Three Months Being Unemployed in Cuba

Daisy Valera

The Working Class Goes to Heaven.

HAVANA TIMES — Recently I’ve been thinking back to a 1971 Italian film that left me glued to my seat at Havana’s Charlie Chaplin Cinema. It was The Working Class Goes to Heaven.

In it, the main character was fired from an auto parts factory, similar to how I’m no longer sitting in an office chair from 7:50 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.

I remember the guy in the film vividly because my reaction to being laid off was exactly the opposite of his.

He collapsed on an armchair, staring at a clock that showed him how the work day evaporated without him moving a muscle. Me? Planning a million things to do in Havana.

Anyone could tell me: “Of course dear,  if your salary had been enough to buy a little car and  your 335 pesos a month (about $17 USD) didn’t make eating a couple of tamales at F Street and 23rd a luxury.”

True, but I think the main difference lies in the meaning of life derived from making steel wheels on a machine and how I saw my role as total nonsense. I would fill out papers for eight hours only to end up with just enough strength to get home, cook and go to bed.

I can’t imagine a salary that compensates for shelving anyone’s plans for “tomorrow.” One can’t pay for the constant postponement of concerns and desires.

I’ve been out of work for three months now, and at the Ministry of Science nobody responds to my questions about the lack of a job reassignment. Their suggestion to “gimme a call next week” are only bitter swigs that I mix with the guava juice my husband Eduardo makes us for breakfast.

But nor am I letting my shaky economic situation drive me crazy. I’m managing to get by.

I love the photomontages by Adrian, with Lenin’s head stuck in lunar soil, his imaginary book of synopses of movies yet to be made.

I’m getting a better idea about how cooperatives should work be it one made up by a group of translators or a farming cooperative.

I’ve spent hours at the library reading a book about forgotten Cuban surrealist of the ‘40s.

I got an e-copy of Digital Art Photography for Dummies, so I’m trying to produce something better with this wonderful camera that was given to me as a gift.

I scared my friends Pilu and Xise, both in Madrid, with a message about kissing at two in the morning.

I’m making some earrings to give to Lisis, who in two days is going to Berlin – though who knows if she’ll ever return even for a visit.

With my friend Graham, I’m learning how to throw a Frisbee “Texan-style” (though I don’t think there’s really such a thing).

Ruth is helping me to make it a custom to go to gatherings where my friends can talk philosophy until six o’clock in the morning.

Before going to bed I’ll read, fix a pair of shoes, cook for more than two people, cut my hair…

The feeling of confinement and inevitability has ceased.

My time belongs to me. For now, I’m a little more me and a little less a puppet of the state.

4 thoughts on “Three Months Being Unemployed in Cuba

  • Keep up the good “work” of writing, Daisy! Writing may not pay well, if it pays at all, but it is valuable and has other rewards.

  • Cheers and best wishes!

  • It has been said that the best country in the world to live if you are rich is the US and if you are poor, Cuba.’

  • While I know that having no income is surely a hardship, I do envy the fact that your time is yours. In the United States, many of our jobs are also grueling and meaningless and leave us no time to be creative, and because it’s so much more expensive to live here, you can’t really afford to allow yourself to be unemployed for long 🙁

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