Be a man!

Rosa Martinez

Kids in Matanzas. Foto: Bill Kliop

HAVANA TIMES — Those who follow my articles (which I hope are quite a few) should know that I live in a suburb of Guantanamo city, the fifth most populated city in Cuba.

In developed nations, at least in English-speaking ones, many people dream about living in the suburbs, as they are calm places, far-removed from the hustle and bustle of the city and homes (which are huge and luxurious) are far away from another, so you don’t have to put up with annoying neighbors.

But, in Cuba, the suburbs are the complete opposite: they are the poorest neighborhoods in any provincial capital, the population living there are mainly Black or mestizo and have low incomes, a large percentage of homes are in a poor state, streets aren’t paved and, in some cases, there aren’t even drainpipes for sewage water.

When it comes to residents in Cuban suburbs, they typically get on well (too well, I would say), which is a good and a bad thing, because you never feel alone (whether you like it or not), someone is always there to worry about you and ready to help, but then you also have too many noses stuck in your business trying to control or figure out your life.

Even though you are generally surrounded by well-intentioned people, who are extremely human and caring, you also have to deal with a low cultural level, which is sometimes translated into violence, especially gender violence, although there’s also violence against children.

To give you a clearer idea about the place where I have lived ever since I was born, I have the perfect example: Jorgito is a neighbor who lives in the house next-door, or as we say here in Cuba, we live “wall to wall”.  He is a very calm and well-behaved boy. However, being calm and too behaved on the outskirts isn’t always considered to be a good thing, especially if you’re a boy.

That’s why the small lad has had more than one problem because other more feisty and daring boys have tried to abuse him on more than one occasion.

Things really hit the fan a few days ago when a younger boy than Jorgito shouted various insults at him, then he hit him and ran off and the only thing Jorgito did was cry and cry…

His father, fed up of other kids abusing him, told him quietly (but very annoyed): “Are you a man or what the hell is wrong with you? Men are respected, my dear boy. The next time somebody wants to get at you, insults you or hits you and you don’t do anything, I’m going to beat you as if you were my enemy, then we’ll see what’s worse, the punches of a boy your age or mine.”

Jorgito left that conversation without a single tear but those words bore a hole in his soul. Just imagine, a few days after that father-son chat, the boy proved his courage when he was provoked again, but this time he responded like real MEN do: he picked up a stick and whacked his attacker straight on the head…