Toast to Freedom

María Matienzo Puerto

 “Cowardice asks the question ‘is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question ‘is it politic?’ Vanity asks the question ‘is it popular?’ But conscience asks the question ‘is it right?’ And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right.”  – Martin Luther King 

HAVANA TIMES — I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders – which doesn’t mean I shoulder any less responsibility now. Quitting my job, putting an end to that dependence that tied me to a miserable salary, has, in a way, been liberating for me.

What my friend Jose told me a few days ago is true. It’s incredible how crushing jobs in Cuba can be. Here, people work very little not only because they are unmotivated, but also because the country’s means of production are barely functional, mired under the weight of totalitarianism and bureaucracy.

I left behind friends at work, who, although I didn’t see eye to eye with politically, are unquestionably good people, and I will miss them. Leaving was, nonetheless, a good decision, thought-over for months. Though some think it’s crazy that I should choose to break ties with the State at a time when most try to preserve these.

The quote by Martin Luther King that my friend Eduardo showed me may have been the catalyst, I don’t know. What I do know is that I got tired of not being trustworthy, of being kept in the dark all the time, of having to re-think what I want to say a hundred times before opening my mouth, so that no one can tell me I am saying more than I should.

It wasn’t just the salary.

I suddenly felt that I had hit a dead end, where I couldn’t move forward, or in any direction, for that matter.

This may strike a romantic or idealistic chord, but it was a question of dignity. The fear of ending any relationship can be paralyzing. People aren’t only afraid of authority, they’re also afraid of change, of the unknown. Judging from the reactions of people around me, I can say Cuba’s situation now, faced with the prospect of change, is more complex than we’d imagined.

We live with a false sense of security, bolstering our self-esteem by violently curtailing our capabilities. This, coupled with the misinformation and the economic hardships one must live with, leaves one with just enough energy to toe the line.

I know this because I have just experienced it first-hand.

Happily, I am now sitting in front of my laptop, free, wanting to toast for those who have had the courage to break free as well.

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.

2 thoughts on “Toast to Freedom

  • April 30, 2013 at 11:40 am

    “Here, people work very little not only because they are unmotivated, but also because the country’s means of production are barely functional, mired under the weight of totalitarianism and bureaucracy.”

    What? I thought it was all the fault of the embargo, er… I mean, the Blockade!

    Good luck to you, Maria!

  • April 30, 2013 at 7:07 am

    Kudos a Maria for this honest post. I hope all the knuckleheads who comment here about what a paradise Cuba is and what an example to the world Cuba is read this post. This is the real Cuba where the system encourages thoughtful and hardworking people to quit their jobs to feel “free”. Maria has done what most Cubans who work for the Castros wish they could do. It is only when Cubans who work in those jobs where they have access to tourists tips or because they can steal from the State can they justify working. Those jobs are harder to come by. In fact, it can cost up to 1000 cuc to buy a job working in a restaurant in the Hotel National or the Habana Libre. Yes I said buy! Most Cubans can earn more “resuelve” in the street in a few days than they earn all month working for the Castros. In Cuba there is a saying, “The State pretends to pay, so we pretend to work”.

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