The Havana of Our Time

Havana photo by Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES – In Havana, the prices of anything and everything have long since reached unaffordable levels, similar to what anyone in a major first-world capital would normally pay. The difference is that in Havana, salaries are much much lower. On top of that, it’s not just that prices are high; they are high because everything is scarce, which doesn’t happen in any other third-world city in the West, at least as far as I know.

A similar situation occurs with transportation. As of the time I am writing this —April 2024— it’s not just that there are few buses for public transport. The problem is also the lack of spare parts to get those out of service back running. The problem is the lack of fuel. The problem is that the buses lack seats; they lack the metal bars for the many standing passengers to hold onto. It’s about the same as how many windows are jammed and cannot be opened, making you suffocate from the heat during the long summers, while others lack glass or are similarly jammed and cannot be closed, so if it rains, you get wet.

As if that weren’t enough, given such a situation with so many inconveniences, drivers are so disciplined and respectful of the rules that they will not stop, even if you offer extra payment, either to board or disembark outside of official stops, unless it’s a personal friend.

I won’t describe the circumstances in which the economic crisis is affecting other public services, such as medical care, the state of hospitals or pharmacies “in the process of extinction,” or, for example, the state of schools. After all, it’s not the subject I want to address, and I almost have no space left.

All these realities generate discontent, and this is a notable indicator in the development of social changes. Situations of social discomfort, when they approach their limits, can lead to violent reactions as a result of repressed anger.

A couple of years ago, I saw a video interview with a Cuban actor who said, in general terms, that the functioning of the state itself had become a machinery for producing dissidents.

I believe he is right, and although not intentionally, the persistence in ideological formalism, proven ineffective in generating certain comforts, let alone wealth, leads to such a result.

It’s about going to work and having transport, going to work and having water to drink there, having somewhat clean restrooms; that, if you’re in an office, there is paper, pens, pencils, erasers, clips, staplers, hole punchers, files, glue, and that such supplies are provided by the one paying the salary and not the one who has to use them.

There are workplaces where people who don’t need the internet for work have up to seven gigabytes of data for internet access FREE on their mobile phones (provided and paid for by the company) and have access to Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, even on their desktop computers in the office, and so on. Meanwhile, others need to do the work they are paid for but have a poor, slow, intermittent, or absent connection with EXCLUSIVE access to the page they must work on and, of course, no other; being forced to pay for the internet service to ETECSA, the only company offering one of the most deficient and expensive connection services in the world.

It’s not about who is to blame. It’s about those in positions of responsibility taking measures to resolve all these situations, and if it’s an ideological problem, remembering that ideologies should serve to improve human conditions. Humans shouldn’t have to sacrifice themselves so ideologies can prevail at the cost of public discomfort.

Read more here from the diary of Eduardo N. Cordovi.