HAVANA TIMES — Near my house there’s a woman who rents her eight-month-old daughter to people willing to pay in order to prevent them from having to stand in lines. Both sides — the mother and the customers — are acting in ways that are eroding the little bit of courtesy that still remains among people in Cuba.
One of the few situations in which civic courtesy is practiced is when it comes to lines involving women and their children, as they are allowed to cut to the head of lines.
But if we judge this case from a moral point of view, it would be difficult to describe the attitude of both sides in this unusual and almost absurd verbal contract as anything other than guilty.
The mother can be pointed to as being guilty of entrusting her daughter to strangers, exposing the child to serious risks, using her as an instrument of labor, as well as deceiving and abusing people’s good will.
Similarly, the customers can only be described as cheating and acting with complicity in the brazen approach adopted by the mother.
It would be useful, however, to look at this case while abstracting ourselves from only the moral aspect of the question, focusing on the causes that gave rise to such an absurd situation.
Firstly, we need to consider the needs of this mother – who is divorced, unemployed and has no source from which to draw money needed for the month.
It’s true, though, that she doesn’t suffer any physical impairment that would prevent her from getting a job. Nor does she evidence any visible signs of mental slowness.
It’s simply that her life has been part of a chain of events that have led to this marginalization, and now she’s fighting the best she can in order to survive.
In second place, if there are customers for the service supplied by this woman, it’s simply because the situation of the many lines is so favorable.
In the specific case of the sale of cooking gas (a situation about which I’m well aware), the supply is very limited, and so people do what they have to do to move up in line and obtain that vital fuel.
This doesn’t even involve the private restaurants that stockpile this resource in order to prepare and sell their food, although that problem also exists. Rather, this situation is one involving families that don’t want their children to go without eating.