Smoking or Loneliness

By Irina Echarry

Cuban Cigarrete Ad.  Photo: Irina Echarry
Cuban Cigarrete Ad. Photo: Irina Echarry

The white, red and blue cigarette package is up front.  The poster ad shows a group of cheerful young people holding each other arm in arm.  In the middle are words that clearly show the advertiser’s approach to selling: “Cigarettes mean company.”

If something distinguishes each of the generations that coexist on the island -in addition to the lack of faith in a better future- it is loneliness.  Cubans are unable to rid ourselves of the distressing emptiness that lives inside every human in this world of adversity.

I know many people will think that I have a bitter and depressing vision of life, but it’s normal that we feel alone in the face of incomprehension, frustrated desires or the lack of communication with others.

To this reality that we experience: we can add the elderly who are abandoned in their attempt at survival.

Likewise, men and women feel alienated in the battle of “solving” day to day problems; adolescents are without hopes or illusions; children think of a present-future poorly encouraged by adults, who adorn it with archaic dogmas.

What previously had been an emotional or mental space for rethinking ideas, recreating feelings and looking at the other side in an act of introspection, becomes a perennial existential crisis dominated by questions that find no answers.

Those who have greater willpower ask themselves what they can do to affect change.  Even so, once the illness (loneliness) is contracted, such change is difficult to produce.  Or is it congenital?

To make matters worse, the advertisement I mentioned at the beginning, which covers the walls of several commercial establishments, is an ad for the “Popular” brand of cigarettes.

It’s horrible that the physical and emotional health of people is played with in that way.  Is the solution to loneliness as simple and noxious as smoking?  How many youth will let themselves be carried away by those white letters and will turn in mass to buying that product.

The designer of that publicity knew very well what they were doing.  Perhaps they were paid a good fee to direct intention to a weak point, but they forgot the sense of responsibility that we should have toward others.

Not only does it encourage people to damage their health, as is printed on all packages of cigarettes, but this ad tells you that playing around with your lungs can save your soul and spirit, that you can find peace.  To feel accompanied is a goal that many people don’t achieve, but I don’t think it’s from a lack of nicotine.

Irina Echarry

Irina Echarry: I enjoy reading, going to the movies and spending time with my friends. Many of the people I love are dead, or are no longer in Cuba. I will do my best to transmit my thoughts, ideas or worries via these pages so you can get to know me. I will give an idea of my age, since it helps explain certain things. I’m over thirty-five, and I think that’s enough information. I don’t have any children yet, or nieces or nephews. There are days when I transform myself into a child with no age at all in order to see life from another angle. It helps me break the monotony and survive in this strange world.

2 thoughts on “Smoking or Loneliness

  • As a complete outsider (being British), I live on an Island of 60 million citizens.
    I suspect that when I compare loneliness in Cuba to the UK, it is a big problem in the UK.
    I visited Cuba earlier this year and was humbled by the spirit and resolve of Cubans.
    In the UK, we have forgotten how to smile and communicate with each other.
    I am slowly learning more about Cuban life, through literature and friends and whether you accept it or not, we have problems that on a daily basis divide our country.
    I started to read about Batista and started to compare what he did and allowed to happen in Cuba is not unlike what our former Prime Minister Tony Blair has done since 1997, carried on by our current PM, Gordon Brown.
    The media are very clever when it comes to churning out what they feel comfortable with.
    We call it democracy, I call it hypocracy.
    I think the citizens of the UK are finally removing their rose tinted spectacles and seeing what a mess the UK is in.

  • Instead of all this whining, lets begin to take a little pride in our lonliness. Don’t ask what would Jesus would do? Rather, what would Nietzsche do? Certainly not snivil or whine! We are all alienated and supremely alone. Let us begin from there, then, “Adelante, Cubanos,” not because “Soy Cubano, Soy Popular,” pero porque “Soy Superman” (o “Superwoman”) y soy popular.” (Then again this might cause confusion with a notorious entertainer from the 1950’s!)

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