HAVANA TIMES — Anyone who says Cuba today is no different from what it was 10 or 15 years ago are deceiving themselves. Though some changes are barely perceptible for the average citizen, the truth is that the country has gradually changed, at the pace its leaders have seen fit.
Many things have transpired on the island over the past decade, including the legalization of home and automobile sales (something people had demanded for very long) and permission to stay at hard-currency hotels (to which only foreigners and vanguard workers had access before).
The new Foreign Investment Law also came into the scene. As its name indicates, it allows citizens from other countries (and only them) to invest here and to hire nationals, who can benefit to a certain extent with better salaries and working conditions.
Following the nationwide labor restructuring process (which amounted to laying off as many as a million workers), no alternative was left but to authorize new forms of employment, small businesses operated by self-employed persons which had in fact always existed illegally in the country, to a greater or lesser extent and to the government’s discontent. Now, in addition to private transportation, food vendors and people who rent out rooms (the most successful out there), we are also seeing jobs as strange as “palm-tree pruner,” seamstress and “CD copier-seller.”
Another recent development was the opening of Internet access points in all of the country’s provinces and, more recently, the offer of paid Wi-Fi services in all parks of provincial capitals and several municipalities.
Generally speaking, people have welcomed the opportunity to become informed through the web, access social networks and get in touch with relatives abroad, all the while complaining that the price of the service continues to be too high and that it would be more convenient to be able to connect from home.
Among recent developments, the most important for the Cuban population on the island and abroad in all respects is the re-establishment of relations with the country’s more than 50-year-old rival, US imperialism.
The people of Cuba and the United States had to wait long before their presidents officially announced what they had always felt deep down: that we were never enemies to begin with. That was quite simply impossible, first of all because the largest Cuban population living outside the island resides precisely in that nation and, secondly, many were the shows of support and solidarity by Pastors for Peace and other NGOs in the United States.
Lastly, Barack Obama and Raul Castro held a phone conversation, as they did previously, on December 16, 2014. They also shook hands at the Summit of the Americas held in April, before the eyes of the world.
As though that weren’t enough, for the third time, a Pope visits the island (only two other countries have had such fortune). The face of this, the first Latin American Pope in the history of the Catholic Church, was seen in a huge banner at Revolution Square, where only the images of revolutionary personalities have traditionally been permitted (though, for many, His Holiness is precisely that, a revolutionary of these times).
In short, my beloved island continues to adjust to the modern world and we continue to be surprised by developments we could not even have imaged 20 years ago. Cubans like me, those at the bottom, continue to ask ourselves when these transformations will have a positive impact on our lives.
The many of us who do not have relatives living in the United States, who do not have the possibility of finding employment with a foreign firm (the majority) and work for State or privately-run companies that offer low wages would like to know when we can expect to see financial improvement, the most longed-for and awaited change.