I Choose to Stick with Cuba

Nonardo Perea

Photo: Elio Delgado Valdes

HAVANA TIMES — As it turns out, it seems everyone who leaves Cuba is having a rough time. Many of my old friends kept in touch and sent me the occasional email shortly after leaving, but, a few months later, next to no one writes me.

When they do write, their messages are brief and do not offer much information about how they’re doing. On the contrary, they tend to be a catalogue of hardships – that they have to work hard, that they get home dead tired, that they don’t even have the time to read a book, that everything costs money, that people are completely different than those in Cuba, that everyone minds their own business, in short, that they feel they have landed in a different planet.

None of them, however, chooses to return from that other planet. I wonder why. At one point in my life, I felt the wish to leave the country, because I thought I’d have greater opportunities to get my hands on the things I need for my work elsewhere (buying a professional stills camera, a lighting kit, a good computer where I could edit videos, etc.) Here, it is next to impossible to be able to buy those kinds of things.

I also considered the possibility of visiting a country that wasn’t my own and never returning, in order to escape from all of the problems here. I came to the conclusion, however, that other kinds of problems would exist on a different planet.

To be honest, I’ve gotten that idea out of my mind. I will continue living where I am for the time being, even though I practically have none of the things that would make my creative work easier.

When I run out of coffee, however, my next-door neighbor gives me a bit for a cup. When she doesn’t have coffee, I offer her some of mine. Every morning, we greet one another and almost always end up talking with other neighbors in the building. We laugh about our problems; confident things will one day change for all of us, save the way Cubans are. Generally speaking, we are people who help one another.
It doesn’t matter if those who leave change somehow. I don’t suppose it’s their fault. The thing is that, out there, things are of a different color.

Nonardo Perea

Nonardo Perea: I see myself as an observant person and I like to write with sincerity what I think and live first hand. I’m shy and of few words; thus it’s difficult for me to engage in conversation. For that reason, my best tool for communicating is writing. I live in Marianao, Havana and am 40 years old.

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28 thoughts on “I Choose to Stick with Cuba

  • I have never owned a mobile ‘phone. I note that you like most socialists justify the actions of the Castro family dictatorship in Cuba by saying it is even worse elsewhere. If Cubans in the UK wish to return to Cuba, they just need to go to Gatwick and get on a Virgin flight – they will be back home in just over nine hours.

  • The difference between you and I is patently obvious. You like Cuba because you like the Socialismo system under the Castro family dictatorship, I love Cuba because it is a beautiful country with wonderful people sadly without freedom or human rights which hopefully it will one day acquire. incidentally I spend more than six months a year at home in Cuba – which is why my contributions to Havana Times are intermittant. A result of the regime policy of suppression of information.

  • “buy with their own money things outside of the ration card” That’s THE PROBLEM!!!! What money? It is you that knows little about Cuba.

  • According to Cuba’s ONEI (Statistics Office), just over 1,000 Cubans were extended repatriation in 2013. Not the thousands you claim. Compare that to more than an estimated 38,000 Cubans who left Cuba in the same period. Check your facts. I know one Cuban who returned to Cuba. He is a retired Miami bus driver. With a pension of $40K, he was going to spend his golden years in Hialeah struggling. In Sancti Spiritus, he will live like a king.

  • Moses, what a load of mierda! Thousands of Cubans who left are trying to return home but you will not find that news in the Cuban mafia outlets!

  • What? I have been to India and seen the distended bellies, what a bunch of malarkey just so you get your USAID support? BY the way people buy with their own money things outside of the ration card, it is obvious you know noting about Cuba.

  • the difference is that you have a choice, the average Cuban does not. And your standard of living is most certainly not the average Cubans experience, I can assure you.

  • …What aspects of Cuban life can the average person make? I would welcome your suggestions as to how the Cuban people can do this. As you know Cuban rule is by decree and “poder popular” is simply a cruel joke. Can Warhol P. comment on any criticisms publicly in Cuba and thus start bringing about change? …you know he can’t.

    It is however true that there is a greater sense of community in Cuba. It’s born of necessity as neighbors depend on each other for survival (something you don’t need to do). The isolation you describe in your neighborhood is one of choice. Perhaps you can take the first step in your neighborhood and reaching out. Why not effect your own change in your community?

  • Warhol wrote,

    “When I run out of coffee, however, my next-door neighbor gives me a bit for a cup. When she doesn’t have coffee, I offer her some of mine.”

    Why do you run out of coffee? Why don’t you go buy more? Oh right, a kilo of coffee in Cuba costs about half your monthly salary.
    Meanwhile, a kilo of Folgers coffee sells for $9.68 at Walmart, which is about what somebody earning the minimum wage in Florida makes in an hour & a half.

    Nobody in Florida is running out of coffee.

