Being a Teenager in Cuba

Mercedes Gonzalez Aguade

Cuban teens. Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — At the pharmacy, I ran into some of the mothers of my son’s friends. We had a long conversation and, like always, almost every topic had to do with the central issue in our lives: children.

We spoke about education, clothing, teenagers and their changes, in short, everything that’s wrong in the world and how to fix it. Then, we started talking about something that worries us: there are no places where they can vent and channel all of the hormonal energy of this stage in life.

Sometimes, they go to places that aren’t suited to their age (they are either too old or too young for a particular environment) and almost always end up taking away the negative side of that environment.

That’s why, most of the time, we force them to stay at home, sitting in front of the TV, the computer or videogames, denying them the right to have fun and generally enjoy themselves. As mothers, we worry about their safety and integrity, but we feel guilty about this situation.

I say this thinking about my own son, who barely goes out. There are very few options out there: Vedado, the Coppelia ice cream parlor and the occasional party thrown by a friend or classmate. The movies could be another option, but, in the age of DVDs, kids see the cinema as something old fashioned.

Everyone, mothers and children, would be grateful if there were places for teenagers at affordable prices, where alcohol and violence were strictly prohibited.

Some mothers offer their homes once a month so that kids will have a few hours of fun, listening to music in a safe environment without alcohol. That is all fine and good, but I feel it limits kids a lot, as, ultimately, they continue to be confined between four walls, and it is good for them to go out and get to know the world.

Another concern of ours is that, once alone and away from home, they should want to experience their teenage years to “the fullest” and, overwhelmed by their wish to have fun, should skip that beautiful stage in their lives, a time when proper guidance is hard to offer.

2 thoughts on “Being a Teenager in Cuba

  • I have had the good fortune to live in four free democratic countries. In each there are sports and recreational facilities for children, youth and adults where they can pursue their own sporting or other interests. These obviously depend upon individual choice and that is where the problem starts for Cubans. As communists, the Castro family regime believes that the wishes and interests of the individual should be forsaken for what they determine to be in the interests of the whole.
    Oh yes, Fidel and Raul Castro Ruz each like to pose for the cameras with prominent Cuban sporting heroes like the late Tefilo Stevenson, or pitching a baseball – but not a stone wrapped in rags like those used by the kids in the street.
    Physical training and sport are not only good for the body, they are good for the mind and soul. Those years of childhood and youth do not return and the State should ensure a society in which they are fully utilised. That ought to be a function of all levels of government for the children and youth are the future of the nation.

  • I am reluctant to compare Cuba to the US but for the sake of this comment, the comparison is appropriate. First of all, this mother’s lament is universal or nearly so. In my San Francisco neighborhood, teenagers have the same wanderlust for fun and their parents have the same fears about where to go to have fun. However, in my community and many others like mine, there are organized sports activities to occupy the time and energy of a large proportion of the youth. Soccer leagues, Little League baseball, Pop Warner football, martial arts schools, etc. One of the things sorely missing in Cuba is widespread organized sports for kids. In the US, high school sports is a staple in society. In Cuba, community-based sports exist but suffer from a lack of resources and well-maintained ballparks and practice fields. I don’t think I have ever seen school-based sports at all. Even artistic activities like the vaunted ballet in Cuba is fairly limited to a talented few as opposed to being available to whoever wishes to participate. Cuban kids watch TV and see their American counterparts playing soccer or football on lush green fields with baseball gloves and uniforms and learn very early, how life is Cuba suffers under the Castro regime.

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