Cuba’s Sleeping Workers

Osmel Almaguer

durmiente-1HAVANA TIMES — Of all the kinds of beggars I’ve seen in Havana, the “sleeping beggar” (as some of the locals and workers in the area refer to him) is doubtless the most peculiar. I saw the man on Reina street, in the neighborhood of Centro Habana, lying across the entrance to a building, with a sign that read: “I have a heart murmur. Please help me with anything you have. I want some spare change to buy food.”

The last medical exam I had, back when Cuba’s health system wasn’t as shameless as it is today, revealed I also have a heart murmur. I haven’t really worried too much about that. I work as a journalist and, even though I have some difficult times, I try to overcome this condition.

The “sleeper” seems to have chosen a different path. What I mean to say is that his condition does not truly justify the way in which he’s chosen to earn a living. Everyone is free to choose, but, where would we be if all sick people in the country began to beg on the streets?

durmiente-3The attitude of the “sleeping beggar” strikes me as an extreme version of the attitude the average Cuban has adopted with respect to work. Could we be dealing with a new evolutionary development, where one needn’t implore others for money? Could I be the one who’s not in step with the times?

When the sleeper awakens he finds, as if by magic, a sum of money that is enough to buy some food with, as he requested. If he earns 15 pesos a day, that is a better salary than what the average Cuban worker earns.

That could even give him enough time to do something else. I imagine a person who sleeps so much during the day can’t be too tired at night and can do something then. The only obstacle is one’s dignity, but, if one overcomes this hurdle, the coast is clear.

Of course, there’s the issue of the pity I should have for this man. Very few human beings inspire this feeling in me. The sleeper actually inspires admiration in me. In his own way, he is a winner, yet another survivor of the crisis.


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.

18 thoughts on “Cuba’s Sleeping Workers

  • June 22, 2015 at 10:13 am

    Then what’s your point? It’s not stated, at the end you act exactly like the communists, you only criticize, you can not give life to whom take the life of Cubans, all the dignity and pride that you talk about, Castro drink it everyday, he drink the pride and dignity of all Cubans, at least he try, and he uses the nasty ideology to wash brains like yours. What do you know about Cuba… I can tell you that NOTHING…. and please, do not compare Cuban born in Cuba, with those who did not raise in the isle. You are nobody to criticize about you doesn’t know. What makes you think like that. You have not clue of what you are talking about. You are showing a high degree of selfishness. Verify your sources of information, validate them, and then review. You re totally WRONG.

  • June 6, 2015 at 3:45 pm

    Absolutely agree with you. And did the same. I had seen many old people in Cuba selling bananas and flowers, or one old lady was selling grapes from her urban garden, and I knew, she spent hours to harvest that. I paid much more then it was priced. In my opinion, this is “helping others”, by “contributing to a beggar”, we are enabling their “life style”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *