Daisy Valera

Cuban kids. photo: Caridad

I remember when I was about six I used to get all excited when my parents would take me roller skating on the weekend.

We’d go to a rink a few blocks from our house where it cost only a peso to rent a pair of skates. They were metal but had four pretty yellow or orange wheels.

I don’t remember how many times we went, but I do recall that I enjoyed trying to skate and that my parents would skate alongside me because I was always afraid of doing it on my own.

But time passed, the skates started to fall apart and were never replaced.  For a long time nobody went there and then the rink was converted into something else and I grew up.

In fact, I was 12 when I saw some skates again. But these new ones were different; the wheels were aligned and I couldn’t stand up straight on them for more than a second.

Despite not knowing how to skate well, I love watching others who do.  That was what stirred me a few days ago to stop and watch some boys who were fooling around with skates and skateboards.

They were at a place here in Havana where INDER (the National Institute of Sports and Recreation) has set up different sized ramps.  I stayed there a long time watching how the dozen or so teens made what seemed like thousands of complicated moves between one ramp and another.

However, the time I was there allowed me to see a few other things.  The kids there wore really good quality clothes, yet they didn’t seem to worry about falling on the ground and ripping them.

A question also came to mind. Where did they get those skates and skateboards?  These rarely turn up in Cuban stores, and when they do they go for prices well over $30 CUC – an amount very few here can afford.

After standing there for around two hours watching as the kids laughed and enjoyed the sport, their parents began showing up – many in cars (another privilege not many here enjoy).

My conclusion: Skating today is not an activity that just any child or teen can take part in; you need a lot more resources than the majority of people here possess.

In recalling my childhood I wonder how it’s possible that such a simple act as renting skates to anyone isn’t something that we can’t resuscitate today.  Something to keep in mind in this society, which should have the obligation of affording the same rights and opportunities to all.


Daisy Valera

Daisy Valera:Soil scientist and blogger. I write from Mexico City, where Havana sometimes becomes so small that it disappears. However in others, the Cuban capital is a city so past and present that it steals your breath.

2 thoughts on “On Skates and Skateboards

  • So, who were these young people and their families? How have they acquired additional funds for cars and skateboards/skates? Were they foreigners?

    What section of Cuban society can afford these things?

  • What I C from afar in self-proclaimed socialist societies like Cuba & Venezuela is that, in spite of the lip service being paid 2 the ideal of Socialism & various of its corollary ideas, not many people seem 2 B thinking the process thru — what it truly means in all its aspects — & certainly not really organizing on that basis. So 4 instance: there appears 2 B no long-standing social agreement & planning 2 maintain the social & egalitarian nature of exactly just such personally- & socially-entertaining activities as public roller rinks, etc. So it falls instead 2 ad hoc, individual efforts as usual: the mainstay of a petit-bourgeois, pro-capitalist outlook. & so socialist mentality is undermined yet another way.

    I’m sure the usual excuse is 2 ‘plead poverty’; but that’s just a cop-out: because the problem is generally a lack of inspired planning & organization — the product of good, democratic leadership — which comes from having a clear socialist vision of the future.

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