Measuring Cuba’s Moral Degeneration

Osmel Almaguer

Havana bus line. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — We speak so much about the moral degradation of Cuban society that sometimes it feels we are deep in a quagmire that can’t get any worse. This isn’t exactly true, and we should not deceive ourselves that it is.

Today, I had one of those days in which you go out with all of the positive energy in the world, hoping to get some things done, and you come home frustrated and empty-handed. This does not exactly illustrate my point, I know.

I don’t have any statistics at hand that would support my claim either. I only have the facts. I sometimes wish there was an instrument designed to measure what I’m talking about. It would be called a “degradation meter,” or something like that.

It would suffice to go out to the street and point it towards people’s rude behavior, the misconduct of consumers and public officials, bosses and employees, adults and the young. The device would then give us a reading.

Since such an extraordinary piece of technology does not exist, I will try and measure the vibe of Cuba’s streets on the basis of my own experiences.

The incidents I will describe are not exactly revealing, in and of themselves. I think the fact they took place within the course of a single day, however, gives us a sense of how inhospitable Cuban society has become. My best reason for saying this is the simple and overwhelming fact that incidents like these no longer shock anyone.

To improve public transportation, the number of buses operating in Havana was recently increased. On this day, however, we are witnessing bus stops with the kind of large crowds we hadn’t seen for a good while.

Public transportation difficulties giving rise to stress among passengers has been described at length in posts like this one. It is understandable that people should be irritated. The hot August sun also has a say in this.

But the fact that people – particularly the young – speak in a loud tone of voice all the time has nothing to do with the public transport system or the heat. That people should curse and say rude things to one another while joking, that can’t be chalked up to the weather or bus shortages either.

This morning, a woman almost knocked me down while scrambling to get a seat in the bus. Things like this, folks, bring us a step closer to savagery, even barbarism.

Another fellow who got on the bus was wearing a sleeveless T-shirt. His armpits were hairy and sweaty. By then I was sitting on the seat the rude woman had emptied. He settled next to me, placing his hairy armpit very close to my face. He didn’t seem to notice what he was doing.

My arm still hurts from having had to wrestle my way onto the bus, and I was third in line. It actually hurts, the people standing behind me almost tore it off, supposedly trying to keep others from taking their place in the line.

On my way back, I ran into a friend. Just before I got off the bus, she told me she had seen a man looking at her and masturbating, right behind me. In effect, he had been fondling his genitals a few centimeters behind my back. She had said nothing “to avoid problems.”

Something isn’t right here. Many things aren’t right, for people are shedding all civility with less and less shame and no one does anything. This trend continues to grow and the “decent” appear to have become immune to it.


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.

8 thoughts on “Measuring Cuba’s Moral Degeneration

  • Whatever may be the current state of things, Cubans had gotten used to commonly civil behaviour because the worst offenders chose to leave after 1959. Happily for Cuba, they took their ugly inclinations off to Florida and New Jersey.

  • All good points. Worthy of discourse but on another day and in another forum. Cheers

  • Is not just distinct groups, is society in general. Thats why we establish what is considered acceptable behavior and punish those who broke the social contract and codify such things in laws.

    The problem with today’s Cuba is that illegal behavior has become acceptable by sheer necessity, and that broke the dam for refraining to condemn even more unacceptable or illegal behavior or being accused of hypocrisy.

  • Interesting exchange of opinions. Is “Civics” one of the studies subject in the schools in Cuba. I remember going thru such subject in school. I did not have to be religion brain washed, nor I could behave in the manner described in this article without the risk of being ostracized from the “civic society” at large. It is the lack of those civil associations, that allows a given individual to be a member of an identifiable group. whose membership required a minimum of acceptable social behavior, the main culprit.
    And I include among those “civic associations” not just the elite groups like Masons. Lions, etc but labor associations, teachers associations, merchants associations.
    In my humble opinion, these groups, some of them disregarded in terms of importance, were the must influencial in the behavior of the ordinary citizen.

  • No, they didn’t had those issues before the crisis of 1990. That moral decay is directly related to the economical crisis, the ridiculous inflationary process and the mockery of the salary as source of income for the vast majority of the population (thanks again, dual currency), not religion.

    As for the rest of your assertions, there is a NEGATIVE correlation between religiosity and virtually all social indices in ALL nations:

    The main reason is that some religions, Christianity in particular tend to look for the forgiveness of some higher being as the thing that matters the most instead of making amends for the bad behavior and rewards belief over deeds as moral compass. That simply has no place in the modern world where personal responsibility for your own actions are a must in our societies.

    And don’t get me started on Christianity and Christ. Most Christians are fans of Christ, not his followers. Followers are not supposed to ignore his explicit teachings and instructions, like “love your enemies” and “don’t resist evil with evil” and pick and choose what they want to believe and how they want to behave.

    As for the Catholic church, you REALLY don’t want to get there. Child molestation, rape cover-ups, teen pregnancy galore, opposing to family planning (thus perpetuating poverty all around), destroying the international efforts to eradicate AIDS, killing children in Africa accused of witchcraft, genocide in the new world, not condemning Hitler’s actions (actually Hitler was one of them) and a long etc.

    What kind of moral upper ground you plan to establish based on all that?

  • Your facts are correct but your analysis of these facts is lacking. The absence of religion in Cuba has directly affected Cuban moral consciousness much more so than Cuban crime statistics. The police state that exists in Cuba has had a much greater impact on the actual commission of crimes. Although “LA” is largely Catholic, you assert that there is no correlation between religiosity and morality, where morality is defined as a state of mind. Actually, according to the bible, it should come as no surprise that where there is a higher concentration of devout practitioners of the Christian faith, there would also exist a higher presence of evil to attack these believers faith. Without getting into a sermon here, because Cuba has banished God evil is less active in its pursuit of souls. You follow? That said, Cuba is left today as a bastion of pagan and syncretic religions like Santeria. Even Fidel claims “Marti-ism” whatever the heck that is. As a result, lacking real moral guideposts, most Cubans are free to pick and choose what is right and wrong for themselves. In Mexico, for example, most Mexicans are professed Catholics and therefore see right and wrong as taught by the Church. This awareness obviously does not prevent those who would do evil from committing horrific violent crimes but the few who do so can not say that what they do will not be judged by God. On the other hand, Cubans who live by their own personal moral beliefs actually justify theft in the workplace and prostitution by minors. Some believe that scamming ‘extranjeros’ is morally just as Cubans have little and the foreigner has so much. Mankind as a whole continues to degenerate morally. In Cuba, it is happening faster and among a broader spectrum of people. How else do you explain doctors who steal from the state and schoolteachers who prostitute their bodies?

  • Lol sure you know your stuff. Now lets do a quick reality check:

    -Cuba is the 4th ranked country in LA by homicide rate (#1 Argentina, #2 Chile, #3 Martinique)


    -Cuba is considered a safe country, while most of LA is not. Actually, the list of 50 most violent cities contains an overwhelming majority of Latin America cities (42 of 50).

    Source (in spanish):

    So your argument is factually bogus. Now do you want me to dig into the Bible (your implied source of morality) to show you how outrageously wrong you are by picking Christian countries as examples of moral behavior?

  • Because the Castros decimated the church at the onset of their totalitarian rule, Cuba lacks the moral parameters typically established in most societies, especially in Latin America. As a result, the moral degeneration in Cuba that has largely been taking place since the early 1990’s has no natural end in sight. It will likely get a lot worse before it gets any better.

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