Cuba Was Never Different

Kabir Vega Castellanos

Photo: Maria Cecilia Alvarado Dominguez

HAVANA TIMES — Cuba exported a sugar-coated image of its youth for many years. Young people who lived as equals (in poverty), brimming with maturity, political convictions, willingness and other upstanding values. Very different to those consumer teenagers, Capitalism’s children, whose only goal was to have something and flaunt it.

Even though I was very rebellious as a child in many ways, I do remember the suffocating feeling of being left behind.

School uniforms never created a level playing ground, comparisons were always made. You only had to take a look at the shoes that covered every individual child’s feet to notice the huge difference that existed between students. How Adidas sneakers used to stand out from the other shoes creating a false sense of superiority, while, on the other hand, those who wore sandals became the main targets of mocking behavior.

The beginning of the new academic year was the worst. If you didn’t want to get looks of disdain, you had to show you had something new every year: a backpack, a watch, a cool set of pencils, anything to go unnoticed.

I still remember the anxiety I felt at primary school when I was discriminated against for not having anything to impress them with. How I felt forced to take in one of my “exotic” games (a remote control car brought from the United States) to get rid of that feeling and not be excluded.

Whereas, at secondary school, where toys no longer have their power, I took in a Laptop that I had at home so that I wouldn’t be undervalued. Ironically enough, my classmates began to respect me. It didn’t matter that I didn’t have showy clothes or brand sneakers, I had proved that I had “something”.

As you grow up, your years give you a certain maturity, but the fear of being rejected never disappears.

Where do you go when your own circle rejects you? It doesn’t matter whether it’s because of something stupid, rejection is always there and you can’t just learn how to live with it. At some point, you have to buy their acceptance or flee to another place, as they end up attacking you, and not in a discreet manner.

The third option is the ideal one and the most difficult to achieve: develop your own conviction and unwavering moral strength so that social pressure doesn’t affect you.