Regina Cano

Waiting for tourists. Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — “When the yanks get here, this and that…” a couple who are friends of mine were saying to me, ironically alluding to how life would change when more yumas (the generic word for foreigner on the island) began arriving in Cuba.

This phrase, folks, defines the expectations of some Cubans in the capital who are preparing for the arrival of the “yanks”, another source of hope that has been taking root on the island since the negotiations aimed at reestablishing relations between the United States and Cuba were announced.

In this connection, some are dreaming up plans that seem plausible and others not so much. These include:

– Traveling with greater ease in order to see relatives or visit the United States

– Investing in new business ventures (something that will benefit those who have a fair amount of capital to begin with)

– Learning or improving English, through lessons aimed at parents and children (and particularly the latter, as these language lessons are typically expensive). Parents are becoming increasingly concerned about their children’s education and the country has seen an increase in the number of private tutors that people hire.

At a different level, some look at imminent developments and expect an improvement in the range of food products available in the country thanks to purchases from the United States (those cheap products, some of which kill you and some of which don’t). Everyone here has seen that the tendency is for product prices to go up. Apparently, no one can do anything about this, so, if the “yanks”, the Chinese or “new Russians” come over, we Cubans will likely spend the rest of our lives “getting the brunt of it”, or for the middle and long term, in the hopes of bringing about an economically dynamic Cuba.

Others insist that we must be confident the Cuban government will gradually reveal new measures that benefit us.

Yet others, on the contrary, feel that “no benefits are coming”, that poor people will always be poor (it sounds like the kind of thinking people had before the revolution, unchanged in more than 50 years), and that nothing proves this more eloquently than daily life.

Others know that all they have the right to now are dreams and let themselves be carried away by the dream they’ve nurtured for so many years (Americanized Cubans that they are), as their reality has nothing to do with that dream.

What’s more, no one believes in sharing everything anymore (that precept appears to have expired, like an old medication), or in the supposed return of egalitarianism, which has been proven not to work in practice.

Today, “struggling” may well experience a change in meaning and become synonymous with receiving training, learning new languages, and become better informed about what goes on in Cuba and abroad.

One can sense the uncertainty of individuals in different social groups in the capital. Some feel they should prepare themselves for what’s coming and that real and affordable access to the Internet is needed to keep abreast with the rest of the world (in terms of knowledge and up-to-date information).

Folks, it’s not that preparing for the time the “yanks” get here has become an obsession. This “awakening” had already started with the legislative reforms of recent years.

Besides, now that the news confirms that the Cuban Adjustment Act (the dry foot-wet foot clause, to be more specific) will not be repealed [at least for now], people can still cling to the hope that, if things go wrong, they can always take to sea and continue to flee the island.

By then, no one will be able to argue with any (of the pro-US majority) Cubans when they say, be it merrily or ironically, that the “yanks” are here.


Regina Cano

Regina Cano: I have lived my entire life in Havana, Cuba – the island from which I’ve still never left, and which I love. I was born on September 9, and my parents chose my name out of superstition, but my mother raised me outside the religion professed by her family. I studied accounting and finance at the University of Havana, a profession that I’m not engaged in for the time being, and that I substituted for doing crafts, some ceramics, and studying a little English and about painting. Ah! – concerning my picture: I identify with Rastafarian principles, but I am not one of them. I wear this cap from time to time, but I assure you I just didn't have a better picture.

22 thoughts on “When the “Yanks” Get to Cuba

  • Just got back from five day stay in Havana’s old town and have been reading all the
    comments from people who lived there or visited lots of times etc. I like most people who recently visited, wanted to see Havana before capitalism changed it, I’m of the opinion that apart from a facelift “repairing the streets, fixing up and restoring the beautiful houses and architecture which is badly needed and of course having a choice of food in shops” not much else will change. They are very proud people and
    they either don’t know they are poor or choose not to dwell on the fact, they would never stand for being called poor. One man I was talking to told me, that all Cubans
    know they need help and they don’t give a dam where it comes from China, Canada. UK or the USA. I said what about Russia? he scratched his chin and said “most of us don’t trust the Russian’s they let us down very badly once.

  • Rural Cuba is the same as it was years ago. I built two houses for Michel and Angelica in Niquero Granma and these houses are are now rented to family members. Total cost for marerial and labour $ 5000.00 each. My children have not been to Canada but have enjoyed over 20 different resorts and hotels. in Cuba.Medical care in Canada for non Canadians is very expensive – a visit to emergence in Port Alberni costs $ 950.00 – one night in ICU $ 10.500.00

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