HAVANA TIMES — Sometimes, it feels like I’m living in one of those countries where parents still sell their daughters into marriage, in exchange for goats or some other kind of property, where human beings are marketable items or, worse, where loved ones can become exchange goods.
But no, I don’t live in one of those countries where such practices are, at least, culturally and ethically justified. I live in Cuba, a small island that has “dared undertake a revolution at the very doorsteps of the Empire.”
For over fifty years, this social undertaking has aimed – with some degree of success – to improve the life of Cubans and, above all, to elevate the spiritual values of the nation.
Though inconspicuous, the sale of wives or “girlfriends” is a phenomenon faced by Cuban society which we cannot simply ignore, a social ill that, though unacknowledged, is far from having been eradicated.
I am speaking, not of a widespread phenomenon, but of a trend, a tendency, I would venture to say, which is directly proportional to the economic crisis endured by the country. That said, we mustn’t forget that moral degradation can grow in proportions as uncontrollably as a snowball rolling downhill.
A few weeks ago, my friend Luis had an experience of this nature. He met a girl and everything seemed to be going wonderfully…until he was introduced to the girl’s mother.
The day after, the girl called him to break up with him. She was sobbing over the phone and didn’t even want to talk to him directly. She only managed to tell him that her mother wanted to fix her up “with the son of a friend who works at the Hotel Nacional (a luxurious hotel in Havana).”
We all know of the unofficial “perks” that hotel employees enjoy. State salaries in the tourism sector are among the lowest in Cuba, but workers in the sector are not exactly the worst off in the country. But this girl’s mother would rather see her daughter date someone with ill-gotten money than my friend.
Luis is a conscientious clerk at a bank that pays him some 40 or 50 Cuban Convertible Pesos (45 to 55 USD) a month, plus a regular salary of 400 Cuban pesos. Though this is far from enough to be able to live in luxury, it is about twice or three times as much what an average Cuban employee earns a month.
“I’m sure it’s not the first time this has happened to you, and that it won’t be the last. It’s happened to me more than once,” I say to him to make him feel better. It must be tough for him to be treated so rudely, after working so hard. He doesn’t know what to say.
All he wants is to meet a nice girl and get married, but he doesn’t have enough “goats” to do this, not yet, anyways.
Many are the Cuban mothers who think this way today, who jeopardize their daughters’ present and future, teaching them to love things that have no lasting value, such as money and fancy clothes.