What Cuban Students Do on Summer Vacation

Kabir Vega Castellanos

Beach near Guanabo on the east side of Havana. Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — These summer months remind me of the school break and the inevitable essay that came with the start of classes, on the subject of what you had done during your vacation.

Last year and during the English course I took, that was still the topic one was asked to talk about at the beginning of September. I’ve already mentioned that, on that occasion, more than half of the classroom spoke about their stay in Varadero. So many people said the same thing that the teacher even made a joke, asking how so many people could be in the same place at around the same dates and not see each other.

In primary school, I would hear about visits to Havana’s Coney Island, and, almost instinctively, everyone seemed to try and demonstrate their break had been thrilling. In order not to draw attention to myself, I myself lied about parties and going out to places during high school.

The subject gives rise to an atmosphere of veiled tension, where it is practically taboo to say you stayed at home, doing more or less what you do the rest of the year. Such a confession would lead to generalized disdain, for it is not merely a question of talking about one’s experiences: speaking the truth about the real condition of many Cubans in a way makes everyone feel exposed.

At the English class, when the teacher made the joke, everyone laughed, but no one admitted they were lying. To be left in that ambiguous situation is much better than acknowledging you’re poor and that you lead a life devoid of privilege.

Among those young people there were doubtless some with relatives in the country’s interior and who perhaps traveled to those provinces and lived in a rural setting during the break. This would imply a considerable break from routine, but those examples have no weight in a context where frivolity prevails and people aim to imitate First World citizens, who vacation in other countries and come back to tell of their experiences in distant and even exotic places.

I recall a French animated film titled Les Lascar, in which four young French men who live in a poor neighborhood boast before their friends of having traveled to a Caribbean paradise called “Santo Rico.” Certain adverse situations frustrate the plans of two of them who ended up sneaking into a pool with a tropical ambience to it. They spent their vacation there and come back to tell stories of the mythical Santo Rico to their neighborhood buddies, who listen to these with envy.

The animated film does not go beyond irony, but I wonder why it is so hard to ditch our inferiority complexes and say what we really did in our free time, learn to appreciate different tastes and interests, for not everyone has fun at the same places or doing the same things. A day or a brief span of time can be very special to us, even if we don’t do anything generally considered “awesome.”

4 thoughts on “What Cuban Students Do on Summer Vacation

  • Very interesting Gordon. Especially with Raul admitting error if not fault!
    There is a teacher in our community who graduated both in Havana and Moscow but teaches English. At the fiesta in our home in Cuba following our marriage, she and I were deep in conversation as she seized the opportunity to speak English, having no opportunity to do so with an English speaker – her enunciation was not good. During the conversation we spoke about Fidel Castro and I mimicked his habitual raised left forefinger little knowing that just at that moment a photograph was taken. So in our wedding album with a section of our guests, there am I doing quite a good imitation of Fidel. (Minus straggly beard)
    The teacher and I continue to speak English when we meet

  • Where are the responses from the socialist Party faithful to this contribution from a member of Cuba’s younger generation?
    Where are the jobs for students on vacation in socialist Cuba?
    Speak up Mr. Goodrich.
    Speak up Dani.
    Speak up nidal.
    Speak up Terry.
    Why not encourage Kabir by suggesting what he can do “other than acknowledging that you are poor and that you lead a life devoid of privilege.”
    Where is the hope for Kabir in socialist Cuba?
    Time for you folks to address reality – Kabir has to – every day of his life!

  • Yes Kabir, everyone should be allowed to express their opinion. It’s called freedom of speech.

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