Cuba Continues to Change, But It Is Not Yet Enough

Rosa Martinez

Manicure. Photo: Juan Suarez

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.

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.

34 thoughts on “Cuba Continues to Change, But It Is Not Yet Enough

  • November 29, 2015 at 1:03 am

    The smart Companies are coming to Cuba, first to do business with the other foreign companies wishing to do business in Cuba and then with tourist and then later directly with the Cuban people and will charge these other foreign companies prices that are equal to what they might expect to pay for similar services in their home countries and the salaries to the Cuban’s working should always meet or exceed the US Federal minimum wage requirement…something that you cannot demand but should expect of American companies doing business in Cuba, especially if they have other foreign businesses operating in Cuba as their customers. This will help the infusion of new money spread more evenly across the Cuban economy, so that things and people come up more or less together. My advice is to embrace companies that care about Cuba, not just about making money and in the long-run that will pay a much higher return and you will see things improve a lot faster.

  • September 29, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    If I am pretending to be Black, I should learn how to pretend to be rich because I have the Black thing down. My efforts in the “struggle” to help my people are chronicled in this blog. As long as the Castros are in charge in Cuba and socialism prevails, Black Cubans will suffer the most. I do not agree with you that Cuba has the richest history of struggle and patriotism in this hemisphere. Here in the US alone, the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 60’s stands as the gold standard example of an oppressed people’s non-violent resistance against the most powerful government in history. There are probably 34 other countries in this hemisphere that would disagree with you as well. I will gladly put my shoulder to the wheel to help rebuild Cuba right beside you. But first the Castros gotta’ go. Otherwise, we are wasting our time.

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