Are Cubans Just Waiting to Be Spoon Fed?

Rosa Martinez

By Glynis Shaw

HAVANA TIMES — I have a friend I studied at university with who was very poor when he used to live in Cuba, I think he was the one in the worst financial situation out of all the people on my degree. As soon as he graduated, he escaped and went to Canada, a very cold country in terms of temperature, but warm when it comes to welcoming foreigners.

Raulito made progress quite quickly there; from being a poor boy on the Caribbean island, the son of a simple cook who made around US $10 per month, to become a middle class worker in a developed nation and the main provider for his parents and siblings who stayed behind.

I have spoken to my friend a few times by the magic that is the Internet and social media networks. I was really happy to learn about his gradual progress: a love marriage, a house (although not his own), car, stable job, holidays abroad and even new studies.

But, what could I tell him about Cuba that he didn’t already know? We speak about politics: the famous pothole in his old neighborhood that is still there, in the same place with the same people; about Cuba’s deficient economy and prices; about memories from the time we studied together; about an old love, and mainly about our families, about my daughters…

Over time, I felt he wasn’t the same anymore, I know that it’s inevitable that people change when they move somewhere else, there’s good reason behind the accurate saying that says people think how they live. In spite of a few changes here and there, we continued to be very good friends and that was the only thing that mattered…

However, one day, we ended up talking about wages (what Cuban, living in or outside the island, doesn’t know that wages aren’t enough to even eat) and when I told him that the situation was getting worse and worse in Cuba, especially in Guantanamo (the most backward province in an already poor country), he told me quite simply: “Rosa, the problem is that Cubans only complain and the reality is that the majority don’t do anything to improve their financial situation.”

Those words hit me like a bolt of lightning, rage took over me. I had to bite my tongue so as not to remind him of all the times I had to give him a little bit of money so he could go home (we studied in Santiago), because his father’s wages weren’t enough to even pay for him to come home one weekend in the month. I nearly reminded him that his father always found a thousand things to do so that he and his siblings didn’t die of hunger and he just about managed to do it; I almost mentioned his mother, who never worked on the street, but did many other things in order to survive like spending entire nights sewing, for example.

However, instead of doing that, I thought about all of the things I have had to invent in my 25 years of professional life in the public sector because my wages have never been enough to get to the end of the month: I have sold rum, second-hand clothes or clothes brought from abroad on the black market, I have made popsicles, milkshakes and soft drinks to sell illegally… I have done this and much more to feed my daughters or just to give them a simple pair of shoes. I know that I’m not the only one, there are thousands and thousands of Cubans who look for a way to move forward by working and struggling, sometimes on the brink of committing crimes against their will.

And then I asked myself, where the HELL did my friend get the idea that the only thing we do is complain?  It seems he thinks the same as Lazaro Barredo, the former director of Granma newspaper, does, who once said that the Cuban people are like pigeons waiting for someone to put something in our mouths…

5 thoughts on “Are Cubans Just Waiting to Be Spoon Fed?

  • And the next simple fact is that if you even talk about wanting to change things, you are considered a traitor to the revolution and the authorities come and get you. Much less do something. Group activites need plans. Any negative conversation is prohibited. How can a people change a government that won’t even let them talk about it?

  • Rosa, I have loved reading your personal reflections on life in Cuba. It’s so easy to think the way your friend does once your suffering is alleviated but I bet he thought about his words later and remembered… I know I have said and thought many things in my life that I later reflected on and had to work to change my thinking on and continue to do so.Thanks for writing from the heart. I look forward to reading your posts.

  • Well, on a micro level, in terms of doing whatever is required, however difficult, to improve their financial situation in order to simply survive each month with sufficient food and other necessities, he is dead wrong. But on a macro level, to improve their financial situation in the sense of changing the conditions that are responsible for them having to do whatever is necessary to be able to survive each month, he is right on. And those chronic national conditions will never change until the Cubans themselves change them. And that’s a simple fact.

  • I agree with the post above. Your writing is among the best I have read on HT and I am sorry that on top of everything you have this kind of ridiculous comment to deal with. I just hope that your old friend reads HT from Canada and realises his mistake.

  • Rosa, your post is beautifully written, very poignant and thoughtful, and very sad. I live in Canada. my family and I love Cuba and have visited 10 times. We KNOW how it is in Cuba, and how the good people struggle to survive from day to day. We take things for them when we visit. Your Canadian friend is not only wrong, but quite arrogant to say what he said. Good luck to you and your family, Rosa.

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