Apathy among Cubans

Osmel Almaguer

HAVANA TIMES, Feb 13 — They say that Cuba is the best place in the world to live. I’m sure, though, that this affirmation is merely a rumor spread by those in power. In addition to the rumors that hatch on the street (from the right, left or center), there are also the ones planted by our officials.

Later they like to feign innocence when it better suits them to shirk their responsibility for the social chaos we face. Instead, they’ll point to safe streets, equitable distribution, free services, low prices, health care, education and culture – benefits that are almost absolutely verifiable.

Yet what’s more subtle and damaging is the apathetic spirit that has taken over Cuban society. We see generalized apathy for work, study, being responsible, showing respect and finally for all actions in life that are related to virtue.

However, what’s most shocking is the lack of interest we suffer when it comes to receiving. I find it amazing since selfishness is present in human nature, as well as in the animal kingdom.

I’m not saying that selfishness has been lost. Rather, apathy has reached the point to where people who receive benefits want them without lifting a finger. In other words, to many people the slightest sacrifice to improve themselves or to get ahead isn’t worth the effort.

Examples abound: my pupils at school don’t want me to teach them their lessons. Residents who are required by housing inspectors to comply with certain code requirements hurry to find fault with their professional judgment. Vendors collude among themselves on prices so they don’t have to compete.

At my house, we don’t answer the door when the crews come to spray for mosquitoes. The buses that usually charge five pesos don’t want to stop outside the bus stops to pick up passengers. Collective taxi drivers prefer an empty taxi to lowering their rates.

Kiosk vendors don’t work on Sundays. At six in the evening of weekdays no businesses are open. Sellers prefer not to sell to you if your bill is too large. The majority of bus drivers don’t care about collecting the fares.

To most men, a “thank you” or a “please” seems gay.

I could go on with the list — it’s endless — but I prefer to conclude by pointing out the root cause of all these actions. People have begun to disregard those little favors and courtesies because they now consider them useless or alien.

These are the vices of a socialist society hit by the Special Period crisis.

Admittedly, I don’t have the answer. In fact, I can’t imagine any change that could fix the majority of these problems.


Osmel Almaguer:Until recently I would to identify myself as a poet, a cultural promoter and a university student. Now that my notions on poetry have changed slightly, that I got a new job, and that I have finished my studies, I’m forced to ask myself: Am I a different person? In our introductions, we usually mention our social status instead of looking within ourselves for those characteristics that define us as unique and special. The fact that I’m scared of spiders, that I’ve never learned to dance, that I get upset over the simplest things, that culminating moments excite me, that I’m a perfectionist, composed but impulsive, childish but antiquated: these are clues that lead to who I truly am.

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3 thoughts on “Apathy among Cubans

  • The “what did you bring me” habit that Cubans are now acquiring has been in place in all poorer countries of Latin America and the Caribbean that have large communities of ex-patriots in the United States.

    I experienced that same thing in my many years of traveling back and forth to Jamaica.

    The United States is a very rich country with all the things that money can buy, much of which is either unavailable in these countries or beyond the budget of those in countries where it is all one can do to have enough money for food.

    Since the government of the United States acts in an imperial manner and extracts far more from poorer countries in collusion with with its corporations than it gives out by a very wide margin, I do not believe it is asking too much for the people of the United states who travel to these exploited countries to buy as much as they can for those victims.

    the United States instead of spending all the money it should have helping the poor of the world, uses that money to finance the military machine, establish and maintain the 1000 foreign military bases in 120 countries to the tune of $1,000,000,000.00 (one trillion) dollars a year strictly in order to rob them of their resources and kill them when they object..

    That robbery and the 100 year U.S history preventing of socialist economies from succeeding or surviving is what causes the immiseration of much of the world. That imperialist foreign policy has made life very hard in Cuba but the bloquero won’t last another ten years and by then Cuba’s oil wealth will have negated the effects of the bloquero. Hang in there.

    There are many countries that have about the same resources as Cuba but which have capitalist economies and many who starve to death, die from preventable diseases, remain illiterate for life, are homeless and suffer from epidemics, poor health and lives of despair.

    Cubans might take a look at life in Haiti or many of the sub-Saharan African countries before thinking how bad they have it.

  • Unfortunately, I have to agree with Moses. I have been going to Cuba for over 20 years. I also have many Cuban friends who I have helped. But I have to agree, I now fell obligated and don’t feel that my help is really appreciated. I actually have a couple of friends who, soon after meeting again, say, “So what did you bring me this time?’ I have stopped bringing anything. I’m sure they are wondering why and I don’t want to hurt their feelings by telling them. Yes, there are those I help, because they appreciate it, but several are off the list and I have cut back. I can’t believe I’m actually writing this, but felt compelled after Moses’ entry.

  • I have visited Cuba many times. I have cuban friends from all economic levels and policitical views. I have observed something uniquely Cuban during my visits that seems to occur more frequently as the years plod forward. Cubans are becoming less “grateful” to receive gifts and appear to, in fact, feel entitled to receive money and gifts from family and friends who live abroad. There is an attitude that implies that because by fortune of birth or other turn of events which led to being able to live and work outside of Cuba, it is the obligation of visitors to bring gifts for those Cubans not so fortunate. I am sure that this attitude has always existed in some measure. The difference today is that the “Thank yous’ and the genuine expressions of gratitude are less and less forthcoming. Underneath this is an undercurrent that says “because I live here in Cuba, I DESERVE to receive something for my struggles”. I don’t mind helping my Cuban friends, but my help is a act of kindness. I feel good when I believe I am doing good things. I am beginning to feel different as my kindness is becoming an obligation.

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