What Will I Buy Next?

Migrantes cubanos y cubanas

By Fabiana del Valle

HAVANA TIMES – When Yosvany carefully finished putting the last block on the pile, he was only thinking about his paycheck. The morning passed by without any setbacks and they finished before they thought they would. He worked like a robot that day. His colleague told him that he was really into it today, but he didn’t catch on. Yosvany’s thoughts were elsewhere. Problems were waiting for him at home.

We live in a little town lost in Pinar del Rio, where job opportunities are scarce. His qualification as an I.T. engineer is growing mold in a drawer.  Despite his talent and knack for electronics, Yosvany is working in a “cement block maker” for just 100 pesos (CUP) per day. (Approximately 1 USD per day).

“My arms hurt from carrying wheelbarrows of sand, my back and waist too. It’s getting harder and harder to keep up the pace. So much sacrifice and it isn’t enough at the end of the day. It’s like the story of Cucharita Martina,” he told me a few days ago, sitting on the terrace at my place.

His wife smiled in the typical Cuban way. Growing in the face of hardship, joking in the face of misfortune. I noticed her hands with short, unpainted nails, as she told me.

“In our neighborhood, a man passes by on a horse-drawn cart selling packets of chicken thighs. We’re saving up to buy one. You can’t live off just rice and beans! We also need to find cooking oil desperately. It costs between 500-600 pesos right now a literk. You know how it is. The packet of chicken costs 600 pesos. What Yosvany earns in a week isn’t enough. But when we have the money, I don’t know what I’m going to buy first.”

That’s why the only option right now is to leave. Things aren’t going to get better no matter how hard we try.

This situation has been going on for ages, we are dragging on after years of shortages. This isn’t only affecting Yosvany and Yamila. It’s our daily bread.

What will I buy next? This is the dilemma many families have, trying to survive on an island where even breathing is a punishment. Growing old without opportunities or hope of a better future.

Over thirty people I know from our area have left or are on their way to a place where they can prosper, where working is worth their while. Homes are breaking, parents are crying because of their absence, children are crossing borders. With a shackle on their foot, they post on social media that they are free and have fulfilled their dreams.

The rest of us don’t have the money and courage to embark on this kind of adventure. We continue to wait while we count the air particles that reach our lungs, every bead of sweat to see if, by magic, it’s enough to get us by and live to see another day.

Read more from Fabian del Valle here.

One thought on “What Will I Buy Next?

  • I am exhausted by these personal stories of everyday Cubans just trying to make it. Please don’t misunderstand me. I am more than sympathetic to their plight. I believe that there is something cathartic about writing about their situation. But what exhausts me is the fact that this article could have been written 30 years ago! Despite the despair, nothing really changes for Cubans. Sure, every once in a while, the Castros will let Cubans own VCRs, then CD players and most recently cell phones. The penetration of Internet, especially in the home, has been slow and expensive. But besides tossing Cubans a bone here and there, life in Cuba hasn’t changed much. How much longer can a failed economic system continue in Cuba? How much longer will articles like this continue to reflect the Cuban reality? How much longer will life in Cuba suck?

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