The Promised Land that Sometimes Isn’t

Osmel Almaguer 

From my cousin's home town of Holguin. Photo: Caridad

For the majority of Cubans who live in this country, Havana is a chance to make an important change in their lives.  Here one can make good money, get a good house and — and if it’s pertinent — they can find someone to help them leave the country; those are some of the ideas that emigrants to the city bring with them.

Although it’s true that the situation in Havana is not very easy, it’s also true that — according to what I’ve been told by relatives and friends — in the rest of the provinces support from the government to families is even more inadequate than that provided to homes in the capital city.

For example, here we get kitchen gas every 15 or 20 days, but if we lived out there we’d never see it.  There are indeed places where they do get gas, because nothing is absolute, but in many places across the country, especially in the east, the supplies of cooking fuel decrease to a few liters of kerosene every six months – and there are areas that don’t even get that.

I’ve only referred to the issue of the kitchen fuel.  Now let’s apply that situation to virtually all the items in the home economy and we can draw the logical conclusions.  Then, let us add this to what Havana really is: With the exception of a few tourist centers across the whole country, it is the place where the most money circulates.

My cousin came here a few months ago from Holguin with the dream of making it big as a “botero” (literally a “boatman,” but in Havana this means a taxi driver).  His idea was to drive an “almendron” (meaning an old American car dating back to the ‘50s) and to make a ton of money so he could return home and buy a house.

He sacrificed the nearness to his wife, son, mother and friends to realize that dream.  Everything might have turned out better if he hadn’t run into so much bad luck, and if he hadn’t depended on a guy, his partner, with such bad intentions.

Three fundamental factors affected his return to Holguin emptyhanded.  Public transportation improved incomprehensibly in the few days that he could work, though it has now worsened again.  And like I said, the improvement was only for a “few days,” but the repairs to the car were hardly fixed without something else breaking down.

The owner’s son had taken responsibility for destroying his father’s car, and in that situation it occurred to him that my cousin could fix it, which wasn’t far from the truth.  My cousin is one of those people who give everything of themselves.  If the old man had asked him to fix the car for free, he would have helped him.

But it turns out that some people’s minds are so full of garbage that they can’t imagine that by being supportive of others you can achieve good things in life.  Therefore, he drew up this whole macabre plan to trick my cousin and turn him into his servant.  But thanks to the warnings we gave my cousin, this was a plan the owner’s son couldn’t realize.

All places have advantages and disadvantages, everywhere there are good and bad people, but we usually find the greatest number of people who are devoid of scruples situated around money.  So, the well-being of the earth will always depend on the kindness of its residents.