A Housewife’s Fate

María Matienzo Puerto

Havana mother.  Photo: Caridad
Havana mother. Photo: Caridad

The art of writing occasionally allows me to be whatever I want.  At the moment, for example, I am transforming into a housewife with two children, a kitchen to attend to and a lot of clothes that need washing, but who, despite all that, has found an opportunity to read a good romance, detective or terror novel that was recommended by her best friend, who does have time to go to book exhibitions and presentations.

I live in the “Cerro” municipality of Havana, near the National Library, so when I have some time I’ll go and sign up as a user.  Everything depends on the kids. Yesterday would have been a good day, but my youngest woke up with a cough.

It’s 2 pm. Well, it seems that I can go.  As soon as they wake up I’ll dress them and we’ll all three go.  They will enjoy an outing too.

I already washed the underclothes and socks that had accumulated and I planned the evening meal: yellow rice with chunks of meat leftover from yesterday, some fried sweet plantains and a lettuce and avocado salad.

This idea of going to the library is good.  This way I do not have to depend on anyone to entertain me in the evenings or be tied to television, which is worse than hell.  I hope I have everything I need: two photos and my identity card.

They’re waking. “I’m coming! Let’s get up.  What beautiful children!  Yes, now a snack and then let’s go for a walk with Mom.”

I look like a crazy person crossing the street, but finally I am here.  This building is huge and the kids ask me if they are going to the doctor.  “Of course not, baby.  This is the National Library.”

As I enter I feel the gaze of the receptionist.  It seems that I am dressed improperly, but imagine these kids do not give me much time.

“Good day, comrade.  I would like to get a card to request books on loan.  They told me that I only had to bring two photographs and my identity card.”

Looks like I’ve been tricked, because the receptionist told me that if I don’t have a letter from my workplace and a photocopy of my degree, I cannot access the library’s books, and that for me there are the Minerva Clubs in the municipal libraries.

No matter how hard I try to explain that I do not work, that I do not have a degree of any kind, that the only library nearby is this one, the receptionist does not understand.  She tells me that the rules are the rules.  She is “very sorry” but she cannot help me.

I understand.  She has no decision making power.  So what am I to do?  It seems that I must remain buried in diapers and meals until these kids get a little older and go to school, so I can get out of the house more.

Maria Matienzo

Maria Matienzo Puerto: I dreamed once that I was a butterfly who had come from Africa and discovered that I had been alive for thirty years. From that time on, I constructed my world while I was sleeping: I was born in a magic city like Havana; I dedicated myself to journalism; I wrote and edited books for children; I met to discuss art with wonderful people; I fell in love with a woman. Of course, there are certain points of coincidence with the reality of my waking life and it’s that I prefer the silence of reading and the pleasure of a good movie.



3 thoughts on “A Housewife’s Fate

  • This is not a happy story !!! In BC (Canada) we are watching as our libraries are selling off their stock, because they’re being underfunded, because our provincial government thinks the 2010 winter olympics are more important than education, health care, and the arts. But all one needs is an address to get a library card, though soon there may be nothing left to borrow. You might get your kids to write a letter from your “workplace,” Maria …. raising children and maintaining a home certainly ought to be considered “work”! And I think there are places online where one can purchase a degree ….

    Reply
  • I remember doing this exact activity with my two daughters, after their afternoon naps, or at 10 in the a.m. (while everyone was still in the beginning stages of a good day). This is really sad. I feel your frustation…and actually my problem solving around this would probably be one of being reduced to tears of frustation. I wish I could make this better, it is such an important outing for a parent and children..

    Reply
  • The first thing that strikes me is that degrees and workplace ID’s do not constitute proper ID which all Cubans have..Now as i have warned you Mi Hermana Maria, i will not fail to spktruth2power..This is BS and racism..had you looked or been white this would not have transpired..I live here in Cuba with american ID and this is all i needed once they discovered who i was and that i was a AfroCuban returning and preparing to teach.. The nerve of those people. What were they thinking?? that because you had children you were a deadbeat mother whore or whatever thier racist minds could conjure up..oooops your right the receptionist is not in charge..maybe time to find out who is

    Reply

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