Maria Matienzo Puerto
HAVANA TIMES — Agnes’s problems with her mother aren’t due only to them living together or their generational differences. Her frustrations have an understandable source of blame. Every day Agnes tries to free herself from the grip of the emotional blackmail with which her mother holds her.
Therefore their relationship is limited to evil looks and curt responses. Ever since Agnes told me her story, the two of us have tried to figure out the reasons behind her many frustrations.
Agnes’s mother, let’s call her Mercy, was an intellectual and an outstanding researcher for many years. She was about to receive her doctorate when the socialist camp collapsed. Though she was a woman with a difficult character, she lived a full life with a husband who loved her and plans for her daughter’s future.
Mercy had the bad luck of becoming a widow when the economic crisis hit. This was when she found herself alone in having to maintain a house, feed her daughter and think of Cuba as just and socialist.
Although her opinions as a social researcher always turned out uncomfortable, she never had any serious problems at work. Still, economic precariousness ultimately took its toll.
The moment arrived in which all of her savings were gone, even those that had been set aside for her daughter, for when she would turn fifteen and was to have gone to Prague. Like so many other Cubans, as a mother she had to deal with trying to survive.
Sadly, her savings weren’t the only things that vanished. Her hopes left too, only to be replaced by despair, disenchant, misery and the double standards of those around her.
Disillusioned, Mercy retired. She had gotten tired of not achieving anything, of not getting anywhere despite all her effort. Is she bitter? Not at all! Though I myself sometimes wonder why she never committed suicide.
In her effort to stay afloat, she stopped doing everything she ever liked. In the end, though, all of her frustrations wound up swallowing her.
In the meantime, she began taking it out on her daughter, Agnes, who believes less in all the things that her mom had set her sights on.
Agnes prioritizes her well-being above political slogans and demonstrations; she does what she wants without prejudice and would be able to change the direction of her life if she found something that suited her more; she doesn’t let herself get wrapped up in ideological rigidities; and she makes fun of everything.
Mercy and Agnes are part of a complex map in which point zero consists of women and poverty.