The Feelings of Those Below

Daisy Valera

The Hotel Deauville in Havana.

Today I was thinking of writing about a strange sensation.  It’s something that comes over me when I eat away from home; when I’m in a hotel or simply somewhere expensive – places I’m not used to visiting.

Each time I’ve ever entered a hotel I’ve felt uncomfortable, as if the security personnel were set to pounce on me for simply being there.  This comes from when I was a little girl and came to understand that these places were not for people like me, but for foreigners or in some cases for “vanguard workers.”

I don’t remember how I learned this, but I imagine it was through education, like in all cognitive processes.  Such an education occurred under special circumstances, ones that included:

–       The simple atmosphere of the places where I grew up (making due with an old television and a few pieces of broken furniture).

–       My parents’ low wages and their explanations for these as simple workers.

–       The daily interaction with the kids of my same and even lower economic status (we had to treat our school bags and school shoes like gold).

When I was a little older, they told me there was some ministerial resolution that legislated against the admission of Cubans into many “sophisticated” places.

To this very day I haven’t been able to find it to thoroughly read it.

After childhood, on more than one occasion I’ve been able to treat myself to the pleasure of eating out (because that’s a true treat in Cuba), but that same sensation would come, even when there was enough money to pay.

I don’t believe that the girls and guys my age who drive through the streets of Havana in luxurious cars feel the same thing.

Nor do those people who I see dressed in clothes obviously purchased in hard currency (CUC) boutiques.

Nor those who walk into CUC markets with all the serenity in the world to buy meat, yogurt, juice and fruits all at one time – as if these were cheap products.

To have incorporated this sensation is to discover that there are social classes and that I belong to the one that’s poor.

Some friends who have left the country say that this sensation never completely disappears.  They say Cubans are always in a situation like this, questioning themselves as to whether what they’re doing is wrong; feeling like someone’s going to come and yell at them at any moment.

I’d love to bury this bitter sensation that allows me to enjoy a beautiful place for only a half hour before needing to leave, but I don’t know how.

And I think that the rest of those people like me are intimidated by places and prices, those who can only go to places like these every once in a long while.

I feel sorry for them and for me.

This bad taste in my mouth wasn’t erased by the new resolution that allows Cubans to stay in hotels.

Likewise, I suspect that the new measures aimed at expanding private property, allowing the private hiring of wage-workers and increasing the numbers of unemployed individuals will increase it.

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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.

Daisy Valera has 208 posts and counting. See all posts by Daisy Valera

One thought on “The Feelings of Those Below

  • Daisy stop feeling sorry for yourself and do something with your life. You have an education. Use it.
    Raise yourself up.
    Reading your post is almost like reading something written by someone who was a slave and is complaining for the new found freedoms.
    Tell your friends that their sensation goes away.

    I guess I never had or feel what they you talk about here not even when I was in Cuba. But judging from what you write it is important that you feel that you can overcome this and if you do set your mind to it you will.

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