have to continue to live like any other “Third World” country — except without the ‘advantages’ of foreign capital invasion for some lucky local opportunists to exploit.

  • What you are experience is no different than anywhere else in the world. This includes the United States. Most Americans live on 10% of of the total land mass of the United States. Most live near the major cities where the work is. This is a natural occurrence. The worst thing about it is that there is a lot of automobile traffic.

  • I am learning a lot about Cuba by reading the Havana Times.

    Robert Cowdery

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