Born poor…

Rosa Martinez

Guantanamo, Cuba street. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES – In Cuba, there is a very popular saying that says that whoever is born a sardine, never becomes a codfish. This is a very Cuban way (there are many more) to explain the global phenomenon of 90% of people who are born rich end up dying rich and that very few people who are born poor, ever become rich.

The exact same thing practically happens here on the island, although remittances from abroad have contributed to many people, who never had anything, starting up businesses which have become profitable and bring in a lot of revenue, which doesn’t always make them millionaires, but it allows them to have a better quality of life, well above the average Cuban.

Anyway, even though I don’t dream of becoming a millionaire, like nearly everyone else in the world, I have wished that I had financial solvency that allowed me to sleep peacefully at night without having to calculate everything, which is impossible to do with any public sector wage.

So, with this idea in mind, I have been trying to set up a small business that helps to make our household income sustainable.

First, I joined up with a neighbor who prepares croquettes, pastries, mayonnaise, and other products for two cafes nearby. It was fun at the beginning, but then I felt that it was draining me too much, I would finish late at night for a wage that wasn’t that attractive, the same as the one I receive from the university.

Afterwards, I dabbled in selling clothes imported from abroad, but just cheap items like underwear, shorts, t-shirts etc. Two months after I started that business, my customers began to take an interest in other products, which was to be expected, but they hoped that I would sell these and let them pay in multiple installments, but you know what it means to trust someone: problems for the person paying, but even more problems for the collecting person. That definitely didn’t work out either.

Last of all, I got mixed up in something (it’s best I don’t tell you) which was borderline legal, which has gone really well for a cousin of mine but has the disadvantage of needing a large investment at the beginning.

A newbie and with very slim financial means, I had to start by paying 200 CUC, 60 were my own and I borrowed another 140.  The first month went great, I made just over 60 CUC profit, which is quite a big deal for me. But, when the second period came, I lost a lot, so much so that I almost lost everything and even though my cousin assures me that won’t happen again (that it’s because I’m only just starting out), I don’t want to take any more risks and less so with borrowed money, so I paid off what I owed and I continue to dream up ways of becoming a codfish…

Rosa Martínez

Rosa Martinez: I am another Havana Times contributing writer, university professor and mother of two beautiful and spoiled girls, who are my greatest joy. My favorite passions are reading and to write and thanks to HT I’ve been able to satisfy the second. I hope my posts contribute towards a more inclusive and more just Cuba. I hope that someday I can show my face along with each of my posts, without the fear that they will call me a traitor, because I’m not one.

4 thoughts on “Born poor…

  • I have provided renumeration and instead of the recipient trying something to build a better life with the money…it was spent on cell phones, clothes, restaurants, jewlery, hair, nails, etc. Yes…was disappointed.

  • There is no crime in being born poor! There are a dozen thing that one can do to enjoy the few things that one has to enjoy… even as a poor person. The first thing is to eat the best one can. Enjoy the most of what is available to the point of satisfaction. Then share with your friends whatever good news are available, avoid the bad news… enjoy the good! Go to the park… walk around, get fresh air in the evenings… Malecon if you live in Havana, then a walk home, get some ice from the local restaurant in order to have cold water in your home… turn the fan on and enjoy a cool evening. This is what my mother and I did, back in the early 60’s.

  • Good luck

  • Welcome to the world of capitalism. For every story of success, there are many heartbreaks.

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