Havana’s Mobile Saunas…

By Esteban Diaz

 Havana Bus, photo: Irina Echarry
Havana Bus, photo: Irina Echarry

In Cuba it’s very difficult to say when summer begins and when it ends.  In the sweltering “guaguas” (buses), pools of dissimilar sweat seem to ferment, and these appear to increase at each stop with the efforts of people struggling to escape or board these mobile saunas that take us to our desired destinations.

Added to all this is “global warming,” “declining energy resources,” “the economic crisis,” “the blockade against Cuba” and the energy-saving plan of the State, which precludes the use of air conditioning during certain hours of the day – thus “uniting us in combat against the economic crisis.”

Although solving all of these problems is not fully in our hands, it’s difficult to not criticize some of the contradictions one finds in the streets of Havana.

Most workers have accepted the “energy plan,” as they put it into practice without stopping to note the drops of sweat rolling down their brows, which – with Cuban pride – they do not wipe away.

Yet this has a limit.  It’s observed in people’s expressions when they decide to go out with their family to a restaurant, or perhaps to enjoy a relaxing weekend.

Dining out means having to get in line for more than 40 minutes while knowing that you’re going to wind up blowing your entire monthly salary to eat in a restaurant in 95 degree heat and 90 percent humidity.  Sometimes the atmosphere is so muggy that not even those people who work there are able to stand it – creating an even tenser atmosphere. But that’s not all, since to get home you’re going to have to wait for another mobile sauna.

Maybe we don’t have any right to complain, given the adverse situation in which Cuba now finds itself.  If we look at it like that, then we must acknowledge that we don’t.

But what happens when, on one hand, you see a business catering to tourists with the air conditioning on all day for only one tourist, and then you go into a restaurant full of people – inside and out – hoping to spend a pleasant evening despite having no possibility of enjoying that same alternative.

If the problem is one of energy, one would understand that in this latter case there would be more people benefiting from that expense, without preventing the State from making profits, which supposedly belong to the workers.

To conclude, without changing the logic preached by the State, over the past seven years I’ve seen “economic recovery” taking place in Cuba in an increasingly unequal manner.  One needs only go out into the street to see the increased number of late-model cars belonging to individuals as well as functionaries of the Ministry of the Interior (MININT), the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) and other State bureaucrats.  These are the people that continue to live comfortably – with their cars, cell phones, home air conditioning, nice clothes and – most importantly – unquestioned authority.

Many people say that Cuba is a country of courageous people.  I would say that it’s imperative to have courage to be able to live through these contradictions and not explode.

We should remember that Cuban workers have 50 years of effort and struggles under their belts.  Endurance to physical and psychological labor has its limits.  These can only be fortified by gusts of air that -in Cuba- will be given by carrying out a political revolution: overthrowing the bureaucracy and elevating the workers into full control of the society.  And that will only be truly successful if it combines with social revolutions outside of Cuba.

In this way, these revolutions will be able to mutually strengthen themselves for the development of the world revolution.

One thought on “Havana’s Mobile Saunas…

  • although I believe your article addresses many issues, the one thing that concerns me, is the buses that workers are transported in. It is not that the buses are old,but rather, the distance travelled and the waiting to and from work, break downs and lack of air conditioning. I find many people are tired, and my concern would be this is a cause. After a day of work, it would be much easier to get on a bus that is in good working order and return to home within a relative distance.

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