Finally Making Money

Jorge Milanes Despaigne

Havana shoe repairman.

Manolo is a friend of mine who used to work as an electrician at the Havana train station.  Recently he found himself without work as a result of the previously announced round of mass government layoffs.

On several occasions I saw him in the streets, depressed, downcast.  When we chatted he shared with me how a man without money was a person without value.

Another of those times I asked him how he was doing.  He responded saying that he still didn’t have work and that he needed a job urgently.  He asked that if I heard of someone looking for an electrician, then to please call him immediately.  He then gave me his phone number.

People have to be creative and ingenious to run their own businesses, which is something new for us.  The fact is that we should have been pursuing this alternative a long time ago.

A few hours ago I ran into that friend who had been walking around depressed, but he didn’t look anything like the way I’d seen him the last time.

“Manolo!” I called from the sidewalk.  I walked up to him and saw his face animated with hope.  It was to the point that I was surprised because he was glowing with a new look.

“How are things going?” I greeted him.

“Real good, compadre,” he responded.

“Where are you working?” I asked.

“Well, the day after we saw each other, at a bakery near my house I heard a man commenting that this would be his opportunity to do what he had wanted to for a long time.  When I took the chance to ask him what that was, he told me that he was going to make shoe soles and sell them to self-employed workers.

“So I told him: ‘count me in!’  I thought he was playing, but four days later we met at that same place, where he wanted to know if I was willing to work with him.  So now I make shoe soles, I get paid weekly and I’ve never made so much money in my life!”

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Jorge Milanes

Jorge Milanes: My name is Jorge Milanes Despaigne, and I’m a tourism promoter and public relations specialist. Forty-five years ago I was born in Cojimar, a small coastal town to the east of Havana. I very much enjoy trips and adventure; and now that I know a good bit about my own country, I’d like to learn more about other nations. I enjoy reading, singing, dancing, haute cuisine and talking with interesting people who offer wisdom and happiness.

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One thought on “Finally Making Money

  • Good article, Jorge. You said, “People have to be creative and ingenious to run their own businesses, which is something new for us. The fact is that we should have been pursuing this alternative a long time ago.”

    I’m a socialist, and I could not agree more. Cubans may be learning the hard way, but perhaps now it may become clear that “socialist property” can be something other than property owned by the socialist state.

    That was the old view, that only productive property owned by the state is socialist. But, it just is not true. Any productive property existing under the political reign of the socialist vanguard party is “socialist” if it produces goods or services for the legitimate needs of the people.

    In other words, a restaurant, a shoe repair shop or manufacturing business, a small farm, or a cooperatively owned business enterprise of any sort can be socialist property–if it produces something the people need. This is a profound departure from state monopoply socialist theory, which tried to make all property belong to the state, and make every working person a wage or salary employee of the state.

    Best of luck to Manolo and to all the Cuban workers!

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