A Toy Car

Osmel Almaguer

Cuban kids painting.

We were talking about all the advances in technology.  My friend had taken his sound system out on his porch to blast music for the party of the neighborhood Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR).

The system got everybody’s attention.  Since it’s a veritable piece of furniture from the ‘70s, given to him by a Canadian friend ages ago, someone commented, “It is a miracle that such an old contraption still has such good sound quality.”

“The thing is that capitalists back then produced better stuff because there was more competition. Now the systems are smaller and more sophisticated, but they don’t last as long,” I responded.

“We Cubans have made a tremendous leap into space – but backwards,” added my friend’s brother with irony.

He didn’t need to explain anything more. Those present roared with laughter because we knew that he was referring to the fact that this sound system had arrived in Cuba when it was already antiquated technology, but for us it was a something new.

He continued by saying, “People from backward countries end up not seeing all the inventions of the developed world because many of them are obsolete before getting to this part of the planet.”   I’m sure he said that thinking of a Japanese documentary that was on TV a few months ago.  In the program they showed how millions of computers are dumped into the sea ever year because they’re out-of-date in just a few years.

“The son of some French people who live near here have some toy cars that he can throw on the floor and they don’t break. They’re heavy and crafted with loads of details. The little doors open up, and you can see the driver through the windshield,” my friend added.

I never had a toy like that during my childhood. Though a kid can entertain themself with anything, since they have such imagination, I don’t know why I suffered when I saw all those sophisticated toys far outside of my reach.  That was back in the time of socialist manufactured goods when all those that came to us were from the USSR, and the ugly ones were from here in Cuba.

On certain occasions —weary of the bureaucracy of this country and tired of the fact that almost no civil mechanism works effectively— Cuba makes me feel like one of those little cars, though I feel that my condition as a toy is  excessive.

Like everything on this island, you need to put too much imagination into believing that they work without special help, or that their doors open, their lights come on or their horns sound.

I also think about the relationship between the weight of things and their practical value. It seems that weight makes objects concrete and verifiable. That’s why our toys and other material objects are so lightweight. That’s why we ourselves lose weight day by day.  Consequently, while we’re less affected by gravity, we’re also less successful at keeping our feet on the ground.