Making the Most of Vacation Time in Cuba

By Osmel Ramírez Álvarez

Summertime in rural Holguin, Cuba

HAVANA TIMES – The months of July and August coincide with the vacations of a significant part of Cubans. It is the longest school break of the year, which is between one academic year and another, and many workers and non-essential workplaces plan their vacations to coincide with their children.

Naturally it is a time of the year to have fun, break the routine. Maybe visiting relatives. However, the reality is that we do not have the necessary resources to make the holidays what the word implies. For many it becomes a headache. It represents more stress and expenses. For most people here, the money you can earn honestly from work is good for nothing.

Added to that is the pressure of having the children permanently at home, wanting and maybe even demanding fun, unable in their innocence to understand our reality. A sad and hopeless reality that one doesn’t even want them to understand, so they don’t learn to accept it mentally as something normal. Something bad for them and for the country.

The main option par excellence is to bathe at beaches, rivers, dams and swimming pools. The infernal heat day after day forces us to think about it. Not only because its always 32, 33 or more degrees Celsius, but because of the “hot flash” effect, (greater thermal sensation due to the high relative humidity), is truly suffocating. And as our island is narrow there is almost always a high humidity in the air.

Being able to enjoy one or the other option depends on the geography that surrounds us and, of course, the money we may or may not have in our happy pockets. The rivers in the countryside are luckily less polluted and are for many the best bet for recreation. Near the cities people usually bathe in the rivers, but it is not recommended, because they are often contaminated and represent a serious health hazard.

The organized recreation campsites with simple lodging are a very good option, but demand greatly exceeds the available capacities, even though the prices in those places, which today are called affordable, are very high.

It also happens when we go to the beach. Almost all have hotel and food service infrastructure aimed at international tourism, successful self-employed, embezzlers or those who receive sizeable family remittances. They are not for the average Cuban workers including professionals.

Yes, we are on vacation in this beautiful island, full of natural splendor and tourist attractions, but how much does it cost? We already have our heads turned to water looking for what to eat with everything scarce and expensive, while earning a salary of misery.

Having fun would be an extravagant luxury or add more burden to those who already fainted in the vortex of survival. And someone could believe that we are talking about real luxury, but in reality it could be buying some candies or a simple canned soda, whose price is equivalent to 4 or 6 hours of work.
The salary increase announced by president Diaz Canel is immense mathematically speaking, because it doubles or triples the income of many families, but it is insignificant compared to the prices of the state itself which has a monopoly on retail sales. It would not be enough to vacation once, even at the cheapest place.

Luckily my family and I live in the country and whenever we feel like it we go to the nearest stream. There, in the shade of a tree, I break my routine and refresh a little. Also the neighbors are coordinating to jointly rent a private truck to go to the beach.

I don’t find it any fun to be bouncing up and down in a enclosed metal cage on the bumpy road for dozens of kilometers. But the sacrifice is worth it so my children can see the sea and enjoy the waves.

In short, we are on vacation. Will we have some fun? -Well, at least it’s a bit questionable, right?

Osmel Ramirez

I'm from Mayari, a little village in Holguín. I was born on the same day that the Vietnam War ended on April 30, 1975. A good omen, since I identify myself as a pacifist. I am a biologist but I am passionate about politics, history and political philosophy. Writing about these topics, I got to journalism, precisely here on Havana Times. I consider myself a democratic socialist and my main motivation is to try to be useful to the positive change that Cuba needs.

10 thoughts on “Making the Most of Vacation Time in Cuba

  • Sir, Your “truth” may not be the same as anothers opinion

  • By “funny” Linda, I assume you mean funny peculiar rather than funny humorous. Your comment about “armchair communists” is very apt, for most of them have never lived under communist dictatorship – and choose not to do so, preferring the protection of democratic societies, freedom of the individual and freedom of speech.
    The Cuban rate of immigration and the level of emigration reflect the reality. During the Castro years almost three million have emigrated and how many have immigrated? Only 5,000 people in Cuba were not born in Cuba and most of those few are expatriate Russians who following the implosion of the “Evil Empire” chose not to return to Siberia or other attractive parts of Russia.

  • What’s the matter? Too much of the truth hurts? What you call “anti-Cuban/pro-Counter Revolutionary”, I call freedom of speech, something woefully missing from everyday Cuban life.

  • It’s funny reading the comments of non Cuban armchair communists who support Cuba but would not in a million years live as Cubans do in Cuba.

  • Sorry, forget to ask if I could write posts in Spanish, I’d much prefer that! Love and Peace!

  • It is tough! I live abroad and can help my mother and father (a bit) but it is tough for my many cousins who now how children, all of them wanting to go to the beach even if just for the day.

    I feel sorry for them and for most Cubans who survive on so little. I grew up through Periodo Especial and yet, I was so happy! My parents probably weren’t though. I bet they felt like you under so much pressure… Anyway, you did not mention independent journalists among the “lucky people” who earn huge amounts of money, compared to most Cubans. Is that true, by the way? How much do you make on average each month? I am simply curious to know how much a not so famous journalist makes. I think it must be the likes of Yoanis, Eliecer and the leader of the Ladies in White the ones that earn a ton, but you probably have to work hard and only get paid for each article you publish. Best wishes and please don’t forget that children need above all love from their families. Keep insulating your little ones from reality until they are strong enough to understand it

  • Thank you for the insight into the realities of Cuba life. Cuba people are hard working and love their families intensely. They do deserve vacations. As a middle class family with three boys, we also found our budget allowed us to hit local beaches, and search activities in our city instead of expensive getaways. As long as we were together it was fun. Keep your articles coming.

  • Congratulations, Circles. This is NOT a totally biased anti-Cuban/pro-Counter Revolutionary article. This is the first time in six months I’ve checked to see if you now allow balanced reporting. Are you changing?

  • Gracias for your article. We have travelled through Cuba several years ago. Spent 2 months in your country. Beautiful.

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