  • It’s wonderful being a wealthy foreigner who can travel to Cuba whenever she likes and exploit the locals. You read books while you’re in Cuba? Good for you!

    Money and freedom are 2 things you can’t live without? How about the Cuban people? Don’t you think they deserve money and freedom?

  • There are many attractions in wealthier countries, but new arrivals generally “start at the bottom” and that bottom can be really low. Not everyone will have the privilege I had of working for union wages and retiring on a union pension.

  • Please, please stay in Cuba, if you don’t like to work hard, please stay there, a communist society is a good place for people wanting to take it easy. Otherwise the rest need to work for you. I remember a guy asking me: and if I go, do I have to go through the hard time you went through? Then I realised he should stay in Cuba.

    In regards to the bad things about a capitalist society and whether people are happier in a socialist state, forget it!!! All lies, those who were unhappy in Cuba are unhappy in the USA and visceversa, it is all in
    your mind.

    And I find people and co-workers in the capitalist society a lot more helpful, supportive, decent and respectful than in Cuba. And, would you believe?
    !!! the boss, the manager, the owner, a lot more respectful and considered towards the employees than in Cuba

  • Good response, Moses, and spot on. The issue and delemma for Worhal P is really about materialism verses spiritualism… one’s desire for social fulfilment, verses one’s thirst for material gain. It’s an interesting paradox, with both having their merits and disadvantages. I think everyone is on a quest to strike a balance in our lives. I applaud Worhal P for choosing to remain in Cuba in hopes of finding his balance, although he may always long for the material things that are just out of his reach.

  • There are people that success out side the castro paradise…… you know???……. Moses must be one of them….. I also have plenty of time and use it to surf the www and fight all castro propaganda I find in my way…….. of course many castro lovers say same thing about me but I know there are no anti castro people paid in the http://www…... but castro lovers are the ones paid………. regime spent much more money in propaganda than in milk for Cuban children ….. in fact Cuban children have no right to milk from 8 years old up…… that’s why they are smaller than children born and raised before 1959, they suffers as adult of coronary disease due the lack of calcium needed to arteries and muscles work, they suffer of many disease related to this deficient feeding they got in childhood.

  • I don’t know the idea you have about the “ration” of food Cubans children gets via this rationing system but you can be sure that the Indian children gets more food in their poverty than Cuban children gets from the rationing booklet……. I will not give you the amount of food this rationing booklet “guaranty” to children in Cuba but I will let you find out it by your self so you don’t think I am trying to influence you…………. find out the truth and try to deny the following statement:

    The amount of food this booklet guaranty is not enough for a week of food the month for a child or an adult……. people that depends of this rationing system goes hungry the other 3 weeks of the month….. or 4 weeks because there are several 5 weeks months through the year.

  • If there is nothing good about Cuba you must stay and take advantage of the low cost of living.I cannot understand how anybody can constantly run down a system and and yet stay n the country for six months.I spend six or seven months every year in Cuba because I like it ,if I felt the same way as you I would be going to a different country.

  • Romanticizing poverty is overplayed. I have experienced that “rich street life of Cuba” that you choose to exalt. It’s a lot of complaining about the price of frozen chicken in the dollar stores, the garbage piling up in the dumpster on the corner and the “chisme” about the single mom who seems to know a lot of foreign men. Cubans are no happier in Cuba than they are in Miami. Foreigners like you see all the smiling faces and confuse happiness with complacency. After 55 years of Castro tyranny, complacency is a survival tool for the collective mental health of the people. But don’t be fooled, young people are abandoning that rich street like you see as idyllic for the hard work, high priced, non-book reading world in record numbers. There will be those like Warhol P who choose to stay. His reasons are now clear. Raul Castro said it himself, that Cuba must stop being known as a country where you can live without working. Obviously Warhol P didn’t hear that speech.

  • You are painfully correct. My cell phone is a blessing and a curse. However the choice is mine. When I want to escape my phone I can simply turn it off. In Cuba, that choice is prohibitively expensive, especially for Cuban nationals. Don’t focus on whether or not Cubans have cell phones, Netflix, or gas-guzzling SUVs. I encourage you to consider that the choice to have or not have these things has been taken away from them. That is the issue here. Yes, there are many hungry children all over the world. Outside of Cuba, there is a chance, albeit small, that a few of them will grow up and change their circumstances. Inside of Cuba, under Castro tyranny, there are no choices and therefore no chance to improve your lot. That is the issue here.

  • Or “John Smith”, I have worked very hard and now, because of previous hard work, have all the time I need to do what pleases me.

