A Supposed Conversation about Leaving the Country…or Not

Maria Matienzo Puerto

HAVANA TIMES – “How much is a ticket to Ecuador?”

“Asere (‘bro’), Ecuador is through. Nobody can make it there.”

“How much is a ticket to China?”

“No, where I want it go is Japan.”

“Noooo! That’s even more expensive. It must be at least $3,000.”

“No way! That’s gotta be too high.”

“Come on, girl, what’s $3,000 to a Japanese.”

“Well, I don’t know what it is to a Japanese, but to a Cuban it’s impossible.

I really don’t know how much a ticket to anywhere in the world might cost. And to be honest, I’m not interested in knowing what the prices are when I can’t even think about saving up anything at all on my measly pay.

“By the way, how much do you earn?”

“Me? Exactly 395 pesos [about $20].”

“In local currency or in hard currency?

“Asere, do you live in Cuba or what? Of course it’s in domestic currency.

“The one who seems like they don’t live in Cuba is you. Either that or you ate something bad or you’re trying to play dumb. Do you think this immigration law means anything?

“Well, at least now I can go wherever I want.

“Really? Is that what you think? Don’t make me laugh. And don’t count on the visa they’ll have to give you. Cubans can’t automatically get into any country we want to either. What do you say?

“(…)”

“This law is just another mirage. Things really haven’t improved and nor are they going to. Where’s the economic growth? Where are the better wages?

“ (…)

“Are all the costs going to be in national currency? This is the same story of holding more than one job, the distribution of land or the ability to sell one’s home.

“ (…)

“What? Are you speechless?
—–
NOTE: This conversation could have happened anywhere in contemporary Cuba after the publication of the new immigration law.


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.

5 thoughts on “A Supposed Conversation about Leaving the Country…or Not

  • As conditions worldwide get worse is there any hope for cuba to break free from this stranglehold that has kept the people (or most of them) unable to leave due to their low wages? Also with all its natural beauty(i have just seen pictures i have never been) when after the Castro regime is a distant memory can cuba finally become a “first world” destination with all of its people benefiting earning higher wages. I say this because i would some day desire to retire to a quiet island . Cuba offers in my mind the most potential. Will i be dead before changes take place? I am an american who has traveled to many island near cuba but due to the restrictions , have not had the pleasure. Any ideas?

  • You are unable to make a coherent point.

    “The embargo was and IS intended to bring about regime change. To that end, *economic strangulation* is the non-military weapon that has been used to force the Castros to step down and allow Cubans to set up the government of their choosing.”

    Another insulting paragraph. The ‘regime change’ is not aimed to allow ‘Cubans to set up the government of their choosing’. No. Like ’54 in Guatemala, ’64 in Brazil and ’73 in Chile, the ‘regime change’ being set up for 50+ years is to allow Uncle Sam to set up a government of his choice. An American propagandist can never fool a proud Latino like myself.

    Then, using this exact same paragraph how can I be mixing apples (the embargo) with oranges (the low wages) if you ASSUME one thing is linked to the other? Alas, the tactic of populist leaders like Getúlio Vargas keep the salaries HIGH to control the masses, not the contrary, so your assumption of the ‘Castros’ choice to maintain low wages on purpose has no logic at all. At least *read* my last paragraph where I do appoint the reasons for poverty and economic underdevelopment in today’s Cuba.

  • You are mixing äpples with oranges¨. The embargo was and IS intended to bring about regime change. To that end, economic strangulation is the non-military weapon that has been used to force the Castros to step down and allow Cubans to set up the government of their choosing. The Castros, in order to maintain control, have imposed an economic system that includes low salaries. The connection between the low salaries and the embargo is at best indirect. The äpple¨ is the embargo. The decisions made by the Castros to maintain their dictatorship, including low salaries, is the orange. The Castros have other options. For example, raise salaries for the people but eliminate costs in other areas. Imagine the savings if they eliminated the costs expended for internal surveillance? How about what they spend on police forces? The joke in Havana is that Havana has 2 million people; one million civilians and one million policemen.

  • Remember when we chatted about traveling abroad and I argued that this in practice is a privilege and not a right as it demands a lot of money and most people in the world don’t have the necessary amount to do it? And you said to me ‘stop thinking like a Cuban’ and to ‘not confuse one’s ability with one’s right’? Well now Cubans do have that right.

    And more: how can you both argue that ‘salaries can only increase once production increases’ and at the same time say *nothing* about the embargo that isolates Cuba thus making the production of goods and services much more difficult?

    You say about a ‘conundrum’ but there are few riddles here. The tightening of embargo in the 90’s coupled with the fall of the USSR coupled with the insufficient economic inversions on national Cuban industry during the 60’s – 80’s might be a good starting point. I suppose this ‘conundrum’ of yours would be the complete submission of the Cuban economy to the US like the ‘good old days’ prior to ’59.

  • When the debate finally gets to raising the pitifully low salaries, Cubans will have arrived at the heart of their economic problems. If what Cubans earn will not cover even what it costs to live day-to-day in Cuba, it is not reasonable to imagine that Cubans can begin saving enough money to afford to travel abroad. Salaries can only increase once production increases. Who will increase their production unless they can expect a higher salary? A economic conundrum of national proportions.

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