Mayelin is from Cienfuegos, a south-central province of the island. It was there that the first important events of her life occurred. She studied to make it through university. She married her son’s father, and years later she got divorced from him.
She worked her way up to become an editor and a recognized writer, which is why one day she received a “great offer” to work for one on the country’s leading publishing houses. She left Cienfuegos with expectations for a new life, new professional challenges, opportunities, prestige, and —if possible— even getting an apartment, which would allow her to remain living in the capital.
Her son had stayed there in Cienfuegos, with his father, hoping that his mother would eventually come for him. Two years have passed, but the only thing that Mayelin has gotten is frustrated. She feels resolved to quit her job since none of her expectations have been realized.
“I work a lot and they pay me little,” she told me. And though her dilemma is not so peculiar in today’s Cuba, this doesn’t lesson her suffering. “They don’t give me any incentives like inviting me to events in the editorial world, nor do they recognize my merits or effort.” The saddest thing is that this is not only happening with her, but even with the most prestigious editors, people who have won the National Editing Award for lifetime achievement.
But with things the way they are, now is not a good moment to change jobs. Almost all positions are frozen. She fears to be left without a job. Though the cost for her son’s food doesn’t come out of her pay, but instead from royalties on books that she published abroad.
“They pay me 200 or 300 CUCs (around $250 to $375 USD) every six months, according to the sales, and that’s what I live on,” she told me.
“The worst thing is that since I work in publishing, they tend to overlook me when deciding on books to publish. They explain that they ‘can’t give advantages to writers who work for us.’ However, I know of authors who manage publishing houses while regularly publishing their own books there or in others,” she explained.
Mayelin feels she’s getting old and not achieving a minimum level of security. She knows that if she were to go back to Cienfuegos she won’t be able to advance as a writer, though she misses her son. She’s now living with her new partner but she could end up without a place to stay if things don’t work out between them. Then she would have to move back into her parents’ house, where living with them wasn’t easy at all.
“Osmel, I think that sooner or later I’ll have to move back,” she said to me, as if someone giving up on all their dreams.