When the “Yanks” Get to Cuba

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

  • November 8, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    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.

  • February 10, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    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

  • February 9, 2015 at 9:32 am

    I do not welcome Obama’s new Cuba policy. I am pointing out the rank hypocrisy and crass selfishness of those who had opposed the embargo because they pretended to care about the people of Cuba. Now that the embargo is about lifted, they whine about all the ugly Americans who will fill the tourist resorts they had previously enjoyed all to themselves.

    You take a different perspective than Michael & Analyzer, and your arguments have some merit. So I do not accuse you of hypocrisy or selfishness.

  • February 8, 2015 at 4:25 pm

    I am a realist. Besides, Tourism, until the embargo is lifted will remain somewhat stilted. Even after the embargo is lifted, until Cuba builds the physical infrastructure and develops a more tourist-friendly face, US spring breakers will stay in Cancun and Jamaica. Even the most optimistic analysts only predict an extra 1 million tourists from the US over the entire year. Cancun and the Mayan Riviera nearly do that in three weeks. Until political reforms, and by that I mean democracy, come to Cuba nothing will really change for the average Cuban.

  • February 8, 2015 at 10:53 am

    Righteously referring to yourself as CubaKing says a lot… I agree that the Americans (and Canadians) on the West coast are different… No kidding for they are all smoking some of the best pot in the world… Though 87 visits to Cuba (on research…) And two Cuban kids… Have your kids ever been to Canada??? The kids down there are definitely raised a lot better than here.
    Unfortunately Canada has the Qubeckers and they are not liked too much in Cuba either… And the Italians in Guanabo are up there as well… Though it has been a few years now and I doubt I will return. My days of roughing it and wondering around Havana by myself taking photos are over after my last visit. Cuba was changing quickly. It just was not the same any more…
    Maybe a week an all-in in Cayo Santa Maria while it is still pristine… yes…

  • February 8, 2015 at 7:21 am

    I don’t think there is a contradiction. The issue is self-determination. If the embargo was lifted and Cuba decided to go full-out to attract American tourism and turn the island into a huge Disney theme park that is their right. Hopefully it won’t happen but personally I won’t go there the day the first Starbucks opens. I make my choice – they make their choice. The way things are at the moment Cuba is being forced into a reliance on tourism as other trade is blocked.

    But it is strange that you and Moses who are such fans of the embargo are suddenly welcoming the slight removal of restrictions on tourism. If you were at all consistent in your views you would be pushing for Obama to restrict tourism even further and blocking all remittances.

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