  • I love Cuba and my husband and i have built a beautiful home there, he’s Cuban. Now I love being there as much as I can, i love the mornings and the different way of life. I love Canada, and without my Canada my husband and I would not have our house in Cuba. Do we work hard? You bet we do!, I read books when Im in Cuba, seriously i do! I would live in Cuba in a heart beat, and my dream is to be running my Casa Particular, as soon as we finish the house and paper work with my Cuban family. But, without my freedom and money life would be very different if I was living in Cuba. Im a blessed to have the best of both worlds, and there are things I could go with out to live in Cuba, but a little money and my freedom are 2 things no one should have to live without.

  • A refreshingly honest post by Warhol. Moses, Otniel and Carlyle – what pure nonsense you write. Life does not begin with mobile phones and having to work 24/7 to buy crap that you do not need, but have convinced yourself you do need. Here in the UK, I’ve been informed that the Cuban consulate gets daily visits from Cubans begging to return to Cuba – dissapointed that they have not succeeded in the ‘capitalist paradise’. As for food rationing, this is a GOOD thing for a underdeveloped country. How many of the 10 million street children in India would love to have the food rations that are offered in Cuba? I repeat, life does not start with a mobile phone.

  • Moses: pots and kettles I think. Seeing you find time to comment on every posting you can’t be working too hard yourself. Unless of course, you’re paid to write all those comments.

  • Have you noticed the negative comments your diary entry (save for, perhaps, Tonya) has evoked? By challenging their narrow, parochial, assumptions (that given the opportunity, almost everyone would jump at the chance to leave Cuba) you have stirred up a hornets’ nest. Look how defensive they are! Jumping right away to the conclusion that almost everyone in Cuba has an aversion to hard work and goal setting. I would call THAT assumption balderdash. I know many Cubans who work hard and are motivated to advance in their careers. Although I can’t fault Cubans who want to make easier lives themselves by migrating to 1st World, I respect those who remain at home. If there are aspects of Cuba you don’t like, better to work at changing them, rather than escaping to Florida, or to Canada, or to Spain. You describe a sense of community that is lacking elsewhere; this is one of the qualities I love about Cuba. May that sense of solidarity and community never end. Here, many neighborhoods are like mausoleums: cemetaries with no life on the street, only folks driving to and fro from home to work, from work to home, or home to super-market, etc. Contrast this with the rich street life of Cuba.

  • Yes please stay! ‘Everyone’ or you meant to say most people? I’m from Cuba in Us for 22 years now and I work hard and do get tired but do enjoy my life and go to places. Hard work doesn’t kill anyone is what build character and brings a person things and means to live comfortably apart from support to ones family. Maybe those ‘friends of yours want to live above their means or are just lazy I don’t know but is not the case with most people I know.

  • As a Canadian spending more than half my time at home in Cuba with my wife who visits Canada for her summer vacation from school, i can only describe your statement that “here in Canada things aren’t any better- jusy different…” as absolute balderdash!
    You have the good fortune to live without food rationing. You have the good fortune to be able to use the Internet You have the good fortune to be able to publicly express criticism of your government. You have the good fortune to have access to free media. You have the good fortune to travel in proper buses and trains. If for example you have mental health or disability problems you have the good fortune to have access to financial support from social programs. In Cuba you would have none of the above!
    Moses is correct, it was your decision not to speak to your neighbour for six years. Don’t blame others for your anti-social behaviour!
    Try living on $20 per MONTH! You are correct – it’s different in Cuba.
    As one who has had the privilege to live in five countries and visit over thirty, my experience leads me to conclude that we Canadians have the best country in the world and I include the US. And you in your ignorance think that things in Cuba are just as good?
    Lady the opportunity is open to you to seek residence in Cuba. How many do? Well the 2012 census in Cuba disclosed that only some 5,600 people in Cuba were born in other countries- and that includes the Russians who chose to remain there when the USSR imploded. But, do please join them!

  • Maybe I misunderstood Warhol P’s post, but if his reason for not wanting to leave Cuba is that elsewhere he may have to work hard, to the point of getting tired and that he may be too busy to read a book and that everything costs money then I certainly don’t want him living in the US. People who think like him end up on public assistance and we have enough of them already.

  • Reread your comment. You have a phone. You can call for pizza delivery. Two of many things that don’t exist in Cuba for 90% of the population. Besides, if your neighbor doesn’t have a phone and lives in a co-op in Canada, something is very wrong in her life. Not having a phone in Cuba is normal. The fact that you did not know her name is your fault. If she was comfortable enough to ask to use your phone, the two of you were familiar with each other. why didn’t YOU ask her name earlier? That’s not Canada’s fault, it’s yours that you did not know her name. Things are better in Canada. A lot better.

  • yep-I have lived in my apartment co-op for 6 yrs, and I just found out recently the name of my neighbour when she came over to use my phone to order pizza, and she had to give her name. Stay in Cuba, and work it out, coz here in Canada things aren’t better-just different….

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