HAVANA TIMES — It’s 7:30 AM, a hundred students dressed in blue hurry to their morning classes. They have to sing the national anthem every day, listen to the most important teaching instructoins, as well as other political, cultural and social information, which doesn’t always interest everyone.
When they say “go to your classrooms”, these uniformed bodies all look the same: clean, ironed, straight, tight; apparently there’s no difference between one young kid and another.
But, if you take a look at their shoes, their cell phone, watch or any other personal item, you begin to see differences, the things that we still insist on saying don’t exist in Cuba, but they are there, a school backpack or inside one (like for example, the reinforcement meal that every kid brings, which are quite different from one teenager to the next).
This disparity can also be seen in the transport they use to get to school: some have a mountain bike which their families bought after making a huge effort so that the young person doesn’t have such a hard time getting to school on time (we all know what the transport situation is like in this country); others are luckier, mommy or daddy takes them in a car which belongs to the State, as if it were their own personal car, as they use it for whatever the family needs; a few arrive in personal cars and these can definitely sit back and have a good laugh about their luck.
A large group don’t have any of these and have to find a way with local transport in the early morning, or a horse-driven carriage, and nobody really knows which is worse: a bus full of sweaty people or a crude and abusive driver with his beast.
But, up until this point, inequalities are more or less tolerable, as someone who doesn’t have a pair of Nike or Adidas shoes has a pair of shoes from a hard-currency store. At home, parents insist on teaching their children to not feel any less about themselves just because of their clothes, because clothes aren’t the most important thing: but young people don’t always believe what their parents say…
It doesn’t matter that Leo always brings chicken, pork, seafood, fizzy soda, if at the end of the day it’s been scientifically proven that fruits and vegetables are a lot healthier than meat, so Ramon enjoys his piece of bread with oil or home-made butter just like Raulito enjoys his piece of ham.
However, what happened to Tomas, my daughter Tania’s inseparable friend, really was rough: a party had been organized to celebrate April 4th. All of us parents had to collaborate in one way or another so that the kids would have a good time.
Everything was almost ready, we just had to set a date and place. The kids were eager to have to fun with their classmates, who they know quite well because they’ve spent 8 months already together.
When the day in question came, I noticed that my daughter wasn’t as excited as I thought she would be and I thought she had argued with someone, that she was in love maybe or I don’t know…
When I asked her what was going on, she told me that she was very sad because her friend Tomas couldn’t go to the party and that if he didn’t go, she might not either.
When I dug a little deeper, I discovered that the problem was that the young boy didn’t have any shoes to wear.
What do you mean he doesn’t have any shoes? I asked my daughter.
Well, he does have shoes, but just one pair which he wears to school, at home, to go out, everything.
And why doesn’t he just wear these shoes? Young people don’t pick up on those things, I told her.
Ah mom, that was before, and maybe some of us don’t really look at these things, but most people in class do and you have to see how much so, the thing is I don’t tell you these things…
We tried to help the young boy but we couldn’t, he wears a size 45 shoe and the men in our family only wear a 43 max.
In the end, my daughter went to the party with her classmates and even though she danced and had fun like everyone else, her heart, like my own, was with Tomas, who I’m sure felt like the most unfortunate person in the world, at least that day.