Social Service (III)

Francisco Castro

Havana at sunset.  Photo: Caridad
Havana at sunset. Photo: Caridad

At the end of August, I went to the Human Resources Office of the Ministry of Culture for guidance on what I’d have to do to get my contract with the radio station, keeping in mind my legal residency in Santiago de Cuba, my assignment at Havana’s Radio Progreso, and a new law (No. 268) allowing people from the provinces to work in the capital.

Without allowing me to finish my explanation, the woman who attended me told me not to worry about any of that, since I would be fulfilling my social service there was no immediate problem. Perhaps later there could be snags when obtaining my permanent contract, but she said she’d find out more about that.

This answer left me with some doubts, but these took on a different level when I learned that the assignment slips for placement with ICRT (Cuba’s Radio and TV Institute) were still in that office, because the person in charge of coming to get them had still not done that.  The woman assisting me asked me to take them, and this singular task buried any doubts that her off-the-cuff answer had raised.

Some people say that first impressions mark the rest of whatever happens.  If I had adopted that philosophy, I would have been compelled to never return to the radio station where I was assigned to fulfill my social service.

Days after having delivered the assignment slips to the ICRT Training Office, I went with my friend Ana Maria to begin the contract steps.  There, the staff member received us with a joke, maybe it was to ingratiate himself but it left a bad taste. He had the nerve to ask us if we were “Palestinians” [emigrants from Eastern Cuba].

Me, absolutely serious, countered him saying, “Neither of us are Palestinian. She’s from Alquizar and I’m from Santiago de Cuba.”

“They should have something for you back there then,” he retorted.

“No, I was placed here, at Radio Progreso.”

Ah, so you must already have a clean card, right?

I knew he was referring to the address change, but that mocking discriminatory tone of superiority rubbed me in such an offensive and negative way that I couldn’t help but to respond contemptuously that my card had “always been clean.”

Starting from there began a quite embarrassing discussion, him arguing about the need for an address change so they could hire me, and me refuting him with the new law.

This first collision, though violent, didn’t prepare me for what would come later.

One thought on “Social Service (III)

  • “The more things change, the more they remain the same!” Sounds like your adventures in absurdity could be the basis for a remake of the 40-year-old ICAIC film, “Death of a Bureaucrat!” If it is any consolation, I am in the throes just such a struggle up here. In my case, the medical insurance company will not pay for emergency treatments I received 2,700 miles from home, out West, where I was working June through October, because I couldn’t get prior approval from them (it was impossible at the time, a
    story too long to go into here). Hence, since returning home I’ve made countless phone calls and personal visits to my health center, trying to obtain signatures from my doctor and medical clinic for a “Retroactive Prior Approval Form!” [The oxymoronic title of the form in itself is a joke!] Good luck in your struggle. Gives new meaning to “Hasta La Victoria Siempre!

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